is this thing on?

Hey, all —

Things have been quiet on TSF these last few weeks… I had to recharge the batteries and tend to my non-tennis life.

Anyway, I’ll be posting regularly again this week. I hope everyone’s alright out there!

-Erwin

Schadenfreuderer and Nadal

“Greatest final ever.”

I don’t think I have ever heard that description used for matches that have happened in my lifetime. Some have been memorable, like Hingis combusting at Roland Garros against Graf, or suffering heat-induced hysteria against J-Cap Down Under; or Sampras barfing on the court (and winning!) against Corretja at the U.S. Open. But not until Nadal vs. Federer have I experienced such a significant and well-played match in 12 years of following tennis.

[I didn’t get to see the last two sets live. I was driving to Vegas to see Bette Midler play at Caesar’s Palace!]

And the stars aligned last Sunday, giving our under-appreciated sport (at least in the U.S.) a chance to show the world why we obsess.

So — why this match?

1) Roger’s run had to end. The World No. 1 was vulnerable more than ever, following his shaky 2007 (multiple losses to David Nalbandian and Guillermo Canas) with an unbelievable 2008 that saw him lose to Nole in Australia and go without a title until Estoril. The media sensed blood and fed the insecurity. Federer pushed back, reminding the press that “his time” comes on the faster surfaces at Wimbledon and throughout the North American hardcourts. It somehow didn’t click in my mind that he was speaking the truth.

2) The French Open final. We didn’t think that Nadal would win his fourth French Open title so quickly — and with a bagel in the third set! If anything, it indicated that Roger’s level of play lagged against Rafa’s.

2) God bless the rain. At least on the west coast, the bad weather played a part in Rafa-mania. If it wasn’t for this, the match would have been over by 9am. on a Sunday. when we’re all still asleep. The fact the eight-hour coverage stretched into the late morning (and the afternoon for the East Coast) guaranteed that more people would be watching. And it worked.

3) The media-friendly Rafael Nadal. We here at TSF aren’t really into the Mallorcan. Too muscle-y, too much hair, an unconventional fashion sense. People go gaga over him, though, and he knows how to work it: he’s blogged for the ATP website multiple times and even reprised his role as columnist for The Times at Wimbledon. A tennis player writing about Wimbledon — shouldn’t that have been Roger’s deal?

Here are the media stats for the match and its aftermath: Sports Illustrated put Rafa and Roger on the cover this week (Jon Wertheim described the match as “a four-hour, 48-minute infomercial for everything right and virtuous about tennis”). NBC’s numbers were up 44% from last year, and this match was the highest featuring non-Americans since the 91 final between Stich and Becker. The official tournament website drew 11.7 unique visitors over the fortnight, which is 3 million more people than in 2007. They viewed nearly 300 million pages in 46 million visits spending an average of 70 minutes per visit. Tennis.com had 1.5 million unique visits during the tournament, a 57% increase in daily uniques over last year. On the day of the final, they had 105% audience increase from last year.

This is a very important time in tennis. We have the world’s attention. TMZ.com is blogging about Nadal. We’re on the cover of SI. Before this week we only made the news for match-fixing or getting booted from the tour for alleged cocaine use. Our mainstream ambassadors were either retired greats (Borg, McEnroe, Sampras, Agassi) or ones who I begrudgingly embraced (the title-less Anna Kournikova). Now we have a compelling sport with a player who wins Grand Slams (on multiple surfaces), can make the women and men swoon, and has excellent media appeal.

But while we are all about toasting Nadal, let’s not forget to thank Roger Federer for getting us there.

He brought press to tennis with his amazing talent and his glamorous life. In New York, he created a synergy with the fashion industry by getting Anna Wintour to ditch a fashion show for the U.S. Open. He sat front row at the Valentino show, and has Gavin and Gwen sit in his box on a regular basis.

Roger also brought buzz through his relationship with Tiger Woods. We watched from afar as they transformed their insular careers into a fraternity of athletic elite. What do you think they texted each other?

The focus shifted from celebrating a potential GOAT to turning him into the scapegoat for our sport. As the win-loss percentage hugged ever-so-close to the high 90s, we wanted to see more scalps. We cheered him on to greatness but secretly expected him to fall. The story is more compelling that way.

I really hope that this does good things for our sport. Tape up those knees, Rafa. And ease up on that tourney schedule of yours. We want you to have the long career that you deserve.

And Roger, we haven’t forgotten about you yet. You’ll break Sampras’ record and have your place in the Hall of Fame. You’ll rack up a few more titles and stay around for a few more years. Think of it this way: it must have been lonely at the top. Now, you have company.

(additional info from Liza Horan/tenniswire.org)

“overheard” at the wimbledon final

I cracked up reading what the ladies at DISGRASIAN™ thought happened in Roger Federer‘s player’s box during his 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (10-8), 7-9 loss to Rafael Nadal at this year’s Wimbledon final.

MIRKA: O-kay. Time to regroup.

GAVIN: Bummer. I can’t believe my boy lost.

GWEN: Dude. I thought Roger was supposed to be, like, hella good.

MIRKA: There’s always the U.S. Open. No need to panic. (beat) Fuck. I need a donut.

GAVIN: Hey, look! Messages on my BlackBerry! I wonder who called. This could be exciting.

GWEN: Oh shit, I feel a fart coming on.

(Read the rest here.)

disappear, appear, repeat

Much like Maria Sharapova’s post-U.S. Open behavior last year, which saw her hanging out at New York fashion week and in Nole‘s player’s box, her early Wimbledon loss quickly turned into cameos at a few places in Paris and London.

She made a showing at the Valentino Fall 2008 couture show — the first one by young designer Alessandra Facchinetti (who replaced the recently retired Valentino Garavani himself). The hyper-embroidered collection reinterpreted the fashion house’s classic silhouettes and included the requisite red dress.

And she took in a night at the Tiki-themed Mahiki Club in Dover Street. (src)

Stella McCartney courted this Maria (instead of her tennis muse, Maria Kirilenko) when she hosted a party at Harvey Nichols‘ Fifth Floor Restaurant to expand her organics collection, which currently includes make-up and lingerie.

Masha showed up in a white chiffon cocktail dress with friend Camilla Belle. Masses of pink peonies occupied the dining room, with each of the lucky guests receiving a bespoke napkin ring embossed with their name.

Eco-conscious: We are sick of green-movement marketing as much as writing off Roger, but Stella’s ahead of the pack. The collection will debut at Harvey Nichols and Stella’s flagship store on London’s Bruton Street in June. It’s will be a 20-piece collection made up of loose tunics, slouchy suits, knits and versatile coats — all exuding Stella’s signature, laid-back look, in her favorite color palette of muted tones, taupe, blush pink, grey and stone. (and FYI, Stella uses wind energy — from the grid — to power her studio and e-commerce site. She also has an option with her online store where you can decide to ship your order carbon neutral.)

LeSportsac: The Spring/Summer 2008 collaboration between McCartney and LeSportsac has been out for a while. If you haven’t had a chance to browse, look at detail shots here and the full collection (shop) here.

oh, mirka!

Mirka Vavrinec hangs out with besties Gavin Rossdale and the pregnant Gwen Stefani during her boyfriend’s semifinal match against Marat Safin on Friday.

Looking forward: Roger will overcome the mental hurdle that is his losing streak against Rafa Nadal and win his sixth Wimbledon title. This “Roger is over” talk is all bunk.

(photo source)

photos: arnaud clement at wimbledon

Arnaud Clement had too slow a start in the post-rain delay continuation of his Wimbledon quarterfinal match against Rainer Schuettler. Our favorite French munchkin lost 3-6, 7-5, 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (9-7), 6-8. He could’ve been in the semis!!

Bless that Lacoste duffel of his. Notice the zip collar on his white polo.

More: See a few more pictures after the cut

On lucky net cords, and more than you ever wanted to know about [Derrick] Rostagno

Before being summarily dismissed by China’s Jie Zheng in the 3rd round of this year’s Wimbledon, soon-to-be-former-but-still-current No. 1 Ana Ivanovic’s claim to fame was the miraculous netcord that saved her while match point down against Natalie Dechy in the prior round.

Several ESPN pundits were all over the potentially perfect reference: the 2nd round of the 1989 US Open, when Boris Becker was down match point to Hollywood’s own Derrick Rostagno.

Up a match point in the fourth-set tiebreaker (the first of two match points), Rostagno served and volleyed; Becker’s passing shot — which Rostagno was well in place to knock off — hit the net cord and took a severely angled bounce well over Rostagno’s head. Becker went on to win the tiebreak, the match, and marched all the way to the championship over Lendl. Becker was 21 at the time, so we could give Ivanovic, at just 20, a bit longer to come into her own.

And what about Mr. Rostagno? He rode his VW bus around to tournaments in the West (an RV in the East), and wore puka-shell necklaces. Often referred to as a “free spirit,” he was perhaps lucky in that there wasn’t anywhere near as much dug up on players as there is today. But there is some additional lore with Rostagno that has lingered: in 1986, he was in Mexico City on a flight layover before returning back to the States. At the last minute, he decided to stay in Mexico and play in a satellite tournament there. The MEX to LAX leg of the flight crashed in Cerritos, Calif., killing everyone on board and then some.

Another recollection features Michael Joyce — now famed as Maria Sharapova’s coach — back when he was struggling to move up through the challenger circuit. Joyce had just taken the players’ bus to the event where he was entered, when who should pull up than none other than Mr. Rostagno, driving a Porsche no less; here’s a fellow American who’s made it, drawing Joyce’s admiration and envy.

Rostagno has since gone on to get an MBA, work in leveraged buyouts, gone to law school, and passed the California bar. The latest report mentions him following his father into litigation. No one said life after tennis is pretty.

Michael Shaw writes about tennis and other subjects for the Los Angeles Times and is also an artist. He can be reached at michaelshaw_sar AT yahoo DOT com. Read his previous posts for TSF here.

fashion focus: lotto goes back to its roots

Lotto takes advantage of the Italian flag palette for its Wimbledon men’s gear. Red and green stripes adorn the shirts, shorts, and wristbands of Simone Bolelli, David Ferrer, and Juan Carlos Ferrero. Same goes for the shoes.

Juanqui wears the crewneck version of the tee, and joins the land of the double-wide wristband with his own slapdash version…

Ferrer adds a bandana to his outfit.

Meanwhile, Simone went with the polo version. Look at his jewelry!

Browse: This Wimbledon collection isn’t available for sale yet, but you can check out the rest of Lotto’s goods (including the fleur de lis-branded Leggenda collection) here.

(images by Getty Images)