Friday, March 28, 2008

Idle Chit Chat 3/28/08

by Savannah

Television coverage of the Sony Ericsson Miami Open a.k.a. The Fifth Slam starts Saturday March 29. Actual play started Wednesday March 26. There was qualifying play before that. No need complaining about qualifying play not being televised because it is understandable. Tennis is a “niche” market at best as far as television is concerned. Besides there’s pre season baseball for the true American fan. Forget the dubious quality of the games. It’s the American pass time. Who cares about a bunch of non golden players trying to fight their way into the main draw of a major tennis tournament anyway?

But Main Draw play started Wednesday. There were players and matches that the Grand Poobah’s of sports television feel are unwatchable but whom tennisheads would love to see. A couple of matches I would like to have seen come to mind. The first pitted Tamira Paszek of Austria against Alize Cornet of France. These are two up and coming stars in the women’s game. Both have had spotty results but have also shown flashes of what can be called great potential. Who cares? No television for this match.

Another interesting up and comer on the ladies side is Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal. She’s all of fifteen. She had a much more experienced player choke against her. Staying with the women there was also Coco Vandeweghe of the United States going up against Sabine Lisicki of Germany. But again who cares? A bunch of foreigners some would say and one who has not been deemed golden as of yet. Who wants to see them?

The story on the men’s side is different. There are several stories in fact. The first involves the granting of wild cards. These are the special invites that allow a lower ranked player direct entry into the main draw of a major, or not so major, and for an event like this they’re coveted. Donald Young, who has been having good results as of late, was not granted a wild card and found himself qualifying. What some say should have been his wild card went to Gustavo Kuertin of Brazil, a perennial fan favorite and someone the presumed fan base of the Miami area would want to see.

Fans found out that Gustavo has to manually adjust his hip into place every now and then, something he discussed after his first round loss. Donald went out in the first qualie round, something that didn’t surprise me. Donald is young (no pun intended) and tennisheads will have time to see him mature into the good player many think he will be. There is not enough time left for fans to see Gustavo the reasoning goes hence he got the wild card. Before taking sides in this remember that the SEO is an IMG event. Donald is repped by Octagon now. Doesn’t that make it all simpler folks?

Marat Safin
, another great fan favorite (well maybe more among the female tennisheads than the male ones but I digress) has not had a good showing all year. His woes continued. Should he hang up his sneakers? Should he go see a sports shrink? Should he swallow his pride and play a Challenger or two or three? These are decisions for Mr. Safin to make. Fans will speculate. I’m just sayin’.

Gael Monfils has apparently decided to come back to the courts and did so with a very nice, and totally unexpected by this fan, win over American John Isner. Guess all that adulation for Ti-Ali got Gael thinking about what should have been. I know he’s had injury issues so don’t beat me up. I just think he’s always underperformed. Maybe now it’ll be different.

There’s a report out that Roger Federer will be undergoing further tests for the “glandular fever” that’s plagued him so far this year. Glandular fever? There is no separate category for it on WebMD

But back to the lack of television coverage. Shouldn’t a perk of being a subscriber to ATP Masters Series Television be early round coverage? I can understand the usual live streaming sites being shut out of the early rounds but I don’t understand why AMS TV, a paid service, is shut out as well. Just asking the question.

The BBC is reporting that Nikolay Davydenko will be cleared of all match fixing allegations. The relevant paragraph is this one:
...And that may prompt retributive action from the 27-year-old, with Immenga saying: "We're certainly looking at it. The whole inquiry has been a farce."

I love British understatement don't you?

Pics and More Pics

With no television coverage pictures have become the only way to see what’s going on. Here are some of the more interesting ones.

The following pictures are Courtesy of the 2008 Sony Ericsson Open

David Ferrer as mixologist

Nikolay Davydenko mans a toll booth

Sabine Lisickiand Tamira Paszek

Players Party Pics

Jelena and her cell phone(s)

Juan-Martin cut his hair

Maria and Camilla put in an appearance

Feli and his lady love

Nicole looking very mature

Andy looking fresh out the box

Venus and her white bra. Maybe she forgot about the flashbulb effect?

Artistic Flourishes
Shadow and light play continue

Mario Ancic by Matthew Stockman

Filippo Volandri by Al Bello

Sunday, March 23, 2008

They Had a Whale of a Time!!!

by Savannah

The 2008 Pacific Life Open/Indian Wells Champions

Mens Doubles

Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram

Women's Doubles

Dinara Safina and Elena Vesnina

Men's Singles

Novak Djokovic

Women's Singles

Ana Ivanovic

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Heard Around Indian Wells 3/22/08

by Savannah

(Pic by Roger fan Krist for
Rumor hot line was buzzing this past week. Sure an ATP Masters Series and a WTA Tier 1 event were taking place but who could resist wondering if Miroslava Vavrinec is pregnant? published it online about 3:00p eastern United States time. It was gone after 5:00p, again eastern United States time. By that time of course tennisheads around the world were speculating what this would do the the man still looked on as the FedGod by some.
Mr Federer denied that his constant companion is pregnant. That should settle that no?

The other hot rumor involves Maria Sharapova. No she's not rumored to be pregnant. There is speculation that she may skip Miami though. She made statements after losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova regarding fatigue and the need for rest that would lead one to believe she may just skip the event known as the Fifth Slam. Of course it has nothing to do with Justine, Serena, and Venus, well rested and fit, will be there. Maria isn't the Tommy Haas of the WTA. And even if it wasn't that, Sony Ericsson would have a cow. She just signed a mega deal with them as their spokesperson. Somehow I don't believe they will react kindly to a non show by their star. If this is her way to try and get a cakewalk to the semi's though it just may work. Source
The Miami Herald is reporting that Maria has officially withdrawn from Miami.

What Makes A Champion
Speaking of Herr Haas I think those poisoning rumors can be put to rest. Tommy boy may have been suffering from gastric distress during the tie with Russia but it was probably of his own making. Talk was the Russian's always said they wouldn't bother to poison Haas. I believe them now that a stuffy nose has caused Tommy to pull out of his quarter final meeting with Mirka's baby daddy. Another German player, Philipp Kohlschreiber had a horrible cold and managed to play three sets of competitive tennis. If I were Herr Kohlschreiber I'd avoid macchiatta's for the foreseeable future.

Good Planning
So they held a "Challenger" event this week in Florida. Called "Sunrise" it had a line up that looked like a main tour ATP event. Nice idea though. Sandwiched in between the Pacific Life Open and Sony Ericsson this event is either a consolation tournament or a warm-up for ATP players. Nice move guys.

Tennis and Race
While Barack Obama was challenging the United States to talk seriously about race Richard Williams was doing his part to start a dialogue. The entire article is HERE. I leave it up to you to read the interview. It's not that long. I think anyone reading the article should keep in mind that Richard Williams was born and raised in the Deep South. Nooses hanging from trees during his youth more than likely featured a body hanging from them. The Jim Crow system was in full force. Black men don't always talk about racism candidly with those perceived as outsiders. As a black woman I've known my share of racism but I can only imagine what it takes for a Black man to navigate through a society that at times seems intent on denying the very fact that he is a man. As a rule I think the majority society would be stunned to know what most Black men think. Hey, Larry Scott even stopped ruminating on his Golden Child to make a statement. For those who think Richard just ran off at the mouth keep in mind he steered completely clear of Jennifer Capriati's situation when discussing his daughters off court activities and why they're healthy for them as athletes. He knew exactly what he was doing and saying. Just my humble opinion.

You can imagine my surprise when a player named Mark Nielsen from New Zealand was suspended for two years after testing positive for a banned substance. The ATP was making it seem all the druggies were from one country. Who knew?

From the "What Took So Long" Files...
There will now be uniformity regarding challenges on court.

Each player will get a maximum of three unsuccessful challenges per set, plus one wrong challenge in a tiebreaker, the International Tennis Federation said Wednesday in a joint statement with the ATP, WTA Tour and Grand Slam committee.

Players can still make an unlimited number of correct challenges.

Challenge System Revised

End Notes
It's almost time for clay court tennis! No more 140+ mile an hour serves masquerading as tennis. Thought, point construction and physical fitness will be seen once again.
I have to say that the hard court season has surprised with actual tennis managing to sneak it's way in. After Miami I'll give a summary of what I think were the best hard court matches so far.

FSN has ventured into tennis. With ESPN more interested in bass fishing I was holding out hope for better coverage from the people at Fox. Hope is a fragile thing. Yesterday being Good Friday I was home stretched out on the couch watching Mardy Fish versus David Nalbandian. Well kinda sorta watching in between cat naps. I did know they split the first two sets and that a third was in the offing so it's not like I was dead asleep okay?
Now fully awake I saw what I thought was a commercial for upcoming National Hockey League coverage. "Long commercial," I thought to myself checking the time to see if I'd really lost an hour and missed the televising of the third set (which turned out to be a tie break but I digress). I hadn't. FSN just switched coverage. No announcement, no warning. One minute tennis was on. The next it was hockey. They did stick with coverage during some crucial men's matches but overall I have to say the switch they pulled yesterday, and other days, is what I'm taking away from their coverage. There are like a gazillion FSN channels. A simple announcement to hockey or tennis fans saying that coverage would continue on FSN channel 6000 would suffice. Tennis fans are literate and I'm sure most NHL fans are too. I felt like the person who left a spouse for someone else only to find out the new person was worse than the first one. At least ESPN let you know they were switching to bass fishing. It can only get better right?

I also came to the realization this week that there is "homerism" and then there's Justin Gimelstob. I missed the ESPN team. Even Patrick McEnroe. The only sisters there were the Radwanska's and the Bondarenko's so Cliffy wouldn't have been confused. Patrick would have had to call the matches without channeling his inner fanboy. The only way to watch tennis from home is with the sound on so that you can hear the sound of the ball on the racquet and hitting the court. When you have to turn the sound off in order to avoid destroying your television it's bad. I don't have Tennis Channel so I was not prepared for Justin's style of analysis. I should have known what to expect though since he is the man who screamed at Federer from the sidelines of a match he was covering to challenge a call. What happened to objective reporting and commentary? I understand Justin is friendly with most of the players. But he should check his friendship at the door. It made for very uncomfortable viewing for this fan. For match calling the BBC is still tops.

ATP Masters Series Television had a lot of technical difficulties this go around for some reason. A lot of buffering occurred which is not normal for the site. I am glad that for featured matches the subscriber had the option to listen or not listen to commentary. Most of the time I chose the without commentary option. Made it feel like I was there live.

Pictures of the Week
I don't know who Harry How is. I do know he has a fantastic eye and managed to take pictures of tennis players that approached high art. His use of color and shade in this age of digital photography is stunning. Here is a sample of his work.

Richard Gasquet

Aggie Radwanska

Svetlana Kuznetsova

Guillermo Canas

Monday, March 17, 2008

Seen Around 3/17/08

by Savannah

When you've watched a player a long time you get to know his or her quirks, fan or not. You can tell from how the player sets up to serve whether he or she is nervous, prepared, or scared shitless. You can tell from how the player hits their shots if this is going to be a walk in the park or on the wild side. The fan picture above is from Dubai. I think her facial expression indicates the current state of American tennis especially when it comes to the ATP.

As soon as I saw Andy Roddick take the court yesterday I knew he was in for a rough day. The Roddick who took the court in Dubai was calm, collected, confident. The man who took the court yesterday was as jumpy as the proverbial cat on a hot tin roof. Jumpy is not a good place for Andy Roddick to be. I remembered that Andy and Feliciano Lopez played one of the better hard court matches I've seen in some time in contesting the Dubai Final. As soon as the first jet powered serve cleared the net yesterday I figured Tommy Haas had the match in the bag. I wasn't aware of the head to head between the two men - I found that out after the match. I was just going by style of play. Tennisheads were saying that the surface worked against Andy. They say he couldn't get any help from the slower Indian Wells court which is why he played the way he did. Not untrue. But Andy Roddick is a professional tennis player. During one incarnation he actually played well on red dirt. In my opinion Andy came in not to play tennis but to blow his opponent - Tommy "Macchiata" Haas - off the court. Tommy was having none of it and waited for the implosion that would occur when Andy realized a lot of his balls were coming back. Rallies were not his friend yesterday. Roddick doesn't have the patience unless everything is going his way. And unfortunately as Mick Jagger opined, "you can't always get what you want". The challenge a player faces in being considered one of the top dogs is how he does on surfaces not to his or her liking. It may be too late for Andy to change his ways. He needs a coach. I'm not sure his brother is the one to deliver a punch to the gut when one is needed.

The other major hit American tennis took yesterday was delivered by Lleyton Hewitt. He systematically destroyed Sam "Kid Porsche" Querrey who coming into Indian Wells was once again being talked up as the future of American tennis. Not so fast there Bunky.

Cheering squad or not it was obvious that the guy who said he'd rather be driving his mother's Porsche was not going to beat a determined Lleyton Hewitt. Size definitely didn't matter in this match as Hewitt showed the Kid how it's done. The only question was how bad the beat down was going to be. As shown here the Kid was probably already on the Pacific Coast Highway.

There are three Americans left. Thanks for the heads up Tristann! I forgot Mardy.

So what were the women up to while all of this was going on? I have to say the saddest match I saw was Amelie Mauresmo vs Alona Bondarenko. I'm giving away my age when I say I remember when Mauresmo burst on the scene way back when. I remember her drive, the raw talent and thinking that she was going to be a player to reckon with. Her career shows that it takes more than talent to stay at the top of the heap even in the WTA. I saw a player yesterday who could barely keep the ball between the lines. Shots she used to make in her sleep were ending up way beyond baseline or sideline boundaries. Alona didn't have to do much more than keep the ball in play. I've read that Amelie might hang it up soon. Maybe she needs a sabbatical that doesn't involve sickness or injury so that she can decide just what she wants from her life and from tennis. As it stands right now she is a whisper of her former self.

Thanks to the two hours or so of live tennis provided in the States by FSN I spent most of my day in front of my computer watching coverage on ATP Masters Series Television. They're also showing the women's matches of note which is great since the WTA doesn't seem to grasp the concept behind online viewing as of yet. I do have to mention in passing that for once it was the WTA that had it's draws up for fans before the ATP this go around. Stunning development. Maybe they'll find a way to get into that new fangled on line thing.

Sorry for the digression. So I'm sitting in front of my computer screen and watching Maria Sharapova's match against Eleni Daniilidou of Greece. I should say trying to watch. I've usually watched Ms Sharapova on my television. It doesn't have surround sound which apparently is a good thing since the sound coming from my speakers during Maria's match was threatening to deafen me. I know, I know. I'm a fan of Venus and Serena. I am a Monica Seles fan. But is it really necessary for her to make that much noise?! Sheesh. I had to turn the volume all the way down just to be able to watch. To her credit Eleni did not roll over and play dead. She fought. But Sharapova used her big serve and power game very effectively and Eleni, not the fittest of players, didn't stand a chance. The surface didn't seem to affect Maria's game at all.

Haruka was anxious to see Shahar Pe'er vs Sania Mirza. Personally I wasn't keen on watching it. I figured Shahar was the one who would prevail over a mentally fragile Sania. I was wrong. Sania plays well in California. She is said to be setting up shop outside of India so maybe she will end up living in Cali. When she lost the first set by donating a tie break to her doubles partner I figured the match was over. Again I was wrong. Sania raced to a lead in the second set and looked ready to wrap it up when she mentally imploded. Then she did a smart thing. The WTA allows on court coaching at this event and she asked for her coach. Not only did she hold on and win the second set but she won the third. She won it playing tennis not ball bashing and used her big forehand well. That this was a big win for Sania goes without saying. It'll be interesting to see how she does going forward.

The other match I have to mention is the one between Mario Ancic and Fernando Gonzalez. Fernando has been struggling of late and Mario is just making it back from a bout with mono that kept him off the tour for several months. They split the first two sets with Ancic winning the first and Fernando showing why he's a threat in convincingly winning the second set. It looked as if he would go on and win the match from Ancic who was giving a crash course in Croatian curses. I was learning the words to the Chilean fight song thanks to the very enthusiastic fans who support Chilean players world wide.

It sounds odd when you say it but tennis is funny. Ancic came out of the gate in the third set like the proverbial bat out of hell. Before Fena knew what was happening he was down 5-0. It was just like that watching it. What the hell was all this viewer could say as Ancic grabbed the third set by the throat and didn't let go. Gonzo did wake up and managed not to be served a bagel or a breadstick but it was too little too late. He could not make up the double break lead his opponent had at that point.

One final note. It gets cold in the desert at night. I poked fun at the women who came out to play in Hong Kong earlier this year in leggings and long sleeves. But Daniella Hantuchova came out dressed for play in Canada last night. She was looking good but I expected her to have to make her exit via dog sled.

Tennishead Doings
I hang out on a lot of sites to find out what's going on among fans, superfans, and tennisheads. I supposed you could call them tennis geeks but I like tennisheads. There are enough fan sites, fan blogs and professional blogs to sustain any tennishead's obsession. One fan board however has gone the extra mile.

"Kirkus" and his merry band over at Talk About Tennis apparently have a team of fans on site at the Pacific Life Open aka Indian Wells. Their day to day experiences are posted HERE. Photo Galleries are also available. There are also good quality audio clips from some of the pressers available.

A Final Note

Along with great fan doings there are bizarre fan doings as well. I'm sure most have heard or read about the "fan girl gone wild" at Andy Roddick's pre match press conference. If not here is the
I think the young lady was nervous and like many fans when faced with their idol she went overboard. Andy handled it well despite his obvious dislike of the line of questioning. I guess this is 101 in what not to do at a press conference.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

They Did It! 3/9/08

by Savannah

Serena Williams Champion Bangalore 2008

Peng Shuai and Sun TianTian Doubles Champions Bangalore 2008

Mahesh Bhupati and Mark Knowles Doubles Champions Dubai 2008

Andy Roddick Champion Dubai 2008

Sam Querrey Champion Las Vegas Open 2008

Julien Benneteau and Mikel Llodra Doubles Champions Las Vegas Open 2008

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Week That Was 3/8/08

by Savannah

The biggest story of the week? The international paper of record, The New York Times reports that Roger Federer has been diagnosed with mononucleosis aka the "kissing sickness". I'm sure most tennisheads want to know how the men's number one could have come down with this disease. Thanks to WebMD a brief overview follows.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of mono are a high fever, a severe sore throat, swollen glands and tonsils, and weakness and fatigue. Symptoms usually start 4 to 6 weeks after you are exposed to the virus.

Mono can cause the spleen to swell. Severe pain in the upper left part of your belly may mean that your spleen has burst. This is an emergency.
How is mono diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and examine you. You may also need blood tests to check for signs of mono (monospot test) and the Epstein-Barr virus. Blood tests can also help rule out other causes of your symptoms.
How is it treated?

Usually only self-care is needed for mono.

* Get plenty of rest. You may need bed rest, which could keep you away from school or work for a little while.
* Gargle with salt water or use throat lozenges to soothe your sore throat.
* Take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil) to reduce fever and relieve a sore throat and headaches.
* Avoid contact sports and heavy lifting. Your spleen may be enlarged, and impact or straining could cause it to burst.

In severe cases, medicines called corticosteroids may be used to reduce swelling of the throat, tonsils, or spleen.

Have Coach Will Travel - Or Not

So you're a tournament director in a country called, oh lets say, Dubai. Thanks to oil wealth you can pay the top players in the world to show up to your event and put on a show for the tennis world. And they all come. Among those who come are a player from Spain who is best known for his good looks and an American who many say has seen better days. Tennisheads around the world turn into live feeds or if they're lucky television broadcasts to watch the best in the world and hope for a stellar final between two of the top three players. Instead these two guys will be playing each other.

Feliciano Lopez

Andy Roddick

Roddick, who announced that he is no longer being coached by Jimmy Connors has shown the form he exhibited when he won the US Open in making the Dubai Final. Lopez is the last man anyone would have picked to make the final of what was one of the strongest men's fields outside of a Slam or a Masters Series event.

A lot of Andy's fans are over the moon about Roddick's play this week and they should be. They're also ecstatic that Connors is no longer in Andy's corner. Many blame Andy's shameful behavior against rising Japanese teen Nishikori Kei in Memphis on Connors malefic influence. In my opinion if all Connors did was point Andy away from what he'd been doing and given him back the confidence he had when coached by Tariq Benhabiles he'd done all he could for Andy. I also don't discount Patrick McEnroe's influence on Roddick.

Lopez has always been a player who perplexed tennis fans. There would be flashes of brilliance followed by extended mental walkabouts. Maybe he's tired of being considered model material instead of a top tennis player. He goes into todays match the decided under dog and I don't expect him to win but I do hope he puts up a good fight. There's not much more to ask of him. Yet.


Venus and Serena Williams have apparently found something to do while not playing the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells, California.

Both sisters showed up in Bangalore, India bringing instant star power and power tennis to the sub continent. They would have been seeded 1 and 2 meaning they could only meet in the Final but Jelena Jankovic decided she wanted to play. She was granted a wild card and seeded number one. That is why Venus and Serena are playing today's semi final against each other. The other semi final will be between Yan Zi and Patty Schnyder. Where is Jelena you ask?

As I said Yan Zi of China is playing in the other semi.

Las Vegas
This is the tournament Andy Roddick used to play instead of going to Dubai. Once again even though I live in the States I haven't seen any of this event. Suffice it to say that only one seed, Guillermo Canas, seeded number four, made it to the semi finals.

Guillermo Canas

Sam Querrey

Robby Ginepri

Kevin Anderson

I guess we're going to see just how deep the ATP is this year.