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short balls: dent says farewell to tennis

Taylor-made: Taylor Dent announced his retirement from pro tennis this week, following a 12-year career that saw him reach as high as no. 21 in the world. Dent, now 29, won four career titles but saw his progress cut short due to a high volume of injuries. He returned to the tour over the last 18 months after being out for much of 2006 and 2007, amassing a 12-19 record in 2010 and a ranking of no. 85. We’ll miss ya, Mr. Serve-and-Volleyer. TSF Vault: The Dent Diaries.

The way of the ladies: Ana Ivanovic ended 2010 unlike any recent ending she’s had to a season, winning the title in Bali with three impressive victories and vaulting herself back into the top 20. Ivanovic won 13 of her final 15 matches of the year with her title in Linz. Ravi Ubha gave Ana the thumbs up to become a major Slam contender in 2011 or 2012, while giving the exact opposite forecast for countrywoman Jelena Jankovic (who finished 2010 6-11). Ubha had his crystal ball out for the WTA contingent on ESPN.com. The WSJ Weighs in: The Wall Street Journal had a piece last week on how – just how? – Caroline Wozniaki took the top spot in tennis.

A geographical version of ‘Whatever happened to…?’ Now that Dent and Elena Dementieva have said farewell (as has Martin Damm to coach Ryan Harrison), we got to thinking about some former (and current) pros and wanted to check in on see where folks have landed. Dustin Brown, our favorite wearer of the neon-color palette, is taking his allegiance to Germany from Jamaica. The top 100 player cited a lack of funding for the move. His mother is German. The Uberoi sisters, Shikha and Neha, both former top 200 doubles players, have made the return to the academic world and are at Princeton finishing their undergraduate degrees. Both sisters contribute on their dual web site, and recently Neha had an entry up on her own blog about an interview with Venus Williams in her journalism class, taught by the one-and-only L. Jon Wertheim. Picture this: Ana & Enrique taking it easy in Hawaii.
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Before the jump: We wanted to wish the hard-working and always-on-top-of-a-story Aaress Lawless the best of luck as she departs from her operating gig at OnTheBaseline.com. OTB will be managed now by Justin Pohn, and will continue to be the source of all things women’s tennis.

sightings in the stands: nadal vs. berdych

The girlfriends were out in force today, with Xisca Perello and Lucie Safarova cheering on Rafa Nadal and Tomas Berdych at the 2010 Wimbledon Men’s Singles final.

Safarova lost in the first round of this year’s singles draw, upset by Dominika Cibulkova. In doubles, she and Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak lost in the second round to the fifth-seeded team of Huber/Mattek-Sands.

(images via Getty Images and Hola)

sunday survey: the comeback kid(s)

Click the image to watch video of Mauresmo displaying her masterful hands at Queens. Will Amelie pull a Clijsters-like comeback?!

Recently there has been plenty of comeback speculation on the WTA Tour. Lindsay Davenport is playing mixed doubles at Wimbledon (with Bob Bryan) and two tour events (with Liezel Huber) in California this summer. Martina Hingis is playing World Team Tennis, which Billie Jean King thinks will lead to a return in doubles for the Swiss Miss. And Amelie Mauresmo was spotted at Queen’s helping out with Michael Llorda‘s grasscourt campaign.

With Kimiko Date Krumm stunning Dinara Safina in the first round of the French Open and Francesca Schiavone taking the whole enchilada, is there any reason to believe that none of these ‘over the hill’ gals could not come back?! We’d love to see that happen…

If you could pick just one to make a return, it would be…

(screen shot from acetennismagazine’s youtube page)

short balls: the in-between edition

Ed note: We were planning on getting a podcast up for djy’all’s enjoyment this week, but real life got in the way. Check out TSF early next week for a Roland Garros wrap-up and a look-ahead to The Championships, Wimbledon. -NM

In case you missed it in our last post, there is something called the World Cup going on in South Africa. It’s the biggest athletic event of its kind on the globe, and will be happening for the next month (!) as 32 teams battle it out for the cup. The media has covered this event from every possible angle, and I wanted to share a couple of those with you faithful folk. The first is a bit historical and artsy: the history of the World Cup soccer ball (compiled by the NYT). The second is a bit of the shallow variety, but it’s worth it.

While some people might not be very impressed with Maria Sharapova‘s Birmingham warm-up frocks (and we sort of agree), the Russian lady was out in the community supporting the game of tennis for youth and unveiling a mural put together by local artists. The WTA put together a video of the scene (linked above in the image, too).

One former player who knew how to paint the court with winners, Monica Seles, was featured on the WTA’s web site last week. Can she joing the comeback train, too?! She’s our second pick behind Mary, Our Lady of Roland Garrolupe. Seeing as though there are now two Italians in the WTA’s top ten, it wouldn’t be the craziest of things to happen.

Laura Robson was in a bit of hot water over the weekend for quotes that she provided to Vogue UK for an upcoming article in the British pub. From the looks of her Twitter account, Robson got the memo from her PR team to issue some sort of response (later a full press release was issued) and since then has been a rather silent Sally while winning four matches (three in qualifying) at Birmingham. Talk about adding to the pressure for this year’s Championships.

After the cut: Shorter balls and a look at the second-ever outdoor WNBA game (along with the first!). [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.

mary the olympian

If you’ve watched more Olympics than me (and I only got to the most important three hours of it, the women’s free skate), then you were sure to have had the pleasure of watching my favorite tennis commentator — and esteemed journalist — Mary Carillo in one of NBC’s delightful featurettes.

Carillo’s sports knowledge is obvious, and her word-choice is always that of a well-educated, thoughtful commentator. She’s a natural — even in nature!

Enter our Mary The Olympian photo gallery, where we chronicle the many trials and tribulations of the great Carillo in her coverage for NBC’s peek into life as a Canadian as an Olympic contest all of its own. They were, after all, Mary’s Olympics…

Things looked suspicious at first — and so did Mary — but her training for the Olympics were about to hit full stride. [Read more…]

sunday survey: dig the new digs?

Novak Djokovic may be one of the hottest players on court headed into the season-ending championships this week in London, but the big news splash the Serb made over the last few days was his switch from clothing company adidas to Italian line Sergio Tacchini.

Current Tacchiniers include Flavia Pennetta, Tommy Robredo, Sara Errani, Ivo Karlovic, Steve Darcis and Victor Hanescu. Djokovic is by far the highest profile player to wear the line since John McEnroe and Pete Sampras sported the threads early in their careers. Martina Hingis wore Tacchini shoes and then sued the company for foot problems during her first “retirement”.

So what do you think? Are you excited to see Nole in ST?! Will you miss the snazzy colors of adidas on tennis’ brightest male personality? What do you think this means for Nole’s career? Let us know below.

headstrong franky

Frank Dancevic seems to like Indianapolis, and we seem to like that bandana he’s wearing. Sporting American colors at The Indy Tennis Championships, the Canadian won a big battle in the quarterfinals, avenging his 2007 Indy final loss to looker Dmitry Tursunov 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2.

The Canadian drove to the tournament with his girlfriend last week, as he did in ’07 when he was a finalist. Maybe this time the headwear will spur him all the way to the top of the medal stand. We sure hope so.

Picture 8

In a white, striped Fila polo looked great with bright red shorts. But how can you not love that bandana? His long locks are tucked in nicely, and Frank seems to be playing with confidence knowing he won’t be blinded by all that humidity-induced sweat.

(photo via getty images)

indybits: cards to meet

Rajeev Ram, the surprise winner at last week’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, has received a wild card to Indianapolis this week. Ram will meet fellow American and wild card Devin Britton, the up-and-coming teenager who has been tapped by many as the next great star in the American tennis sky.

Of course, both boys have Tweeted about their prospects this week in the Midwest:

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(screengrabs via twitter.com)

wozniak outmatched by serena, in play and style

Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak was no match for Serena Williams — both in game and in style — during a fourth-round encounter at the 2009 French Open.

Serena easily won 6-1, 6-2. And in the accessories department, Wozniak’s Chanel logo studs were no match for the jewelry worn by the No. 2 seed.

This was less controversial match for Serena, who called out her previous opponent, Maria Martinez Sanchez, as a cheat. Serena alleges that Martinez Sanchez got hit by a ball before it sailed out, which should’ve given the point to Serena. Instead, the ump awarded the point to Martinez Sanchez. Serena, who won anyway, made a stink about it in her presser. We hope Serena was right, otherwise all the fracas was just a big whiny waste of time.

Up next for Serena is Svetlana Kuznetsova, who beat Agnieszka Radwanska.

(image via Getty Images)