the ladies of the wta count their vitamins

Hopefully they’re taking their vitamins, too! In a short clip, a few select stars of the WTA — Laura Robson, Caroline Wozniaki, Petra Kvitova and others — guess how many USANA vitamins are in a jar. USANA is one of the official partners of the WTA. Before Agnieszka Radwanska delivers the final tally, can you guess which player was the closest? And how many vitamins do you think are in the jar?! | TSF Vault: Videos

before london, andy tried a new game

Small court, big results. Before Andy Murray‘s London hopes got muddled because of injury, the Scot took to a British warehouse to play some Road Tennis. Not sure what that is? Nor were we. adidas explains:

[We invited the] Road Tennis Association of Barbados to London, to teach Murray how to play Road Tennis. A cross between traditional tennis and table tennis, Road Tennis is played on the street, with participants chalking out their own courts. Murray had never played the game before, and was given just one hour to pick up his wooden bat and attempt to master the game’s ins and outs, before we put him up against Barbados’ finest.

In the video above, Murray gets a “warm-up” with storied English boxer David Haye, who is now retired, and British rapper Example.

adidas noted that the Murray vid was the first of many to come for the brand over the next year: “The event marked the start of our new campaign, where we’ll be challenging some of the world’s best tennis players, around the biggest tournaments next year.” Excited? You bet we are!

As for who Murray gets a lesson from on the Road Tennis pavement? That’d be Sylvain “Lama” Barnett, a legend in Barbados and one of the Pro Road Tennis Association’s greatest players of all time.

short balls: basketball on broadway, food as fashion, a high line book and more

Broadway magic? A new play is in the works for Broadway, set on the rivalry and friendship between NBA legends Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The play is in its casting phase right now, which The Wall Street Journal noted was a blessing for the vertically-blessed. | And if you like your hardwood stories with a little bit of dance and song, Lysistrata Jones, a musical now in previews, opens Dec. 14.

Creative hunger. We’re in love with the Museum of Communication in Berlin and their current food and fashion exhibit. Move over, Gaga! This fella is donning some carb-inspired, pasta-and-ravioli threads. Yum.

High society. New York’s famed High Line park in Chelsea now has its own book, High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky. On Wednesday, Nov. 30, Coach is hosting a release party for the book along with New York magazine at the Coach store in Midtown Manhattan.

short(er) balls: Both Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova voiced their want for the WTA’s Season Ending Championships to move to London’s O2 Arena to join the men. The feasibility of such a thing happening? At least a few years off with contracts in place and the events still three weeks apart. | On USA Today, Bethanie Mattek-Sands writes of her improved shoulder, taking care of her dog at home and the first-ever tennis camp she’s hosting in Arizona next month. | The only golf and tennis shop in downtown D.C., Drilling Tennis & Golf, is set to close after over 30 years in business. | Beware, Martina Hingis! Tory Burch says she plans to eventually design yoga, tennis and golf lines for women. | IMG stalwart Teddy Forstmann, “one of the most powerful men in sports, fashion and media,” according to The New York Post, died yesterday at the age of 71. He had brain cancer. | Growing in popularity in Australia? That’d be polo. | The world’s largest jacket? Half the size of a tennis court, y’all!

(johnson/bird screengrab via official show website; museum photo via fox news; jacket image via world records academy)

going green: venus williams (‘s diet)

By Benjamin Snyder

Venus Williams has had to change her diet since being diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome

No more Oreos or Jamba Juice? Venus is aspiring to have a better diet in 2012. (AFP/Getty)

A tall order for the taller sister. Can the meat-and-potatoes Wimbledon-queen summon her past success as a leaner and greener player?

Older sister Venus, who’s claimed five titles at the All England Club, is having a health scare of her own after being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease, which can lead to damage of the body’s vital organs. The illness forced her drop out of the US Open this year and has pushed meat out of her diet.

Despite the seriousness of the condition, Venus has been sporting a positive attitude and even healthier eating habits. She told reporters, “I changed my diet completely, so lots of vegetables. I [altered] my mind frame completely because I was the person who always ate their steak first and their salad second.”

Times are changing for the superstar, who said last year that she “eats to live and not lives to eat.” She continued talking foodie favorites, saying that she considered “beans and rice and blackened chicken” a top meal choice.

Venus discussed her new diet’s impact on the future. “My goal next year is to play a full schedule. It will take some work to get there, but I’m no stranger to hard work.”

TSF Vault: Venus Williams

This recalls the gourmet changes for 2011 ATP success stories Novak Djokovic, who’s claimed three major titles this year, and Andy Murray, who went on a 17-match winning spree after the US Open.

Djokovic’s decision to cut the carbohydrates to curb his Ciliac disease helped him achieve his best season ever, including the No. 1 ranking. Meanwhile, Murray discussed his own gourmet foray into becoming more fit. Before losing to Tomas Berdych in the Paris Masters, he said, “I think there’s a bit of difference in my approach to training and the diet; I feel pretty fresh.”

Not all’s well for the scrawny-looking Scot, who misses being able to pick up a menu and order what he wants. You can almost imagine his mouth watering when he said: “It can be quite frustrating when everyone else is dunking their bread in olive oil or smearing it in butter.”

Murray aside, Venus’ newfound form and fitness will no doubt have fans worldwide salivating for a dominating force in an otherwise floundering WTA. Petra Kvitova, 21, the current world No. 2 and winner of Wimbledon and the Season Ending Championships, might be the answer. She’s still, however, young and half-baked in terms of talent and poise.

It’s time for Venus to turn up the burners and bring back the motivation for which she’s known. Currently ranked No. 103, having only played a handful of tournaments this year, Venus quickly doused rumors of retirement.

“I love the game. The racket feels right in my hand and I’m planning on going right back to where I was at the top of the rankings in the singles and doubles.”

With Venus back in-shape and on form, the alarm bells should be sounding for the rest of the women’s tour. It’ll be tough to get out of the fire and back into the figurative frying pan that is professional tennis at her ripe age of 31. But if anyone can come back from adversity and succeed, it’s a Williams.

High stakes (steaks?), indeed.

funny guy steve berke seriously in the new york times

Almost voted (in) as Mr. Popular.

Just after the US Open, a tweet from Jon Wertheim caught our eye on a mayoral candidate in Florida who was using some ATP players as part of his campaign for office. The off-center approach was part of an off-center candidacy, and a few weeks ago Steve Berke, the candidate at hand, even landed in the pages of The New York Times. Berke’s bid fell short last week in Miami Beach. But hey, you can’t blame him — and the “After Party” party — for trying, right?

(screengrab via nyt.com)

identity, borrowed

Peter Burwash. Like, the real one.

Not who he seems. This story caught our eye in this weekend. From the Monterey County Herald:

Peter Burwash is famous in the tennis world, but last week he discovered his picture was on a newspaper column by one “Richard Burwash,” published in Salt Lake City.

“I got so many calls about it,” Burwash said. “Friends, newspapers, TV stations called.”

The name and photo were purloined off the Internet by Mayor Mike Winder of West Valley City, Utah, the state’s second largest city and a suburb of Salt Lake City, population about 130,000.

Winder apparently was fed up with negative publicity about West Valley and decided to pen “good news” about his city under a pseudonym. When it became apparent that the real Peter Burwash, 63, is well known as a motivational speaker, author of 10 books and founder of the world’s largest tennis management firm, the game was up.

Image via pbitennis.com

yep, you read that headline right

Better safe than sorry? On Wednesday morning, Serena Williams was part of a headline on TMZ, but there were no photos of the tennis star on a red carpet or out to dinner in Hollywood. Want more details? Click here. Or the image above. And should we really be surprised that Serena has a panic room? It’s Serena! | TSF Vault: Serena Williams

(tmz.com screengrab)

wta sec: armchair commentary wrap up

By Matt Trollope

While Vika is looking up, Petra is really only looking ahead. (Getty)

Armchair commentary always takes a hit on a weekend because, quite simply, you spend a lot less time in the armchair. So without further ado, here is a wrap of the final weekend in Istanbul which offered up a new tournament champion, some quality tennis, and plenty of juicy plot-lines entering 2012.

Player of the year: Petra Kvitova‘s absorbing three-set win over Victoria Azarenka in the final went a long way to cementing her — unofficially at least — as the player of the year in 2011. With the four Slams being split between four players and a pervading sense of parity (or instability) throughout the tour, Kvitova’s resounding win at the prestigious event elevated her above all other candidates. Although Caro matched her haul of six titles, the Czech’s Wimbledon and WTA Championship titles were much more significant than anything Wozniacki achieved. Add to this her sparkling 19-0 indoor record, titles on all four surfaces and her rise from no. 34 to no. 2 and you see a player with a compelling case for POTY honors.

A new era? The weekend’s results caused a significant shift in the upper echelons of the WTA rankings, with Kvitova and Azarenka leap-frogging Maria Sharapova into second and third place respectively. For all the talk of veterans flourishing on tour — which remains true at Grand Slam level at least — the top trio are the youngest players in the Top 10. With Wozniacki and Kvitova just 21 and Azarenka just a year older, they have many more years ahead of them, and with the players possessing contrasting styles, the stage could be set for a compelling three-pronged rivalry into the future. Trivalry? We sort of dig this trio.

Inflated ranking: How on earth was Vera Zvonareva ranked no. 2 as recently as the US Open? The Russian, who now sits at no. 7, finished the round-robin stage with a mediocre 1-2 record. Somehow she qualifyied for the semifinals thanks to a count-back technicality, but it was there that she was comprehensively outplayed by Vika on Saturday, a player she had won six of her last nine matches against. With the emotional, mentally-fragile Vera of old resurfacing in Istanbul, the chances of her repeating her major final appearances of 2010 and re-ascending the rankings ladder in 2012 seem increasingly slim.

Tight battles: While it may not have been the best quality tennis ever staged, the championships produced some resounding battles that thrilled the fans in Istanbul. In the round robin stage, Zvonareva and Wozniacki fought out a tough three-set match on the second night of the event, and the next day, Zvonareva again found herself in a three-set fight, blowing a 5-3 final set lead and match points to hand Agniezska Radwanksa a 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 win that featured several rallies worthy of the highlight reel. The final weekend was no different: Kvitova came through roller-coaster affairs against Sam Stosur in the semis and Vika in the final, defeating both in dramatic three-set contests.

Success story: More than 13,000 spectators reportedly packed into the Sinan Erdem Dome for the final, continuing a run of impressive crowds that attended each session. The support for the championships in Turkey was one of the bigger stories of the week and was pleasantly surprising given the event’s prior flops in Los Angeles, Madrid and Doha. With a state-of the-art venue, knowledgeable and enthusiastic crowds and an atmosphere the players relished, the unofficial “fifth major” has had some of its former glory restored and appears to be in good hands for the next two years in Istanbul.

So what’s next? The stories and results from this year’s championships have left us with many tantalising questions heading into the 2012 season. Will the young brigade of Kvitova, Azarenka, Wozniacki and Radwanska continue to flourish when the established greats — Serena, Kim, Venus and Maria — return to the tour fresh and healthy? More specifically, how will Kvitova’s impressive game stack up against a fully-fit Serena or Clijsters? Will Azarenka continue her steady improvement and eventually capture a major title? Will Li Na rediscover her confidence in time for the Australian circuit, where she’s defending a truckload of points? Will Wozniacki continue to cling to her no. 1 ranking or will she be usurped by bolder, more aggressive shotmakers? Will more decisive action finally be taken on the grunting issue, in the face of increasing complaints and media coverage? And will the WTA unearth a dominant player to bring stability to an erratic, unpredictable tour? Stay tuned …

Matt Trollope began covering tennis in 2008, a natural extension of his childhood obsession for the game that included hitting for countless hours against his bedroom wall and self-producing and editing a fictitious tennis magazine. Based in Melbourne, he has covered four Australian Opens and one Wimbledon championship, and his tennis writing has featured in Australian Tennis Magazine, the Australian Open Official Program, and Alpha Magazine.

drawstring pants (not!) optional

It’s OK to dress up, GI. Which is more surprising: That Thomas Muster thought his return to pro tennis might be successful? Or that Goran Ivanisevic doesn’t own a pair of dress pants? Muster’s comeback, book ended by the ATP stop in his home country of Austria, finished a year after it started, the former world no. 1 going 2-24 in that span. But really, Goran! We neeeeeeed you to class it up next time. Like, if you’re invited to Kimiko Date-Krumm‘s going away party, how about not wearing tear-aways, OK? Deal.

(getty images photo)

sunday survey: petra pushes for POTY

Reigning queen? Kvitova swept her last 10 matches of ’11. (AP photo)

Player of the year? With her triumph over the field in Istanbul this week, Petra Kvitova made a convincing push for winning the title of player of the year for the 2011 season. The Season Ending Championships are often called the “fifth slam” beyond the majors, and Petra is now the only woman to grab two out of those five tournaments. Sure, Miami is often also brought up in the same breath, but Petra beat Miami’s victor, Victoria Azarenka 7-5 4-6 6-3 to nab the SEC title, cementing herself as the cream of the WTA crop to end the season. Sure, there was the blip between Wimbledon and after the USO when the Czech 21 year old went 5-5, but she closed the year winning ten straight matches, including five over five of the best players on the planet. Can anyone edge her out for such an honor? Your picks for player of the year below.