Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hi It's Me, MV from Somewhere In the World

MV on the Australian Open

From somewhere.

Hi it’s me, MV. Whew. I’m just getting a chance to breathe after all the excitement of Australia. I’m sure you all know by now my Captain won the entire thing, a Grand Slam, without dropping a set. I know some of you are saying he had an easy draw and that no one survived who could challenge him but he is NUMBER ONE IN THE WORLD!!! He should be able to show these losers how the game is played without breaking a hard sweat or actually letting one of them win you know?
OOOPSIE! I shouldn’t call his competitors losers. They’re fine players who are just not up to the standards set by my Captain. It’s not their fault they’re lesser beings is it? So what if all the “tough” players were in the bottom half of the draw? The fans want to see Number One. His draw guaranteed that.

I have to say I was so glad he won. He “lost” an exo to the American and while I’m used to him, we’re soul mates, I have never seen him so upset. He said that losing to the American was unacceptable. He actually practiced hard, I mean really hard to make sure that no one would surprise him in Melbourne. All the talk about the American being ready to take him out really got to him, NUMBER ONE IN THE WORLD.

By the way he watched the women’s final. He said that he was watching just to see if the level of tennis went up. He seemed very interested in the way things were bouncing but he said his interest was professional. I know him and I know that is the only reason he was watching. He said La Princessa is a very good player and he admires her game and how she gets the most out of her body. When she did that booty shake he told me he didn’t even see it because he was concentrating on how she was bouncing the ball. I’ve been practicing the booty shake. I’ve almost got it. Boy will he be surprised.

I shouldn’t be saying this but Chi Chi Le and that girlfriend of his came by to have dinner with us. It was wonderful meeting a woman who is friends with almost every South American and Spanish player. I wonder what would happen if she learned to speak English? We managed to get a few minutes alone to talk and I tell you the stories! She very proud of turning, I mean catching Chi Chi Le’s eye. She’s still getting threats from El Vampiro but she’s not afraid of the little dolls with pins stuck in odd places. She has an aunt who lives up in the mountains who laughs at the little dolls with pins and makes her own. I would be worried but she seems okay. She did mention she saw Chi Chi Le reading a Playgirl magazine but he told her there was a good article in it about tennis. It’s wonderful that the Captain’s work has had so much influence and is making more and more people aware of tennis.

But I digress. My Captain talked to Chi Chi Le about the Boy. Chi Chi Le is very interested in the boy. Of course it’s in a professional way. He’s with La Gloriosa now. She says once you’ve been with her everything else pales in comparison. I’m not sure what that means. Does she suck the life out of her victims…I mean boyfriends like that Swiss Miss? Her fiancé’s lips do look a tad smaller. My Captain told him how to play the Boy. It worked! My Captain was so afraid of meeting the Boy in the final! I shouldn’t say that but I’m among friends no? I mean, forget that no business. I’m sure you all won’t rat me out to My Captain. Besides he’s been practicing poses in the mirror. He wants his hair and clothes to look just right in his pictures. He is NUMBER ONE IN THE WORLD and should carry himself a certain way. We’re already working on the Wimbledon Jacket.

But it hasn’t all been sweetness and light. My dear dear friend, HF PY and the Piranha…sorry, his wife have come to a parting of the ways. Seems she found out about his love of bull fighting. Personally I don’t understand why that should break up a marriage but stranger things have happened. Apparently one of the bull fighters, well he was dressed in a toreador outfit, was demonstrating to PY how to deliver the coup de grace. She walked in just as the final thrust was taking place. Somehow she wasn’t amused. To each her own. I would have loved to see how that final sword thrust is delivered.

Anyway PY is out in the cold with just the clothes on his back. Yes you nosey people he did take the frilly shirt and the tee with the suede lace ups on the left shoulder. It just looks so good on him. He did tell me job offers are pouring in from all over the world. Quite a few have come from Thailand. He said that he is entertaining some of them. I do hope things work out for him. We’ve been to Thailand. My Captain likes to take those special tours to visit young people. He told me to relax and I spent a lot of time on the beach recharging my batteries. I had such a relaxing time. The beaches there are wonderful and you are ensured of your privacy.

Well we’re taking a rest and getting ready for the clay court season. I saw there are some pictures of the boy dancing on top of a bar in Shanghai. Rumor is his parents were not amused but Lord Charles needs to be able to take a rest from being his keeper. My Captain says The Boy should be allowed to express himself and do the things most young men his age do – get drunk and act like an ass. Of course he has been known to get roaring drunk and then bagel an opponent but that was that young man from Argentina who had one dread lock. You know who he is. Who ever heard of having one dreadlock?

Anyway I wish some of the press would cut back on the praise of my Captain. He hasn’t met a mirror he didn’t like and I wish he’d stop it. He's thinking of coloring his hair again. I draw the line at that platinum blond color. No way.

Well that’s it for now. I celebrated our, I mean his win with a magnum of Krug. (Actually it was one and a half but who's paying attention?) It’s wonderful. Now if only this room would stop spinning…

Well TTFN. We play again in Dubai.

Note: The above is for entertainment purposes only.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Forget Sexy Being Back. Serena Is Back, and the WTA Trembles

"I love to play, I love to win. I love holding up trophies ... I love the challenge and I love people saying what I can't do and proving them wrong."

Forget all about sexy being back. No one is saying what Serena can't do anymore. The woman nicknamed Terror Fabulous brought championship level tennis back to the women's game with her dominating performance through seven rounds of tennis.

On her way to the final there were two matches that would have made many a year-end best of list: Her three-set win over Nadia Petrova and her battle with Shahar Peer. The latter was a Battle Royale and when it was over what had been whispered was now being spoken aloud. Serena Williams had a chance to make the Women's Final at the Australian Open.

Only one woman stood in her way - a girl really. Nicole Vaidisova had quietly played her way into a semifinal face-off against Serena. At seventeen she showed class both before and after the match, refusing to be baited into making statements sure to inflame partisans in both the pro and anti-Williams camp and behaving more professionally than a young Martina Hingis had back in the day.

She brought that maturity to the court as well. In another year or two, she'll have the experience and will do what she almost did: defeat Serena in a Grand Slam match.

But this time she lost. And after Kim "just call me housewife" Clijsters folded like a cheap suit against Maria Sharapova the final no one expected took place in a closed Rod Laver Arena. The roof was closed due to the threat of inclement weather. There were murmurings about this but in the end it didn't matter.

Terror Fabulous let the tennis world know she was still a force to be reckoned with. Playing cold, cerebral tennis, she demolished the soon-to-be-ranked No. 1 with a devastating display of power and precision not seen among the women's ranks in two years.

After being hit by a ball, an accident on purpose, some said Serena mumbled, "You'll pay for that." She did not, however, go head hunting. Instead she buckled down and wiped up the court with the women's No. 1 player, reducing her to a spectator in her own match. The final score of 6-1, 6-2 does not reflect how one-sided the match was. Number 81 was now number 14 and those ranked above her are now shaking in their La Perla's.

Serena Williams is back.


A couple of years ago there were long discussions on tennis boards about the state of the women's game. Many said it was fine because they liked a particular player or players and they liked that their favorite was heading towards the top of the rankings.

Others, trying to avoid the traps of fandom, said the product the WTA was presenting was inferior to that being fielded by the ATP and that if nothing was done about it the women's game would go back to what it was in the bad old days when a then out of shape Lindsay Davenport was insulted by one of the leading men's players. The arguments were fierce and while they've become more decorous thanks to sites which limit flaming and ban those who don't get it they still go on.

So what does all this have to do with the state of women's tennis?


Former world number one Venus Williams, pictured in 2006, a five-time Grand Slam singles champion who missed the Australian Open with a left wrist injury, was named on the US Fed Cup team.

Instead of true athleticism and real rivalries being encouraged based on results, cults of personality were soon seen everywhere. If you criticized a certain player as undeserving or overhyped or a cheater, you were called various epithets by fans of that player. We were encouraged to ignore the unsportsmanlike conduct of the woman being promoted as the best thing since sliced bread and go for her looks before noticing her game.

Pop culture embraced this. Shakira's hit song "Hips Don't Lie" was used to promote a player with no discernable hips to speak of. West Side Story's iconic song "I Feel Pretty" was hauled out to show how envious everyone was of the player's looks when all she wanted to do was to play tennis. Mumblings about surprisingly easy draws were dismissed as mere jealousy by those upset that the Williams era was past. They were unwilling to accept the new Sharapova era.

All of that talk disintegrated to ashes on the rebound ace of Rod Laver Arena.

At the beginning of the year, I previewed the WTA but did not include Venus or Serena because of their injury induced rankings. Both women were well out of the top forty but I did say that if both women came back fully healthy and focused on tennis they'd both be back in the top 5. Many thought I was delusional.

Now I'm reading columns in which the words "surprising", "unexpected" and "unforeseen" are being used. One blogger said she'd gone back and looked at Serena's previous Grand Slam wins – all 7 of them - and that none of them was as dominating as this one had been.

So where does women's tennis go from here? Will we see the end of cupcake draws? Will the hype machine tamp down a bit and let on-court performance determine who gets the goodies and not ad agency pipe dreams?

I do think that notice was served about how good women's tennis can be. I think we'd forgotten the level of play that Venus and Serena made their competitors have to play or risk being run out of Dodge.

Melbourne announced three women who have that extra gear hardwired into their genes and will be able to step up. Shahar Peer, Jelena Jankovic, and Nicole Vaidisova are future stars who, if they remain injury free, will be able to step on the stage provided by the Williams sisters and stand toe-to-toe with them.

Justine Henin has never been able to keep up physically with Big Babe tennis as played by Serena and Venus. Martina Hingis was run out of the game by the quality and power of Venus and Serena. Amelie Mauresmo is too mentally fragile to stay in the pressure cooker the top 8 should be by the time the US Open rolls around. She may hang on by her fingernails but the pressure from the bottom may prove to be too much.

I don't think Nadia Petrova or Patty Schnyder will be in the top eight come the end of the year.

As for Maria Sharapova, the joy ride may be over. In sports, the powers that be (PTB)are willing to give you everything, but you must produce. Unsportsmanlike conduct, soft draws and overt cheating will be overlooked as long as you bring the goods. She has to bring the goods to Tokyo where she has Peer, Jankovic, and Ivanovic as well as Schiavone in her part of the draw. She has to prove the beatdown in Melbourne was simply a fluke. Many think she will withdraw from Tokyo. If she does it will make those who feel she is nothing more than hype feel vindicated in their beliefs.

IMG and the WTA has worked very hard to justify Maria's endorsement deals by engineering her way to the top of women's tennis. The posters for Oz featured Roger Federer, Amelie Mauresmo, Marcos Baghdatis and Maria Sharapova. Maybe the PTB in Australia knew about the problem's in Justine's life and so they didn't include her with the 2006 finalists, substituting Maria. I don't know.

I do know that Maria must do well in Tokyo and in every event she's entered going forward. Her serving woes have to be rectified. I look for her father to be fined if he does the bottle and banana show again. Criticism of her Bansidhe like screams seems to have made her lessen them. They were not that evident during the final but maybe that was because she was too busy trying to hold her game together.

Sabine Appelmans and Dominique Monami admitted that Carlos Rodriguez, Justine's coach, claims that Serena is the one player Justine fears the most, that her game does not match-up well with Serena's. Their head-to-head is 5-3 in Serena's favor, with all Justine's wins coming on clay.

With both Williams sisters back in the mix, I look for big changes in the top 8. No player plays totally uninjured, but if they play smart like Justine did last year both sisters should stay competitive during 2007. By that time, the level of the game with its new rivalries should give fans a lot more to enjoy.

And when the level of tennis is high the winners are the fans.

"I have it. I feel like I'm a great tennis player, that I was put on this earth to play tennis. I'm here to play tennis - I do that the best."

Thank you # 81.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Let's Have Some Fun!

by Savannah

It can't be all serious all the time. Let's take a different look at the two men who will clash tonight in Melbourne.

There are a lot of similarities between Fena and Fed. Numerologically the numbers "1" and "10" are the same regarding their seeding. Both men are Leo's. Fena was born 7-29-80 making him a Leo "2". Roger was born 8-8-81 making Roger a Leo "8" person. Sunday, January 28, 2007 is a "1" day.

Fena's birthday, the 29th, is a two. The number "2" is ruled by the Moon. The number "8" symbolizes Saturn, called the taskmaster by some and "an old devil" by others. By the way "1" is the number of the Sun, the ruler of Leo.

As a side note Serena, born 9-26-1981 is an "8" person. Maria Sharapova, said to be born 4-19-1987 is a "1" person.

For more on numerology visit here.

We can have even more fun.

Roger Federer

1981 was the Chinese Year of the Metal Rooster.

Metal Roosters can come off as arrogant and stuck up at times. They need a cushion for that overextended ego and someone to make sure it stays inflated. They are reasonable people who seem to analyze every decision they make and every situation they find themselves in. They are standoffish at times and can let their aggression get in the way of a blossoming friendship or romance. These Roosters should take a breather from their egos long enough to really enjoy what they have to offer.
Fernando Gonzalez

1980 was the Chinese Year of the Metal Monkey
Persuasive and passionate, this Monkey is a warm person. He is successful due to his innate determination and ambitious nature. He works hard to climb the ladder of success and prefers to work alone. They are loyal employees, always prepared and tactful with answers and upper management. In love these Monkeys are just as loyal as well as loving and affectionate.
For more information visit this site.

Yes it's a bridal site. But it's one of the best sites for Chinese Astrology I've visited. And I visit a lot of them. Let's note Serena was born in 1981 like Roger. If Sharapova's birth year information is correct she was born in 1987 the year of the Fire Rabbit.

The Chinese New Year is late this year, 2-18-2007. The year is that of the Fire Boar. The Boar is ruled by water. The year is ruled by Fire. Water and Fire don't mix do they?

What does all this mean?

Western Astrology
The moon will be in Gemini for the match. Gemini is an air sign. The sun is in Aquarius, also an air sign. With these two fire signs going at it the match should be exciting. Think of it this way. Fire needs air to burn. There will be plenty of excitement in this match.

By the way this could also explain why Serena, a Libra (Libra is an Air Sign) dominated the way she did over the Taurus woman Maria Sharapova who truly looked earthbound and plodding during their match.

Chinese Astrology
Monkeys can run circles around other people with ease. They are curious and clever people who catch on quickly to most anything. Monkey people generally can accomplish any given task. They appreciate difficult or challenging work as it stimulates them and makes them think.

A Monkey's good memory and his ability to adapt are two of his most prized possessions. He is intelligent and stoic, able to pick new trades up quickly and easily. Monkeys are also able to do all the work in half the time it takes someone else, but will charge you double what someone else would charge. As such, Monkeys generally take occupations in the world of finance, such as banking, stock exchange or accounting

The Rooster is a flamboyant personality, feisty and obstinate. He is quite the extrovert who loves to strut his stuff and is proud of who he is. Outwardly confident, the Rooster is also a trustworthy, hardworking individual. He'll tell it like it is with no qualms or reservations.

Roosters are more motivated than most other Animal Signs, making their careers a priority in their lives. They are hard working, flexible individuals able to stick to the given tasks. They are generally successful individuals who reach the top of their chosen professions.
The Element of Metal
Those born under the influence of the Chinese Astrology element of Metal are determined, self-reliant and forceful. You enjoy the good life and all it has to offer -- luxury, comfort and freedom, especially. You're like a reclusive film star: You want the acclaim, but you also want to be left alone. You create your own success, building your desired destiny with single-minded focus. Others look up to you in awe of your commanding, confident presence.

While Metal individuals are strong and virtuous, you can be a bit set in your ways. No arm-wrestling with the metallic ones, either; they might break that appendage in two! They can be stern taskmasters as well, demanding the most from yourself and those you love.
Saturn is the co-ruler of Aquarius. Roger, an 8, has the celestial lights for him in this regard.

I see these two men very evenly matched coming into this final. With all things equal I give the edge to Federer only because he's been here before. Gonzalez wilted last year in pressure situations. But if he stays focused and plays the way he has been he can give Federer a run for his money. The paying fans as well as the sleep-deprived ones are hoping for a good match. We just may have one.

For a more "traditional" preview, click here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Semi Sweet

(Photos: Getty Images)

by Savannah

There is one more semifinal match left to play. Some say the match is moot but it isn't. If Fernando Gonzalez makes it past Tommy Haas into the men's final, it will prove that it was his tennis, not Lleyton's misplaced ego, James Blake's latest underachievement, or Rafael's lack of preparation that got him this far.

If I were Larry Stefanki, I would not be making victory speeches before the match is played at 7:30 p.m. Melbourne time (as we all know by now that's 3:30 a.m. on the east coast of the States). Instead of talking on the record about match strategy, you and your player should be looking at that second set of the other semifinal. Roger sent you a nice little nasty-gram. I hope you pay attention to it.

Many people are saying that they've never seen a set of tennis like Roger played against Andy Roddick. I have. I hate to keep saying it, but part of your tennis education involves seeing the 2006 Dubai Final. Roger played a perfect first set. His opponent couldn't touch anything he hit over the net. But that opponent came back and won the match. Who did he play? Rafael Nadal. See it. Then we can talk about perfect sets of tennis and how to deal with them.

Don't get me wrong. Andy has come a long way since he started listening to Jimmy Connors. Must be a Virgo to Virgo mind meld in effect. Andy is now patiently constructing points and actually kept to his game plan during his match against Federer. Racquet toss aside, I think Andy should come away with some positives.

He should also tell PMac to STFU and not predict that Andy was going to win the Australian Open on the basis of his almost-win at the Tennis Masters Cup last year and his actual win over Roger at Kooyong. Roger could've played Andy with less anger. In fact, he did play him with less anger. Ask Novak Djokovic.

So, Mr. Stefanki, talk less, coach more. Your player will likely advance in four sets to face Roger in the final.

Monday, January 22, 2007

When You Dig A Grave For Someone Dig Two Holes

This bit of folk wisdom might be remembered by TPTB in tennis as the first Grand Slam of the season moves into it’s second week. Lets look at the men and women who will be playing today and tomorrow.

On the womens side we have the following matchups in the quarter finals:

Nicole Vaidisova vs. Lucie Safarova

Serena Williams vs. Shahar Peer

Kim Clijsters vs Martina Hingis

Maria Sharapova vs Anna Chakvetadze

Lucie Safarova? Shahar Peer? Anna Chakvetadze? Oh yeah, and Serena Williams? In some circles Nicole Vaidisova is a surprise quarter finalist as well. That means five of the eight quarterfinalists were supposed to be knocked off by their supposed betters long before this stage of the event. But they are here and proves what one blogger said about the Australian Open – it’s the quirky one, the one where relatively unknown players can make a name for themselves with the tennis viewing public and hopefully kick start their careers. Some make the big time – remember that kid named Martina Hingis – and some don’t. Remember Tsvetlana Pironkova?

When the draw first came out everyone wondered why Hingis had such a tough draw while Amelie and Kim’s main job would be to make their matches appear competitive. Now Amelie is off to figure out what went wrong and Kim is said by many to have a lock on the trophy. Ironically that overweight, slow and unfocused player named Serena Williams is also being talked about as hoisting the trophy which would be her first since 2005 at the same venue.

Truth be told if Li Na had not choked and sprayed her way to 65 unforced errors in the second and third sets of her match against Martina and played the same level of tennis she played in the first set she would be the one facing Clijsters and bring to six the number of women who should not be there.

The mens side has it’s own share of the drama.

The semi’s feature the following men:

Mardy Fish vs Andy Roddick

Roger Federer vs Tommy Robredo

Nikolay Davydenko vs Tommy Haas

Rafael Nadal vs Fernando Gonzalez

Anyone who tells you they expected to see Fish, Robredo, Haas and Gonzalez in the quarters is lying.

Anyone who tells you they knew Rafael Nadal was making it to the quarters is also lying. No one thought he’d survive his brutal draw which featured men who had made his life miserable last year. Robert Kendrick, James Blake and Tomas Berdych are all on their way to the next tournament or back home to find out what the hell went wrong while Rafa is facing a man in Fernando Gonzalez who decided he’d had enough of the partying and wanted to be at the top of his sport. He’s been the most improved player since last summer and roars into the quarters after a near perfect match against Lleyton Hewitt – you remember him, the guy who had the rebound ace tuned to suit his game?-and a three set victory over James Blake who was supposed to make the world safe from a twenty year old from Mallorca who doesn’t play text book tennis and yet found himself in the Wimbledon final last year, a feat that has rattled former Wimby king Pete Sampras. There’s something wrong about a thirty something year old man calling out a twenty year old no?

Roger Federer is still the prohibitive favorite to make it to the mens final. His road to the quarters hasn’t been that difficult. On the way he mercilessly pounded a young Serbian named Novak Djokovic into the ground and then pleasantly shook his hand when it was over. Class guy.

Ironically on the women’s side people are fantasizing finals that don’t include the media darling and number one seed Maria Sharapova. She hasn’t had to do much since a tiny French woman and the Australian summer almost brought her to her knees. Those cup cake draws aren’t the best thing when you hit the quarters and semis. Ask that other Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo.

The argument about whether draws are fixed, random, or just plain wacky will never end. I am one of those who always find it odd when the same players always get the same tiptoe through the tulips while their peers have to bite and claw their way into the later stages of a tournament. Others believe that some players are just lucky. Whatever you believe the old people had it right. When you set out to bury someone you’d better dig a hole for yourself because as everyone knows what goes around comes around.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Through the Fire-Day 7 of the Australian Open

by Savannah

The second week of the Australian Open is underway and the seeds have begun to fall. There were three marquee matches Sunday and a few on the under card that tennisheads were keeping their eyes on. To their credit ESPN managed to do the best they could since a college football All Star Game was their main attraction and led into their tennis coverage which began at 10p EST in the United States. ESPN is usually the villain when it comes to coverage but they stayed with tennis until 6a on the East Coast. Kudos' ESPN.

The Marquee Matches
By the time ESPN began their coverage Amélie Mauresmo had already finished her run at the Australian Open. She came in as defending champion and was given what I call a tiptoe through the tulips draw. The problem with that kind of draw is that you're winning without having to play your best tennis. The person you find yourself across the net from on the other hand has been tested and is coming in feeling he/she deserves to be there and is coming to add your scalp to their belt.

Lucie Safarova was considered just one of the many "ova's" playing in Australia. No one paid much attention to her since her record coming in was not the best and she had done nothing to warrant special scrutiny. She is now going to play Nicole Vaidisova while Amélie goes home without making it to the semis where everyone thought she'd be. Beware those cupcake draws. They come back and bite you in the ass.

I expected ESPN to join Andy Roddick's match in progress. Instead they used a tape delay and started at the beginning. His opponent was Mario Ancic, a player who has been on the bubble for quite some time now. Andy had never lost to him but when you reach this round a lot can happen that has never happened before.

I've been a critic of Roddick for a couple of years now. Andy can't think on court. Andy can't construct a point. He's a mindless ball basher. He panics at the first sign of his opponent showing some backbone. He's stubborn and hard-headed.

The Andy Roddick on the court last night won a thrilling five-set match. He was patient. He imposed his will without being a brat about it. He constructed points. His serve was a vital part of his game instead of being his entire game. His coach Jimmy Connors bounced between being a coach and a tennis fan during the match. He was coaching Andy through out the match à la Yuri Sharapov. Nothing was said by the commentators about this but that is a subject to be discussed during quieter tennis times. It was a good match for Roddick who now goes on to face his old friend and roommate Mardy Fish. Fish has been working with Todd Martin and from the snippets of his play I've seen looks to be on a mission. We'll see how the old friends handle this match.

Immediately after Roddick's match we saw Serena Williams walking through the tunnel, her purse on her arm and her racquets on her back. No. 81 looked ready. The woman across the net, Jelena Jankovic, owned a 2-1 record in her favor over Serena. Despite what we saw the other night, negative thoughts crept in – was Serena fit enough to go a possible three sets with the Serbian diva? Hearing that she had been sick made me wonder if she had had enough prep time for this match.

Both women are known for their fiery personalities and this viewer expected a throw down. Instead it was a quiet, methodical beat down by a seven-time Grand Slam winner over a woman who has not made it to a Grand Slam final. Both displayed great shotmaking, but in between those shots they played tennis. Good tennis. Jelena came in with severe blisters on her feet and it was obvious that the body could not do what the will wanted. Still Jelena fought the best she could but the outcome was a foregone conclusion. All of the tennis Jelena had played caught up with her in that second set and like Petrova before her, Jelena fell to the ground in symbolic submission before the woman who was her better this match.

Jelena has been quoted as saying Serena's intensity took her by surprise. I don't expect Jelena to admit mental and physical fatigue. That's so not her. I think this is as close as she'll get. I didn't realize it, but Jelena watched herself after every point on the big screen à la Roger. Too funny. And that is so her.

Serena goes on to play Shahar Peer, another overachiever who no one expected to still be playing.

It can't be said enough. When they're healthy and focused, Serena and Venus raise the level of women's tennis. Someone said that last night. The women's tour needs them both. The fact that the US Open tournament director was sitting with Oracene Price spoke volumes.

In her interview with Pammy-poo right after the match, Serena looked at the names of the other three players in her part of the draw and said she knew all of their games. No. 81 is definitely back in the house.

The third marquee match shown by ESPN was Roger Federer vs Novak Djokovic. Djokovic has foot-in-mouth disease and I think that after having the shit kicked out of him by Raja last night his people will talk to him about it. Roger usually smiles and behaves when questioned by the press about his potential opponents. His comments about Novak before this match were the equivalent of those made at a boxing weigh in.

Here's the thing. If you're going to talk shit you'd better be able to back it up. Novak tried. But Federer was ruthless in shooting down any idea Novak had of standing toe-to-toe with him. The man from Switzerland looked like one of his nicknames, a Ninja, as he mentally destroyed the young man from Serbia.

Usually, beatdowns of this magnitude are given in alleys by guys with metal-toed shoes on their feet and menacing blunt objects in their hands. This beating was delivered on worldwide television in front of millions by a man wielding a tennis racquet. Mirka never once had to chew a nail or lean forward with concern. Novak looked to his coach for guidance and you didn't have to see Badja's face to know he had no answers for his young charge. The man called "Djoke" by some fans needs to hear the adage about sleeping dogs. Maybe he can talk to Nadia Petrova about it the next time he sees her.

The Other Matches
Tomas Berdych looked like Kal-El during his match against Tursunov. It wasn't that Dmitry played badly. Berdych just came to take names and that is what he did. Berdych plays Davydenko Monday. Like several players, he has to play back-to-back days due to the rain delays.

Mardy Fish won a crucial four-set match over David Ferrer. Ferrer is one of those guys that no one wants to see across the net. He is a solid player and more versatile than you'd believe him to be. Whatever Todd Martin has Mardy doing, it's working.

Tommy Robredo, the Rodney Dangerfield of men's tennis won another one last night. He made Shanghai as part of the main field and no one even tried to hide their surprise at his being there. Yet he does well whenever he plays and is now through to the quarterfinals Down Under for the first time.

Li Na has also made it through to the quarters. She's the only Chinese woman still standing. Her husband is coaching her. Whatever he's doing will make both of them extremely happy. She will play Martina Hingis in what will be one of the matches to watch on Monday.

Shahar Peer is an Israeli teenager who ended last year on the rise and is picking up where she left off. She faces No. 81 next.

Svetlana Kuznetsova's new Goth look didn't stop her from being one of the falling seeds. She lost to the above mentioned Shahar Peer in what has to be an upset. Sveta can beat anyone. She can also lose to anyone. She'd better stop rapping and start working on that gray matter between her ears or this will be a very long year for her.

Anna Chakvetadze will play Patty Schnyder in the quarters. I hope I get to see some of this since I'm still totally underwhelmed by Anna C.

Daniela Hantuchova continues to surprise me. For a woman with no movement she managed a win over a very frustrated Ashely Harkelroad. Daniela plays Kim next.

I agree with whichever one of the Talking Heads asked why, if the powers that be know rain is coming the roof isn't closed on both Laver and Vodafone? Cahill said something about a rule that says the match has to be underway. I'm sure that when the tournament director gets a chance to breathe after the Open is over that "rule" will no longer exist.

I'll end with this quote from No. 81. "I had a long talk with my body, and we agreed that if you get through these tournaments I'll give them surprises. Dresses or something, shoes."

Spoken like a true champion.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Week In Review

A bleary-eyed look at the first week of the AO
by Savannah

Note: Please be aware that I've only watched ESPN's coverage of the Australian Open so I've been subjected to the shenanigans of the Talking Head Gang—Mary Carillo, Patrick McEnroe, Mary Jo Fernandez and Gary Fowler. Dick Enberg joined the fray late in the week. His arrival wasn't as heralded as one James Scott Connors but he nonetheless parachuted in.

I think there is something very wrong with Mary Jo commentating on Sharapova's matches. Conflict of interest, anyone?

Mary Jo is reported to have made the following comment during one of Maria's matches:

"There's no doubt she's the most famous face in women's sports," and went on to claim she is better known than Sorenstam, Wie, and the Williamses.

I rest my case. Without a disclaimer this woman should not work Maria's or Fed's matches.

We in the States are stuck with them, though. Funny thing. Mention was made on a thread at TAT about how the BBC commentators once did a thorough analysis of Rafa's grips during a match and how they affect his play. I think it was Enberg and PMac who did the very same thing during Rafa's match last night. Take a bow, Kirkus! Your endeavor is being read and listened to.

Women's World
Kim and Amélie continue their tiptoe through the tulips draws winning without very much fuss or fight. There are those who say cupcake draws set you up to fail in the later rounds because you are not playing your highest level of tennis and then you run into someone who's had to bite and claw her way through the draw and does not care that commentators are bellowing hyperbole over your outfit or your impending marriage. We'll see.

Maria Sharapova, after her studied use of the system to her advantage in her first round match (note to players used to the more rough and tumble world of challengers: if it's hot, and the marquee player is being iced, watered, and massaged you can demand the same treatment. There is no need to thump your chest in 100+ degrees Fahrenheit. Sit down. Have some water. Take a potty break. Look distressed. The system is there. Use it.), has not had to break a sweat as she moves through her part of the draw. Except for the windbags in the broadcast booth, no one is proclaiming her matches must-see TV. They've given her the title of "warrior" but they are overlooking that smiling woman sitting in the corner playing with her dog. Or the one whose fans bring flares to light and throw at their perceived enemies during tennis matches for kicks and giggles.

ATP World
Spewitt – Sorry. Lleyton Hewitt has been kicked to the curb by Fernando Gonzalez of Chile. The American commentators think everyone from Spain or with a Hispanic name comes from the same place and should be a "dirtballer". Gonzalez is a better hard court player than many give him credit for and I for one am not surprised at this outcome.

From what I'm reading Gonzalez played near perfect tennis against Hewitt for two sets. Overall Gonzalez winners to errors was 66-15 for the match.

Hewitt bullied TPTB in Australian tennis to create a playing surface guaranteed to get him to the final where he would vanquish Raja in a stunning five set thriller. I'm old enough to know a pipe dream when I see one. I wonder if it was worth it to Lleyton to lose a coach and friend while marching towards his early exit? I hope so. I'm sure they're lined up to work for you now dude.

People will go into fits of ecstasy over Blake beating Ginepri. Someone on TAT called Ginepri as scintillating as a box of hair. He can play tennis, though. He just wasn't going to win this particular match.

David Nalbandian continues to surprise the American talking heads, and many tennisheads by winning five set matches as if they're just a walk in the park. The man has a nick name on the boards I won't use here but to put it delicately, David gives the impression he hasn't missed too many meals during the exo season or any other time of year. Yet, he made Grosjean look just like what the translation of his name means in English—"Fat/Big John". I was very surprised at Grosjean's collapse in the fifth set. Oh, yes we were allowed to see it here in the States. When you see players who are not American on ESPN you feel like you're watching a bootleg Paris Hilton video. Well, maybe not, but it does feel as if you're watching some kind of illegal download.

The most bizarre event on the men's side was not a match but an interview with Pete Sampras held one day this week. I'm not sure what day this is either. The International Date Line is a cruel bitch. In the interview Pete tried very hard to be a nice guy and show the sportsmanship that Raja wants to enforce on men's tennis. Unless Raja is talking about Novak Djokovic he manages to snark and damn those who would challenge him with faint praise. I get the feeling that he really, really doesn't like Novak but I digress.

Pete managed to call Nadal out on grass of all surfaces implying that no way Rafa should have made the Wimbledon final. Get over it, Pete. He did. Call the boy out on rebound ace or hardcourt, not on your favorite surface. Of course his pronouncements were hailed as coming from the heavens by the American talking heads. To his credit, that was the most controversial Pete got. Sampras off court was as bad as Hewitt but all of that was swept under the rug to make sure Pete's "greatest of all time" title would not be controversial. I'm sure Pete feels the same way about Roger potentially breaking his record as Vilas felt about Rafa breaking his French Open record. The American commentators begged Pete to return to tennis. Pete worked on his fitness the same way Nalbandian does. Taken a look at the top men lately? Well, leave Nalbandian out. He's in a world all his own.

The Shallow End of the Pool
Dinara – get rid of the fun house mirrors in your place. You do not have the body type to wear a belly shirt.

Tamira Paszek – you have breasts. Large breasts. You need to wear a good bra. If you approach the woman in the corner with the little dog she might tell you where to get one that supports the girls so one of them doesn't rear back and knock you unconscious.

I know at 16 it's big fun to bring the men and boys to their knees but no one wants to see you leave the court on a stretcher after being assaulted by part of your anatomy.

Amélie – I love the outfits you've chosen for this event. They're right for tennis and are modeled on the style Venus wears. She's taller so she can wear a skirt with more flare in it but you're hitting the right note here.

Maria – This retro Mod thing with embroidery or whatever is just not cutting it. I think Rudi Gernreich is asking for his cut. Ask Mary Jo when you're over at her place for dinner.

Serena – The two piece outfit works better than the one piece. The skirt on the two piece is cut longer in the back so your hips don't get in the way. Love the hair and the look you've gone for. I hope those earrings are lighter than they look.

The worst offender to me is that multicolored dress some of the women are wearing. It looks like a home economics project.

The men didn't make too many fashion faux pas's this year. Aside from a few cheap thrills—Marat shirtless, Rafa clothed or unclothed, Dancevic getting treatment from the meds during his last match—nothing much to say about them. This isn't a bad thing.

Clash of the Amazon Queens

by Savannah

Warrior woman. Amazon. Diva. All of these words can describe Jelena Jankovic, the Serbian Warrior Princess who has announced herself ready and able to ascend the throne over the bloodied carcasses of those who have been proclaimed by others to be The Queen of the Amazons but have not had their baptisms by blood or fire.

Terror Fabulous. Fierce Stomping Diva. Bitch. These words have described Serena Williams, younger sister of Venus and the one who their father always said was meaner and hungrier. Injury and tragedy (and yes, maybe a little ennui) forced her from her throne. But Serena Williams stood on Rod Laver Arena last night and screamed her defiance and her return to the heavens. Surely the Gods of Tennis heard her declaration and have been roused from their slumber. She is back and ready to reclaim her throne.

Jelena is not going to kindly step aside and allow Serena to reclaim the throne. The way to it will be blood-soaked and leave both winner and loser drained. Serena came into Melbourne having played one warm up and not doing well. Her naysayers said she was fat, out of shape and not moving well. Her third-round opponent didn't realize it was all lies until too late. When Petrova fell to the ground, she was conceding defeat. She knew she could not beat the woman across the net who looked ready to go another set if need be.

Jelena has played a lot of tennis, too much, some have said, and she is due to hit the wall and soon. Will it happen against Serena? I'm sure Serena has every intention of being the wall into which she runs.

Jelena can be mentally fragile as we all saw during her 2006 US Open match against Henin in New York. If fatigue sets in, how will Jelena react? Diva antics won't cut it at this level.

While other players nibble on cupcakes and feast on hype this match is the most anticipated women's match in a very long time. Who will win? I don't know. I do know both women will leave it all on the court.

We've already seen one match that will probably be counted among the top women's matches of 2007. Truth be told, the match Friday night raised the level on which women will be expected to play in 2007. Both women played well. But Petrova is not on the same level as a relatively fit and focused Serena. Yes, her footwork needs work and yes, Serena can stand to lose a few more pounds, but her will and determination overcame all of that against Petrova.

Proclaiming the darling of IMG a warrior does not put her in the same category as Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic. Jelena may be a drama queen but she is someone who embraces her inner diva, and warrior, with reckless abandon. She forces us to see her as a warrior queen. No one has to tell us what she is.

Serena's legions of fans have already awarded her the title of Princess. Last night she grabbed the title of Amazon Queen. She loves her inner diva and one can only laugh out loud when she puts on the innocent "Who, Me?" face during her interviews. That woman on court screaming, clawing and fighting her way to a victory? Oh yeah, I know her. We've talked.

The level of play Friday night is what women's tennis has missed the last few years. The hell with brown bottles, bananas and commercial endorsements defining women's tennis. To paraphrase Monday Night Football, we're ready for some tennis.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Australian Open Day 1 – More Observations

More Drama

    That little dust up between the Croatians and the Serbians apparently started in the stands. What ESPN showed was the end part where the police got the two groups separated prior to escorting them out.

    This event when added to what some say was the shameless behavior of Serbian fans during Jelena Jancovic’s match against Kim last week has started a flame war on one message board between Serbian and Croatian fans which in my opinion makes it impossible for an outsider, a member of neither ethnic group to comment on what happened. If anyone saw the basketball riot where fans were throwing lit flares at each other this was one level below it since it seems one group of hooligans did indeed bring lighted flares with them to enhance their tennis experience.
    If you don’t know what happened here is an article about it.

Balkan rivalries erupt at Aussie Open

Tuesday January 16, 2007

    Balkan animosities again erupted in Australia yesterday as Serbian and Croatian youths attacked one another at the first day of the Australian Tennis Open in Melbourne.

    Cheered on by a group of Greeks supporting the Serbians, about 150 youths clashed in a wild brawl that erupted shortly after midday.

    Fighting spilled out through other fans as police and security guards rushed to separate the warring sides.

    The brawl follows a decade of simmering tensions between Serbian and Croatian communities in Australia, fuelled by the war in the Balkans after the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

    Yesterday's violence came after the breakdown of an informal separation of fans, which usually saw Croatians attend the Open on Monday and Serbians the following day.

    But yesterday, with several Serbian and Croatian players due to appear, youths from both communities arrived, many draped in their national flags.

    Reports said the trouble began when the two sides began trading insults and racial slurs.

    The Sydney Morning Herald website reported that Serbians had chanted "Die Croatians, die" in their language, cheered on by Greeks shouting "Greece, Serbia, Greece, Serbia".

    As youths ploughed into one another, police and security guards raced to pull them apart.

    Troublemakers were led from Melbourne Park through different exits.

    Police reported some minor injuries, but no arrests were made.

    Serbian tennis star Jelena Jankovic, the No.11 seed and winner of the ASB Classic in Auckland, said the problem was one which seemed peculiar to Melbourne.

    "I think just here in Melbourne there is this kind of problem," Jankovic said after defeating Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak.

    "Anywhere else in the world it's fine. When you play a Croatian girl or when there's matches - Serbian and Croatian - it's fine, but here it's just ... I don't know what it is.

    "It's just a sport and people should just come and enjoy the game."

    Croatian Mario Ancic, who defeated Japan's Go Soeda, said Croatian players had the best fans.

    "They're well-known for their good supporting, correct supporting and I've been here many years," Ancic said.

    Police are expected to be on high alert today when Croatian Martin Cilic faces Serb Ilia Bozoljac.

    Additional reporting by AAP

It’s been my opinion for some time that the J-Block, a publicists dream during Newport a couple of years ago now is a very bad idea. Seeing them taunt Federer live during the US Open was not a pleasant experience. Last year everyone thought Bagh’s vocal fans were entertaining. I think that anyone who sanctions hooliganism needs to reread the definition of entertainment. Tennis matches are not held at the Roman forum.

Mary Carillo
    I guess it was Mary’s salute to Martin Luther King Jr. Whoever approved her piece comparing Serena’s recent troubles off court to James should have their head examined. It just goes to show that reporters and producers on the tennis beat talk among themselves and not with anyone who might give them a perspective on how their loopy ideas will come across once they see the light of day. I guess they figured that since both players are African American they could get away with saying that there is no excuse for Serena’s long road back to tennis superiority because James faced daunting problems and is now number four in the world.

    No one would deny that losing a parent is traumatic. But to compare the death of a parent or sibling to a lingering illness to that of losing a parent or sibling to a random act of idiocy is facile to put it nicely. I would also assume that Mary has never had knee surgery. I find it interesting that Marat is given the benefit of the doubt regarding his slow comeback but Serena is supposed to just bounce back as if her knees are different in structure from Marat’s.

    I think the push on Serena is because right now there are no American women in the upper echelons of tennis. Venus succumbed to the pressure and played a match late last year where it soon became obvious that her wrist was not ready to be tested in match play. With Lindsay, never a fave of TPTB out having her first child desperation has set in. In my opinion Serena should play a limited, targeted schedule this year similar to what Justine did last year. Serena has to do what’s best for Serena. If she does that she is doing what is best for tennis.

Andy Roddick
    When Roddick burst onto the scene in the waning years of Pete Sampras dominance of American tennis by winning not only the nascent US Open Series but the US Open I was ready to embrace him as the standard bearer for the United States in the ATP. The US Open win was widely criticized by many as having been engineered by the USTA. There was a lot of rain in the second week of that Open and the usual schedule adjustments took place. Many of the foreign players ended up playing two matches a day while Roddick got the favorable times and placement so the argument went. I was willing to explain that away too.

    But here we are four years later and Roddick has yet to put the negativity that follows his career behind him. His performance last night will only add to it.

    Last night was the first time I’ve seen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga play. I don’t think it’ll be the last. The announcers explained that he’s been injured much of the last two years since he turned pro in 2004 and that he was playing in only his second Grand Slam match. He is a big man, big boned, and at 21 he can stand to drop a few pounds. But he has the game to upset many of the men in the top ten. Andy should be thanking his lucky stars that Tsonga’s fitness deserted him after that marathon 20-18 tiebreak in the first set otherwise he and Ivan Ljubicic would be on planes heading for parts unknown.

    If the match was going to be remembered for the play of both men that would be a good thing. But what most fans remember is Roddick cursing at Jo-Wilfried who simply glared back at him and then insulting the chair ump not once but twice, both times on mike. There are lip reading translations of what Andy said to Jo-Wilfried but I won’t publish them here. The one I did hear left me slack jawed. Andy said to the chair that he would stop jabbering “when you say something remotely intelligent.”

    In any other sport Jo-Wilfried would have won in a walk over since Roddick would have been ejected. Instead of Andy being contrite about his behavior during his in studio post match interview Chris Fowler made it seem as if he had no idea what all the fuss was about and implied that Roddick’s behavior was no big deal. This is what I think is Roddick’s problem. No one calls him on his shit. He did make a stirring defense of both Venus and Serena during the Exo season but that does not excuse his behavior last night. It’s why so many people rejoice when he loses and will continue to do so.

The Shallow end of the pool Part 2
    Was Stella McCartney inspired by Pierre-Yves now famous sleeveless blouse to create the outfit Maria Kirilenko was wearing? Did he get a cut for his inspiration? Somehow I don’t think the Catholic girl uniform fetish will catch on in tennis.

    I like Sveta with dark hair. It just looked weird last night with the head band.

    What the hell was going on with Mary Carillo’s hair last night? Did she rush past the stylist on her way to the set? She’s a little too long in the tooth for that edgy spiky style cut the younger women are wearing.

    Did I mention I hate the yellow’s they’re using this year? And that I hate the baby blue tops being worn by a top player?

End Notes
    Pam, Mary and Mary Jo dogged Serena badly before and during her match against Mara Santangelo last night. After Serena won they miraculously resurrected her, to hear them tell it, rotting corpse. To his credit Mardy Fish did not join in the hate fest.

Australian Open Day 1 – Sights, Sounds, and Tennis

Yes!!! Tennis is back. The day session of the Australian Open brought some surprises and out right shock.

Men’s Tennis

    Mardy Fish taking out Ivan Ljubicic aka the real number two (ha don’t make me laugh) in four sets – 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-4.

Almost shock:
    Andy Roddick was a service game away from going down two sets to none to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a wild card who won a marathon first set tie break 20-18 and then ran out of gas after taking the second set to a tie break before losing it and the match to Andy.

    Zack Fleishman of the United States took out Agustin Calleri an Argentine up and comer.

Sick Bay:
    1. Gastric distress reappeared for real when Jan Hajek had to retire against Juanqui.
    2. Joachim Johannson withdrew with a toe injury after a couple of games against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Disturbing Events:
    1. There was a very disturbing scene where Nazi saluting Croatian fans had to be physically separated from a smaller group of Serbian fans. The police got in between the two groups.
    2. The other disturbing scene was Andy Roddick’s taunting of chair ump Carlos Ramos. The cursing was not translated but hearing Andy tell the ump he’d shut up when “you say something remotely intelligent” did not make my day. Too bad tennis doesn’t have yellow cards or the tradition of giving technical fouls. Andy would have had two “T’s” or two yellow cards. Totally uncalled for especially when the intelligence remark was made when Andy had the match in hand.

Women’s Tennis
    1.Nicole Vaidisova was almost wearing a nice outfit?
    2. Jelena Jankovic played a Canadian who looks like she hasn’t missed too many meals.
    3.Oh and Jelena, wipe your face. The makeup hasn’t been made that doesn’t sweat off when you do strenuous activity in 80+ degree weather.

Fashion Statements
    1. I really really don’t like Lacoste’s tennis outfits.
    2. What is up with the yellow shirts on the men? They bite.
    3. Liked Phau’s army green shorts.
    4. And Fed’s baby blue and white shirt? HATED IT!

Night Match
    It’s just about 4a on the East Coast of the United States and it’s 2-1 early in the first set. Serena wins in straights.

Notes from the shallow end of the pool:
    1. Serena is very very rusty.
    2. Mara looks nervous.
    3.Mara Santangelo has lost a lot of weight

Joke of the Day

From a wit in Mens Tennis Forums in a thread discussing the Serbian/Croatian riot and Marcos Baghdatis vocal fans. One fan commented that at least they don’t sing “God Save the Queen” to which someone replied
“They will when Feli walks out on court.”

Note: I will be working again starting Tuesday so Haruka will be doing these daily reports. Trust me she is like the Pova gil, she eats babies for lunch.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Australian Open and Grand Slam Tennis- A Different View

This is a guest post.

By Haruka

So what is it about the Australian Open? Yes, it is the first major tennis event of the year. Yes, it is a test of endurance, and while all events are testing, the sweltering heat of Australia (ignore the retractable roof, it is called humidity and that sky rockets once the roof is closed), the sticky surface of the court, and the lingering jet lag faced by late arrivals to Melbourne only adds to the physical challenges the players face. And no, I am not talking about the top players; they are in Australia for at least two weeks before the event. Even the lower ranked players have begun to head towards Australia at the end of December to play in some of the tournaments that precede the Australian Open Series. Many of these players do not participate in the exhibitions the top players play in during December and arrive rusty after finishing their seasons in October or November.

Because of the longevity of the tennis season, many players arrive with injuries that they got in the previous year. The Australian Open is the youngest Open and as the youngest open its exuberant personality coupled with the psychological anticipation and performance anxiety that can cripple players, anything goes and anyone can win. Marat Safin, with his injured knee won 2005 Australian Open in a high intensity match that not only was the talk of the town for the rest of the year but also sparked the hope of Marat fans for his resurgence.

A crucial factor of the Australian Open is when it takes place. The Australian Open starts towards the middle of January and finishes at the end of the month. Since the next grand slam, The French Open, is not until the end of May, Wimbledon follows that event in June and the US Open begins the end of August, this leaves the Australian Open champions five months of bragging rights. It also gives a boost to their confidence and the mental intimidation helps the player in the following tournaments. Even the final four get honorable mentions for the rest of the year.

For players like Marcos Baghdatis whose miraculous run to the final of the Australian Open catapulted him into the big kids swimming pool (though he has not quite learned how to swim in those deep waters, he is not leaving that pool any time soon) and others – think 19 year old Amelie Mauresmo, it is the gateway to the big time, the way to get your name mentioned and your career followed by tennis fans around the world. In Rafael Nadal's first break through year, he pushed Lleyton Hewitt to the max and gave him the momentum to win not only eleven single titles that included his first Grand Slam win; The French Open. It also effects the losers because they are then under pressure to produce results in the following tournaments they play in. As the Australian Open officially starts the New Year of tennis we will see what whose star continues to shine, start to shine or fade.

The Australian Open now has an Australian Open Series that is just like the U.S Open series. The Australian Open Series gives players an added incentive to get into shape and be ready to play Grand Slam tennis when the Open begins. Unlike the US Open series where many of the top players do not show up due to their various attempts to recover due to the back to back Slams, the Australian Open is successful in drawing big names because it gets players into shape after the off season. The Asian/Pacific Rim tournaments that kick start the tennis season can be nicknamed the “Rebound Ace” season. The clay court season, though the entire year has clay court events, reaches its height with Roland Garros. The United States summer hard court season has its US Open Series. Only Wimbledon at the present time has no “season” and seems to be sandwiched in after the French Open. Though there are talks about changing the Open schedule, there is no solution that anybody is willing to agree to.

Purists talk about the tradition and history of Wimbledon to justify its premier position in the world of tennis. The grass courts of Wimbledon encourage serve and volley play, a style of play which seems to be enshrined by American and British players and not by many other players in the rest of the world. It is interesting that in the Open era of the thirty nine Wimbledon Champions only three were from countries that had not at one point had British troops on their soil. The grass court style of play does not encourage tactical thinking. Hitting the ball hard and then rushing the net can hardly be considered tactical. Another reason for the decline of grass courts and grass court season is the expense it takes to maintain grass courts. While there is talk of creating a grass court season this can only be done if they change the Grand Slam schedule and find a sponsor that would not mind covering the year round cost for the upkeep of the grass courts.

Wimbledon was the first major title that tested a tennis player’s skill. And as the oldest title a certain amount of honor goes to the winner. There is no tennis player alive who will complain about winning Wimbledon but a tennis players career is no longer judged solely on winning Wimbledon.

The Australian Open starts January 15, 2007 and ends January 28th 2007.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Women in the Land of Oz - The 2007 Women's Draw

The 2007 Women's Draw Report

by Savannah

The Australian Open draw came out Thursday night in the Eastern United States and until Sunday, tennisheads will be debating what could happen. Until the first ball is tossed up in the first match all we can do is speculate. I'm going to break down the women's draw by section and by quarter. I'm not speculating beyond that.

Maria Sharapova RUS (1) vs. Camille Pin FRA
Roberta Vinci ITA vs. Anastassia Rodionova RUS
QUALIFIER vs. Meghann Shaughnessy USA
Emmanuelle Gagliardi SUI vs. Tathiana Garbin ITA (30)

Winner: Maria Sharapova.

The only seed Pova has to face in her quarter is Tathiana Garbin ranked # 30. Roberta Vinci is a good player but has nothing to threaten Pova with. Rodionova? Never heard of her and never seen her play. Meghann is a non-entity here. I havent't seen her in a few years but if she hasn't put on weight and changed her game, she's cannon fodder in this part of the draw as well. I don't know anything about Gagliardi and probably won't after the Open either.

Vera Zvonareva RUS (22) vs. Tzipora Obziler ISR
QUALIFIER vs. Severine Bremond FRA
Varvara Lepchenko UZB vs. Agnieszka Radwanska POL
Vania King USA vs. Ana Ivanovic SRB (13)

Bepa should beat Obziler and Bremond should win over a qualifier. Agnes should win over Lepchenko, a player I am not familiar with at all. Unless Vania King plays the match of her life, Ana Ivanovic should win. Between Bremond and Ivanovic I pick Ana. Between Ana and Bepa I pick Ana.

Winner: Ana Ivanovic

In a match between Ana and Maria I think Ana could win but that Maria's will will push her into the quarterfinals.

Section winner:
Maria Sharapova

Anna Chakvetadze RUS (12) vs. Sybille Bammer AUT
Yulia Beygelzimer UKR vs. Laura Granville USA
Sophie Ferguson AUS vs. Jelena Kostanic Tosic CRO
QUALIFIER vs. Samantha Stosur AUS (24)

Bammer just made a nice run. I'm not in love with Anna C but I'll go with popular opinion and pick her over Bammer. It doesn't matter who wins between Beygelzimer and Granville unless Bammer finds a way to beat Anna C. If Bammer wins She gets to meet…Stosur against whom she may have a fighting chance. The winner of Ferguson and Kostanic Tosic should lose to Stosur who should come out a winner against a qualifier. I haven't seen anyone but Anna C in this section and I was not impressed. She may be the one, but I'll have to see it to believe it.

Winner: Stosur or Chakvetadze

Flavia Pennetta ITA (28) vs. Kaia Kanepi EST
Yung-Jan Chan TPE vs. Alicia Molik AUS
QUALIFIER vs. Shuai Peng CHN
Madison Brengle USA vs. Patty Schnyder SUI (8)

Flavia Pennetta has the talent to beat anyone. Whether she wants to or not will determine this section. The wild card in this section is Molik. She should win over Ms Yung to meet Flavia. If Flavia isn't distracted she should give Molik a run for her money. If I was betting I'd go for Molik vs Schnyder with Schnyder maybe pulling this out. Schnyder vs Anna C would go to Schnyder unless she loses interest along the way.

Winner: Patty Schnyder or Alicia Molik

When she wants to Patty can beat anyone. I think she can beat Stosur or Chakvetadze.

Section Winner:
Patty Schnyder

Kim Clijsters BEL (4) vs. Vasilisa Bardina RUS
Akiko Morigami JPN vs. Tsvetana Pironkova BUL
Nicole Pratt AUS vs. Virginie Razzano FRA
QUALIFIER vs. Alona Bondarenko UKR (29)

Winner: Kim Clijsters

Anna-Lena Groenefeld GER (17) vs. QUALIFIER
Ashley Harkleroad USA vs. Meng Yuan CHN
Emilie Loit FRA vs. Aravane Rezai FRA
QUALIFIER vs. Daniela Hantuchova SVK (15)

It really doesn't matter who wins here. ALG is totally out of shape. Ashley H will win over Yuan. Rezai is a woman people are watching and may pull it out over Loit. Hantuchova can't move but depending on who she plays she may meet Rezai. It doesn't matter.

Section Winner:
Kim Clijsters

Dinara Safina RUS (9) vs. Ekaterina Bychkova RUS
Youlia Fedossova FRA vs. Catalina Castano COL
QUALIFIER vs. Lourdes Dominguez Lino ESP
Elena Bovina RUS vs. Na Li CHN (19)

Safina vs Li Na? Possibly. Just for kicks and giggles I'll pick Li Na only because of the Safin family history. Dinara could lose to Bychkova.

Winner: Li Na

Eleni Daniilidou GRE (32) vs. Aiko Nakamura JPN
Olga Savchuk UKR vs. Sania Mirza IND
QUALIFIER vs. Emma Laine FIN
Nathalie Dechy FRA vs. Martina Hingis SUI (6)

Sania Mirza vs Hingis. That's a pick 'em in my book. I haven't seen Sania play in awhile but she has been playing. The floater in this section is Eleni. When she's healthy she's dangerous. I just don't think Hingis will lose to her. If Hingis comes out of this section she'll be loaded for bear.

Section Winner:
Pick 'em.

If Li comes out of the top part and has to play Martina it'll be Martina. If Safina comes out of the top section it'll be pick 'em. Hingis has the experience but I saw Safina dismantle Pova. Edge goes to Safina because on a good day she just comes to take names.

Bottom Half

Nadia Petrova RUS (5) vs. Tamarine Tanasugarn THA
Gisela Dulko ARG vs. Tiantian Sun CHN
Michaella Krajicek NED vs. QUALIFIER
Serena Williams USA vs. Mara Santangelo ITA (27)

JJ's section of the draw. Serena should beat Mara. Michaella is too much of a headcase to be taken seriously at a Slam. Sun could beat Dulko. I'd like to think it'll be Serena vs Petrova out of this section. Unless Terror Fabulous shows up this will be tight but Petrova could come out of this part of the draw.

Winner: Nadia Petrova

Marion Bartoli FRA (18) vs. Vera Dushevina RUS
Victoria Azarenka BLR vs. Yuliana Fedak UKR
Melinda Czink HUN vs. Virginia Ruano Pascual ESP
Aleksandra Wozniak CAN vs. Jelena Jankovic SRB (11)

Again this is JJ's section. And her quarter is surprisingly tough. Fedak, Azarenka and Bartoli have game. Adrenaline should take JJ past Wozniak and Ruano Pascual. Maid Marion's fitness will be an issue not because she's played too much but because, well, because. Bartoli vs JJ could be a pick 'em since both women will be running on fumes.

Winner: Jelena Jankovic

Section Winner:
Nadia Petrova

Shahar Peer ISR (16) vs. Romina Oprandi ITA
Edina Gallovits ROM vs. Meilen Tu USA
Zuzana Ondraskova CZE vs. Clarisa Fernandez ARG
Anna Smashnova ISR vs. Tatiana Golovin FRA (20)

Golovin vs Peer. Peer has played a lot.

Winner: Tatiana Golovin

Maria Kirilenko RUS (26) vs. Karolina Sprem CRO
QUALIFIER vs. Elena Likhovtseva RUS
Iroda Tulyaganova UZB vs. Monique Adamczak AUS
Jessica Moore AUS vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS (3)

Sveta should win this section. Kirilenko may be all that but what has she done in tennis lately? Likhovtseva has been disappointing. But what Sveta should do she doesn't always do.

Winner: Svetlana Kuznetsova

Golovin vs Kuznetsova goes to an in-form and focused Kuznetsova. Sveta can beat anyone when she's on and she can lose to anyone when she's off.

Section Winner:
Svetlana Kuznetsova

Elena Dementieva RUS (7) vs. Stephanie Foretz FRA
Martina Muller GER vs. QUALIFIER
Maria Elena Camerin ITA vs. Kirsten Flipkens BEL
Elena Vesnina RUS vs. Anabel Medina Garrigues ESP (25)

The Demented One should win this. Then again, maybe not.

Winner: Elena Dementieva

Katarina Srebotnik SLO (21) vs. Casey Dellacqua AUS
Iveta Benesova CZE vs. Galina Voskoboeva RUS
Jarmila Gajdosova SVK vs. Milagros Sequera VEN
Jill Craybas USA vs. Nicole Vaidisova CZE (10)

The Demented One against Nicole. Meh.

Section Winner:
Nicole Vaidisova

Francesca Schiavone ITA (14) vs. Sandra Kloesel GER
Lucie Safarova CZE vs. Alberta Brianti ITA
Laura Pous Tio ESP vs. Anastasiya Yakimova BLR
Sofia Arvidsson SWE vs. Ai Sugiyama JPN (23)

Based solely on the Australian Open Series I see Arvidsson playing either Safarova or Schiavone.

Winner: Francesca Schiavone

Jie Zheng CHN (31) vs. Julia Schruff GER
Martina Sucha SVK vs. Eva Birnerova CZE
Marta Domachowska POL vs. Olga Poutchkova RUS
Shenay Perry USA vs. Amélie Mauresmo FRA (2)

No one here can beat Amélie unless of course she loses focus along the way.
Amelie vs Schiavone

Section Winner:
Amélie Mauresmo


Top Half
Maria Sharapova
Patty Schnyder
Kim Clijsters
Li Na or Dinara Safina

Bottom Half
Nadia Petrova
Svetlana Kuznetsova
Nicole Vaidisova
Amélie Mauresmo

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Australian Open Series - Dead on Arrival?

Imitation is the highest form of flattery but has it gone too far?

The good folks at TAT have started threads labeled the ATP Sick Bay and the WTA Sick Bay. They're among the most active on the site.

Let's see what's been going on in hospital as they say in Europe.


Venus Williams – Recurring wrist injury kept her out of Hobart and may keep her out of Melbourne

Ruano-Pascal – Knee kept her out of ASB

Anastasia Myskina – Toe injury had her fly back to Moscow. Status unsure

*Nicole Vaidisova – Mysterious finger injury kept her from playing doubles but she was okay for singles. Fell in the shower.

Chanda Rubin – Knee and foot injuries

Jamea Jackson – Right hip surgery

Justine Henin – Emotional distress

Virginie Razzano – Lower back strain

S. Sun – Left shoulder inflammation

Camille Pin – Left abductor strain

Tathiana Garbin – Breathing difficulties

Victoria Azarenka – Mystery

Ryoko Fuda – Mystery

*Nadia Petrova – Abdominal Strain

*Svetlana Kuznetsova – Upper respiratory tract infection


Nicolas Kiefer - withdraws from Hopman Cup - wrist injury

Taylor Dent - withdraws from Hopman Cup - back injury

*Jarkko Nieminen - top seed withdraws from Adelaide – Virus

Mark Philippoussis - knee injury. Surgery followed. Flip was given a WC into the Oz Open over Guga Kuerten.

*Janko Tipsarevic - retires against Hewitt in Adelaide - inner thigh

David Skoch - retires against Santoro in Chennai - back injury

Jan Hajek/Dominik Hrbaty - retire from doubles match during supertiebreak - Hajek, dizziness

*Tim Henman - knee injury

Florent Serra - retires in his match against Gilles Simon in Adelaide

*Lleyton Hewitt – Calf injury

*Joachim Johansson - withdraws from Sydney with severe blistering on his hands and feet

*D. Tursunov - left wrist injury

*Paradorn Srichaphan - wrist

*Xavier Malisse - reason TBA

*Rafael Nadal – thigh/groin injury.

Why the asterisks? Every one of these people will play the Australian Open which begins on January 15. Nadal was honest when he said the AO is primary for him right now. It's how they all feel. The question is how do the Tournament Directors of Medibank and Adelaide feel with their top seeds more or less throwing in their collective towels and heading for Melbourne?

He or she should ask their counterparts in Canada who saw their event field second-tier players while all the top-tier players went to play elsewhere. Nadal's statement implies more than just the primacy of preparation for the Australian Open. It says that it is sheer stupidity to field a tournament a week before a Grand Slam event. Nadal's schedule had already been said to be too aggressive – he played both singles and doubles in Chennai and arrived in Sydney late. Does this mean that Larry Scott is right and that his "Roadkill 2010" plan is the way to go since it supposedly would eliminate situations like this?

There has to be a happy medium between the "Roadkill" plan and having fans get gypped out of seeing the best players at non-Grand-Slam prices. But what is it? Americans are arguing that the US Open Series, a potential fatality of both the ATP plans to revamp the schedule, is too much of a fan favorite to be destroyed. I would think the players would like it to survive too since the winner gets a cool million dollars for their trouble. I haven't seen any attendance figures yet for the Australian Open Series and I don't know how much the pot of gold is to the ATP and WTA winner. I think that will determine the fate of both Open Series. How ironic is it that the clay court season boasts events that regularly draw the top players who actually show up to play. The "French Open Series" boasts the matches fans have voted best for the year 2005 and 2006 and they were not played at Roland Garros. Except that there really is no French Open Series.

Hallowed Wimbledon stands alone in its splendor. The players all reverently don their whites and play on a slippery surface for a fortnight, as the Brits love to say, with so few matches leading up to it I don't see why anyone pretends that there is a grass court season. Grass court play has its fans just like all the surfaces do. But with Asia pressing hard for a Slam somewhere other than Australia the arguments about the best surface, the length of the season and the wear and tear on the player's bodies will not go away.

I would like to see a grass court season. Newport has the most tradition attached to it in the States. Should it come before or after Wimbledon? What about Queens? Do you lop off part of the clay court season to squeeze in more grass court play?

I don't pretend to be an expert. I like that there are four Slams and that each requires a different skill set from the players.

Will a fifth Slam throw the calendar completely out of whack and eliminate old and cherished events that unfortunately don't fit in with the demands of modern tennis? With the arrival of a fifth Slam will the TMC move to London adding a second major in Europe that won't put so much stress on viewers in the Western Hemisphere? Is it better for the US Open series and the nascent Australian Open Series to die natural deaths? The only major tennis event in the upper midwest is in Cincinnati. Does it die because Canada wants to pump up its Open? Do the players really want to stop the regular season earlier so they can play the Exo season and still have time to rest? And does that mean the Australian Open is held the first two weeks of February?

I don't get paid to answer these questions but as a tennis fan I think I can say no solution will please everybody. What is fair for one group will be heresy to another. We're an idiosyncratic bunch, as individualistic as the sport we love. I do know that if I had saved to go to Sydney expecting to see Rafa have to get by Blake and Berdych at a price that put me in the good seats instead of the nosebleed section in Melbourne, I would be a tad pissed.

We're also very loyal to our sport. I don't think we should have to check the infirmary before deciding whether or not to purchase tickets for an event. I'm sure Medibank and Adelaide will have good attendance figures and that the matches will be competitive. But the fans at Kooyong will see the players they paid to see.

But then again, it's an exo. And everyone shows up for an exo.

Click to enlarge. William West/AFP/Getty Images

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Future of Tennis Part II: The United States

The United States

I am based in the United States and I can only talk about what I think are the reasons the USTA is in trouble. The observations begin and end with two women, Venus and Serena Williams.

There was noise about them way before they made their pro debuts, but they did not come up in the tennis factories of Florida. Instead, their coaches were their parents. Their father Richard used the tennis establishment when he had to but he was the man in charge and made no bones about it. When his daughters exploded on the scene, all beaded braids and with no apologies for being African American AND playing explosive tennis, the establishment was shaken to its country club roots. These girls came out of Compton but spoke well, carried themselves with quiet self-assurance, and were blowing every one of the anointed ones off the court. The first ever prime time US Open women's final was played between these two women and got the best ratings ever for tennis. No women's final has come close since.

So did the USTA go out and actively recruit not only in African American communities but in Latino communities or places like Appalachia or anywhere outside of their traditional country club base? No. They went looking for the blondest women they could find. And since the last good woman to come out of the rich bitch environment of tennis was Lindsay Davenport (who regularly talked trash to TPTB and was not a favorite) they went overseas. That is why Shamil Tarpishev can talk trash and not be called on it. That is why we have the Siberian Bansidhe being promoted as an American but playing Fed Cup for Russia where her countrymen consider her an American and the Russian women make no secret of despising her.

Meanwhile a Russian man, Dmitry Tursunov, who wanted to play for the United States was not helped to get his paperwork done and is now also playing for Russia while being based and training in the United States. Players like Tommy Haas and Xavier Malisse play for Germany and Belgium respectively but live and train in the States. So does the Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean, by the way.

In my very humble opinion the seeds of the problems found in England and the United States are based on class and then race. When Tracey Austin, another player out of the rich bitch milieu of Southern California said that the Eastern European women played so hard because they didn't want to go back to the hovels they came out of her comment went unchallenged. I guess she doesn't realize that many of these women come from middle class backgrounds in their respective countries. Yes they fight hard but isn't that what athletes do? Don't we have players here, male and female, who would fight just as hard if given the chance? Is the tennis establishment so afraid of another father like Richard Williams deciding to do it on his own and raise children able to break down the walls of the tennis establishment that they've made the walls thicker and higher than ever before to make sure a home grown Yuri Sharapov from the mountains of Tennessee has no chance to invade the hallowed halls?

Until tennis stops trying to have its cake and eat it, tennis will continue to be seen as an elitist sport and not tuned in to the rank and file citizen especially here in the States. "Too foreign" some say about Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, yet baseball, the most American of sports, boasts an Albert Pujols, an Ichiro Suzuki and many other players from overseas. Willie Randolph almost got the Mets to the World Series with a roster made up of mostly Latino players. And the fans have not run away. Those walls will have to come down. They can either be taken down in the spirit of peace and openness or torn down by the perceived barbarians.