venus: the forever 21 of tennis

Objects on TV are nicer than they appear: We’re not going to lie — watching Venus Williams play her first-round Wimbledon match left us deflated (and no, it wasn’t the grueling workout we just finished, we’re sure); that repurposed wedding gown just did not look good on the decorated AELTC vet as she gracefully pranced around the court in a first-round clinic over Akgul Amanmuradova. The scoreline: 6,3-6-1. (Brackets: Chris has Venus dropping out in the round of 16.)

And about that lace jumpsuit with gold trim (Golden Girls meets Project Runway?): le sigh. On TV, the shorts seemed a little too billowy, especially since we’ve seen how Venus can rock a cute pair of hot pants on the Wimbledon lawns. The gold-zippered top flopped in awkward ways as she hit her groundstrokes. The sleeves seemed as though they were missing whole panels.

(At least her trends are on point, ish? Venus, on her outfit: “Jumpers are very ‘now,”‘ she explained, “as is lace.” As is gold, really. That’s the advantage to producing one-offs for match play: your design schedule is not beholden to the super-long lead time associated with retail.)

Suprisingly, it all seemed to come together in the photos snapped during the match (see below). Just a good photographer? Maybe we were glancing up at the TV at the wrong time? Anyway, it doesn’t matter, since no one can buy this stuff. Picture worth a thousand words, but zero dollars in revenue.

More photos: Check out other looks at Venus’ EleVen outfit after the cut…

in action: rafa's wimbledon kit

Back to basics: We always want Rafa to dress up his Wimbledon appearances with a polo — defending champ and all — but we understand if he wants the pomp and circ to take a back seat to getting through two weeks of grasscourt play. So crewneck tee it is!

As the top seed, Nadal took care of American Michael Russell in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win and next faces Ryan Sweeting, who needed five sets to beat Pablo Andujar 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-1. (Bracket: How TSF thinks the men’ll stack up this year.)

Buy: Nike Ace Lawn Crew, $65, in white/treasure blue, TW.

More photos: See a few more detail shots — plus pics of his warm-up jacket and on-court duffel — all after the cut…

for traveling pros, a tale of two approaches

By Jonathan Scott



Is that a sweater vest? Meet Roger Federer, amnesiac. (Getty)

Tennis is a tricky bitch. In no other sport does nostalgia ring so supreme as the calendar moves about — both in mind and spirit but in sport, too. And by sport we mean rankings. A great Wimbledon one year means everyone will be watching you the next. As Billie Jean King said: “Pressure is privilege.” But for some touring pros, pressure is just that — pressure. So as the raindrops (and strawberries and cream) start to fall across the pond, we look at two very different approaches to that pressure: those who seem to enjoy it and others who would rather the past was dumped just like a carton of sour, meant-for-strawberries cream.

The difference between an Amnesiac (the ones who’d like to forget Wimbledon 2010, and perhaps the 12 months since) and an Android (those who will be looking to methodically defend and go just as far again, if not a step further) will indubitably be a matter of psychological and physical fortitude. But, let’s be real, mostly mental. A lot of mental.

AMNESIACS

Tsvetana Pironkova: How to explain the free-fall? This quick-striking Piron-ha 2010 made the Wimby semis before evaporating. She gave Serena a fair fight in round one at Eastbourne this month, but the gal who vanquished Venus last year has all but vanished since, nearly as much as the House of Williams itself. A likely and foreboding second-rounder against Vania King or Petra Martic looms. Danger, dear Piron-ha!

Caroline Wozniacki: No way around it, the future no. 1 had her Stella McCartney-branded clock cleaned by Petra Kvitova at this time last year, submitting 2-and-0 to the Czech’s lashing strokes. A hard-court tuneup at home in Copenhagen – dubbed the Wozniacki Open by, well, everyone – wasn’t the best prep, but Caro simply has to forget last year’s lawn debacle if she’s going to vie for that virgin Slam. A potential second-round fracas against Sania Mirza lurks; lest we forget, Mirza took Justine Henin to three sets in Melbourne six months ago.

Full TSF Wimbledon coverage: Men’s preview | Women’s | Your winners?

Mirjana Lucic: The doe-eyed teen once tapped by Steffi Graf as an heir apparent in women’s tennis would probably rather forget the past decade more than just the last year. Lucic competed gamely against Jelena Jankovic at the 2010 U.S. Open but, no thanks to her father, her career and her life have been a piping hot mess since her dreamy ascension to the 1999 Wimbledon semis. First up for the comeback girl: Dominika Cibulkova, the no. 24 seed. Expect a shootout.

Nicholas Mahut: Think the lawn gods are at all kind? Rethink that right quick. Mahut drew John “Tall Tree” Isner in the first round AGAIN. If there’s any justice in the world, Mahut may even notch a W at the Big W this time out, provided that he serves well (you’d think 103 aces last year would have done the trick) and has, you know, developed his return and groundstroke game.

Roger Federer: Fed claimed his back ailed him in going down to Tomas Berdych last year, a gripe that Big Berd received sorely. If his French Open form holds, Roger, who may as well refer to Centre Court as his “backyard,” is a threat to seize his 17th Slam here and now. It may be his best chance for the rest of his career, and subtly so. A possible third-round bout with David Nalbandian intrigues.

Novak Djokovic: The Djoker has done anything but laugh at the All England Club in his young career to date. In short, when this fortnight has come around, his ass is grass. A semifinal appearance in 2010 had him waving his Wimbledon whites to Berdych’s missiles. This year’s streaking artist has much to prove on the surface, and no doubt he feels that heat. To make the semis again would honestly be to break even. Robin Soderling, Phillip Petzschner, Xavier Malisse, Jurgen Melzer, Victor Troicki, Michael Llodra, James Blake, Florian Mayer, fresh-faced Brit James Ward, and even Alejandro Falla (who nearly pulled the early rug out from under Fed last year) are all in his section. In a word, wow. He’d have better luck to play them all at once…

ANDROIDS

Ever the android, Kvitova levitates at the 2010 Championships. (Getty)

Vera Zvonareva: Life itself is like Ms. Zvonareva: You never know what you’re gonna get. Last week’s Eastbourne triumph over Serena (7-5 in the 3rd!) had to help, but VZ has scads and oodles of points to defend here or her ranking may dive. Elena Vesnina, her doubles partner in a run to the final last year, awaits in round two, but Vera should and will be wise to not look past Alison Riske first. The American girl has a grass-tastic forehand and likes the turf.

Serena Williams: Nary a new word can be crafted as far as what Serena’s presence does for the media and entertainment prospects at these Championships. The defending champ rained down a record 89 aces in taking the title in 2010 without losing a set – and then POOF! we didn’t see her again until this present time. Her makeshift match play at Eastbourne belies the fact that, when all’s on the line, you doubt a Williams and you likely get burned. A funked-up Aravane Rezai is her first foe, and it’s hard to see anyone in her quadrant giving Serena an alley fight until Marion Bartoli or Na Li in the later rounds.

Petra Kvitova: Mmm, too Kvit to quit – Petra means “rock” in Greek, but this Czech sensation can be a bit malleable in high-risk situations. Sure, she blasted Wozniacki en route to a combative 2010 semi against Serena, but she’s not dazzled when it mattered most in Slams since then. A Paris victory indoors over Kim Clijsters is her best showing in the past year. She needs a defining statement at this Slam to regain her form and inflict terror in opponents about her ground game, if not her endearing pterodactyl-esque squawk after lasering winners. Hard-serving Canuck Rebecca Marino may give her game like whoa in round three.

Tomas Berdych: Forget the fact that T-Berd fell in the French’s first round 9-7 in the fifth, less surrendering his 2010 semifinal points there. He has finalist credentials in London, and simply must go about his work robotically and avoid considering that his last year has been a wipeout. He didn’t handle the new media attention well in the wake of his surprise showing last year, but the sole seeming trouble he may have in his eighth of the draw arrives in the person of Philipp Kohlschreiber, a grass-court maven and heartbreaker who often plays the top guns tight. After that? Nadal. Then again, this is Berdych, and he might as well make his own life harder with Julien Benneteau early.

Rafael Nadal: The changing conditions of the court and heavier balls at Wimbledon have benefitted Rafa to no end. If the grass was as it was in the 1980s and ‘90s, he’d have no chance and Federer would be approaching 20 Slams now. Even so, the reigning champ (who should be sporting an “I’m still no. 1, no?” tee these days) has done everything right to capitalize on his strengths and impose his will here. A third-round boxing match with Milos Raonic and/or a fourth-round duel against Juan Martin del Potro both entice.

Andy Murray: Besides James Ward, who just alighted upon the grass courts and the front pages in the UK with recent success, there’s a strapping lad by the name of Andy Murray who, like Federer, is poised in a prime spot to turn the tables on Nadal and Djokovic, the two who have garnered all the 2011 press to date. Mr. Fuzzy Muzz should shed his thin skin (in addition to his overgrown Chia head and whiskers) and put his (tennis) balls to the (purple and green) wall. He may get Ivan Ljubicic, Stanislas Wawrinka, and Andy Roddick in succession, but Raggedy Andy proved himself on clay this spring and now could catalyze a tennis revolution in Great Britain by channeling all his nervous energy into a real run to the final. No time like now for the cunning no. 4 star.

Jonathan Scott is the keeper of the Daily Spin column at TENNIS.com and a freelance music scribe when he’s not caught up by tennis, which is hardly ever. Follow him on Twitter: @jonscott9

sunday survey: andy's slam?

Question this: We figure that with the ladies trying to get their druthers about them, we’ll wait until next Sunday to let you weigh in on who’s going to run home with the title. But for the fellas, let’s check out who the TSF nation thinks is going to hoist high the Wimbledon trophy come July 3. Is it finally Andy Murray’s year?

TSF on Wimbledon: Men’s preview | Women’s preview

(adidas Murray image via Tennis Buzz/Flickr)

bracketology: the women at wimbledon

By Christopher Phililps

For Wimbledon, our resident bracketologist, Chris Phillips, takes a look at both the men’s and women’s draws and breaks down who he thinks are going to be the winners — and losers — in the London this year. -NM

Look who’s back! Both Williamses are seeded for the Championships — and on opposite sides of the draw. (Photo by Stuart Tree via Flickr)

Caroline Wozniacki
Prediction: R3

Caroline’s only made it as far as the fourth round here twice in the past, including last year. Unfortunately, we don’t think this time she’ll be as lucky as her likely third round opponent will be hard-serving Jarmila Gajdosova. A loss to the upstart Gajdosova will only cast more doubt on her no. 1 ranking.

Vera Zvonareva
Prediction: QF

Last year’s finalist should feel good coming into the Championships winning a tough three-setter over Serena Williams in Eastbourne. Her consistency alone could ensure her another run to the final, but we think she’ll only make it as far as the QFs. Even in this questionable era of women’s tennis, Vera just doesn’t have what it takes to win a Major.

Na Li
Prediction: R2

Historically — well, the past couple years at least — it seems the women’s French Open champion hasn’t fared too well (Ivanovic, Kuznetsova and Schiavone are a combined 4-3) at Wimbledon. Given Li’s post-Australian Open slump, I fear history is set to repeat itself.

Victoria Azarenka
Prediction: R3

She’s only been a QF here once and went out to Marion Bartoli in Eastbourne — with an injury. Vika’s just too mercurial for us ever to put too much hope in her. She’s beginning to beg the question: is it ever going to happen? So far, it doesn’t look like it. Vika’s results just don’t live up to the hype (or the grunt).

Maria Sharapova
Prediction: Winner

It’s been a long, hard road for Maria back to the top and this will be the title that signifies to the world that she’s finally back. The one achilles’ heel will be her serve — it must stay on. But Maria loves the grass, and seven years after she won her first Slam we think it’s due time for a little bit of dejå ju in the final. Over Serena in the semis? Why  not.

Francesca Schiavone
Prediction: R16

If she can get past her first match with the recently-hot Jelena Dokic — which could be awfully difficult on grass — she’s got a pretty soft draw until she’ll run into Andrea Petkovic or Shahar Peer in the fourth round.

Serena Williams
Prediction: SF

How she’ll do is anyone’s guess. (Not even Serena knows!)  She could take the whole thing, but with probably the most unfavorable draw of the top eight seeds, she’s going to have a hard time getting there. If Serena gets past Aravane Rezai in her opener, she may have to deal with tricky Serbian Bojana Jovanovski in the second round, with sometimes giant-killer Maria Kirilenko possibly waiting in the third round and former Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli in the fourth. | More: Ladies’ draw

Petra Kvitova
Prediction: Finalist

One of last year’s surprise semifinalists and this year’s Eastbourne finalist should do well on the grass courts this year again. Kvitova shouldn’t have too much trouble until running into Venus Williams or Zvonareva in the QFs, but she has a good relationship with the All England Club and will go a step further this year, solidifying her spot as a contender for future Slams.

Marion Bartoli
Prediction: R16

Even though Bartoli won Eastbourne, we’re still a little concerned about a (groin?) injury she seemed to obtain. Assuming she’ll be fit enough to play, Marion has a soft draw until she’d meet Serena in the fourth round.  The winner of that match — likely to be a slug-fest — should make it to the SF. Serena’s superior movement should get her past the French Open semifinalist, even if she isn’t at her baseline best.

Samantha Stosur
Prediction: R16

Another player who’s grass court play hasn’t seemed to have lived up to her potential. Another big server who’s yet to make it past the third round.  That’ll be her first battle here where her likely opponent will be the Chinese player Shuai Peng. But like Sharapova, if Stosur can get along with her serve and make it work for her, she could be dangerous.

Read Chris’ “Best of the Rest” (that includes Venus!) and see the most anticipated first-round match-ups after the cut. [Read more...]

bracketology: chris breaks down sw19 (men)

By Christopher Phililps

For Wimbledon, our resident bracketologist, Chris Phillips, takes a look at both the men’s and women’s draws and breaks down who he thinks are going to be the winners — and losers — in the London this year. -NM

Rafael Nadal, above, practicing yesterday at Wimbledon: Ripped and ready. (Getty Images)
Prediction: Winner

Last year’s champion had a surprising QF loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga two weeks ago, but I think after a long clay court season and successful French Open, the extra days off will have served him better than the match play — even on grass. | More: The men’s draw

Novak Djokovic
Predition: SF

Nole is on his first losing streak of the year — one match. A two-time semifinalist here, including last year, his form this year should carry him through any problems he may have had in the past adjusting to the lawn. But a title? Not yet in London for Novak.

Roger Federer
Prediction: Finalist

Roger’s six titles here speak for themselves.  Even though he lost at Roland Garros to Nadal in the final, his quality of play there should keep him playing to the best of his ability. And everyone knows: Wimbledon is Roger’s favorite tournament of the year. | TSF Vault: Roger at Wimbledon

Andy Murray
Prediction: SF

This year’s AEGON champion made quick work of the field in London with wins over Tsonga, Andy Roddick, Marin Cilic and Janko Tipsarevic. I’m sure the British press doesn’t know how much extra weight they can put on their own man again.  The quieter they keep, the better the Brit will do. But are we kidding ourselves? Andy-mania has already hit the entire country! Here’s to two weeks of painful and pressure-building headlines in the morning papers. All the same, Murray will do what he usually does in London — make it to the semifinals.

Robin Soderling
Prediction: QF

Soderling’s best result here was the QFs last year.  You’d think the big man would do better on the lawns with that serve of his.  By skipping all the warmup tournaments, his first couple matches could be difficult. The Sod has Halle finalist Philipp Petzschner in the first round, then either Kei Neishikori (Eastbourne semifinalist) or Lleyton Hewitt (2002 Wimby champion) in the second.

Tomas Berdych
Prediction: R16

Last year’s surprise finalist has a relatively easy draw until he runs into unseeded German and this year’s Halle champion Philipp Kohlschreiber or no. 10 seed Mardy Fish in the fourth round. Has anyone else suffered more of a muted last 12 months than Berdych? His first-round loss at the French only punctuated what has been a disappointing spell for the Czech.

David Ferrer
Prediction: R16

The seventh-seeded Spaniard has never had his best results on the grass, only reaching the fourth here twice (including last year).  He’ll most likely run into this year’s AEGON finalist Tsonga in that same stage this year.

Andy Roddick
Prediction: QF

The American’s best days are behind him and Murray’s rather swift dismantling of Roddick in the AEGON QFs still has to be hurting. Having skipped most of the clay court season, I think Roddick would’ve been better off to get some extra match play and confidence-building wins in this past week rather than take more time off.

Gael Monfils
Prediction: R16

The Frenchman has underperformed here in the past, only going as far as the third round in four appearances. Monfils’ first formidable opponent would be no. 23 seed Janko Tipsarevic, with the winner most likely facing Roddick in the fourth round. Tipsarevic is questionable after an injury over the weekend in Eastbourne, and if Monfils can get through his first few rounds unscathed, the athletic speedster could pick up steam and surprise a few in the second week.

Mardy Fish
Prediction: R2

Of the leading Americans, Fish has the toughest draw. He could face Kohlschreiber in second round, then Fernando Verdasco, Radek Stepanek or Robin Haase in the third round, the furthest he’s previously gone at Wimbledon. The streaky German will get the best of the American, we think, in the round of 64.

Read Chris’ “Best of the Rest” as well as the most anticipated first-round match-ups after the cut. [Read more...]

nike preview: vika's wimbledon kit

The normally flirty Set Point Knit Dress from Nike gets a classy transformation for Wimbledon, replacing the contrast collars and ruffled, tiered skirts with an empire waist and subtle ruching. Vika Azarenka will wear this for the fortnight; she’s the tournament’s fourth seed.

Buy: Nike Set Point Knit Dress, $80, Midwest Sports.

More pictures: See detail shots of the Set Point Knit Dress after the cut…

nike preview: serena’s wimbledon kit

Court prep: 2011 Wimbledon 7th seed Serena Williams will defend her singles title in the Nike Smash Lawn Dress. Note the preppy obsidian navy trim around the collar and faux low back (covered with performance-enhancing mesh) of this empire-waisted piece; and the single lines down the center of the front/back of the dress — just enough to cut up all the white and keep her out of wardrobe distractions. Also note that they opted for godets instead of pleats in the skirt. Shoes are the Air Max Mirabella 3.

Buy: Nike Smash Lawn Dress, $85, TW.

More photos: Detail shots of the dress and shoes after the cut…

tsonga goes bare in uk cosmo


You go, Jo: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
is getting our nod of approval for his decision to pose nude in the latest issue of Cosmopolitan in the UK. The reason? His posing supports the Everyman Campaign, which raises awareness of and funds research for testicular and prostate cancer. What does Jo like best about his bod? “[M]y buttocks,” he says. (We can’t argue with that.) Meanwhile, JWT is loving a good pair of eyes on the ladies and “could never choose between tennis and sex.” Now there’s a smart man.

More posing: Robredo (2007) | Verdaso (2008)

(Image via UK Cosmo)