Thursday, July 31, 2008

ATP vs Hamburg Day 8 - The USTA Enters the Picture

Posted by Savannah

De Villiers Testifies USTA Opposed Moving Hamburg Tournament

By Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer, SportsBusiness Journal

De Villiers Testifies That USTA Opposed Moving Hamburg Tournament To Summer

The USTA strongly opposed moving the Hamburg, Germany, tournament to the summer if it kept its top tier ranking, ATP Chair & President Etienne de Villiers testified in the circuit’s antitrust trial yesterday. The German and Arab organizers of Hamburg are suing the ATP for demoting their event from the top to second tier and moving it into the summer from the spring. Discussions during ‘06, before the plan was set, to perhaps move Hamburg intact as an elite event to the summer would have created a problem for the USTA’s U.S. Open Series, the branded swing of hard court events leading up to the U.S. Open. “He feels it is a major distraction and will draw players away,” de Villiers wrote in an e-mail that was read into the record by the Hamburg attorney, referring to USTA Chief Exec of Professional Tennis Arlen Kantarian. “It is not a surprising notion and given their support and leadership in the marketing of the game, I would be very reluctant to support something they do not.” Opponents of the plan within tennis have argued the European events took it on the chin while the American events were protected. “There appears to be an inherent bias in the ATP's plan in favor of certain events,” a group of 20 European tournament directors wrote to de Villiers in January ‘07 in a letter read into the testimony. Asked which tournaments the process was biased toward, Zeljko Franulovic, the lone ATP board director who opposed the plan, testified via video deposition that it was the American events that were favored. The issues cut to the heart of one of Hamburg’s main contentions, that the ATP board did not conduct a fair process to select its elite events. And de Villiers conceded in his testimony that the process was by invitation only and not an open auction.

ATP OFFERS MOTIONS TO DISMISS: After Hamburg rested its case yesterday, the counsel for the ATP offered four motions to dismiss the charges, which the judge can take up at any time between now and when the jury gets the case, which is expected to be early next week. Judge Gregory Sleet also apparently has not decided whether to strike the testimony of sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, which is crucial to the Hamburg case in that he provides the economic justification for the antitrust charge. However, his testimony last Thursday, in which he broke court protocols and brought an outline of his testimony on the stand, is still percolating as problem. “I want to be careful in what I say here,” Sleet told the counsels. “Of course, it's not my assessment as to his credibility that matters a whit. But I'm disturbed by a gentleman of the kind of educational background, who has been in court as much as he has, doing what he did in this case and to some extent putting it on counsel.” By putting it on counsel, Sleet meant that Zimbalist disagreed with Hamburg attorney Rob MacGill’s contention that he had told the professor not to bring anything up to the stand.

ZIMBALIST'S METHODOLOGY AT ISSUE: The ATP also again took issue with Zimbalist's methodology, which treats the relevant market for tennis as only inclusive of tournament sanctions and players, and does not look at the market for tennis in the broader entertainment landscape. Even MacGill conceded this interpretation was very subtle and nuanced. Essentially the injury being alleged is to players and tournament owners, not to average consumers, sponsors or broadcasters. Traditional antitrust cases refer to injury to consumers. At one point, Sleet said, “So maybe it's (Roger) Federer and (Rafael) Nadal that needs to be the plaintiffs here.”


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

ATP vs Hamburg Day 7

posted by Savannah

Zimbalist Testimony Highlights Day Seven Of ATP-Hamburg Trial

By Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer, SportsBusiness Journal

The seventh day of the ATP antitrust trial yesterday featured often contentious testimony from sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, as the case, once hoped to end Friday, now looks all but certain to spill into the early part of next week. Meanwhile, a key source said a settlement, once thought possible a few days ago, looks increasingly unlikely. The German and Arab organizers of the tourney in Hamburg, Germany, are suing the ATP for demoting the event next year. Zimbalist is their key economic witness to testify that the ATP’s actions violate U.S. antitrust law. He testified that the ATP is an illegal cartel that monopolizes top flight men’s tennis. Zimbalist initially began testifying last Thursday, but broke court protocol by bringing an outline of the questions and answers with him to the stand, which could lead the jury to believe he is giving concocted testimony. Judge Gregory Sleet let his testimony stand over the ATP’s objections yesterday. He did allow questioning of Zimbalist about the document, and he disputed Hamburg’s lawyer’s claim that Zimbalist had been told not to bring it up to the stand with him.

ZIMBALIST'S TESTIMONY: The ATP lawyer created several uncomfortable moments for Zimbalist, including bringing up that his witness report earlier this year was disallowed by the court overseeing the antitrust lawsuit filed against NASCAR. That report was similar to the one he prepared for Hamburg in that he argued in each that the sports competed only internally, and not against other forms of entertainment. “In every court case I know of in the United States, [it] has always concluded that sports are in separate markets from each other,” he said. The court in the NASCAR case threw out his methodology for not considering other forms of entertainment as possible competitors, but Sleet did not do so. The ATP lawyer pointed out testimony from the Hamburg organizers citing a local equestrian event as competition. And the ATP counsel questioned Zimbalist’s contention that the only option for fans of the top events are the second tier events, which often are not nearby. The ATP lawyers also reminded him of his recent testimony for the city of Seattle in its effort to enforce the final two years of the lease on the Sonics, in which some of his expert report was copied from a previous one. Notably, asked if his opinion could change on whether the ATP controlled the market for players if they played a handful of more tournaments, he said it could.

OTHER ACTION: Also testifying was the current tournament director of the Hamburg event, Carl Uwe Steeb. He conceded that a ticket consulting firm, G2, had told the tourney to stop over-announcing ticket sales by 30%, and that he had considered reducing the seating capacity on center court significantly because of poor attendance. Expected to testify today are ATP Tour Chair & President Etienne de Villiers; ATP BOD Tournament Rep Zeljko Franulovic, who opposes the ATP in the Hamburg matter; and the tournament’s expert on damages. The plaintiffs are then expected to rest their case.

Sports Business Daily
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

ATP vs Hamburg Day 6

by Savannah

Charlie Passarell's Vote At Issue In Ongoing ATP-Hamburg Trial

By Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer, SportsBusiness Journal

Attorney For Hamburg Event Focuses On ATP BOD Member's Vote To Demote Tournament

The ATP antitrust trial continued into its sixth day yesterday, with the lawyer for the Hamburg, Germany, tournament arguing a key board vote for the calendar restructuring at the heart of the issue was improper under the circuit’s bylaws. The German and Arab organizers of the Hamburg stop are suing because the tourney is being demoted from the first to second tier of events under the new plan, which was passed by the ATP board in January '07 by a vote of six to one. One of those six votes was Charlie Passarell, who also owns 22% of the Masters Series event in Indian Wells, California. Hamburg attorney Rob MacGill argued that ATP bylaws prevent board members from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest. Because the single no vote was one of the three tournament reps on the board, and two of the three were required for passage, had Passarell abstained the controversial system would not have passed. Passarell argued he did not consider himself to have a financial incentive in the vote because his tournament did not need the new system to thrive, even though it would become one of the top eight events instead of one of nine. The issue was not the only one in which MacGill pounded Passarell. MacGill has made a big issue during the trial of alleged conflict of interests among ATP board members. The Indian Wells tournament paid a $1M transfer fee to the ATP in '06 for the sale of half of the men’s event, which was valued at $20M in full. But Doha, Qatar, had a $58M proposal on the table, which included the WTA event too. And in a '99 transaction, the transfer fee for the sale of the Masters Series event in Miami was based on a higher competing offer, MacGill said. IMG paid $33M for that event, but according to MacGill, ProServ had bid $40M. MacGill’s inference clearly was that as a board member, Passarell received preferential treatment.

ZIMBALIST BACK ON THE STAND: On another matter, the controversial testimony of sports economist Andrew Zimbalist is now scheduled to begin again. His appearance last Thursday caused an uproar when it was discovered he had an outline in front of him, contrary to court protocol. Judge Gregory Sleet said he would allow Zimbalist to continue testifying today, but the judge still has not decided whether to strike his testimony. Also, he will allow a lawyer for two of the ATP board members to ask him if he was instructed to bring the document to the stand with him. MacGill said he told Zimbalist not to bring it up with him, but upon learning of that contention after his abbreviated testimony Thursday, Zimbalist reacted angrily, according to a court transcript, and tried to reach the judge and court clerk.


Monday, July 28, 2008

ATP vs Hamburg - Trial May Go Beyond Two Weeks

by Savannah

ATP Trial Could Last Beyond Scheduled Two Weeks
By Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer, SportsBusiness Journal

Organizers of the Hamburg, Germany, tennis tournament and the ATP failed to settle their differences over the weekend as of 8:00pm ET yesterday, a source close to the talks said, and the case was headed to a second week of trial this morning. The Hamburg stop is suing the ATP under U.S. antitrust law for planning to demote the event. With a week under its belt, the trial threatens to go longer than its scheduled two weeks now, if it gets to the jury, because of delays last Thursday regarding a witness issue and break for settlement talks. Friday’s court session revealed that ATP board director Iggy Jovanovic had a contract while on the board to broker a sponsorship for Emirates Airline with Tennis Canada, owner of one of the elite ATP events. This appears to violate the ATP bylaws that player representatives on the board not work for a tournament member. He also worked for Abu Dhabi in trying to secure an ATP event. He was accused by the Hamburg tourney of using insider information to pass on to Abu Dhabi, especially as it related to Doha, Qatar, being available. The Qatari Tennis Federation owns 25% of the Hamburg event, and owns a tournament in Doha that applied for the second tier of the new ATP calendar but was turned down. Questioned if he had read the bylaws when he took his post in January '06, Jovanovic testified he could not recall. Jovanovic said he was an adviser to Abu Dhabi on a variety of matters, not just tennis, and that he was not hired by Tennis Canada to find sponsorships but was only assisting a friend to help Emirates. Nonetheless, he signed a contract with Tennis Canada, according to a trial exhibit, that entitles to him 10% of Emirates sponsorship fee, which is nearly $500,000.

PATTERN EMERGING: What is emerging at the trial is that the ATP’s new calendar system involves multi-tiered payments from the tournaments to be part of the circuit. More than $80M over five years in bid premiums are expected by the ATP, Hamburg lawyer Rob MacGill said. Big premiums were offered by events on top of the value of the sanction they were bidding on. So Beijing for example paid a bid premium of $1.1M over 10 years for its tier 2, or 500 as it is known in the ATP '09 calendar. Today, Jovanovic is expected to finish his testimony, and then expected to testify are Charlie Steeb, the current tournament director in Hamburg, board member Charlie Passarell, and ATP Tour Chair & President Etienne de Villiers.


ATP vs Hamburg Trial Update 7/28/08 AM

by Savannah

This morning's update.


By Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer, SportsBusiness Journal

Organizers of the Hamburg, Germany, tennis tournament and the ATP failed to settle their differences over the weekend as of 8:00pm ET Sunday, a source close to the talks said, and the case was headed to a second week of trial this morning. With a week under its belt, the trial threatens to go longer than its scheduled two weeks, if it gets to the jury, because of delays last Thursday regarding a witness issue and a break for settlement talks.

Today, ATP board director Iggy Jovanovic is expected to finish his testimony, and then expected to testify are Charlie Steeb, the current tournament director in Hamburg, board member Charlie Passarell, and ATP Tour Chair & President Etienne de Villiers.

Sports Business Journal

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Concrete Victories

by Savannah

Singles Winners

Rafael Nadal Winner AMS Masters Series Toronto

Dinara Safina winner 2008 East West Bank Classic

Sara Errani Winner 2008 Slovenia Open
Doubles Winners

Chuang Chia-Jung and Chan Yung-Jan Doubles winners 2008 East West Bank Classic

Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic Doubles Winners 2008 AMS Toronto
By the way Rafael Nadal won his 12th Masters Shield today.

Friday, July 25, 2008

ATP vs Hamburg Update 7/25/08

by Savannah

Anyone who has ever been a juror in a civil case will experience a strong case of deja vu.


By Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer, SportsBusiness Journal

Substantial progress was made at settling the ATP antitrust suit yesterday afternoon after the judge in the case, Gregory Sleet, urged the two sides to get together, a source close to the talks said. Sides representing the ATP and organizers of the Hamburg, Germany, event met for five hours yesterday and were planning to meet again this morning at the Hotel du Pont, where ATP officials are staying. The sides were due in court by 8:30am with the jury expected to arrive by 9:00am.

The organizers of the Hamburg tour stop are suing the ATP in Delaware under U.S. antitrust law for planning to demote the sanction status of the event. The past three and a half days of court proceedings have featured sometimes heated testimony and revealing inside information into the workings of men's tennis, with yesterday including an appearance by economist Andrew Zimbalist that led the defense to call at one point for a mistrial and the judge to dismiss the jury by noon
Sports Business Daily

Thursday, July 24, 2008

ATP vs Hamburg Trial Update - A Mistrial?

by Savannah

From Sports Business Daily


By Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer, SportsBusiness Journal

Judge Dismisses Jury Early After
Noticing Witness Using Notes On Stand
Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist’s testimony at the ATP antitrust trial in Delaware today caused an uproar, leading the defense to call at one point for a mistrial and the judge to dismiss the jury by noon, at least five hours early. Zimbalist, an expert witness for the organizers of the Hamburg, Germany, tour stop that is suing the ATP for demoting the event, took with him to the witness stand a 17-page document on which he apparently based some, if not much, of his testimony. Only after 90 minutes of testimony was this noticed and his appearance halted.

Witnesses are not allowed to bring notes up to the stand, and Hamburg’s lawyer, Rob MacGill, told Judge Gregory Sleet, according to a transcript, he had told Zimbalist this morning not to bring the outline. The outline was prepared in conjunction with MacGill, the lawyer told the judge. While the fact the document was not disclosed to the defense is an issue, said Brad Ruskin, the ATP’s chief counsel, “The most important issue here is what happened on the stand without question. So now you have a lawyer’s outline from which he is testifying in that situation.”

At one point during his testimony, Zimbalist corrected MacGill and asked him if he asked the right question. This kind of prepared testimony is not allowed because the witness could then be viewed as simply parroting the lawyer’s opinion, not issuing his own.

Judge Sleet dismissed the jury and said he would consider striking the testimony from the record. Sleet said to the lawyers after discussing the issue, “Well, I have seen it all.” The ATP twice, including yesterday, tried to convince the judge to dismiss Zimbalist as an expert witness because of concerns about his methodology. Sleet turned down those requests. The question now is whether the Zimbalist testimony, even if stricken from the record, will be viewed as having tainted the jury.

Heard Around

by Savannah

As a follow up to Craig's report on last night's match the good people over at TalkAboutTennis have posted a transcript of Roger's Post Match Interview
Interesting reading for Roger's fans. Among the comments Roger made is the following:
Only really three, four days of practice since Wimbledon. It's not an excuse in any way, but I'm going to get some practice in.

By the way Gilles Simon's post match interview transcript is also available.
Thanks to Talk About Tennis' woman on site Mariya Konovalova for the pictures and posting the transcripts from ASAP Sports. There is also audio of the post match interviews available on the site for fans enjoyment.

I hope fans don't get down on Marat Safin. He played two matches yesterday. He won the first and lost the second. Rain delays haven't wreaked havoc but have caused problems. One fan asked why American tournaments don't have covers on their courts and I have to say it's a good question. Maybe someone gets pleasure out of seeing ball kids wiping up the courts after a good rain but it is kind of retro. That air pressure thingy they use at Wimbledon seems like it would be the answer to a lot of problems caused by late summer weather in the United States.


There are two women's events this week. One is the Slovenia Open, a Tier IV, being played in Portoroz, Slovenia. The other is the East West Bank Classic a Tier II event that is taking place in Los Angeles. Serena Williams, who played hurt last week in Stanford, didn't take the court this week, a wise move on her part with the Olympics and the US Open coming up. That leaves Jelena Jankovic in the position of possibly claiming the number one spot without having won a Slam. Kim Clijsters and Amelie Mauresmo attained the number one ranking under similar circumstances.

The 800lb Gorilla in the Room

This of course refers to the trial being held in the United States between the German and Arab organizers of the Hamburg Masters and the ATP headed by Etienne de Villiers. That this trial promises to air a lot of dirty laundry as well as have repercussions beyond tennis is an understatement. So far the following has been made public.

The executive chairman of the ATP, Étienne de Villiers, and his general counsel warned executives at the sports marketing giant IMG that their business would suffer if they testified against the ATP in an antitrust lawsuit, according to a letter written by IMG’s senior counsel.

IMG, a pioneer in sports management, took the threat seriously and will not make its employees available to testify in the $77 million lawsuit that begins Monday in United States District Court in Wilmington, Del.

The transcript of the hearing, however, indicated that lawyers for the organizers of the tournament in Hamburg, Germany, a clay-court event which is to be downgraded from the top tier of tournaments for 2009, contend that the Germans were victims of a pay-for-play conspiracy. MacGill said he would present evidence that organizers of the Shanghai tournament paid the ATP $29 million to be upgraded to a premier event, according to the transcript. ATP officials then offered Hamburg organizers $4 million to $8 million to accept its demotion.

For the complete article please go Here

From Bloomberg News comes the following:

ATP directors voted to approve the Brave New World plan after a series of backdoor deals that transferred Hamburg's membership rights to Shanghai and gave Madrid Hamburg's current tournament slot, MacGill said. ATP, motivated by money, was paid more than $29 million by Shanghai and about $32 million by people in London who bought Shanghai's rights to the Tennis Masters Cup in 2009, MacGill told jurors.

The restructuring plan was approved amid objections from 20 European tournament directors in January 2007. The top 20 men's tennis players also objected once the plan was announced in March 2007, MacGill said.

The only thing missing are horse heads in people's beds. I will keep you updated. I still wonder why the women haven't protested Roadkill as loudly and vociferously as the men have Brave New World.

End Notes

From Tennis Week
Babolat has put out a series of racquest for the junior player. Their name? Nadal Junior.

The folks at Tennis Week are running a poll where tennisheads get to vote for who they think the best television analyst is. The choices? JMac,
Brad Gilbert, PMac and Darren Cahill. They can't be serious can they?

I get on JMac's case a lot but when he's right he's right. And on the subject of player development in the United States John McEnroe is right. As I type this Andy Roddick has crashed out of Toronto after showing an inability to think his way out of the box his style of tennis has created for him. The hype machine was saying that Andy would reclaim his rightful position at Wimbledon. Now all hopes ride on the US Open. Coming as it does after the Olympics which Roddick will not be attending it can be said that he will have an edge over players who have made the long trek to Beijing and back to New York.

But Roddick was out thought by Marin Cilic today and it was obvious he had no answer for the young Croatian. John McEnroe has long been a critic of the United States tennis establishment and has lately been taking it to task for it's failure to develop any players able to step onto the world stage as fully developed players able to play all surfaces, construct intelligent points and, when Plan A fails have a Plan B. His brother Patrick was recently appointed General Manager USTA Elite Player Development but John asks where the funds have gone that were supposedly dedicated to this already.

I remember when, as a newbie on tennis fan boards five years ago American fans were laughing at the then new Spanish program for player development and saying that creating an atmosphere where each player was treated as an individual as well as part of Team Spain would create a bunch of wusses unable to compete against the take no prisoners attitude of the Americans and Australians. No one is saying that now. When Venus and Serena say "no mas" and get on with their lives who is going to take their place? Maria Sharapova, the quintessential "American Girl" plays Davis Cup for Russia. The current women's number one is from Serbia as is the number two ranked woman.

I don't think it's too soon for American tennis fans to panic. The people who are paid to do that seem to have dropped the ball. Instead of player development the tennis establishment in the States was looking for Brave New World to rearrange the deck chairs and downgrade the favored world wide surface - clay - in favor of playing on concrete ignoring the fact that the game has changed and is now won between the ears as well as between the lines. Brute strength alone won't win the majors.

The British just got a new citizen, all of fourteen, to brighten their prospects on the women's side. They tried to get Novak Djokovic a few years ago. So far the United States has not gone that route. It's going to be a very difficult couple of years for American tennis.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Roger Federer is Crushed

Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, Roger Federer looks like Andy Roddick after the 2004 Wimbledon final.

Never thought I'd see it happen, but...

Serving was about the only thing the world No. 1 did well in his devastating 6-2, 5-7, 4-6 loss to Gilles Simon in the second round of the Rogers Cup.

I'm trying to remember the last time Raja lost two matches on the ATP tour in a row and I'm coming up blank.

Losing Wimbledon finals is crushing.

That's why Rafael Nadal's victory earns my utmost respect because my guy never recovered from his first Wimbledon final loss.


Tonight, Raja was pissy, cussing, annoyed, rattled, erratic. Insert another synonym here. And when the Frenchman, fresh off his surprise victory in Indianapolis, refused to submit in the third set after being broken twice, Raja became unglued.


For the first time in his career he has to deal with losing the final of the Slam that means the most.

It helps that he's won the thing five times, and like other Wimbledon champions who have lost subsequent finals, it's likely Raja will play on the final Sunday in London once more.

Or not.

I'm thinking of Bjorn Borg right now.

Whatever will be will be.

But Raja has some healing to do and while he's doing it, the quality of his tennis will be anybody's guess.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Who's That Girl?

Her name is Aleksandra Wozniak. She's 20-years-old, hails from Canada where she's to top player, is ranked No. 85 in the world and won her first WTA in her first final as a qualifier at Bank of the West. Along the way, she notched wins over Francesca Schiavone, Sybille Bammer, Samantha Stosur, an injured Serena Williams, and Marion Bartoli.

She's the first Canadian to win a WTA title in 20 years, and only the fifth in history.

Raise your hand if you thought Wozniak would win a Tier II title before Nicole Vaidisova even made a Tier II final.

Gilles Simon battled his way to his first US hardcourt title in his first appearance at the Indianapolis Tennis Championships with a convincing straight-set dismissal of defending champ Dmitry Tursunov.

All the Frenchman wanted to do was play some matches in the grueling heat and humidity. And he takes the title. Fancy that.

It was supposed to be an All-American final. Or so the networks hoped. But James Blake has no confidence, and Sam Querrey still isn't ready to make his first.

Fernando Verdasco, Croatia Open Champion

Juan Martin del Potro, Austrian Open champion

Alberto Montanes, Dutch Open Champion

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Heard Around

by Savannah

There is a great interview with Antoni Nadal in Sport.Scotsman
It was published on July 6, 2008. The quote that stands out for me is this:

But, for Toni, it has never been about the money. Seeing his nephew add the Wimbledon title to his French Open wins could not, he says, be bettered by a pay cheque, which he refuses to take for coaching family.

"If I earn money from him then he becomes my boss. For the player and for me it is much better that the player is not my boss. I think sometimes the problem with these guys is that they are the boss.

"When his father told me 'you must do this' I told him I didn't want anything, because I want to be able to say what I want."
A must read.

And from the opposite end of the spectrum here are Alexandra Stevenson's musings on her "meeting" a young Rafael Nadal. I will let her speak for herself.

(...) I remember all my old Wimbledons, and I even remember a young Rafael Nadal as a junior player, staring me down. It was 2002, and junior players are not allowed to practice at Aorangi, the practice site. Well, a young Nadal, who was playing juniors at Wimbledon, walked down to my practice court that year, which was in the back, and he pressed his face against the gate, watching me hit. It was in the day when I worried about who was around my court because of all the press and the father issues, so I asked my mom to go see who was at the gate. She did. She said to the young boy at the gate, "You are Nadal, the player who is supposed to be a great champion one day." I kid you not. She said that. She invited him in. He said, in broken English, "No, no, I watch her. Semifinals at Wimbledon." And he smiled. It seems he wanted to see the girl who had made history.

I thought that was cute back then -- and, looking back on it, it goes along with him and his champion's mentality -- he cared about history and wanted to see it up close. I want to see it up close again, too.


Censorship and Fan Boards
Every webmaster or webmistress has to struggle with what "image" he or she wants their board to present to the world. Should the atmosphere be frat house anything goes, straight laced and all about the facts, the "it's my way or the highway" approach or the you can post what you want but there is a definite line that can't be crossed approach. Some fan boards are associated with large sports media outlets of either the broadcast or print variety and have their loyal followers.
All fan boards are some variation of the above and a tennishead can take his or her time to find the right fit for their personality and tennis fix.

But what happens when speculation turns into innuendo? What if a fan, or a group of fans, with an axe to grind against a particular player begin to post what they want to believe is the truth with no basis apparent basis in fact? What happens if fans see something, draw inferences from it and proceed to make those inferences into "fact"? Is it the job of the boards admins or webmasters/mistresses to censor fans "opinions" no matter how obnoxious, wrong headed or hurtful?

I know I'm sounding like Carrie in "Sex and the City" writing one of her columns but I have reasons plural for asking the question.

Recently a picture was published of a top female tennis player and the woman described as her best friend. A thread appeared on a women's tennis fan board that went deeply into what some fans thought they saw happening that went deeply into questions about the players sexuality and why said player should, shouldn't, can't or won't come out. The thread disappeared after a few days.

On a men's board a thread regularly appears that accuses one player of being a juicer based on what appear to be spurious rumors that have been debunked. The thread appears any time this player wins a tournament. The admins of this board let it appear and the argument rage until the thread fades into oblivion until it's resurrected.

One of the boards associated with a large media outfit once seemed like the wild west of fan boards. It's been calmed down quite a bit but if you want provocative posts about tennis and those who play it this is the place to go. A long time poster recently stated that "Anglo's" were upset at a Spaniard winning Wimbledon. The thread was allowed to stay. There has also been speculation on that board about juicing players. These threads were not deleted. But other threads there are regularly deleted for apparently no other reason than the opinion voiced annoys another poster.

What is censorship? There are many people who feel any attempt to silence someone's opinion, whether you agree with it or not, is beyond the pale and goes against freedom of speech. I don't like certain things said about my favorites but I don't think fans who have other favorites should be silenced unless what they say can be considered libelous. That decision would be made by lawyers and not your average tennis fan though. Was this the case with the thread that was deleted from the women's tennis site? I don't know. As an outsider I can speculate about what happened but that would not serve any purpose. Only the people who run that board know why the thread was deleted. I don't have any answers - I don't think there are any. All I can say is that if a website annoys you I'm sure there's another one that meets your needs.

Michael Chang

Michael was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame on July 12, 2008. His speech was all about the role of family, faith and talent played in his career. It was moving but not maudlin, emotional but not overly so, and inspiring whether you share Chang's deep faith or not. Congratulations Michael on both your induction into the Hall of Fame and your engagement to Ms Amber Liu.

Idle Chit Chat

Andy Murray has pulled out of Indianapolis.
Tatiana Golovin has also pulled out of Los Angeles and is in doubt for Montreal due to medical issues.
Daniela Hantuchova has done a profile featured in the TimesonLine.

So Tennis Channel says that Maria Sharapova is the first Russian woman to win a Grand Slam. Anastasia Myskina may have something to say about that factoid. I for one am looking for the translation of Myskina's comments into family friendly English.

Instead of doing two separate posts I've put the pictures of the winners of this weeks tournaments in the regular blog.
From the Top(Singles):
Tommy Robredo winner Bastad 2008
Victor Hanescu winner Gstaad 2008
Juan-Martin del Potro winner Stuttgart 2008
Alize Cornet winner Gaz de France 2008
Sara Errani winner Palermo 2008(below)

So far today all but one of the singles winners are first time title holders. Congratulations to all of them!
Newport boasts the only champion who has been a winner before. Congratulations to Fabrice Santoro, 2008 Champion, Newport.

Doubles Winners
Sara Errani and Nuria Llagostera Vives Doubles Champions Palermo 2008
C. Kas and P. Kohlschreiber 2008 Doubles Champions Stuttgart
J. Levinsky and F. Polasek Doubles Champions Gstaad 2008
J. Bjorkman and R. Soderling Doubles Champions Bastad
M. Fish and J. Isner Doubles Champions Newport 2008(no picture as of yet)

Ad Execs Say Rafa is not Marketable
So I begin and end with the Nadal family. I found this article posted on a fan site and thought readers might be interested.
Apparently marketing execs don't think the new Wimbledon champion is marketable outside of Spain.

Here is a quote made by one executive.
Jim Andrews, director of IEG Sponsorship Report, a Chicago- based newsletter that estimates the value of corporate sponsorships, said Nadal hasn't publicly addressed the most significant issue: Does he want to become a top endorser, or would he rather limit his sponsorships and focus on winning tennis matches?
``He is a quiet, humble guy, who leads a normal life,'' Andrews said. ``He's not on the national party circuit, or taking meetings with Fortune 500 types. And if that's who he is, that's just fine.
``The Wimbledon victory puts him on the list of endorsers to consider. But until he makes an effort to clean up his English and show he wants to get out there and sell, I don't think anyone will be dialing their agents screaming, `We've got to sign this guy.'''

There is also this:
His agent, Carlos Costa, declined to say what the player made from endorsement income.

For the entire article go HERE

What do I think? Vamos!

Monday, July 7, 2008

The 2008 United States Open

by Savannah
They must be nervous. After a Wimbledon that will go down in history for achievements by athletes in both the ATP and WTA does the United States Grand Slam dare come across as, well, meh? How do you guarantee that in this post Olympic 2008 US Open the players come in ready to play their best tennis? They can't. Who will come in injured? Who will come in with a bad case of the "I can'ts" and find their way to the exit during the first week? For the American tennis establishment there is an even bigger question. Will the American players represent or will the second week feature all of the familiar names that dominated the European clay and grass court seasons?

The only major player on the men's side who is not going to the Olympics is Andy Roddick. He is the top ranked US man and to say that his year since Monte Carlo has not been good is putting it mildly. No one expected much good to happen during the clay court season and Roddick pulled out of competition due to a shoulder injury sustained, he said, while moving into his new condo with his fiancee. No biggie. Grass courts are what would heal the American psyche they said. Expect our men to show their dominance.
Not quite what happened is it?

Instead of showing up in top shape mentally and physically one could argue that American men showed up ill prepared for any play in Europe. I remember seeing a picture of Rafael Nadal personally scouting an Andy Roddick match at Queens. The man that Roddick took the court expecting to play did not exist anymore. And Andy found himself on his way to prepare for Wimbledon after making what has become an all too familiar early exit.

This is not to pick on Andy. James Blake, who also made a good early run on the terre battue was a non presence at Wimbledon. And lest we forget the Bryan Brothers crashed out as well.
So who will be the men's favorite coming in? Normally I would say Roger Federer but this is an Olympic year and unlike Andy Roddick Roger will be attending. I don't know if we'll end up like we did in 2004 with Nicolas Masssu as the Olympic champion or not. I do know Andy Roddick is banking on having a great US Open Series and coming into the Open more rested than his peers.

Will we see Roger playing events other than the two Masters Series events? Will more of the Europeans who play well on concrete play in the US Open Series? Will an American come from nowhere and stop bloggers and columnists from writing the obituary for American tennis?

And no I didn't forget the women. It's just that the situation is a little trickier here. The top American man was born and raised in the States. The woman a casual fan could be forgiven for thinking is American actually claims Russian nationality and has no intention of exchanging her Russian citizenship for American citizenship. And she will limp into the US Open Series for 2008 as well. Her clay season was, well, moving on. At Wimbledon she made an early exit and showed up at Paris Fashion week the next day with her friend Camilla Belle. Yet Maria Sharapova always seems to get a friendly draw in New York so she can't be counted out.

Then there is the Serbian woman Ana Ivanovic. She is the first player from her country to be ranked number one. She also made an early exit from Wimbledon. That's her with her back to the camera. The woman giving the power salute is Zheng Jie of China. She sent Ana packing early while she made a run to the semi finals that saw her give a good fight to someone named Serena Williams. Thanks to Ms Zheng the Chinese may now be thinking they can try for a medal in singles at the Olympics.

By the way that's Serena Williams in full stretch at the top. She has a sister named Venus. You may have heard of them. Something about Venus winning her fifth Wimbledon title and then along with her sister winning the Ladies doubles crown there as well.

If both Venus and Serena show up healthy they should be favored to make a deep run. Unless of course they're on the same side of the draw. That tends to happen a lot to them. Rankings people say. They were on opposite sides of the draw in London and ended up playing each other in the Final. Their romp through the doubles took place while they were tearing up the singles draw.
The thing is some people seem to have a problem with them being the top American women. They have lives away from tennis, something they've been criticized for in the past. Some of those critics have been eating a large side order of crow to go with their humble pie these days. Seems having a life outside of tennis can indeed be a good thing. And lets not forget that they were the only American's to make it through.

I have to digress for a minute. There was a lot of chatter about about the easy draw Venus had and that kind of ticked me off. Novak Djokovic had the easiest draw of all the seeds at Wimbledon. I don't recall seeing his name among the quarter or semi finalists at Wimbledon. Did I miss him? Roger Federer didn't play a seed until the quarters if I recall correctly. But no one thought anything amiss with that situation. They just had to keep talking about Venus draw. Hey, isn't it random? She could only play who was in front of her right?

This past fortnight the designated cannon fodder seems to have realized that they are professionals and that if they come on court thinking they don't deserve to be there then they don't. Alla Kudryavtseva, when asked if she was surprised she won against Maria Sharapova replied that she came on court to win. Zheng Jie is now on everyone's radar. She was supposed to be a speed bump in Ana Ivanovic's sweep to the Final. Some speed bump. And this is what made the Wimbledon fortnight great. Men and women came to play to win. They didn't accept their media designated roles and we got to see a quality of tennis that hasn't been seen in quite some time. The "others" came to take names and in some cases they did.
One of the best women's matches involved Dinara Safina of Russia and Shahar Pe'er of Israel. The commentators talked on and on about Dinara's big brother. But he wasn't on court. Dinara was and on one leg tried to will herself into the next round but it wasn't to be. Laura Robson of Great Britain by way of Australia and Singapore impressed with her win over a very good player, Noppawan Lertcheewakarn from Thailand in the Junior Girls final. She's fourteen. She can't play a Slam until next year. The British can hardly wait. She's talking trash to Venus Williams already. But she won't be playing in New York. She got television time though. The other trash talking teen Bernard Tomic made it to the semi finals of the Junior Boy's tournament in London. The young man who won the Junior Boys title somehow didn't get any air time. His last name is Grigor Dimitrov and he's from Bulgaria. I don't think he got air time.

In the end we saw glimpses of glory past trying to be reclaimed and previews of what glory there is to come.Unfortunately none of the future, and very little of that past glory was American.

So in the end what does this mean? Who are the favorites? Healthy Venus Williams and Serena Williams have to be considered favorites on the womens side. As for the men right now Roger Federer has to be considered the favorite. He tends to get favorable draws in New York too. I think Andy might luck up and get one too this year. Will the number one ranking for the men be decided in the heat and humidity of New York City come September? Will a dominant woman emerge from the pack of wannabe's currently exchanging places at the top of the WTA ranking? For the first time in a very long time the US Open as well as the US Open Series is important. Let's see what we have come September.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Wimbledon Champion!!!!!!!!

by Savannah

Those of us who are fans of Rafael Nadal always knew he was a special player, someone who would make history. We cried when the brutal schedule the AELTC enforced last year saw him come up short. We hated seeing him go down in Rome, one of his favorite events.
But all of that means nothing now as he hoists the most coveted trophy in tennis. He didn't close it out when we all thought he would but he did it as he does everything on his terms and in his way.
It has always been Rafa's dream to win Wimbledon. He has. He is no longer a "clay court specialist", he is simply a great tennis player. Congratulations Rafa!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Number 5

by Savannah

Not much to say is there? Venus let everyone know Centre Court is her house and no one, not even her sister, was going to move her out of it. Win number five. 'Nuff said.
Congratulations to both Venus and Serena for giving us a very entertaining and hard fought ladies final.

And it was so nice they did it twice. Congratulations to the Wimbledon Women's Doubles Champions for 2008.

There were other champions crowned today.

Laura Robson 2008 Girls Singles Champion

Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor 2008 Mens Doubles Champions

Friday, July 4, 2008

SW19 July 5, 2008

by Savannah

They are the only two women left standing. All the neophytes and pretenders have fallen by the wayside and once again the Sisters Williams, Venus and Serena, stand alone on Centre Court on the hallowed lawns of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. We are eight years into the new century and in six of those eight years someone named Williams has hoisted the Venus Rosewater Trophy.

Which sister will it be this time? Will it be Serena, the woman called Fierce Stomping Diva by some, the sister who comes on court like a force of nature sweeping all before her?

Or will it be The Queen, Her Highness Venus? With her head held high and her features stilled into neutral will she prevail this year breaking her only every other year victory streak in the process?

By this time tomorrow we'll know. The one thing I do know is that they were sisters before tomorrow's match, and they'll be sisters when it's over.

Those on the outside should remember that blood is thicker than water. It's also often stated that outsiders do not jump into a family matter. Some say they know the dynamic between the sisters. Some claim to know how they'll react on court tomorrow. In reality no one can say that. We can only watch, and speculate, and in the end be in awe of the incredible domination these two women have shown at The Championships Wimbledon and that in the end in the legacy they will leave us with.