Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quote For The Day

"I watch a lot of tennis with the sound muted—the jazz soundtrack of the weekend was The Sermon, by Jimmy Smith—but I did catch some of Justin Gimelstob's commentary. I’ve always thought he was an insightful analyst who knows the game and the players. He also worked with technique guru Robert Lansdorp, which has to help with the finer points. Gimelstob also offered some ATP information I didn’t know—the South American guys want some clay-court events to be switched to hard—and was honest in assessing the embarrassing competitive habits of David Nalbandian. My only trouble is that Gimelstob puts himself and his analysis front and center in the telecast—he's still proving himself, I guess—which can make it hard to relax and sink into the match itself."--Steve Tignor

Silliness

It appears that the Russian tennis press is stuck on stupid.

Face Of The Day


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Elena Dementieva reacts while playing a match against Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during day eight of the Sony Ericsson Open at the Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 30, 2009 in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Survivor


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She squandered a 5-0 first-set lead. Serena Williams must have gotten all she could handle from Jie Zheng because by the middle of the second set, Serena was winning more points on her second serve than her first and a mere 52% of service points overall.

I'd like to have seen the how of it. How Zheng was pressuring Serena's first serves. How Serena was double faulting so much. How she recovered. How Zheng capitulated.

But, alas, there was no television coverage.

Which means I also didn't get to see Caroline Wozniacki upset No. 4 seed Elena Dementieva.

Oh, to be a player in the bottom half of the draw. If former champ Svetlana Kuznetsova can't find her way to the final then she might want to consider a different career.

Quote For The Day

"I feel like serve-and-volleying off of first serves, if you have a big serve, is a huge advantage. Guys can't just block returns back in play. I volley well enough to back it up. Second serve I think is a bit rough, but I see these guys games all the time. I practice with them all the time and they don't see me. the nice thing is I feel like I can play a few different styles. So it will be an advantage as soon as I get my consistency up there."--Taylor Dent

Standing Room Only


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There's a thin line between genius and insanity. The standing-room-only crowd that lifted Gael Monfils from 2-5 and two breaks down in the final set over Marat Safin with chants of "Monfils!" (clap clap) "Monfils!" (clap clap) saw the mercurial Russian display both in a match he had no business losing. Especially since it felt like a Davis Cup tie and we know how Marat enjoys the electric atmosphere of that.

But it wasn't meant to be. Insanity trumped genius as Marat gave up the ghost in Key Biscayne in his last professional outing there.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Beautiful


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That's all I can say about Taylor Dent's game. Transition tennis and net skills just don't come any better these days. Nice to see him get a straight-set win over a decent seed in Tommy Robredo and make another round. The sport could use a good comeback from someone with such an Old School game as his.

The top women are simply pathetic. Dinara Safina, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic and Vera Zvonareva are out.

Face Of The Day


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Kim Sears watches as her boyfriend, Andy Murray of Great Britain, plays against Juan Monaco of Argentina during day six of the Sony Ericsson Open at the Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 28, 2009 in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Quote For The Day

"It was a very, very good match for me. I feel great after this fight. I think that was the most important for me because I was always down, first set, second set, and then in the tie-break. I just hung in there, and things were good for me at the end. I was really, really happy."--Gisela Dulko on upsetting No. 3 seed and 2008 runner-up Jelena Jankovic

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

Face Of The Day


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Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia looks on against Tamira Paszek of Austria during day five of the Sony Ericsson Open at the Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 27, 2009 in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Disgraceful

That's all I have to say about the lack of television coverage of the Sony Ericsson Open.

These tours must be near bankruptcy.

WTA Player Award Winners


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(L-R) Dinara Safina, Elena Dementieva, Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Zheng Jie, Cara Black and Liezel Huber pose with their 2008 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Player Award during day four of the Sony Ericsson Open at the Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 26, 2009 in Key Biscayne, Florida.

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2008 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Player Awards

Player of the Year - Serena Williams
Doubles Team of the Year - Cara Black and Liezel Huber
Most Improved Player - Dinara Safina
Comeback Player of the Year - Zheng Jie
Newcomer of the Year - Caroline Wozniacki
Humanitarian of the Year - Ana Ivanovic
Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award - Elena Dementieva
Player Service Award - Liezel Huber
Favorite Premier Tournament - Porsche Tennis Grand Prix (Stuttgart)
Favorite International Tournament - Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic (Bali)

Scammed

A sign of the times?

Former tennis champion John McEnroe was duped along with investment firms, art dealers and the Bank of America in a sophisticated $88 million art investment scam revealed in New York on Thursday.

Art dealer Lawrence Salander, 59, was arrested at his New York home on Thursday after he was indicted on 100 counts, including grand larceny and securities fraud, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau told a news conference.

Victims of Salander's fraudulent scheme included McEnroe, who invested $2 million for a half share of two paintings, Arshile Gorky's "Pirate I and II," but never recouped the money, authorities said.

Morgenthau said Salander was an art dealer and the former owner of Salander-O'Reilly Galleries. The scheme, which lasted from 1994 to 2007, included luring investors who paid cash in exchange for shares of ownership of works of art.

"He sold artwork not owned by him and kept the money, and lured investment money in fraudulent investment opportunities," Morgenthau said.

Quote For The Day

"He has developed a chip that gets him out of trouble a lot that no one ever really talks about. They talk about the running and heaviness, but he volleys well. He's able to play returns, as evidenced by Wimbledon last year. They talk about how he stands back, but he's able to mix it up. I don't really think he gets credit for how complete of a tennis player he is.

"I think he kind of gets pigeon holed into what people remember from five years ago. The thing about Rafa's game, and the type of ball he hits coming from the left side is that, maybe more so than other players, he's able to kind of say, 'This is what I do. You're going to have to deal with it.' But that being said, the guy knows what he's doing on a tennis court. He knows his way around."--Andy Roddick

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Face Of The Day


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Amer Delic reacts against Steve Darcis of Belgium during day four of the Sony Ericsson Open at the Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 26, 2009 in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Kim Clijsters Announces Return



Former Belgian tennis champion Kim Clijsters gives a press conference at the De Boneput tennis center, in Bree, northern Beligum, on March 26, 2009. Kim Clijsters of Belgium on Thursday announced her return to competitive tennis almost two years after retiring from the sport at just 23 years old.

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From her website:

In August Kim Clijsters will return to the world of professional tennis and participate in three official tournaments: the US Open and the WTA tournaments of Cincinnati and Toronto. In the period leading up to that, several exhibition matches have been scheduled. Kim will play in Belgium only once, at the Diamond Games. The event has been reshaped and the 'new formula' will take place in Antwerp from 10 to 13 December.

Kim Clijsters started the year eager to be training again on a frequent basis and her initial aim was to take part in a few exhibition matches. Her hunger for competition has proven bigger than assumed and she still enjoys thorough and strenuous training sessions. Which is why she decides to see what would be feasible, combined with her family life.

On 10 August Clijsters will be playing her first official match in Cincinnati, her first competition since she retired on 3 May 2007. The subsequent week Kim starts the Toronto tournament. On 31 August she returns to the US Open, the Grand Slam tournament she won in 2005.

"It all started with preparing for the gala match at Wimbledon, all pretty laid-back. I liked it that much I was onto my training schedule from my pro days and then the hunger for more comes automatically," Clijsters says. "I am look at this as a second career, not as a comeback as I am now in a situation where not everything evolves around tennis 24 hours a day. We'll see how I, Jada and the others in my environment respond to this."

On 17 May, Clijsters will be playing her first matches, during A Centre Court Celebration, the official opening of the retractable roof at Wimbledon. In June an exhibition match in Rosmalen awaits, followed by two more in the US in July. Kim will take stock after the official tournaments in August.

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Full disclosure: I was never a fan. But when I read the reports that her father died of cancer, the first thing I thought was, She's definitely going to come back now.

The loss of a father can be one of the most transforming experiences of a person's life, no matter how old they are. But for someone as young as Kim, who just had a child of her own, I can imagine that the only thing she can do with her grief is get out on the court and train and grind, but above all else, compete. Afterall, her father brought her to the sport.

She always struck me as a politician. Something about the way she presented Miss Congeniality to the media and the fans, but behind the scenes, she seemed ruthless about getting her way. Like a good politician, she leaked her announcement to the press and followed it up days later with a huge press conference.

As we bemoan the current boredom of the women's tour, this announcement couldn't come at a better time. Beloved around the world and with a game that will give all these young ball-bashing baseliners fits (for those who think Victoria Azarenka is the next champion, think again...), her mere presence will inject the tour with some much-needed life.

Who knows, maybe motherhood and father loss will cure her biggest liability -- her mental frailty -- and she will go on to win another Slam or two.

Surely she can see her opportunities. Now she intends to seize them.

Quote For The Day

"You could analyse in a big way but at the same time, it just happens sometimes. Of course I was disappointed at the way the match ended in Australia and also in Indian Wells but it is not the end of the world. It doesn't really play on my mind a whole lot because I go out there and try to play every point as tough as I can.

"I've tried many different things against Rafa. Usually it is the aggressive playing style that makes me beat Rafa, especially on the hard courts. I haven't had many chances on hard courts against him, I've had so many more on clay. On hard court I have to play aggressively against him. There is no way around that. I know how I have to play him. I've beaten him enough to know."--Roger Federer

They've split their six hard court matches.

Too Close For Comfort

Novak Djokovic feels Andy Murray breathing down his neck, and he doesn't like it one bit. Barry Flatman breaks it down:

The touch Djokovic showed to initially leave Murray in his wake seems to have deserted him. He regularly complains about not finding the right rhythm.

“I did not start the year the way I wanted to. I made some major changes with the racket, which was quite risky at this time. I just have to move on.” The pained expression on the face of Djokovic’s coach, Marian Vajda, throughout the defeat by Roddick suggested that it is not going to be an easy process. The pressure exerted by Murray only adds to the anxiety.

The two men may play at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, which begins on Wednesday and is billed as the second stage of the 2009 Masters 1000 series that comes to a climax at London’s 02 Arena in November.

But the up-coming European clay court season will be crucial. While Murray never won more than two matches in succession on clay in 2008, Djokovic won the title in Rome and reached the semi-final stage at Monte Carlo and the French Open.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Face Of The Day


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Serena Williams talks to the media during day three of the Sony Ericsson Open at the Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 25, 2009 in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Quote For The Day

"If I win that percentage of my service games during the whole year I think I can finish No. 1 in the world. If I'm breaking serve around 40 per cent of the time and getting broken 13 per cent I'm going to win pretty much every match I play."--Andy Murray

First, he better hope there's no wind at all those outdoor Slam events.

Larry Scott Steps Down



Well, well. The recipient of two consecutive Gonad Awards for Biggest Overall Disappointment on the WTA, I'm happy to see Larry Scott resigning from CEO of the WTA to become Commissioner of NCAA's Pac-10.

As Savannah wrote, this provides a prime opportunity for the tours to join, something Billie Jean King has been calling for rather loudly in recent weeks.

The BNP Paribas Open proved just how poor the WTA product is now. Scott's resignation should inspire those with the biggest influence on women's tennis to take a comprehensive inventory of the tour and suggest some much-needed improvements.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Traffic Tennis

Down Time


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Rafael Nadal hits a sand shot on the 11th green at Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne prior to the Sony Ericsson Open on March 24, 2009 in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Face Of The Day


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Venus Williams of the USA prepares to play an impromptu game of traffic tennis with Andy Murray of Great Britain on Ocean Drive prior to the Sony Ericsson Open on March 23, 2009 in Miami, Florida.

Caption This



According to rabbit, this is a photo from after the semifinal.

Quote For The Day

"Nadal practices his forehand over the first weekend of the tournament. He's working on snapping up on it with less backswing and more flick. In his next match, he seems to have it mastered, and it does look a little different and more abbreviated than I remember it. While Federer sticks with what works and maintains a deep belief in his innate ability, Nadal is about the process. He's a tinkerer who doesn't believe he was born to be the best; he concentrates on how he can improve himself enough to get there. He's there, but he's still tinkering."--Steve Tignor

Highlights: BNP Paribas Open 2009 Final



Sunday, March 22, 2009

Gale Wins


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With gusts up to 50 mph, the tennis was iffy. But Vera Zvonareva and Rafael Nadal handled the conditions much better than Ana Ivanovic and Andy Murray. In Rafa's case, it didn't seem like there was any wind at all. He simply played the ball and used the wind to his advantage. 6-1, 6-2. Talk about gone with the wind. (I couldn't resist.)

This is Rafa's 33rd title. As many as the great Arthur Ashe and the not-so-great Mats Wilander. And with his 13th shield, he's only four shy of record-holder Andre Agassi.

Astounding.

Vera is the first player since Lindsay Davenport to take both the singles and doubles titles in Indian Wells.

Nice work if you can get it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Comment Of The Week

Christopher Crocker said...

The nature, and irony, of an individual sport like tennis is that as you rise to the top of the game, your success breeds the players that will come to supplant you. The game changed so much from the beginning of Roger Federer's run at the top until now. This is not unique to his game, it happened before him with Pete Sampras, and before that with any other number of great players. His success brought the level of the game up, the coaches saw the way he was changing the game, and at least in a small part, trained the young players so that they could handle that type of player. The same thing will probably, and already has started to happen with Nadal. Have you seen the muscle that Andy Murray has put on over the last year? The new breed of players that will come up soon will in some part be modeled on playing, and handling a game like [Rafael] Nadal's, which was built in some part on handling Federer, which was built in some part on handling Sampras, which was built ...

This is why tennis is such a beautiful sport - visual f*cking poetry.



Post: Quote For The Day

Fish-N-Rod Catch The Big One


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After losing his semifinal, Andy Roddick paired up with Mardy Fish to take the doubles championship over the team that crushed the Bryan twins. Fish-n-Rod saved 3 match points in the super tiebreak.

Vera Zvonareva and Victoria Azarenka won the women's title.


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One Andy Down...


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See the previous post's comments for semifinal highlights. I couldn't bear to watch most of the second one.

I haven't a clue who'll win the final.

Who Needs This Title Most?

There's a poll in the sidebar. Tell us why you voted the way you voted in the comments below.

Of course I'm biased, but Andy the Elder hasn't won a big title since Cincinnati in 2006. Unless you count Dubai last year.

If our poll results are correct, Andy the Younger will win the title because he faces the least amount of pressure.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Quote For The Day

“Overall it was a very bad day. There's not much to say. He played very solid. I mean, he didn't do anything special. It was all me making incredible amount of unforced errors. I just didn't have any momentum on the court. No feel for the ball, no movement. Just no solutions.”--Novak Djokovic

Iron Fist


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Andy Roddick dismissed the defending champion without breaking a sweat. Novak Djokovic has yet to defend a title on the ATP tour.

Fish-n-Rod have also advanced to the doubles final.

Pigeon Toed


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Vera Zvonareva is the first player into the championship match. Victoria Azarenka was too brittle to handle all the Russian threw at her.

Friday Open Thread


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Christine Taylor is seen in attendance during the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 19, 2009 in Indian Wells, California.


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Camilla Belle is seen in attendance during the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 19, 2009 in Indian Wells, California.

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We've got the women's semifinals and the final two men's quarterfinals in Indian Wells today.

Have at it.

Fist Bump


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Good buddies Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish decided to play doubles this week. They're into the semifinals after crushing David Nalbandian and Juan Martin del Potro 6-1, 6-1. Can they march all the way to a title?


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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spotlight: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova



She hails from Russia. She's 17-years-old and ranked No. 42 in the world. Today, she bested No. 7 Agnieszka Radwanska from Poland in straight sets to reach her first big-league semifinal.

Along the way, she bested another Pole, Marta Domachowska, in straights; No. 2 seed Jelena Jankovic in straights; Karin Knapp from Italy in straights; Nuria Llogostera Vives from Spain in straights. In her next match, she'll play No. 5 seed Ana Ivanovic (No. 23 seed Sybille Bammer of Austria just withdrew as I'm writing this with a shoulder injury) who, from what little I've seen this event, she can beat in straights.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Pav-lee-oo-CHEN-ko-vuh. Get to know her name.

Or not.

Indian Wells, California -- where female tennis stars are born, but only a few mature.

Drive By

Andy the Younger beats Ljube in straights.
Daddy to Be beats Hot Sauce in three.
Andy the Elder beats Djoke in three.
Superman beats Gutless in straights.

Open Call

Nominate your favorite tennis players or contributors for the International Tennis Hall of Fame Class of 2010 right here. Wheelchair tennis athletes and administrators will be eligible for the first time.

Face Of The Day


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How else can David Nalandian look after squandering 5 match points against a player he has practically terrorized on the tennis court the last two times he played him. I didn't see the match, but Rafael Nadal had to be lucky to escape. That final set bagel tells me all I need to know about the affair.

I just couldn't stay up. I tried. But Victoria Azarenka's shrill squeals after every shot were far too annoying, and muting the television didn't make the tennis she and Dinara Safina played look any better. I'm surprised I got through the first set. Karen, your wish came true.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Exquisite


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I fully expected David Ferrer to win that match. I only had hope for Andy Roddick after he held is first three service games. I can't remember the last time he did that against Ferrer. He's lost to the Spaniard three times in a row, and four of the last five.

There was nothing between them. And that's not just a figure of speech. Their stats were virtually the same. Both players used the entire court and struck shots that would elicit loud are you kidding me?'s from a certain ESPN commentator when his favorite player struck them. Ferrer has found his form again. All he needs is confidence.

Andy has now won two of the three best matches I've seen so far at this event.

Mobbed

Faces Of The Day


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Gwen Stefani, baby Zuma, and Mirka.

(Thanks, Savannah)

Final Four First


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That would be Russian Vera Zvonareva who handled the Princess of Denmark with ease today. I wouldn't mind if she won the whole thing, actually. I've no real interest in watching the rest of the women's mathcups, that's for sure.

Andy Roddick asked not too long ago that since things were now equal in terms of prize money on the tours at the Slams, why don't the women play the second match on Arthur Ashe stadium from time to time, so the men aren't the only ones out there till the wee hours of the morning?

Last night we saw what would happen. After Roddick beat Nicolas Kiefer in a high-quality match, there wasn a mass exodus of fans. It may have had to do with the multiple double faults Flavia Pennetta toxified the joint with, after which Ana Ivanovic generously returned the favor. Her 4-0 lead evaporated like money.

I couldn't stay up to watch the match. It was beyond boring. Some fans say it got better later. Good for the dozen or so who hung around to see it, I guess.

One Helluva Match


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Andy Roddick needed his best and most focused tennis to dismiss an uncharacteristically calm and surprisingly in-form Nicolas Kiefer in straights.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Face Of The Day


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Rafael Nadal wasn't particularly sharp today, but he beguiled Dmitry Tursunov with his serve.

Match Of The Day

Match of the event, really. It's sure to get better down the road, but when Sam Querrey won 94% of all his service points to cruise past Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2 in the first set, I knew Stan would step up. It wasn't that he was playing poorly, after all, but Sam was on fire.

Second set was high-quality from both sides of the net. Sam cracked first, dropping his serve at 5-6 to surrender the set. By late in the third, the atmosphere turned Davis Cup-esque, though the fans were ultra courteous to the Swiss, who was giving them all sorts of reasons to applaud.

The tiebreak began thus: first 8 points, 8 first serves. Players exchanged one mini break. Then Stan double faulted, leaving the match on Sam's racquet at 5-4. Sam made a first serve, but retreated from the net on a forward approach and paid the price. A controversial overule on the sidellne gave Sam his first match point at 6-5. Forcing play brought Stan to match point at 7-6. Sam served back-to-back aces to lead 8-7. Stan had enough. He flashed his gonads and won the last three points of the match at the net.

That's what made all the difference:

Balls.

Isner All That?


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Well, he upset Marat Safin in routine straights anyway. 6-4, 6-4. John Isner read the Russian's serve like large print. I don't know that I've ever seen him return so well. While he's inconsistent off the ground, when he connects, he connects. And MMT would probably find something to like about his volleys. For a giant, he hits a low half-volley quite well.

This match indicates why I think Isner could be good at Davis Cup in the future. He enjoys the big occasions. He eats up the atmosphere like a hungry man and it feeds his tennis well.

The first American into the final 16. At No. 147, the lowest-ranked player remaining in the draw.

Kudos.

Spotlight: Jill Craybas


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Scott is at it again. This time, he shines the light on Jill Craybas, the only American woman left in the singles draw:

She came into the tournament on a four-match losing streak and hadn’t beaten a player ranked in the top 100 this year. But at the BNP Paribas Open, Jill Craybas racked up wins over former top-tenners Jelena Dokic and Nicole Vaidisova, as well as 16th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues. She now faces top seed Dinara Safina in the fourth round.

Craybas attributes this run to, “working really hard the last couple of months in the off-season. [i] worked on a lot of different things that my coach wanted me to experiment with a little bit. I think it’s starting to come together. I just keep fighting. I’ve been competing hard, and I think it’s been a big difference.

“Mentally, the last few weeks I’ve been a little bit stronger than I was at the beginning of the year,” said Craybas. “Instead of worrying about what I’m doing well or what’s not going well, I’ve just taken an approach of, even if things aren’t feeling quite the way I’d like them to, just going out and competing my hardest. The competing has really helped me, focusing on that a little bit more.”

Read the rest...

My fondest memory of Jill came during her interview after she beat Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2005. The corps bombarded her with questions about Serena, Serena's fitness, Serena's game, Serena's forehand, etc... Jill calmly and pointedly made the reporters aware that this was her big day and she would only answer questions about herself, her game, and her team, thank you very much.

French Fried


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Frenchmen have made their mark in men's tennis in recent months. Yesterday, four of them hit a wall.

No shock that Paul-Henri Mathieu couldn't tame Andy Murray. Or that Fernando Verdasco could hit Richard Gasquet off the court. But color me surprised that Ivan Ljubicic rose from the dead to defeat Gilles Simon in straights and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga couldn't harness his scattered energy to dispatch a newly muscular Igor Andreev.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Quote For The Day II

"If the model for the modern game is going to be Federer and his stylish virtuosity, Gasquet or Murray would be the logical heirs—for the moment, Murray is well ahead in that race. But Verdasco's rise makes it seem like there will be an alternative model based on Nadal. Their power and tirelessness are a tough combination for the virtuosos to match, as Verdasco showed when he ended Murray's run at the Australian Open."--Steve Tignor

(I, for one, would like to see the two Fernandos play the quarterfinal, but that's me.)

(Thanks, HoiHa)

Shirtless



Russians Igor Andreev and Marat Safin share a practice session in Indian Wells today.

Face Of The Day


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Angela Haynes was three games away from victory over Flavia Pennetta. Receiving serve at 3-1 in the second set the moment got too big. She only one two more games in the match. Word is she got tired. This was her fifth match, after all. Surely a player who hasn't played much professional tennis for the past three years was bound to run out of steam at some point. Hope she has a support team that makes it possible for her to build on this mini-run.

Shaking Pom Poms

Doug Adler and Robbie Koenig are shaking pom poms today. Andy Murray is on court against Paul-Henri Mathieu, and the world news feed commentators sound as though they're competing for a big cheerleading award. Not that you were wondering, but Mathieu isn't on their team.

Adler has just invoked the grace of god.

Spotlight: Dinara Safina


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Overall, I've got a positive impression of Dinara Safina. I like her personality. I like her fight. I'm lukewarm about her tennis. I have enjoyed many of her recent interviews.

Steve takes a closer look at her in Looking Out For No. 1. Here's the introduction:

The crowd is dozing, the second set is dragging, and the woman across the net isn't giving Dinara Safina anything to work with. Peng Shuai shovels one ball down the middle after another—no angles, no pace. It's time for the top seed to take matters into her own hands. This, of course, means that she must let out an unintelligible, or perhaps Russian, scream that turns into a full sentence—maybe a paragraph—of anger. The sleepy Southern California afternoon is punctured. The audience, collectively stunned out of its torpor, gives the players the biggest cheer they receive all afternoon. Safina wins the next two points, the game, the set, and, eventually, not without more struggle and a few more self-lacerations, the match. After yesterday's upsets, the tournament needs its No. 1 seed. Safina, not at her best, has obliged.

Marat's little sister has made a name for herself. That she could become the No. 1 player in the world on Monday by making the final in the California desert leaves me a bit downcast. Color me Old School, but I need my world No. 1's to have hoisted a Big One.

But the rankings are the rankings. Let's see how she holds up under the pressure of seeing the mountaintop for a second time this season.

Quote For The Day

"I think it's not going to really disturb my mindset on tennis a whole lot. I've always made sure that my schedule is (to) get away from tennis a little bit and then come back when I'm ready to play again. That's why I didn't play for the last five to six weeks. I think it's going to be pretty much the same. I don't really have to adjust a whole lot. If it does something to me, I think it's going to motivate me to play for a long time."--Roger Federer, on becoming a father


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Bryan/Bryan def. Allegro/Federer 6-2, 6-0 in 44 minutes.

American Men On A Mission


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Andy Roddick led three American men into the third round of the BNP Paribas Open last night. He played dog poop tennis to get past Austrian caveman David Koellerer in straight sets. Earlier, John Isner rallied to upset Gael Monfils in three sets, but the cleanest victory of the day came from Sam Querrey who rode the cheers of his own J-Block-like fan club to pick apart an in-form Radek Stepanek in routine straights.

Mardy Rish, Taylor Dent, who's trying to comeback from a slew of injuries, Bobby Reynolds, Michael Russell, Todd Widom, and Ryan Sweeting, who froze like a dear in headlights after being up a set and a break over Juan Martin del Potro, weren't so lucky. James Blake advanced to the third round night before last.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Face Of The Day


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Gael Monfils of France disputes a call while playing John Isner during the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden March 15, 2009 in Indian Wells, California.

’A Troubled Individual’

That's what world news feed commentator Doug Adler just called Novak Djokovic during his second round match against Martin Vassallo Arguello.

And that was only the beginning.

I'm not recording the match, so I won't be able to get more direct quotes later. But Adler used that exact description -- “a troubled individual” -- before going on to say Djoke was now too hard to cheer for, that he needed to change his behavior because it's affecting his game, that he acts like it's he and his parents against the world.

My jaw dropped.

Not because I think Adler has no point, but because I've never heard a commentator utter such a blunt judgment about a player, much less a top player, from the commentary box before.

Robbie Koenig seemed startled. After a pregnant pause, he reminded his co-host that it's all about the tennis.

It's been a decidedly quiet broadcast since.

Spotlight: Amélie Mauresmo


Christina Ward

Most of you know by now that Amélie Mauresmo is my girl. One of these days, I intend to see her play tennis up close and personal, but that day has not yet come to pass. Though I hold out hope that it does before she hangs up her racquet and moves on to full-time wine collecting or motor biking in the south of France.

This week, Scott Minor over at Talk About Tennis is covering the BNP Paribas Open. Here's an excerpt of his piece Introspective Amélie after her "scratchy" three-set victory over Anna-Lena Groenefeld:

The Frenchwoman took a look back at the highs and lows of her 15-year career, including winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the year-end WTA Championships once each, “You have moments when it’s a little bit more difficult to go to practice and to make the effort and to physically go through the pain. But overall, I didn’t find it difficult, except those moments which are – we’re not robots. We’re not machines. We’re human.

“I think it was the summer of 2007, where I really asked myself the question whether I want to keep going or not. In the end, I didn’t find the answer quickly. It took me a few months to really feel that, for some reason, I don’t have enough.

“At the end of 2008, I really was thinking, okay, I go for 2009, and that’s still how I feel in my mind. I go for 2009, and we’ll see how it goes. If I play well, if I’m injury-free, how do I feel? Am I happy on the court? Is this passion still there? I guess from now on I will, every end of the season, I will probably try to see inside of myself if I want to keep going for another one.”

Fan or not, read the rest. When the elder stateswomen of the game speak, people need to listen.

Boom or Bust

I don't know what's going on with the women's draw out in the desert because I haven't been able to watch a match. We know that two of the top "stars", No. 2 seed Jelena Jankovic and No. 3 seed Elena Dementieva, have crashed out in their first matches. At least ElenaD managed to win a set. She said something about not recovering from all the tennis she's played so far this year and is happy to get some rest before Key Biscayne. This from one of the fittest players on the tour.

Quietly advancing, however, is the American Angela Haynes who got into the main draw after winning two qualifying matches as a wild card. She announced herself at the 2004 US Open where she advanced to the third round and followed it up at Wimbledon the next year where she took a set from a woefully out-of-shape Serena Williams in the first round. Since all of that, her brother died tragically in a motorcycle accident, and she's been off the radar ever since. Ranked No. 151, she hasn't played in the main draw of a Slam since 2005.

Now, she's is in the third round of the 6th Slam, after defeating in straight sets No. 20 seed Sugiyama Ai, who's no walk in the part no matter how much of a veteran she's become. The American hasn't dropped a set in her four matches, including qualifying.

That AP image you see above is the only photo anyone bothered to take of the 24-year-old Black woman from Compton. No, I'm not accusing anyone of bigotry or racism, so calm down. But Haynes probably considers the BNP Paribas Open a home event, seeing as though she was raised less than two hours away. And she's clearly playing some of her best tennis under the radar. Perhaps the crafty lefty with the swinging serve can use this event to get her career back on track. She must seize the day. No. 12 seed Flavia Pennetta is her next test. Let's see how she holds up.