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...]

short balls: roger’s the best, nadal loves marilyn, and a threesome in my living room

I WANT THEM ALL: We ran across these prints of Roger, Rafa, and Andy Roddick done by UK artist Vietnamthemovie. He’s doing a 100-print run of all three — available in a variety of print finishes and sizes, starting from $48 — so act fast. Le sigh. my disposable income’s at zero, but my living room already looks naked without ‘em! Check out the shop here.

Just like (quick) honey: Do you remember the January 2007 issue of Tennis, which had illustrations by Peter Stemmler of Venus and Serena, Lindsay Davenport, and Nole (I think in a dress)? I meant to scan and post. Check out two more drawings, these ones of Masha.

rafael-nadal-marilynrock

He’s a rock star, after all: Another mark in that column for Rafael Nadal, who for six months now has owned a Marilyn Monroe piece by artist Daniele Donde. Rafa picked up Marilyn Rocks in June of 2008. (src)

Nadal’s number one… … but you’re the best a man can get, Roger! This mural was spotted by keithmaguire in South Korea.

short balls: sketches, socks, and stripes

philip-burke-tnyo-usopen07.jpg

RePRINTed: Our buddy Jordan snapped this photo of Philip Burke drawings in the February issue of PRINT. The images of Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic originally appeared in The New York Observer‘s coverage of the 2007 U.S. Open. God bless iPhones.

All in the family: Just FYI — Kellie Kuehne, the golfer sister of Venus Williams‘s golfer boyfriend Hank, plays the green wearing EleVen clothing. Whodathunk the clothing would be so versatile?

mauresmo-socks.jpg

Amelie inspires socks: Dear Miss Mauresmo, I know you’re a little down these days — contemplating retirement, even) — in your latest slump you should know that (a) you lost a very streaky-but-good player in Tamarine Tanasugarn at this week’s Qatar Total Open, and that you’ve (b) inspired Claire to knit some socks. That’s right: socks. In your honor. Based on the dress you wore when you won the Australian in 2006. xoxo – TSF

The higher they go… The sullied career of Martina Hingis gets dealt another blow (hee) in the wake of her testing positive for cocaine at last year’s Wimbledon. According to Tennis Week, adidas dropped its endorsement contract with the former No. 1 because of a zero-tolerance policy on substance abuse.

short balls: african tennis, marat mania, french open tv

Tennis Hooligans: Here’s a fan’s take on attending both the Tennis Channel Open and the Pacific Life Open to see some good tennis stalk Marat Safin. And another one of the Lady Hooligans posted her ode to Marat. Make sure to click on the second YouTube video, to see a goofy clip.

Finding Africa’s next great hope: Jeanne Ashe reopened the South African tennis center named for (and co-founded by) her late husband, Arthur Ashe. The country needs get back on the tennis map; it’s been a little while since Wayne Ferreira retired. (via espn.com)

Self-serving patriotism?: The Russian Fed Cup team added Maria Sharapova to their roster for the first round tie against Spain. She’s never played Fed Cup before, and is likely participating to make herself eligible for the Beijing Olympics. (via espn.com)

Roaming the grounds of Roland Garros: DirecTV announced its plans for the French Open. Like the coverage it provided in partnership with the Tennis Channel for last year’s U.S. Open, DirecTV will “offer multiple live channels from the tournament, as well as a special ‘French Open Mix’ channel that will feature all live feeds.” (via Multichannel News)

More info about the red-striped 2007 Roland Garros poster here.

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