Saturday, June 30, 2007

Heard Around Wimbledon - And Some Idle Chit Chat

Not even one full week had passed and there was enough juicy stuff to start a column. Keeping up with tennis trends I too have started a notebook. Notes to myself appear in this post.

The LTA has given Peter Lundgren a leave of absence for "personal reasons" after he allegedly slurred his words while addressing his fellow coaches at a LTA meeting last week. The leave is supposed to last until the Davis Cup Tie in September.In other LTA news apparently the British players were miffed because thanks to the suspension they had no coach available to them today(June 26).
Isn't that expression about throwing good money after bad a British expression?

Once again the a US sports writer has declared that if there are no American superstars the sport of tennis is dead. Filip Bondy's article in the Sunday June 24 New York Daily News, while focusing on tennis, damns it with faint praise. He goes on and on about the state of American tennis and asks where are the McEnroe's and Connors of this generation. He then says outreach in the inner cities has not born fruit. I have to object to that comment. As a USTA member I get their magazine. I see plenty of people of color in the ranks of the USTA. I also know a woman of color who is on the Board of the USTA in her region.It may come as a surprise to people like Bondy that many of the people living in America's cities go to work everyday, put their kids in the best private schools (religious or secular) that their budgets allow, and actually play tennis. In Harlem there are tennis courts at the Harlem River Houses that have been there for years. Last year Serena visited them. Here's a newsflash. The local people play on them.

It may also surprise him that the sport of tennis is not dead everywhere and it's not dead in the United States unless all those people who come to New York for the US Open and make it the most profitable sports event in the city are actually beamed down from Mars or Planet Mongo. Are those aliens that flock to Mason, Ohio every year? And just who are those people in Miami every spring?
A column talking about why American tennis is in trouble would've been much more interesting but not as heart warming to the powers that be.

Marat Safin
, when asked if he has confidence going into a possible third round match against Roger Federer said no. His confidence left him some time in March he said. Not quite what I wanted to hear from Marat going into this match.
I like how the Wimbledon officials decided to put Marat's rain delayed match on court 13 and how the fans were hanging from the rafters. The ESPN announcers railed about the tags on his shirt being out and how that showed lack of respect for the event. Guess he should've worn off white trousers and a matching jacket. Oh yes, and carried the now essential manpurse.

Speaking of purses there are thieves in the mens locker rooms.

Jonas Bjorkman, who usually doesn't get steamed about anything except cold Swedish meatballs, is furious about an increasing amount of wallet theft in ATP locker rooms, including a handful of incidents at the Sony Ericsson Open on Key Biscayne earlier this year.

"It's happened at Indian Wells, Key Biscayne, the Australian Open, the French Open, Queens. It's become a very serious problem and we're going to be bringing it up at the players meeting at Wimbledon," said Bjorkman.
Entire Article

There is also a report about this in L'Equipe which states that the following players have also been victimized:
Paul-Henri Mathieu, Richard Gasquet (wallets in Miami), Allegro (wallet in RG), J. Murray (cell phone and wallet in Queen's), Grosjean (money, Queen's), Butorac (prize money in Surbiton), Mahut (iPod during the Wimbledon qualies), Carlsen (Rolex during the Wimbledon qualies).
Serious stuff. The L'Equipe article is not available on line but is quoted from on Mens Tennis Forums

Maria Sharapova has stated that after Wimbledon is over she is taking three weeks off so that her shoulder can continue healing. If her shoulder is injured why is she playing? Remember Venus playing in 2003 with a serious injury Maria? Here's the link.

Apparently the same scheduling genius who put Marat on Court 13 on June 26 scheduled Ana Ivanovic for Court 18 today. Not only are they hanging from the rafters but the press has taken up residence on the court. Distracting much?
The scheduling should not be an issue during a Slam but when you see something like this you have to wonder what they're drinking during High Tea.
Justine - Centre Court
Serena - Court 1
Jelena - Court 2
Daniela - Court 2
Marion - Court 4
Golovin/Mauresmo - Court 5
Nicole - Court 11
Dinara - Court 13
Martina - Court 13
Michaella - Court 13
Golovin - Court 14
Pe'er - Court 14
AnaI - Court 18

Someone please explain that to me. And while you're at it please explain Ms Sharapova's gills. Thanks

Note to self:
Sooo when I go to Wimbledon sometime in the near future for the first week make sure to get ground passes unless a fave is playing on Centre Court. Pack a lunch and camp out on Court 18, the poor fans Centre Court. The list of high quality players on that court this week is stunning. Some of them are mentioned above. And the matches have been pretty good as well. Oh, and pick up a small dog for Roger's bag. Hope Mirka likes small dogs.

David Nalbandian hasn't played a five setter yet. Just when fans had gotten used to his matches really taking off after he'd managed to lose the first two sets he pulls this. Wonder if that means he's changed his diet?
Speaking of diet Marion Bartoli beat Shahar Pe'er in what to me is an upset. I wonder if it's occurred to Marion and her team that she's there on semi final day of she drops about twenty pounds. We're not saying she has to become a stick insect but if she's lighter the better her movement and all that goes with better movement.

Martina Hingis lost her match on Court 2. Unless Martina has morphed into another human being I doubt her post match attitude is one the public would want to see. Some are speculating she may re retire. I was one of those who said from the beginning she shouldn't come back because the game had changed so much from when she was dominating. The women are bigger, smarter, and just as mean if not more so. Her delicate shots and finesse are quaint reminders of what the women's game was during the transition from the Evert/Navratilova era and the modern era which was ushered in by Monica Seles. Martina never could handle raw power. At least she's got someone to share her misery with now.

Thefts Continue

Whodunnit? Sneak thief strikes in the Wimbledon locker room

Last updated at 22:41pm on 29th June 2007

The thief who has plagued the men's tennis tour all year has finally struck in the men's locker room at Wimbledon.

Players and coaches are watching each other with heightened suspicion after two incidents in the last two days, one of them involving the coach of the man who knocked out Tim Henman.

Former French Open champion Albert Costa, who works with Henman's conqueror Feliciano Lopez, had a bag stolen containing 1,700 euros and $1,000 in cash — a total of around £1,650. That followed the disappearance of a wallet belonging to French player Michael Llodra, who was away from his locker for only 30 seconds when the theft took place.

The issue is kicking up a storm in the locker room, especially as the players and coaches feel one of their own must be responsible.

There has been a spate of incidents this year, despite strict checks on admission to locker rooms around the tour.

The players want the All England Club to step up security in time for next year, while a meeting of the Association of Tennis Professionals players' council is likely to be held before the next Grand Slam, the U.S. Open, to discuss the matter.

In the meantime, a Wimbledon spokesman said: "We are aware of the incident and we have told our staff in the locker room to be extra vigilant, but it is difficult with so many people in the area. It is up to the player concerned to inform the police."

By some estimates the number of thefts in the men's locker room this year is around 20. The incidents go as far back as January at the Australian Open but these are the first at Wimbledon.
Daily Mail

Has Juan Carlos Ferrero had enough? He didn't just beat Blake yesterday he BEAT him. Is he poised to make a serious run in London? And is Blake about to be replaced on the Davis Cup team? PMac's commentary was brutally frank yesterday (June 29). I want to see how he calls an Andy Roddick match before I think he's decided to be a real commentator and not a cheerleader.

Will Jo-Wilfried Tsonga be the biggest surprise of this tournament?

I lost some respect for Darren Cahill after the Venus Williams shoe comments in Paris but his pre match comments about Marat proved prophetic. I was hoping Marat would show up but when I read what he said about his confidence I thought he was already looking for the exits. Cahill just confirmed my suspicions.
Cahill has also been the one beacon of hope for fans wanting to hear an expert discuss what is going on during a match. I hope he never drinks the ESPN water and starts thinking all we fans want to hear are the IMG talking points.

About Brad Gilbert. Rafael Nadal is back to being Rafael Nadal and not Ralph Nadle. It's now Dickie Gasket.

Nice to see Laura Granville being interviewed on ESPN by Cahill and Fowler.

Note to womens tour:

Venus and Serena are playing doubles and they're unseeded. Pass it on.

The Shallow End of the Pool

Roger looks like this walking on court.

Anna Wintour does this

By the way there is no truth to the rumor posted by one fan that she purses her lips to make sure all the nasties stay inside. That movie was fictitious no?

Janko Tipsarevic has writing on his arms. Was he in "The 300" too?

And maybe it's because I'm old. Do these piercings mean anything anymore or are they simply a fashion statement?

He also uses a racquet with red strings. You have been served.

I want to take a minute and give props to Danai Udomchoke of Thailand. He could've come into his match against Andy Roddick with slumped shoulders and the attitude that Milagros Sequera seemed to bring to her match against Serena but he didn't. He is a good player and it showed. He went out in straights but he didn't roll over and play dead. His play deserved more commentary than his name which is foreign to American ears but I take it not in Thailand. Good for you Danai.

Am I the only one who hates the David Ortiz "Big Papi" ESPN commercial?

Marcos Baghdatis for those who haven't seen his new look.

Note to self: When watching ESPN don't forget to hit the mute button when either Sharapova/Roddick/Federer is playing.


I didn't want to go public with this but MV and HFPY have had a falling out. As m8 over on TAT noted this could be the only reason The Captain showed up inappropriately attired. As any fashionista knows the large man purse does require the proper environment in which to be shown off to full effect.
As all tennis fans know MV has been occupied of late firing coaches, uh, making sure The Captain has the proper environment in which to ponder his greatness and hone his formidable skills. I think she sent Tommy Haas a bouquet of flowers in thanks for his unswerving dedication to the Captains cause. It is not true that she and the Captain did the Popcorn upon hearing of Tommy's injury which did plague him through his match against Tursunov.
As someone who is neutral in the MV vs HFPY wars I present this picture to MV and hope that she makes sure her captain doesn't make a fashion faux pas like this again. I think a little "F" on the sailor hat would be divine don't you?
And MV, I'm sure Mr. Gaulthier will be happy to assist.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Friday, June 29, 2007

It's Official!

The Sony Ericsson Championships will have a new home next November and qualifying players will receive a substantial raise. Doha, Qatar, host of the 2006 Asian Games, will host the 2008-2010 Sony Ericsson Championships, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour announced today.

Under terms of the $42 million, three-year agreement, the Sony Ericsson Championships will feature record prize money of $4.45 million, equal to that of the ATP’s season-ending Tennis Masters Cup. The singles winner’s check of $1,485,000 represents the largest single guaranteed payout in women’s tennis today.

"The awarding of our Sony Ericsson Championships to Qatar represents an exciting continuation of our strategy to showcase the very best of women’s tennis in different regions and markets throughout the world," said Sony Ericsson WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott. "Doha has been a longstanding supporter of women’s tennis, including having held the first women’s professional tennis event in the Middle East in 2001, and has demonstrated the ability to successfully host world class sporting events such as the 2006 Asian Games. This agreement, along with the significantly increased prize money to be offered, also demonstrates the value that the Tour’s Roadmap circuit structure plans have injected into the sport. I am particularly thrilled that in the year that both Wimbledon and Roland Garros made historic decisions to award equal prize money to the women, our Sony Ericsson Championships will for the first time ever in 2008 offer equal prize money of $4.45 million."

The Tour also announced today that Istanbul has been awarded the Sony Ericsson Championships for 2011- 2013. The event will feature equal prize money and the Istanbul organizers plan to build a state of the art new 10,000 seat stadium that will be the home of the event.

"We’re thrilled to have been awarded the honor to host the Sony Ericsson Championships for 2011-2013, the most prestigious tournament in women’s tennis," said Coskun Erginer, Managing Director of the Istanbul Cup. "Tennis is growing very rapidly in Turkey, and we are committed to building upon the great tradition of the Sony Ericsson Championships."
The Championships concluded a disappointing four-year run at Los Angeles' Staples Center in November of 2005 before moving to Madrid last year. In addition to apathetic attendance, staging the tournament on the west coast minimized media coverage as most matches were completed well after deadlines for European publications.

Fairly safe choices. Doha can offer what no other location can - do-re-mi and duty free shopping.
Turkey is pushing to become part of the European Union and that issue should be resolved by 2011.
I would love to have seen them overcome what I'll call regionalism and pick Monterey Mexico but I can say that these are the two choices I thought they'd go with.

For the entire article Please go Here

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Like A Kid In A Candy Store

by Craig Hickman

After the first uninterrupted day of play at SW19, rain is once again in the forecast for tomorrow. But it needs to stay in the clouds, because the only drooling I want to experience is my own as I feast upon a great plate of third-round matches.

Surely, much of the focus is on the Roger Federer, Marat Safin showdown. Is Raja, who just notched his 50th consecutive victory on the lawns, vulnerable? Which Safin will show up? Many people have said that their titanic 2005 semifinal in Melbourne was one of the best matches they've ever seen. Raja and Marat haven't played at a Slam since. Safin has been injured for much of that time. But even when he's been competing, the man with a circus in his head, as our own oddman is wont to say, has been as unpredictable as the lottery.

In interviews before the match, Raja has admitted that Marat, along with Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal, is one of the players over whom he doesn't have total control in a match. If Safin makes up his mind and plays to his ability, he has more than enough game to beat anybody. Even if Raja plays well. "I hope he doesn't take me out," said Raja in an interview as honest and straightforward as I've ever seen from him. No bullshit. No preening. Just truth. As critical as I can be of the man, I give him his kudos today.

For his part, Safin said that, overall, he wasn't feeling particularly confident, "Why should I be? I've only been in one semfinal back in March," but he was focused on getting to the third round to take on Raja.

Safin gets up for big matches, on big stages, against top opponents. The last time he had that opporunity was in the third round of Melbourne in January against Roddick. This readership chose that match as the best of the entire event. Marat made Andy work for that victory.

Based upon his play today against Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, a Pakistani qualifier who had quipped before the match that he hoped Safin woke up on the wrong side of the bed. No such luck. The Russian's ground strokes were precise, his movement solid, his return of serve top-notch and his volleys crisp. His first serve wasn't as sharp as it could be but he still didn't drop serve in the match.

He'll be ready for tomorrow, weather permitting, and win or lose, he's going to make Raja work.

But wait, there's more.

Read More

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Winners

Here are the men and women who won the pre Wimbledon Tournaments. Congratulations to them all.

Ivan Ljubicic - Men's Champion Ordina Open 2007

Anna Chakvetadze - Women's Champion Ordina Open 2007

Ivo Karlovic - Champion Nottingham Open 2007

Justine Henin - Champion Eastbourne 2007

Eric Butorac and Jamie Murray - Doubles Champions Nottingham 2007

Jeff Coetzee and Roger Wassen - Men's Doubles Champions Ordina 2007

Yung-Jan Chan and Chia-Jung Chuang - Women's Doubles Champions Ordina 2007

Hype - The Double Edged Sword

When I was coming up my mother used to make these comments. To me they were cryptic and I thought that I was too bright to pay attention to what she had to say. One of them was about having a childhood. I was too busy trying to be grown to think much of her statement at the time.

Craig has often spoke about hype and the damage it can do to a person. I'm sure many of us can cite at least two or three players, male and female, who crumbled under the weight of expectations. In a sport where you're over the hill at twenty seven the pressure to do well while young is extraordinary.

On the eve of Wimbledon, the Holy Grail of tennis, Peter Wachter has written this revealing article on Donald Young, the young man who would be king of American tennis. It's a cautionary tale, one that is still being written and may still have a happy ending. So while we cheer on the young men and women who have clawed their way to the top during this fortnight there is nothing wrong with spending a little time thinking about the sacrifices they and their families have made to get them to the grounds of the AELTC.

Prodigy’s End

...At this moment in May, Young is two months shy of 18. Before he had a learner’s permit, Young had a Nike contract and was saddled with the expectations of returning American men’s tennis to the heights occupied by Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Chang. He was on a path to become the first black men’s champion since Arthur Ashe. And he didn’t dodge the hype. A clip from the Tennis Channel a few years ago, preserved on YouTube, shows Young addressing the camera. He’s 14, with the barest patch of hair above his lip. “Win all the Grand Slams more than once — that’s always been my goal,” he says. He calls Sampras his idol and says he’d like to “maybe surpass what he did or come close.”

But even if he does play at Wimbledon this week, no one will be making comparisons to Sampras, who won seven Wimbledon titles (and a record 14 Grand Slams overall). Because here at the Carson Challenger, Young is ranked No. 335 in the world, and he is losing to a guy almost 500 spots below him, a nobody. As he rises from his chair and picks up his racket to start the second set, the question is not whether Young is the future of American tennis, but whether he has a future in tennis at all.

Has there ever been a bleaker moment in American tennis? On the women’s side, the Williams sisters still show flashes of brilliance — Serena, ranked No. 81 at the time, won the Australian Open earlier this year — but their best tennis is behind them. Have you even heard of another active American women’s player?

As for the men, Roddick is a respectable No. 5 and a winner of the U.S. Open, but he has reached only three Grand Slam finals in the four years since then. James Blake has never made it beyond the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. Once age and injury bring Roger Federer back down to earth, players like Rafael Nadal (already far ahead of the rest of the pack), Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Marcos Baghdatis and Richard Gasquet are ready to supplant him. There are no Americans in sight. Not so long ago, however, Donald Young, younger than all of them, seemed to be the exception.

The script was perfect: Young grew up on the South Side of Chicago and was raised by a couple of tennis fanatics — instructors, in fact. They didn’t force the game on their son, but he showed natural aptitude. At age 3, Young was able to hold rallies over the net. At 10, he hit a few balls with the sport’s most famous lefty, John McEnroe, who told reporters, “He’s the first person I’ve seen who has hands like me.” He dominated his peers and, with endorsements from Nike and Head lined up, turned pro at 14 — an astonishingly early age, but not unprecedented in tennis, especially after the rules were tweaked to allow young professionals to continue to play in the juniors. With his earrings and funky cap, Young brought another look to a men’s sport whose only other memorable sartorial flourishes recently have been stonewashed jeans shorts, worn by Agassi, and the pirate ensemble favored by Nadal. And image wasn’t everything: as a 15-year-old, Young became the youngest player ever to win a junior Grand Slam title, the 2005 Australian Open, and the youngest to hold the world’s top spot in the junior ranking.

His accomplishments generated attention outside the tennis world. Newsweek included Young in its 2005 Who’s Next list of up-and-comers, alongside another rising African-American star, Barack Obama. “There aren’t a lot of obvious bets in tennis,” says Jim Courier, a winner of four Grand Slam titles and the executive producer of “Unstrung,” a new documentary that follows Young and six other top American juniors. “At 15, with what he did, Donald was about as close as you get.”

When Young started playing the elite tournaments of the ATP tour, it figured that a breakthrough would happen soon. Lleyton Hewitt, Michael Chang and Aaron Krickstein won their first ATP titles at 16, and none had a record as a junior that was as sterling as Young’s.

But the script didn’t unfold as expected. In February 2005, in Young’s first ATP outing, in San Jose, Calif., Robby Ginepri, then No. 74 and quickly rising, needed only 50 minutes to beat Young 6-2, 6-2. Two weeks later, in Scottsdale, Ariz., Young lost 6-3, 6-1 to Paul Goldstein, currently ranked No. 95. Over the next year, Young continued to lose, and he now has a record of 0-10 in ATP events. And the matches have not gotten any more competitive. At the 2006 Sony Ericsson Open in Miami last year, he was crushed 6-0, 6-0 by Carlos Berlocq, a journeyman who lost by the same score to James Blake in the next round.

At the time, Young tried to give the impression that he was unfazed by the losses. “I really do think I’m learning something from each match,” he said after the drubbing by Berlocq. But among the tennis cognoscenti, the feeling was that Young has been pushed too hard, too fast. “Psychologically, it’s got to be tough when you’re barely winning games,” Patrick McEnroe, the captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, says.

But who’s to blame? His parents? Tennis has seen far worse, with its share of maniacal disciplinarians who order 1,000 serves before breakfast, as well as nut jobs like Jelena Dokic’s father, who was thrown out of the 2000 U.S. Open after badgering the staff about the high price of the salmon plate and who said he wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on Sydney after his daughter’s early exit from last year’s Australian Open.

Or was it Young’s management company, IMG? A colossus in the tennis world, the sports-marketing company represents Federer and Nadal, but it doesn’t yet have that most precious of commodities — an active American men’s champion. Was IMG pushing Young too hard, using its muscle to get wild-card entries into top events that his ranking — a lowly 1,253 at the end of 2004 — wouldn’t otherwise qualify him to enter? Shouldn’t he have stuck to the sport’s minor circuit, the Futures and Challengers tournaments, where the total prize money is capped at $15,000 and $150,000 respectively, until he earned a spot in the ATP events alongside the game’s elite?

Or is Young just another bust, hyped beyond the level of his talent? A Kwame Brown of the tennis world? The difference is that Brown, the first pick of the N.B.A. draft in 2001, is still being paid $9 million a year for his underachieving, while Young is in Carson fighting for the top prize of $7,200.

“There’s been a lot of negative press put on us playing in some of these ATP events,” Young’s father, Donald Sr., told me. It was a week before the Carson Challenger tournament, and I was visiting the Youngs in Atlanta, where Donald Jr. trains at Tennis in Motion, a tennis facility and training center run by his father. The campus is impressive enough, with more than 20 courts, hard and clay, set on a barren patch of land not far from the airport, but it was virtually empty on that Saturday in May. When I arrived, Donald Sr. was stringing a racket and Young’s mother, Illona, had just brought in pizza for lunch.

The decision to play the big tournaments was in large part a financial decision, Donald Sr. said, and the family wasn’t pushed by IMG. In fact, he wasn’t very happy with the company or Young’s agent, Gary Swain, who set up that now-legendary early practice session with John McEnroe. Neither Swain nor the company, according to Donald Sr., had done enough to market his son, beginning with a missed opportunity when Young became the world’s top junior. “Why couldn’t he have had . . . a two-dollar popsicle deal,” he said, or “a two-dollar bubblegum deal?”

Far-fetched examples, perhaps, but Young’s father had a point: even small endorsement deals can make a difference. After all, tennis, on any level, is expensive. That’s why, like golf, it’s often regarded as a sport for rich kids. Donald Sr. learned this long before his son was born. A Chicago native and the son of a former pro baseball player, he took up tennis at 16 and played for Alabama State. He tried his luck on the minor pro circuit, but it wasn’t much of a living. “I realized you had to have resources, sponsorships to do certain things,” he said.

Young’s mother, who grew up in Missouri, was not allowed to play tennis as a child because it was too expensive, but she fell in love with the sport during college. When she moved to Chicago to work in advertising and later for Fannie Mae, she taught tennis on the side. Donald Sr. and Illona met at a mixed-doubles tournament as opponents but soon realized they would win more matches playing together. “We partnered up, and then we really partnered up,” Illona said.

When their only child showed an early gift for the sport, the Youngs were well aware of the sacrifices, financial and otherwise, that they would have to make to see him reach his potential. Beginning in seventh grade, Young was home-schooled by Illona — she is also a certified teacher — to accommodate a heavy traveling schedule that you don’t see as often in more school-oriented and seasonal sports like football and baseball. The United States Tennis Association contributed yearly grants ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, but they weren’t enough. “You take a kid like Donald, who had a hefty travel schedule, and you’re looking at $30,000 to $40,000 in expenses,” Rodney Harmon, director of the U.S.T.A.’s men’s-tennis program, says. “Plus, you have to double that, since he’s too young to travel on his own.”

Neither the family nor Swain will discuss the size of Young’s endorsements, but his Nike contract, the largest of them, is reported to be significantly smaller than the $2 million deal the company is said to have given Gael Monfils, a young Frenchman of Caribbean descent who is ranked No. 62. Young’s father says only that his son is already making more than most recent college graduates. “They’re lucky if they get thirty, forty thousand,” he said — and Donald is “doing that already.” With the endorsements and the income from Tennis in Motion, the family is comfortable financially, and Illona can travel full time with her son.

Still, the Youngs aren’t rich, which is why accepting the wild cards made sense, Donald Sr. said. “If you had the opportunity to play in a pro event, make 5 or 10 thousand dollars, losing in the first round versus losing in a Future making $137. . . . ” Donald Sr. begin to ask rhetorically, referring to the paltry sums generated by a first-round exit in a Futures tournament. “Your hotel is paid for, you’ve got a car to drive around in. Is there any comparison?”

But at the time, what he didn’t understand was that the losses were exacting a heavy psychological price on his young son.

Young was on the academy’s practice courts, hitting with a college player and a teenage girl — just fooling around, really, before flying out to California in a few days to prepare for the Challenger tournament. When he took a break, we talked briefly and awkwardly, comparing opinions about “Spider-Man 3.” He has dealt with many reporters and seems to have determined that the best way to handle them is to be generous with his smiles and laughter and to say little. At first, even his high speaking voice seems conditioned to appear agreeable. But he’s handsome, naturally charismatic and well mannered, so he comes off as perhaps a tad nervous, but not affected.

The following morning, we sat down in the tennis center, next to the Ping-Pong table. Young had awoken early to catch the end of a tournament final in Hamburg, in which Federer happened to beat Nadal for the first time on clay. Later, he was hoping to make the two-hour drive to the University of Georgia to watch some of the college championships then under way. I recalled my earlier conversation with Harmon of the U.S.T.A, who has known Young for many years. “That’s one thing people don’t realize about Donald,” he told me. “That he really loves the game, loves watching it and appreciates the history.”

So I was surprised to hear Young tell me that the previous year he had thought of giving up the sport entirely.

He had lost plenty of times as a junior, he said, but the losses were always followed by wins and then dominance. Yet the learning curve was steeper at the professional level, and after his dismal start in ATP events, Young found himself for the first time questioning his tennis skills. “I felt like I wasn’t good enough, felt like I should go to school now, just hang it up,” he said. “I didn’t feel I deserved to be in the locker room.”

Meanwhile, Young, so close to his parents, began to push them away. “I wasn’t listening to anyone,” he said. “I wanted to do what I wanted to do, and that was it.” He didn’t feel like traveling. He wanted to hang out with his friends in Atlanta. Briefly, he dated. “It kind of got in the way a little bit,” he said. “Maybe it was the wrong person. I don’t know.” Young wasn’t just trying to find his way as a professional tennis player; he was negotiating his adolescence.

For the entire article please continue reading Paul Wachter

The Championships Wimbledon – A Few Thoughts About the Ladies

I’m not doing a section by section review of the women’s draw. Craig has done a great overview HERE.

A draw is a living breathing document. It is a statement of belief presented by the men and women who run the event giving fans an idea of who the organizers think has the cojones to make it through a two week tournament where the Finalists will have played six matches and must now play and win a seventh in order to stand alone as winner of Wimbledon. The All England Lawn and Tennis Club does not use any special formula for the Ladies draw the way it does for the Gentleman’s draw. There have been a lot of questions as to why this isn’t done but that is a discussion for another time. The English have their reasons and mere mortals aren’t expected to question them.

The tennishead or fantard, in reading the draw takes into account who has been hot so far this year, what is known of the players physical condition and adds in what has happened between the lines coming into the event. Has the player done well? Has she played too much, too little or not at all? Would you compare her mental state to Baccarat crystal or a beer mug from your local watering hole?

The fantard is focused on who he/she likes most and either curses or pans the draw based on how well his/her favorite has fared. The more casual fan who may only pay attention to the Slams may just be focused on who they like or don't like based on what they've seen or heard of a particular player.

The draw came out while I was on my way to work so when I arrived, breakfast be damned, I wanted to see what they did to whom. It’s taken me awhile to digest the women’s draw. I’ve read commentary by other bloggers much more famous than I among tennisheads. Some of the predictions are bizarre to say the least. Mine may be too for some readers. I’m going to look at the draw focusing on the women who have been hot coming into the grass season or are expected to do well here. Please keep in mind I’m not ranking them in any way.

Jelena Jankovic

(3)Jankovic vs (WC)Keothavong
Shaughnessy vs Gadjosova
Dulko vs Daniilidou
Ondroskova vs (26)Safarova

(18)Bartoli vs Pennetta
(Q)Govortsova vs Arn
Kanepi vs Malek
Tanasugarn vs (16)Peer

(9)Hingis vs (WC)Cavaday
Nakamura vs Sucha
Wozniak vs Granville
Lepchenko vs (20)Bammer

(31)Krajicek vs Obziler
Kloesel vs (WC)O'Brien
(WC)Kutuzova vs Poutchek
Kerber vs (8)Chakvetadze

The women of interest here other than Jelena are Marion Bartoli, Lucie Safarova, Shahar Pe’er and Anna Chakvetadze. Martina Hingis has not done much so far this year. She is ranked at number nine I’m assuming for past performances here.
A lot of people are looking for a Jankovic vs Chakvetadze showdown to come out of this section. Thing is I’m not so sure Jelena will make it past Safarova. Jelena has played 50 matches so far this year. She won last week at Birmingham. Jelena’s fans have been begging her to take some time off. We’re not going to forget you if you don’t play a week or two. Everyone knows the mental and physical toll tennis takes. Clay takes a bigger toll than any other surface. As play starts keep the above picture in mind. It may mean Jelena’s body is telling her “enough”. She should win her first round match. After that it may be an early exit for Jelena. Hopefully she’ll take a few days off and not run off to play a $10k challenger as her fans often joke.

From this section I see Safarova vs Pe’er and from the bottom section Hingis vs Chakvetadze. Martina may be looking to resurrect what has been a dismal season so far for her. I’m not willing to say Chakvetadze will beat her. She should, but I’m still not impressed with her. I give Martina a very slight edge.

Serena Williams and Justine Henin

(1)Henin vs (Q)Cravero
Baczinsky vs Dushevina
Sun vs Loit
Vesnina vs (30)Poutchkova

(24)A.Bondarenko vs Craybas
(Q)Szavay vs Birnerova
Harkleroad vs Vinci
Pin vs (15)Schnyder

(10)Hantuchova vs (WC)Pavlychenkova
Likhovtseva vs Camerin
(Q)Ozegovic vs Groenefeld
(WC)Baltacha vs (19)Srebotnik

(27)Stosur vs (Q)Brandi
Sequera vs Schruff
Molik vs Rodionova
Domingues lino vs (7)S.Williams

This is the matchup everyone is looking forward to. Everyone was looking for it at Roland Garros too. Some say Serena’s pathetic outing there was based on her belief that she can’t beat Justine on clay. I don’t buy it. She came out flat, of that there is no doubt, and was never in that match. Whatever was going on Serena, who has been seen around London in a fabulous red dress (maybe someone told her about professional stylists?) should be looking forward to meeting Justine on the lawns of the AELTC as much as we fans are. I don’t see much here to stop it from happening. Serena played Domingues Lino at last years US Open and handled the junk she dishes up. Some are saying the junior sensation Pavlychenkova may upset Daniela Hantuchova. I’ve never seen Ms Pavlychenkova play so I have no opinion on that. Alona Bondarenko has also been playing well and could stage an upset depending on which Patty Schnyder shows up. Either way she should lose to Justine. I say should. This is grass not clay and Justine is vulnerable here. I said vulnerable. I didn’t say she’d lose early. And again it depends on which Patty shows up.

Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Maria Sharapova

(5)Kuznetsova vs Vakulenko
Mattek vs Bardina
Pironkova vs A.Radwanska
Smashnova vs (32)Muller

(17)Golovin vs (Q)Hsieh
(Q)Zahlavova Strycova vs Paszek
Castano vs Benesova
Dechy vs (12)Dementieva

(13)Safina vs K.Bondareno
Brianti vs Morigami
Peng vs (Q)Sromova
Kudryavseva vs (23)V.Williams

(26)Sugiyama vs (WC)South
Kirilenko vs (LL)Cornet
Bremond vs Bychkova
Chan vs (2)Sharapova

Sveta has apparently been auditioning for the women’s chapter of the Headcase Club. She’s making a lot of noise in the Wimby run up because of her corn rows styled, as she has said, in the ghetto of Barcelona. Maybe she’s shaking up her image to try and shake up her game. She played one brilliant match this spring showing form she hasn’t exhibited since winning the US Open. The next day she played as if she’d never seen a tennis court before. She has a very easy section here and should play Elena Dementieva who should win her quarter despite not having a serve. Golovin hasn’t played much at all due to injury and could go down to Tamira Paszek who has been playing.

The big story in this section is the chance of Venus Williams playing Maria Sharapova. It could happen. There is no one in Sharapova’s quarter who will cause her any problem whatsoever. Bremond has played brilliantly in spurts but I’m not sure which one of her persona’s will show up here. Venus has Dinara Safina in her quarter. The Safin/Safina family, charter members of the Headcase Club drive tennisheads nuts. You never know if they’ve come to play or if they’re composing odes to blades of grass while those fuzzy yellow balls whiz past them. A focused in form Dinara will be good test for Venus. Pay attention to how Venus is dressed. She’s been looking rather sharp in the pre Wimby pictures I’ve seen. If she’s sharp on court though I expect her to make an early exit. I hope she proves me wrong on this by the way.

End Notes

Marion Bartoli – Get fit young woman. You’ve got the potential to be top ten.

Ana Ivanovic – They’re giving you an easy row to hoe. Forget what happened in Paris. No one here should be able to stop you from meeting Nicole Vaidisova.

Nicole Vaidisova – The clay season is over Nicole. Was Australia a fluke? I hope not. When you play Amelie play to win.

Amelie Mauresmo – Last years champion is not expected to repeat. Abdominal surgery and weak showings so far make her chances look dim. They’re serving you a slice of cake almost as big as Maria's. Eat it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

State of the Women's Game

Yesterday's Birmingham Final between Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic was the kind of match that will be talked about for a long time. A thrilling three setter Sharapova took the first set and you could hear the cyber groans of Jelena's fans thinking that once again she would mentally disintegrate in an important match and that IMG's favorite would win this Wimbledon warm up.

Jelena Jankovic

Instead a real tennis match broke out. Jelena managed to win the second set and for a United States scoreboard watcher that meant putting off a nap to see if Jelena would conquer her demons and pull the match out.

Pull it out she did. No longer scoreboard watchng but instead following the match on a fan site where recaps were being posted this viewer "watched" as Jelena came back from being down love three in the third set to hoist the trophy.

It's too bad that only European tennis fans could see this match. None of the live feed sources were carrying it for viewers in the United States so we can only imagine what was going on and how the players reacted. I'm sure excerpts will be posted on YouTube but it's not the same as seeng the match live.

Which brings me to the reason for this post.

Alan Mascarenhas penned an article that questions the equal pay issue for Slams after what anyone would say was a dismal French Open Final. This short sample gives you the tone of the article.

Grass greener for women but it's still net loss for fans

Alan Mascarenhas
June 16, 2007

MARIA Sharapova can stop issuing feminist edicts and Jelena Jankovic can put away her burning bra. As the betrodden divas of women's tennis march on Wimbledon later this month, the revolution is over: the battle for equal pay at the grand slams has been won.

The All England Club had been the last bastion for those who believe that women - who play best-of-three-set matches as opposed to five - do not deserve the same pay as men.

The US Open offered equal prizemoney in 1973 and the Australian Open recommitted to it in 2001. Last year, even the chauvinist old dogs at Roland Garros awarded their male and female champions the same amount.

Presumably, Wimbledon organisers decided the disparity had become symbolic and not worth the hassle. Last year, Roger Federer received £655,000 ($1.6m) for winning, while Amelie Mauresmo took home £625,000.

Martina Hingis may have once gigglingly referred to Mauresmo as "half a man", but in prizemoney terms, she was worth at least 95 per cent.

Does women's tennis really deserve this latest pat on the back? Take last week's French Open final, where the capacity crowd was just pecking into their hors d'oeuvres as Justine Henin walloped Ana Ivanovic 6-1, 6-2.

For those of you who want to read the entire article please go

His argument is not without merit. I said that the French Open Women's Final was one of the worse ever and would do nothing to bring new fans to tennis. I think that Ana Ivanovic was overcome by the moment and played what was arguably the worst match of her career. She will rebound. Anyone who saw her demolish Sharapova in their semi final or saw her overcome a game fight by Milagros Sequera in quarter finals knows this.

But he is right in saying that when the WTA's legitimate stars are not playing the product is inferior to what the ATP presents to fans. You have a big rivalry at the top of the men's game but yesterdays Artois Championships final between Nicolas Mahut and Andy Roddick, on paper a shoo in for Roddick, turned out to be a very competitive match, much more so than the Federer/Gonzalez Australian Open final the author cites. The rankings fight for numbers three to ten is as fierce as the fight between numbers one and two on the mens side. The problem on the women's side is that many question the legitimacy of the number two ranked player.

Nicolas Mahut

But I have to bring up Estoril, a tournament played in Portugal prior to Roland Garros. The final there was as horrific as the women's French Open final. Novak Djokovic, perhaps thinking not too many people would be watching, did his method acting turn and made that final into farce. Internet live feed's were available however and many tennisheads in the States saw it. It is interesting that after his "performance" was condemned on both sides of the Atlantic and elsewhere in the world that Novak has confined his acting to karaoke clips and the practice court.

The men can throw up stinkers just like the women can so I think that part of his argument is moot. I do feel however that women can play best of five and should be required to at Slams. This would put an end to the argument that the women don't deserve equal pay and in my opinion up the quality of the matches. Those women who have a passing acquaintance with fitness would be forced to become fit. Those who think strategy is all about when to go to potty or change a racquet would have to start thinking otherwise. Mentally fragile? You'll be gone by the second round. No serve? Fuhgheddaboutit.

Haruka feels that best of three requires more intense concentration because you have no room to totally screw up. You go on a mental walkabout you'll be on a real one pretty soon is how she feels. And I agree up to a point. With the current crop of women best of three usually means a two set beat down. Yesterdays Birmingham final was the first exciting women's final this year and it was because of the tennis for a change and not just who was playing.

I think the Grand Poobah's have forgotten that tennis fans, in the end, want to see good tennis. A player should not have to worry about whether he or she is the right type for some ad campaign while prepping for matches. Two of the best female players in recent times, Monica Seles and Steffi Graf would be kicked to the curb in today's environment in favor of some preanointed faux beauty. Fans still argue who was the best, and it has nothing to do with who was "hotter" which is what the discourse about women's tennis has been reduced to in some quarters. Justine Henin may not be universally loved but everyone respects her game and knows that she comes on the court to take names.

In the end this is what tennis is about. Very few people had ever heard of Nicolas Mahut until last week. Now everyone is watching to see if he qualifies for Wimbledon where if he does he will wreak havoc with the men's draw. Ana Ivanovic, despite her poor showing at the French Final, is going to be watched very closely going forward because of what she did before that Final.

Let the women play best of five at Slams. Separate the wheat from the chaff and lets have more matches like the Birmingham Final where all fans are talking about is the tennis. Which is as it should be.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Here's To The Winners

Andy Roddick 2007 Winner and Four Time Champion Artois Championships

Tomas Berdych Men's Champion Halle 2007

Jelena Jankovich Winner DFS Classic (Birmingham) 2007

Meghann Shaughnessy Champion Barcelona KIA 2007

S Aspelin and J Knowles Doubles Champions Halle

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sachia Vickery and Victoria Duval - 12's On the Move

Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald wrote this article about two up and coming junior girls.

Sachia Vickery

It's usually around 3 or 4 a.m., as she is serving yet another cocktail, when single mother Paula Liverpool asks herself why she's bartending at a strip club till 5 in the morning when she must get up at 8 for her day job.

And then her mind turns to Sachia Vickery, her 12-year-old daughter -- tucked away in bed in Miramar in her grandmother's care, resting her chiseled body for another day of elite tennis training.

Sachia, the nation's No. 1-ranked junior player in the 12-and-under division, is already winning tournaments against 14-year-olds. And her mother, an immigrant from Guyana, will do anything to make sure her only daughter can compete ``with the girls who carry Louis Vuitton luggage to tournaments.''

Nadine Duval understands completely. She left behind her physician husband and a neonatology practice in Haiti to move to South Florida to give her children a better life. Among them is daughter Victoria, 11, No. 3 in the 12-and-unders, who could end up across the net from Sachia this weekend at the Florida State Closed championship in Daytona Beach.

Victoria Duval and her mom Nadine

Liverpool spends roughly $3,500 a month on Sachia's tennis, mostly on travel and private coaching at the Patrick McEnroe Tennis Academy on Grove Isle. Sometimes, when she can't get away from work, she sends her daughter and mother to tournaments on a Greyhound bus.

By day, she is an administrator for Kaplan University. Four nights a week, when she bartends at Club Rolexx in North Miami, she gets by on three hours' sleep.

''Sachia's tennis is not a fad,'' Liverpool says. ``She is very motivated and talented, and I want to be able to make her dream come true."

Says Nadine Duval

''It's frustrating for me to have given up my practice, but I'm happy as a Mom,'' ``I feel I have a responsibility to my children, and sometimes things are good for them, even if they're not good for you.''

Both girls say they were inspired by Venus and Serena Williams.

''Venus and Serena gave little black girls everywhere somebody to look up to,'' said Liverpool. ``They see there's somebody who looks like them winning tennis tournaments all over the world, someone with a similar background, somebody not rich, and it motivates these girls to follow their dreams.''

Her coach, former tour pro Laurence Tieleman, is equally impressed: ``What's remarkable about Sachia is not so much how she strikes the ball, because a lot of girls can do that, but it's how she understands the game so well.''

Victoria's coach, Jai Dilouie, is equally effusive about his star. ''Other kids have good strokes but don't compete well,'' he said. ``Vicki is ultra competitive, plays smart shots, and knows how to win.''

For more of Michelle Kaufman's great article go Here

And thanks to my friend Allison for bringing these two young women to my attention!

Note: Final Girls 14 Singles USTA Florida State Closed Sectional BG 14, 16, & 18

(12) Sachia Vickery d. (2) Victoria Duval 7-6; 3-6; 6-1

The YEC Final Four Cities - A Follow Up

The controversy over the WTA's Final Four Cities for the 2008 YEC has started a decent conversation in some quarters. One of the best suggestions I've seen was made by a fan HERE. The fan presents a list of cities that would give geographic and cultural diversity and that don't host a womens major at the present time.

2008 - South America (Buenos Aires, Caracas, Bogota, Sao Paulo, etc.)
2009 - Africa (Cairo, Casablanca, Cape Town, Nairobi)
2010 - Western Europe (Lisbon, Amsterdam, Munich, Vienna, Lyon)
2011 - North America (Vancouver , Boston, Chicago, Mexico City)
2012 - Oceania (Perth, Adelaide, Wellington)
2013 - Middle East (Dubai, Doha, Tel-Aviv, Ar Ryadh, Manama)
2014 - Eastern Europe (Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, Bucharest, Belgrade)
2015 - Asia (Beijing, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Bandar Seri Begawan, Delhi)

Other fans have also suggested Dublin, Ireland, and the original home of the YEC, New York City. Madrid is still a favorite. Oslo, Norway has been mentioned. So has Philadelphia in the United States although fans are rightly pointing out that the United States has a glut of tournaments. I've often wondered why no majors are held in Chicago though. The idea of Vancouver is also intriguing.

The fans also seem to want the sixteen player format back as well but this would conflict with the announced changes the WTA is pursuing for it's Roadmap.

As news unfolds I'll post it.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Heard Around

The green grass of Wimbledon is calling but it isn't here yet. The tennis world is far from quiet though.

WTA Announces the Final Four

Final Bid Cities for 2008 Sony Ericsson Championships

ST. PETERSBURG, FL, USA - The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour announced that Bangalore, India; Doha, Qatar; Istanbul, Turkey; and Monterrey, Mexico have been selected as the finalist bid cities to host the 2008 Sony Ericsson Championships. The announcement follows an extensive and competitive global bidding process begun earlier this year that included expressions of interest from numerous major international cities in hosting the richest and most prestigious event on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The winning city is expected to be announced following the Tour’s Board meetings during Wimbledon later this month.

Monterrey Mexico would be a great unexpected choice. Doha would be the expected choice. Does anyone know what the weather is like in Bangalore in November? It would be spring I suppose. Istanbul would be a surprise. I’m sure the limo drivers of that city will welcome Maria Sharapova with open arms.

In case the mention of Monterrey Mexico conjures up images like this:

Here are some pictures of the city as well as some facts to dispel any ideas you may have of Maria Sharapova being chased down the main square or Justine Henin being forced into bondage.

Gran Plaza

Monterrey is the third largest city in Mexico but perhaps the wealthiest. It has been consistently ranked as the safest city in Latin America beating out cities like Santiago,Chile and Buenos Aires,Argentina. It will host the Universal forum of Cultures in 2007 and is bidding to Host the 2016 Summer Olympic games.

In the interests of fairness here a pics of

Istanbul, Turkey

Bangalore, India


The winner will be announced after the tour's board meetings during Wimbledon this year.

For More Details Read Here

Shahar Pe’er and Sania Mirza are going to play doubles at Wimbledon. The two played together before in Bangkok in 2005 but some groups were offended and they stopped.

Mikhail Youzhny pulled out of Halle with an injury. Word is he wants to save himself for Wimbledon.

People are impressed with Jo-Wilfrid Tsonga’s game. If the young man can stay injury free is he the next big thing in men’s tennis?

Marin Cilic is another player people are talking about.

It's not just PMac and his merry band who get things very wrong sometimes.

Wally Masur on Igor Andreev's touch around the net. "He has the touch of a bricklayer".

During the Nadal-Ljubicic match 2006 at RG Leonardo diCaprio was sitting in the stands. The Eurosport commentators comment whenever they showed him: "The coach of Ivan Ljubicic."

Fan Talk

The debate about the mens final at the 2007 French Open rages on. Did Fed lose or did Rafa win? Is Fed a mental midget or is his ego simply out of control?
The debate about the women's final seems to be centered on whether Justine's cold sores are evidence of sexual promiscuity and how hot Ana Ivanovic is.

Some fans ask if Venus can win again on grass. It also seems she, a rich, single female athlete, is, I hope you're sitting down, dating two men. When will it end?

Not to be outdone Serena was seen with a random hottie on a beach in the Canary Islands. I guess you know you're famous when no one cares about the man you're with except to comment on his assets or lack thereof.

Tommy Robredo joined fellow Armada members in their rite of passage by posing nude.

Roger is on sabbatical. Rafa is playing this week and taking next week off. Jelena Jankovic would probably call them both slackers.

Speaking of my favorite Serbian player Jelena Jankovic calls on her country to invest more money in tennis. I guess those swimming pool courts Ana Ivanovic has made famous don't cut it for Jelena.

World number three Jelena Jankovic called on the Serbian government on Tuesday to invest more money in tennis to ensure players who wanted to follow in her footsteps were not forced to train abroad.

Jankovic, one of three Serbians to reach the French Open semi-finals last week, was born in Belgrade and began her training there before joining Nick Bollettieri's tennis academy in Florida.

"I really hope that they will build a tennis centre so that it will make it a lot easier for the younger they don't have to go outside the country to practise," Jankovic told Reuters in a telephone interview.

More Here

Bjorn Borg is apparently auditioning for a role in Kill Bill 3. Should Keith Carradine be worried?

Queen Masha at Birmingham. MV is reportedly not amused at players horning in on her turf. She promises to write from her exile, uh, retreat soon.

Love it or hate it Wimbledon can't start soon enough.


I don't usually add to posts but in doing my usual morning scan of the fansites I came across this article posted by the BBC.
It seems that the head of the LTA is tired of funding potemtial players fun time. Fish or cut bait is what Roger Draper seems to be saying to the denizens of Britain's moribund professional tennis circuit.

...There are currently no British women in the world's top 100 and just two British men. That contrasts with countries like Serbia, who have managed to produce three players in the world's top 10 with facilities that pale in comparison with the LTA's state-of-the-art national tennis centre in Roehampton.

"Probably my biggest disappointment this last year was that the behaviour of people in British tennis is not really conducive to winning and success," said Draper.

"Everyone has their own views but at times it's like running some sort of kindergarten."

This guy Draper might be just what the Brits need.

Roger Draper

Then there were the comments made about the WTA's Final Four cities. Comments ranged from the choices being a sick joke to musings about whether a couple of the cities have running water and electricity. Some wits snarked that Baghdad and Kabul have been left for next year.

I've been pretty harsh on professional tennis being too Western oriented. While I think this is a step in the right direction - my favorite would be Monterrey - fan reaction (and one has to take a lot of "fan" postings with a hefty dose of salt) so far shows what happens when suits start thinking outside the box.

The only argument I think worth raising is what happens if Doha is chosen and Shahar Pe'er qualifies? Some are comparing Shahar's situation with Monica Seles when the year ending event was held in Germany. I'll always be a fan of Monica but the situations are different. The WTA basically told Monica to do whatever she felt best. Not sure what they would do in this situation.