Saturday, July 21, 2007

On The Road Again...

Sania Mirza

The period after a Slam is hard to describe. With the Road to Roland Garros and the Stroll to Wimbledon coming back to back tennisheads, and players need time to catch their collective breath. Not that the tennis ever stops but you look for the stars to take a rest after the physical and mental stress of back to back Slams.

Instead most of the European men are playing in Stuttgart, Germany and Amersfoort, The Netherlands. Both tournaments had good fields and the quality of play has been high. Of course the American commentators are whining about why the European stars are back on terre battue when they should be in the States participating in the US Open Series. I guess it never occurred to them that their argument for not coming over earlier in the spring clay court season works both ways. After this series of tournaments –Umag and Kitzbuhel next week featuring almost everyone who didn’t play this week – and Novak Djokovic’s younger brother Markko getting a wild card into the Qualifying draw at Umag – most of the European men will show up for Canada and Cincinnati, another example of the crack minds behind tournament scheduling at work. I would resist the urge to call them crack heads but why pass up the chance?

While Stuttgart seems to be proceeding as expected except for a great run by Feliciano Lopez who did new coach Albert Costa proud, Amersfoort has provided a surprise in the person of one Steve Darcis from Belgium. Mr. Darcis finds himself in the semi finals against Mikhail Youzhny leaving a trail of upsets in his wake. The only online information about Steve Darcis is from a Davis Cup appearance he made in 2005.

The other semifinal found Werner Eschauer of Austria playing against Robin Haase. Escahuer sent Carlos Moya back to Mallorca in what has to be termed a mild upset. As I write this Eschauer has moved into the final after Haase lost his second match of the day to him after winning the first against Florent Serra. Eschauer/Darcis final? If you saw this coming you’re long overdue for your toll free number, turban, and fake Jamaican accent.

Meanwhile the self proclaimed greatest road trip ever is underway in the United States. The women, Fed Cup drama over – well almost – Maria Sharapova was not invited to play the Fed Cup Final by Shamil Tarpishev who is going to the big dance with the women who got him there (unless Svetlana Kuznetsova is available) – are playing in Cincinnati and Palermo.

You might not know about Palermo. There was no scoreboard, no pictures – one tennishead went online and found pictures of the semi finalists so that we could know what they looked like – nothing but results posted on fan message boards. I ended up calling Palermo the stealth tournament. For your information the semi finals feature Karin Knapp vs. Martina Müller and Sara Errani vs. Agnes Szavay

Cincinnati has turned out to be a very interesting tournament. History was made – Anastasia Rodionova was disqualified for hitting a ball at fans who were heckling her making her only the second player ever to achieve this, the first being Irina Spirlea a few years ago.

Akiko Morigami

But the real history is the showing Asian tennis has made this week in both the ATP and the WTA. Akiko Morigami, who almost took Venus Williams down at SW19 managed to take out Patty Schnyder here. And the most famous woman ranked 141 in the world, Akgul Amanmuradova from Uzbekistan has made her way to the semifinals. For more on Akgul please go


Amanmuradova plays Morigami today in the first semi final. The second semi features Anna Chakvetadze vs Sania Mirza. Chakvetadze,who after losing the first set to Elena Vesnina of Fed Cup fame proceeded to pound Elena into the pavement for the next set and a half is in the semi due to Elena retiring in the third set. Sania Mirza has been on her own personal search and destroy mission here. Her left quadricep was taped yesterday but that didn’t seem to faze Sania. This should be as interesting a match as Agkul vs Akiko.

The ATP is on display in Los Angeles at the Countrywide Classic. Fernando Gonzalez of Chile crashed and burned in the first round which left the field wide open. Fans were salivating at the possibility of a Marat Safin vs James Blake semi final but Hyung-Taik Lee of Korea decided he wanted to make the semi. Marat was up 4-2 in the third set. He lost 6-4. I’m sure there was a line to provide aid and succor to the popular Russian. Meanwhile James Blake blew Vince Spadea off the court bringing their head to head to 6-2 in Spadea’s favor. Go figure. In the other semi Nicolas Kiefer will play Radek Stepanek.

Hyung-Taik Lee

I’m sure Blake’s fans will crucify me here but I still think Blake has one of the ugliest games I’ve ever seen. He looks to be trying to add some finesse but it’s still hit hard and harder tennis aka mindless ball bashing. It’s even uglier in person as I found out at last years US Open where I saw him play twice including against Roger Federer. Whatever. There will be live tennis on television here in the States and I’ll be watching.

I usually don’t go through all of this recapping but I did it because I was surprised that one tennis blogger decided there was no tennis worth reporting on this week. It could be because he was going on vacation with his family and didn’t want anyone stealing his readers but say I’ll be on vacation and here’s who is playing where and enjoy the tennis until I get back. Why get into the Europe vs United States clay vs hard courts argument for no reason.

By the way for a history of how hard courts became the court surface of choice in the United States please read this article: Why Hardcourts?

Fascinating read for some of the social and political reasons behind the United States choice of it's signifying surface and became of the home of Hit Hard and Harder tennis. Thank you Craig for the link.

I am a fan of the US Open Series and will try and provide as much information as possible. Craig usually posts the links to the websites and posts scores on his blog. Just follow the

Oh, and if PMac and Cliffy get to be too much for you there is the mute button.

You didn't think I'd end this on such a high note did you? I love wading in the shallow end of the pool as those of you who know me know very well.
"Jane" magazine did a series of nude photographs of celebrities for charity. I have no idea which charity but for people to get naked it has to be a good one right? Among those posing nude was none other than Serena Williams. For the purient among you here is the link. Off The Baseline, thank you for this public service!

Serena's Pics

Then there was the unveiling of the new Justine Henin. Not to be outdone by any old nude pics Justine was to be found in Armani and hair extensions flaunting her stuff. She's out and about guys. Don't trample yourselves to get to her.

Justine Unplugged

Any resemblance to Celine Dion is hopefully accidental.

In other tennis news Lleyton Hewitt announced that he will be working with Tony Roche. This announcement came during the same week that Marat Safin and David Nalbandian both took on new coaches.

To end on a cautionary note. Jennifer Capriati, admittedly never a favorite of mine, has spoken publicly about her battle with depression. This is something she did not have to do and in my very humble opinion is something that parents of children with any kind of gift should read. A child should not be the primary bread winner for a family. A child who only wants to please his or her parents should not be put into a pressure cooker and fed hype to the exclusion of everything else life has to offer. I wish Jennifer nothing but the best and hope she gets the help she needs.

A Cautionary Tale


Dan Scarlett said...

Brava Savannah!
What a refreshingly off beat and courageous post--- willing to spend time on relative non-Caucasian unknowns and to take on Blake's less than subtle game. Really splendid!

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