Saturday, February 28, 2009

Quote For The Day

"Billie Jean King is one of my role models; I think she is a great role model. She is my idol. She transcended tennis and was a role model for women's sports in general and that's what I would like to do and ultimately what I would like my career to be like.

"I think growing up I always watched tennis in Madison Square Garden — the WTA Championships event — as long as I can remember. And I never really thought I would have a chance to play there then and now here I am. I also think this is a great event and I think women’s tennis is the mecca of female sports. Having myself and Venus and Ana and Jelena at Madison Square Garden just shows how amazing tennis is and I’m excited to play in front of these New Yorkers,"--Serena Williams on her Madison Square Garden debut.

Look for Savannah's report on the live action in the coming days.

Face Of The Day


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French tennis player Gael Monfils celebrates his victory against to Argentinian tennis player Jose Acasuso during the semifinals of the ATP Open in Acapulco, Mexico, on February 27, 2009. Monfils won 6-3, 6-4.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Faces Of The Day


Delray Beach ITC

The Volley Girls, a new "feature" at this year's Delray Beach International Tennis Championships.

Quote For The Day

"I'm small so I can’t do some of the things taller players do. I have to play tennis like a chess game. It’s like in life, I have to think through a problem to find a solution."--Christophe Rochus, after upsetting Sam Querrey with all " those cocky, arrogant backhand drop shots" in Delray Beach.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Murray's Money

Like rabbit said elsewhere, first his health and now his money:

The Royal Bank of Scotland will halve its funding of British sport as a result of the global economic downturn.

BBC Sport has learned the bank will end its sponsorship of the Williams Formula One team at the end of 2010.

It will also review its deals with individuals such as tennis star Andy Murray and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.

RBS, expected to announce a loss of up to £28bn on Thursday, is reviewing all sponsorship activity as part of its strategic review.

The bank, in which the government has a stake of almost 70%, has also cancelled trackside advertising for 2010, while hospitality costs in all its sponsorships have been reduced by around 90% in 2009.

Face Of The Day


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Italian tennis player Flavia Pennetta waves after defeating French tennis player Pauline Parmentier during the WTA Open in Acapulco, Mexico, on February 25, 2009.

Davis Cup Team Announced

From ar.com

USA Davis Cup Coach Patrick McEnroe announced Tuesday that Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryan Brothers will lead the charge against the Swiss March 6th – 8th in Birmingham. Coach McEnroe admitted that the recent exit of Roger Federer is a huge advantage for Team USA.

With Roger pulling out, that obviously changes the dynamic a little bit of the tie,” McEnroe said in a conference call with reporters. “Certainly if Roger was playing, it would have been pretty even. I think this certainly makes us a pretty solid favorite.” Despite their confidence, McEnroe is still preparing for a battle. “We’re not overlooking the team that Switzerland brings in.”

The Swiss team will include Stanislas Wawrinka, Stephane Bohli, Marco Chudinelli and Yves Allegro.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Face Of The Day II


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Austrian tennis player Daniel Koellerer celebrates his victory against Argentinian tennis player David Nalbandian during the second day of the ATP Open tennis match in Acapulco on February 24, 2009.

::

Raise your hand if you've ever heard of Koellerer. Perhaps DaVEED ought to consider retirement as well.

Safin Announces Retirement



"Paris, that's where we'll have to make it the last tournament, a tournament where I play the best tennis and where I won the Davis Cup. So I would love to say bye-bye there. Of course, I have to agree with all of the players and make it happen," he joked. But unfortunately a lot of people are very ambitious and I don't think it will happen. A nice farewell, bye-bye, and well, just win the tournament and just a present for me. I will give away the prize money to everybody. I am motivated. I'm just not working out. And I am trying to keep my body in shape with the hope there will be some good results throughout the year."--Marat Safin

Face Of The Day


Billie Jean King

New project of naked black & white portraits by Anderson & Low that benefits the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Champions feature stars such as Thierry Henry, Venus Williams, Matt Dawson, and Billie Jean King taking it all off to raise awareness of the global issue of HIV/AIDS.

(Thanks, Foxykhat)

Quote For The Day

"Andy Roddick is passing up boatloads of appearance money, sponsorship money and prize money by not going to play in Dubai. He is the defending champion and is giving up rankings points as well. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have injuries and are not playing for that reason. Roddick, in contrast, is healthy and ready to go. To his eternal credit, Roddick said that the reason he is not going to Dubai is to protest the discrimination of the government of the United Arab Emirates and by the tournament officials. And this is an act of kindness rarely seen in professional sports."--Dobey

We've discussed this at length, but some things are worth repeating. And this blog will continue its blackout of events in Dubai.

Financial Times

The USTA will not replace Arlen Kantarian. Anyone surprised?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Severed Ties

The ATP has terminated its agreement with Stanford Financial, effective immediately last Thursday.

Name That Man


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US tennis player Venus Williams practices next to her coach before an ATP Open tennis match, in Acapulco, Mexico, on February 23, 2009.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Revenge



Andy Roddick steps on the snake 7-5, 7-5 to win his 27th career title.

He's on the board in 2009.

And a useless piece of trivia: he's the first active player on the tour to win at least one title 9 years running.

Match Highlights



(Thanks, Graf_sampras)

Clay People


AP

Spain's Tommy Robredo kisses the trophy after defeating Argentina's Juan Monaco, unseen, during the final match of the Argentina Open ATP in Buenos Aires, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009. Robredo won 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (5).


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Spanish Maria Jose Martinez raises her trophy after defeating Argentinian Gisela Dulko during their WTA claycourt tournament match in Bogota, on February 22, 2009. Martinez defeated Dulko 6-3, 6-2.

French Hope

FRANCE TENNIS OPEN 13
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France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga holds his trophy after defeating France's Michael Llodra 7-5, 7-6(4) during their final match of the Open 13 tennis tournament, in Marseille, southern France, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What's Old Is New

Usually, when Andy Roddick loses his serve early in a match against a player he knows can beat him, he evaporates like money.

Not. Today.

He had to overcome a first-set shellacking, managing to win only 53% of his service points; overcome second-set regulation play where he failed to convert 6 break points and had to bite his tongue when the chair umpire made a bad call, only to surge ahead 6-1 in the tiebreak before winning it 7-4; overcome serving second in the decisive set to secure the early break, fail to convert three match points on Lleyton Hewitt's serve at 3-5, and serve out the match at love.

Savannah, who saw the most of the match, said Andy exhibited a "modern tennis" mindset, using his serve as an arrow in his quiver instead the entire quiver.

Over at Talk About Tennis, mmmm8, who also happens to be a Hewitt fan and a Roddick hater, put it like this:

I'll always hold a special place for New Balls Please generation match-ups. Maybe it's just nostalgia, but I feel like you almost never get crappy tennis and all these [double-faults] and [unforced errors] the new kids end up spewing out in some matches.

Hewitt was kicking Andy's ass at that point. But I agree. Didn't matter Hewitt was just back from injury. He had to have played like this was his match to lose. According to my scoreboard watching, he served like a champion and returned Andy's first serve with ease.

I'm impressed my guy turned it around and pulled it off. He used to be Hewitt's pigeon but now Andy has won their last three encounters to bring their head-to-head to 6-4, Hewitt.

Mental victories are so nice. An old rivalry feels new again.

Here's hoping Andy exacts revenge on the snake in tomorrow's final.

Quote For The Day

“I felt like I had to talk about [Shahar Pe'er]. I thought it was brave of her to come here and try and play despite knowing that it is not going to be easy for her. My dad grew up in an area where if you spoke too much, it was your life. So I felt I had a small opportunity to say something where everyone will listen. I am not here to rock any boat or upset people, I am just here to do things that are right. And I think right things are already happening next week and right things will happen next year. Obviously, Andy Ram got his visa, so I’ll be happy to come and defend next year. If everyone is not given the equal opportunity to play, I’d rethink. But I love this tournament. They really care about the players.”--Venus Williams

Andy Roddick Speaks Out

Memphis Tennis
AP

That's my guy:

Andy Roddick won't defend his title in Dubai next week because he doesn't agree with the decision to deny Israeli Shahar Peer a visa to play in a women's tournament.

"There were a lot of factors why I should probably go, and obviously having played well there doesn't make it any easier," Roddick said after beating fellow American Sam Querrey 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the semifinals of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships.

The mixing of politics and sports was a big part of Roddick's decision to pull out of Dubai where he won his second of three titles in 2008. Roddick said he has enjoyed himself when visiting the United Arab Emirates but was disappointed to see the government make a decision that reflects poorly on a great tournament.

"I don't think you make political statements through sports," Roddick said.

That wasn't so difficult, now was it? As far as I'm aware, Andy is the only Jewish player in the top rung of men's tennis and he's always been outspoken, so this doesn't come as a great surprise. But it seems like such a courageous stand given the deafening silence of the other top players.

And he gets Lleyton Hewitt in the semifinals? Talk about an ancient rivarly.

Comment Of The Week

HoiHa said...

Graf Sampras - I get where you are comming from (I may not agree but I understand it).

However, I have a problem with the way Dubai handled this. If they had wanted to make a political and/or human rights statement, so be it. But, IMHO, the essence of making such a decision is to do so while ACCEPTING the consequences of standing up for that principle.

While what happened in Gaza occurred after they had agreed to host the event, there nonetheless was sufficient time following Gaza for Dubai to stand up and say they would not be allowing Israeli players' visas. Had they done that, then the onus would have been on the WTA and the ATP to make the decision as to whether to move the event out of Dubai or to take some other action.

The problem is Dubai did not do this - they tried to have their cake and to eat it too, if you will. This is not principled action IMHO. When Ghandi and Martin Luther King acted, they did so having accepted the fact that their actions for the greater good would mean they would have to accept the consequences of those actions which, for them and many of their followers, meant jail and imprisonment.

That is principle. That is standing up for what you believe at any cost.

Dubai further undermined it's position by granting Ram a visa - for if they were standing on principle and were really uniting behind the "Hamas" cause, then they would have been willing to accept the consequences that they would have faced from the ATP tour.

Sorry if that offends but it's really how I see it. We are entitled to stand up for rights we believe in but we lose credibility when we are not willing to accept the consequences that taking such an action entails.



Post: The Final Verdict

Tsonga Slams Djokovic... Again

That's four in a row. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has defeated world No. 3 Novak Djokovic for the fourth consecutive time, this time in straight sets 6-4, 7-6(1), to advance to the finals in Marseille. The Frenchman almost shut out the controversial Serb in the second set tiebreak, playing flawlessly to hold Djoke to a single point.

There will be an all-French final to the delight of the fans.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Final Verdict

SONY ERICSSON WTA TOUR LEVIES LARGEST EVER FINANCIAL PENALTIES AND SETS CONDITIONS FOR FUTURE OF DUBAI TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS

ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA, USA – Following a special meeting of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Board conducted earlier today in connection with the decision by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this past week to deny the visa application of Israeli Tour player Shahar Peer, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour announced that effective immediately it is taking the actions described below.

Commenting on today’s actions, Larry Scott, Chairman & CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour stated: “The actions taken today are intended to redress the wrongs suffered by Shahar Peer, who was victimized by an unjust policy of discrimination by the UAE. These actions are also intended to send a clear message that our Tour will not tolerate discrimination of any kind and that we will never allow this situation to happen again, in UAE or elsewhere. Thanks to the courage of Shahar, and all those individuals and organizations – including her fellow players – that supported her, the UAE has changed their policy and another barrier of discrimination has fallen.”

Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Actions in re Shahar Peer, Anna Lena Groenefeld and Dubai Tournament:

· Shahar Peer Ranking Points - The awarding of 130 ranking points to Shahar Peer – an amount equal to the points that she earned during the same week in 2008 (week of Memphis) that she was unable to defend this past week in Dubai as a result of the denial of her entry visa by UAE. Such points will remain on Ms. Peer’s ranking until such time as she has had an opportunity to earn equivalent points at the next tournament offering ranking points equal to the Dubai tournament.

· Shahar Peer Prize Money – The awarding of US$44,250 to Shahar Peer – an amount equal to the average prize money that she earned per tournament (singles and doubles) in 2008, grossed up to take account for the increased prize money on offer at 2009 tournaments.

· Anna Lena Groenefeld Prize Money – The awarding of US$7,950 to Anna Lena Groenefeld, who was to be Shahar Peer’s doubles partner in Dubai and who was unable to compete in doubles with Ms. Peer as a result of the denial of Ms. Peer’s entry visa by UAE. This amount is equal to the average prize money that she earned per tournament in doubles in 2008, grossed up to take account for the increased prize money on offer at 2009 tournaments.

· Dubai Tennis Championships Financial Penalty – The fining of the Dubai tournament US$300,000 for breach of Tour Rules, By-Laws and conditions of membership related to the denial of entry to Shahar Peer. This fine amount represents the highest fine ever levied against a Tour member. Proceeds from the fine shall be used to compensate each of Ms. Peer and Ms. Groenefeld, with the balance to be donated to a charity or charities, to be determined by the Tour in consultation with Ms. Peer.

· Dubai Tennis Championships Financial Performance Guarantee – The posting by the Dubai tournament of a US$2 million financial performance guarantee by July 1, 2009 that the conditions described below will be satisfied.

· Dubai Tennis Championships Conditions for Continued Membership – The establishment of a series of conditions to be met by the Dubai tournament in order to maintain its membership and be included on the Tour’s 2010 calendar, including: (i) confirmation of the written assurances already received that all players who qualify for the tournament shall, regardless of nationality, or any other reason, be allowed to play in the Dubai event and shall be issued entry visas or permits, (ii) proof of approved UAE entry permit to enter the UAE for any Israeli player a minimum of eight (8) weeks prior to the start of the 2010 Dubai tournament, and (iii) guarantee that Ms. Peer shall be offered a wildcard to play the Dubai tournament in 2010 in the event that she does not qualify by ranking.

Face Of The Day



Venus Williams poses for her sister's Blackberry before doing the real thing for Marie Claire magazine.

Quote For The Day

"I am very disappointed not to be able to compete in Dubai, but the doctor has advised me to stay home and rest after the pain on my knee in Rotterdam last week. Nothing to be worried about but it needs some rest. I ask my fans and the tournament organisers to understand and I am sorry for this. Dubai is one of my favorite tournaments and I have always played there. The field is always great and more important the crowds are always supportive. I expect to be back in competition the following week for the Davis Cup tie in Benidorm against Serbia and will then be travelling to Indian Wells and Miami after."--Rafael Nadal

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Face Of The Day

FILES-TENNIS-QAT-UAE-ISR-PEER
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A picture taken on February 20, 2008 shows Israel's Shahar Pe'er during her tennis match against France's Virginie Razzano on the third day of the Qatar Open WTA tournament in Doha. The future of the Dubai Open may be at risk after Peer was prevented from competing in the event which started on February 15, 2009. The world number 48 from Israel has been denied a visa into the Gulf state, bringing a strongly worded statement from the Women's Tennis Association. The blocking is a surprise because Pe'er was given a visa to play in the Qatar Open last year, a visit which was a considerable success both in tennis and diplomatic terms.

::

In her own words:

I welcome the decision just announced by the United Arab Emirates and the Dubai tournament to reverse a stance that until now has prevented Israeli athletes from competing in the UAE. This is a great victory for the principle that all athletes should be treated equally and without discrimination, regardless of gender, religion, race or nationality. It is also a victory for sport as a whole, and the power of sport to bring people together.

It is still very unfortunate that due to the decision of the Dubai tournament and the UAE, I could not participate in the tournament this year. This has hurt me significantly both personally and professionally. However I am very happy for Andy Ram, who will be able to compete next week in Dubai. I hope and believe that from this day forward, athletes from all over the world will be able to compete in the UAE and anywhere else in the world without discrimination of any kind. I personally look forward to competing in Dubai next year.

This has been a very difficult period for me, and I want to thank the many thousands of fans and organizations all over the world that made this breakthrough possible, including the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and my fellow players. All of them have supported me these past days, weeks and months. It is truly humbling and also inspiring to know how many of us feel strongly and are willing to do all that we can to break down barriers of discrimination.

Quote For The Day

"The tournament should automatically lose the right to exist. I know that carries unbelievable financial and political ramifications, and sometimes you have to be willing to live in a two-faced environment. But if this tournament is going to send out invitations and only ask who they want, if that's the way they want it to be, then they're an exhibition."--Pam Shriver

Read the whole Bonnie D. Ford article at ESPN. The gloves are off.

When Politics Meets Tennis (Updated)

Meets politics, it can look something like this:

Israel's Andy Ram will be granted a visa to play in next week's Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, a spokesman for U.S. congressman Anthony Weiner [pictured] said today.

The United Arab Emirates denied Israel's Shahar Peer a visa to play in the women's Dubai tournament this week. Congressman Weiner, who represents New York, had scheduled a press conference today to press the ATP to cancel its event if Ram was denied a visa. But the UAE's ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, assured Weiner that Ram will be issued a visa to play next week, according to a Reuters report.

"Ms. Shahar Peer is a victim of politics over sportsmanship," Weiner said in a statement.

The UAE does not have diplomatic ties with Israel and routinely denies visas to Israelis. Last February, Peer became the first Israeli to play a Gulf Arab region event when she played the Qatar Open and said then she received a "warm welcome" from the tournament. However, the UAE denied the Israeli doubles team of Jonathan Erlich and Ram, the 2008 Australian Open doubles champions, entry to play Dubai last year citing security concerns.

So I guess now the top ATP players don't have to stick out their necks, do they?

UPDATE: Turns out the congressman may have jumped the gun, if this account is to be believed.

Contrary to Bloomberg’s report today, the United Arab Emirates government has not issued any formal playing papers to Israeli Andy Ram – yet. Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York may, in fact, be correct and have inside info. But he might also have popped off too soon. Several parties intimately involved in the Ram-Dubai drama told me Wednesday that no official word on Ram's visa allowing him to compete in Dubai next week had been granted.

ATP spokesman Kris Dent (uncharacteristically) did not return my emails or calls seeking comment. But two other well-placed sources inside and outside the men’s tour with knowledge of the situation old me that the issue was still pending. Ram’s lawyer, Amit Naor, also confirmed that no deal had been struck. “The only thing I know is that the ATP is putting a lot of pressure,” Naor said by telephone Wednesday. “The rest is guessing.”

Because Ram was born in Uruguay, I wondered if he could get around the controversy by using a different passport. Some Israelis with dual citizenship have been able to travel to Dubai. But Naor told me that Ram doesn’t carry that passport and isn’t even sure if it’s valid. He said it was a non-issue and if the doubles specialist enters Dubai it will be on his Israeli passport.

Meantime, a showdown looms. Several of the tour’s top officials were scheduled to jet off to Dubai in the next 12 hours, among them executive chairman Adam Helfant (talk about baptism by fire), international group CEO Brad Drewett, and board rep Justin Gimelstob. I’m told the ATP has given UAE officials a deadline of Friday afternoon to come to a decision so as not to create the same last-minute chaos that Peer’s rejection did (she was already in the draw).

Across the aisle at the WTA, the continued fallout from Peer’s denial has been swift and severe. Jewish leaders have called for the WTA to punish the UAE and Sweden, fearing more reprisals, will play to an empty stadium when it takes on Israel in Davis Cup next month in Malmo. And if the ATP doesn’t have enough on its plate, ripples from the Stanford fraud case could soon hit the tour.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quote For The Day

"The United Arab Emirates' refusal to grant a visa to Shahar Peer and preventing her from competing at this week's Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in Dubai is shameful and definitely a step backwards. In the 21st century there is no reason a person should be restricted from doing his or her job because of their nationality, creed, race, gender or sexual orientation. Given the progress we have made in providing equal rights and opportunities for all, I trust the WTA Tour will look closely at the events in Dubai and take every step possible to ensure this type of distraction never happens again."--Billie Jean King

I wanted to know what she'd have to say. She didn't disappoint.

Raja's New Coach?

Darren Cahill leaves Australia Davis Cup just as Lleyton Hewitt returns:

Former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, who continues his comeback from hip surgery in Memphis this week, has been named to the Aussie squad. Darren Cahill, Hewitt's former coach who had been serving as a coach for Australia, has left the team citing business and personal reasons, Tennis Australia announced. Former coach Wally Masur returns to the team to serve under captain John Fitzgerald.

Business and personal, huh? Let's see who's in Roger Federer's box at Indian Wells when he returns from injury.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wall Street Journal Drops Dubai

Here we go:

The Wall Street Journal Europe has revoked its sponsorship of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships due to the decision of the United Arab Emirates to deny a visa to Israeli player Shahar Peer, preventing her the opportunity to participate in the tournament.

The Wall Street Journal's editorial philosophy is free markets and free people, and this action runs counter to the Journal's editorial direction.


(Thanks, dearg.)

Roger and Out!

by Savannah



Roger Federer has issued the following statement:

OFF COURT - DUBAI AND DAVIS CUP

Dear Fans,

Today I am disappointed to announce that I am withdrawing from both Dubai and the Davis Cup tie in the United States. This was a hard decision to make as I am missing not only one of my favorite events on tour in Dubai but I am also missing out on an opportunity to help my country try and move on to the next round of Davis Cup. After injuring my back last fall, I did not have enough time to strengthen it completely. As a precautionary measure, I will use the next few weeks to make sure the back injury is fully rehabilitated and I am ready for the rest of the 2009 season.

As always, thanks for your continued support.

Roger

Monday, February 16, 2009

To (Not) Preserve The Union

by MMT

A lot's been said about the UAE denying Shahar Pe'er a visa to play in the WTA event in Dubai, and more importantly, the inaction, acquiescence and disunity exhibited by the WTA and its players. I would love to see the "leaders" of the WTA (and by leaders, I mean its most prominent players) boycott the event. If they were really a player's association (of course it isn't) they would, but it isn't, so they won't, and what a shame that is. Long lost are the days when this was viewed as a players union.

When was the last time anyone in tennis took a stand in support of a player who'd been screwed? Guillermo Vilas was suspended for 12 months for taking an appearance fee in March of 1983 at the Rotterdam tournament - the very same tournament that Andy Murray just won this weekend. While many spoke out in support of him, not a single player on tour protested by boycotting anything in support of Vilas, even though they were all doing the same thing.

This is right about the time when money in tennis began to explode, with players easily eclipsing six-digits in prize money for the most lucrative titles.

The last time anybody on the ATP put up a fight on anyone's behalf was 1973 when Niki Pilic (former German Davis Cup captain and an early coach of Novak Djokovic) was banned from Wimbledon after his refusing to play Davis Cup for Yugoslavia. 81 of the top 128 players in the world boycotted Wimbledon that year, including the defending champion Stan Smith, who's probably about the nicest guy ever to play tennis (maybe him and Barry McKay) and who probably cost himself a second Wimbledon title. Some pretty good players joined him, including Arthur Ashe, Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, John Newcombe and Roy Emerson just to name a few. It could be argued that they did it for selfish reasons as well - I mean if Yugoslavia could do it to Pilic, who's to say Tennis Australia or the USTA couldn't have done it to them as well? But somehow, after all those years playing professionally, or playing for daily allowances, I doubt their reasons were entirely ego-centric - not 81 players anyway.

Now that was a union.

And there were some ignominious absentees from the band of brothers who apparently didn't see it the way the aforementioned stalwarts did. Ilie Nastase, who probably needed the money for current or future alimony, an 18-year old Bjorn Borg who probably didn't give a hoot, and a 21-year Jimmy Connors, who definitely didn't give a hoot, all played that year - and perhaps poetically all lost. In any case, aside from Emerson, there's probably never been a player who has been so lowly regarded for winning Wimbledon as Jan Kodeš. A good player who never won another Slam in his career, Kodes, it's worth pointing out, probably couldn't have boycotted if he wanted; just 5 years removed from Russian tanks rolling through Prague and an oppressive regime tapping their phone lines and harassing them for their prize-money (and by harassing, I mean threatening their family members).


Kodeš holds his Wimbledon trophy aloft in the year of The Strike

Irony of ironies: Vijay Armitraj, one of the most successful Indian tennis players in history, played Wimbledon that year. He was just 20 years old, was an up-and-coming player, and lost in the quarterfinal to the eventual champion Kodeš, who was seeded 2nd - his highest ever seeding.

A year later, in 1974, as India was on the verge of its first and only Davis Cup final victory, against South Africa, their tennis federation forfeited the final in protest against apartheid. It remains the only time in the history of the cup that the final has been forfeited.

Armitraj was so upset with the federation that he threatened to quit Davis Cup altogether. He didn't, and had to wait another 13 years before he participated in another Davis Cup final. By then, long past his prime, he lost 1 live rubber to Anders Jarryd and one dead rubber to Mats Wilander. Karma? Who knows...

By 1988 Armitraj had refused several opportunities to play exhibitions in South Africa for political reasons, so it just goes to show you that sometimes, even a man with every reason to take a stand, who has to be dragged kicking and screaming to do so, can eventually come around. So while it may be stupefyingly naive of me to wish that tennis millionaires today would be willing to do the right thing and boycott Dubai, it is not without precedent.

Apparently the wealthy athletes of today, like many wealthy people in society, have no interest in preserving any union.

Sister Act III

In the rivalry between the WTA's third youngest sisterhood, little sis takes the early lead.

The Gray Lady Sounds Off

That's right. The backlash against Dubai for denying Shahar Pe'er a visa to participate in this week's events has found its way into the New York Times. Money quote:

But the women should collectively recognize how dangerous a precedent it would be to finesse this issue, compromise in the interests of maintaining a prize revenue stream, even in the face of global recession.

For one thing, tennis does big business in American markets — think New York, Los Angeles and Miami — with large Jewish populations. The men, who follow the women to Dubai next week, may want to remember that, too, along with the companies that sponsor these events.

Quote For The Day

"I feel like I have a new career, like I feel so young. I feel so energised to play every week and play every tournament. I feel like there's just so much that I can do in my career yet, and I've never felt like I've played my best tennis."--Serena Williams

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Veteran's Day


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Amélie Mauresmo let her emotions flow after defeating Elena Dementieva 7-6(7), 2-6, 6-4 in front of her home fans to win the Paris Indoors. If this was indeed her last appearance at this event, it's no wonder she wept. Her mental frailty is now legendary, but when she's playing her best tennis, it's an all-court thing of beauty.

Quote For The Day

"We are deeply disappointed by the decision of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) denying Shahar Peer a Visa that would permit her to enter the country to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships. Ms. Peer has earned the right to play in the tournament and it is regrettable that the UAE is denying her this right. Following various consultations, the Tour has decided to allow the tournament to continue to be played this week, pending further review by the Tour’s Board of Directors. Ms. Peer and her family are obviously extremely upset and disappointed by the decision of the UAE and its impact on her personally and professionally, and the Tour is reviewing appropriate remedies for Ms. Peer and also will review appropriate future actions with regard to the future of the Dubai tournament. The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour believes very strongly, and has a clear rule and policy, that no host country should deny a player the right to compete at a tournament for which she has qualified by ranking."--Larry Scott

Something tells me Scott isn't going to do jack. Like he's going to mess with all that money.

Caption This

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Mr. Roddick

When you start pushing the ball around and playing break points against your opponent's weaker serve like a panicked amateur, you lose tennis matches. Even against players you've never lost to before. One of whom you beat at the same venue last year.

It's really that simple.

1 of 11 break points converted.

1 of 11.

Don't bring a boy to do a man's job.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Old Guard

tommy2
Joao Pires

Was discussing with a fan the other day which players from the "older" generation can still win tournaments. Tommy Robredo, who won the Brasil Open today, is on the short, short list.

Wounded Knee


Getty

With Serena Williams forced to withdraw from Paris Indoors with right knee pain before taking the court for her semifinal, Amélie Mauresmo is the favorite to take this title. So long as she keeps her head on and avoids a 7-game meltdown like she had against Jelena Jankovic today. She recovered to win the last 6 games of the match.

Homegirl won't beat Elena Dementieva from the baseline. But if the world No. 24 owns the net as she has all week, she could give her twilight career a big boost by winning a title in front of her people.

New Money, Same Problem

MMT examines the new rankings point on both tours and reveals a few twists.

Recently Jelena Jankovic hit back at stinging criticism from Roger Federer on the state of rankings at the WTA. In essence, he repeated what most have said about Jankovic’s stint as the No. 1 player in the world – that it made no sense.

Jankovic was none too pleased, but a quick look at the distribution of points across categories of tournaments on both the WTA and the ATP tours demonstrates some very strange possibilities. Federer would do well to consider this the next time he chats with the ATP President, as he himself could wind up in the unenviable position of looking a bit silly for his ranking as well.

There are nine 1000 Series events, excluding the year end championships, on the ATP Tour, each of which is worth 1000 points to the winner. Each grand slam is worth 2000 points – 9000 vs. 8000 points – which means that a player could win the calendar slam, another could win every 1000 series event, and the winner of the calendar slam would have to find another 1000 points (all other things equal) to obtain the No. 1 ranking?

Huh?


Read the rest...

Cupid

Friday, February 13, 2009

Quote For The Day II

"It's a long time he's been out for and the game is very strong right now. If he goes and plays some tournaments and he is doing well, then maybe he has made the right decision. But I wouldn't expect him to."--Andy Murray, on Greg Rusedski's possible return to Davis Cup and tour-level competition

Homegirl

France Tennis Open Gaz de France
AP

Under the radar, Amélie Mauresmo is destroying without mercy her opponents at the Paris Indoors. The one event on home soil where she allows her best tennis to shine. And she loves a skidding indoor court. She's lost a grand total of 7 games, boiling two bagels, through the semifinals. Can she win this thing?

Even Better Than Federer

84206873HB096_ABN_AMRO_Worl
Getty

Yesterday in Rotterdam, Rafael Nadal survived in three tight sets against a youngster who seems to have come out of nowhere. But Roger Federer's old coach believes he's got a future champion on his hands.

Grigor Dimitrov's new coach, the Swiss Peter Lundgren, who has coached Marcelo Rios, Marat Safin and Roger Federer, considers the Bulgarian one of the world's biggest talents, "Meridian Match" reports, quoted by tposport.bg.

The specialist even compared Grisha with the 13-times winner of the "Grand Slam" Roger Federer in front of the "Sundsvall".

"This boy has the potential to win a "Grand Slam" tournament. He's even better than Federer was when he was his age. Grigor makes excellent volleys and has better physic than Roger. We are now starting to advance in the men's tournaments and hope to enter the top 100 this year", Lundgren comments.

The Swiss paper "Sundsvall" also reveals that Grigor himself contacted Lundgren in the Patick Muratoglu's academy in Paris. Thus our player received several ATP invitations, which at this point of his career would otherwise be impossible.

A new player to watch? The photo above is of Dimitrov acknowledging the crowd after defeat. Clearly, he loves center stage. Talent alone doesn't always lead to big results (see: Richard Gasquet), but the sport can certainly use more all-court players challenging the elite.

More On Dimitrov

Quote For The Day

"It's too much. If I want to go on vacation to Barbados for one day, I shouldn't have to say I'm going to Barbados. I'm always complaining to my agents. I never tell people where I am, because I like to do my own thing. One time, I was out at dinner and someone turned up at my house to test me. I think I might even have got a strike. It's bizarre. I can't run home from dinner and get tested. It's very invasive. We won't have problems in tennis that we have in other sports, so it's definitely a pure sport and that's the only upside to it."--Serena Williams

(Thanks, Graf_sampras)

Related Post
On Parole

Face Of The Day

AUSTRALIA-WEATHER-FIRE-WILDLIFE
Getty

A mother koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) eats gum leaves after being rescued after the wildfires by volunteers of the International Fund for Animal Welfare at their wildlife rescue station at Whittlesea, some 50km north of Melbourne on February 13, 2009. The wildfires, which started on February 7, have become the deadliest in Australia's history leaving not only at least 181 men, women and children dead, but extracting a huge toll on the local wildlife.

BOOK REVIEW: Blacks at the Net: Black Achievement in the History of Tennis, Volume Two

(Originally published June 2008)

Perhaps the most important ingredient in a thorough overview of tennis history is examining the role that race, gender, class and region have played in setting the course of the modern global sport. That’s what Sundiata Djata argues in Blacks at the Net: Black Achievement in the History of Tennis, Volume Two (Syracuse University, 2008; 255 pages). It’s an ambitious and comprehensive examination of black achievement in one of the world’s most popular, yet, traditionally, white sports.

Continue reading (you may need to scroll down)...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Vital Statistics

If you're not yet sick of them and you want to read an analysis of the Australian Open men's final that includes as many statistics as a baseball game, then Tennis Thoughts is the ticket.

Safe to say, I've never even thought about the Aggressive Margin.

The Fifth Slam

The 2009 Sony Ericsson Open player lists have been announced.

Fashionable

venus-williams-siswimsuit09

Erwin interviews Venus Williams about posing for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition back in 2005 and previews EleVen's fashions for 2009.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Quote For The Day

“I got off the plane [in Congo-Brazzaville] and the temperature was perfect; the smell, it was just so special. Yes, I felt more comfortable there than anywhere else in the world. It was very important for me to know where I come from.

“But [my injuries] have given me more experience of life and that is what tennis is: a school of life. It teaches you to have respect for the rules, respect for your opponent, respect for the crowd, respect for the traditions of the sport. It is why I love Wimbledon so much, you walk around it and you feel the history. I feel very content there. And the same is true of Paris. I know it used to be that French players worried about playing in front of the French people, but that has changed. Not just in my case but [Gaël] Monfils and [Gilles] Simon, they feel the same.”--Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Face Of The Day

NETHERLANDS ABN AMRO TENNIS
AP

A spectator holds the broken tennis racket of David Ferrer from Spain after his match against Mikhail Youzhny of Russia at the ABN Amro tennis tournament at AHOY stadium in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Wednesday , Feb.11, 2009.

Kids Day


Getty

Gael Monfils poses with fans at Wednesday's Kids Day at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.

Quote For The Day

"For now, my goal is to win the French Open and all the tournaments I play. Starting with this one!"

--Serena Williams, part-time Paris resident, who plays the Paris Indoors this week

Quest For Four

From the ATP:

Top-seeded American Andy Roddick confidently opened his title defence at the SAP Open, taking just 62 minutes to dismiss Swedish qualifier Michael Ryderstedt 6-0, 7-6(3) on Tuesday in San Jose. Roddick is bidding to win his fourth title in San Jose, having won at the ATP World Tour 250 tennis tournament in 2004 (d Fish), ’05 (d. Saulnier) and ’08 (d. Stepanek).

World No. 6 Roddick raced to the set lead in 19 minutes, holding Ryderstedt to five points total and winning all three of his break points. Ryderstedt proved more competitive in the second set as he earned three break point chances, but Roddick saved all of them and proceeded to close out the win in the tie-break.

Roddick has reached the semi-finals or better six times in his seven previous San Jose appearances, and improves to a 26-4 event record. The 26 year old has enjoyed a solid start to the 2009 ATP World Tour season, reaching the final at Doha (l. to Murray) and the semi-finals at the Australian Open (l. to Federer).

Photo: Getty

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Woman For All Seasons

Sure tennis spans the calendar, but Mary Carillo is everywhere! I just heard her commentating a dog show on USA network. She's covered figure skating as well. During the winter Olympics, in addition to her own segment, she was a studio anchor. Where else have you seen or heard her?

Face Of The Day III

TENNIS-ATP-NLD-LJUBICIC
Getty

Ivan Ljubicic leaves the court after losing to Scot Andy Murray in Rotterdam during the Rotterdam ATP Open on February 10, 2009.

Bedbugs

Writers are coming out of the woodwork to examine Rafael Nadal's supremacy from every imaginable angle.

History Lesson

SA Tennis Open : Day 7
Getty

MMT puts it down:

I just hope people recognize the significance of [Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's victory at the South African Open]. It's the first time the tournament's been held since 1995, a watershed moment in the history of the country, as the first year of the first term of Nelson Mandela as president. He's the first black man to win there, and ironically the first man of African descent to win this tournament as well.

Arthur Ashe first applied for a visa to play this tournament in 1968 and was denied, even though he was the winner of the first US Open. It initiated a long held personal committment to ending apartheid. He didn't get to play there until 1973, where he lost in the final to Jimmy Connors, but made news by refusing to enter the court until the audience was full integrated, with no sections reserved for any race.

For Jo-Willy Tsonga, son of a Congolese handballer to win the first South African Open held in 14 years, and to be the first black man to win it in the history of the tournament, is great news, a really positive story in the history of tennis, and just generally a wonderful thing.

I can't wait to see the replays (blah!) on TTC tonight and tomorrow.

Face(s) Of The Day II

beaches
John Peden for SI

Daniela Hantuchova, Tatiana Golovin (sans cigarette), and Maria Kirilenko are the WTA beauties featured in Sports Illustrated's 2009 swimsuit edition.

Quote For The Day

“To be honest, I do not like to talk about players, I really prefer to focus on myself.”

“Why should [Federer] even care? I don’t like putting my nose in other’s business.

“I mean, one thing I like about Nadal is that he is such a great champion, he is so humble, always has kind words for everybody, he is a role model for everybody.”

“Federer is a great champion, I don’t want to get in a fight with him but why does he care, I really don’t understand. Why does he need to do that? I don’t think it’s nice to attack other players.”

--Jelena Jankovic, on Roger Federer's "attack" of her No. 1 ranking and Novak Djokovic's retirements.

Face Of The Day

San Juan Tennis
Getty

Nishikori Kei
of Japan returns the ball to Gilles Muller of Luxembourg during the first round of the SAP Open tennis tournament Monday, Feb. 9, 2009, in San Jose, California. Nishikori won the match 7-5, 6-2.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Quote For The Day

"I'm getting tired of this question. When someone has 13 grand slams and 14 Masters titles, there is no discussion about who is the best." --Rafael Nadal

Face Of The Day


Getty

Chile's Fernando Gonzalez holds aloft his trophy following his ATP Open final match against Argentina's Jose Acasuso in Vina del Mar, Chile, on February 8, 2009. Gonzalez won 6-1, 6-3.

Flipping The Bird

Feisty, feisty.

"She gave the finger and should have been removed right away," she said.

France captain Nicolas Escude confirmed that the hosts were objecting to Pennetta's win due to the gesture towards the umpire.

Mauresmo earned a match point at 7-6 in the second set tiebreak thanks to an overrule. "We have prepared a letter for the supervisor to have the result of the match being revised," Escude said.

"At that moment, I didn't really see and cotton on," said Mauresmo, who indicated that when she did look up Pennetta appeared to have mouthed an insult at the chair, flicking her middle finger.

The point gave the Frenchwoman a match point but she then served a double fault and eventually slumped to defeat.

Pennetta, who did receive a warning for her conduct, said she was sorry afterwards.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Team Effort

Argentina US Fed Cup Tennis
Getty

But 17-year-old Melanie Oudin is the hero. In her Davis Cup debut she rallies against Argentina to keep the USA in the tie, allowing Leizel Huber, the world No. 1 in doubles, to close out the tie with Julie Ditty. And Jill Craybas did her part yesterday, getting the USA off to a 1-0 lead.

Mary Jo Fernandez is vicious. I was happy to see that side of her. She barked orders and support before every point from the sidelines. I liked it. Kudos for leading the USA back from the brink of defeat for the first time in Fed Cup history in her debut as captain.

We play the Czech Republic next. Italy, who upset France, will play Russia, who routed China, in the other world group semifinal.

Horns Of Plenty

SA Tennis Open : Day 7
Getty

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
celebrates winning against Jeremy Chardy of France during the Mens Singles Final match at the South African Tennis Open at Montecasino on February 8, 2009 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

::

Didn't see any of the South African Open matches, but good to see Tsonga hold it down.

Czech Mate

Czech Republic Spain Fed Cup
AP

Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova, center, celebrates with the team's captain Petr Pala, right, and teammates Lucie Safarova, 2nd left, and Kveta Peschke, left, after defeating Nuria Llagostera Vives from Spain in their Fed Cup world group first round tennis match played in Brno, Czech Republic, Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009. Kvitova won the match 6-4, 7-5 and secured for Czech Republic the semifinal.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Quote For The Day

"We have the No. 1 player in the world, Rafael Nadal, and we haven't had that for the last three years since we had Roger Federer. So having Nadal, the Australian Open champion, which is the first time we've had the Australian Open champion since Federer was last here, is great for us. And both Nadal and Andy Murray will be playing singles and doubles so that gives fans more opportunity to see them, which is exciting."--Richard Krajicek, Rotterdam tournament director.

Rafa faces Simone Bolleli in the first round and could face Tomas Berdych in the second in a top-loaded draw.

Face Of The Day - Comment Of The Week II

(Updated)


Getty

Madona Najarian of Iran returns serve against Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan during their singles match of the Fed Cup in Perth on February 5, 2009. Voskoboeva won the match 6-0, 6-0.

UPDATE: I'm moving this back up to the top of the page because the discussion is nothing short of scintillating.

UPDATE: Comment Of The Week II

HoiHa said...

It seems very clear that we must all be very careful about the assumptions we make, myself included of course.

Karen - Ironically, I was born and raised in Jamaica so I too am a Jamaican like yourself but I have made my home in Hong Kong and China for the past 12 years now. So I have lived in cultures and countries impacted by colonialism, racism, sexism and homophobia. I also travel for 6 months out of the year and have spent time on every continent - so I am not ignorant of other cultures and am very open to ideas and views that are decidedly not "western". My business partner is from Pakistan and is Muslim (though she is not observant).

I really do not care what a person chooses to believe for themselves provided that all persons are treated equally and have the same equality of opportunity.

I do not believe that women should be required to modify their dress according to how it will impact men. Women should be free to wear whatever they choose to wear. If they want to walk around in a bikini down a busy road - well IMHO they are idiots but I will fight for a woman's right to do that if that is what a woman wants to do.

My discomfort with the hijab and the concept of dressing "modestly" (be it Christian, Jewish, Islamic etc) is that it takes responibility for men's sexual behaviour out of the hands of men - where it belongs - and places it squarely on women. I believe that men have full control over their sexual impulses and to say otherwise not only infantalises men but also sets us along a very dangerous and slippery slope toward blaming the victim for male sexual violence.

In some religions the head is covered as an act of subservience to a/the higher power. Head covering in those religions is about the woman's (or man's)direct and personal relationship with her/his God. The hijab however is not about a woman's direct and personal relationship with Allah but rather is about womens' relationships with men and society and concern that human beings - and especially men - are somehow less than capable of controlling their sexual impulses and desires. I refuse to believe this is true.

If a woman chose to wear the hijab and told me that it had nothing to do with how men perceived her and had nothing to do with sexaul issues, then I would have no problem at all with it. But that is not what the hijab is about.

One can try and say that men also are expected to dress modestly in Islam but the truth is that Iran's (very talented) football team is not wearing the same outfit that the women's tennis team are wearing are they?

Having said all that, if a woman freely and after due consideration makes a personal choice (not one imposed on her by the State or by her family etc etc) to wear the hijab, then, while I may not like what it represents (same as I would not really like a woman who chose to wear a bikin down the high street), i would nevertheless support her right to wear it.

And of course their sexism in other religions and other cultures ... noone is claiming otherwise.

And BTW - Iranian sportswomen have admitted widely and freely that they do not have any choice over what they wear as their uniforms are state mandated and many feel that they cannot compete at the same level as other women as a result and feel hard done by because of it (http://www.rediff.com/news/2005/sep/16flip.htm).

Yes, Safina is a Tatar Muslims. Sania Mirza is also Muslim.

Finally, I hope nobody on these boards is offended by comments here - this is a good and important discussion and especially so in the context of sport. All the best everyone and Happy Year of the Oxe (Gung hei fat choi).


Friday, February 06, 2009

Big Ticket Item

This news will excite the people:

Steffi Graf and husband Andre Agassi are being lined up for a nostalgic return to Wimbledon to play in exhibition matches which will test conditions under the new Centre Court roof.

Negotiations with the couple are said to be at an advanced stage for the event on May 17 that is hoped to be played before a full house of 15,000.

Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi

Graf retired in 1999 while Agassi has been out of the game for two years and the pair spend most of their time at their main home in Las Vegas. The American would face Tim Henman in a singles match while Graf's opponent could be Belgium's former world No 1 Kim Clijsters.

Fed Cup Weekend


Team France and Team Italy

WORLD GROUP FIRST ROUND

RUSSIA v CHINA, P.R.
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Moscow, RUS (hard – indoors)

Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v Zi Yan (CHN)
Elena Dementieva (RUS) v Shuai Zhang (CHN)
Elena Dementieva (RUS) v Zi Yan (CHN)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v Shuai Zhang (CHN)
Anna Chakvetadze/Alisa Kleybanova (RUS) v Tian-Tian Sun/Zi Yan (CHN)

FRANCE v ITALY
Venue: Palais Des Sports, Orleans, FRA (hard – indoors)

Amelie Mauresmo (FRA) v Flavia Pennetta (ITA)
Alize Cornet (FRA) v Francesca Schiavone (ITA)
Alize Cornet (FRA) v Flavia Pennetta (ITA)
Amelie Mauresmo (FRA) v Francesca Schaivone (ITA)
Severine Bremond/Nathalie Dechy (FRA) v Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci (ITA)

USA v ARGENTINA
Venue: Surprise Racketball & Tennis Complex, Surprise, AZ, USA (hard – outdoors)

USA
Jullie Ditty
Jill Craybas
Melanie Oudin
Liezel Huber
Captain: Mary-Joe Fernandez

Argentina
Gisela Dulko
Betina Jozami
Soledad Esperon
Aranza Salut
Captain: Ricardo Rivera

CZECH REPUBLIC v SPAIN
Venue: Brno Exhibition Centre, Brno, CZE (carpet – indoors)

Petra Kvitova (CZE) v Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP)
Iveta Benesova (CZE) v Nuria Llagostera Vives (ESP)
Iveta Benesova (CZE) v Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP)
Petra Kvitova (CZE) v Nuria Llagostera Vives (ESP)
Iveta Benesova/Kveta Peschke (CZE) v Lourdes Dominguez-Lino/Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez (ESP)

WORLD GROUP II FIRST ROUND

SLOVAK REPUBLIC v BELGIUM
Venue: Sibamac Arena, Bratislava, SVK (hard – indoors)

Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) v Kirsten Flipkens (BEL)
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) v Yanina Wickmayer (BEL)
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) v Yanina Wickmayer (BEL)
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) v Kirsten Flipkens (BEL)
Dominika Cibulkova/Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) v Tamaryn Hendler/Sofie Oyen (BEL)

SWITZERLAND v GERMANY
Venue: Saalsporthalle, Zurich, SUI (hard – indoors)

Patty Schnyder (SUI) v Anna-Lena Groenefeld (GER)
Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) v Sabine Lisicki (GER)
Patty Schnyder (SUI) v Sabine Lisicki (GER)
Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) v Anna-Lena Groenefeld (GER)
Timea Bacsinszky/Patty Schnyder (SUI) v Kristina Barrois/Tatjana Malek (GER)

SERBIA v JAPAN
Venue: Belgrade Arena, Belgrade, SRB (hard – indoors)

Ana Ivanovic (SRB) v Ai Sugiyama (JPN)
Jelena Jankovic (SRB) v Ayumi Morita (JPN)
Jelena Jankovic (SRB) v Ai Sugiyama (JPN)
Ana Ivanovic (SRB) v Ayumi Morita (JPN)
Ana Ivanovic/Jelena Jankovic (SRB) v Ayumi Morita/Ai Sugiyama (JPN)

UKRAINE v ISRAEL
Venue: Palace of Sports “Lokomotiv”, Kharkiv, UKR (hard – indoors)

Alona Bondarenko (UKR) v Tzipi Obziler (ISR)
Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) v Shahar Peer (ISR)
Alona Bondarenko (UKR) v Shahar Peer (ISR)
Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) v Tzipi Obziler (ISR)
Mariya Koryttseva/Olga Savchuk (UKR) v Julia Glushko/Shahar Peer (ISR)

Family Affair


© Jim Rydell

Agustin Calleri, wife Cecilia and two-year-old daughter Sara attend the players' party in Vina del Mar.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

On Parole

I'm happy to see the top players speaking out against this nonsense:

Top tennis players including Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal are in open revolt at what they consider to be intrusive new anti-doping rules that demand testers know their location every day.

Players jeered representatives of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) when details of the stringent regulations were announced at a stormy meeting at the Australian Open in Melbourne last month. One player walked out and others questioned ITF officials on the mandatory requirement of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

Under Wada’s ruling, athletes must report where they are for one hour of each day for the whole year so that investigators can call at any time, unannounced. Anyone who misses three tests in an 18-month period could be suspended for up to two years.

(...)

“These new rules are so draconian that it makes it almost impossible to live a normal life,” the British No 1 said. “I got a visit at 7am one morning at my home right after I had travelled home from Australia. I woke up not really knowing where I was and suffering badly from jet lag. It seemed ridiculous to me as I’d been tested just four days earlier, straight after the match I had lost in the Australian Open.

“The official who came to my home wanted me to produce identification to prove who I was. He insisted on watching me provide a sample, literally with my trousers round my ankles, and then insisted that I wrote down my own address, even though he was at my private home at 7am.”

Athletes need not be treated like (worse than?) criminals on parole just to keep the sport clean. Dopers will dope no matter how stringent the rules. Undetectable performance enhancing drugs will continue to be invented.

The Bryan Brothers spoke at length about the new rules in Melbourne.

Q. Could you talk about the challenges of the new drug testing regime.

BOB BRYAN: Yeah, it's pretty strict. We got tested a few times when we were home. The tough thing is you got to be worried to go to breakfast at 8 in the morning. You got to wait it out and stay until 9. If you're clear, you can go eat breakfast. You always got to kind of be on‑call. I guess it's the responsibility of a professional athlete.

It's a little bit brutal. They can't call you. I guess that's the rule now. We have one or two missed tests, so we got to be really aware of what we're doing and make sure.

MIKE BRYAN: Yeah, you got to communicate with whoever it is, the ITF, where you're going to be at all times. They even want to know when you're flying in, the day you arrive, if you're going to be at the hotel for an hour.

We missed a couple. Just weren't thinking. Just down in L.A. One time I got a flat tire. But, yeah, you just got to be ready for anything.

Q. They just knock on the door?

MIKE BRYAN: Yeah, they just knock on the door.

BOB BRYAN: Knock on the door. If you're not there... They used to call you, and you have one hour. That's usually enough time to get to the house. But now they don't call you.

Mike missed a test. He was just at breakfast. Just had an extra long breakfast.

MIKE BRYAN: Every time we're home, they're usually there, one of the days. I think we got tested 15 to 20 times last year. It's either USADA or the ITF. Yeah, you just got to be home.

Q. Can you not miss another test?

MIKE BRYAN: I think I have ‑‑ April ‑‑

BOB BRYAN: Until April he's got to be clean.

MIKE BRYAN: But I'm sure I can appeal because this body doesn't look like a 'roided‑out body.

Q. Rafa described it in Spanish as intolerable harassment, and Roger says it's a necessary evil. Where do you come down on that?

BOB BRYAN: I don't know. I think once someone gets banned for missing a few tests, then you hear the stories and they're kind of ridiculous stories, then I think we'll probably have a problem with it. If it's one of our friends that goes out, if Mike gets banned...

MIKE BRYAN: I think it has to be done, though. It's fair across the board. You don't want doping in tennis. The fans definitely don't want anyone playing that's ‑‑

BOB BRYAN: ‑‑ cheating.

MIKE BRYAN: It's good. I think we just got to get used to the strictness.

BOB BRYAN: The strictness.

Q. Was it really a flat tire?

MIKE BRYAN: I missed a couple. One of them, I think I got a flat tire. I was trying to make my way back up from L.A. One I decided to take my girlfriend to San Francisco for a day. I wasn't thinking. I didn't call my agent or the ITF.

Q. Do you feel targeted by the drug testing or is it everyone?

BOB BRYAN: It's everyone.

MIKE BRYAN: They're not coming after any one individual player. I'm pretty sure it's fair across the board.

What brought this on? There haven't been any high-profile doping scandals in tennis, so why the need for even more stringency?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I Believe The Children Are Our Future


© SA Tennis Open/Reg Caldecott

Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga joined the South African team of Jeff Coetzee and Wesley Moodie at Soweto (South Western Townships) to meet and coach some of the sprawling township's kids.


© SA Tennis Open/Reg Caldecott

The players spent more than an hour running through basic training drills with the youngest kids.



© SA Tennis Open/Reg Caldecott

Tsonga said: "I would like them to go home and dream about becoming professional tennis players one day. They've got to be able to dream about it because that could be the start of great things for them."


© SA Tennis Open/Reg Caldecott

At the end of the clinic, youngsters from the Jabavu and neighbouring areas broke out in song in appreciation and moments later Tsonga started dancing.

Forget Paris

Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from Paris Indoors, citing her shoulder injury. When are the pundits going to start questioning her commitment to the sport? I won't hold my breath.

Nadal on Obama



A reader emails:

Hi Craig,

Thought you would enjoy the World #1's views of our 44th President

This is an exert from an interview that Rafa did in spanish. It was posted on VamosBrigade's News board in the Misc. Articles thread, and translated by forum member Rosario.

Q. Have you followed the election of Obama as the president of the USA?

A. The only thing I can say is that he seems to be the president of the world, that it will probably be an important change. Among all the disasters that surround us, all the wars, the violence and the misfortunes in the world, he seems to be a great hope. The world needed him. A hope, a new image that apparently can solve everything. He probably won’t be able to do it because it is impossible to solve all the evil already done.

Q. In sport, it helps to think that things can be changed.

A. Sure. Surely things will get better. I trust, but this man has a lot of pressure: all the expectations created around him... That’s partly good, but partly it isn’t. No matter how well he does it, it will never seem to be enough. He will have a complicated life, but ... he is welcome. If he really wants to change things like wars, to avoid misfortunes like what is happening now in Irak and Gaza, it will be good for everybody.

Please visit the entire interview on Vamosbrigade.com

I read your blog often, and I know you have been an active participant in the election of President Obama ( I never get tired of saying that, President Obama)

Enjoy the tennis.

Face Of The Day

Sania Mirza
AFP

Indian tennis player Sania Mirza is seen here addressing a press conference in Hyderabad on February 3, upon her return from Melbourne where she won the Australian Open mixed doubles title. India's chances of reaching the next stage of the Federation Cup however have been dealt a major blow with the late withdrawal of Mirza who cited a tear in abdominal muscle as the reason for pull-out.

Soul Searching

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Getty

Our own dapxin has led me to Matthew Syed's probing analysis of The Rivalry, entitled in the print edition, “Rafa’s priceless gift for Federer – defeat”:

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier will probably for ever have the last word on great sporting rivalries, but there is something about the tectonic collision between Federer and Rafael Nadal that has taken their struggle for supremacy beyond anything we have seen in tennis.

It is not just the exquisite contrast in styles and temperaments and the special talent that, in their unique ways, they share. It is not just that they have elevated each other's games to levels that leave us shaking our heads in disbelief instead of merely clapping. It is not even that they have produced two successive five-set finals, first at Wimbledon last July and now in Melbourne, so epic that Tolstoy could have written novels about them.

No, the true meaning of this rivalry - as with that of all great rivalries - is to be found deep within the two men as they ask questions of each other that they never imagined they would have to answer on a court.

There was a time when Federer's pursuit of Pete Sampras's record of 14 grand-slam titles had all the trappings of a procession, particularly after he defeated Fernando González, of Chile, without breaking sweat in the 2007 Australian Open to move into double figures. He was, like Ali in 1966, surveying a world so bereft of adequate challengers that his opponents seemed part of the act. Here you go, Roger, why don't you pass me; here, matey, a nice forehand for you to smash away a winner.

Fair use disallows me from quoting too much more of this outstanding essay, but surely you will all read it for yourselves.

I've become tired of this rivalry, moreso because of the way in which it is covered, not the way in which it has been played out. Clearly, this blog comes alive after a Rafa-Raja final, and so do I. The psychology of this rivalry is about as compelling as any I've ever seen in tennis and some of that has to do with the ways the talking heads cover it.

Syed is the first person I've read or heard that has lauded Rafa for his "brilliant tactical brain." Of course, Rafa is the greatest competitor on the tour, but he also possesses one of the greatest minds. As Syed sees it:

Part of the joy of his contests with Federer is watching the way he mercilessly tests the arc of the Federer backhand, those high, looping, teasing topspins forcing the Swiss to execute a stroke that looks almost vaudevillian.

Federer responded in Melbourne by stepping in and taking the backhand, where possible, on the up. But Nadal was not discouraged, switching the play, using the expanses of the court, testing Federer's legs, before shunting it back into the backhand side. The ebb and flow, thrust and counter-thrust, was magical.

That, for me, is the crux of it. Rafa outsmarts Raja. On every surface. Back when Raja dismissed Rafa as "one-dimensional" his fans defended him for simply telling the truth. But I never saw Rafa's game that way. Unconventional, yes. One-dimensional, no. And, from where I sit, part of Raja's breakdown on Sunday had to do with him finally realizing that he wasn't just being outplayed by Rafa, he was also being outsmarted and that, above all else, was the thing that was "killing him" the most.

Syed concludes his essay thus:

Nadal will loom large over Federer's every waking thought as the Swiss attempts to regroup, the world No1's muscular shadow forcing Federer to ask himself a string of searching questions. Should I enlist the services of a coach? Should I remould the backhand to cope with the vertiginous bounce of Nadal's topspin? Should I cut the amount of court time and get down the gym to fashion a level of fitness comparable to the indefatigable Spaniard? Should I restructure my season to focus exclusively on Wimbledon and the US Open?

But amid the questions, Nadal has also handed his greatest rival a priceless, if daunting, opportunity. It is the same opportunity that Frazier handed Ali, McEnroe handed Borg, Prost handed Senna, Duran handed Leonard and Spassky handed Fischer. It is an opportunity to demonstrate the resilience that so many of Federer's erstwhile cheerleaders think is beyond him. It is an opportunity to make believers of those who question his mettle.

But ultimately it is an opportunity to make a believer of himself - and that, one imagines, is likely to prove the greatest challenge of all.

I couldn't agree more.