Friday, November 28, 2008

Heard Around

by Savannah

I took a day and a half off for the US holiday on Thursday so some relevant news has been out for awhile in today's terms.

Top of the list is French Eurosport's report that Venus Williams will be playing Acapulco next February. The TD must be doing hand stands and double flips with this confirmation and Mexican tennis in general will get a boost. I'm guessing that Venus is using this venue as her International tournament and thus fulfilling a requirement of Road Kill.
This tournament was one of my favorites last year and I was already looking forward to watching again via ESPN Deportes here in the States. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Flavia Pennetta may not be as happy as I am about Venus showing up. Then again she kind of owns Vee and the surface here is clay. Who knows, maybe Venus is going to be serious about contending the French Open in 2009.

Top Tennis Countries - ATP

The ATPhas posted the top tennis countries for 2008. Seems I was wrong in saying Spain is the top country for 2008. It's tied with France. The French were the outright winners last year with 15 players in the top 100. The United States is ranked fourth.

Country 2008 total (2007 total)

France 14 (15)
Spain 14 (12)
Argentina 9 (11)
USA 8 (7)
Germany 7 (7)
Russia 7 (6)
Croatia 5 (4)
Czech Republic 4 (3)
Italy 4 (5)
Belgium 3 (3)
Serbia 3 (3)

Of course tennisheads have to take things one step further and so a long time, and controversial, fan over on ESPN has taken it a step further and done the following:

Let's take the top 32 though, just as the seeds for a Slam, and put a lower limit of 2 players per country :

Spain______ 6
Russia_____ 5
US_________ 3
Croatia_____ 2

Never one to sidestep controversy the fan takes it one step further and breaks the top fifty down by region using a base of at least one player per country.

Latin countries_________ 23
Slavic countries_________14
Anglo-Saxon countries___12

So does play on red clay matter? It appears so.

Davis Cup News

Reports were that the leading candidates to replace Alberto Mancini as Argentine Davis Cup captain were Martin Jaite (David Nalbandian's coach), Hernan Gumy and
Gabriel Markus (a former Nalbandian coach). It's now being reported that Guillermo Vilas has thrown his hat into the ring. With all the mud still being slung around who was supposed to get what money for doing what regarding Nalbandian and how the Del Potro family stepped in to protect Juan Martin putting anyone associated with David Nalbandian in as DC coach seems a little crazy to this outsider but one never knows do one?

As for Spain Emilio Sanchez has called Albert Costa his "natural successor". David Ferrer has voiced support for Costa and Rafael Nadal has done so in the past.

Alex Corretja's name is still in the mix though. With Pedro Munoz still trying to hold on to his position as head of the RFET this could get interesting.

This and That
Jimmy Connors has been charged with a misdemeanor following his arrest last Friday at a basketball game at the University of California, Santa Barbara, reports AP. His business manager told the wire service that a man was trying to pick a fight with Connors and police arrested the former tennis star when he did not obey their instructions to leave. Connors said he wanted to wait for his son to finish watching the basketball game.

The news that one time WTA top five player Jelena Dokic and one time contender and pin up Mark Philippoussis are both talking come back deserves mention.

Raemon Sluiter, who retired after Rotterdam this year and Xavier Malisse who has struggled with injury are both on the come back trail.

Maria Sharapova's agent has stated that she is "on track" to defend her Australian Open title in January.
Maria is scheduled to join Vera Zvonareva, and Alexandra Panova (Russian team); Jelena Jankovic, Agnes Szavay and Michelle Larcher de Brito (Europe); Venus Williams, Gisela Dulko and Coco Vandeweghe (Americas) at the Hong Kong Exhibition in January. This event was very nice last year featuring competitive play from all involved.

It seems negotiations are underway for Andy Roddick to play Fernando Gonzalez in Chile early next year. Think new coach Larry Stefanki had anything to do with this? It's good to see American players finally realizing there is an entire continent to their south. Maybe this will upgrade the South American spring clay events.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Serena Williams WTA Player of the Year

by Savannah

Why Serena and not someone else? Let's look at Serena's record for 2008.
Overall Record

Four Singles Titles
Two Doubles Titles
Won/Loss Record 44-8

The stand outs are the Wimbledon Final where she lost to her sister
Venus Williams and the victory, after the doubles win at the Olympics, at the US Open over Jelena Jankovic. Let's not forget that she and her sister won the Doubles at Wimbledon after playing one of their best, and one of the best women's matches of the year.
Serena also won Miami, often called the Fifth Slam. Along the way she beat Justine Henin 2 and 0,
Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets, and Jelena Jankovic in the final 6-1, 5-7, 6-3. She followed that up by winning the Family Circle Cup overcoming Maria Sharapova in the quarters 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, up and comer Alize Cornet in straights in the semis, and
Vera Zvonareva 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the final.
Serena did attain the number one ranking and finished the year ranked second in the world. For a complete list of Serena's stats please go HERE

Some will ask why I didn't pick the women's number one as the Player of the Year. Did she play the best tennis? Not in my opinion. She did play the most with an overall won/loss record of 65/19. I said before that Jelena played as many tournaments as she can physically stand and that that is what gives her the cushion to get to number one.

What about Venus, winner of Wimbledon and the YEC with a won/loss record of 40/11? Or Dinara Safina who finished third in the world with four singles titles and two doubles titles and a won/loss record of 55/20?

The amount of tennis Dinara played over the year caught up with her at the end. She is more fit and I think that next year she is going to challenge both Serena and Jelena with a less stressful but more competitive schedule.

Venus seemed to regain her focus at the YEC and if she carries that positive attitude into 2009 she too stands a chance to challenge the top two women.

But this is about Serena. Her schedule this year worked very well for her. I'm sure she wanted to end the year at the top but playing less tennis than the women above and behind her she still made it to number one and ended the year ranked second.

So go on and enjoy your vacations Serena. Dare to have a life. The pundits are finally admitting that you and your sister will probably leave tennis as the most mentally balanced of them all. And congratulations for having the best year of them all.

Tuesday Tirade

by Craig Hickman

Spain deserved their Davis Cup victory. It was the better team. But I wanted Argentina to win.

Here's why.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tennis Talk

by Savannah

The Davis Cup

The fallout in Argentina continues and it ain't a pretty sight. Juan Pablo Varsky writing in the Argentine paper La Nacion details the behind the scenes infighting and in the end the lack of a team spirit among the Argentine players. David Nalbandian who while teased incessantly about his weight had gotten relatively good tennis press comes off as, well, the heavy in this saga. Starting with his injecting himself into the venue search - seems he would've gotten some nice cheese for delivering it to his home territory of Cordoba - to seemingly doing the Captain's job by making sure only those he wanted made the team. Guillermo Canas was not one of the chosen. Neither was Juan Monaco. Canas has not been in the best form of late but would he have made a good doubles fit with Monaco giving Dave a day off? Who knows. What about up and coming Eduardo Schwank? Could he have been there as a reserve? Captain Alberto Mancini has resigned.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda I know but all of these questions have to be asked in the wake of what can only be called a stunning defeat by Team Spain.
And Team Spain it is. Spain was ridiculed for it's experiment in creating a team mentality to go along with the naturally competitive one all tennis players posses. So what has this so called idiocy produced? Spain is now the number one tennis country on the planet. Others may stake a claim but I don't think any other country can point to the results Spain can and this despite a year of turmoil where players worked to unseat the head of it's tennis federation for lying and disrespect. If Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco use this Davis Cup triumph as a stepping stone to next year especially during the spring and summer hard court swings in the United States it's going to be very interesting.

As for Argentina I don't know anyone who has the gonads to step into this furnace. Oh wait. Guillermo Coria anyone? Some may say Argentine tennis elder statesman Guillermo Vilas is the man for the job but he seems at a happy, peaceful place in his life right now. He smartly kept his name out of the press in relation to the venue and court surface fiasco.

Coria has played much more recently and seems to have the temperament to get in the face of anyone who would challenge his vision for the team. This is just my opinion and everyone knows what body part opinions resemble and that everyone has one.

At any rate Davis Cup play resumes in March. The rankings are as follows.
1. Russia
2. Spain
3. United States
4. Argentina
The top three are separated by  200 points. For all the details please go to the Source where a PDF file listing all the rankings is available.

This and That

In a surprise move Andy Roddick has chosen Larry Stefanki as his head coach. Stefanki broke his contract with Fernando Gonzalez, which was to run through the French Open in 2009 to take a job with the USTA, possibly working with Jose Higueras. This is reportedly what he told Gonzo who wished him well. Knowing Roddick's relationship with the USTA I'm sure if Andy asked for Stefanki he'd get him. I wonder if the USTA is paying Larry? At any rate maybe Andy has decided to listen to what a new coach will bring to the table. Roddick has made improvements to his game thanks to working with Jimmy Connors and others. It remains to be seen if the "old dog" can learn more new tricks and get back to the top five.

Speaking of Jimmy Connors the eight time grand slam winner was arrested over the weekend at a college basketball game near his home in Santa Barbara California for "noncompliance". Apparently he was cuffed and taken to the police station where he was later released. What, retired tennis players need street cred now?

Edited to Add:
Craig has updated the story of Connor's arrest.

In the wake of the 2008 Davis Cup final there is a lot of anticipation for the 2009 season. Who will coach Spain? Will it be someone like Albert Costa or Alex Corretja? Who will Shamil Tarpishev name to his squad? Will the United States be able to overcome the Swiss led by Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka (and will they do their weird little celebration here in the U.S.?) Will Nalbandian play for Argentina or will the new coach go with new blood and field a team led by Juan Martin del Potro?
Heavy weight decisions no? Well you keep worrying about that stuff. I want to know where Ana Ivanovic is going to sit when Spain hosts Serbia.

Just sayin'.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's Spain

by Savannah

You have to play the matches. As soon as Argentina knew it was facing Spain the maneuvers began. No clay, no outdoors. Going against it's strength Argentina went for indoor hard, the surface that David Nalbandian excels on. Then there was the brawl over where the tie would be played. David wanted his home territory but the resort area of Mar del Plata won out.

Once it became clear the world number one would not play the Final Argentina could be forgiven for thinking they had the tie in the bag. No
Juan Carlos Ferrero. No
Tommy Robredo. Instead the Spanish team would be led by Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco, two men not known as giants of will on the court. Davis Cup Captain Emilio Sanchez was second guessed every step of the way and when David won the opening rubber against a listless David Ferrer it looked as if things were not going to go Spain's way at all.

But in the end it was the play of the two least likely heroes, Feli and Nando that won the cup. In both doubles and in singles including Sunday's marathon fourth rubber that ran over three hours that the two men dropped the sobriquet "mental midget" being added to their names. It's a discussion for another time but if both men embrace their inner hard court player their lives would be much easier.

As Emilio Sanchez said there will be lots of wine. I'm sure a glass will be raised to the man who wasn't there, the man who got them there and whose specter made it sure that the tie would take place in a setting that would bring out the best of his team mates and stop making it a given that if you play Spain do it on an indoor hard court.

Congratulations to Spain on the win.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Davis Cup Final - The Battle Royale

by Savannah

Well, well, well. Spain leads Argentina and it's rabid tennis fans 2-1. Spain needs to win one more rubber. Argentina needs to win two. Risky business David Nalbandian playing must win doubles today with Agustin Calleri instead of Jose Acasuso against the Spanish team of Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco. In hindsight does Mancini wish he'd gone with his announced roster and have a rested David ready for tomorrow? We all know hindsight is 20/20.

The announced line up is as follows for tomorrow but the team doctor for Argentina said that Juan Martin's chances of playing were slim.

Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) v David Ferrer (ESP)
David Nalbandian (ARG) v Feliciano Lopez (ESP)

Keep in mind changes can be made at the last minute. I wonder if
was watching from Mauritius and pulling his hair out by the roots during that third set tie break? Captain Emilio Sanchez wasn't taking his calls yesterday - he said he didn't have his cell phone on - but the players were. Wonder if he took them today?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tennis Talk

by Savannah

I guess the tennis gods knew what was best. I slept right through the TMC Finals. I was hoping that Nikolay Davydenko would play the kind of tennis that got him to the final but that was not to be. Novak Djokovic beat the Russian in straight sets 6-1, 7-5 to win the final ATP event of the year. 

Of course in tennis a player has no choice but to play the hand he's dealt so that is not Djoke's fault he got a cakewalk to the TMC championship. While this TMC cup produced only one great match, it was still the best eight of the ATP who showed up. Andy Roddick pulled out with an ankle injury and Radek Stepanek stepped in to play his rounds for which he gets a shout out. No one ranked ahead of him made himself available.

As for the newbies Juan Martin del Potro played through the RR stage but at the end looked as if he were anxious to head back to Argentina for that DC final against Spain. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga looked overwhelmed from the beginning and while he won one match it showed that he played very little during the regular season. That was due to injury, and the reports are he can't play as much as he likes due to a chronic back injury. Gilles Simon made the best showing of the three but injured his neck and was unable to win his semi final match.

The British are understandably excited about Andy Murray's play in the second half of the year. Many will criticize his going all out against Federer in their match and being too tired to defeat an inspired Davydenko in their semi. Again, a player plays the hand he's dealt. He could've tanked the match and put Federer in the semi's but he didn't. He was true to his sport and to his opponent by playing the best match he could that day. It was reminiscent of Chennai in my opinion. I'm not a fan but I respect his decision.

I haven't talked much about doubles play and as I said I didn't see the final. Congratulations to Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor for securing the year end number one with a win over
Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6(3), 6-2. Here are their post match comments, and comments from Bob Bryan.

Nestor: "It's a great feeling. We have had a great year. At times a little inconsistent. But when we've played well, we've been very tough to beat. We really get on a roll. I think when we're playing well, we're deserving of the No. 1 ranking."

Zimonjic: “This is the best season I've ever had. Winning Wimbledon, playing finals at the French, and coming here as second seed, fighting for the first spot. It was that much special to play for pretty much everything at this last match.”

"To win the Masters Cup for me for the first time, for Danny to defend the title, to play against the Bryans, who have been dominating the doubles last four, five years, and to fight for No. 1 spot. You couldn't ask for more as an athlete, you know, to manage to win this."

Bob Bryan: "It's pretty unusual that that No. 1 ranking comes down to one match, that's probably one in a million. With all the points out there, having it hinge on a few points at the end of the season is pretty amazing. But they had some good results. We all won big tournaments. I think they deserve it. They won the season-ending championships. I guess got to tip our hat to them. They played a great tournament and had a great year. We look forward to battling it out next year for the same thing."

Looks like they're already throwing down for next year. Here are the final rankings in the Race for 2008.

Final ATP 2008 Race
Pos. Player Points
1. R. Nadal (ESP) 1335
2. R. Federer (SUI) 1061
3. N. Djokovic (SRB) 1059
4. A. Murray (GBR) 744
5. N. Davydenko (RUS) 543
6. J. Tsonga (FRA) 410
7. G. Simon (FRA) 396
8. A. Roddick (USA) 394
9. J. del Potro (ARG) 389
10. J. Blake (USA) 310

Final 2008 Stanford ATP Doubles Race
Pos. Team Points
1. Nestor/Zimonjic 1064
2. Bryan/Bryan 1045
3. Bhupathi/Knowles 655
4. Bjorkman/Ullyett 605
5. Erlich/Ram 551
6. Coetzee/Moodie 476
7. Fyrstenberg/Matkowski 450
8. Dlouhy/Paes 443
9. Melo/Sa 338
10. Aspelin/Knowle 313

As for the ATP Rankings thanks to "Judio" on MTF for keeping on top of the matter. Here are the top twenty five.

New Old This Project "5th"
Rank Rank Player Week Points Best
1 1 Nadal 0 6,675 75
2 2 Federer 100 5,305 0
3 3 Djokovic 650 5,295 15
4 4 Murray 300 3,720 75
5 5 Davydenko 400 2,715 110
6 7 Tsonga 100 2,050 25
7 8 Simon 200 1,980 100
8 6 Roddick 0 1,970 110
9 7 Del Potro 100 1,945 40
10 10 Blake 0 1,775 75
11 11 Nalbandian 0 1,725 100
12 12 Ferrer 0 1,695 75
13 13 Wawrinka 0 1,510 15
14 14 Monfils 0 1,475 15
15 15 Gonzalez 0 1,420 60
16 16 Verdasco 0 1,415 75
17 17 Soderling 0 1,325 55
18 18 Andreev 0 1,245 50
19 19 Almagro 0 1,230 75
20 20 Berdych 0 1,215 40
21 21 Robredo 0 1,195 40
22 22 Cilic 0 1,175 40
23 23 Fish 0 1,165 25
24 24 Gasquet 0 1,160 40
25 26 Karlovic 0 1,140 15

As for head to head play between the top four "Scoobs", again over at MTF, posted the following:

Djokovic is

2-4 vs Nadal
1-2 vs Federer
1-2 vs Murray

Nadal is

4-0 vs Federer
4-2 vs Djokovic
3-1 vs Murray

Federer is

0-4 vs Nadal
2-1 vs Djokovic
1-3 vs Murray

Murray is

1-3 vs Nadal
3-1 vs Federer
2-1 vs Djokovic

This and That

The French sports journal L'Equipe reports that all administrative hurdles have been cleared and that the former Dutch open will now be held in Serbia starting in May 2009. For those who can read French here is the original. Novak made the announcement after his win at the TMC in Shanghai.

Novak Djokovic a annoncé dimanche après sa victoire au Masters de Shanghai qu'un tournoi ATP serait organisé l'année prochaine à Belgrade. «Je suis très heureux d'annoncer que les questions administratives sont réglées et qu'il y aura un tournoi à Belgrade l'année prochaine en mai», a déclaré le champion serbe, dont la famille est impliquée financièrement dans l'organisation de l'épreuve. «C'était un des objectifs du pays, de moi-même, de tous les joueurs et de notre fédération. Je crois que nous le méritons. Nous nous sommes battus pour l'avoir, ce qui n'était pas facile car le calendrier est chargé», a-t-il ajouté. (AFP)

Basically what he is saying is that the tournament will take place in Belgrade and that this has long been a goal of his country, himself, Serbian players and the Serbian tennis federation. He thinks that they deserve it and that he hopes they prove worthy. I can't wait to see who gets WC's into this one.

Davis Cup
There is one more major event in men's tennis that everyone will be watching. I haven't reported much about it for awhile but some of the ongoing shenanigans are pretty, well lets say interesting.

The court, which was going to be made faster than anything ever seen in South America, was slowed down after Rafael Nadal pulled out. David Nalbandian then decreed the court was too slow so it had to be speeded up again. Got that? Good.

Spanish Davis Cup coach Emilio Sanchez asked Rafa to stay away from Argentina. Emilio feels he would be too much of a distraction and that the Spanish team is strong enough to win on it's own and doesn't need Rafa cheering from the sidelines. It may sound harsh but I think Emilio is right. Rafa is a polarizing force in Argentina and all it takes is for some tanked up fan to start in about the alleged racist comments Rafa is said to have made a few years back to get things started. The focus would not be on tennis but on one guy who wouldn't even be playing. The last thing tennis, or Davis Cup, needs is a replay of the riot between Chilean and Argentine fans from a few years ago. The vid is on You Tube. It ain't pretty.
Meanwhile Emilio named Marcel Granollers to the team which surprised a lot of people. Talk is Tommy Robredo is on vacation and is not match fit. Juan Carlos Ferrero is also reported to be on vacation. It's going to be interesting no?

Idle Chit Chat
It wouldn't be me if I didn't wade into the shallow end of the pool would it?
Fans of both Ana Ivanovic and Fernando Verdasco are in the process of adjusting to their relationship. The pics and video of the couple at a Real Madrid match should go a long way to forcing fans of both players to accept it. The couple is now known as Ferdana. Funny, Nicole Vaidisova and Radek Stepanek don't have a couple name. Just sayin'.

End Notes
Nothing serious. End of year stuff, best and worst of WTA and ATP will come after Davis Cup is over. "The Powers Behind the Throne" on the coaches of the year will be done in early December.

The Exhibition Season is about to begin. Rafa is iffy for an exho he usually plays in Malaga. Not sure if Roger is going to play the one's he's scheduled to play.

I should note that Chinese Taipei won the Asian Hopman Cup and will play RR in Group B.

Group A: USA (1) - Serena Williams and James BlakeGroup A:
Group A: Australia (4) – Casey Dellacqua and Lleyton Hewitt
Group A: Germany (6) – Sabine Lisicki and Nicolas Kiefer
Group A: Slovak Republic (7) - Dominika Cibulkova and Dominik Hrbaty

Group B: Russia (2) – Dinara Safina and Marat Safin Group B:
Group B: France (3) – Alize Cornet and Gilles Simon
Group B: Italy (5) – Flavia Pennetta and Simone Bolelli
Group B: (8) - (Q) Chinese Taipei (Hsieh/Lu)

There is also the big ATP Exhibition January 1-3 in Abu Dhabi that will feature world number one Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer (No. 2), Andy Murray (No. 4), Nikolay Davydenko (No. 5), Andy Roddick (No. 6) and James Blake (No. 10).

January can't come fast enough.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Tale of Two Matches

by Savannah

The ATP is holding it's season ending tournament in Shanghai China. Due to injury the Number One player in the world was not able to attend. The Number Two player in the world, bad back and all hobbled in. Three newbies to the post season event also showed up. And yet the Round Robin portion of this tournament will be remembered for two matches.

Novak Djokovic played Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in another rematch of the Australian Open final to close out play in the Gold Group. On the line for Djokovic if he won was the possibility of taking the Number 2 ranking away from Roger Federer. He came out strong and easily won the first set over an overwhelmed Tsonga. Tsonga revived himself and pulled out the second set 7-5 setting up what should have been a very interesting third set. Instead in one of the most remarkable for it's arrogance and disrespect to my eyes Djokovic tanked the third set. He did enough to avoid the bagel but handed the set to Jo 6-1. I'm saying that to my eyes Novak tanked the set. Somewhere a fan of his probably thinks that his lack of enthusiasm was a good tactical move but a tank is a tank. Why come all the way to Shanghai and show your ass to the sport that has given you a very nice life style thank you very much? Why disrespect a peer by in effect saying "I don't need this but you do. Take the bone I'm giving you"? This is not what a man aspiring to be the best in his sport should be doing in a tournament that is supposed to showcase the best of men's tennis. Disgraceful is the nicest thing I can say about Djokovic's performance.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum was the match between Andy Murray and Roger Federer. Roger needed the win to move into the single elimination phase of the tournament - the semi finals. Murray was already in and one could be excused for thinking that he may not play the way he has been in this rematch of the US Open finalists. Instead the two men played what will be ranked as one of the best matches of the year. Federer routined the first set but it looked as if Roger's back problems would take their toll and the number one seed would fall in straights when Andy went up 5-2 in the second. It can't be emphasized how much tennis is played between the ears as well as on the court. Andy fought back and won the second set in a tiebreaker 7-3 to force a third set. At one point Roger sat down on one of the lines people's boxes and it looked as if he were going to throw in the towel. Instead he got treatment on his lower back between games. Murray went up 3-0 and looked to be cruising again and again Roger came back. In what will go down as one of the most exciting games this year Murray was up 4-5 and Roger was fighting for his life. And fight he did. Federer staved off a total of seven match points. Both men along the way played fabulous tennis making shots and matching wits in play that kept you on the edge of your seat. In the end Roger prevailed and leveled the set at five all. At that point I thought we'd see a tiebreaker to decide the match but instead Murray held serve and won the match by taking the last set 7-5. The Chinese, major Federer fans, gave an underwhelming response to Murray's win. I'm sure Gilles Simon, who is in the semi finals because of Federer's loss, responded much differently.

I'll say it again. This is what end of year play is supposed to be about. Federer, who has nothing to prove except to himself could've just said screw it and gone home to rest for 2009. Murray could've decided to let Roger win and save his energy for tomorrow. Instead both men remained true to themselves and to their sport and played a match that will be talked about in superlatives for a long time. Djokovic's match did nothing but leave a bad taste in tennisheads mouths.

Congratulations to Andy Murray for making the semi finals. Congratulations to Roger Federer for showing what a tennis champion is made of. I may not be a fan of either man but I'm a fan of tennis. Tennis was done proud today.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From the Horses Mouth - An Interview with Larry Scott

by Savannah
Thanks to FastScripts by ASAP Sports for this information. All highlighting is mine.

November 9, 2008
An interview with: LARRY SCOTT

THE MODERATOR: Thank you all for coming to this Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Year End press conference. With us today we have Larry Scott, Chairman and CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

LARRY SCOTT: Thanks very much, Aldo, and thank you all for being here and helping be part of what's been an historic year in 2008, where women's tennis keeps reaching new heights, both on the court and off the court.

It's been another year of some very significant milestones, tapped off by a very successful end of the year Sony Ericsson Championships here in Doha. The first time we've taken the Championships to this part of the world, and also the first time women have played for equal prize money in the end of year championships.

So I'm pleased to be here, side by side with our good partners at the Sony Ericsson that are as responsible as anyone for the tremendous success that women's tennis has seen over the last few years and have worked with us in step on all our plans for the road map, for bringing the Championships here, and are pushing us at every step in a positive way to continue to innovate and to be a progressive sport and be more and more attractive and relevant to our fans, both current fans and new generations of fans through the use of their technology. Like through the mobile event guide.

But beyond that, in terms of some of the stunts that they're doing, some of the promotion that they do. Even things like the 3‑D signage which you saw for the first time this week on the court. We're constantly thinking with them about ways to be more attractive to our fans and to continue to innovate.

So Sony Ericsson is very much a part of everything we do at the tour, and we continue to grow together, and it's great to hear about some of the success they're enjoying with their markets and phone sales as a result of the association.

In many respects, the Championships here in Doha is symbolic and reflective of some of the great progress that the tour has made in 2008. We've seen great competition this week. Some very compelling matches, some of our great stars performing very, very well.

And we're looking forward to a great final today between Vera and Venus Williams. Clearly two of the hottest players on the tour, and that's certainly been reflective this year of one of the most open races, I think, we've ever had for number one.

It's hard to, I don't think anyone can ever remember where we've had five players capable of being No. 1 in the world, which was the case most of the year after Justin Henin retired, it was a wide open race for much of the year until Jelena Jankovic clinched.

So the competition has never been greater. It's never been deeper, there's never been more parody at the top of the game than there is today, and that's a nice, healthy sign in terms of the competition.

Sport's never been more global than it is today. First time our Championships is here in the Middle East. The tour opened an office in Beijing, in China this year, getting ready for the first ever China Open as a preeminent tour event next year. So we continue to see growing demand from developing markets as well as great strength in our traditional markets.

And I think the success of the tournament this week and what we're doing to expand in China and other markets is a great sign of the global health and demand for the game around the world.

Equal prize money has been an important theme. Last year at our end of the year state of the union press conference, we talked about 2007 being the year of equality in women's Dennis. As that was the year that the four Grand Slams all got equal prize money. This year, the big milestone is our Championships. At $4,550,000 being equal to what the men are playing for this coming week in Shanghai. Next year, of course our four premier mandatory events at the top will also be equal prize money, $4.5 million tournaments in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing. So for next year, the Top 10 tournaments in tennis will be equal prize money.

I was just saying to someone earlier it was a very slow and long time coming until the Grand Slams went to equal prize money. But once it happened, now the pace and change has picked up. So I look at 2007 as sort of a tipping point. And this year, Doha reflects another big step on that path.

The heritage of women's tennis, a Pioneering spirit. Breaking barriers with the Championships here in Doha, reflective of another barrier broken. One earlier in the year as well when Shahar Peer was the first Israeli player to play here in a tournament in the Arab world. So we're very proud of that.

We're also proud of the fact that Billie Jean King, the founder of the WTA Tour, a real pioneer in her own right for women's tennis, for women's sports, and our women's causes, continues to be an important influence for us. And she was here to be part of the expansion of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour/UNESCO partnership for gender equality, which we were thrilled. We could use Doha as a platform to announce.

So having Billie Jean here has been very meaningful for us, and hopefully symbolic of the great progress that is being made around the world toward gender equality. And the role that sport is playing in women's tennis is playing on that March.

We've seen a lot of promotion around this event and around the world. We've seen an unprecedented level of promotion. This was the year of the launch of the largest ever global marketing campaign in women's tennis ‑ Looking For a Hero. You saw television commercials, print and digital campaign, a lot of other profession during the year.

This is reflective of financial success and growth of the tour in and vesting back and continuing to try to bring in new audiences and create more excitement and more following and build the TV audiences, build the fan base through advertising and promotion. So that was quite a big milestone for us as well.

So as I look back, a lot has happened on the court this year, and off the court. And I always like using these opportunities as we look back to also look forward.

Just as I'm getting ready to catch my breath on 2008, I realize that next year will be a lot going on as well. It will be pretty exhausting, because the prelaunch of the tour, dubbed road map 2009 kicks in next year. So I think we're going to be sitting here at the end of next year, reflecting back on 2009, saying that that was really a milestone in 2009, the formatting of the tour calendar.

As many of you know, it's been many years in development. About four years we've spent on designing, enhancements and changes to the tour calendar and player commitment, and it's finally upon us. January 1, 2009 is right in front of our nose, and you're going to see the most dramatic reforms in women's tennis calendar that you've ever seen.

All designed around three core principles: A healthier calendar for the players, through a shorter season and longer off‑season. This event will be ending, will be taking place the last week of October next year. Reduced player commitments for the athletes, so they'll be playing less next year, less required matches by the tour, and we've repositioned a lot of tournaments, so there's less surface changes, and more logical geographic flow.

The second thrust of our changes next year is increased prize money. Reflecting the global growth and demand for women's tennis. Prize money is going up from $71 million this year, to over $85 million next year. A 20% prize money increase year on year. And that is an immediate response to the proof product that we're going to be able to deliver next year.

And thirdly, we'll have a more marketable, clearer presentation to the public, and we think a more compelling platform with 20 premier events average order by our four combined, mandatory events at Indian Wells, Sony Ericsson in Miami, and Madrid and Beijing. The idea being we want our fans to see the best athletes playing against each other more often, on big stages, and the athletes being healthy and being able to play their best for the fans, and having more break in between.

So there is a lot of detail behind it. We were able to go into that detail at a US Open press conference, that many of you attended, and those of you that couldn't be there, we've got a pretty thick pack detailing all the changes.

So given that our final is going to start soon, I won't go into more detail about the road map now. But I did want to leave time for questions that anyone has for Aldo or myself regarding 2008 or forward looking for 2009.

Q. We've kind of heard rumors that players were still talking about the road map, and wondered if there had been any last moment tweaking or changings or alterations in the road map?

LARRY SCOTT: Most of the elements of the road map have been set for the last 18 months, but as we're getting closer to 2009, we've been detailing how the rules are going to work, schedules, et cetera.

There were several concerns expressed by our top players over the last few weeks as we started sitting down with them doing their individual schedules. Their concerns related to two issues, primarily. One, a concern that there wasn't enough break between some of our big tournaments, which were back‑to‑back, primarily players playing in Rome right up against Madrid next year.

Rome is a 56‑draw tournament followed by Madrid which is a 64‑draw tournament on Saturday. Similarly in the fall, Tokyo is a 56‑draw tournament followed by Beijing, which is a 64‑draw tournament. Those tournaments overlapped very closely. Players were concerned it was too many matches in too few days.

And while there are so many great things about the schedule next year which the players thought would be healthier, they didn't think this would be consistent with that. They thought it was too intensive, could lead to injury, could lead to them not being prepared for Roland Garros in the case of Rome, Madrid.

That was one issue. On the second issue, there was concern that given some of our rules, players might be denied entry into some of what we call our Premier 700 tournaments. So as has been the hallmark of our process, it's been very transparent, consultative process that have really engaged the members in, and that's why it's taken so long to develop.

We have been talking to the players about those issues. In fact, after the draw ceremony on Sunday, that many of you were at, we had a meeting. Everyone of the top players attended, their agents were there, the coaches, even had a parent or two at the meeting, and I was able to listen to their concerns and brain storm some possible solutions.

Some had some of our board members there. We then hadn't finished our board meetings yet. I had more board here in Doha for our meetings. We spent time working on some of those issues, and pleased to say we have found some solutions to those and sort of tweaked a couple of technical details about how our system will work that, I think, will appease some of the concerns the players have had. But will still balance what we're trying to achieve in those areas.

Specifically, what we've agreed is that we are going to award four byes to the semifinalists in Rome, into the Madrid tournament, and four byes to the semifinalists from Tokyo into the Beijing tournament. Therefore, for those players that have to play the most matches in Rome and Tokyo respectively, they can start later and have one less match in a subsequent event.

So players are very happy with that solution, and the tournaments affected Madrid and Beijing respectively are happy with it, too. So that's how we've resolved that issue.

On the second issue, the 700 issue, we've made some adjustments so that none of the top players that were concerned about being denied entry into the so‑called previous 700 tournaments next year. Which, for those of you that may not understand what I'm talking about, the previous 700 tournaments, are Paris, Charleston, Stuttgart, Stanford, and L.A., we've removed the prohibition on players being able to get into those two tournaments. The restrictions, I should say, of players being able to get into the two tournaments of their choice. And every player will be able to play at least two of those.

So I could give you more, if you're interested, more detail about exactly how the rules work, but I'm pleased to be here today saying we've been able to resolve the final two issues that players have had concerns about regarding next year.

As you can see from my description which may be hard to follow for some of you that haven't followed the technical details, there have really been some technical details about how the system works. The principles of the road map, the players are thrilled about, and are very much looking forward to it.

Q. Is it implicit in the road map that you hope some players will extend their careers further?

Long‑term, yes. Short term, our concerns have been the number of injuries and withdrawals. Concern about the player health and well being, over the last few years it seems every year we have players that suffer long‑term injuries and they're off the tour for a while or can't compete at their best. We don't think that's good for players nor good for fans nor good for the tournaments and their sponsors and TV that are making the investments.

So that is the short term. I said it won't happen overnight, sport is sport, and a lot of players on the tour have been playing under a certain system and maybe playing too much over the last few years. So I don't think anything magical is going to happen overnight.

But I'm very confident that the changes we've made with the consultation from our medical advisors is a much healthier schedule, and short‑term, it will alleviate some of the grueling nature of the tour, which is a very long season, very intensive and a lot of travel, and a much healthier schedule.

But I think the mid to long‑term benefits will be for the next generation of players that comes along, and from their beginnings on the tour have a healthier schedule. Hopefully those players will have more career longevity.

Q. Are there any clear patterns that medical advisors have suggested that is causing injuries?

LARRY SCOTT: There are several things. They very much focus on how much downtime the players have at the end of the season for really long rest and recovery. They've also advised us to reduce the number of tournaments that players play to promote something called periodization. Which is make sure the players are able to play, rest for a couple of weeks, play, rest for a couple of weeks. They get concerned when they see players playing many, many weeks in a row and not taking breaks.

Thirdly, they advised us not to require players to ever have to play three tournaments in a row. That we should think of at the requirements we place on the player as being in pods of no more than two tournaments.

The fourth element was really advised us to try to minimize surface changes during the year. Players going from the hot summer in Australia, to cold indoor in Asia, to outdoors in the Middle East, back to indoors in Europe. It's a surface changes that are contributing factor to stress on the muscles and joints as the body adjusts to different conditions.

So you'll see on the calendar next year, less of those very drastic changes in conditions and climate and things like that. So it's a lot of little things. There is no silver bullet, otherwise someone would have thought of it a long time ago. But it's a lot of little things and just trying to make the smartest moves you can.

We've had to make some tough choices in reducing the calendar, not an easy thing to do. So I feel good we've made the hard choice that's need to be made to do the best we can with the limitations we have.

Q. You mentioned the take in prize money from $71 U.S. to $85 million U.S., that at a time when the world is suffering financially. Does that put out a message that tennis in general, women's tennis in particular is in a healthy financial state?

LARRY SCOTT: I certainly think it does, yes. We've got a long list of cities, that you know from our prior conversation and about Abu Dhabi and others, there are a long list of cities that want to be on the tour. We've never had a longer waiting list for cities that want to be on the tour than we have right now.

There are ten cities around the world that are quite frustrated with us because we don't have a spot for them on the tour.

When we did the road map application process in the beginning of 2007, we were oversubscribed and couldn't accommodate everyone. So I think there are a lot of healthy signs out there in terms of where women's tennis is at.

Having said that, I think we're all keeping a careful watch about the world economy, and no one is complacent about it, that's for sure.

Q. Is the extra money coming from existing sponsors or new ones?

LARRY SCOTT: This increase in prize money is coming from tournaments, in many cases, having to or offering to raise their prize money levels. Tournaments generate their money from three primary sources: Sponsorship, ticket sales, and television to a lesser degree. But it's primarily from ticket buyer and from sponsors.

Q. I would like to know which is exactly your idea about the future? I mean, what you have exactly in mind, and I don't know if you will be able to do it. I understand there are so many forces, so many different interests, and you are looking for a circuit like Formula 1, one biggest tournament each month, like looks like we are going there. Four Grand Slams, four combined events, looks like this. And in this case you don't think it's time to stop this prize money increase? Because looks like it's impossible to prize money which is less by $1 million Euro or dollars, whatever you want. So much. You don't think it's time to give a different meaning to win a big tournament like that when you beat 65 peoples or 100 and then 28? It's not the time to educate in different way? Because now, you know, they are not winning $100,000, they are winning $1 million. So it's not the time now to do different things in philosophy way just to change a little bit? Maybe in this way we can have more people retiring everywhere? Maybe we are more moral situation, which I see every day in the media. Because me and you we are convinced about enduring a Grand Slam tournament Serena Williams will be playing still, and, you know. You understand?

I think so. Maybe the second question first about the prize money issue. We're a sport but also entertainment. To me, my job is about maximizing the benefit for our members which are players and tournaments. So I think that's our vision is to make professional women's tennis as popular as possible and enriching a career in business as possible for our members. That's our mission. It's very clear. We obviously do that by balancing a lot of different things, a healthy, logical calendar, being in the right markets at the right time of year, with the fact that our members want to see our sport grow and be competitive with other sports.

So I get put under a lot of pressure by our members to balance the best interest of the sport with commercially optimizing our circuit through our revenues and having them increase what they earn from the sport.

So our mission is very clear in that regard. We try to balance a lot of different forces, and a lot of different issues like a lot of institutions would.

In terms of vision for the sport, really, the road map is the culmination of a visioning process that we went through. But it's a practical and realistic vision. It's not a vision that says if we could start with a blank piece of paper where would you put the Grand Slams or how many Grand Slams would you have or things like that. Because I've been around tennis long enough to realize that there are different governing bodies in the sport, and we have to respect the role of Davis Cup and Fed Cup, and the role of the individual sovereignty of the Grand Slams to set their schedule.

So we have to partner, and we have to work around what's already there, and the institutions in the sport.

So we take those as givens, and given the Grand Slams are where they are. Given they're team competitions and there is an Olympics, what can we do to maximize women's tennis for the benefit of everybody.

So if you asked me what my ideal would be, to tear up the piece of paper and start over with one governing body for the sport that could make all the decisions. But that's not the case.

I think the road map represents a bold step, and vision for women's tennis that the marketplace is responding to. I think there is a lot of excitement from our members, players and tournaments, but also commercial partners about what we're doing. We think this really is going to help women's tennis get to the next level. I hope that answers your question.

Q. Prize money's not too big?

LARRY SCOTT: No, it's reflective of the market. If the money is not there, then the prize money wouldn't go up. But it's there.

Q. If I can come down from such lofty levels to a technical detail?

Thank you (laughing).

Q. I'm not quite sure about this byes into the big events. If you do a draw based on your ranking and you've got the very last moment two semifinalist who's aren't even in the Top 16, how are you technically going to do a draw?

LARRY SCOTT: You'll have 60 spots in the draw rather than 64. So when you pull, you see who the four semifinalists in Rome, for example, which is on a Thursday, you'll know Thursday evening in Rome who the four semifinalists are, you can then do the main draw on Friday, and you pull the 60 spots, including the seeds, minus the four spots. You'll pull 60 spots, and leave the four.

Q. So someone who would be expecting to be seeded, might not get seeded? Expected to be seeded on their ranking might not get seeded?

LARRY SCOTT: It actually doesn't change the seeding at all because the seeds aren't getting byes. So it is a novel ‑‑ I know it is an out of the box, creative solution to an issue.

It's a departure of how we've always thought about byes. We've always thought about byes as something players earn by their ranking. With Madrid, we started by saying there are no byes for seeds. It's a 64‑draw starting on a Saturday. That's going to be one of the magic benefits and aspects of that Madrid tournament and our Beijing tournament.

You're going to have a first weekend, like you enjoy at Indian Wells and Miami, every one of the top players in the world is going to be playing on that first Saturday and Sunday. And when I say more marketable product when I talk about the things on the road map, this is something we've never had before. A guaranteed to our fans, sponsors, TV broadcasters that at these tournaments you're going to have every one of the top players in the world playing that weekend. And the TV audience comes out, fans, sponsors, it's going to do a lot to help the popularity of those two magic weekends, if you will.

That's where we started from. The top players said hang on. If we're doing well in Rome, and I've got to play a Friday night semifinal in Rome, and I've got to play on Saturday or Sunday, and play Sunday in Madrid. That's not consistent, Larry, with a healthier situation on the calendar, especially leading up to Roland Garros. And I can say, you're right. That is something that probably isn't consistent, let us rethink that.

So the top players would have liked the byes to be based on seeding, of course. But they couldn't argue, really when we came back and said your concern is just too many matches in that two‑week period. Potentially 11 matches in 14 days, so it really should go to the players that are playing the matches. But if you lose first round in Rome, you don't need a bye into Madrid.

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's Official

by Savannah

Injured Nadal to miss Davis Cup final

BARCELONA, Spain (AP)—Rafael Nadal will miss Spain’s Davis Cup final against Argentina because of a knee injury.

The top-ranked Nadal said Monday he was still struggling with tendinitis in his right knee following a week of treatment.

“The knee said no,” the 22-year-old said.

Spain team doctor Angel Ruiz-Cotorro said Nadal would need three to six weeks to recover from the injury.

“These are very difficult moments, but I have done all that I could to be ready for the final,” he said. “It was a huge objective, and I’m used to playing with pain, but this is a distinct, new pain that I couldn’t control.”

Nadal’s absence deals a big blow to Spain’s bid for a third Davis Cup title since 2000. Spain captain Emilio Sanchez Vicario has until Tuesday to name his team.

Spain plays Argentina on indoor hard court at Mar del Plata from Nov. 21-23.

Nadal was a key player when Spain beat the United States 4-1 in the semifinals, winning both his singles matches.

Sanchez Vicario most likely will replace Nadal with Tommy Robredo, clay-court specialist Nicolas Almagro or Marcel Granollers. David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco are expected to be back on the team.

Nadal this year won a fourth straight French Open and his first Wimbledon title. He withdrew from the Paris Masters last month with an injury to the same knee after losing the first set of his quarterfinal against Nikolai Davydenko. He then pulled out of this week’s season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai, China.

Nadal also won the Olympic gold medal in a year when he supplanted Roger Federer at No. 1.

“I don’t know if the injury (resulted) from my fight to be No. 1 because in reality, I didn’t play in any extra tournaments, I only played what I had to for the ranking and I don’t think you can reproach me for that,” Nadal said. “I didn’t do anything crazy to be No. 1.”

Ruiz-Cotorro said the injury was not career threatening, but that it was “totally impossible” for Nadal to be ready in time for the final.

“Rafa comes in off a very tough year and his body has been warning him for weeks. It’s an acute injury that needs time to recuperate,” Ruiz-Cotorro said. “If he played in Argentina, it could become worse.”

Robredo helped Spain to a 5-0 rout of Peru in a first-round match in February, but has reached the quarterfinals of only one of nine tournaments since winning at Bastad in July. The 21st-ranked Robredo has been a Spain regular since 2004.

The 19th-ranked Almagro made his debut against Peru, winning both singles matches, while 56th-ranked Granollers has never been selected.

“Spain has top-level players capable of achieving victory,” said Nadal, who didn’t rule out traveling to South America to support his teammates.


Once Uncle Toni said they were probably not going I knew he wasn't going. Tendinitis only gets better with rest and that is what the doctor ordered. Fish. Hang out. Party a little with friends. January is just around the corner.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Heard Around

by Savannah

The YEC in Doha

Before I say anything belated congratulations to Cara Black and Liezel Huber, doubles champions at the SEWTA YEC Championships.

As for the final it was everything a fan could hope for. Vera Zvonareva blew set points to end up in a tiebreak with Venus Williams. Venus raced out to a 5-1 lead and I for one thought the set was over. Instead Vera fought her way back and won the next six points to win the tie break and the set.
The next two sets saw Venus at her best. She won them love and two leaving Vera distraught and crying on the court. It was the first time that Vera had been seen in a very long time.

Many said there was no need for Vera to cry, that she had proven all the skeptics wrong and showed that she can play top tier tennis. But anyone who is a competitor, anyone who knows what it is like to want something so badly and work hard for it understood Vera's tears. It's not up to us to tell her not to cry. Short of going on a locker room destroying tear Vera let us see her emotion. It was a great tournament and all the drama was on court. Of course Serena could've looked a little happier for her sister but Serena is Serena no?

From the Ego Files

A segue from Serena to Roger seems just about right. Here is Roger's latest statement on his current status.
(Roger)Federer said being introduced as the world's second best player was the worst thing about the end of his record four-and-a-half-year reign in August.

"It doesn't change a whole lot, I just don't like the ring of it when I'm being introduced on Centre Court saying, 'and this is the number two in the world,'" he said.

"It just sounds wrong. Either I'm number one or I'm a grand slam champion, but I'm not number two."

I guess that's why the major slip up by the announcers on Masters Series Television. They forgot who is Number One and who is not.

This Is Not a Djoke
English translation of Original. I'm not sure if it's Serbian.

British intelligence agents have discovered that Albanian extremists are planning the kidnapping of Novak Djokovic, which is why he is receiving special police protection in Serbia.

"I don't have now nor will I ever have the understanding for Kosovo Albanians and their move of proclaiming the independence of the southern Serbian region!" stated Novak Djokovic, world #3, not long after Kosovo proclaimed independence.

The Serb won't have good memories of this year's Wimbledon, after he was taught a lesson by Marat Safin in the second round, the British intelligence service called him for a briefing and warned him about Albanian extremists, Novak became a nuisance for them, when he visited Kosovo and donated an ambulance. That's why we took the threat seriously said one of the high officials with the Serbian ministry of internal affairs. Serbian Press revealed the info that Djokovic is protected by the elite Anti-terrorist squad every time he's in Serbia. Novak is a big patriot and will have the protection he deserves confirmed a high official of the Serbian ministry.

TMC Shanghai

Despite my opposition to Brave New World or whatever it's being called now I can't complain too much about the ATP year end tournament moving to London next year. I can't say I look forward to getting up at 5a to watch tennis. Last night play started at 1a on the East Coast of the United States. I made it through the entire Djokovic vs Juan Martin Del Potro match and the first set of Nikolay Davydenko vs Jo-Wilfrid Tsonga. I woke up in time to catch the end of the tie break between Vera and Venus. There's got to be a better way. By the way the newbies all lost their first matches. Gilles Simon plays this morning against Roger Federer. Hat trick? We'll see. Oh, and the Andy's play each other. Good times.

See You Next Year!
Final images are from Doha. The trophies were presented by Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Misnad, the wife of the Emir of Qatar.

The WTA season is over. The totally unofficial Exhibition Season will start for the women now.

Venus Has Risen

by Savannah

Venus Williams wins her first ever YEC. The score was 6-7(5), 6-0, 6-2. She was undefeated during the tournament and except for a few now expected Venus walkabouts she played great tennis. Congratulations Venus!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It's Why You Play the Match

by Savannah

Or in this case the matches. It's also why I don't do predictions. It'll be Number 7 seed Venus Williams vs Number 8 seed Vera Zvonareva for all the marbles at the SEWTA YEC at Doha.
Both women come in undefeated. Both women come in playing their best tennis. Vera fought off a determined Elena Dementieva in three sets. Venus got some revenge for
Jelena Jankovic's antics in Stuttgart. As far as I know Vera and Venus don't have a beef with each other.
Venus did go on walkabout in the second and part of the third sets. After a hard fought sixth game in the third Venus broke and never looked back.

May the best woman win.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Elect Barack Obama

The President Elect of the United States of America

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
Final Primary Night
Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008
St. Paul, Minnesota

As Prepared for Delivery

Tonight, after fifty-four hard-fought contests, our primary season has finally come to an end.

Sixteen months have passed since we first stood together on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. Thousands of miles have been traveled. Millions of voices have been heard. And because of what you said - because you decided that change must come to Washington; because you believed that this year must be different than all the rest; because you chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations, tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another - a journey that will bring a new and better day to America. Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

I want to thank every American who stood with us over the course of this campaign - through the good days and the bad; from the snows of Cedar Rapids to the sunshine of Sioux Falls. And tonight I also want to thank the men and woman who took this journey with me as fellow candidates for President.

At this defining moment for our nation, we should be proud that our party put forth one of the most talented, qualified field of individuals ever to run for this office. I have not just competed with them as rivals, I have learned from them as friends, as public servants, and as patriots who love America and are willing to work tirelessly to make this country better. They are leaders of this party, and leaders that America will turn to for years to come.

That is particularly true for the candidate who has traveled further on this journey than anyone else. Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she's a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she's a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight.

We've certainly had our differences over the last sixteen months. But as someone who's shared a stage with her many times, I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning - even in the face of tough odds - is exactly what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all those years ago; what sent her to work at the Children's Defense Fund and made her fight for health care as First Lady; what led her to the United States Senate and fueled her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency - an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be. And you can rest assured that when we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country, she will be central to that victory. When we transform our energy policy and lift our children out of poverty, it will be because she worked to help make it happen. Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

There are those who say that this primary has somehow left us weaker and more divided. Well I say that because of this primary, there are millions of Americans who have cast their ballot for the very first time. There are Independents and Republicans who understand that this election isn't just about the party in charge of Washington, it's about the need to change Washington. There are young people, and African-Americans, and Latinos, and women of all ages who have voted in numbers that have broken records and inspired a nation.

All of you chose to support a candidate you believe in deeply. But at the end of the day, we aren't the reason you came out and waited in lines that stretched block after block to make your voice heard. You didn't do that because of me or Senator Clinton or anyone else. You did it because you know in your hearts that at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - we cannot afford to keep doing what we've been doing. We owe our children a better future. We owe our country a better future. And for all those who dream of that future tonight, I say - let us begin the work together. Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America.

In just a few short months, the Republican Party will arrive in St. Paul with a very different agenda. They will come here to nominate John McCain, a man who has served this country heroically. I honor that service, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine. My differences with him are not personal; they are with the policies he has proposed in this campaign.

Because while John McCain can legitimately tout moments of independence from his party in the past, such independence has not been the hallmark of his presidential campaign.

It's not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush ninety-five percent of the time, as he did in the Senate last year.

It's not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create well-paying jobs, or insure our workers, or help Americans afford the skyrocketing cost of college - policies that have lowered the real incomes of the average American family, widened the gap between Wall Street and Main Street, and left our children with a mountain of debt.

And it's not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians - a policy where all we look for are reasons to stay in Iraq, while we spend billions of dollars a month on a war that isn't making the American people any safer.

So I'll say this - there are many words to describe John McCain's attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush's policies as bipartisan and new. But change is not one of them.

Change is a foreign policy that doesn't begin and end with a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged. I won't stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but what's not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years - especially at a time when our military is overstretched, our nation is isolated, and nearly every other threat to America is being ignored.

We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in - but start leaving we must. It's time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their future. It's time to rebuild our military and give our veterans the care they need and the benefits they deserve when they come home. It's time to refocus our efforts on al Qaeda's leadership and Afghanistan, and rally the world against the common threats of the 21st century - terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. That's what change is.

Change is realizing that meeting today's threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy - tough, direct diplomacy where the President of the United States isn't afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for. We must once again have the courage and conviction to lead the free world. That is the legacy of Roosevelt, and Truman, and Kennedy. That's what the American people want. That's what change is.

Change is building an economy that rewards not just wealth, but the work and workers who created it. It's understanding that the struggles facing working families can't be solved by spending billions of dollars on more tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs, but by giving a the middle-class a tax break, and investing in our crumbling infrastructure, and transforming how we use energy, and improving our schools, and renewing our commitment to science and innovation. It's understanding that fiscal responsibility and shared prosperity can go hand-in-hand, as they did when Bill Clinton was President.

John McCain has spent a lot of time talking about trips to Iraq in the last few weeks, but maybe if he spent some time taking trips to the cities and towns that have been hardest hit by this economy - cities in Michigan, and Ohio, and right here in Minnesota - he'd understand the kind of change that people are looking for.

Maybe if he went to Iowa and met the student who works the night shift after a full day of class and still can't pay the medical bills for a sister who's ill, he'd understand that she can't afford four more years of a health care plan that only takes care of the healthy and wealthy. She needs us to pass health care plan that guarantees insurance to every American who wants it and brings down premiums for every family who needs it. That's the change we need.

Maybe if he went to Pennsylvania and met the man who lost his job but can't even afford the gas to drive around and look for a new one, he'd understand that we can't afford four more years of our addiction to oil from dictators. That man needs us to pass an energy policy that works with automakers to raise fuel standards, and makes corporations pay for their pollution, and oil companies invest their record profits in a clean energy future - an energy policy that will create millions of new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced. That's the change we need.

And maybe if he spent some time in the schools of South Carolina or St. Paul or where he spoke tonight in New Orleans, he'd understand that we can't afford to leave the money behind for No Child Left Behind; that we owe it to our children to invest in early childhood education; to recruit an army of new teachers and give them better pay and more support; to finally decide that in this global economy, the chance to get a college education should not be a privilege for the wealthy few, but the birthright of every American. That's the change we need in America. That's why I'm running for President.

The other side will come here in September and offer a very different set of policies and positions, and that is a debate I look forward to. It is a debate the American people deserve. But what you don't deserve is another election that's governed by fear, and innuendo, and division. What you won't hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon - that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but enemies to demonize. Because we may call ourselves Democrats and Republicans, but we are Americans first. We are always Americans first.

Despite what the good Senator from Arizona said tonight, I have seen people of differing views and opinions find common cause many times during my two decades in public life, and I have brought many together myself. I've walked arm-in-arm with community leaders on the South Side of Chicago and watched tensions fade as black, white, and Latino fought together for good jobs and good schools. I've sat across the table from law enforcement and civil rights advocates to reform a criminal justice system that sent thirteen innocent people to death row. And I've worked with friends in the other party to provide more children with health insurance and more working families with a tax break; to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and ensure that the American people know where their tax dollars are being spent; and to reduce the influence of lobbyists who have all too often set the agenda in Washington.

In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.

So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.

So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity.

So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedom's cause.

So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that's better, and kinder, and more just.

And so it must be for us.

America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment - this was the time - when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rafael Withdraws From TMC Shanghai

by Savannah

I'm late with this so I'm sure by now everyone knows Rafael Nadal withdrew from the TMC Shanghai earlier today. Here is his official statement In Full.

Dear fans and media reps,

It has been a long and difficult year where I managed to obtain great results, both on a professional and on a personal level. I have mentioned on various occasions that the tennis calendar has been extremely hard with practically all weeks playing and where it forces players to compete week in week out, making it impossible for a top level player to be 100% on each event.

On a personal level I had as one of my goals to become #1 during this year and competing at so many events might have harmed, specially at the end of the season, my physical condition, taking away the freshness needed to play at the top level of the game on these last events. I don´t know if this has been a mistake or not but the fact is that with the goal achieved I also have to take one of the most difficult and painful decisions.

I have decided not to compete on the Masters Cup in Shanghai. As I say this is one of the most difficult decisions in my career due to the importance of the event and above all, due to the fact of not making possible my will to be with the fans in China and the tournament organizers that always treated me in such special way.

I am deeply sadden and disappointed for my fans around the world that expected to see me in Shanghai fighting in every match. I do expect to be there again in October 09 for the ATP Masters 1000 event in Shanghai.

I know that many people where speculating with this news and even though I have yet not done any test, I can say I take the right decision. I want to recover and be ready for the important Davis Cup final with my country that will be played in Mar del Plata, Argentina. That is also another reason for not coming to Shanghai.

Many thanks to all for your support and understanding.


Right choice as far as I'm concerned. There are people who look for any excuse to tear this man down and I'm sure they'll do so. What they should not forget is that this was an Olympic Year and most of the top players played one extra event. It won't make any difference to them but it is what it is.

And for those who think he's faking I have one word for you: Chennai. Try to watch it sometime. This man doesn't quit unless he has to.

As a result of Rafa's withdrawal there are three newbies in the TMC singles field.

Federer, Roger SUI
Djokovic, Novak SRB
Murray, Andy GBR
Davydenko, Nikolay RUS
Roddick, Andy USA
Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried FRA
del Potro, Juan Martin ARG
Simon, Gilles FRA

Let's see if the groups end up like this. This is my speculation alone okay?

Group A

Group B
Del Potro

Just sayin'. By the way with Simon in Blake becomes the number one alternate. I believe that means he has to be in Shanghai.