Sunday, April 27, 2008

Heard Around

by Savannah

I was working on a commentary about the WTA and what is happening regarding Roadkill but this fan did such a good job I'll let her do the talking.

JennyS on the Tennis Forum's site.

This new book written by WTA Tour chief Larry Scott will soon hit the shelves. In the book he gives the following tips to aspiring tennis tour CEO's:

-Never, EVER attempt to promote the sport. Make the players do it themselves. Oh yeah, and have them wear stupid pink t-shirts to promote girl power.
-Make sure to keep entry lists HIDDEN from the public, so they might won't be frightened away from buying tickets to tournaments if a player they dislike is in the draw.
-If a player is not American or a tall blonde Russian, ignore her completely.
-Do NOTHING to address player injuries and blame everything on THEM!
-Try to get the top players to play as many tournaments a year as possible and don't give a shit about their longevity because quite frankly, you will not be CEO longer than 5 years, so who gives a damn?!
-Schedule 10 tournaments a year in Southern California and at least five in Los Angeles.
-Don't give a shit about TV ratings and focus more on making money by scheduling as many tournaments as you possibly can.
-If a player complains about the season being too long, tell them to shut up or retire.
-If a player pulls out of a tournament and does not have a valid medical report signed by a doctor, a nurse AND the tour medical advisor, fine them $100,000 and suspend them for two months.
-If a player plays fewer than 25 tournaments, they do not get any of the tour's bonus pool.
-Discourage players from participating in Fed Cup, Davis Cup and exhibitions so they can play as many tour events as possible

and finally
-Sit back in your office, make a ton of money and do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING and make a six figure salary a year!

That's a wrap no?

From The Mouth of Roger Federer

IT: A lot of No. 1 players distance themselves from getting involved in tennis policies and politics. Not you. You’ve spoken out and have pretty much been a traditionalist when it comes to the use of Hawk-Eye, a bunch of Wimbledon issues, the downscaling of the long-established Monte Carlo tournament or having tournaments experiment with the round-robin format. Why have you chosen to speak out?

RF: You have to remember that tennis has incredible roots. We haven’t been around just for five years so you can change everything and everybody’s open to changes. I grew up a certain way with tennis being in a certain way. I don’t want it to change, because I think it’s a great sport. The problem we have is that we should have more sponsors, bring more money in and get back on normal TV. That’s been the biggest problem for us. We had some bad deals with the ISL deal that went bankrupt [when tennis supposedly was going to land huge international marketing deals that never materialized.] That really hurt us a lot in terms of being on a normal TV network. They sold the broadcasting rights to private networks. That just killed the market for us in terms of sponsorship, and being on TV for the regular fan. The stadiums now are sold out, people are loving this sport. It’s a great live sport to attend. It’s a pity. But we’re on the way back, because we have a great package to sell. This is what we need to focus on and not little changes like that stupid round robin.

Source: Inside Tennis

They don't ask him and Roger doesn't mention it but Mercedes Benz which was a tour sponsor has signed an exclusive deal with Roger and will have him as it's spokesperson in Asia. This is a little different from the situation with Maria Sharapova and Sony Ericsson since SE is still a tour sponsor and Mercedes won't be anymore but as many fans have said can the ATP afford to lose such a big sponsor at this point? I said I wouldn't talk anymore about the debacle men's tennis has become. I also won't talk about how ET is favoring the American tournament directors at this point. We can bitch and moan about the loss of Hamburg to Madrid but Hamburg's suit is still pending. If they win then can we say ET's reign has been a disaster for the ATP? There is some serious discussion going on among tennisheads on this subject and believe it or not some American fans are able to see the big picture since we are tennis fans
first and will watch tennis no matter who is playing. Over on Mens Tennis Forums there is a thread that features serious discussion about the ATP situation. American fans like "Deboogle" and "Fee" are showing we're not all head in the sand don't care about the rest of the world of tennis fans. Keep up the good work.

This and That

Nishikori Kei of Japan has signed a three year deal with SONY
TOKYO, April 30, 2008—IMG today announced that professional tennis player Kei Nishikori has signed a three-year global sponsorship agreement with Sony Corporation.
Nishikori, 18, will endorse a wide range of Sony electronics products. In addition, the Japanese-born tennis player will wear a Sony logo on his right sleeve during official competition. Nishikori currently has worldwide endorsement agreements with Adidas and Wilson.

Anastasia Myskina gave birth to her first child, a son named Yevgeny on April 29, 2008. Mother and son are both fine.

Monte Carlo

The shock waves seem to be subsiding a bit now. I don't think it's the end result that surprised people so much as the way it was achieved. Bloggers and columnists who were used to dealing with Rafael Nadal as an inconvenient truth were forced to deal with him as what he is, a great player, and not try to pigeonhole him into some preconceived idea of what he should be. The Monte Carlo men's final will go down as one of the greatest matches of the year and will be talked about for a very long time among fans and students of the sport.

But more happened that will be talked about. This fan has not been able to root for Novak Djokovic ever since Estoril in 2007 where he faked injury against Richard Gasquet before easily winning the third and deciding set. There are many of us who have pointed out his lack of sportsmanship, and class, in dealing with his peers and his sport. His walk out during his country's Davis Cup tie against Russia with an "illness" was glossed over by many who want to see him as the future of tennis. Monte Carlo was a whole 'nother ball game as we say here in the States. The eyes of the tennis world were fixed on this event with many predicting that the defending champion would not even make the final since he'd yet to win a title this year. Many pundits predicted a Novak vs Roger final, a match they said would pit the best two players against each other.

When Roger almost went down to Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo in the first round the sound of bodies hitting the floor was heard world wide. A loss in the first round was their worst nightmare. Roger was on a roll they figured conveniently forgetting that Roger was losing in Estoril when Nikolay Davydenko felt a twinge in his leg and capitulated the match to him. A win is a win even if it's gifted no?

But Roger overcame Ramirez-Hidalgo who had been up 5-1 in the third set before gagging away the match. With little hard opposition he found himself in a semi final match against Novak. I should mention that this is the first tournament where the seeding was done the way I always thought it should be, with Djokovic as number three in the top half of the draw. Djokovic, who had cake walked his way to the semi was the fresher of the two, or should have been.

The first set was a well fought one with Roger coming out on top. The second set started out where the first one ended, with good rallies and shot making. If you turned away for a second during the break at 3-2 Federer in the second set you missed Novak walking over to Roger and shaking his hand. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. In what was probably the most important match of his career Djokovic was punking out, retiring a la Justine Henin so that he deprived his opponent of a satisfying win. And no one could defend him. Tape soon surfaced on the net of Roger, normally the coolest of customers on the court, turning to Novak's parents and telling them to "be quiet". They were shrieking at the chair to overturn a call. Roger conceded the call was wrong and wiped out the mark. The parents had been kept under wraps most of this year after their horrible actions against fans of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Melbourne. Their reappearance shows that they feel no shame about their behavior. The reason for Novak's withdrawal? A sore throat. I guess they had to come up with something since it was obvious he was in no physical discomfort during the match.

Novak has his fans and like any fandom they are vocal and loyal in their support. They have attempted to defend their man and I give them credit for that. It's just that he's been declared the new king of tennis. The current King has never quit during a match no matter what. The Crown Prince played after his body told him no, at the US Open where I saw him physically collapse on court, and during the final at Chennai which I also saw, where he couldn't even move or go after balls. Talking heads love to talk about the final score at Chennai. They don't mention the marathon match the day before. Inconvenient fact.

Yes Rafa's coming back from 4-0 in the second set is amazing. But I think a lot of folks would rather concentrate on that than on the way Djokovic behaved. He showed no respect to his backers, his fans, or his sport with his behavior. That is the biggest story of Monte Carlo 2008 for me. How the tennis press covers Djokovic going forward will be very interesting. I can assure you that PMac and his posse will pretend it never happened unless Pam or Mary bring it up at which point a dismissive comment will be made about clay and moving on. I hope I'm wrong.

Note: The picture at the top is edited. By me. I like it better this way.


He won it. No one retired. There was no cupcake draw. The defending champion went out and won Monte Carlo for the fourth consecutive year, a first in the open era. It was also his first championship of the year. He did it without dropping a set. He did it going down 4-0 in the second set. No tantrums. No racquet throwing. A deep breath and he did what he had to do.

Congratulations Rafa.

So Nice He Did It Twice

Making himself only the second man in Masters Series History since Jim Courier back in 1991 did it Rafa teamed with Tommy Robredo and won the doubles final in Monte Carlo. The pair took out the team some say has been the best so far in 2008 Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 6-3, 6-3. A four-peat and a double up. Way to go Rafito.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Heard Around

by Savannah

From Steve Tignor
re Roger's second round Monte Carlo match. I left out all the, uh, fawning praise. That sounds good right? You can find it all by clicking on Steve's name.

Like Pete Sampras, (Roger) Federer has too much game for clay. His shots are built to penetrate and his movement in transition allows him to close in and make the court smaller. The goal of the clay-courter is too make it bigger, longer, to open more space to loop the ball into. Today against Spain's Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo, a true clay dog, it was clear that, Jose Higueras or no Jose Higueras, Federer wasn’t going to change that. He stood on top of the baseline and ran around to hit bullet forehands as always. But it didn’t matter what he did in the first set, because R-H was awful. He couldn’t sustain a rally long enough to develop any rhythm or get his feet into the match, and his service toss had a disturbingly Dementieva-esque quality.

Still, if someone’s tennis can be said to be “wiry,” it’s (Ruben)Ramirez-Hidalgo's. His trademark is his rolled-up sleeve on his right arm, the better to free it up for his stiff roundhouse forehand swing; it’s distinctive enough that Novak Djokovic made it one of his—admittedly more obscure—impersonations at the U.S. Open last year. I watched in horror a couple seasons ago as R-H hung on to beat Marat Safin in a third-set tiebreaker on clay, in the tennis equivalent of a prolonged suicide. He got his teeth into this match as well, cutting the errors out, surviving his service games, and whipping a couple nice passing shots past Federer.

Even positioned far behind the baseline, with Federer on top of his, Ramirez-Hidalgo maintained control of the rallies for nearly two sets. On hard courts, Federer can use a one-two punch—forehand into the corner, midcourt ball to the other corner—and be confident it will end the point. Not on clay, where opponents routinely slide toward that first forehand with time to spare and send a looping ball back deep. In these cases, Federer tends to pull the trigger a couple shots early, as if he’s not confident in his consistency. And it’s true, unlike the true clay lover, Federer doesn’t—or can’t—hit the ball to precisely the same spot over and over and wait. It’s not his game.

There was little sense of fear or nerves from Ramirez-Hidalgo as he built a 5-1 lead in the third. I got the feeling he thought he belonged there, that the aura Federer has had in the locker room had worn off to the point where even a confirmed 30-year-old journeyman no longer feared him. But I was wrong. R-H may not have feared Federer, but he feared the moment. On the other side of the net, Federer appeared listless and ready to pack it in during the third set. He drummed one backhand return into the bottom of the net at 1-3 and kicked the clay in muted frustration. Again, appearances were deceiving. He had a run in him.

The turnaround came with R-H serving at 5-2, 30-30. The Spaniard hit a hard shot to Federer’s backhand. Federer scrambled to get the ball back and made a little grunt—probably his first of the day—in the process. Ramirez-Hidalgo drilled the ball into the other corner, but Federer skimmed low over the clay, slid, and sent the ball back with a squash-style forehand. He eventually won the point after a feeble attempt at a drop shot by Ramirez-Hidalgo. Then he broke him seconds later with a crisp bullet forehand to the corner. The rest was pretty much academic. By the tiebreaker, which Federer won 7-1, Ramirez-Hidalgo was a broken man.

Here are some excerpts from Steve Cronin's newsletter posted by "Moose" over on TalkAboutTennis
Matt Cronin's newsletter is subscription only. The following is a summation of what was sent out this week.

On De Villiers:

ATP Board Tournament Rep Charlie Passarel (one of the owners of PLO@IW) has come out firmly behind (Etienne)De Villiers - translated, that means you can forget any action on the player's petition to review De Villiers contract before the end of this year, when it is scheduled to expire anyway. The petition to begin a job search to replace De Villiers immediately was signed by "almost all" of the Top 20 players - Federer and Nadal both signed it. Passerel says almost all the tournament directors like the direction De Villiers has taken the ATP, and that the players are being "conservative and stubborn". And for now, the players don't have enough clout on the Board to change things.

On Master Series/"Hard Events" for 2009:

There will be 8 "Hard" (you must play, or you get a 0 in ranking points that cannot be replaced with a different event, along with a hefty fine):

Indian Wells
Madrid (a new event)
Shanghai (another new event, post-USO)

The YEC (well, the "ATP Championship") will be hard as well, for the players who qualify.

Monte Carlo will continue to be classified as a "Masters Series" event, with the same prize money and ranking points...BUT, it will not be a "hard" event.

The ATP and Hamburg go to court real soon - Hamburg organizers are fighting the ATP attempt to remove Hamburg as a Masters Series event. If Hamburg wins, the ATP will be forced to rearrange most of the 2009 calendar.

The players are angry about this move as well - many don't want to be forced to go to Asia after the USO, and others (guess who) don't want to be required to play all the "hard" clay events. To be fair, many of the Gauchos don't want to have to play all the "hard" hard court events.

I may be wrong but I see a grand total of TWO required clay court events, Rome and probably Madrid. Just sayin'. I hope no one is surprised that the Canadian event is required while Monte Carlo, which would have lent some balance to this, well, hard court biased schedule is being pushed aside. I've talked about this before. I'm not talking about it again. I think this sucks.
But if the players opinions don't count I doubt very seriously that mine will.

Does Anyone Want To Give This Tournament A Home?

I wonder if the TD's strong support of ET against the players has to do with placating him for not letting the former Tennis Channel/Las Vegas Open be shipped off to De Villier's native South Africa? Based on this report from Tennis-X I'd say the gloves are off and the US Grand Poobah's are playing - dare I say it - hard ball.

Saddlebrook, in Wesley Chapel, just northeast of Tampa, is already home to U.S. players such as James Blake, the Bryan brothers, John Isner, Amer Delic and others, providing a built-in player base. On the 2009 ATP Calendar the event is reportedly still the same week as the Dubai Tennis Championships, the well-monied tournament that is not a Masters Series event, but still attracts most all of the Top 10 players by handing out large under-the-table appearance fees. Andy Roddick played Dubai rather than Las Vegas this year, and James Blake skipped both events. Moving the event to Florida would assuredly attract a good deal of American talent, in addition to possibly the top-ranked Roddick and Blake. Mardy Fish also makes his home base in Tampa.

So does this mean if the event is relocated to Florida they will start paying "large under the table appearance fees"? Enquiring minds want to know...

Beijing Here I Come

Seems Andy Roddick is going to Beijing after all according to this report from Guardian.CO.UK
BEIJING, April 23 (Reuters) - American Andy Roddick is skipping the Olympics but he will be in Beijing the following month to headline the first joint men's and women's China Open, organisers said on Wednesday.
The world number six will be joined by fifth-ranked Spaniard David Ferrer and women's number two Ana Ivanovic for the Sept. 20-28 tournament at the Beijing Tennis Centre.

I hope the sound of those cash registers doesn't stop you from reading the entire article.

WTA News

It's Fed Cup Weekend. There is a lot of talk about the quality of the team we're sending to this semi final. This is no reflection on the women who are choosing to go and represent their country. It's a reflection of tennis politics and the state of women's tennis in the United States. With Serena focused on winning big, Venus on indefinite hiatus, and Lindsay coming down with the flu we are fielding the best of the rest. Vania King is an up and comer. Ahsha Rolle is a product of the Hi-Tec program of the USTA. Madison Brengle is a well thought of junior. Liezel Huber, new minted US citizen, has the most experience. They will be going up against a Russian line up made up of Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anna Chakvetadze, Elena Vesnina and Dinara Safina. On clay. In Moscow.
The other tie features the P.R.of China against Spain. Spain is not sending it's top women. Think the Chinese women have pictures of the Spanish women mocking their features hanging up in their locker room? Yeah, me too.

Pictured above is Fed Cup Captain Zina Garrison. Below are Ahsha Rolle and Madison Brengle. Go USA!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Winners

by Savannah

The tennis world was quite busy this past week. For the men of the ATP there were three tournaments. Two were on real clay in Portugal at Estoril and in Valencia, Spain. There was one played on whatever that stuff is that's used as "clay" in the United States in Houston, Texas. The WTA played a Tier 1 event in Charleston on that same stuff.It's green in Charleston and red in Houston. Just keep in mind it's not really clay when you hear people raving about players winning their first titles on "clay". At least the winner in Houston admitted why he played there and not Valencia. Seems he made the right bet.

Next week the ATP will stage it's third Masters Series event in Monte Carlo, Monaco. The women will be playing Fed Cup. Meanwhile here are the men and women who won titles this weekend.

ATP Winners

Roger Federer won his first title this year thanks to Nikolay Davydenko's left leg injury at Estoril. Was Nikolay grateful for the vocal support Roger gave him during his tribulations?

David Ferrer overcame Nicolas Almagro to win Valencia. Here's a picture of David holding his trophy.

Marcel Granollers-Pujol gave me whiplash. I checked the scores at Houston and saw that James Blake was up 3-0 in the third set. When I came back to finish assembling the pictures for this post imagine my surprise to see Marcel hoisting the trophy. I guess that answers the questions as to why American men don't play on the real stuff in Europe until they have to.

Coetzee and Moodie won the doubles championship at Estoril.

WTA Winners

Maria Kirilenko won the WTA trophy at Estoril. Maybe this will be the beginning of a turnaround in fortune for her this year.

And guess what? Ms Kirilenko turned right around and along with Flavia Pennetta won the women's doubles championship at Estoril.
Congratulations Makiri.

Sugiyama Ai and Katerina Srebotnik 2008 Family Circle Cup Doubles Champions 2008

Recognize this woman? She won again this week. Do you think she has designs on winning that event they hold every year in the spring in Paris?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Heard Around

by Savannah

Alexandra Stevenson. Daughter of Samantha Stevenson and Julius Irving. Pretty good tennis player as I recall. Then she suffered a serious shoulder injury. Not one that comes and goes but one that required surgery to repair. Ms Stevenson had the surgery in 2004. It is now 2008. Today, April 14, she won a WTA main tour match, her first in quite sometime. Someone thought to interview her for newspaper called the "Post and Courier". The reporter is a man named Philip Bowman. It's a good interview. Mostly it's a good interview. Here's an excerpt.

'This win today was very important because it was tough out here and I need to make some money,' said Stevenson, who turned pro in 1999. 'I have to pay my bills. It's just not about tennis. It's about surviving. Each match I win, I can survive a little more, move up in the rankings and get my career back.'

Money is important. But returning to the top of the tennis world is equally as important. A return to the top is proving to be grueling physically and mentally.

First there was the recovery.

She spent the first year getting the motion back in her shoulder. She spent the second year working on motion and strength. The third year entailed working on motion, strength and endurance.

'The pain, you actually feel, it's worse than giving birth, although I don't want to find that out for 10 more years,' Stevenson said. 'You know how many people told me to quit? Thousands. That made me want to come back more.'

She says many people do not remember her. 'They do at airports. I do have to say the black population has my back, because at airports they'll come up and say, 'When are you coming back. We want you back.' '

She will also hear, 'That's Dr. J's kid.'

'That kind of ticks me off,' Stevenson said. 'But they don't mean it to be mean. They think it's cool. So I have to understand they think it's cool.'

The trips abroad can be humbling, too. She played in a tournament in Bangalore, India, in March. She described the stadium as a bullfighting arena with three tennis courts.

You see she had me up until she talked about a bull fighting ring in Bangalore, India. I'm at a loss. I know tennis players are notoriously self centered but I think most people know that to the Hindu a bull is sacred. Hindu people do not eat meat. Does India look like Spain to Alex? Does she realize India is trying to upgrade their tennis and that two very famous female African Americans both played there recently and that one of them actually won the event? Have you heard one snarky word from Serena or Venus who have both played in India? Does she realize she and her mother are poison to many tour directors? Maybe not. Don't bite the hand that feeds you Alex. It really is that serious Alexandra.

Richard Gasquet

I think Richard Evans of Tennis Week writes the end piece to the drama of the French Davis Cup Team. was not just the power of Roddick and Blake that the French captain Guy Forget had to deal with. The brooding figure of Gasquet, ambivalent about his commitment, obviously unsure of himself and his ability, haunted the whole tie. As we reported yesterday, Forget had the series of questioning conversations with the most talented player in France to try and determine, once and for all, whether the 21-year-old was ready, both mentally and physically, for the battle.

The astonishing answer, apparently, was that Gasquet said he would play the fifth rubber against Blake but not the first against Roddick. Forget accepted this because he felt he had little choice — Llodra being tired after two consecutive days of play — although some would suggest that the experienced Clement, with his exceptional skills on the return of serve, would have been a better bet than a young man who could not make up his mind.

In order to give the Frenchman maximum confidence, Gasquet’s choice of opponents was kept from Mathieu.

"I did not know Richard had said he would only play the fifth match," said a disconsolate Mathieu afterwards. "I don't why he said that. Maybe he doesn’t like Roddick’s game, what can I say? All I know is the captain came to me last night and said ‘I want you to play’ and if your captain says that, showing confidence in you, you go out and play."

By then Mathieu was speaking in English. The depth of his disappointment and exasperation had been evident earlier when he was answering questions in his native tongue. And sometimes the French do not need their tongue to express their feelings. When asked about Gasquet for the first time, Mathieu drew back from the microphone, spread his arms wide and produced the classic Gallic shrug. Words were unnecessary.
The kindest thing one can say about a young athlete with all the ability to be one of the best in the world in a highly lucrative international sport is that he is immature. Coddled from birth by older parents who had lost their first born, both Gasquet’s father — a tennis coach from Beziers — and his mother wrapped their boy lovingly in cotton wool and it is only very recently that he has stopped living at home. Psyhologically, it seems that he is quite unprepared for the task of carrying other people’s hopes on his shoulders in a sport that makes huge demands on the individual. Although Davis Cup is a team sport and does offer some moral support, the player still has to go out there and perform in the spotlight all alone. There is no midfielder to slip the ball to if you don’t like the look of the opposing center half. It is far tougher than many people imagine and, unhappily, it appears to be too tough for Richard Gasquet at his present stage of development. Hopefully that will change.

Compare that situation to that of Argentina's team and David Nalbandian. A mainstay of the tour, respected, he played a grueling five set match for Argentina against a determined Robin Soderling playing for his country Sweden. There was a live feed available and while grainy the two men fought to take their country into the semi finals against Russia. What was David's reaction?

That's right, he cried. David had played doubles the day before and had to be tired. But his captain asked and he stepped up to the plate. This picture says it all about what Davis Cup is. I respect Paul-Henri Mathieu for taking one for the team. As for Gasquet, to paraphrase a fan posting on French Eurosport, he may only be a good player and not a great one.

To stick with Davis Cup a little longer, the seeds for the Word Group Playoffs were announced yesterday.
The seeds are as follows:
Slovak Republic

Their opponents will come from the following countries:
Great Britain

End Notes:

Roger Federer has hired Jose Higueras to work with him this week at Estoril.

Donald Young had a good first round win today on the red clay at Houston.

Ryan Harrison(pictured below), a 15 year old living in Texas won his first ATP Tour match today. He's fifteen. To put his accomplishment into perspective here's a list of other precocious teens who won on the main tour at a young age.

Franco Davin (Arg) (15 years, 1 month) - Buenos Aires 1985, Hans Gildemeister 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
Tommy Ho (USA) (15 years, 2 months) - Rye Brook 1988, Matt Anger 6-4, 3-6, 6-4
Jimmy Arias (USA) (15 years, 6 months) - Palm Harbor 1980, Warren Maher 7-6, 6-1
Michael Chang (USA) (15 years, 6 months) - US Open 1987, Paul McNamee 6-3, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4
Andre Agassi (USA) (15 years, 9 months) - La Quinta 1986, John Austin 6-4, 6-2
Bjorn Borg (Swe) (15 years, 10 months) - Madrid 1972, Antonio Zugarelli 7-6, 6-3
Mats Wilander (Swe) (15 years, 10 months) - Bastad 1980, Jan Kallquist 6-4 6-4
Richard Gasquet (Fra) (15 years, 10 months) - Monte Carlo 2002, Franco Squillari 7-6, 3-6, 7-5
Rafael Nadal (Esp) (15 years, 10 months) - Mallorca 2002, Ramon Delgado 6-4, 6-4
Ryan Harrison (USA) (15 years, 11 months) - Houston 2008, Pablo Cuevas 6-4, 6-3

Both Ryan and his brother Christian signed with IMG in December. Let's hope someone around them will stop the madness from getting totally out of hand. Remember Richard Gasquet was declared the future of French tennis at 14. And Donald Young was the next biggest thing for a long time. I'm just sayin'.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

See You In September

by Savannah

The Davis Cup Semi Finalists 2008




United States

In other news:

Maria Sharapova won the WTA tournament at Amelia Island


Bethanie Mattek and Vladimira Uhlirova Doubles Champions Amelia Island 2008

Random Notes: Davis Cup Edition

by Savannah

Today is the last day of the World Group Quarter Finals and the Zonal Playoffs. Davis Cup is of course the patriotic duty of every tennis player able to wield a racquet at a high enough level to represent his country.

I thought about this as I read about French Captain's Guy Forget's dilemma. His problems started when Jo-Wilfrid Tsonga had to return to France due to injury. Forget still had a pretty good team with French Number One Richard Gasquet available or so he thought. Richard, citing blisters and a nagging injury announced he was not available to play the opening rubber against America's Andy Roddick.
Michael Llodra stepped in at the last minute and while doing the best he could went down to Roddick in three sets. The second rubber featured
Paul-Henri Mathieu against James Blake. Blake, once again showing he needs to be pumped up by a friendly crowd managed to steal a win from Mathieu who at one point had two match points. The United States looked to be in the catbird seat up 2-0 against a reeling French team. With doubles on tap next it appeared Sunday's rubbers would be dead ones to many observers. With the custom designed lightning fast court the twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan were thought to have a cakewalk match. Oh sure the French doubles team of Mikel Llodra and Arnaud Clement had defeated the Bryan twins at Wimbledon last year, and of course the twins had been struggling of late but have no fear the conventional wisdom went. The Bryans would blow the "clay courters" out of the building.

I guess someone forget to tell Llodra and Clement. An errant shot by Clement during the first set tie break allowed the Bryan twins to steal that set. Justin Gimelstob was hyping the idea that the surface at Winston-Salem be used at the US Open to a literally captive audience, and doing his usual thing making the twins seem to be able to walk on water. But midway through the second set the glory train got derailed. Errors, and lack of movement began to creep into the twins game. I've seen them play better. But those guys weren't in the building yesterday as the French proceeded to dismantle the twins and win the next three sets putting France back in the tie with the United States lead now 2-1. The talk about the surface of the US Open being changed to ice had disappeared.

Which brings us to Monsieur Gasquet. Tennis Week reports the following.

Forget has Gasquet, the French No. 1 on the bench and, apparently this enigmatic player is now ready to step in although he seemed to need another long talking to from his captain in the corridor outside the French locker room last night.

When asked about this Forget was very frank.

"I’m not begging him," Forget said. "If he doesn’t want to play he won’t go out. I’m not going to tell him 'You must go out' because I know he will probably just get mad at me or he will go out and say 'Well I didn’t want to play and I lost so you knew about it.' I don’t want that attitude. I expect the opposite. That’s one of the things we’ve talked about and we’ll talk more tonight.”

Gasquet’s attitude is baffling. He is exceptionally gifted with possibly the greatest backhand in the game but he appears mentally fragile to a ruinous degree. As a result, Forget may decide to stick with Mathieu, hardly a tower of mental strength, either, but certainly more willing to put himself on the line. Then there would be the other option – Clement. The person who beats Roddick, if anyone can, is going to have to return like a wizard. Few people return better than the man from the South of France and, as his compatriot Fabrice Santoro has proved time and again, size does not always matter in tennis.

Above all, Forget wants to be sure that the player he sends out to do battle for France really believes he can win, even if the opposition is a power serving giant called Roddick, playing on a lightening quick court.

Enigmatic? Mentally fragile? How about Forget telling Richie to take his shitty attitude and get on the next thing smoking back to Paris? If he doesn't want to play then don't. Llodra, who should be on the bench, says he's ready to take the court against Roddick. Clement is the fresher player right now but Llodra didn't do badly the other day. We'll see. If Richie Red Shoes takes the court the United States can book it's flight to Spain in the fall.

Other Davis Cup News

Australia, with Lleyton Hewitt heading it's team, stormed past Thailand to get back into the World Group playoffs. Thailand fielded it's top players but they were no match for a determined Australia.

India won it's tie over Japan 3-2. Japanese teen sensation Nishikori Kei won his dead rubber match. With India's team captain Leander Paes denying that he slammed his long time doubles partner Mahesh Bhupati in the press it'll be interesting to see what happens with India in the World Group playoffs. The team had voted earlier this year to oust Paes from his position.

In addition to Australia and India making the World Group playoffs Chile and the Netherlands also got through.

Adding fuel to the fire of the debate about the role of luck versus being good in tennis Team Russia awaits the winner of the Argentina vs Sweden tie. Russia's Nikolay Davydenko won his match over the Czech Republic's
Tomas Berdych after Berdych severely twisted his ankle. As I write this Robin Soderling of Sweden is up two sets to one over David Nalbandian of Argentina. My live feed came back just in time to see some miscreant escorted from the stands by security in Buenos Aires. Who says the fans aren't passionate about Davis Cup?

Speaking of Passion, here are some pics of Davis Cup players who know what it's all about. There are even some French players included. Richie?

Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic

Nicolas Massu of Chile

Robin Haase of the Netherlands

Team Switzerland

James Blake

Andre Sa and Marcelo Melo of Brasil

Andy Roddick of the United States

Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement of France

Sunday, April 6, 2008

This n' That Sunday Afternoon

by Savannah

Sony Ericsson End Notes

Serena Williams Sony Ericsson Open Women's Singles Champion 2008

Nikolay Davydenko Sony Ericsson Open Mens Singles Champion 2008

The Revenge Tournament is over. In my opinion both finals winners are surprising. Serena, through sheer force of will overcame her own mental meltdown and the shenanigans of her opponent Jelena Jankovic to win the women's final in three not at all beautiful sets. Serena can't be happy at needing thirteen match points to finish off Jankovic.

As for Nikolay's win anyone who saw his match against Andy Roddick could see it coming. Nikolay was not going to be denied and he played better tennis today than the man across the net.

The Bryan Brothers won the Mens Doubles, their first title of the year so in a way it was a revenge win for them.

Katerina Srebotnik and Sugiyama Ai won the womens doubles crown. I'm not aware of any revenge factors here.

The Clay Court Season

I'm happy that real tennis will now take center stage. I'd be happier if I didn't know some of the drama that's going on behind the scenes.

Apparently CBS was not going to allow live tennis to interrupt it's coverage of March Madness. CBS has the rights to air the Miami finals. The only weekend it could be bothered to show live tennis was, you guessed it, this weekend. This resulted in both the Pacific Life Open and the Sony Ericsson Open (I kinda miss Indian Wells and Miami but it is what it is.) being pushed back a week.

I still don't get how March Madness made the ATP schedule the three clay Masters Series Events virtually back to back to back though. Is Mr. Disney still upset about the protests the European players made about the ATP decision to downgrade their favorite events? In case you're not aware of what will be going on the next few weeks here is the schedule:

Estoril, Portugal April 14-20
Masters Series Monte Carlo April 21-27
Open SEAT Barcelona April 28-May 4
Masters Series Roma May 5-11
Masters Series Hamburg May 12-18
French Open May 26-June 8

Both Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych have spoken up about this nonsense. Not that it will do anything, the schedule is set. It should be noted that Nadal is the defending champion at Monte Carlo, Rome and Roland Garros. Barcelona is his home tournament so to speak. Stacked deck much? Oh, and don't forget Davis Cup is this weekend. Philipp Kohlschreiber's boasting about Germany defeating Spain this weekend may not be idle after all.

And all this talk about a changing of the guard? I'm just sayin'

I should note in passing that there is a move on to oust Etienne de Villiers before his contract expires. Gee, ya think?

Sony Ericsson Open/Miami - Some Final Looks


Andy's Posse

Svetlana Kuznetsova

Mikhail Youzhny

Jo-Wilfrid Tsonga

Jelena Jankovic

Maria Sharapova and her friend Camilla Belle

Mario Ancic

The Davydenko's

Rafael Nadal