strokin’: when tennis met music



By Jonathan Scott

It may not be tabloid fodder like every Taylor Swift dalliance, and it’s not nearly as insufferable as Brangelina, but the marriage between music and tennis is itself a storied love affair. It stretches across decades and genres, and it knows no bounds – well, none other than those pesky white lines.

Try to set aside the disappointment that the artist Sergey with the song “Tennis” on iTunes is actually not Vera Zvonareva‘s ridiculously good-looking model/coach. And, however possible, repress the memory of Justine Henin‘s song-and-dance scareoke on TV. Yes, Novak Djokovic and Ivo Karlovic have tried their tongues at rapping, as has Vince Spadea with amusingly deplorable results, but that doesn’t mean you should try it at home after perfecting your Djokovic-ian down-the-line backhand, does it?

As the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival just wrapped its annual song-a-thon in Austin, Texas – soon to be the site for a volatile USA vs. Spain Davis Cup tie in July – here’s the skinny on the latest hot shots in tennis-tinged music and an homage to some of the greats.

Best Newcomer: James Blake is a dub-step soulman and a veritable crooner. The British JB, that is. His American counterpart is a best-selling author and owner of a laser forehand whose best days are past, but Blake the Brit is taking the music world by slow-burning storm, releasing his rave-reviewed eponymous debut in February and – well before that – igniting the blogosphere with his faithful but quirky cover of Feist‘s “Limit to Your Love.” Let’s just pray that, when we hit up a James Blake concert sometime, his fans aren’t half as annoying (adorable?) as the American Blake’s J-Block can be in the tennis stands.

Dainty she is not. Our fave album cover from Blonde Readhead’s 23. (Image via band website)

Best Dressed: Sometimes it’s okay to judge a band by its cover. Oxymoronic indie rockers Blonde Redhead out of New York City put out the best, most elegant tennis-themed album art when they dropped 23 in 2007. But, no, the song “Top Ranking” has nothing to do with disputed no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

Worst Dressed, but Best Sound: Yea, there is a band simply called Tennis, a married duo specializing in ’60s surf-pop for 2011. This act released its debut Cape Dory in January, and though the song “Marathon” doesn’t harbor the words “Isner,” “Mahut” or “Wimbledon” anywhere in the lyrics, it’s solid stuff. Consider it your soulful throwback soundtrack for this summer – but steer clear of wearing skintight aqua as with the album cover. It looks like leftover fabric from a hideous Nadia Petrova creation.

Best Tournament Run: This has to go to the ginger-haired heroine in the video for Vampire Weekend‘s “Giving Up the Gun.” She rips through a draw that includes Joe Jonas, a Daft Punk-helmeted doubles team, and even a flask-swilling Jake Gyllenhaal in tear-away pants. It’s a great song, and the immaculately-white indoor court is sharp – even if the choked-up strokes from the damsel look laughably bad in reality. Girl, who taught you to grip a racquet like that? Topping it off: RZA from Wu-Tang Clan serves as the chair umpire, and Lil Jon offers astute on-court coaching. Brill.

TSF Vault | The many lives of tennis-themed music vids

Best Clay-Court Match: French DJs Martin Solveig — oddly in tasteful Wimbledon whites — and Bob Sinclar, sporting some hot-magenta vintage-Agassi styles, squared off on Roland Garros‘ red dirt for the video for Solveig’s dance track “Hello” sung by Dragonette. The match and music video are both visceral, a veritable heartbreaker. Check out the cameo by that flashiest of the current French tennis stars as he comes on the scene and devastates the darling DJ.

Hello? Could Martin Solveig look any cooler? We think not. (YouTube screengrab)

Best Charity Hit: Andy Murray and Thom Yorke of Radiohead teamed up for charity single “Two Minute Silence” to benefit serving and former British troops and their families. Strangely enough, its title is no lie. “Hear” — but really just see — it here. British Prime Minister David Cameron and more also got in on this quiet riot. Truly the oddest not-quite-a-band lineup ever, but hey, can’t wait for their episode of “Behind the Music.” Finalist: Wozniacki put out a charity single called “Oxigent” (or “Oxygen”) to benefit Danish and Polish Paralympic athletes. Because, you know, she has oodles of free time.

Top Passing Shot: Meg Baird‘s lovely, lilting “Waltze of the Tennis Players.” It’s just pretty, and we do pretty.

More of Jonathan’s music musings (including “Best Grunt” and “Best Musical Ode to a Tennis Player”) after the cut. [Read more...]

he said, he said: delray tourney director & andre agassi



Above, a previously unshared photo of Douglas Hoekzema‘s work at the Delray Beach ITC. Check out that wall, y’all. (photo by Peter Vahan via primaryflight.com)

“We do this to embrace community and show off the talent this town has. It’s the smallest city of any on the ATP Tour, but has the most flavor block for block for sure. It’s all about creating a lasting positive memory that people can leave with whether they’re a core tennis fan or someone seeing our space and athletes for the first time. Amazing art, VolleyGirls, killer local bands, on-court seats, convertible Porsches on-court that fans watch matches in… it’s all groovy at ‘the beach.’” -John Butler, Executive Director of the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships

Agassi arrives yesterday in DC to shoot a USTA promo with First Lady Michelle Obama. (Max Blodgett)

Andre Agassi today gave a teleconference in preparation for the BNP Paribas Showdown. When asked about Pete Sampras and the two stars’ awkward moment at last year’s Hit for Haiti, Andre had this to say: “Our relationship is strictly platonic, I’ll say that.” [Laughter] “Hit for Haiti was an unfortunate night that was of my doing. I had a microphone at my mouth for too long… I just called him and apologized. No one regretted it more than me.”

short balls: guest appearance



Short balls is making a weekend appearance, so don’t get too worked up… But you might be excited to hear – maybe you should be sitting down for this – that Marv Albert is joining CBS‘ team for its March Madness coverage. You tennis fans remember Marv, don’t you? He’s the basketball commentator that was tapped by TNT in 2000 to help the network at Wimbledon. His famous making-a-tough-jumpshot phrase (“Yesssssssssssss!”) didn’t really translate well to the game of ball and racket. At all. That reminds us: TNT was once the home of Wimbledon?! Oh how things change in 10 years.

Earlier this week it was announced that Andre Agassi will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this summer in Newport. The announcement didn’t come as a total shock to anyone, though the Hall did put together a great video to capture the events that took place in Las Vegas for the announcement itself:

Short(er) balls: We stumbled across this site of gents being sampled from all walks of life. Even Novak Djokovic gets a piece of the action. | And if you ever consider leaving a nasty comment, we will track you down…

Picture this: You guys missed Heineken Day. But these fellas didn’t.

(photo via ao.com)

video: the trick shots keep comin’



Agassi unplugged: This Andre Agassi video from HEAD touts the former pro’s tennis superpowers — filmed with no special effects.

We here at TSF are soooooooooooooooo over trick shot videos (thanks for nothing, Roger Federer!), but since we’re having a glass-half-full kind of day, we give HEAD props for thinking this one out. Andre’s video is set in a serene, quiet court — reflective of his current mellow elder statesman persona — and has him hitting net posts with a ball struck from all over a tennis stadium. (BTW, he’s hitting with the YouTek Six Star racquet.)

Meanwhile, Andy Murray‘s piece, which came out earlier this year, had the Scot roaming the streets of London while performing goofy tennis tricks. Muzz is always so serious (esp. at press conferences), so it’s nice to see that grill once in a while. (Video: Murray’s Street Magic)

bury the hatchet or fuel the flame?



It has just been announced that this coming February’s BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden — in 2010 an event contested by Venus, Ana Ivanovic, Kim Clijsters, and Sveta Kuznetsova — will this time feature Agassi, Sampras, Lendl, and McEnroe in a renewal of their classic rivalries.

John and Ivan will play a one-set pro match (first to eight) and the Agassi/Sampras matchup will be a best-of-three. TSF’s curious to see how the latter will pan out, especially in light of Andre’s malfunction at Indian Wells this year. (Hey, if Kournikova and Hingis can kiss and make up, why can’t these two?)

But not to take away from the event’s a noble cause: to bring awareness to our sport through the “Tennis Night in America” initiative, a collaboration between BNP Paribas and the USTA.

Info: For more info about the event, to be held on February 28, 2011, visit tennisshowdown.com.