maria kirilenko and alex ovechkin are dunzo, i wait by the phone

Maria Kirilenko is tooth fairy no more. The Russian bombshell broke off her engagement with hockeyplayer Alex Ovechkin. The two of them got engaged at the end of 2012. Kirilenko released a statement via the Russian Tennis Federation:

“I have made a decision to break up our engagement. There are a lot of reasons, but I wouldn’t want to go in detail. I’ll say just that our relationship is over, but I respect Sasha as a person and an athlete and sincerely wish him athletic success in the future.”

Fortunately for Makiri, I am still single and as the title says, she can always come to me if she needs a shoulder to cry on!

But somehow, I don’t think she’s getting bored anytime soon!

Chia Co official sponsor of the US Open 2014

The USTA announced today that The Chia Co, world innovators in health food, will be an official sponsor of the US Open in a three-year deal spanning 2014 to 2016.

As a Health Food sponsor, The Chia Co will offer Chia Pods, a ready to eat product combining the nutrition of chia seeds with coconut milk and fruit, from a branded promotional space at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Chia Pods will be available in both player and media dining areas. In addition The Chia Co will receive on-court exposure through a branded cooler in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Louis Armstrong Stadium and the Grandstand.

“The USTA proudly promotes healthy choices and an active lifestyle” said Lew Sherr, USTA Chief Revenue Officer. “Teaming with The Chia Co is a great fit for the US Open. We are excited that our event can provide a global showcase for their new innovative product and their brand.”

This sponsorship marks The Chia Co’s first entry into tennis and expands their existing sports sponsorships, which includes a partnership with 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater.

According to John Foss, founder and CEO of The Chia Co, “We’re thrilled to be joining the ranks of established partners to one of the world’s most highly respected sporting events. The USTA is highly selective in which brands they align with, and we know our brand and products are a natural fit for the US Open. Our Chia Pods offer vital nutritional fuel for all levels of athletes.”

To support their involvement with this event, The Chia Co will be running a retail promotion in the lead up to The US Open. One lucky winner will enjoy a trip for two to New York and courtside seats to the 2014 US Open Men’s Semifinals.

wta 40 love: martina passes $1 million in season prize money

The WTA has released the third episode in their series WTA 40 LOVE Story presented by Xerox, a 10-part video series showcasing the history and growth of the women’s tennis tour. Entitled “1982: Navratilova Passes $1 Million in Season Prize Money,” the third episode highlights Martina Navratilova‘s 1982 season when she became the first woman in tennis history to surpass the $1 million dollar prize money mark in a season.

Watch: “1982: Navratilova Passes $1 Million in Season Prize Money”, WTA 40 Love Story presented by Xerox.

madison keys: moving better, knowing what she wants, giving back

The US Open American Express Fan Experience 2013 A decal of Madison Keys appears inside the American Express Fan Experience, a hospitality suite installed on the grounds of the 2013 US Open.

Madison Keys has better knowledge of her game. The fifth-best American on the WTA Tour has had a solid year, reaching the quarterfinals at events in Birmingham and Charleston, and making her way through qualifying before falling in the second round of the main draw in Madrid.

Keys was scheduled to face seed Jelena Jankovic in her opening match at the 2013 US Open. “I was telling people that I felt like I was going to have a seed in the first round,” said Keys by phone from her hotel in New York City. Thus, a match-up against a former World No. 1 was not a surprise. The Serbian Jankovic, who has had a resurgence in her own game after a mental refocus that started early this year, defeated Keys in straight sets.

This loss is only a slight setback to what has been a successful year for Keys, who is now ranked 39th. “Pieces of my game have come together a little better,” shared Keys. “I have a better idea of how I want to play and when I’m going to do certain things [on the court].” Keys also credits better movement on the court for her rise in the rankings.

The US Open American Express Fan Experience 2013
A fan at the US Open American Express Fan Experience watches as his tennis strokes are translated into visual art and sound.

The 18-year-old was also one of three American tennis players – Sloane Stephens and Jack Sock are the two others — showcased in the American Express Fan Experience, set up on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for the 2013 U.S. Open. Of the many interactive exhibits, Keys showed interest in the display that turns groundstroke swings into music and art. We asked her what genre of music would best describe her tennis style; she said it would be “smooth” with a little crazy.

Keys was also instrumental in the erection of three new tennis courts at the Hodge Park Community Tennis CEnter in Rock Island, Ill., where Keys is from.

“I am really proud to be here today to help support this Fresh Courts program created by USTA and American Express, and to help support tennis communities like this, especially the one here in Rock Island where I grew up,” said Madison Keys to the Rock Island, IL community during the ceremony.

(Getty Images courtesy of American Express)

nike+ fuelband campaign highlights ping pong in #makeitcount campaign

NYC - Nike - #MakeItCount - PingPong - Table Tennis

 

Nike NYC folds in some table tennis into its campaign to get folks in New York to raise their heart rates. The latest event organized by Nike NYC Serving It Up: Tournament of Champions is a ping pong happening this Friday, August 23 at Moynihan Station (401 7th Ave. @ W. 33rd St.). Reserve your spot by tweeting a pic of your Nike+ Fuelband to @nikenyc on Twitter.  Winners could bag stylish gear like workoutwear, sweatbands, and shoes.

More: Check @nikenyc for more details.

uniqlo releases novak djokovic’s 2013 u.s. open kit

Uniqlo releases Novak Djokovic 2013 U.S. Open kit

UNIQLO previewed the 2013 U.S. Open kits to be worn by World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and at the same time announced that it would sell a collection based on these styles, available to the public.

The designs keep simple, as has been the case for Djokovic’s UNIQLO uniforms thus far, and the Japanese outfitter’s design director, Naoki Takizawa, explained their concept behind the pieces. “The collection captures [Novak's] calm demeanor as well as his strong energy on the court in a striking yet unconventional black scheme and includes a mint green color that was chosen by Novak. The red version of his performance wear portrays a sense of passion while incorporating the UNIQLO official company colors of red and white. Once again the lines are an important design element aimed to help visualize his physical strength and speed on the court.”

Uniqlo releases Novak Djokovic 2013 U.S. Open kit

The company also offered another description for the collection on their website: “While unusual in the tennis world, we chose black as a key color in this year’s U.S. Open Collection.” JFTR, it’s really not that unusual, at least not for the U.S. Open (See: Roger and Serena wear black in NYC.)

“To us,” UNIQLO continues, “the color represents the strength and elegance of Novak Djokovic’s playing style. The mint blue detailing matches the tournament’s official color and symbolizes the cool agility of Novak’s movements on the court.”

Buy: Novak Djokovic Performance Wear; polo, shorts, track jacket, track pants priced at $49.90; socks, $9.90; uniqlo.com

Looking forward: Djokovic heads into the final Slam of the year with a 5-2 record for the summer hard court season; he lost in the semis of Montreal to Rafael Nadal and the quarters of the Western & Southern Open to John Isner.

Novak Djokovic - #meetnovak - Uniqlo - U.S. Open 2013

#meetnovak: Uniqlo arranged a meeting between Novak and fans at their Fifth Avenue flagship on Monday night.

(product images courtesy of UNIQLO; #meetnovak photo via @TheSliceTweets)

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.

more martina: on tonic, social networking and her fave to-dos in nyc

Martina, unplugged: TSF was able to nab an elated (and somewhat breathless) Martina Hingis last night following her World Team Tennis triumph in NYC. We got a few Qs in before the five-time Slam winner was whisked away to sign autographs for kids. They’re below.

TSF: Tell us more about your line with Tonic. What has been your favorite part?
Martina Hingis: We signed at Wimbledon and I’m really excited about working with them. I already wore a collection at Wimbledon (see above) and am wearing them every night [during WTT]. The line will come out in March [2012] in stores.

TSF: How involved have you been in the process?
MH: I have help from the designer, who I’m excited to meet after WTT, when I head to Vancouver [BC] to work on the next line. We have added the finishing touches for this line as I’ve practiced in the clothes. It fits really well for tennis and for yoga or other sports, everything is really comfortable.

TSF: So you’ve been doing yoga all over NYC in Tonic?
MH: (Laughs) I’ll do [yoga] when I go to Vancouver. I did a lot of yoga when I was young, but lately I have been playing tennis more and investing my time differently.

TSF: What about social media: Facebook, Twitter. Do you have interest in joining?
MH: With Tonic, I will be partially involved [on social media]. I hope to help in getting the brand going to be strong and independent [from the rest of Tonic's lines].

TSF: Separate from Flushing Meadows or playing here at WTT, what do you love to do in NYC?
MH: (Eyes lighting up.) I love musicals. I’ve seen so many of them — maybe 20 already? I love Lion King and Mamma Mia. I want to see Sister Act so badly. I hope I have some time to get to Times Square.”Two more shots of Martina in Tonic after the cut. [Read more...]

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

tsf interview with ‘renee’ director eric drath

With the Tribeca Film Festival kicking off this week, TSF is looking forward to no film more than Renee, a documentary about famed tennis player Renee Richards and her controversial decision to play on the women’s tennis tour after going through sexual reassignment surgery in the 1970s. We got the chance to chat with Eric Drath, the director of the film, to talk about Renee, the project and his thoughts about transexuals in sports. -NM

TSF: Your documentary “Life Caught in the Ring” was set in the boxing world. Do you see similarities in the boxing and tennis worlds?
Eric Drath: Although it was a boxing movie, it really was a story of redemption and coming to terms with the decision that somebody made so long ago … a relatively bad decision. This movie is not really a tennis movie, it’s a story about a person. It’s a story about a life, about someone who complete courage to be the person that they feel that they are. Even though it’s set in the environment of tennis it transcends the sport and reaches a bunch of bigger topics and universal themes.

TSF: For this film, dealing with something so controversial – especially for its time frame – how hard was it to find distribution? Were you nervous that it might not have an appeal? That it might be considered a big risk?
ED: Yeah. You really never know what you’re getting into when you start a project like this. I started the project knowing that it was a great story that a new generation should be told. I didn’t know where it was going to wind up or if it was going to be too controversial, but I knew I had an important story and a story that transcends the sport of tennis. This is a story of perseverance, courage and the ability to be true to yourself.

TSF: You’re talking about a new generation. Have you been surprised by the reaction from people in your personal life that you’ve talked to about this of people not knowing this story?
ED: That’s what’s incredible: I think that most people don’t know this story. Most people my age – I’m 40 – have probably heard of it. But there’s a whole generation that doesn’t know and it’s more timely than ever with what’s going on with Kyle Allums and what’s going on in other sports. This is a question that is not going to go away. Where do people who are transsexual should be allowed to play? In what age groups and divisions? These are important subjects and they haven’t gone away. There hasn’t been a final determination on it. It’s very timely now, just as it was front page news back when it was happening.

TSF: Have you got a common response from people who hadn’t heard of the controversy and/or Renee? Are they surprised by what she did?
ED: People can’t believe that this really happened. This wasn’t in the day of the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle. But this still became worldwide news. How many people live a life the way Renee has? She’s had so many lives. When I tell people this story, they’re floored that this could actually happen. People are like, ‘what? That really happened?!’ They’re very surprised.

TSF:What about getting pro players to talk on camera about their experience/opinion regarding Renee?
ED: Well it was interesting because we reached out to a lot of players who were overwhelming supportive back then and we also reached out to players who had walked off the court and were not [supportive]. The common demonator was that all of them had ultimate respect for Renee as a person. The question of whether it was fair or not, I thought [the response] was divided. But the question about Renee was overwhelmingly that she is an incredible person and commands incredible respect.

I talked to what seems like the “old guard,” the royalty of tennis: Martina, Billie Jean, Mary Carillo, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastase.

TSF: Does Renee keep close, personal relationships within the tennis world? Or has she sort of removed herself from it?
ED: She’s very welcomed in the tennis community. There was an outpouring of help from the tennis community and she’s still connected to [it]. She still teaches some youths, she still visits the US Open. She’s not a pariah in any sense. Although, she’s definitely still the most controversial female player to ever play the sport.

TSF: How long did this process take from idea to final product?
ED: Two years, almost to the day from when I picked up the phone and called her.

Click here for the rest of our interview with Drath. [Read more...]