wta pre-wimbledon party: no grey areas

Black and white: The ladies of the WTA know how to play with a good margin of error, and it’s hard to go wrong with donning some black and white to a party. Laura Robson took a simple, cap-sleeve dress to the next level with a scooping neckline; Sorana Cirstea played sexy peekaboo with lace; Tsvetana Pironkova bared a shoulder and threw on a leather belt; Francesca Schiavone channeled Diane Keaton, Caroline Wozniacki wore Stella McCartney, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova matched her updo with a cocktail (napkins) dress, aaaand Monica Niculescu.

More: See the rest of the black and white ladies from the WTA pre-Wimbledon party after the cut…

stay, don’t go

By Jonathan Scott

Another brand of March Madness is upon us: With the unisex goodness that is the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells tournament, the 2011 pro tennis campaign kick-starts into high gear. This 1-2 punch of Cali and Miami makes for a full month of top-notch tennis. Indeed, spring’s done sprung.

Now a curious trend seeped into tennis again in 2010: jumpy observers of the sport seeking to retire players -– good, even great stars who reaped some solid results -– before they themselves are ready to hang up their racquets. The guilty parties: too many tennis writers and other observers and “personalities” involved to various degrees. Their victims? Among them, Andy Roddick, Venus Williams, and even Roger Federer, proving that not a single star is exempt from these hasty calls to exit.

But Roddick won Memphis last month, dousing the ballyhooed, raging fire that is young Milos Raonic and coming up with possibly the best championship-point winner ever. He also ignited his fellow Americans’ effort on the Chilean clay in Davis Cup, punctuating his clinching win with a scissor kick (Video: here) that would make Sally O’Malley salivate. Too many quickly forgot that Venus seized some early 2010 titles and vaulted to no. 2 in the world before injuries in part derailed both her autumnal and 2011 Aussie exploits. (Oddly, she’s now singing 311 karaoke on a MIA-to-Turks cruiseship and showing off some fly dance moves for someone with chronic knee issues.). Fed himself ran the table at the London year-end championships in December, outdoing even Rafael Nadal in the final, and snagged an early 2011 title before a taking-all-comers Novak Djokovic rolled over him in Melbourne.

Still, retirement happens. It’s inevitable. Justine Henin’s departure has itself turned into a piece of music with multiple movements, the strings swelling and falling at different points. Henin has been like that lover who breaks it off and then loiters for attention: Mercy. And merci.

All of the brouhaha catalyzed a thought: Who or what in the sport truly needs to go?

Without further ado, a few items –- persons, peccadillos, and other pesky minutiae –- that best get gone. Now. Conversely, some other talents and trends are welcome to get comfy. So there it is: Stay, or Go.

GO: Foremost, let’s be done with the freak injuries. Some stars are making the maladies on TV hospital dramas seem realistic: Victoria Azarenka scarily passed out on court after bopping her head during a warm-up run, and then Anna Chakvetadze did her best Vika impression. Meanwhile Andy Murray strained his hand by playing video games excessively (okay, that one proved a fib). It seems a few players just need to be grounded.

Granted, Serena’s recent pulmonary embolism/hematoma scare is more than legit. Anyone who relishes compelling tennis, even if no fan of hers, whether onlooker or media, can only hope she makes it back into the mix again. Tennis needs her fight and her bite. Not every player needs to be Mama Kim Clijsters, portrait of civility.

Speaking of, GO: Can we just be done with all the talk about Clijsters’ motherhood? Cute turned to precious in a hurry there, and not in a good way.

GO: That hand-strain hoax aside, Murray might want to consider tempering his video gaming: Girlfriend Kim Sears reportedly already broke up with him once over the habit. Word to the wise, young gun: the lady has you on watch.

Judy Murray, we heart thee.

GO. STAY. Good dog: Not to pick on the Murray familia too much (see below), but what of these tweets from the family’s resident cur, this Maggie? So let it be written, so let it be done: No more Murray mutt tweets, at least not until Andy bags that virgin Major. It’s no less lame to put your pet on Twitter than it is to fashion a Facebook profile for it.

STAY: Judy Murray, British tennis coach and mom to Andy and Jamie. Yes, she advises her son. She also isn’t afraid to shoot a witty retort at a former player who yaps about her spawn’s chances at winning big with her on board.

GO: Boris Becker. Just let it be, Boorish. You were a fine player, a flame-maned, serve-and-volley stud on grass. Then you knocked Murray and his mum for his underperforming at Slams, chiding him for his closeness to Judy and (good grief!) for standing by his girl at age 23. So a former player cheats on his pregnant wife with a Russian model (in a closet), resulting in a lust child, and then doles out unsolicited relational advice? Laughable. Not content to merely stand by his statements from the fall, BB waxed on again after Murray’s mopey, one-sided loss to Nole in the Aussie final. Sigh. Everyone’s a Carillo. Click to read more, kids. You don’t want to miss these musings.

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trophy watch: never been kissed

OK. Not never. But almost never. Jelena Dokic kissed a WTA trophy for the first time in nine years (Sarasota, 2002). Dokic shot up 30 spots from no. 91 in the world to no. 61. In Kuala Lumpur, she took out top seed Francesca Schiavone in the first round before rolling into the final. It was there that she beat B-Lister Lucie Safarova, 2-6, 7-6(9), 6-4, saving two championship points en route. Tough day for the Safarova-Berydch family.

Pablo Cuevas gets a little hoist from his teammates following his tie-clinching win in Montevideo. None of those gents on the sidelines seem to care much for the celebration. Uruguay beat Colombia 4-1 in a Group I Americas clash. Davis Cup: All results

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short balls: california girls (and boys)

TSF takes over the West Coast this week as I made the drive from Cottonwood, Idaho, (yeah, it exists) to San Francisco yesterday for a little R&R and a day at the Bank of the West Classic tomorrow in Palo Alto, at Stanford. Meanwhile, Erwin is holding court in LA for the Farmers Classic, making sure that the boys adhere to the warm weather shining on SoCal and going shirtless on the practice courts.

This week’s version of short balls comes on Tuesday, a little earlier than usual. Enjoy!

I’ll make the drive down to Palo Alto tomorrow for a day at the 40th annual Bank of the West Classic, now the longest-running women’s event on tour. Bank of the West has been the title sponsor since 1992 at this event, something that is unheard of in the days of fast-moving money. (Remember the Lipton Championships? Or the Kraft WTA Tour? Seems like centuries ago… ) The Bank of the West has been at Stanford’s Taube Tennis Pavilion since 1997, and just this year announced partnership with Rebounces, a green company that runs a tennis-ball recycling program nationwide. Balls brought in by members of the public (and those used in the tournament) will be collected and recycled by Rebounces, with the help of FedEx to get them shipped and donated to a local youth tennis program. Thumbs up to that!

There’s always plenty of tennis action on the pages of Twitter, and this week a few more tennis names added themselves to the never-ending world of Tweets. Janko Tipsarevic asked his followers to “bare” with his bad English (gladly, Janko, gladly). WTAers Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Alisa Kleybanova have also joined the Twitter ranks. Anastasia is playing in Istanbul this week, whiles Kleybs was already dismissed from Stanford by a studious Ana Ivanovic. Before she was bounced outta the Bay Area, Kleybs sat down with Chris Oddo for an interview featured on On The Baseline.

The USTA announced yesterday that it is partnering with longtime supporter American Express for a program called Fresh Courts. The program will invest money in 17 different tennis courts in three urban centers, including Los Angeles, DC and New York. In NYC, the benefactors will be our friends over at McCarren Park in Brooklyn. The USTA will head up the fixing up of the courts themselves, as it oversees around 700 refurbishing projects each year.

For a little bit of a fashion fix, I’m digging this Lacoste v-neck (and the model!) I ran across yesterday. $40 online. Meanwhile, Serena might be questionable for the US Open itself, but that’s not keeping Nike from prepping itself for her outfit at said tourney. The Control Court dress (seen here via TennisConnected) is $85 and might – just might – be made famous by ReRe if she’s able to show at Flushing Meadows come late August. This is the black version of her Wimbledon get up, which helped her to her 13th slam title.

short(er) balls are happening after the cut. [Read more...]

fed cup 2010 – first round

That’s Bojana Jovanovski, Ana Jovanovic, captain Dejan Vranes, Jelena Jankovic, and Ana Ivanovic at the official Fed Cup dinner on the eve of the tie between Serbia and Russia. As you can see from the schedule below, the headcase Ivanovic will go up against Svetlana Kuznetsova first, and then Jelena, whose back injury could hamper her performance, will then face the hard-hitting Alisa Kleybanova.

Russian team: Captain Shamil Tarpischev, Vera Dushevina, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Alisa Kleybanova.

If the tie was based solely on footwear, the Serbians win. What is up with Anastasia’s red bra??

Who’s playing whom + TV: Here’s the line-up for all four World Group ties (plus TC’s coverage of the US/France tie) — after the cut…

pavlyuchenkova too much for venus’ tutu

Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has Venus Williams‘s number, having upset the American for the second time in two weeks, more recently in the second round of the China Open. The score: 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.

“I just tried to play as simple as I can just into the court and just make her move,” said Pavlyuchenkova of Venus at her post-match presser. “And today I just tried to do the same thing.”

Make Venus — one of the tour’s best movers — move? Kids these days can stare death in the face and not flinch one bit!

Bracketology: Anastasia next faces Wozniak, and could face Kuznetsova in the quarters. The rest of the draw is here (pdf).

Thumbs up: Many of you didn’t like Venus’ U.S. Open ’09 bowling shirt dress, but make sure to send love to her doubles outfit from that Slam, which she also wore for singles this week. Straps criss-crossed down the back of the bright pink dress, fitting for a ballerina.

(image via Getty)