maria (and novak) on instinct

Imitation time: Somehow, Novak Djokovic‘s imitations just haven’t gotten old. The new world no. 1 obviously has a creative side and loves to be goofy, and we appreciate the new medium used for his latest acting gig: playing Maria Sharapova. Nole is well versed in his Maria-dom, but here he takes on Sharapova’s ad for HEAD‘s YouTek Instinct racquet and sort of nails it. More to come for the Open? We wouldn’t be surprised.

In Cincy: Novak’s into round 3 | Maria faces Kuznetsova

k-swiss’ kenny powers takes on jt

KP or JT? If you paid any attention to the ESPYs last week, Justin Timberlake (what isn’t he doing these days?!) did a comedic short for the show titled “I Love Sports,” put on by Capital One. But K-Swiss has a good series featuring a character named Kenny Powers that takes on the similar tone of Timbo’s vid, which Ad Age recommends checking out. While Justin’s spot logged in 2.7 million views, one of Kenny’s new spot had 1.6 million hits. Also on their vid chart for the week? Those classy Old Spice spots. We can’t quit em.

short balls: just short of sw19

Ruffled around the edges. Serena is 1-1 heading into Wimbledon, 2011. She got bright colors (and losing?) out of her system before descending upon London. | More Serena: The younger Williams has promised fans some karaoke sessions while at her first Major in a year. Yep, she’s got a portable karaoke machine. And yes, she’s trying to corral Andy Murray into doing it with her.

Tennis, meet fashion. | Obviously we (and you!) know that tennis fashion is a year-round sort of gig, but the biggest events are Wimbledon and the US Open — at least from a fashion POV. So for tomorrow night’s players’ party at Richard Branson’s digs, the Telegraph in London is laying out which ladies are wearing which designers. Caroline Wozniacki is unsurprisingly rocking Stella McCartney while Serena will be sporting some Burberry. Vivienne Westwood? That honor goes to one Jelena Jankovic. Work it, ladies!

Bring it, Yao! | Li Na is certainly set up for life. Imagine if this chick wins another Slam?! China might demand that it be able to host its own Major. Experts are saying that with her win at the French, Li will surpass Yao Ming, the NBA star, in marketing prowess. We’re a little blown over by that claim, but the Nike-sponsored hard-hitter already has several offers up and running with IMG,  her reps. Li, who currently has contracts with Nike, Rolex and — get this! — Haagen-Dazs ice cream could start to clean up. An industry expert in China puts it this way: “She will bring you the ‘light bulb moment’ as an international professional athlete. She is good at her sports, and her personality combines western civilization and oriental wisdom. She is frank, sincere with a steady and relaxed style,” explained Qiang Wei, a sports marketing director.

Clijsters withdraws from Wimbledon | No, seriously. She’s out. And WTT? They’ve already gone looking for a summer replacement.

Heather Watson is 2011’s Laura Robson … just sayin’.

Wimbledon greats. Ten of them, to be exact. The best ten matches from SW 19’s history. They’re stacked up — oddly? — by BestCollegesOnline.net. This is a great selection! And the video clips are surreal to watch one after the other.

More surreality: Andy Murray hits two (two!) tweeners in win over JWS

Tennis in Times Square. If you wanted more visuals from our post about the US Open tickets sales event in Times Square, TSF contributor and Tennis.com intern Benjamin Snyder put together a pretty snappy gallery. And how about his one-on-one with Judah Friedlander in the captions? We dig.

Pimms with lemonade? On the Tennis Channel website, columnist James LaRosa has conjured up the most hilarious (and ridiculous) Wimbledon drinking game we’ve even encountered. And we love it.

Short(er) balls: Because we know Erwin (and Troy!) care, just a note to say that Mary Kate and Ashley turned 25 on Monday. OMG! | Jon Wertheim? He picks Serena to win Wimbledon. | Sure, Roger Federer is a cute dad, but we don’t think he falls into the “hot” realms of David Beckham. | ATP Executive Chairman Adam Helfant will step down at the end of 2011. | The new home of British heiress Petra Ecclestone? Don’t worry, it has a tennis court. (And cost over $100 million.) | We’ll be at the HSBC exo on Monday with Monica Seles and Jim Courier. We’ll bring the sunscreen (for Jim!) and you guys bring the Grunt-o-Meter.

(Serena image via Getty; Watson vid via WTA)

andy's acting chops

Move over, Nole! When is Andy Murray making his way to Hollywood? The quiet and often awkward is plain brilliant in a hilarious new video from HEAD, in which the world’s no. 4 promotes his racket-maker with a Facebook-friendly spot. In the vid, Murray’s at home, on court, in bed and in the shower (authentically in the buff, as far as we can tell). The schtick? HEAD is pushing fans to their Facebook page, asking them to write personalized comments to Murray. Murray will choose his faves to slap on his HEAD bag for the Championships, a move that we sort of dig. Oh look there’s Andy walking onto Centre Court — wait! I WROTE THAT. You know, it could happen to you. But first, you must “Like” HEAD (and watch the vid).

To catch more of Andy’s (pretty awesome) acting, check out the vid after the jump. [Read more…]

stylistically french

Style lady. While she barely escaped unknown Frenchwoman Caroline Garzia today on the tennis court (3-6 6-4 6-0), Maria Sharapova is easy to find on any newsstand in New York: she’s plastered on the front of the New York Times Thursday Style section. The article, a lengthy feature, talks about the brand Maria has grown (herself) and her work in fashion — Cole Haan being the highlight. | Draw: Maria survives

Is that a black eye? While Sharapova’s quarter was blown wide open with Kim Clijsters’ loss, American Bethanie Mattek-Sands sits on the top half of the draw and next has to deal with the always-testy Jelena Jankovic. The talk, however, has been less about BMS’ play (it’s been rather good lately) and more about her ever-famous face make-up (seen above). Everyone seems to be chatting about BMS’ face, and less about her game. Though, after her hard-fought second round win, the Times gave her this headline: “A Rising American Now Has a Game as Bold as Her Style.” Touche, folks. But what about in a few weeks’ time when BMS dons her Wimbledon players’ party Gaga-inspired dress? There will be no talk of her tennis, we predict. Or can she have her cake and eat it too? Either way, she’s happy.

TSF Vault: All about Bethanie

Soft core porn? And leave it to the eds at the Huffington Post to come up with this headline, teasing out the WTA‘s new “Strong is Beautiful” campaign: “Is This Ad Campaign ‘Soft Core Porn That Has Nothing To Do with Tennis’?” The headline itself was from a blog post from back in September, when the original Times photo shoot ran that inspired the campaign. The Post asked readers in a poll about the campaign, an overall response (through Thursday afternoon) is below:

(BMS image via the AP; Huffington Post screen grab)

short balls: good photos, gays and serena sings (!!!)


Snuggly and warm.
One of our favorite parts of Majors is that there are photographers — everywhere. It’s like the worlds of Kim Kardashian and President Obama have combined into one, and these photogs aren’t missing a thing! While the on-court shots can be dramatic and story telling and gripping all at once, there is something about the around-the-grounds photos that you really can’t match. Check out today’s batch from Roland Garros here. | More: All RG photos

Not Herstory, Queerstory. A new book, A Queer History of the United States, looks at the last 500 years of gay Americans. Didn’t think gays stretched beyond Bill Tilden and the roaring ’20s? Not the case. Michael Bronski pens the book which documents gay Americans at every turn of history. One misstep he says the gays made/are making? A push for marriage equality.

USA takeover. No, we’re not talking about the Americans in Paris! (Though, with what we had to start the tournament, wouldn’t you say we’ve had a fine showing so far? BMS, Mardy Fish, John Isner, Ryan Harrison and others have turned in a fine performance.) We mean the fact that USA Network (you know the one — is used to run the U.S. Open!) has taken over a special issue of the New Yorker, eating up the mag’s entire advertising space. The newsstand-only issue (when was the last time you heard such terminology?!) came out on Monday.

She is. Serena Fierce.
 Sometimes you just have to sit back and let Serena do her thing. We’ll never completely understand her, but we don’t think she wants us to. That would just un-glamorize ReRe. It’s been an active month for the inactive player: To start, a man was arrested for allegedly stalking Serena. Then, a week later, Serena posted a revealing Avatar on her Twitter account, only to take it down a week later after online outcry. But Serena has saved the best for the beginning of the French, where we know she would much rather be. How to ring in the third straight Slam that is Serena-less?? By singing Beyonce‘s (OK, Destiny Child‘s) “Survivor.” At karaoke. And putting it up on YouTube. ‘Nuff said. Click the image to watch.

More power ballads:
Remember Justine’s musical musings?

Find a ladder and climb it. We’re digging the new site, TennisLadders.NET — and not just because the NET is in all caps. The site caters to recreational players per their geographical location, pairing you up with a player in your area who is willing and wanting to play. Want to climb the ladder? Work your way up. While the site has a California-heavy following right now, it will eventually be national. Says the TennisLadders team: “We are home of the ‘quick challenge’ where users can challenge each other at the click of a button and report their score back on the site.  Your ranking is automatically adjusted as you report your scores and climb the ladder.” We love good, old fashioned competition. Join up, y’all.

(Ball kids image by FFT via RG.com; Serena vid screen grab via YouTube)

short balls: paris around the bend

See the win, be the win. Rafa will go four his sixth French starting on Sunday. | Official RG website

Espresso and pastries. The French Open is around the corner? You don’t say. While qualifying is underway (Draws: Men’s | Women’s), we haven’t been much focused on the tennis court this week. The men’s tour is making a before-Roland Garros stop in Nice, while the ladies are at their usual spot in Strasbourg and the newly-added Brussels. In Brussels? That’d be Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva and defending champ Francesca Schiavone. Seriously, do these girls take any time off? Marion Bartoli and Andrea Petkovic are both semifinalists in Strasbourg. Tomas Berdych remains in Nice, where the once-hot David Ferrer was cooled off by Alexandr Dolgolpolov in the quarters (French dark horse? We think so!) 4-6 6-1 5-7.

Now to the good stuff. We know, sometimes the tennis gets to be too much. But just in time for players to descend upon the city of love American-based Abercrombie & Fitch is opening their first Parisian store on the famed Champs-Elysees. How did they celebrate? By bringing out a hundred shirtless models in their why-are-there-holes-in-these jeans. But seriously, we can complain that much.

Straight shooters. How cool are Hudson Taylor and Ben Cohen? The former all-American wrestler and English rugby player, respectively, are arguably the two highest-profile athletes on the planet campaigning for gay rights — as straight dudes. The New York Times paid them both their due diligence with a feature late last week. Cohen surprisingly announced his retirement from ruby to focus on his work with the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, an anti-bullying effort. We’ve written about Taylor on this blog before, his AthleteAlly.org gaining national attention over the last few months. Here’s the Columbia wrestling coach on MSNBC.

Roll it, map it. How cool is this map? The work — from Alienlovespredator.com — depicts Manhattan and 91 movie references. Gotta dig the illustrated genius.
Short(er) balls: Djokovic-loving Anna Wintour joins the fight for gay marriage. | Everyone’s favorite ‘RHONYC’ Bethenny Frankel is making it big — and we mean at the bank. | And Robyn is slowly taking over the world. With her music.

(rafa photo via getty images; movie illustration by alienlovespredator.com)

spotted in the city: desigual, updated adidas and uniqlo

Feeling colorful: It’s nice to see some color in Midtown Manhattan every once and a while — away from Times Square, that is. The Desigual store on 35th and 6th Avenue, just below Bryant Park, gives spring a new feeling in the city. The Spanish clothing co. gets pretty good reviews for their store in SoHo, but as one Yelper notes: the store “isn’t friendly for budget shoppers.”

Summertime signage: We know you were curious about what the adidas store would launch off its blank canvas from earlier this week. Looks like they’re set for summertime, and if you can’t quite make out those faces, don’t worry — none of them are major athletes. Just models making the store look pretty.

After the jump: Uniqlo gets in the tennis swing, and not just for Kei. [Read more…]

spotted in the city: a blank canvas

We’re pretty good at keeping you updated on what’s going on at the adidas store in SoHo. But for TSF East, it’s part of our almost-daily route to and from the gym (might have to make that daily before summer hits… ), so we’ve always got our eye on what the folks at the German co. are putting out on the corner for fans to take in. Blank canvas: For now, it looks as though the folks at adidas are switching things up on Houston St. Above, a shot from later in the night and below, earlier. Two fun looks at the calm between storms. More: Missed Katy Perry for adidas? Photo shoot here

(tsf images)

madrid masters master a new domain

By Lindsay Sakraida, on Twitter

Hangin’ above the crowd: This week, the tennis tour hits the Madrid Open, the most controversial stop on the clay-court schedule. And while much focus has been on Rafael Nadal‘s disapproval of playing in the high altitude before Roland Garros, there’s more to the Madrid cache than a public disagreement with its most famous compatriot. At every opportunity, the Madrid Open creatively and strategically aims to differentiate itself in a very modern way — and the tennis tour is all the better for it.

Mastered differences: Madrid has always been unconventional. It changed from hard courts to clay in 2009, at which point the tournament director announced that he was considering forgoing the iconic rust-colored dirt for a thoroughly modern blue. (It never came to fruition, to Nadal and Federer’s approval.) Long before the surface change, the tournament began using models as ball kids during the later stages of the draw, and the fetching — in more ways than one — “kids” continue to raise eyebrows nearly a decade later. (But just to be clear: these are no “kids.”) And just this year, the event was publicized by dangling racket-wielding acrobats off the side of a court-covered building. In all manners, Madrid aims to get people talking with arresting visuals.

But the most telling distinction between Madrid and the rest of the tour lies in its most accessible marketing device: their website. It combines vibrant graphics and Flash-based design to convey a unique energy and atmosphere, and there’s even a custom animation at the top that pays tribute to the distinct form of the Caja Magica. It’s fairly obvious that the site isn’t your typical tournament’s digital home, but the most significant deviation from the norm is quite subtle; Madrid doesn’t use the ATP template (nor the WTA template, for that matter) in its design. Take a look at the Rome, Monte Carlo, or Indian Wells sites. Each uses the same architecture and rotating carousel of top stories and images. Madrid isn’t the only tournament to shun the standard — both Cincinnati and Paris are moderately different, for example — but it’s one of the few locations, especially among the big nine Masters Series, to forgo the status quo in favor of something truly unique. And with continuous debate about what tour stop should be bequeathed the “Fifth Slam”, Madrid’s deliberate branding seems like a move for the title.

TSF Vault: Our love for the webby Madrid

Along with its home page, the tournament also has a vibrant YouTube channel. It’s not unusual for a tournament to post press conferences, daily recaps, and occasional behind-the-scenes content, but — despite YouTube’s history of creating viral phenomenons — few use the video service to genuinely engage the audience. But in the lead up to the main draw, Madrid has done just that. It challenged its Spanish-speaking audience to submit videos proving why they are the ultimate “Super Fan,” which resulted in a plethora of charming tournament tributes. It remains to be seen what sort of content they will provide during the tournament proper, but if this promo video (which features Feliciano Lopez) is any indication, it’ll be just as vibrant and lively as its carefully-cultivated image.

More: Springtime teal in Madrid | Rafa’s distaste for colorful clay

Above all, Madrid serves as an example of what the sport can become in this new age — a Europeanized (and better version) of a US Open Series event. Tennis has always stood on the shoulders of the many cities that host it, but quite often, standardized tournament branding fails to effectively represent each location’s diverse nature. Hopefully, with its constant attempts to break the mold, Madrid will inspire its fellow tournaments to modernize and engage the global audience. After the jump: More high-flying pics from Madrid’s on-the-wall acro-tizing. [Read more…]