rhapsody for a champion

A TSF reader bids Monica Seles farewell

Well, my favorite female tennis player retired from the sport this past Valentine’s Day. Monica Seles is yet 34 but a grand dame in the increasingly physical, ever youth-centric arena that is professional tennis. She simply found that she didn’t have any more of those blistering darts in her quiver, and so she made it official, packed it up, packed it. It was expected, a footnote really to a career that saw greatness and fit all too well into the always-spiraling soap opera that is tennis, though hardly by her design.

It’s the wondrous tale of a girl born in Yugoslavia to father Karolj, an artist who drew cartoon animal faces on tennis balls and set up a chain-link “net” stretched across a parking lot on which she bashed shot after shot. Monica’s family relocated to the United States in her parents’ middle age so that she could pursue what was, for a time, one of the most dominant careers in sports. Seles won eight of twelve Grand Slam tournaments and supplanted Steffi Graf atop the world rankings. She became No. 1 thanks to an arsenal of stinging strokes that found uncanny, acute angles and painted the lines of the court. She’s the originator of those fierce, two-note grunts that all of today’s stars punctuate their shots with, and arguably the one who introduced the power game to women’s tennis. Read the rest of the entry…

it’s all true: le coq sportif’s myth will drop in spring 2008

le coq sportif myth

The rooster crows: French brand Le Coq Sportif has a busy spring this year. They plan to release a new line of performance shoes called Myth and they’re also relaunching their sports and lifestyle collections in North America (more deets on that later). All this ado is perfectly timed with the 25th anniversary of Yannick Noah‘s 1983 French Open singles title — a big deal since it was the last time a Frenchman has won a Grand Slam (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came pretty close last month).

Italian Potito Starace, who contributed to the shoe’s design, had this to say about the new kicks:

“It is a privilege to be one of the few players wearing Le Coq Sportif apparel and footwear. I almost feel like I have a unique style when I walk on the court. Comfort is key for me but I also appreciate the ‘elegance’ of the tennis line.”

Details: Myths have two innovative features: the “ERGO +” flexibility system in the instep, supporting the foot; and the “DS2″ patented inside sole which keeps the foot dry — no stink! And as far as colorways, a black version is available for men while pink and lime are for the women. (Le sigh… sometimes, a guy just wants to wear lime. Or pink.) What do you think of the shoes? Tell us!

Take a closer look: See the black/white and pink/white versions of the Myth after the cut

trophy watch: i call him “melo yellow”; a japanese phenom; mama murray must be happy, etc.

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This one’s for you, Mikey: Our Sa Watch 2008 begins with the duo of Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa — locals — winning the Brazil Open doubles trophy over Albert Montanez and Santiago Ventura. Leave it to Andre to wear yellow socks on the court. Cute.

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Meanwhile, it was a battle of the lankies as British fourth seed Andy Murray took out Croatian Mario Ancic 6-3, 6-4, at the ATP Open 13 in Marseille, France.

In Delray Beach, Kei Nishikori surprised everyone (including finalist James Blake) with this impressive 6-3, 1-6 and 4-6 upset. Our buddy Ichizo took this video of Kei while playing against Zack Fleishman in Japan last October.

By the way, look out for Ichizo to launch his japanese language tennis blog sometime soon. This is one of the few times I’m sad that I don’t know Japanese. That, and everytime I can’t read anything in Men’s Non-No aka the best magazine in the world.

And we are sure that Mama Murray is proud of her other son, Jamie, who teamed with Max Mirnyi to upset the top seeded Bryan Brothers. (Watch: See Jamie use finger code to communicate with Max.)

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A beaut! The Proximus Diamond Games tops itself with a racquet encrusted with 2008 diamonds (get it?) totalling more than $1.5 million. 1,611 of those diamonds are on the ball itself. Unfortunately for Justine Henin, who beat Italy’s Karin Knapp, 6-3, 6-3 in the final match, she has to win the tournament three times in five years before she takes home that puppy. It’s not an impossible feat, though; Amelie Mauresmo did the same last year and took home the first diamond trophy.

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Singles: Sorry, guys. I was too crushed by the early loss of Guga Kuerten in singles (and doubles, actually) at the Brasil Open to care about who won. Props to Nicolas Almagro for besting mainstay Carlos Moya 7-6 (4), 3-6, 7-5.

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Lastly, Flavia Pennetta wore her multi-collared Sergio Tacchini all the way to a title at the Vina del Mar tourney in Vina del Mar, Chile. Her opponent: Klara Zakopalova.

(Mirnyi/Murray video via ATP; photos by Getty Images)

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fashion focus: my fantasy tennis closet; shipley & halmos’ fall 2008 rtw

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Tennis magazine’s Spring Fashion editorial reads like the storeroom of a Barney’s CO-OP: Shipley & Halmos. Trovata. Marc by Marc Jacobs, and Band of Outsiders.

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The shoot’s stylist, Jessica de Ruiter, threw in some Y-3, American Apparel, and Superga shoes for good measure.

(photos by Williams + Hirakawa)

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Fall 2008: Above are the pieces from S&H’s Fall 2008 RTW collection. Refinery29 checked in with Sam and Jeff some days before their show. (Definitely worth watching, if only to see their decoder ring invitations.)

Browse: See all the Alfred Hitchcock-inspired pieces here. But if you’re just ready to buy, then know that their much-anticipated Spring 2008 goods are now available for consumption.

(photos via style.com)

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a closer look at the delray beach tennis court

The organizers of the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships love to push the marketing envelope. Sometimes, us fans end up with fashion anthrax; other times, we end up with a love letter, S.W.A.K.

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We swooned after seeing photos of the tourney’s show court backdrop; the blue waves were the brainchild of ITC director John Butler. He partnered with Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Hall, who underwrote the fee of trio of artists involved with the project: Doug Hoekzema of Pompano Beach and Angel Mir and Brandon Opalka of Miami.

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The waves were digitally designed and printed on vinyl. They then beefed up the mural with airbrushing and painting by hand.

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On the court, extending out from the end zone walls from six to ten feet, the artists painted waves directly on the surface. (Take that, Zurich!) The court took three days to prep another three days to paint.

More: See more close-ups of the mural after the cut…

k-swiss in the spring: tommy haas on the court and in print, plus some great looks

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The March issue of Tennis has this two-page ad of German dreamboat Tommy Haas modeling for his new sponsor, K-Swiss. I want that headband!

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Tennis goods: There’s not much to look at in their tennis line — the graphics on these tees aren’t anything special. From left to right: Tnns Ball Prntd Crew, $45; IN Motion Slvlss Crw, $42; Ultracel Polo, $52.

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But this jacket from their casual line gets our thumbs up. Skur Track Jacket, $70.

Shoes: Yep, if there’s one thing K-Swiss is known for, it’s delicious shoes. Check out the latest offerings.

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Debut: K-Swiss Tommy made a quick debut at the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships last week. Still rusty from a shoulder injury layoff, he bowed out in the first round to Diego Hartfield 6-2 3-6 6-2.

(ad from Tennis, Haas photo by Palm Beach Post)

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monica puts on some dancing shoes, steffi hawks some louis vuitton pumps

A tale of two legends: Recent retiree Monica Seles will join Marlee Matlin, Adam Carolla, Priscilla Presley and Kristi Yamaguchi in the latest season of Dancing With the Stars. Wow, that’s a “Who’s Who” if I ever saw one.

The sixth season of DWTS will premiere March 17 on ABC. On joining the show, the 34-year-old Seles says “I’m a tennis player. I don’t know a tango from a mango.”

Seles’ recent return to the limelight is likely a big push to move her away from “tennis star” to “celebrity”. If you remember, she followed an appearance on the CBS Morning Show earlier this week with the announcement of her retirement. And now, the dancing. She’s well on her way, but has to play catch up to her biggest rival on the court…

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Steffi Graf‘s PR machine continues to churn. Graf will have a guest stint on Oprah’s Big Give, a “pay it forward” reality show produced by Oprah Winfrey. (Remember when hubby Andre Agassi whacked her in the face? They were taping a segment for it.)

And page five of this week’s New York magazine has an ad from Louis Vuitton featuring the Narcisse Pump. The uppers on this two-tone three-inch heel are hand-stitched. Below the picture is this copy:

Walk with me. By Steffi Graf”

I look at my schedule and I just have to laugh. I’d need to be six people to get through it all. It seems I’m still running all over the place – only my footwear has changed.”

That’s deep. Do you think she wrote it herself?

Buy: Narcisse Pump, two-tone hand-stitched calf leather with three-inch heel, $1,120, louisvuitton.com.

(USA Today via Marie; photo from New York)

sharapova does doha and she’s in (a) penthouse

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Maria Sharapova totes Fendi on one arm, slings her gold Prince bag over the other, and cradles her Sony Ericsson phone. Oh, the burden of celebrity!

She scheduled to compete in this week’s Qatar Open as the fourth seed.

(I’m not sure if that’s the actual link to the tourney website. If it is, then FYI webmaster: there are all kinds of things wrong with it.)

New digs: Haaretz reports that Masha bought a 350-square-meter luxury penthouse for 7.5 million Israeli shekels ($2 million). With all her commitments in the Middle East, it’s about time she got a place nearby.

(via Open Court; photo via Getty Images)

shahar shines in doha — marcos baghdatis, are you listening?

Shahar Peer is letting her tennis do the talking at this week’s Qatar Open, and her racquet is quite the diplomat.

Groundbreaking: Peer, from Israel, has the spotlight on her for participating in a tournament hosted by an Arab state. The SEWTA gave Doha an event with the provision that players be allowed to participate based on merit (the Israelis are normally non grata), and the organizers complied, allowing Shahar to play. Many are wondering about the motivation behind this move; Doha is interested in bidding for the 2016 Olympics, and this is there way to make nice with the world.

So what’s Shahar’s take on all this attention? “I’m here to play tennis,” she said. “But if this opens up a window for the younger generation, with Arabs and Israelis working together for peace, I’d be happy.” (AFP)

But of course everyone’s on alert, and extra precautions are being taken to ensure Shahar’s safety.

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Fashion focus: Here’s Shahar wearing lots of silver during her first round match against Andreja Klepac, whom she beat 6-3, 6-4.

Today’s lesson: Hey Marcos Baghdatis, I hope you’re paying attention. Instead of being a turkey about Turkey, you should take your celebrity and make this world a better place. It’s not that hard to do.