halle says ‘hi’ from miami

Far, far away from Paris Halle Berry sported some Swiss sportswear on the beaches of Miami over the holiday weekend. Berry looked to be hanging with friends, unaware that the French Open was going on and that she missed the Sony Ericsson Open by a good two months.

Berry was wearing a HI-PRO cap, a Swiss company owned by our good friend Ivo Heuberger. The folks at HI-PRO also outfit the Swiss Davis Cup team, just in case you were wondering.

More Halle: Lots of pictures up on Just Jared.

(picture via just jared)

federer plays pong in nike world cup ad

The Nike ad for the upcoming World Cup is getting plenty of buzz around the net. But there have been few mentions of Roger Federer‘s cameo in the 3-plus minute shot. Fed battles in ping pong against England’s Wayne Rooney, who is apparently (in the ad) on a red-hot streak (Just Roo It!). No Rafa appearance?! Even Kobe takes part in the action. See the clip by clicking the image above.

sunday survey: halfway there

Did a change of outfits do in Venus’ chance at a French title? (Getty photo via Yahoo! Sports)

We’re halfway done with the 2010 edition of the French Open and both the men’s and women’s draws are shaking out to ready for an entertaining week two. We took a collection of our biggest surprises from Week One and wanted you all to let us know what you thought was the shock of the tourney thus far.

short balls: trench foast

Well, day five of the French Open is already underway and you’ve got to be thankful for a little Grand Slam reprieve in your life! I know I am! It really is a blast to have all those scores coming in and matches to pay attention to.

Victoria Azarenka and Dinara Safina didn’t pay too much attention to their respective matches, and they were the only big (big) names to crash out in the first round of the tournament. Andy Roddick, Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all survived five-set encounters to move on to round two.

If you were wondering about the Roland Garros poster, the New York Times Straight Sets blog has the nitty gritty from Pakistani-born Indian artist Nalini Malani, who designed it this year. I’ve gotta say it’s something I always look forward to – seeing what sort of art the French will include for their home slam. And if you’ve done a little digging on the Roland Garros web site, you’re probably a fan of My Little Roland Garros, under the Event Guide. Plenty of fun (TSF-inspired?!) stuff happening in there.

Laura Robson might be skipping out on the French this year (smart choice, we think), but the British gal isn’t skipping out on the opportunity to make good of her recent rise to stardom. She has partnered with Right to Play, a non-profit that encourages youth to take up sports as a way to community building and improved confidence. Robson is doing plenty with the project, including wearing the RTP wristband at Wimbledon and asking her fans to design what style she will wear during this year’s U.S. Open.

New York City is hosting the second annual Kicking and Screening film festival June 1-5 in honor of all things soccer on the screen. Good timing with the World Cup kicking off on June 6. We love to see such collaboration between art and sport, and the festival is just that: over five days ten films will be shown including an already-sold out day five. To add to the visual appeal, the organizers have booked a freestyle juggling group called FreestyleSoccer to wow the crowds on June 3.

Read more short balls after the jump and see the Right to Play image featuring Laura Robson. [Read more…]

early discussion: aravane the streaky

Canadian sports writer Stephanie Myles has a great anecdote on yesterday’s El Tabakh-Rezai match on Centre Court. (Screen grab via Twitter.)

We don’t do too much in-depth, let’s-talk-about-the-tennis coverage here on TSF, but every once in awhile it’s a healthy practice just us TSFers to dive into and we’re pretty sure you get a kick out of us trying to sound like we know what we’re talking about.

I’ve had high hopes for many a players on the WTA Tour, especially those with such salacious backgrounds. You know who I’m talking about: the Jelena Dokic‘s and Melanie Oudin‘s of the world. To me, there is nothing better than a mid-ranked player making a run for her country at her home Slam with the crowd (and the world) cheering her on. It’s something unique about women’s tennis that you can’t quite find elsewhere, and though it rarely happens, when it does it is purely magical.

Last year, two such runs captured the attention of tennis fans as Dokic and Oudin made respective runs to the quarterfinals at their home Slams. The back stories were mostly inspiring and the chance for us to ride with them on their incredible journey felt refreshing and new in a women’s tennis tour that can often feel like another tattered episode of Beverly Hills 90210.

At the French Open, it has been a while since such a run has been made. A decade ago, Mary Pierce finally capped off a tumultuous Roland Garros record by winning the title over Conchita Martinez, and she surprisingly made a run to the finals in 2005, taking out Lindsay Davenport along the way before being humbled by one Justine Henin in the title match.

So this year, as Aravane Rezai makes her march through the women’s draw, she cannot do so as a dark horse. Her win two weeks ago in Madrid was a dazzling display of Pierce-like Big Babe tennis, where she hit through the likes of Henin, Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams. The thing about Rezai seems to be that she really can hit through her opponents with little regard (unlike Oudin) but also has her head squarely screwed on after five years on tour (unlike Dokic).

Her history is that of a Dokic-Pierce storybook, chalk full of stories of an over-involved father and threats of playing for a different country (Iran) and spats with the French Tennis Federation. Perhaps such histories have plagued girls on the WTA in the past, but if Rezai continues to play with the resolve she showed Sunday in a 6-1, 6-1 drubbing of Canada’s Heidi El Tabakh, then the French could get their first home-grown story line in quite a while.

Amelie Mauresmo could never quite enjoy her experience at Roland Garros because of her distaste for the pressure of the French. But to watch the powerful strokes of Rezai is something special. Few players are not physically intimidated by the Williams sisters, but Rezai can go toe-to-toe with them in a baseline brawl, and if she doesn’t suffer from the Frozen Foot Syndrome that plastered Pierce’s feet to the clay in the 2005 final against Henin, she has a legit shot at being a threat for this tournament.

Like peers Sania Mirza and Shahar Peer, Rezai makes the internationalization of women’s tennis feel more enlightening. And though she can be a streaky player, Rezai seems to be enlightened herself by the journey thus far, something that could prove vital for a shot at Roland Garros glory: “When you play tennis, you make sacrifices to reach that level so this pressure, you like it, it comes with the reward.”

A reward next Saturday for Rezai? First she has to get past Angelique Kerber, a player who drubbed her at this year’s Aussie Open.

timeless faces

When I used to blog over at Tennis Chatter, Troy did incredible work for me in the Photoshop department. Well, I’m glad I’ve corralled him to be a part of what we do at TSF, because he’s plain brilliant. This TIME cover features a soccer-playing Rafa, a dapper Roger and the one and only Lady JuJu. She might be able to hold court with Justine Spears, a good friend from our Chatter days.

[Read more…]

sunday survey: your champs in pah-ree

Well the 2010 edition of Roland Garros has already begun and there’s a few upsets to speak of (Victoria Azarenka, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez!) on the opening Sunday. I’m surprised that Svetlana Kuznetsova worked her way past Sorana Cirstea so easily (3 and 1) and both Robin Soderling and Aravane Rezai have opened their Paris campaigns in convincing fashion.

So before the draws take too much shape, post your picks for the men’s and women’s champion at this year’s second Slam. It’s going to be a wonderful one, right? I can’t wait!

(screen grab via roland garros web site)

short balls: nearly french

Is that Mary we see?! Upon closer inspection, no… no, it isn’t. Does this mean Troy can tell the future?? (TSF illustration by Troy Venechanos)

We wonder if Aravane Rezai could become this decade’s Mary Pierce at the French Open? It’s been a decade since Pierce, the on-again, off-again French citizen (according to tennis enthusiasts), won the title at Roland Garros much to her fans’ pleasure. Rezai has already allowed controversy to swirl around her young career, and her Iranian heritage runs parallel to Mary’s history with Canada. Both are bigger-built girls who belt off the baseline and use their hard, flat strokes to make up for less-than-best movement.

It will be interesting to see if this really could develop. Rezai has been steadily rising in the WTA ranks for the last three years, and might use 2010 as her breakthrough year after winning in Madrid last week. In what has mostly been a lackluster year, Rezai beat Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams to win the tournament. Rezai is a respectable 9-6 at Roland Garros, and this year is a guaranteed seed now that she is in the top 20. Could she be a week two contender? Guess we’ll see which Mary… we mean Aravane, shows up.

Looks like the USTA will have plenty of choices when it comes to this year’s Fed Cup final between the U.S. squad and the Italian team. 11 cities have entered bids to hold the November tie. Among the bidders are three cities in Texas (San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth) and two in California (Pacific Palisades and San Diego). Looks like Montgomery, Ala. decided to sit this one out (surprise!). Our guess: one of the Texas sites. No WTA event is held within a solid 1,000 miles of said state.

[Read more…]