Saturday, March 31, 2007
Russia vs France in Russia
Small Sport Arena "Luzhniki", Moscow, Russia
Stadium Capacity: 6500
06 April - 08 April 2007
Day 1: 1400 hrs (1000 hrs GMT)
Day 2: 1500 hrs (1100 hrs GMT)
Day 3: 1400 hrs (1000 hrs GMT)
Surface: Clay (Red Clay) - Indoors
Ball Type: Head ATP Clay Court
Captain: Shamil Tarpishev
Paul Henri Mathieu
Captain: Guy Forget
This tie is all about the two captains, Shamil Tarpishev and Guy Forget who are considered among the best ever Davis Cup captains. The strategies employed will be closely watched. I'd give Russia the edge here.
Belgium vs Germany in Belgium
Sleuyter Arena, Ostend, Belgium
06 April - 08 April 2007
Day 1: 1330 hrs (1130 hrs GMT)
Day 2: 1330 hrs (1130 hrs GMT)
Day 3: 1330 hrs (1130 hrs GMT)
Surface: Clay (Red Clay) - Indoors
Ball Type: Head ATP
Captain: Julien Hoferlin
Captain: Patrick Kuhnen
Haas can’t carry Germany on his own. Mayer has been playing well lately. This is a real toss up.N I never underestimate the Rochus brothers.
USA vs Spain in United States
Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
Stadium Capacity: 14500
06 April - 08 April 2007
Day 1: 1400 hrs (1800 hrs GMT)
Day 2: 1400 hrs (1800 hrs GMT)
Day 3: 1400 hrs (1800 hrs GMT)
Surface: Hard (Latex-ite) - Indoors
Ball Type: Wilson US Open Extra Duty
Captain: Patrick McEnroe
Captain: Emilio Sanchez
Tickets sold out in record time for this tie with fans anticipating a replay of the Nadal vs Roddick encounter from a couple of years ago. Rafa, citing a foot injury, pulled out. Roddick has a hamstring injury that caused him to retire during his last match in Miami. I’m sure Andy will show up. The United States would be slightly favored to win this but with Roddick perhaps hampered by injury and Blake having never shown he can handle pressure the playing field is pretty level. I say pick 'em.
Sweden vs Argentina in Sweden
Svenska Massan (Gothenburg Convention Centre), Gothenburg, Sweden
Stadium Capacity: 4000
06 April - 08 April 2007
Day 1: 1300 hrs (GMT 1100 hrs)
Day 2: 1400 hrs (GMT 1200 hrs)
Day 3: 1300 hrs (GMT 1100 hrs)
Surface: Carpet (Taraflex Tennis) - Indoors
Ball Type: Wilson US Open
Captain: Mats Wilander
Juan Martin Del Potro
Captain: Alberto Mancini
With the hottest man in tennis Guillermo Canas on their team as well as David Nalbandian and Juan Martin Del Potro Argentina should do well here. This is one of the most solid teams playing in this phase of Davis Cup competition. If France vs Russia is about the captains this tie is about the Argentine team which should be in Sweden to simply take names.
The Zonal Ties will be covered separately.
Thread title of the week goes to the www.wtaworld.com poster J_Migoe who created the thread “And Now The Stage Is Set. Its Serena V The Hand”
Great to see what a gentleman Willy Canas is. He speaks English well enough to understand and to be understood. He didn’t blink when Pam Shriver said something to his face about his suspension making her look like an idiot for bringing it up to him on a day when news of his winning his appeal was published in an Australian paper. I guess PMac and his crew didn’t want news of Canas appeal having merit to cloud their view of him. How many times did PMac say “returning from a suspension” last night? Maybe he should read Bonnie De Simone’s excellent piece on ESPN.com. Here’s a link Patrick just in case you need something to read before tomorrow’s final.
Seems racist hecklers have no shame. After being pointed out by fellow fans the dweeb had the nerve to say he didn’t use the “n” word before going on to use every coded word in the book to illustrate what he did say. Surprise was that some defended him. The incident did force some to re evaluate the use of the word “lazy” which has been used by many so called fans to describe both Williams Sisters approach to their sport. We “venuts”, of which I am one, are accused of being overly sensitive. Maybe it’s because we do understand the intent of the word when used by certain individuals.
I’m ashamed to say it but I refused to watch Andy Murray’s match yesterday. It’s on my DVR. I just won’t watch it. This young man has a very long way to go in the maturity department to say the least. I’m no fan of Brad Gilbert but if I’m Brad I snatch the kid by his neck and body slam him. His behavior showed not only disrespect to his coach and paying fans but he disrespected the sport of tennis as well. If anyone else had done what Murray did they’d be nailing his junk to the wall. Double standard much?
So Ljubo, head of the Player’s Council, is still calling Canas a doper huh? What happened to Willy Canas can happen to any player. I take that back. Greg Rusedski was caught doping at the same time Canas was but he was never sanctioned or faced a suspension. Funny how all the guys who were “caught” come from one country in South America isn’t it? Many may forget that Argentina was in the same position Spain is in right now at that time and the destruction of their players reputations has gone far to diminish what they’ve accomplished. How many know Guillermo Coria successfully sued the company that made the tainted medication he took? Juan Ignacio Chela’s suspension was reduced. And now Guillermo Canas is in the position, if things pan out, to name his price to TPTB in the ATP, CAS and anyone else involved in ruining his earning potential for the last 15 months. But I digress. Ljubo has been called a certain player’s water boy. I suspect all this animosity to Willy is coming from neutral territory somewhere in central Europe and Ljubo, as usual, is just, well, carrying water.
Some fans are saying Maria Sharapova should skip the clay season and concentrate on Wimby and the U S Open series. Doesn’t that violate some provisions of Roadkill? Oh, my bad. I forget we’re talking about Sharapova. Yuri coaching from the stands? No problem. Change the rules. Brown bottles appearing mysteriously out of racquet bags? What brown bottle?
Rules? The Sharapov(a)’s don’t follow the stinkin’ rules. Venus and Serena are violating the spirit of the rules by saying they will continue their boycott of Indian Wells. Come on guys, act like you know.
Just so you know Justine has been suffering breathing problems in Miami. Allergies they say.
The good people who run the Hamburg Masters Event are suing the ATP in the State of Delaware for running a cartel. Will the nice folks who run some of the tournaments the WTA is downgrading have the cojones to do the same to the WTA or is Richard Williams going to be forced to shoulder that weight alone on behalf of his daughters? If he’s successful watch for a lot of “me too” to break out among the tournament directors and sponsors. I think the RICO statutes are still on the books here. Hard to tell about these things here in the States lately.
So Richard Williams knows something about tennis. Those Kodak/You Tube moments were brought to you by Yuri Sharapov.
The Oz Open is said to be scraping rebound ace. Miami type surface coming up down under?
The Shallow End of the Pool
You could tell how humid it was by watching Pam Shriver’s hair. I felt her pain.
PMac thinks Djokovic is the second coming.
Andre didn’t look good last night. Very stiff. Face very moon like.
Marcelo looked like a bad stereotype with the Fu Manchu goatee going on. That lefty slice backhand is still a thing of beauty though. Without him where would Roger be since Roger totally pimped his game and on court demeanor. I wish Rios back would allow him to play some main tour events so people could see where Roger got his game and style from.
Fena was in the stands last night. I hope Pretty Eyes, clean shaven or not, finds his early season form.
The clay court season is starting. I’m happy. Rome has produced the best matches of 2005 and 2006 and seems to have survived the ATP version of Roadkill. I love clay court tennis. It rewards stamina, intelligence and patience. You can not ball bash on clay. You need to know how to slide. You can’t expect a 58 minute match.
It’s a shame the men running things have no idea about tennis. They are on course to ruin the sport. They are fixing things that weren’t broken all to make the sport hard court based instead of clay court based. Hard courts rule in the States. Clay rules everyplace else yet the mandatory matches are heavily hard court based. I guess if you can’t accuse everyone of doping you just eliminate the surface on which “they” play the best. Forget that hard court play shortens careers because of the stress on the body. Players are looking out for themselves these days and that means some events like Canada field what they consider weak fields. Somehow telling a player where he or she has to play smacks of totalitarianism to me and takes away the very randomness that makes tennis what it is.
One of the announcers on TTC asked why the United States isn’t investing more in players like Kim, Delic and others who want to play, who do sometimes play above what is perceived to be their potential and could make us more competitive as a whole. These guys may not win Grand Slams but who knows what they would do with better coaching and training options? The same is true on the women’s side. After Venus and Serena who is the top American woman? Not her, she plays for Russia.
There are two good finals matches on tap for today and tomorrow. May the best man and woman win.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I think Roger was match sharp enough to win this. He just really played a bad match, period. He displayed a clinic in the second set, and almost ran away with it in the early 3rd set, then just suddenly tuned out. No excuses. He played bad from game 4 onwards in the 3rd.
Cañas is a regular guy on the draw he faces week-in, week-out. Nothing special. The guy's only redeeming feature is he ran down everything Fed threw at him. In Indian Wells, he played a great match against Roger and then almost meekly submitted to Carlos Moya (6-3, 6-4).
The tour's motto these days is - even if I don't win anything this year at least I can say that, of Roger's only 3-4 losses this year I gave him one. (In his case, 2.)
Posted by edma1022, ESPN message board
edma, it's been a mighty long time. Good to see you.
Why did Roger "tune out" and "play bad" from game 4 onwards in the 3rd? Precisely because Cañas "ran down everything Federer threw at him" and sent much of it back with interest. Which wasn't all Cañas did, by the way. He served well when he needed to (including on match point), and went for his shots when the stakes were raised. Fending off those break points to fall behind two breaks in the third was crucial. I would argue that was Federer's penultimate undoing.
Add to that, Federer got tired. Having to change his game and attack the net in the second set and hit the ball harder than he did in the first tired him out. (Federer was actually bashing the ball in the second set which took time away from Cañas, disallowing him from running everything down.) Which is why Roger only comes forward when he has to or when he doesn't fear his opponent's passing shots. He rarely attacks the net on his own terms against Lleyton Hewitt because Hewitt is, in Federer's own words, "a passing shot artist." I've also noticed that against players such as Robin Soderling, who whack the ball at will, Federer plays first-strike tennis as well, hitting bigger returns and groundstrokes than usual.
But back to Cañas.
Williams vs. Sharapova: Game, Set, Overmatched
By KAREN CROUSE
Published: March 28, 2007
New York Times
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla., March 27 — It was less a match than a memorandum
of what Serena Williams is capable of when she puts her mind behind
her might. Covering the court like a tarp, Williams suffocated
top-seeded Maria Sharapova in 58 bloodless minutes Tuesday in the
fourth round of the Sony Ericsson Open.
The final score was 6-1, 6-1, and from high above Crandon Park's
Stadium Court, it looked more lopsided. Before the first point was
tallied, Sharapova seemed to sense that she was in for a long
afternoon. She kept hitting serves after the chair umpire called,
"Time," indicating the end of warm-ups. Whatever she was searching
for, Sharapova did not find it, committing eight double faults.
On the other side of the court, the 13th-seeded Williams was hitting
on all cylinders. Her ground strokes were so well grooved, Sharapova
looked as if she was swatting at bugs. In the sixth game of the first
set, Sharapova hit a running forehand for a winner (one of eight she
had) and Williams was so surprised she reflexively applauded.
By the end of the afternoon, both No.1-seeded players were gone.
Guillermo Cañas, a qualifier, sent the defending champion, Roger
Federer, packing for the second consecutive tournament with a 7-6
(7-2), 2-6, 7-6 (7-5) victory. Cañas's win came 16 days after he
snapped Federer's 41-match winning streak in a second-round match at
the Masters Series event in Indian Wells, Calif. Federer, who had won
both tournaments the previous two years, committed 51 unforced errors
to Canas's 15.
There was a look on Serena's face during
her postmatch interview after her victory over Lucie Safarova. As a
black woman, I've seen the look many times. The first time I saw it
was as a child when my mother had had enough and the four of us knew
it was time to disappear. I've seen it as an adult when a woman, fed
up, calls the locksmith prior to disposing of his belongings and him.
It's a look of utter calm, of resolution. And it's something about the
way we hold our mouths.
Nouf, on WTA World has been
doing a great job of posting tennis videos. Her work can be found in
the Video Vault on that site, an invaluable source for women's tennis
on all levels. Here's a direct link to the video.
And still, the match was a jaw dropping beatdown. Maria was reduced to
a spectator as her shots did nothing against the woman on the other
side of the net who was firing them past her like bullets. When Cliff
Drysdale uses the word beatdown to describe a match, no further
comment is necessary.
Richard Williams, when asked by Pam Shriver how it was to watch his
daughter play so well, mentioned that the fathers watch each other
too. Pam didn't have time to follow up on that statement but I hope
someone does. I don't know if Yuri hung around this time to support
his daughter. I hope he did. Whatever is going on with her right now
needs attention. Yuri has been with Maria during her rise. Someone
mentioned Maria's name in the same breath as Anna Kournikova when
describing her current struggles. I don't think Yuri and Maria
sacrificed so much to end up in that particular movie.
We tennis fans should just keep in mind the expression on Serena's
face during that interview. Venus wore it when she won Wimbledon in
2005. When you see it you know the hair has been braided, the vaseline
applied, and that someone is in for a beatdown.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
by Craig Hickman
For the first time in his professional career, American Amer Delic has won two consecutive matches at an ATP event. More impressively, the qualifier, who has won 5 matches in a row at Crandon Park in Miami, took out an in-form Julian Benneteau of France in the opening round of the main draw, only lost three games against No. 31 seed Jose Acasuso of Argentina in the second round, and saved four set points in the first set, including one on an overturned call, to dispatch of No. 4 seed Nikolay Davydenko of Russia in the third round, his first win over a top-10 player.
Delic hasn't dropped a set through his three main draw matches. He'll next face another Argentine, Juan Ignacio Chela, who dismissed the Czech Tomas Berdych in straight sets earlier today, for a spot in his first Masters Series quarterfinal.
When I first saw Delic play some years ago, he was burning up the courts in an NCAA singles championship match. I can't remember his opponent, but I remember thinking that this big guy with a big serve and great instincts around the net could do some damage on the ATP tour if he ever turned pro. Which he did in 2003, but till this time, he hasn't been able to stay in matches mentally and has squandered many opportunities to make a name for himself as an up-and-coming American.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Sam Querrey is being touted as American tennis next great male star. At nineteen he’s been taken under the wing of the best minds the American tennis establishment can offer. Training at Andy Roddick’s place in Austin with Jimmy Connors sometimes in attendance has occurred. He could be playing for Stanford but has opted to go pro instead. He’s been doing well and playing as well as can be expected at this stage of his career.
Vania King is a young American who has opted for the tennis court choosing it over a career in the concert hall. A fine singer she would rather use her body than her vocal cords. She turned pro towards the end of last year and also has a bright future ahead of her.
Chan Yung-jan from Taipei is seventeen and despite her age is now ranked at number 93 in the world. She is a fierce competitor and there has been some buzz about her on the women’s circuit.
What do these young people have in common? Ms Chan beat the Spanish woman Nuria Llagostera Vives to move into the second round and a chance to play Maria Sharapova. Vania King beat Sun Tian-tian in the first round for a chance to meet Justine Henin. And Sam Querrey won his first round match for the chance to meet Roger Federer in the second round. Vania lost to Henin 6-4, 6-1. Chan lost to Sharapova 6-3 and 6-2. And yes Sam lost to Roger 6-4, 6-3. I didn’t see Vania King’s match against Henin. I did see parts of Chan/Sharapova and Querrey vs Federer.
One of my guilty pleasures on television is the TLC show “Moving Up” which features people moving from smaller homes or apartments to larger ones or people leaving the nest for the first time and striking out on their own. Last night’s edition featured a couple who bought a home from an older couple who were moving out of the house where they'd raised their children. When the new owners started in on the kitchen which had a sloped floor the previous owners claimed was a figment of their imagination they found that there was a flaw their inspection hadn’t turned up. When they pulled up the floor they found that they’d been deceived and that at any time they, or one of their children, could fall through it to the crawlspace. Even worse, electrical wiring had been jury rigged and was not shielded, a fire hazard. It cost them twelve grand to get the hazards fixed. The previous owners swore up and down they had not known about the hazards. We see the contractor the couple had hired telling them the wiring was jury rigged to put the dishwasher in and that if they noticed the cabinets were painted white so that the visible now visible water damage could be concealed. The previous owners wife swore she spent all of her time in the kitchen and had not noticed the sloped floor or that there was any water damage. They just happened to paint the cabinets white to hide the water damage the viewer is forced to conclude.
So what does this have to do with tennis? For some reason TTC is not showing the WTA matches during it’s regular schedule. This isn’t a column about that but I should mention that fans of the WTA are mad as hell and want to know why. After Fed’s match late last night suddenly a woman’s match appeared on TTC. Did we see the Kuznetsova match which ended after one in the morning with Sveta pulling out a gutsy win? Did we see Venus match against Maria Kirilenko one that had fans salivating? Did we see Serena’s match against up and comer Anastasia Rodionova? Nope. We saw Maria Sharapova vs Chan Yung-Jan. It should be mentioned that this is an IMG sponsored event and that it should come as no surprise that they’d go with the Sharapova match over any number of matches available, including a live one that had gone to a third set. I should mention in passing that I was watching Star Sports. My cable provider doesn’t provide TTC. I send begging emails every month or so but they’re busy doing other things. I can get Gol TV, the Golf Channel, and bass fishing but no Tennis Channel. But I digress.
It is the job of a tennis commentator to comment about the match in front of them. The best at this are the BBC announcers who have this quaint notion of discussing the match at hand. I know about them again because without TTC I have to rely on internet live feeds. MastersSeries TV doesn’t work for me. But again I digress. This young woman, I never got her name, who was one of the commentators for the Sharapova match did nothing but try and sell us on the product named Maria Sharapova. Maria works so hard. I played against her when we were younger and she would be out there all day hitting balls and playing harder than anyone else she said. She’s dedicated to tennis. She’s really a champion. She’s worked hard to get everything. Even the male commentator jumped in from time to time to say that while Maria is truly beautiful she is really a competitor. All of this while double faults were flying off of her racquet left and right. I didn’t hear any discussion of what was going on in the match. I have to say I didn’t hear it because I didn’t make it through fifteen minutes of commentary before turning the sound off which meant I turned the match off since I wasn’t watching television I was watching an internet feed. If Ms Sharapova had been playing someone like say Maria Kirilenko she would probably have been out of this event. Instead the young and still inexperienced Ms Chan was thrown under a bus and allowed the commentators to declare Maria Sharapova was a world beater last night.
From what I heard of the Federer/Querrey match the same form of commentary was being used. No one who follows tennis thought that Querrey had a snowballs chance in hell of beating Roger. Instead of showing the much more exciting conclusion to the Guillermo Canas/Juan Carlos Ferrero match and cutting back to show how badly Roger was dismembering Querrey we got Roger beating up on Sam. I do have to say they weren’t totally stupid on the men’s side. Once Roger’s match was over they switched to Canas/Ferrero and fans got to see Canas pull out a win over a determined Ferrero. Every tennis fan knows Canas kicked Roger to the curb at IW in the first round. Canas next opponent is Richard Gasquet. I should mention that Roger’s new BFF, Tiger Woods, and his wife were in the stands. There were lots of shots of Tiger and his Missus just in case you forgot these two are now BFF. (Best friends forever. I have a teenager.)
The commentators did their equivalent of painting the cabinets white. IMG as a sponsor has every right to showcase their talent. What bothers me is that there are plenty of stars in the tennis universe and they are getting short shrift. As a fan I wanted Juanqui to do well even though I wanted Willy Canas to win if that makes sense. I wanted to see Sveta fight through fatigue to win her match. I wanted to see Venus, serving at 42% on her first serve win every one of them. I wanted to see Serena play because of the rumors floating around that she was going to withdraw. I want to see the Mattek’s, the Bondarenko’s, the Larcher de Brito’s of the tennis world. Henin is the woman’s number one. I’m not a fan of the woman but I like her tennis. Didn’t she deserve some air time? I want to see Marion Bartoli play because somehow she keeps winning. I want to know how long it’s going to take for the light bulb to go off in her head that if she gets fitter she can go deeper in events like this and maybe hit the top ten. I would love to have seen Schnyder go down to Kaia Kanepi in straights. What about Haas losing to Falla? None of this made television except for Juanqui and Willy and they made it because Willy managed to beat the men’s number one, the man some are declaring the greatest of all time.
There is talk of John McEnroe becoming some kind of tennis commissioner, the Paul Tagliabue of tennis I guess. In view of the moves the ATP and WTA are making which seem to favor American tennis over tennis played anywhere else I don’t think this would be a good idea at this time. The players haven’t gone for the okey-doke and the fissures that are being created threaten the sport of tennis which has always been an international sport. Tennis fans keep world clocks to give the time in London, Paris, Barcelona, Melbourne, Tokyo, Dubai and Shanghai. Favorite players can come from any part of the globe and be of any nationality or ethnic group. And this will continue to happen. Personally I'd love to see former NYC Mayor David Dinkins take on this role. He's a fan and has been known to move heaven and hell to give tennis it's due. And after being mayor of New York City I think he's ready to tackle some of the issues facing tennis with a much cooler head and fewer ties that bind than a former player would.
The tennis powers that be can keep painting the cabinets white. Someone is going to come along and pull up the floor and see the mess underneath. And they’re not going to eat the cost of the repairs.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
So the player’s meeting was last night. According to this link if Etienne de Villiers thought that getting rid of Round Robin play would make for an easy meeting it seems he was sorely mistaken.
I don’t want to recap the entire article, it’s great reading for tennisheads, but here are the main points.
Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo led a contingent “waving” a petition in Etienne’s face signed by quite a few players . They were upset with the tentative plans of the ATP to eliminate Monte Carlo and Hamburg as TMS events.
Dozens of players walked out of the meeting. No names of course. That would be too juicy.
There is a split between the clay court players and the hard court specialists. The latter will have none of their TMS events removed from the schedule.
Roger decided it was easier to move to the back than to sit in his seat near the front.
The blogger seems to be toeing the ATP line but the post ends on this note:
Nothing was settled at the meeting, but de Villiers got a major earful. That's something he didn't need a couple weeks after fumbling the round robin problem in Las Vegas. One thing is clear. There's a deep split among the players and de Villiers, who is a strong "people person," has to find a way to bring Robredo and Nadal and their supporters into some kind of compromise with those who either don't care about Monte Carlo and Hamburg or who make their money essentially on the hardcourts.
Another meeting like this could drive a very deep wedge not only between the players and the ATP management, but between players themselves.
Someone posting as “Castafiore” on www.menstennisforums.com made the following observation:
At this point, Halle as an MS event is just a fantasy on tennis message boards.
As the plans are now:
1 on clay
nothing on grass
The rest on HC and carpet.
--> That's not even close to being balanced.
None of the real scheduling issues are really dealt with.
Hamburg comes too close after Rome and is too soon before RG. So getting rid of it makes sense, I guess.
However, if you use that argument, than why keep Cincy and Paris for example? Because of the money?
De Villiers has opened a Pandora’s box I’m not sure he knew existed. The European players already feel things are stacked against them. While I am a fan of the US Open series you can’t argue that Cincinnati coming right after Canada makes sense. It’s bad enough that Indian Wells and Miami are back to back hardcourt tournaments with Miami being dubbed the “Fifth Slam”.
I also feel that Hamburg, or the Paris Indoors at the end of the year can be eliminated.
But I think something else is happening here. I really think the powers that be want to institute a grass TMS event. There are enough “purists” in the upper echelons of the tennis establishment who want to see more of a grass season. There are many fans who feel the same way. I’m not sure if it’s still a rumor or if its fact that the TMC is moving to London in 2009. That gives London Wimbledon, The TMC and a still minor tune up now called “Artois”. The Brits are throwing money around like drunken sailors to upgrade their program and serious offers were make to Novak Djokovic to give up his Serbian passport for a British one. If “Artois” took the place of Hamburg it would make sense. Even I admit that. But who does this favor and why would clay courters react so violently to the proposal.
Before the ESPN fan board collapsed into chaos there had been lots of talk between serious posters about clay vs hard court play and whether one was superior to the other. I felt each required different skill sets from the players and that at that time, and still today, American tennis is not producing players who can play both surfaces well. Clay court play requires that the player know how to construct a point, think his or her way through a match that can last hours and be fit both mentally and physically to go the distance. It's no accident that the matches voted best in 2005 and 2006 both took place on clay in Rome.
Hard court play requires the player to be able to react to a ball coming at him or her at a high speed, to control it and then send it back over the net with accuracy of shot and placement. The points are shorter and don’t have to be worked on as hard. I enjoy both but I admit I like the clay better. It’s a matter of personal choice nothing more.
For some reason the United States stopped producing players who could play well on clay. Andre Agassi won the French Open. Michael Chang won the French Open. Pete Sampras hated the dirt and made almost no attempt to win Roland Garros let alone the “French Open” series events, Rome and Monte Carlo. The premier tennis academies in the United States were teaching a style of play inimical to clay court play. Those who played the red dirt well were called “dirtballers” or “clay court specialists” and were treated as some lesser species by those who played well on hard courts and the men and women who honed their skills. Wimbledon and the US hard courts were treated as the Mecca of the sport and some called openly for Roland Garros to be demoted from Grand Slam status because American’s couldn’t win there. Of course that wasn’t the stated reason but no one doubted the sentiment behind the requests.
It seems however that those “dirtballers” have been up to something. They’re in the top ten in the rankings. They’re stars of the sport. They’ve even reached finals on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon coming close to winning. Pete Sampras has found it necessary to weigh in on who should be making Wimbledon finals and who should not. Arrogance much Pete?
It makes perfect sense to get rid of Hamburg. It could make sense to upgrade Artois to a TMS event. It makes no sense to get rid of Monte Carlo. If it was left to me Indian Wells would go the way of the dinosaurs. Something has to be done about Cincy and Canada. But to do what the ATP seems to be doing, getting rid of clay events which favor European and South American players and emphasizing the hard courts which favor Americans and the British is not going to make Etienne de Villiers life easier. Instead, as the blogger posted, his moves threaten to destroy the tour so many sacrificed so much to build.
The excuse being used to get rid of Monte Carlo is that it’s not a “money maker”. I guess I imagined all those empty seats at Indian Wells. The stadiums at Monte Carlo are small. You can actually see and hear the players from any seat. I guess the horrid, cavernous Arthur Ashe stadium is what a tennis stadium should be. Not.
In response to the original article a fan posted the following:
Why the drive to eliminate BOTH Monte Carlo and Hamburg? It seems to me the clay-court players are rightfully upset about a move that will change the balance of the tour pretty drastically.
Right now, there are 5 Hardcourt MS, 3 Clay and 2 Carpet. (I'm counting the Master's Cup as Hard.) 33% of the tournaments are on Clay.
The proposed changes (including moving the MC to London and adding an Asian MS on hardcourt) mean 6 Hardcourt, 1 Clay, 2 Carpet. 11% would be on Clay.
That's an unfair change. Two clay Master's Series events should be the minimum. It is the standard playing surface of most of Europe and South America, after all.
Larry Scott’s moves against the WTA have already been labeled “Roadkill”. I don’t know what to call Etienne de Villiers moves against the ATP. By eliminating Monte Carlo and Hamburg the ATP seems to be telling non American players their skills are not wanted, that their surface of choice is somehow less than other surfaces. I'm not sure that's the message the ATP wants to send in 2007.
I'm sure this isn't over, that this is just the start of things. Let's hope the man some fans call Mr. Disney comes to his senses and listens to people across the pond where most of the players seem to come from these days.
And I do hope I don't have to post this picture again as a symbol of who is running the ATP.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
While looking for information on the men's qualifying draw for Miami I found a reference on www.menstennisforums.com to the Luxilon Cup. Further checking led me to a wonderful site called Zoo Tennis run by one Ms Colette Lewis. Please check out her site. It's very informative and gives lots of information on young players we would never know about until or unless they try their luck on the main tour.
When I went to see the Rafa vs Fed "exo" in Manhattan last year I was struck by how many in the crowd, and on display, were young people involved in tennis by playing in the Public Parks, country clubs or private clubs all around New York City. It was their chance to see the top men up close and in person. I think you all will like Colette's site!
Monday, March 19, 2007
The women's draw. Everyone but an ill Amelie Mauresmo is showing up. In the past I've accused the WTA/IMG Powers That Be of assuring their darling Maria Sharapova has an easy ride at least to the quarters while pitting anyone who could threaten her against each other along the way.
But things haven't been going the way TPTB have anticipated so far this year. Pam Shriver would say that Maria has the "yips". There's no need to rehash what happened in Melbourne. If Maria's serving woes haven't been cured she's in for a rough time.
There is also no need to go over the inevitable appearance of Venus Williams and Serena Williams in the same part of the draw. Some are arguing that it's the lack of play and their ranking that has set this situation up yet again. I would call bullshit but I've done that so many times anything I would say sounds boring and repetitive.
But this draw is funny. All of the power and finesse, all of the big babes, are in the top half of the draw.
Hingis. Ivanovic. Serena Williams. Venus Williams. Shahar Peer.Kuznetsova. Vaidisova. Schnyder.
Even the up and comers are in this part of the draw. Kirilenko. Bondarenko. Schiavone.
Garbin. Dulko. Bartoli(Yes Bartoli gets a mention.)
So who's in the bottom half with Justine, the new number one?
Let's see. There's Vania King, new to the tour and who's been thrown under the Henin steam roller before. Li, who had a good run at the Pacific Life Open but is in a quarter with Molik and Srebotnik. Golovin and Chakvetadze are primed to face each other. Clijsters would face Stosur and if Kim was more match fit I'd pick her easily. She's admitted she's focused on her wedding. I think she'll beat Stosur but it'll be a tough match. Petrova and Safina, the reigning Queens of the Headcases are here. Jelena is here as well and could face either Chakvetadze or Golovin. Henin could face either Hantuchova or Zvonareva. Also here are Pennetta, Morigami, Poutchkova and Morigami. For once I don't think Sharapova has an easy way through the draw. They may have used the seeding from March 5 but the draw looks like it's based on the current rankings.
Singles Main Draw - WTA
(1)Maria Sharapova (RUS) v BYE
Yung-Jan Chan (TPE) v Nuria Llagostera Vives (ESP)
Venus Williams (USA) v Yuliana Fedak (UKR)
(29)Maria Kirilenko (RUS) v BYE
Sharapova vs Venus - If her serving woes continue Venus will prevail
(23)Lucie Safarova (CZE) v BYE
Emilie Loit (FRA) v Sybille Bammer (AUT)
Elena Likhovtseva (RUS) v Q
(13)Serena Williams (USA) v BYE
Safarova vs Serena - Serena
(11)Patty Schnyder (SUI) v BYE
Kaia Kanepi (EST) v Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL)
Nicole Pratt (AUS) v Q
(21)Marion Bartoli (FRA) v BYE
Schnyder vs Bartoli - Schnyder
(26)Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) v BYE
Eva Birnerova (CZE) v Viktoria Azarenka (BLR)
Michaella Krajicek (NED) v (wc)Anna Tatishvili (GEO)
(8)Nicole Vaidisova (CZE) v BYE
Tatishvili vs Vaidisova – Vaidisova who will come out of this section.
It won't matter who comes out of the other part.
(3)Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v BYE
Aiko Nakamura (JPN) v Q
Jelena Kostanic Tosic (CRO) v Q
(28)Alona Bondarenko (UKR) v BYE
Kuznetsova may not have a lock here. She just played a final. I just don’t see anyone strong enough to beat her unless she beats herself. Pick ‘em
(19)Francesca Schiavone (ITA) v BYE
Eleni Daniilidou (GRE) v Q
Catalina Castano (COL) v Q
(14)Shahar Peer (ISR) v BYE
Should be Peer vs Schiavone depending on who the qualifiers are. I like Peer but this is another pick’em section.
(12)Ana Ivanovic (SRB) v BYE
(wc)Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) v Q
Ashley Harkleroad (USA) v (wc)Lauren Albanese (USA)
(24)Tathiana Garbin (ITA) v BYE
Ivanovic has had a lot of hype and it’s time for her to put up or shut up. She should dominate this section, emphasis on should.
(27)Jie Zheng (CHN) v BYE
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) v Shenay Perry (USA)
Gisela Dulko (ARG) v Q
(5)Martina Hingis (SUI) v BYE
Hingis will take Dulko. Radwanska should take Perry and have a fight with Zheng. It won’t matter. Hingis should prevail.
(7)Jelena Jankovic (SRB) v BYE
Elena Vesnina (RUS) v Shuai Peng (CHN)
Jill Craybas (USA) v Roberta Vinci (ITA)
(32)Mara Santangelo (ITA) v BYE
Jelena vs Peng
Craybas vs Santangelo
(17)Tatiana Golovin (FRA) v BYE
(wc)Iroda Tulyagonova (UZB) v Q
Vasilisa Bardina (RUS) v (wc)Sanja Ancic (CRO)
(9)Anna Chakvetadze (RUS) v BYE
Very interesting part of the draw. I’ve been reading about Tulyagonova for awhile now and people think highly of her. I don’t think she’s played much recently. Golovin should win against her. It should be AnnaC vs Tatiana. Pick ‘em
(15)Na Li (CHN) v BYE
Alicia Molik (AUS) v Q
Alina Jidkova (RUS) v (wc)Petra Martic (CRO)
(20)Katarina Srebotnik (SLO) v BYE
(25)Samantha Stosur (AUS) v BYE
Olga Poutchkova (RUS) v Q
Akiko Morigami (JPN) v (wc)Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN)
(4)Kim Clijsters (BEL) v BYE
I’d like to see Poutchkova over Stosur but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Clijsters should have an easy time. Stosur vs Clijsters - Clijsters should win here.
(6)Nadia Petrova (RUS) v BYE
Camille Pin (FRA) v Nathalie Dechy (FRA)
Aravane Rezai (FRA) v Q
(30)Severine Bremond (FRA) v BYE
If Petrova shows up there’s no one in this section that can harm her.
(22)Ai Sugiyama (JPN) v BYE
Maria Elena Camerin (ITA) v Anastasia Yakimova (BLR)
Laura Granville (USA) v Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP)
(10)Dinara Safina (RUS) v BYE
(16)Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) v BYE
Meghann Shaughnessy (USA) v (wc)Michelle Larcher De Brito (POR)
Meilen Tu (USA) v Romina Oprandi (ITA)
(18)Vera Zvonareva (RUS) v BYE
Hantuchova vs Zvonareva – Pick ‘em
(31)Martina Muller (GER) v BYE
Flavia Pennetta (ITA) v Virginie Razzano (FRA)
Vania King (USA) v Tiantian Sun (CHN)
(2)Justine Henin (BEL) v BYE
Poor Vania. Even if she gets past Sun she’s got Henin waiting for her. Pennetta should be waiting for Henin. A well rested Henin. Justine.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Saturday, March 17, 2007
The Advance Sale of US Open tickets begins April 14. The seats suck but they get you in the joint. Once there, if you’ve saved your pennies, starting about Wednesday or so you can turn the shitty seats in for better ones. This is best done during the day sessions. I did end up with great seats last year for the Blake/Federer night match though. Let’s just say what I spent could have bought a steak at Whole Foods.
Tennis Week Magazine
It’s as bad as we thought.
GVGirl on TAT posted the cover of the new magazine landing in subscribers mail boxes starting this week. If I wanted to buy Vogue, Bazaar, InStyle, or any such magazine I would. I subscribe to a tennis magazine for…tennis. Would I bitch if the first cover was of Rafa? Not so much, but the principle is still the same. For you Povanuts, enjoy. Let’s just say her face, in that pose, on the cover of that magazine, is the beginning of the end of one of the better tennis publications.
You should know that the hype machine has already started for the prepubescent cousin of Maria Sharapova, Daria. She's Yuri's brothers daughter. Don't say you weren't warned. They're already calling her Dasha.
In other non tennis news…
Someone in Britney Spears publicity posse thought it would be a good idea for the Sinead wannabe to don a wig, a baseball cap and be photographed playing at playing tennis. I guess it never occurred to them that a proper tennis outfit might make their gushing praise of Britney’s newly acquired interest in sport. If there was any doubt that our beloved sport is not held in high esteem by others this is proof positive. I mean couldn’t they have chosen softball or shown her shooting a few hoops?
Why diss tennis?
Back to tennis…then again maybe not.
Why can’t I find ESPN’s tennis message board?
Andre Agassi is playing an exo on March 30 against Marcelo Rios in Chile. Supposedly the ticket prices are astronomical. The retired Agassi’s former coach Darren Cahill is saying Agassi is in the best shape ever and that he’s looking forward to the event. Rios it seems always played Andre tough and resented being called the left handed Agassi when he first started out feeling comparisons to other players were insulting his uniqueness. Sounds like this is going to be fun huh?
Sybille Bammer is the new fan fave on the women’s side. She’s a mom with an adorable daughter named Tina who is about to enter school. This adorable picture has been widely circulated.
So have some not so adorable ones I won’t post here. Like Haruka said the Australian Open series and the Australian Open usually introduce us to the players we’ll be watching all year long. Anyone remember Marcos Baghdatis from last year?
Fernando Gonzalez looks to be struggling with expectations after his spectacular run in Oz. He played tentative tennis during his stay in Indian Wells and went out rather meekly to Tommy Haas who turned around and lost to Andy Murray. Murray should look at acting for a second career...
On the subject of new talent, young Asia Muhammad, a product of Andre Agassi's work with kids in Las Vegas, has had some nice publicity lately and is playing a limited schedule on the pro tour.
I haven't seen her play yet but the buzz is good. The USTA site says she was born April 4, 1991 in Long Beach, California. She now lives in Las Vegas and plays right handed with a two handed back hand.
Jelena Jankovic, another fan favorite, has a feature out featuring a day in her life. Here’s the link.
Funny how tennis fans keep embracing female athletes who actually show they love the game and leave it all on the court. We don’t have to be told who to like do we?
Oh, and if you haven't heard, Federer's opening match in Miami is going to look like halftime at the Super Bowl complete with light show and a celebrity singing the American National Anthem. I don't think JoJo would attempt the Swiss National Anthem do you?
From the official site:
Two-time defending champion and world's No. 1 Roger Federer will make his first appearance at the 2007 Sony Ericsson Open on Saturday, March 24 at 8 p.m. on Stadium Court, highlighting a full night of entertainment at the Crandon Park Tennis Center that will include a fashion show, a "FIRE" performance and a special guest anthem singer, Tournament Director Adam Barrett announced Wednesday.
One of the most dominant athletes of any sport, the 10-time Grand Slam champion reached a new milestone Monday when he broke Jimmy Connors' 30-year-old mark with his 161st week at the top of the ATP rankings, a streak that began Feb. 2, 2004.
I’d like to end by giving a shout out to Venus Williams. While various and sundry people have taken pot shots at the older member of the Williams Sisters Venus has been quietly doing her thing. Both Wimbledon and now Roland Garros cite Venus stance on the equal pay issue in their decision to provide equal prize money for both the WTA and ATP players. Many people wanted Venus to be many things. In the end Venus chose to just be Venus. And that seems to be a very good thing for tennis.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Though tennis has been happening since the end of the Australian Open, most of it has reaped unsurprising results aka Roger Federer winning more titles So what is it about the Pacific Life Open that just has the expected winner packing his bags with no trophy to carry?
What is going on here? To read the tennis fan boards one would think the Apocalypse was upon us. As one regular poster at TAT put it, the Mothership seems to have landed. Roger Federer gets beaten by a man just back from the desert of a drug suspension. Maria Sharapova doesn’t even get to live up to her pejorative nick name “SemiPova” losing to someone the tennis Powers That Be and press would have you think should be groveling at her feet. The much more mellow Martina Hingis goes out earlier than expected. There are still top names on the ATP side but the quarter finals for the women feature names like Li, Hantuchova, Peer and Zvonareva. Not quite what the new owners had in mind. The ATP seems to have stemmed the bleeding and since they fielded a stronger group to begin with there are still marquee matches in store for the fans. The women on the other hand fielded a draw worthy of a Tier II event and with Sharapova unable to hold on to her Number One ranking some would argue that the “B” list players are finally getting a chance to show what they can do. Peer is on the way up and a good showing here would raise her profile significantly. Players like Svetlana Kuznetsova have a chance to reverse their slumping fortunes and play the way fans of women’s tennis know they can play. Daniela Hantuchova who up to now has been known more for a suspected eating disorder than her tennis has stepped up in the last few weeks and is poised for a very good showing.
So why all the fan unrest and prognostications of doom from some quarters? Why is everyone upset because the draw did what it was supposed to do – provide the top players with challenges that didn’t fit into their comfort zone and make them have to think their way into the next round. Both Guillermo Canas and Vera Zvonareva did what worthy opponents are supposed to do. Canas somewhat predictably lost his match the next day to Carlos Moya, a veteran and former number one who has been playing very well lately. Zvonareva is playing today against Li Na. Both women have a lot to prove and tennisheads will be paying close attention.
I think part of the problem is that the early round play was carried by The Tennis Channel. The Tennis Channel is not carried by many cable providers in the United States or abroad so the only access to live tennis was via live feed from Asia. Very few fans got to see how Guillermo Canas dismantled Roger Federer and forced him to play a style Roger is not comfortable with. Experience kept the first set close. Frustration on Roger’s part made the second set score representative of what took place.
I have no similar perspective for what happened to Maria Sharapova. For some reason not one WTA match was carried on the Tennis Channel. The live feeds, which were using the Tennis Channel feed, showed only ATP matches. There are fan sites where you can get live fan recaps, www.wtaworld.com is one of them, but even that was limited since TTC feed was the only one in use. Perhaps Larry Scott is so focused on Roadkill that he forgot to negotiate this for fans of his product. ESPN picks up today and I’m sure jaws are tight over there since the media darling is gone.
But I don’t want to bash Maria or Roger. What happened is that both of them ran into a real draw, one that did not play to their predilections and serve up players that would barely cause them to break a sweat. Instead Federer was faced with a man who had beaten him once before (it was emphasized that that had been a long time ago by TTC announcers) and Sharapova was faced with a focused and ready to take names Vera Zvonareva. Fans who keep up with the sport know Maria has had her problems of late but Vera beat her and has now moved into the next round. Maria is on her way to Miami.
I’ve been watching tennis long enough to appreciate what has happened over the last few days. This is what things used to look like before the image makers took over and decided the fans wanted to see certain players on court as opposed to other less worthy athletes.
I’m not a fan of this event. I still remember the crowd’s , and tournament officials actions (or lack there of) towards Serena Williams and personally would like the event to just fold up its tent and go away. It won't for many reasons but that is not the subject of this piece. I think this year this event is a triumph for the players. Bethanie Mattek has publicly complained that the WTA only promotes one player. The events in Las Vegas are still resonating with fans and players. The anointed have departed leaving the rest of the tour to show what it’s got. I think we’re going to see some good tennis. And I for one will be glued to the screen watching.
Monday, March 12, 2007
I didn’t write this week. I wanted to wait until the seeds finished their opening rounds which meant I couldn’t think about the week that was until late Sunday night. Unlike Marcos Baghdatis who feels that if he works at tennis it’s too much like a job I know blogging is not just sitting down in front of a computer and generating pearls of wisdom. It’s work and I was raised to always do the best I can at whatever I do. So I started thinking about this recap about Wednesday and how I could explain Roger’s march towards tennis history and how the rest of the men are battling each other for a chance at second place which is currently quite adequately occupied.
There were lots of good stories too. Michael Russell, a true journeyman, has been playing very well and deserves some ink. Juan Carlos Ferrero has been showing signs of life. The tennis press is letting Blake have his image is everything moment and talk about golf instead of the disaster he created in Las Vegas which seems to have been the death blow for the ATP’s experiment with Round Robin play. Andy Roddick is once again said to be on track to the top. Andy Murray got a haircut. Rafa is wearing a doo-rag as one fan put it. I like the bandana but different strokes for different folks. Pova is wearing the same dress she wore at Melbourne. So much for her being a fashionista. She must not have seen “The Devil Wears Prada”. Miranda Priestly would not be amused. Bethanie Mattek actually wore tennis clothes although another wag said it looked like she shopped for them at the WTA discount store. Ms Mattek also attacked the WTA for only promoting one player and ignoring the myriad personalities that make up the WTA. There is a large contingent of Asian women playing this event. Berdych and Youzhny were in the house as well. The Rochus brothers, Soderling, everyone who is anyone in the ATP showed up. The WTA, not so much.
All of this deserves discussion and I’m sure at some point these things will indeed be discussed. But right now there is only one story. The star of this fable is a man who, at 29, has come back to the tour he left in disgrace eighteen months ago after being found guilty of doping. Guillermo Canas of Argentina is named for Guillermo Vilas the former Argentine great. No one gave him much of a chance against Roger Federer, the man who is called “Superman” by some, a living legend before he has even finished playing; a man who seems to need only to show up at an event in order to win it. Roger’s parents were in the seats talking casually with a friend. His girlfriend was seen to be more concerned with keeping cool in the sun than whether or not her man was going to win this match. I don’t think much was said about who was in Canas’ box other than his coach and trainer. After all it didn’t matter did it? Canas’ was destined to be one more speed bump in the road for the steamroller named Roger.
Then a funny thing happened. A tennis match broke out. Canas managed to break the great man. He managed to win the first set. Winning a set at 7-5 is mental some say. Canas was mental. He was playing great, fundamental tennis. Take what your opponent is giving you and counter it. Roger wanted short, quick, mentally deflating points. Canas kept playing that extra ball, making that extra shot and suddenly there was an injury time out. Roger later said that the tape on his feet wasn’t sticking properly.
I remember Roger being upset when a then unknown kid from Spain took a set from him at 6-2. “I never lose a set 6-2,” I remember him saying. He won that match when the kid tired in the final set. Canas beat Roger 6-2 in the second set yesterday afternoon in the California desert. During that set there was another injury time out, this time for a blister. It should be noted that during the first time out I was looking for the Chief from “Grey’s Anatomy” or at least the resident orthopedic surgeon Cally O’Malley to weigh in with a diagnosis. Never has so much attention been afforded a tape job.
Canas has been away due to his own idiocy. If he is capable of playing the tennis he played yesterday why was he using something he shouldn’t have been? Maybe the time away cleared his mind and made his goals clearer. They said that his friends made sure he stayed match fit. He worked. (There’s that word again Marcos.) And he never joined the Cult of Roger. The Canas that showed up on the court yesterday is someone the tour will have to reckon with. I’m sure Guillermo had to, as one tennishead said, give hair, nail, blood, skin and urine samples after the match. To Roger’s credit he didn’t blame the sun, moon or the stars. He lost a match. The earth is still turning on its axis. He played his doubles match. The blisters he said were no big deal.
Today Canas takes the court again to play Carlos Moya. At twenty nine I’d think Guillermo would have some issues playing back to back. Moya has been playing well of late. Everyone will be watching to see how Guillermo fares. It’s just like getting a break of serve – it’s not a break unless you hold serve after it. If he makes it through all bets are off for the top half of the draw.
As “AmonRa”, a long time tennis observer said in his post about the match Canas’ win is good for the sport. Eight of the nine men ranked after Roger would have found a way to lose yesterday. Guillermo Canas showed that truly, on any given day, anyone can win and anyone, even a tennis god, can lose and that there is no excuse for anyone to just roll over and play dead because the guy across the net from him is “just too good”. Haruka said after the match that she was glad to see there was another real man on the tour. I don’t expect to hear anymore bleating from the Other Eight going forward. Go out. Play your game to the best of your ability and maybe, just maybe, you get to the next round That is why you play. And that is why fans pay to see you play.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
An interview in the German TENNIS-MAGAZIN (English translation)
“It's not just Federer and Nadal”
Q: Mr. Nadal, will we see the big rivalry between you and Roger Federer again this year?
Rafa: I hope so. It would be good for me, because it would mean I am still the number two player in the world, since Roger and I can only meet in the finals of tournaments. But one cannot forget that there are other players on the tour who would like to prevent this. After all, there are not just Federer and Nadal.
Q: Who do you see as the toughest competition?
Rafa: Tomas Berdych, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray. Richard Gasquet also plays very well. There are so many unbelievably talented players out there. Each has great qualities, each wants to be the best. In addition, there are experienced players such as Andy Roddick and Nicolay Davydenko. It will be an exciting season.
Q: Isn’t Federer unbeatable at this time?
Rafa: Nobody is unbeatable. I have already succeeded in beating him several times. Still: For me he is the best player in the history. I can only congratulate him. He plays unbelievable.
Q: It is noticeable that you two have a good relationship. Isn’t that unusual? John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl hated each other.
Rafa: Roger is a nice guy. Why should I hate him? If we see each other in the locker room, we greet each other. But we are not friends. We live completely different lives, don’t even speak the same language.
Q: But you send text messages and call each other…
Rafa: That’s true. Sometimes we talk on the phone. After the Master’s Cup, when we both had time off, Roger called me twice, because we had certain things to discuss.
Q: You’re making us curious. What was it about?
Rafa (grins): I’m not going to say. But don’t worry, it was nothing personal. Our relationship isn’t that good.
Q: You haven’t been all that successful over the last months. Is Rafael Nadal in a crisis?
Rafa: No. Maybe I haven’t played my best tennis sometimes, but it was not a disaster. The only times things went really bad were last year in Toronto and Cincinnati. But if you have little match practice, sometimes it’s difficult to keep up your level of play.
Q: It seems like you’ve been struggling since Wimbledon. That’s where you reached your last final- against Federer.
Rafa: Back then, I needed a break. I had many matches and I was tired. I hadn’t touched a racquet in a week. And I didn’t want to risk missing parts of the season, like I did in 2005 when I injured my foot. Me personally, I am not really disappointed with my results. It was important for me to stay healthy and to maintain my ranking as number two. I achieved that. At the USO, I lost a good match against Youzhny. I played the Masters Cup for the first time, and made it to the semi final.
Q: Are you looking forward to playing on clay- your favorite surface?
Rafa: I also like other surfaces, but I do play a bit better on clay.
Q: Last season, you broke Vilas’ record and celebrated 60 consecutive wins on clay. What else can we expect from you on this suface?
Rafa: I don’t pay much attention to the record. Sooner or later I will lose and the series will end. I hope it doesn’t happen too soon. Besides: Now that I have the record, it’s not that important anymore. I don’t have to chase it anymore. My goal now is to stay the best clay court player in the world for as long as possible.
Q: Can you do at the French Open what Roger Federer has done at Wimbledon- win four in a row?
Rafa: We will see.
Q: Can you win Wimbledon?
Rafa: That’s one of my biggest goals. Wimbledon is my favorite tournament. Last year I had good chances in the final against Federer. I was serving at 5:4, 30:0 in the second set. In the third set, I had a break chance at 1:1. If I can improve my serve and my volley, it could happen.
Q: Last year during Wimbledon, doping rumors surfaced. How much has that affected you?
Rafa: Not at all. It was totally stupid, completely made up. It is sad when people write something without having real information. The journalist who claimed that I was doping wasn’t even brave enough to put his name under the article. Luckily everything was cleared up after a while.
Q: Does tennis have a doping problem?
Rafa: No. With the constant controls, it’s impossible. I myself was tested 16 in the last year. The controllers go everywhere. They even came to my house. They stood at my door at 9am on Saturday. I was still sleeping. My mom opened the door and then came to wake me up.
Q: Don’t you think that such strict controls are helpful in creating the image of a ‘clean’ sport?
Rafa: It’s okay, no problem. We do have a bad reputation/image. But, to be honest: I don’t think there is doping in tennis.
Q: Can you, besides visits like these, still live a normal life back in Mallorca, or is there more and more craziness about you?
Rafa: Sometimes fans come up and want an autograph, other than that, it’s quiet. People at home are laid-back and reserved. I can go to the movies with friends, to parties, or play golf, just like anybody. In Mancor, my home town, everybody knows everybody anyway.
Q: How should we imagine your life there, if you’re not traveling to tournaments?
Rafa: Usually I get up at 9am and then train until 8pm. Then I drive to Palma to visit my girlfriend Maria Francisca. She is there studying business. Clap I have been with her for 1 ½ years. That’s a record for me.
Q: Has success changed you?
Rafa: No, I’m still the same guy. I still live in the same house with my parents and my sister, still have the same friends. The only thing I can think of: I’m a bit more easygoing.
Q: Your English has gotten better. Are you practicing a lot?
Rafa: No, but I am speaking better because in my job I have to speak a lot of English during press conferences, interviews, at promo events- that’s good practice. I don’t really study, there is no time for that. From time to time I read English books or I watch American movies with Spanish subtitles.
Q: You have filmed a commercial for KIA that is constantly shown on TV. Tell us about the shoot.
Rafa: It was in New York, before the US Open. It was fun, but also very tiring. One day we were shooting for about 10 hours straight. We constantly had to repeat some scenes. But when it was finished, it was a great feeling.
Q: In real life, do you drive as fast as you do in the ad?
Rafa: No, no. Maybe with my father’s yacht I do- there I step on it. I am currently getting my boating license. At one point I want to have my own yacht. I love the ocean, almost as much as tennis.
Originally posted on www.vamosbrigade.com