Monday, December 31, 2007

Players To Watch In 2008

by Craig Hickman

The off-season is simply not long enough. It seems like just yesterday I penned my 2007 review and it's already time to look ahead to the 2008 season.

Someone recently asked me if I do any overall predictions for the year. Not exactly. I guess you could say I do anti-predictions such as the no brainer that no one will win the Golden Slam on either tour in 2008. But that's about as far as I'll go. There are simply too many unknowns and variables to try with any solid reasoning to predict the winners of, say, the US Open. Roger Federer, of course, would be good money, but he's got to lose it sooner or later, no? And one would think that with the Olympics in the mix, he'd much rather take an Olympic Gold than his fifth US Open title, if he had to choose between the two, and with them being so close together, that's exactly what he might have to do. Which is all a long, drawn-out way of saying that my preview of next calendar's tennis will focus solely on a select list of players to watch. Without further ado:


Ernests Gulbis made noise at the US Open last summer with his straight-set demolition of Tommy Robredo in the third round. His smooth game, excellent court craft and pinpoint strokes off both sides would appear to make him someone who could compete on every surface. He's young, though, and his head isn't always screwed on. Let's see if he can continue to make waves after putting Latvia on the tennis map.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was my pick for Outstanding Newcomer on the ATP in 2007. Sure, he's in his early 20s already, but his young career has been halted by injuries. If he can remain healthy in 2008, I think he'll make a deep run at Wmbledon and/or the US Open.

Richard Gasquet seems to believe, finally, that he belongs in the top of men's tennis, thanks in large part to his epic come-from-behind win against Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year. But can his fragile constitution see him through to his first Slam semifinal in 2008? Stay tuned.

David Ferrer had one of the hottest streaks to end 2007. Simply put: can he keep it up? With the plexicushion playing even slower than Rebound Ace, he needs to carry his momentum straight into Melbourne and let the world know he's not satisfied with his new status in the Top 5.

Novak Djokovic could experience the most pressure of any Top 10 player next year. He has to defend a truckload of points, and since he still believes his own hype, the pressure to deliver on it will rise like the mercury Down Under. As it is, he's skipping his title defense in Adelaide to play Hopman Cup, and while the Next Generation International isn't a big enough event to lose him a ton of points, he won't have a tour title heading into Melbourne. On the other hand, he ought to be better rested to contend on the cushy stuff.

David Nalbandian didn't exactly come out of nowhere to end 2007 with his first two regular Masters Series shields, beating the top dogs to take them both. He's always played well in Australia, so if he continues his form, I expect his entire 2008 campaign include contending at all four Slams and maybe, just maybe, even winning his first.

Donald Young is the youngest player in the Top 100 and his all-court game has improved by leaps and bounds over the last 12 months. If he can believe in himself, as his coach and mother tell him he's gotta do, he can have a breakthrough year.

John Isner has been already dismissed as overhyped because of his lackluster performances on the challenger circuit. Lest we forget, however, he won several matches over the summer 7-6 in the third and won a tiebreak set against Raja at the US Open. Perhaps the challenger circuit just isn't high-stakes enough for America's answer to Ivo Karlovic. And he's six years younger. I say we give him a chance before writing him off as too much hype.

Nicolas Kiefer came back strong from injury to remind us why he was once ranked as high as No. 4 in the world. Another player who produces Down Under, the first quarter of 2008 will be crucial. If he stays healthy, I expect him to cause a surprise or two at Wimbledon.

Juan Monaco took Most Improved Gonads for 2007. A great athlete with a warrior attitude, the Argentine could start the year strong in Melbourne and follow that up with a deep run at Roland Garros.


Li Na was poised for a solid campaign to enter the Top 10 when she had to leave the tour with a rib injury. But she'll be back in January with a new lease on life. Always my favorite Chinese up-and-comer, probably because I find her story so fascinating, Li may take awhile to get back into the second week of a Slam, but her storyline will be worth watching.

Agnes Szavay has a fluid game, the heart of a champion, and a bad back. Which will prevail in 2008?

Tamira Paszek needs a better serve. If she found one during the off-season, she could win her first WTA title and make another second-week appearance in a Slam.

Amelie Mauresmo came back too soon from abdominal surgery last year. Has she fully recovered? Will she return to the winner's circle or regress to choker extraordinaire? Will she finally shake her demons in front of her home crowd?

Serena Williams couldn't get her body to stop betraying her will for the last three quarters of 2007. If she can run, she can beat all comers. Will she be able to run ragged her opponents in 2008 or will her flesh be weak?

Linday Davenport has committed to playing a full schedule through the US Open. Who knows, she may even play in Paris again. Wouldn't it be lovely to see a another mother win a Slam?

Monica Seles claims she'll play at the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne. Nuff said.

Anna Chakvetadze is either going to solidify her Top 10 status or crash and burn. How insightful, no? But for real, though. If she can avoid Maria Sharapova at big events, she should do well. Of course this assumes that she can put the trauma of being tied up in a home robbery behind her and get off to a solid start in Melbourne where she's a defending quarterfinalist.

Marion Bartoli is controversial, talented, and targeted. She would certainly prefer more tournaments on grass. After finishing the year in the Top 10 for the first time in her career, she'll have to recover from a year-end double bagel at the hands of the woman she shocked in the Wimbledon semifinals. I don't think she's going to fall off as much as many others, but that might just be because I like her.

Ahsha Rolle appearing on this list will probably make you raise an eyebrow. Or two. Simply put: I like the variety in the American's game, the fire in her eyes, the way she handled her business at the US Open this past summer. Nobody expected her to beat Tatiana Golovin in the first round. Perhaps 2008 will bring a few more surprises for this player under the radar.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Powers Behind the Thrones

by Savannah

As the 2008 season gets under way it's time to look back at 2007. Every blogger has posted his or her "Best OF" list for the past year in tennis. Players have been ranked and rated and like kids at Christmas judged to be naughty or nice.

But very little attention is given to the men and women who sit on the sidelines, many times in the broiling sun, watching the players they've birthed, either literally or figuratively, soar with the eagles or crash and burn. These men and women do the dirty work of motivation and preparation both physically or mentally, dealing with the fragile egos of those who have the stones to fight their way to the upper echelon of the tennis world.

This isn't a ranking and rating. I just want to recognize them for all the hard work they put in that largely goes unremarked upon by the average fan.

Oracene Price

I've been a critic of Ms Price in the past. It seemed to me that when she was in charge of her daughters things were a little softer, that on court play became lax and that her charges seemed to think all they had to do was walk on court and their opponent would roll over and play dead.
Well that all stopped with Melbourne 2007 when her youngest child beat the snot out of all comers.
Her "Get out of Melbourne" shout to Serena (coaching from the stands?) turned out to be the coaching advice of the year.
It was a difficult year but she was there in Madrid at the end of the year. She was also in Asia and got a weary and physically fragile Venus through that swing. I can't imagine being a parent and a coach. Some manage it. Some don't. Both Ms Price and her ex husband Richard Williams seem to have found a way to be both parents and coaches.

Carlos Rodriguez

Justine Henin's controversial coach has gotten her to their mutual goal - number one female player in the world. Until recently it didn't seem to matter to these two whether they were liked or not. All that mattered was the tennis. When Carlos felt something needed to be said he said it. Whether it was attacking a rival Belgian player or the WTA Carlos took the hits leaving Justine to be what she says she wants to be - just a tennis player.
Justine's dependence on Carlos - she looks to him after every single shot - has been remarked upon. At Wimbledon, when he had no answers for Marion Bartoli's stellar play Justine floundered. Against an obviously injured Serena Williams at the US Open and later an ill Venus Williams the pair was on top of their game. They saved their best for the YEC though when a rested and well coached Maria Sharapova put up more of a fight than was expected by many observers. In the end Justine overcame the woman who was her nemesis in more ways than one putting the cap on what had been a stellar year for her.

Yuri Sharapov

You either love him or hate him. This seemingly quiet and unassuming balding man who you would walk right by if you saw him in the street makes Carlos Rodriguez look ready for canonization. A father of modest means who had a big dream much like Richard Williams has made his progeny one of the top paid athletes in the world with name recognition many would kill to have. Whether waving a banana, gesticulating wildly or disappearing from the stands as he did famously during the Australian Open final and several other times in 2007 when his daughter lost the television cameras are never far from him. During an infamous match against Justine it's rumored Yuri shouted "Vamos" during Justine's service motion. When called on it Yuri pulled a "who me" and looked around with the rest of the crowd to see who would do such a thing. Like him or not he has achieved his goals.

Dr Walter Bartoli

This picture was taken in January 2007 after Marion Bartoli won the ASB championship in New Zealand. Doctor Bartoli has shown that he is a man of great emotion, and will. Developing his own training techniques for his daughter he has run afoul of the French Tennis Federation maintaining his independence from them. The Federation has struck back saying if Marion doesn't play Fed Cup for France - which means she won't have him coaching her - she can't play the Olympics in August 2008. The Bartoli's so far are holding firm in their resolve. Marion played herself into the top ten with her crucifix making serve and unusual style which is reminiscent of Monica Seles but is still all Marion. It was a year of adjustment for the Bartoli's - Marion didn't have such a great second half of the season - but January is almost here and we'll see if Dr Bartoli and his daughter will be able to continue to do things their way and win big.

Marian Vajda

People love his charges quirky on court personality and love of the camera. Marian Vajda is the man who prepares him to play the tennis that has taken Novak Djokovic to number three in the world. In a recent interview Martina Navratilova singled him out for his work with Novak and no tennishead could disagree with her remarks. Marian is not a family member - he joins Carlos Rodriguez in this regard - and his courtside manner can best be described as intense. He is seemingly playing every shot right along with his player exulting in his victories and suffering his defeats. He appears to be a throwback to the old school coaches who really didn't have cults of personality built around them the way some of the modern day coaches do.

Roger Federer and Miroslava Vavrinec

They're doing it for themselves. Tony Roche was listed as Roger's coach for most of 2007 but in a less than amicable split Roger and Mirka have gone on to end the year at number one. True there were those stunning losses to David Nalbandian at the end of the year and that gift at Wimbledon but who can argue with success? Tennis uber-couple has shown that hiring a separate coach may not be a necessity for some players. I say some because while I do call Roger on his ego he has shown that at the present time he doesn't need any outsider telling him what to do. He and Mirka are doing quite well thank you and I don't see this changing in 2008 unless something drastic happens.

Antoni Nadal

Uncle Toni is never mentioned as being among the superstars of coaches outside of Mallorca or Spain. He sits quietly in the stands, an enigmatic look on his face while his nephew plays. The emotion is seen when the match is over. During the US Open he was seen singing along to "YMCA" including participating in the arm gestures. I observed him and Rafa up close on the practice courts at the US Open. Quiet intensity from both men was what I observed. Does he coach from the stands? He seemingly talks to himself quite a bit but he's a minor leaguer when compared to big timers Yuri Sharapov and Carlos Rodriguez. It came out at the end of the year that Rafa played a lot of 2007 on one foot and bad knees and somehow still managed to hold his position at the top of his sport. Good, solid coaching kept him there.

Richard Williams

My tennis moment of the year is the one posted above of Richard Williams and Dr Walter Bartoli embracing each other after their daughters played the Wimbledon 2007 Final. No tennis father has been more criticized than Richard Williams. He was criticized for keeping his daughters off the junior circuit full time. He was criticized for not letting them compete on the main tour earlier in their careers. He was criticized for engaging in that most African American way of celebrating at Wimbledon. And yet he's still around, still in tennis, and still sitting courtside at Wimbledon finals. He loves the persona he's created for himself, a not too swift on the uptake shuckin' and jivin' son of Louisiana sharecroppers who had a big dream, and it's served him well. As American tennis stares into the abyss that will be created when his daughters retire from the sport the mainstream is finally seeing him for the what he is - a first class tennis mind.

End Note

As you can see coaching has become a family affair. What with rumors of coaching abuse hovering around the edges of tennis maybe today's tennis parents are less willing to turn their children over to some smooth talking "I'll make your kid a star" wannabe coach. Does marrying a tennis player make you a coach? Does siring one or giving birth to one allow you to enter the coaching ranks? What about being an ex superstar? Can you impart what was inborn to someone who may or may not be inclined to listen? Why are so few women in the coaching ranks? Shahar Pe'er has hired Conchita Martinez as one of her coaches and it made news because it's so rare.

Family coaching is not always benign. Damir Dokic, Jim Pierce, and Stefano Capriati are among the most infamous coaching dads. And I'm sure anyone who wants to coach Andy Murray has to deal with his mum Judy Murray. The Djokovics are very much involved in the careers of all their sons. Meanwhile Betty Blake seems as normal as the parent of a sports star can be.

What to look for in 2008? Andy Murray seems to be trying to go the Roger/Mirka route but is he succombing to the the legend he is in his own mind or being practical? He says he'll hire coaches as he sees a need for them. Andy Roddick's association with Jimmy Connors seems to be over and his brother is the man in charge. 2008 will be crucial to both men. Will Roger and Mirka continue their winning ways?

I'm sure people will argue with my choices and maybe supply information that adds or subtracts from someone being on the list. Maybe I forgot someone. Feel free to contribute. As I said this isn't a ranking and rating. It's just giving props to those who make the phrase "...those that can't do teach" a less disparaging one.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Heard Around 12/27/07

by Savannah

Time Magazine's Sports Picture of the Year
Time Magazine chose only two sports pictures for it's year end photo album. This is one of them

Vamos Rafa!

Whose "Vicht" Is It?

Hewitt trademark salute row

THE player who introduced the famous "vicht" salute to world tennis is outraged Lleyton Hewitt has adopted the trademark and stands to make millions.
The former Wimbledon champion is understood to have bought the rights to the distinctive celebratory gesture after former Swedish pro Niclas Kroon inadvertently let it lapse.

Kroon, 41, who held the rights along with former world No. 1 Mats Wilander from 1988, often used the signal whenever they won a point or game.

Broadly meaning "for sure", it is now widely used by athletes from other sports, including swimmer Grant Hackett and Crows defender Andrew McLeod.

"I wish he had called me first," Kroon said from his home in Houston, Texas.

"I don't know what to say. You get to a certain age and you realise people are f***ing other people all the time.

"It's all about business and making money. I'm so sick and tired of sh** like that.

"I know that he's surrounded by people who are probably going to make money from this.

"The thing about using the word "mate" in Australia . . . it probably doesn't sound so good anymore."

I still think this should be in the category of "faux" news but whatever. Maybe the Aussies can cut a deal with Mats and his boy and all this will go away no?
Much Ado About Vicht

Serena Update
Serena is going to play on Monday December 31 against Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic. I normally support Serena here and have always taken her side against the "haters" but a few days ago, when fans first started speculating as to whether or not she would even play Hopman Cup there were press statements that she would indeed play. Now we hear that she's either in bed with a cold or suffering the effects of the knee injury that plagued her the second half of 2007. Another one of my mother's sayings was "let your word be your bond".
Serena's name was published on the guest list for Jay-z's Las Vegas bash back in October. Whether she shows up there or not it gives the anti Williams forces more fuel to throw on the fire. Using Sharapova like reasons for not making it to Perth (remember when Maria withdrew twenty minutes before a match with either a shin or calf injury?) will not make her fans task easier.
Whatever the situation Serena the major goal is still defense of your title starting January 14.

More Favorite Pics from 2007
Sania Mirza

Goran Ivanisevic

Andy Roddick

Justine Henin

Roger Federer

Fernando Gonzalez

Serena Williams

Fillipo Volandri

Maria and LeBron

Anna Chakvetadze

Jelena and Mom

Venus Williams

Monday, December 24, 2007

Idle Chit Chat 12/26/2007

by Savannah

Rafa Nadal and Sara - Image for January 2007 Paraolympics Calendar in Spain
Thanks to Alexito who posted this among other images in his blog.

WTA News

Sania Mirza is once again the target of threats. This time it was her doctor who was threatened.

There is news now that Sania's doctor was made a target of hate mails.
Dr KJ Reddy, a senior orthopedic surgeon at the Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad who had treated Sania on several occasions in the past and had helped her recover from career-threatening injuries, received four letters all of which warned him of dire consequences if he continued to treat Sania Mirza as she was bringing bad name to the religion.

Sources say the doctor received two letters from Pakistan, one from India and one from Bangladesh.

These letters end with a stern warning: "Please pay attention to the letters otherwise it should be very harmful for you."

The doctor had informed Sania’s father about the letters, however, it was kept away from Sania, as it could affect her game.

These letters term her injuries as god's punishment for bringing bad name to religion. However the doctor is on leave and the hospital is not ready to react till he is back. No complaint has been lodged with the police.

For further information see this thread on WTAw

Shahar Pe'er has reportedly applied for a visa to Qatar according to reports in the Israeli press. It is said that she wants to play Dubai but that is a harder nut to crack. Israeli's travel to and from Doha quite a bit on business so there is a way to get a visa. When it comes to Dubai the situation is reportedly very different.

Sick Bay

Serena Williams
has called in sick with a bad cold and will miss playing her first match against Sania Mirza in the Hopman Cup exhibition which kicks off on December 29, 2007. Meghann Shaughnessy has agreed to step in to play just the one match since she is playing the Gold Coast event. Fans will be forgiven if they question this sickness since Serena's name appeared on the very exclusive guest list for Jay-z's New Year's bashes to be held December 30 in Las Vegas. As one wag put it she could recover from the cold in time to attend the party and play the rest of the Hopman Cup.
Film at eleven as they say.

Gael Monfils has also pulled out of Hopman Cup play citing injury. Arnaud Clement will take his place.

Vintage Tennis WTA Style

I found myself watching some vintage WTA tennis involving Gabriela Sabatini, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles. What a joy to watch the matches that got me hooked on tennis, especially the WTA matches where something called strategy was employed whether your game was based at the net, the back court, the nascent power game or finesse. I watched Monica Seles destroy Gabriela Sabatini in Madison Square Garden in NYC. The announcer was saying that Sabatini needed to come forward more. Lo and behold she learned how to do just that and the results were good for her. If you get a chance check YouTube for any of the above mentioned women. The quality is not always the best - the oldest match I watched was from 1989 - but any tennishead worth their salt will watch. By the way anyone who thinks Sabatini didn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame should watch her playing the best of her generation. She was one. It's just that someone named Steffi Graf was in her way.

Here are some of the matches I enjoyed today.
Chris Evert vs Gabby Sabatini 1989 Lipton

Monica Seles v Chris Evert 1989 Houston

Monica Seles v Gabby Sabatini 1991

Sabatini vs Graf Amelia Island 1992

Graf vs Seles 1995 US Open Final
This is on what is now Armstrong Stadium which was Center Court back then.

Seles vs Graf 1999 Australian Open Quarter Final

Just Pics
Just some more faves I found over the year.

Heard Around

by Savannah

As 2007 winds down and Hopman Cup play starts in a few days let's see what's going on around the world.

The head of the ATP, Etienne de Villiers, in his year end interview states the following:

I’d rather be in tennis than football, I’d rather be in tennis than cycling, I’d rather be in tennis than track and field [athletics], I’d rather be in tennis than baseball,” De Villiers, 57, said this weekend. “Of course there are issues, but the people in our sport, especially our players, are saying, ‘Let’s do the right thing here.’ We need to know where and how our information-gathering systems need resources because it is up-to-date information that drives everything.

  • He will not attend the Australian Open, opting to stay in London to put the finishing touches on the new Integrity Unit "that he intends will shape the sport’s response should further evidence of improper activity require action. He is canvassing as many as he trusts to make the proper appointments."(emphasis mine) He goes on to say that he has nothing new to say to the players in Australia and that being there just to be there is counterproductive.

  • DeVilliers states that the Olympics this year is what led to 56 man draws and best of three matches in the big events. This is so the players can "listen to their bodies and schedule their year with greater thought than before."

De Villiers is also fan focused. American fans are credited with being aware that tennis is an international sport and that they want to see it presented as such.
The ATP presents the following statistics for 2007:

  • 9 Masters Series tournaments played in 2007 by all four top players, the first time they have appeared in each event since 2001.

  • 27 Percentage of player withdrawals on the ATP Tour in 2007 – a six-year low.

  • 29 million The amount (in pounds) that the Italian federation has spent on upgrading the Foro Italico in Rome for the 2009 season.

  • 50 The number of €5 (about £3.60) bets that Daniele Bracciali was found to have placed on matches. The Italian was fined £14,300 and suspended for three months.

  • 100 million The money (in dollars) to be spent on facilities, promotions, prize-money and more in 2009 – the biggest investment in ATP history.

For the entire article please go here ATP 2007 Year in Review

As for the WTA this appeared online at Tennis X. It was written by Joel Drucker.

Sharapova had the bloody tar beaten out of her by Serena in Australia and Venus at Wimbledon. Struggling with an injury that impeded her serve all year, she was unable to dictate enough points. Only a fine effort to each the finals of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Championships in Madrid — where she lost the best women’s match of the year to Henin — gave her a sense of significant accomplishment in 2007. At the same time, while I deeply respect Sharapova’s tenacity and commitment, I fear she could well be a female Andy Roddick: a gritty fighter with limited hardware.

Here’s where we enter the news-you-can-use zone. Both the Williams sisters and Sharapova were exposed to tennis by zealous fathers. Sadly, the outcome of that model — rather than the process — has been taken as gospel by a great many tennis instructors. What I’m talking about here is the unwitting, co-dependent collaboration of a gung-ho father and hot-to-trot instructor mostly teaching young ladies how to rip the ball again and again. Yes, I know that repetition is a vital factor in mastering a technique. But it is only one factor.

The trouble occurs when repetition becomes less a means than an ends. The man who most ardently shaped Sharapova’s strokes, the great coach Robert Lansdorp, once asked me, “Who gives a blankety-blank about strategy? Just hit the ball.” With all due respect to a coach I think has a certain kind of genius, I would heartily disagree. Surely a baseball player is aided when he knows a pitcher can’t throw a good curveball. Ditto for a basketball player who knows the man he’s guarding prefers driving to his left. And so on.

John Newcombe Rips Guccione A New One

This quote is one I'm sure "Gooch" will make part of his tennis scrapbook.
"He can't move left and right," Newcombe said. "It was a bit embarrassing.

"Soon as he got in a rally that went over four or five shots...forget it."

Newcombe said he had approached Guccione and John Fitzgerald - Newcombe's successor as Davis Cup captain - about the issue of working on Guccione's fitness.

"But it's not happening," Newcombe said.

"So why would you support Chris if he's not giving it back?

"He's been in the Davis Cup squads. I look at him and I see a kid who's 6'5, 6'6 and boy you better be f***king fit and strong in the stomach muscles and leg muscles.

"Now, I know he had a couple of injuries, so I'm not speaking like I know the inside situation.

"(But) if I was in charge of Chris, I would take him off the circuit for two months and I'd get the best athletic trainer I could find and teach him how to run and move and to build his stomach muscles and his leg muscles up so that he's got lateral movement."

Tell us how you really feel John. For more of John's views on Chris and Tennis Australia in general go Here

Australian Open News

Dominik Hrbaty
will miss his first Grand Slam in eleven years due to shoulder surgery. He had surgery in September but he is still having problems.
Hrbaty To Miss Australian Open
Tennis fashionista's quietly rejoiced at the news...

Samantha Stosur has withdrawn from both the Gold Coast event and the Australian Open due lingering effects of viral meningits which she contracted over the summer. This, coupled with an unknown virus made Stosur unable to compete most of the second half of the season. Stosur, who has been back in training for the last three weeks says she is simply not ready for her home Slam.
Stosur Out of Oz Open

C'mon Lleyton

In the category of you've got to be shitting me is this story.

It’s official. Tennis star Lleyton Hewitt is trademarking his “C’mon” celebration and is going into business.

On the eve of his thrust at an elusive Australian Open title, Hewitt and his management have developed a logo representing the hand signal and traditional affirmation seen on the tennis courts of the world for the past decade, and expect to see it bob up on a clothing range before too long.

Hewitt’s Melbourne-based manager, David Drysdale, said yesterday the logo had been submitted for trademarking.

Hewitt told Australian Tennis magazine recently he had been considering the idea for a while. “It’s funny — I walk down the street and everybody says, ‘C’mon’,” he said.

“They copy me for doing my signal. I’m not quite sure how to describe that signal, there’s no real word for it. So we’ve trademarked ‘C’mon’. We’re going to try and push that as much as possible as my brand, and get it out there in the marketplace, make shirts for kids, golf shirts and different kinds of stuff like cargo shorts.”

Lleyton's Trademark

Random News
Sesil Karatantcheva, who was banned two years ago when she was fifteen after testing postitive for performance enhancing drugs (She blamed the positive test on a pregnancy which was aborted. This led to more speculation that she was subjected to a form of old school blood doping that was once practiced in the former Eastern Bloc countries but we won't get into all of that because it's just too icky) will soon be back on the tour. Her ban ends January 1, 2008. Now if those soft porn pics taken of her when she was still sixteen or so can go away maybe tennisheads will be able to judge her based on her tennis and not on male hormonal reaction...
A big shout out to James Blake, his brother Thomas Blake, and thier family for their continued support of the program that propelled the Blake brothers into the world of professional tennis. The
Harlem Junior Tennis program run by Katrina Adams, has been in existence for 35 years. Originally aimed at youngsters from Harlem it now draws children from all over the tri state area. Their benefit was held this past weekend at the renovated Harlem Regiment Armory and was a well attended and enjoyable event. Please visit TAT for coverage of this event.
Also on TAT is a report on what tennis players are doing in the Peachtree State of Georgia to promote tennis. Present for the young fans were Andy Roddick,
Sam Querrey, John Isner, and Atlanta area natives Robby Ginepri, Scoville Jenkins, Ashley Harkleroad, and Melanie Oudin.

More Pics from 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Heard Around 12/16-12/21/2007

by Savannah

Tatiana Golovin

The World of Tennis Argentine Style

Twelve of the top Argentine players give their perspectives on tennis in a new book. Excerpts are below.

Says Gaston Gaudio: "For a tennis player, family is the worst to have." For Jose Acasuso: "Tennis is an ambience of egoism and much jealousy." Juan Monaco continues: "You always hope that something happens to your rival, even if it were your friend or the one that you shared a room with the night before."

The book of journalists Ignacio Uzquiza and Fernando Bianculli consists of a series of interviews with Jose Acasuso, Agustin Calleri, Guillermo Cana, Guillermo Coria, Juan Ignacio Chela, David Nalbandian, Juan Martin Del Potro, Gaston Gaudio, Juan Monaco, Mariano Puerta, Martin Vasallo Arguello y Mariano Zabaleta.

"If the books serve to illuminate, La Legion habla enlightens one about the most valuable surface (aspect) of tennis: the experience of the players. I have read practically every book regarding the theme: some seemed good, others not as good, and the rest not worth anything. The value of La Legion habla resides in the WORD of the players. They tell their stories, offer up their opinions, transmit to us their (life) experience," opinions Guillermo Vilas, author of the prologue.

As Vilas indicates the book tries to show, from the mouth of the protagonists, that tennis isn't just prestige, fame and money. It is also egoism, extreme competition and almost constant loneliness.

These 12 Argentine tennis players leave no theme without discussion and also expound upon their visions of the work of the Argentine Tennis Association and the conclusions that came about following the series of Argentines sanctioned in doping cases.

The following is a selection of some of the most compelling fragments from the interviews.

"What is tennis?" Its my way of life, my job, even though I have had the privilege of doing so because I like it. When I had to leave school to dedicate myself fully to tennis I began to take it more as a job than as a pleasure. With time I came to believe, that even if i like it, I am not passionate about the tennis." (Jose Acasuso)

"Did the Association give you a hand when you were an amateur?" In this moment, no. To the contrary. The boys from the Interior (of Argentina) have always been treated with prejudice. This (current) leadership, I don't know how it treats them because since I have been with Morea I have not been an amateur so I have not really been involved, but I can assure you that it used to be that the boys from the Interior were always screwed (treated like shite.) (Agustin Calleri)

"Is the ATP discriminatory?" Its discrimination from an economic standpoint, like any multinational corporation. Its just another of millions that there are in the world. Point being that I accept it, but I'm not buying into it that it is a group of players that decide (players union) because it isn't like that. (Guillermo Cañas)

"What are the pros and cons of being a professional tennis player?" "The main con is the falseness of your surroundings, not just from the players, but from everyone. In tennis, it's very normal to go from being the worst to the best and vice versa. In Argentina you're either God or you don't exist. When you're doing well, everyone surrounds you, and if you don't get the results, you're left all alone, or in other words, surrounded by the people who really care about you. That's why sometimes I may have been aloof or conceited because I never let anyone enter my circle of trust. You know how it goes and that there are heaps of people who latch on to you during the good times and then disappear". (Guillermo Coria)

"Is the Davis Cup one of your goals?" "Yes, for me, yes, it's one of my goals. But, I mean, there are lots of might go and play Davis Cup and earn 10 000 dollars and you go to a tournament and earn 50 000, that's why it's difficult and I understand those who refuse to play a tie. I understand them and I have also sometimes said no. People don't see that side; you say no and they accuse you of not playing for your country. I have put aside a lot of things for the Davis Cup and nobody knows that. When I played in Canada with el Gordo (Agustin) Calleri, several guys had said no, and we weren't even in the World Group. I lost money for playing that tie because we didn't earn a cent in prize money and I travelled with my coach and had to pay for everything - his hotel, his fare. I remember that the captain at the time, Franco Davin, had to pay the meals with his own credit card. There are heaps of cases like this. I was always the alternate and I never complained. Another time, I was on my way to Punta del Este and they paged me at the airport because Cañas had got injured. And then I refused the call-up to play in Belarus because the clay season was approaching and it was just one week before, and they killed me!" (Juan Ignacio Chela)

"At one point you said you felt like giving up. Why?" "Because there started to be pressure, sponsors; I was 16 and people considered me to be a rising star, they started talking about me and that scared me a bit. Giving up school was also quite hard for me because I started to miss my friends, and the long trips made me miss my family a lot, we only spoke once a week. So I started to think: "What am I doing distancing myself from everything I love at such a young age?" and I stopped playing for a month. But that period made me realise that tennis was for me and that, since I had the opportunities, I couldn't waste them." (Juan Martin Del Potro)

"Are there schools of ideology in tennis like there is in football, for example?" "I, in particular, am of an ideology which I'm not sure is good for tennis. In footballers terms, it's closer to Menottism than Bilardism. (Menotti, the beautiful game and Bilardo played a more structured and pragmatic style for the non football lovers in here.)

When Nadal beat Federer in the 2006 Roland Garros final, he said later in the press conference: "I didn't play well but I knew that if I was courageous and strong, I could win." I don't believe in that, and it's bad. But it's an ideology that is so deep within me that I can't get rid of it. It's even a point of permanent discussion with my coach. He says to me: "there'll be thousands of times you won't play well" and now, after a ten year career, I realise I probably played well ten times in my whole life." (Gaston Gaudio)

"Did you ever have to share a room with someone you had to play against the next day?" "At a professional level, no, we each have our own room. But at a Challegers and Futures level, I often had to sleep in the same room as the guy I had to play against the next day. I wanted to kill him! It's a really weird feeling because, if nothing else, you think: "I hope this kid sleeps badly so I have more chances of winning". And you think that even if they're your friend. You always hope something happens to the other person". (Juan Monaco)

"There is often criticism towards you because of your approach to tennis: always professional but perhaps a bit too relaxed". "I live life. I think that helps but anyway, there are people who don't think so..." (David Nalbandian)

"Why did you come back to play?" "Because I wanted to end my career on the court, I deserve it, and to do the impossible to finish with a good ranking. I had dreamed of it since I was a young boy. I always wanted to be the one who stopped the tennis, and not have the tennis stop me. That's why I fought so much for all this. And I came back to play to be up there. Because I always felt I was going to come back and play". (Mariano Puerta)

"What does Guillermo Vilas mean to you?" "Guillermo is a role model we all had at one time or other, which has been torturous for many people, including me. He was the best at everything, as a role model and professional. He trained eight hours a day. His image is so deep rooted that at one point, I ended up hating him because all my coaches would tell me I had to train longer and not just four hours." (Martin Vassallo Arguello)

"There are some things which are normal, much more so than for other people. For example? The facilities you have to be able to get anything. From things to do with money to celebrities. For example, I remember once I was practising in Madrid and they invited me to the Real Madrid training session. I think that would be a dream for a lot of people, and I, thanks to tennis, had the chance to be with all the Argentinian and foreign players from the team. Y

You might think that this is normal, but when you stop and think about it, you say: "What am I doing here eating with Ronaldo or Beckham?" I even played tennis with the prince of Monaco. I was training in Monte Carlo one day and they came and told me he wanted to play, so he came and we played for a bit. Over time, these things become so normal that they end up being insignificant. In any case, they're things that happen to elite tennis players, there are heaps of players who don't even come close to experiencing these situations..." (Mariano Zabaleta)

Translation done by Michelle and EM


The Rehabilitation of Justine Henin

The work of rehabbing Justine's image continues unabated. During an exo at Charleroi Belgium her father Jose, from whom she's been estranged for years, made an appearance. Jose Henin didn't skip a beat easing into full tennis dad mode.

I'm so happy to be back in this atmosphere, I really like it. But one of the main reasons I like it today is because I have nothing to do here except eat, drink and enjoy the tennis. I have no responsibility. It wasn't always like that in the past.

"Now the situation is quite clear. Justine has only one coach and that is Carlos Rodriguez and she has only one father, and that's me. I am not, repeat, not, part of her entourage."
The whole world is waiting for Henin, the best player of modern times, to fulfil her potential on grass and finally win Wimbledon.

Her father is no exception, although he warned: "We cannot put pressure on her.She will either win it or she won't, that will be for destiny to decide."

Sounds like there's another story in there but it's always nice to see families reconcile and put bad times behind them. It's the holiday season.

Venus Williams and Maria Kirilenko Korea 2007

David Nalbandian in Argentina 2007

Tennis Chatter

So Judy Dalton, a British Wimbledon finalist back in the day, feels the WTA should stop the grunters. Maria, Venus, Serena, you have been served.

Dalton, the winner of nine grand slam doubles titles, claims she would have been prepared to forfeit a match against the grunter par excellence, Maria Sharapova — and has urged the current generation of tennis players to do so.

"If that was me and I was playing Sharapova, I would be saying, 'If you continue with that you can have the match, I'll walk off, and I'll lodge a complaint,' " Dalton told
The Age.

One would think that the British tennis establishment has more to worry about than the grunting of non British female tennis players. Maybe if they let their young women let it rip every now and then they'd have someone in the top ten...

A Celebration of Spanish Tennis

The Spanish Tennis Federation gathered all of it's top players for a picture with all the trophies they've won. It's a great shot.

Emilio Sanchez Vicario and the players, Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Tommy Robredo, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Fernando Verdasco, Nicolas Almagro and Feliciano Lopez. Carlos Moyà was unable to attend.

Miguel Margets and players Anabel Medina, Lourdes Dominguez, Virginia Ruano, Maria Jose Martinez, Nuria Llagostera, Laura Pous, Carla Suarez and Marta Marrero.

Also present were David Sanz, Spanish Tennis Coach Wheel Chair, Kico Tour, Lola Ochoa, Pablo Carreno, Diego Estrada, Maite Gabarrús, Leticia Costs, Roberto Ortega and Tomeu Salvà.

The Original Martina Speaks Out

This interview covers a lot of territory including a very convoluted defense of her now disgraced namesake Martina Hingis but I found this interesting as it relates to tennis.

Q.If you could coach one player on the men’s or women’s side, not necessarily the best player but the person you’d most like to get your hands on, who would it be?

Martina:It would have been Novak Djokovic, but he’s in good hands with Marian Vajda, and he’s bringing out the best in him. I had seen him three years ago and thought he had ‘it.’ You can spot it at any level, but certainly when you get to the top level you can start to see if they have the physical ability, and also what they have in the head, which is what keeps so many players from reaching their best. Justine Henin would have been a pleasure to work with. There’s a girl named Agnes Szavay who is a great talent as well. She’s Hungarian. I saw her hit two shots and saw how she carried herself between shots and I thought, that kid is for real. When you see talent like that, that’s what you want to help mold and get the best out of them.

The interview is found in it's entirety Here

Nicole and Radek Update

No wedding pictures. No pictures of them strolling along the beach hand in hand gazing into each other's eyes or exiting a tennis practice with their arms wrapped around each other. Nicole's family is denying they are engaged despite the existence of a marriage license. Radek's father merely stated that they weren't married. Talk is Nicole's family as well as those who have invested in her tennis career are trying to talk her out of marriage at her age. She's quite volatile though and I wouldn't want to be one of those trying to make her see reality. Meanwhile Radek is getting more props from a certain segment of tennisheads for his off court prowess with the ladies than he ever did for his tennis. The license is valid for sixty days under Florida law.

Guillermo Coria

Guille was never one of my favorites on court but I have to stop and give respect to a man who despite all his physical and personal woes still wants to play competitive tennis. I saw Guille last year at the US Open on a practice court. He couldn't get a serve in to save his life. Despite problems in his comeback he is using his protected ranking to enter the main draw at Vina del Mar which starts right after the Australian Open ends. A respectable showing is what he wants, and needs, right now.

Anna Chakvetadze Robbed

After being tied up and robbed in her own home Anna Chakvetadze issued the following statement:
"Thank you to everyone for your concern and support to me and my family. My family and I will get through this. This was a very difficult experience for us, but the police are investigating and we hope to move on."

There were reports that the robbers were captured and this picture appeared on fan sites. I checked with mmmm8, my go to person to translate articles in Russian and she said the following:
It's a legit photo, but the article says that it´s only a possibility that this has anything to do with the Chakvetadze robbery. Looks like these people operated mostly in a different locale near Moscow.

Here is the link to the article in Russian.
Chakvetadze Robbery

The Road to Melbourne

It's rare that I give the WTA credit for doing something right but I have to congratulate them on how they handled the giving of a wild card into the Australian Open by holding a play off tournament. This event was won by Madison Brengle who will be in the maid draw at Melbourne after winning a round robin event held at the Evert Academy to determine who would go. The field consisted of eight players. The seventeen year old Brengle defeated Alexa Glach 6-3 and 6-4.

The ATP in the meantime held an age restricted, no one born before 1985 could apply, four man round robin which was won by Jesse Levine, best known for being summoned into the presence of Roger Federer earlier this year to act as a practice partner. I guess the USTA is throwing in the towel on it's older players huh?

The feel good tennis story of the week is related to one Mr. Joseph Sirianni of Australia who will be appearing in the Main Draw of his native Grand Slam. He defeated all the young 'uns in the competition to win his WC berth. Let's see if he gets thrown under a bus in the draw.

Other News

Rafael Nadal and Iker Casillas Anti Malaria charity event took place on Thursday December 20, 2007


Team Rafa:
1. Juan Carlos Ferrero
2. Carlos Moyá
3. Raúl González (Real Madrid, Second striker/attacking midfielder)
4. Miguel Angel Nadal (ex Barcelona player, Defender)
5. Alberto Contador (cyclist, Tour de France winner)
6. Frédéric Kanouté (Sevilla FC, striker)
7. Sergio García (golf player)
8. Pedro Martínez de la Rosa (F1, McLaren Team)
9. Roberto Abbondanzieri (Getafe CF, Goalkeeper)
10. Jesús Navas (Sevilla FC, Midfielder)

Team Iker

1. Feliciano Lopez
2. Alvaro Benito (singer, ex Real Madrid player)
3. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid, Right-back/Centre-Back/defensive midfielder)
4. Fernando Hierro (ex Real Madrid player, Centre-back/defensive midfielder)
5. Oscar Pereiro (cyclist, Tour de France winner)
6. Mahamadou Diarrá (Real Madrid, Defensive midfielder)
7. Fabio Cannavaro (Real Madrid, Centre-back)
8. David Ferrer
9. Álvaro Bautista (motorcycle racer)
10. Lucas (singer from the Spanish Flamenco inspired pop duo Andy y Lucas)

The referee:
Rafael Guerrero


Iker and Rafa had a great evening. First up was the tennis challenge. Both Rafa for his team (obviously) and David Ferrer for Iker's team formed a partnership with several athletes. Iker's team won the challenge with 4-6.
Next up was the football challenge. Rafa's team won that match with 10-8 making the overall score of the evening 14-14.
The winning team of the entire evening was then decided by penalties.
Rafa's team won! Overall score: 16-15

Thanks to MamaSue and the Rafaheads over at Vamos Brigade for posting the above information as well as video from the event.

End Notes

It seems now that the "official" season is over the posts get longer because there is so much going on what with charity events, player interviews being published, and May-December tennis relationships.
Among the news I didn't mention is Mary Jo Fernandez easing into the Captains chair for the United States Fed Cup team taking the reins from Zina Garrison in 2009. She will be in an understudy role for

I have to say I have mixed feelings about this move because of Mary Jo's personal ties to IMG. (Her husband reps Roger Federer among others at IMG.) I hope we don't end up with the IMG Superstars playing Fed Cup for the United States instead of genuine team building, the kind that Patrick McEnroe did with the United States Davis Cup team, taking place. Mary Jo has shown that she still has the head for tennis - her commentary, especially when working with Cliff Drysdale, is among the best, but I wonder how independent she will be able to be in choosing her team and if she'll be given the seven years Patrick was to have success. I'd hate to see what happened at the ATP AO Wild Card playoffs become the norm.

I debated leaving the interview with the Argentines in due to the length of this post but did because we in the English speaking world rarely get to hear from these men as individuals. The tennis press in the English speaking world tends to lump them all together and present them as a monolith.

I'm glad to see tennis fans becoming more proactive and posting articles in their native languages translated for English speakers so that we get to know the players and give those who are really interested a chance to gain some insight into a player they may not have been able to get to know before due to language restrictions. Tennis is an international sport and while TPTB may not want to recognize that we the fans seem to be moving on by posting interviews on fan sites along with translations, machine or otherwise, and creating blogs to further discuss the sport and the men and women who play it.

I'm on vacation from now until January 2 so I'll be around on more than a weekly basis depending on what is going on.

The pictures this week were supposed to be personal faves but with the amount of tennis news only three made the cut. Here are some more pictures from this week in tennis.

Iker Casillas(left) and Fernando Alonso

JMac strikes a familiar pose during the McFit Masters of Legends at the Burgwaechter Castello Hall December 19, 2007 in Duesseldorf, Germany.
JMac was playing this guy.

Boris Becker
John McEnroe won the one set match in a tiebreaker. Wonder if Boris has thought about getting more fit to get in on some of the big paying exhibition matches that seem to be sprouting up all over the place?

Venus Williams is featured as one of the best dressed women of 2007 in Vogue Magazine. Here is a pic that instantly became a favorite.