Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What A Long Strange Trip It's Been - The WTA 2008

by Savannah

This wasn't supposed to be my year end post. It's been ready since just before Christmas. Instead I kept looking at it and wondering if I could really say there were matches worthy of being called the best of 2008. Not that I have anything against women's tennis. It's just that this year was really two years in one and resulted in what could be called the most competitive year in recent memory.

The split came when Justine Henin suddenly announced that she was retiring. It was Borg like I suppose but we know Bjorn left because he was young, rich and wanted to sample what the world had to offer. Henin simply said she was burned out. I'm sorry but I've always had the suspicion, especially with the amount of spin that was done, and Larry Scott's cavalier attitude, that there was more here than was being admitted publicly. We'll see what happens after she's been gone a full year.

But life, and tennis, moved on. There were four different Slam winners, a Russian sweep of Olympic medals to go along with a decisive win of the Fed Cup for the second year in a row, and a year end number one that no one who is serious about the game of tennis can say was the best player of 2008. It says something when the woman named Player of the Year by the ITF, the woman ranked number one, has more cyperspace devoted to why she's not the best of 2008 than about why she was.

All of this conspired to make observers give a hearty "meh" when looking at the women in 2008.

But there were some bright lights and after almost two weeks of sitting on the matches I chose I still think these were the best. As you know from my mens picks I can be quirky and choose matches that can be termed influential more than "best of". A lot of year end best of lists cite the
Marcos Baghdatis vs Lleyton Hewittmatch at Oz as among the best. It was a good match but what effect did it have on the world of mens tennis? Not much. I didn't have that problem with picking the best of the WTA though. My biggest problem was choosing number one and number two.

But enough of the bloviating. The now iconic quote from the Grateful Dead I used says it all. 2008 has been a long strange trip.

Venus Williams d. Serena Williams Wimbledon Final

I've watched the Williams sisters since they made their pro debuts. I've always thought that while Serena may have the better serve motion, something the talking heads go on about ad nauseam, and plays the power game better than anyone else that it was Venus who had the more solid all around game. When they played each other who was best took second seat to family dynamics. I don't pretend to know anything about the Williams family other than what they allow to be known publicly. It just always looked to me that Venus, to stop Serena from holding her breath until she turned blue, let her sister win. This was the match where Venus finally said "I'm not having it", and played the way I always felt she could play against her sister. I kept waiting for Venus to step back but she surprised me and stood toe to toe at what is her house. Yeah Serena was a little put out but whatever. Oracene Price had to tell her daughter to back off from the attitude and she did.

Serena Williams d. Venus Williams US Open Quarter Final

So Serena was upset about Venus beating her at Wimbledon. Good. Because this time they met it wasn't a final but an elimination. The sister that lost would go home. I guess Serena felt that if Centre Court at Wimbledon is Venus' house than the larger than life Arthur Ashe stadium at the US Open is hers. What a match it was. And in the end it was Serena who was left standing. And once she came through that fire she was not to be denied.

Maria Sharapova d. Justine Henin Australian Open

This quarter final between the golden girl of the WTA and the gritty little engine that could, a repeat of the 2007 final would have been ranked number one if the above mentioned matches hadn't occurred. I thought that of the two Maria was playing better tennis but I'd seen Henin pull out matches she shouldn't have in the past and thought at best it would be a tight three setter. It wasn't. Sharapova, showing that she can play tennis at a very high level, cruised. She routined the first set 6-4 and handed Henin a nice steamy bagel in the second with her movement, yes movement, and use of power when it made sense to do just that. In the last game, on her serve, Henin had no idea what to do. The match is famous for Yuri Sharapov's throat slashing motion which the WTA brass viewed as a "joke" between the two.

Zheng Jie d Ana Ivanovic Wimbledon Third Round

Zheng Jie, ranked number 133 in the world, was going up against the woman then ranked number one, and the winner of the French Open, Ana Ivanovic. Yawn. Zheng is known as a doubles player and most thought she would lose here and continue her great doubles play. So how did she end up beating the woman many saw becoming a dominant number one? In straight sets? I remember saying that Ana was not ready to be number one. She wasn't then. Zheng was on fire and did reach the semi finals, the first wild card at Wimbledon and the first Chinese player ever to reach the semi final's of a Grand Slam. Zheng's great run was ended by Serena Williams who won 6-2 and 7-6(5). Will Ana return to number one? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say no.

Dinara Safina d. Justine Henin Round of 16 Berlin

Dinara won this match 5-7, 6-3, 6-1. She then went on to beat Serena in the quarter final, Victoria Azarenka in the semi, and fellow Russian Elena Dementieva in the final to announce her arrival among the elite of her sport. Dinara then went on to lose to Ana Ivanovic at Roland Garros in the Final and Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand at S'HERTOGENBOSCH, and played a marathon match against Shahar Pe'er at Wimbledon that took over three hours and was won by Pe'er. Dinara limped over the finish line at the end of the year but is now ranked third in the world, a mere 49 points behind Serena.

Best Performance by a Woman 2008

In terms of sheer dominance during a tournament no one played better than Maria Sharapova during the Australian Open in 2008. After losing to Serena 6-1, 6-2 in the 2007 final(It wasn't even that close) Maria came into this event in 2008 with a lot to prove. And prove it she did. From her opening round victory over Jelena Kostanic Tosic ranked 102 in the world Maria marched through the returning Lindsay Davenport, served second set bagels to Elena Vesnina and Elena Dementieva and then beat the world number one also serving up another bagel in the second set. Three bagels in a row. Think Maria was on a mission?
She then beat world number four Jelena Jankovic6-3 and 6-1 in the quarters and defeated third ranked Ana Ivanovic 7-5, 6-3 in the Final.

I've always said Maria gets gifts from the gods of the draw in her tournaments but the Aussie's didn't hand her any freebee's here and she played her ass off (no snark intended). I fully expected her to continue her dominant play at the Slams and Tier 1's but it wasn't to be. In my opinion her play here deserves mention and praise even from this non fan.

Best Performance by a Country

This was the year of the Russian women.
Maria Sharapova.
Elena Dementieva.
Vera Zvonareva.
Dinara Safina.
After the sisters Williams these are the names that come to mind when I think of 2008. Elena played perhaps the best year of tennis in her career bringing home Olympic gold in the process. Vera proved that she deserves mention among the top Russians. It remains to be seen if she continues her form in 2009. Dinara. What can you say about this woman who finally seems to have come out of her shell and had the best year ever making it to the YEC where she ran into the force known as Venus Williams. The Russian men may not have done well this year but the women showed that with a lot of work and focus both as individuals and as a team - they did win the Fed Cup too by the way - they were the best in 2008.

Honorable Mention

This match came early in the year in Israel. Let's just say the Argentine fans don't have anything on their Israeli counterparts. Some say the crowd behavior was reflective of Israeli's not being all that familiar with tennis etiquette. I don't know. I do know that Chakvetadze battled her opponent and the crowd to win a significant victory for Russia and played good tennis while doing so. One of the better women's matches of the year.

Shahar Pe'er d. Dinara Safina Third Round Wimbledon

This marathon sent the careers of the participants in different directions. Pe'er won the battle 7-5, 6-7(4), 8-6, but ended the year ranked number 38. Safina won the war. Still this was one of the best women's matches of the year in terms of grit and determination and the victor didn't become clear until late in the match when a tired Safina couldn't pull the win out. Pe'er went out meekly to Elena Dementieva 6-2 and 6-1 in the next round.

End Notes

I guess you've noticed that I didn't pick one match involving the ITF Player of the Year Jelena Jankovic. Some are posting the US Open Final against Serena but nope. Serena was not going to lose that match no matter what Jelena did. It just wasn't that great a match in my very humble opinion. I think people feel that since she finished the year at number one and was picked POY by the ITF, doubly ironic since she didn't win one Slam which is the province of the ITF, that she had to have a match in the "best of" category. Nope. She ended the year ranked number one because of the amount of tennis she played not the quality. Of all the women she has the most to prove in 2008. Can she put together a year where she plays less and plays better? We'll see won't we?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Seasons Greetings

Best Wishes to you and yours during this Holiday Season


Wednesday, December 17, 2008


by Savannah

The USTA announced this morning that the Davis Cup tie between the United States and Switzerland will take place in Birmingham, Alabama at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Arena. The tie takes place March 6-8. Roger Federer has committed to play. So far Patrick McEnroe is going with the familiar line up of Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Bob and Mike Bryan.
This is kind of a surprise since San Antonio, Texas was thought to be the front runner. Maybe after all the drama in Argentina the ITF said "no mas" and went with the best venue. There will be 17,000 screaming partisans in the seats. Should be a barn burner.

In other Davis Cup news Modesto "Tito" Vasquez has been named the new Argentine captain.

Vasquez coached the team between 1986-1988. Looks like they went the no drama route.

ITF World Champions 2008

Mens Singles - Rafael Nadal
Women's Singles - Jelena Jankovic
Men's Doubles - Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor
Women's Doubles - Liezel Huber and Cara Black
Junior World Champion/ Male Tsung-Hua Yang of Taipei
Junior World Champion/Female - Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand
Wheelchair World Champion/Female - Esther Vergeer
Wheelchair World Champion/Male - Kunieda Shingo

The Trouble with Jelena

As day follows night Jelena Jankovic being named ITF World Champion has sparked the usual online riot among tennisheads. As one fan put it shouldn't being named ITF World Champion mean you won an ITF event during the year? Another fan , AnnaK_4ever put this list together featuring the women who have been named World Champion going back to 2000. Yes you have to go back that far to find a woman who did not win an ITF event and was named World Champion.

The thing that strikes me the most is that at ITF events Jelena didn't have a win against a player in the top five. Hingis did in 2000. Jelena's fans may not like it but without playing all those events and stockpiling all those points she would not be the year end WTA #1.

ITF rules for Champion of the Year are as follows:
"The ITF’s selection of its World Champions is based on an objective system that considers not only performances at the Grand Slams, Olympic Games and respective tours, but also gives weight to performances in the two ITF international team competitions, Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, and the Olympic Games."
Now lets see who gets the WTA Player of the Year award.

ITF World Champions’ results at ITF-related events (since 2000)

2008 : Jelena JANKOVIC
Australian Open : SF [wins over ## 7, 29, 39, 76, 78]
Roland Garros : SF [wins over ## 15, 31, 80, 86, 132]
Wimbledon : 4R [wins over ## 30, 56, 113]
US Open : RU [wins over ## 6, 18, 30, 37, 63, 512]
Olympics : QF [wins over ## 19, 30, 662]
Fed Cup : qualified for World Group II [won 3 of 4 singles matches, wins over ## 21, 150, 460]

2007 : Justine HENIN
Australian Open : did not play
Roland Garros : WON [wins over ## 5, 7, 8, 25, 31, 65, 72]
Wimbledon : SF [wins over ## 8, 15, 67, 83, 117]
US Open : WON [wins over ## 4, 9, 14, 16, 130, 145, 156]
Fed Cup : did not play

2006 : Justine HENIN
Australian Open : RU [wins over ## 1, 4, 54, 60, 92, 104]
Roland Garros : WON [wins over ## 2, 10, 11, 14, 58, 70, 72]
Wimbledon : RU [wins over ## 2, 18, 34, 81, 99, 129]
US Open : RU [wins over ## 11, 20, 21, 27, 45, 70]
Fed Cup : finalist [won 4 of 4 singles matches, wins over ## 5, 9, 14, 20]

2005 : Kim CLIJSTERS
Australian Open : did not play
Roland Garros : 4R [wins over ## 22, 96, 179]
Wimbledon : 4R [wins over ## 64, 93, 320]
US Open : WON [wins over ## 2, 10, 12, 33, 58, 72, 135]
Fed Cup : defended spot in World Group [won 2 of 2 singles matches, wins over ## 30, 71]

2004 : Anastasia MYSKINA
Australian Open : QF [wins over ## 10, 32, 60, 101]
Roland Garros : WON [wins over ## 6, 9, 10, 11, 32, 68, 70]
Wimbledon : 3R [wins over ## 49, 65]
US Open : 2R [win over # 81]
Olympics : SF [wins over ## 17, 35, 47, 65]
Fed Cup : champion [won 7 of 8 singles matches, wins over ## 21, 27, 52, 103, 147, 173, 225]

2003 : Justine HENIN
Australian Open : SF [wins over ## 10, 34, 42, 53, 63]
Roland Garros : WON [wins over ## 1, 2, 8, 18, 82, 83, 109]
Wimbledon : SF [wins over ## 34, 54, 55, 86, 100]
US Open : WON [wins over ## 1, 7, 10, 70, 71, 75, 129]
Fed Cup : semifinalist [won 3 of 3 singles matches, wins over ## 69, 76, 104]

2002 : Serena WILLIAMS
Australian Open : did not play
Roland Garros : WON [wins over ## 1, 2, 39, 41, 132, 142, 169]
Wimbledon : WON [wins over ## 1, 11, 12, 27, 45, 103, 119]
US Open : WON [wins over ## 2, 10, 11, 24, 26, 91, unr]
Fed Cup : did not play

2001 : Jennifer CAPRIATI
Australian Open : WON [wins over ## 1, 2, 4, 37, 67, 72, 90]
Roland Garros : WON [wins over ## 1, 7, 14, 20, 57, 81, 232]
Wimbledon : SF [wins over ## 5, 19, 34, 35, 117]
US Open : SF [wins over ## 7, 19, 57, 67, 142]
Fed Cup : did not play

2000 : Martina HINGIS
Australian Open : RU [wins over ## 13, 14, 15, 49, 63, 116]
Roland Garros : SF [wins over ## 24, 25, 32, 50, 156]
Wimbledon : QF [wins over ## 11, 22, 42, 78]
US Open : SF [wins over ## 5, 11, 32, 45, 101]
Olympics : did not play
Fed Cup : did not play
Why Jelena is such a polarizing force in women's tennis? There have been weak number one's before, Kim Clijsters comes to mind, and while there was controversy about "Cupcake Kim" it didn't seem to be as virulent as the backlash against Jelena. Could it be her lack of sportsmanship? Her "medical" issues at strategic points in matches? Does Jelena even care? I think she does.

Oh, and in case you're wondering Maria Sharapova won Australia on the women's side this year. Maria, along with Roger Federer, made the Forbes Richest Under 30's list this year.

More Talk
Jelena Dokic is still alive in the Australian Open WC playoffs. A lot of fans are pulling for her to make it. I hope she's serious this time.
Bernard Tomic lost to Jo Sirianni but may still be alive since Colin Ebelthite needs medical clearance to continue.

The USTA Women's WC playoff results from yesterday are as follows:

Christine McHale beat Coco Vandeweigh 6-3, 6-2
Vania King beat Mallory Cecil 6-1, 6-0
Lauren Albanese beat Asia Muhammad 7-5, 6-7, 6-3
Gail Brodsky beat Madison Brengle 6-3, 6-4
There was quite a bit of controversy about the women playing this event since the top US junior, Melanie Oudin, was not invited. Neither was Alexa Glatch, another good junior player. There were also questions as to why Vania King, who has been playing on the pro level, had to prove herself yet again. I look at it this way. At least the women have a real playoff like they're having in Australia.

Nothing on the mens playoff yet.

The French Masters begins tomorrow December 18. Josselin Ouanna will take Nicolas Mahut's place in the red group. He joins Gilles Simon, Julien Benneteau and Marc Gicquel.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Orange Bowl

by Savannah

I've been one of the people whining about the state of American tennis so I feel it my duty to report when American juniors do well at a major junior tennis tournament.

The Orange Bowl followed hard on the heels of the Eddie Herr tournament and saw many of the players who won there fall. Yuki Bhambri of India prevented an American sweep of the finals. Maybe things aren't as bad as I thought and in a couple of years these young men and women will be moving up the pro ranks.

For complete coverage please visit Zoo Tennis Colette Lewis site for everything junior in tennis.

Julia Boserup

Yuki Bhambri

Asia Muhammad and Laura Embree

Devin Britton and Jarmere Jenkins

Exhibitions and Wild Card Playoffs
  • The Australian Open Wild Card Playoff has begun. A few things to note about it. It's free. F-R-E-E. 
It is also a true tournament. It has a round robin format and draws from the junior and professional ranks. So far the highly touted juniors Jessica Moore and Bernard Tomic have been shown the door. Moore may have a wild card into the main draw. Tomic was defeated by a twenty four year old who plays mostly Futures. After his father showed his ass a week or so ago Tennis Australia is still debating what if anything should be done, especially since the elder Tomic issued an apology.

The United States Australian Open Wild Card playoff features four men. Just sayin'.


  • Juan Monaco won the Copa Argentina over Gaston Gaudio. Gaudio played pretty good tennis on his way to the final overcoming Feliciano Lopez, one of Spain's Davis Cup heroes. He is said to be looking at a comeback in 2009.

  • Florian Mayer won the German Masters event. 

  • A much anticipated showcase match between Marat Safin and Novak Djokovic at St Anton did not take place. Marat withdrew with a ligament injury. Janko Tipsarevic played in his place and won. Philipp Kohlschreiber won the mens final. Patricia Mayr won the women's event.

  • The Paris Masters event starts this Thursday December 18. Tsonga has withdrawn but the field is still pretty strong. It features a round robin format.
Davis Cup and Fed Cup 2009

Tickets are on sale for the Fed Cup tie between the United States and Argentina as of December 15. The tie will be held in Surprise, Arizona at the club run by John Austin, brother of Tracey.

Spain will play it's tie against Serbia in the Valencian city of Benidorm. It's a resort town featuring nice beaches and is of course at sea level. No news yet on where the Davis Cup tie between the United States and Switzerland will take place. If Andy Roddick has any say it'll be in Texas, probably in San Antonio. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

ATP Matches of the Year

by Savannah

There are two ways to foist your opinions about the matches of the year on innocent readers. One is the fangirl/boy approach and pick the matches where either your fave wins or the player you love to hate loses. The other is to try and think about the matches you enjoyed over the year. I guess you know I'm going to do the latter.

What criteria am I going to use? What effect did the match have on the tennis world? Did the players involved go on to greater heights or sink to greater depths? Was the outcome foreseeable or was it a surprise? Lastly I'll look at what handicaps the players had to overcome in order to win.

That said, this is my list. The order may seem odd but I'll give my reasons.

1. Chennai Semi Final
Rafael Nadal Defeats Carlos Moya

This match took place early in the year and I consider myself fortunate to have seen it. To channel my inner "Sofia Petrillo" picture this, Southern India, 2008. Oppressive heat and humidity. Mentor and student going after each other with the student seemingly coming out on top. Instead the mentor pulls himself together and fights his protege tooth and nail extending the match to five hours and the student comes out on top. It's a great match and if you can get your hands on a copy of it do so. Many tennisheads who did not see this match look at the one that took place the next day when Rafael, who couldn't even move and would've gotten a pass from fans if he'd thrown in the towel, lost to Mikhail Youzhny love and one and say Rafael started his year badly. I disagree. Without this match you don't have the next one on my list.

2. Wimbledon Final
Rafael Nadal Defeats Roger Federer

This match will go down as one of the greatest ever if not the greatest in mens tennis history. It had it all. Rain delays and darkness, herculean efforts by both players. Rumors of pep talks by significant other/coach during one delay. And just before they would have had to call the match due to darkness Rafael Nadal rallied himself to win. If for any reason you missed any of this match find a way to get your hands on it. You'll want it as part of your collection. And I say without that earlier win in Chennai Rafael may have stumbled at the end. Instead he drew on that earlier experience and did what he had to do to win.

3. Australian Open Third Round
Roger Federer Defeats Janko Tipsarevic

I see this match on a lot of the end of year lists and I had to really think about adding it to mine. You can argue that this match set the tone for Roger's year and that he should not have needed five sets to win over a gutsy Tipsarevic 6-7 (5), 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-1, 10-8. Roger said he was ill with the effects of mono. Did it affect his Wimbledon? No, I think the French Open and Hamburg did that. Was it great to watch? Yes. Did it affect his mental outlook? Probably. One of the greatest of the year? You can argue pro and con in my opinion. One of the most influential? I'd say yes.

4. French Open Final
Rafael Nadal Defeats Roger Federer

Many tennis "purists" want to ignore the French Open Final saying the tournament was dull and boring. I think it has more to do with the score of the final match than anything else. The then number one player not managing to take a set from the defending champion was one thing. The worst part of it was the score. Nadal beat Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. A bagel. In a Grand Slam Final. You can ignore it all you want but this is one of the best of 2008 if you want to see what it looks like when one player dominates another not only on the court but between the ears.

5. Hamburg Semi Final
Rafael Nadal Defeats Novak Djokovic

There was no hype needed for this match. Djokovic was breathing down Rafael's neck and a win here would have moved him past Rafa to number two in the rankings. Instead in another grueling match that lasted three hours Rafael defeated his rival 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 holding onto his ranking and positioning himself to move ahead of Roger Federer later in the year.
It should be noted that in the other semi final Roger Federer defeated Andreas Seppi. No knock against Seppi but give me a break here.The Final saw Rafael defeat Roger 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-3.

6. TMC Round Robin
Andy Murray Defeats Roger Federer

After routining the first set 6-4 Roger Federer got ambushed by the man he defeated so easily in New York. Many said then that the US Open was given to Roger thanks to the shenanigans around the order of play on a Saturday when a hurricane was bearing down on the city. Murray apparently felt that way as well and in a match that has to be one of the best TMC matches ever Murray showed he was not having it and beat down the man many want to crown the best ever. Murray showed grit and played relentless tennis winning in a thrilling tie break to three in the second set and winning the third 7-5. There was no surprise that Murray lost his semi final to Nikolay Davydenko 5 and 2 but he had nothing to be ashamed of. He'd played the best match of his career the day before.

Honorable Mention

Australian Open Final
Novak Djokovic Defeats Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Why this match? For this viewer this match had in ugliness what the first two matches had in valor. Tsonga was going to be nervous, his first Slam final after so many years marked by injury. Djokovic had a chance to show the world what a champion he is and erase doubts in many minds that he has the character to be number one.
Instead we saw some of the worst gamesmanship I've ever seen on a tennis court. Only Jelena Jankovic's antics in Zurich topped this spectacle. The behavior of Djokovic's family and entourage set new lows and in a way set the stage for what came later in New York where tennis fans showed their dislike for up to then media and commentator favorite Djokovic. To say his schtick wore thin is an understatement.
Djokovic went on to win TMS shields at Indian Wells over Mardy Fish and at Rome over Stan Wawrinka as well as the TMC over Nikolay Davydenko but did not win another Slam to hold on to his number three ranking.

Wimbledon Round of 16
Andy Murray Defeats Richard Gasquet

He did it in five sets coming from two sets down. He did it in England where they eat their athletes alive. Another one of those must see matches for 2008.

Davis Cup Final Round 2
Feliciano Lopez Defeats Juan Martin del Potro

This was the match that cinched Spain's 2008 dominance of mens tennis this year. On paper there is no way Feliciano, one of the more notorious head cases on the ATP tour should have won this match. Del Potro had a fantastic second half of the year and despite a nagging toe injury was still thought to be the favorite here. Instead we saw Lopez play the way many observers thought he could play on the fast indoor court and fight his way to a 4-6 7-6(2) 7-6(4) 6-3 victory. A great match to watch

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Powers Behind the Throne 2008 Part 2

by Savannah

WTA Coaches of the Year

Oracene Price and Richard Williams

Let's see what this pair accomplished in 2008. A Wimbledon Champion. A United States Open Champion. Olympic Doubles gold medalists. The winner of the YEC. Two daughters ranked in the top ten and both with the credentials and game to be named WTA Player of the Year. Along the way their daughters played two matches that rank in the top three for the year. Do I have to say anything else? I didn't think so.

Vera Dementieva

Many fans make fun of this woman who has done nothing but keep her daughter among the top ranked in women's tennis and is being rewarded by seeing her daughter play the best tennis she ever has in 2008. I got a chance to see Elena play live this year at the US Open and saw an intent focused player who has improved the worst aspect of her game - her serve, and upgraded the rest of her always strong approach to play. Elena was rightly proud of her Olympic Gold Medal and played well at the YEC in Doha.
I'm sure that Vera will be sitting courtside again next year along with her son Vsevolod who is helping to coach his sister.

Željko Krajan

This former Croatian player is the man who lit a fire under Dinara Safina and taken her from being known primarily as Marat Safin's little sister to one of the powerhouses in women's tennis. Dinara has gotten more fit, more focused and instead of letting her emotions run wild when things get tight during a match he has shown her how to rein them in and use them to her advantage. Is he responsible for that primal scream Dinara let's loose with from time to time? Who knows? With the women's game poised to become the domain of Big Babe with finesse next year I think with a saner schedule his pupil will be a force late in the year.

Samuel Sumyk

This French national has been working with Vera Zvonareva since 2006. Vera, who up until this year was more known for her emotional outbursts on court arguably had her best year ever in 2008 and only cried once and that was during the YEC final in anger and frustration. Like Dinara's coach he has taught his charge how to rein in her emotions and stay focused on the task at hand. There will be a lot of pressure on this team in 2009 and of course there will be no time for tears.


Ricardo Sanchez should be mentioned since he coaches the WTA number one. He would not be my choice as a coach of the year due to his behavior which I detail below. All of the other people mentioned have done nothing but add to the sport of tennis. I just can't get over that stunt he and Jelena pulled against Venus with the stop watch and yelling out instructions during the same match.

Ricardo Sanchez

Sanchez, who has been around tennis for decades, is coach of the WTA's number one Jelena Jankovic. I posted a picture of them together because if there ever was a mind meld between player and coach this is it. They both seem to thrive on stretching the meaning of the rules to the nth limit and enjoy the drama they create on court. Like their tactics or not Jelena rode the back of a grueling schedule to the number one ranking without a Slam win. 2009 will be a major challenge for Sanchez and his charge.

Special Note: Thanks to Haruka for helping decide who made both lists.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Powers Behind the Throne 2008 Part 1

by Savannah

ATP Coaches of the Year

Antoni Nadal

What do you say about a man who's player ends the year as Number 1? Called Tio Toni by everyone Antoni demands nothing but discipline from his charge in his approach to tennis and respect for the sport of tennis. No broken racquets, no tantrums. Thanks to "Pat" on the Rafa fan site Vamos Brigade for translating this interview where Toni speaks for himself.

BIELLA, December 3, 2008 - Uncle Toni is a strong man, a hard teacher, the pillar of the phenomenon Rafa Nadal, the world #1. At Biella he was the big name of the symposium "Story of a project: tennis from 0 to 14 years." And he will help us discover more about the phenomenon of Majorca.

Which is the first rule of the trainer everybody envies?

"Education and respect for you, for your opponent, for the crowd, for everybody. When you get along well with the others, you tend to listen to their advice, you accept it and understand it. And you’ll also improve in sport. He has received a good education from his father.

It’s easy to say that when you are talking of a “pupil” like Rafa.

"Who fails to comply once will certainly do it twice. And he will blame everybody/everything but him: the racket, the coach, the court. When he was 10 years old, Rafa spent the whole summer fishing with his friends. When he resumed playing, he started to lose and he complained about it. I told him: “it’s your choice: either you practise to become a tennis player or a fisherman”. In his career he broke just one racket and it was not made on purpose.

No relapses?

Four years ago before playing Hanescu he had 4 chocolate croissants in his hand. Carlos Costa, his manager, came to me and said: “Don’t let him eat them. He cannot eat them now.” I replied: “Are you joking? If he gets sick, he will understand”

Discipline means results?

It’s all very easy in sport. Problems come if you don’t work and you don’t get adapted to changes and you don’t adapt these changes to your body. We are different to one another and not everything is the same for me and you.

Adapting, another key word for uncle Toni.

"During the US Open in 2005, Rafael complained about the balls. I told him: "Look, they won’t change them. If you want we can fly back to Majorca”. In Beijing he was like a fish out of the water. I urged him: “Be calm. Come on, you won’t play that bad” and he won the gold medal. Adaptation is mental strength.

Even mental strength can be “practised” like shots?

Absolutely, talking and talking, even with severity and hardness, to maintain discipline. You must be hard, because life is tough. Otherwise you don’t win four Roland Garros or try to win two Wimbledon. Many guys play well, very few can play with consistency at a high level.
Who is Rafa’s coach?

I have passion, I have a lot of experience because I taught the boys in Mallorca. I have learnt much with Rafael. And I learnt much from Solone
“Without method, order, determination and effort there is neither a genius nor a triumph”.

Let’s analyze 2009.

First of all, it won’t be just Federer-Nadal. I’d rather prefer to beat Borg’s record and win the fifth Roland Garros in a row than win US Open, because it’s records that make history. If we talk about mentality, Rafa can be compared to Borg but he has more intensity, he’s someone between Borg and Connors, and his way of using his body is closest to that of Jimbo.

For the entire interview in the original Italian please go HERE

Miles Maclagan

At the beginning of 2008 Andy Murray seemed to be on the well worn path of a tennis phenom who was unable to impose the mental and physical discipline needed to become one of the games top players. By the end of the year he was ranked number four with a bullet to borrow a term used in music circles when a song takes off like a rocket.

The tennis world rolled it's collective eyes when Murray fired American
Brad Gilbert not so much in surprise but because the collective wisdom was who could handle the volatile Scot if one of the anointed couldn't? In stepped baby faced Miles Maclagan who at the ripe old age of 33 has to be the coach who had the second best year. When Murray, who had been coachless for part of 2008 decided he needed a coach if only to have someone to curse out when things were going bad picked Maclagan, a fellow Scot, not much was expected. Maclagan was born in Zambia but grew up in Zimbabwe where he competed with Wayne Black of the tennis playing Black family. He did play pro and was ranked 172 in singles and 200 in doubles. He actually joined Murray's team in 2007 but it was in 2008 that his influence began to show.

The pressure will be on Miles and his charge in 2009. Many hope that Murray will improve his ranking. We'll see. As for now he deserves recognition for the year he and his pupil had in 2008.

Thierry Tulasne

This former top ten player from France saw his pupil Gilles Simon end up as part of the elite eight at the TMC Shanghai this year. Simon, like Andy Murray, made a name for himself in the second half of the year with victories over Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. With his strong play Gilles Simon is now challenging for the French number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Like Murray the pressure will be on Simon to produce next year. Tulasne, who has coached the likes of Sebastian Grosjean and Paul-Henri Mathieu will not be able to rest on his laurels.

Eric Winogradsky

The long time coach of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Winogradsky has been with the charismatic player seemingly forever. After reaching the final in Australia last year Tsonga sat out a large chunk of the year with injury and it looked as if the year would be a loss. Instead Winogradsky made the trip to Shanghai for the TMC along with his pupil. I'm sure the goal will be to make the short trip to London in 2009. Will Tsonga, who is reported to have chronic back problems be able to play a full schedule? It will be Winogradsky's job to manage Jo's schedule to see that he doesn't fall out of the top ten. The pressure of expectations can be a bitch.

Honorable Mention

Marián Vajda
Novak Djokovic is within striking distance of becoming the number two player in the world despite what many consider a lackluster season for the Serbian player.

Eduardo Davydenko
Nikolay Davydenko finished the year at number five in the world and once again made it to the year ending TMC. Not enough credit is given to this man who has kept his brother among the elite of the sport for several years now.

Miroslava Vavrinec/Roger Federer
This pair continues to do it their way. Roger remained officially coachless in 2008 ending the year at number two in the world. Will the pair continue to do things their way in 2009 or will someone be brought in to become Roger's official coach?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rafael Nadal ATP Player of the Year

by Savannah

I don't think there's any question about who the ATP player of the year is. I'm sure some will make the case for Andy Murray due to his big turnaround at the end of the year. Some might argue for Novak Djokovic for holding onto his number three ranking or Gilles Simon who broke into the top ten and made a good run at the YEC and during the indoor season. As I've said many times tennis fans are like cats. Try to line us up behind one opinion and you get a hot mess.

And please I don't want to hear it about the "clay slow" grass at Wimbledon or the slowing down of hardcourts. That has more to do with technology than anything else and we all know it. Please get it through your heads that the age of wooden racquets is over and will not return. And whatever other agenda is swirling in your brain forget that as well. Let's not hide ethnocentrism behind a facade of words.

So why Rafael? Let's look at this information from the Official ATP Site


ATP Masters Series Monte Carlo
ATP Masters Series Hamburg,
Roland Garros
London / Queen's Club,
ATP Masters Series Canada
Beijing Olympics

ATP Masters Series Miami

Semi Final:
Australian Open
ATP Masters Series Indian Wells
ATP Masters Series Cincinnati
US Open
ATP Masters Series Madrid

Quarter Final:
ATP Masters Series Paris

ATP & Grand Slam
Won: ATP Masters Series Monte Carlo(w/Robredo)

Is it stats you want?

Singles Record:
82 - 11
Singles Titles:
Doubles Record:
11 - 7
Doubles Titles:

Rafael tops the list in the following categories:
  • Second Serve Points Won
  • Points Won Returning First Serve
  • Points Won Returning Second Serve
  • Return Games Won
He is in the top five in Break points converted, Break points saved, Service games won and First Serve percentage.

To achieve all of this in an Olympic year is nothing short of amazing. There are those who will whine about his "poor" year when the tour came to the States and during the European indoor season but let's not forget that he got his team mates to the Davis Cup final. Even though he didn't play the DC final he was the reason things went down as they did in Argentina regarding the venue and the court. And lets not forget that playing tired not only mentally but physically he made the semi finals of the US Open.

So if you're still whining here's some cheese to go with it. And when you get a chance look at that RG, Queens, Wimbledon, Canada run.
Congratulations Rafael. Vamos!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tennis Talk

by Savannah

According to the calendar the official season is over. All players, male and female, can rest up and prepare for the new season starting with the Hopman Cup exhibition, the traditional start to Week 1 of the New Year.

For those of us who follow the sport with more than a passing interest we know that the Exhibition Season follows the regular season like night follows day. Of course there's no official exhibition season. You have to really hunt around to find out who is playing where. If you're lucky you'll find out for how much cheese. Every now and then you'll find a live feed that features play from somewhere and your tennis jones, for the most part, takes what it's being fed as you mark days off the calendar.

So why am I anxious for December 18 and the First Masters de France BNP Paribas that will be held in Toulouse, France? Could it be the line up? Let's see. Jo Wilfried Tsonga, Paul Henri Mathieu, Gilles Simon, Julien Benneteau, Adrian Mannarino, Nicolas Mahut and Marc Gicquel are confirmed. Oh yeah, and Richard Gasquet got himself a wild card into the event. How dare they hold a party without him? All the top Frenchies in one round robin event. I think that's kind of cool. Please check The Official Site for information. Be warned that it's in French only so far.

Not to be outdone Argentina is staging it's own internal championship starting on December 11. It will feature Juan Monaco, Jose Acasuso, Agustin Calleri, Guillermo Canas, Juan Ignacio Chela, Carlos Moya, Feliciano Lopez and David Nalbandian. Juan Martin del Potro was scheduled but has dropped out.
After all the drama surrounding the Davis Cup final this should be quite interesting. I'm waiting to see how the players are split into the groups of four. I don't have a website for this yet but I'll update this post as soon as I do.

Spain is presenting two large exhibitions. The first one will begin on December 6 and will feature Fernando Verdasco, Nicolas Almagro, Tommy Robredo, Albert Montanes, Marcel Granollers, Oscar Hernandez, Ivan Navarro and Daniel Gimeno-Traver, all top 100 players from Spain.

The Masters Of Bilbao will be held the following week beginning December 12 and will feature David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Nicolas Almagro, Marcel Granollers, Tommy Robredo, Alberto Montanes and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

The United States doesn't hold events like these but there is tennis being played. Andy Roddick's annual charity event will take place December 6 and the Rock-n-Racquets charity events in Louisville, Kentucky, Columbia, South Carolina and Knoxville, Tennessee take place the following weekend. For details see the Official Site.
Who said there's a tennis off season?

More Davis Cup Fallout
I hope you noticed the link provided by "Pat" last week to an Argentine newspaper article on the continuing turmoil in the wake of the DC final and David Nalbandian's role in the drama. I took French in high school and can pretty much read anything in that language if I take my time. I can decipher Spanish if I try hard. In reading the article "Pat" provided I came across what seemed to be some rather startling information and knew I needed a Spanish speaker to translate the article for me. I turned to a tennishead who lives in Argentina and goes by the name "Drop-Shot" for help. He provided the translation and clarified some things. Where he felt clarification was needed he added explanations in parenthesis with an asterisk.

Nalbandian – JMDP: a Millionaire Fight

“Go tell your daddy to come and ask for your money, kid.”, said Nalbandian to JMDP on Thursday night, when the players, only a few hours away from the beginning of the tie against Spain, still hadn’t resolved the economic issue. Other witnesses go further and add that the cordobese (*native from Cordoba province), even treated JMDP (*tandilense referse to his home town of Tandil in Buenos Aires) as a “wuss”. Hard to prove, of course. But the truth of the matter is that the DC final had not yet begun, Argentina still felt like the overwhelming favorite against Spain and the intern (*as internal issues) amongst the country’s two top players was already installed.

The roots of the problem were the supposed caprices of Nalbandian, increasingly being looked out of the corner of the eyes of the other argentines, specially JMDP. But the first to last drop that would make the dam break (the last one would be the loss of the tie of course) was a problem about money. A lot of money. Nalbandian pressed more and above for the tie to be played in Cordoba. He shielded himself in a presumed federalism (*in Argentina there’s a big issue about Buenos Aires vs. The Rest of the country. Something like the US East coast vs West coast.), but reality pointed towards a matter of money. One of his sponsors, the Bank of Cordoba, was willing to give their strong man many millions. How many? In the province there was talk about 2 million for Nalbandian alone. “The only one who wanted to play against Spain in Cordoba was Nalbandian. The rest of us didn’t really care.”, said other players of the Argentina Legion (*refers to all Argentine tennis players, the same way they call the Spanish, The Armada.). “Mar del Plata is also part of the country.”, had answered Calleri. And some saw a slip (*as in Freudian) when Nalbandian found out that Mar del Plata had been chosen: “(they) Put an envelope.”, suggested the cordobese.

But Nalbandian lost the venue because an entity from Bs. As., on behalf of Daniel Scioli, paid the Argentine Tennis Asociation (ATA) 9,600,000 dollars. (*not pesos!), 300,000 more than Cordoba was offering. The Unquillo native never accepted his defeat and, according to his detractors, kept on asking for more money up to the day before the final. This is what the ATA’s president, Enrique Morea, was referring to when he said of Nalbandian: “The players don’t have love for the country, let this be clear. There are many self interests.”
The fistfight between Calleri and Nalbandian was a journalistic invention: the red plates (*refers to a practice of a yellow news channel) are easy to release and the rest of the channels copied as to not be left outside. Both were angry, as is logic, for having lost. But, beyond some insult to the wind, David grabbed his bag and left.
The internal issue between Del Potro and Nalbandian was exposed, but most play in favor of the Tandil native. Guillermo Cañas is one of them. In the ambient it is said that David gave Cañas the thumbs down because he hit him (accidentally) with a tennis ball during a practice before the semis with Russia, after which Nalbandian was heard to say “What are you doing, fucking/shitty nigger?” (*VERY IMPORTANT, here Nigger isn’t used in a racial way, more so in social way. It refers to the poor, the poor who steal, to their demeanor and habits, etc Maybe comparable with trailer park scum or ghetto people. “De mierda” derives shit, being mierda, shit. “Mierda!” is the same as saying “Shit!” in all contexts.)
Phrases such as “He thinks he’s at Vilas’ level.”, “He believes to be Maradona or Ginobili” are commonly being used to refer to Nalbandian's actions. The press conference that the Cordobese gave yesterday in Mar del Plata was qualified as “staged”. Few bought it. Of course, David denies all these versions and repeats the word “envy”.

The original link in Spanish is HERE

Idle Chit Chat

  • It's reported that Ana Ivanovic has purchased a 4.5 million Euro villa on Mallorca.

  • The new WTA roadmap has seemingly claimed it's first victim. The Berlin event, long a fixture on the WTA calendar seems to be in danger due to lack of interest from the Qatar Tennis Federation which purchased the event in 2004. The event is downgraded on next years WTA calendar and is scheduled to take place a week before the French Open making it less likely to attract a stellar field. Interests in Warsaw Poland are said to be looking to buy the event. If this takes place that means two major German events, Hamburg and Berlin are taking major hits.

  • Now that he's in the top four Andy Murray is suddenly into making nice. He had this to say in the British papers this past weekend.
"Federer, when I see him, I'll have a chat to him – Nadal, Djokovic, Roddick, all of them. Obviously when we get on court we're rivals, but I think the one thing that has been much better in tennis the last few years has been the sportsmanship. A lot of players are very complimentary about each other, the embracing at the end of matches because a lot of the tennis has been so good. I think that's something that tennis has got to be proud of over the last few years."
Gotcha Andy.

The idea of present WTA head honcho Larry Scott taking over as head of the ATP as part of a deal to give him control of both tours has resurfaced with a vengeance. I guess the people behind him think if it's repeated enough fans will accept it. Personally I think this is a horrible idea. Keep in mind we're talking about the Larry Scott who labeled one player "golden" and said that no one was losing any sleep over Justine Henin's "retirement". It's my opinion that because of his support for one player above all the other women that the WTA is in the state it's in now. A leopard doesn't change it's spots and I'm sure the same tactics would be used if he somehow got control of the ATP. It also doesn't give me a warm fuzzy to know that Justin Gimelstob was lobbying Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in Shanghai. Maybe he thinks his charm will result in the two players supporting an American to take DeVilliers position. Scott is presently the highest paid women's sports executive and made more than DeVilliers last year. To what extent is the ATP board willing to pay him to take over the tour if that's what they want to do? We're in December so we should know soon.