and then there were four (spots)

Sweden’s Robin Soderling booked the fifth spot in the 2010 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. After his run to the quarters at this week’s If Stockholm Open, Soderling’s guaranteed his second trip to the finals (he made the semis last year). Rafa, Roger, Nole, and Andy Murray have already qualified for the year-end tournament.

His title win in Rotterdam, defending an appearance in the finals of the French, plus reaching the quarters at Wimbledon and the US Open contributed to this achievement. And as part of his qualification, the ATP’s showcasing his self-portrait, to be displayed (and then auctioned off for charity) alongside the pieces made by the other seven players. Much like Robin, his art is nothing to write home about. (Browse: Portraits by Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, and Murray.)

Tall task: “There are only eight players and you play against the world’s best so every match you play could be like a Grand Slam final,” Soderling shared with the ATP. “I will have to be ready from the first match.”

Doubles: Meanwhile, the team of Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes have also qualified for the Tour Finals’ doubles event for the third time. The draw will also feature the Bryan Brothers, Daniel Nestor/Nenad Zimonjic, and Jurgen Melzer/Philipp Petzschner as contenders.

(images courtesy of ATP)

murray’s trademark… hair

It looks like we’re not the only one obsessing over Andy Murray‘s hair (let us count the ways): in celebration of the Scot gaining a spot in the last men’s event of the year — the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals — the tour created a stencil that Andy used for his artball self-portrait. Thankfully, they used a photo of him well-groomed. (See: Stencils for Roger, Rafa, and the one for Nole.)

Muzz on creating the art: “I can’t say I’ve ever created a self-portrait quite like this before — it was good fun but I don’t think I’ll be giving up my day job just quite yet! I’m looking forward to seeing it in the gallery, hopefully it can raise some money for charity!”

…on home court advantage: “If I play well I’ve got a chance of beating any of the guys. I’m excited to be playing in front of my home crowd; the atmosphere was great last year. I could be playing against Federer or Nadal in my first match in the Finals so I’m going to have to be on top of my game from the very start.” (The tourney’s held at the O2.)

For your consumption: The canvases from all eight singles finalists will be displayed at the La Galleria Pall Mall in London November 8-18, 2010. After that, they’ll be sold through an online charity auction that ends on November 28, 2010.

More: A few other pics of Andy making his art after the cut…

only the nole

Yep, that’s a smiley face finger-painted onto the artball sportrait done by Novak Djokovic in celebration of his qualification into the 2010 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, where he’ll join the other top seven guys on the tour vying for around $3.5 million in prize money.

Nole banked enough points over the weekend (his semifinal win over John Isner at the China Open in Beijing) to put him in company with qualifiers Roger and Rafa. (Flashback: See the top duo’s art pieces.) At this week’s Shanghai Rolex Masters, Andy Murray also qualified after beating Jeremy Chardy in the round of 16. This leaves four more spots in contention.

Lip service: “I was really happy to hear the news. It’s four consecutive years for me to get to the Finals, so this achievement means a lot. Of course I will do my best to get even further than I did last year to try to pass the group stage, but there’s still a way to go. It was incredible how many people came out and watched us last year. I really look forward to playing in front of that crowd in The O2 again.”

Bonus round: Catch video from Nole’s artball session here.

(images and Djokovic quote courtesy of ATP)

the ATP’s newest art project

As if they haven’t hustled enough to get to London — aka the site of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, to be held Nov. 21-28, 2010 — each of the eight players who qualify is being asked to create a self-portrait to celebrate their achievement.

The set-up: the guys, during the Masters Series stop in Cincinnati, hit paint-covered tennis balls against stenciled canvases showing one of the player’s signature moves. The pieces will be exhibited in Central London in early November; it’ll move to The O2 for the duration of the actual event. And after, it’ll be auctioned off for charity.

We can’t wait to see what signature moves they’ve stenciled for Muzz, Nole (tearing off his shirt?), and Andy Roddick (adjusting his crotch?). Six more spots are up for grabs.

Rafa Nadal, who owns a portrait of Marilyn Monroe, said this about creating his painting:

“Making the artwork was fun and something I’ve never done before. It’s a great way to celebrate the World Tour Finals coming back to London. It was a little bit of a challenge to put the balls on the silhouette! Of course this is the least we can do for charity and for those who need it the most. It’s very important that people in our position help those who really need help. I’d like to thank everyone for the support they give us.”

He qualified for the year-ending tournament back in May 23, 2010. Jesus.

And Roger Federer said this:

“It was great fun being invited to create my self portrait and I’m excited to see how the finished piece looks. Raising money for charity is always a great thing so already I would like to thank people who will buy these pictures and it’s going to be for a good cause. I’m happy I can help a bit.”

Federer qualified in August 7, 2010. This will be the ninth time he’s participated in the year-end event.

Flashback: Of course, this isn’t the first time the boys have been asked to help out with some year-end art. Remember those terracotta statues created by Laury Dizengremel for the Shanghai Masters? And this isn’t the first time the pros have dabbled in ball-art either. Martina Navratilova‘s churned out a few pieces herself.

More info: Check out the details (including tickets) for the Year-End finals here and specifically about the Art of Tennis here.

More pics: And more images of Nadal and Roger smackin’ the painted balls after the cut…

li ning posterboy ljubicic is first to scalp a seed

Ivan Ljubicic was the first to scalp a seed at this year’s Mutua Madrilena Madrid Masters. The Croatian wild card broke Jo-Wilfried Tsonga three times, with two of those coming in the second set when Ljubicic rallied from 5-2 down. The final score: 6-4, 7-5.

Props to his clothing sponsor, Li Ning, for continually surprising us with novel designs for his on-court kit. This go-’round combines a bright yellow polo with a silver print overlay.

More where that came from: Above are some athletic and casual looks from the current Li Ning line. They were showcased as part of the ATP launch of its Chinese-language site.

baby, it’s cold outside

From Los Angeles, with love: We can’t share our (relatively) mild weather with the rest of the country, so we’ll do our best to distract you from that nasty nor’easter, nor’easterners! Enjoy these outtakes from Dmitry Tursunov‘s December pin-up shoot with photographer Corinne Dubreuil for the 2009 ATP Calendar.

Clearly, all of Dmitry’s hard work pays off.

More: See all after the cut…

hewitt’s dirty laundry

Lleyton Hewitt‘s former management, Octagon, has taken him to court for breach of contracts, and he’s fighting back with a countersuit, citing incompetence and deception on the part of the agency.

And while we feel bad that Lleyton can’t catch a break (he received a wildcard to play at Delray Beach this week. and lost. on his birthday.), it’s always interesting to get a look at what happens to the $60 I fork over for nosebleed seats.

In 2005 and 2006, Hewitt earned $6.75 million net in endorsements and appearance guarantees — including $3.5 mil from Nike and $2.3 mil from Yonex. He also received $340,000 in appearance fees for Sydney, Adelaide, and Queen’s Club.

Octagon wants a piece of this pie in the sky, but whether the agency was still representing Hewitt for those two years is in question.

Meanwhile, Hewitt’s smarting because of a 2002 legal scuffle with the ATP that could’ve been smoothed over by Octagon. After declining a on-camera interview as part of promoting the 2002 U.S. Open, Lleyton got slapped with a $100k+ fine. The ATP considered the interview compulsory; Hewitt thought he’d already fulfilled all his obligations. He spent another $100,000 only to have the ATP decision upheld, albeit with a much smaller ($20,000) fine.

Let’s hope he doesn’t bleed too much more money settling all these matters — he doesn’t have a lot of tennis-playing years left!

it’s raining mail

orchard-street-reebok09

Our normally testy UPS delivery man must have been having a good day because we received a package on the first attempt! We are now the proud owners of a pair of Re-Up Lux sneakers, a collaboration between Orchard Street and Reebok.

This is one of two recently released “teaser” pairs for an expanded collab line, images of which can be seen here.

Buy: Re-Up Lux, $90, orchardstreet.com

And we also received packages from both the SEWTA and ATP World Tour that contained each group’s media guide, which includes pronunciation tips for players’ surnames. Hopefully, this’ll make us less of a tool at Indian Wells, where we spent most of the 2008 repeatedly sounding like a total gringo (“Gilles Simon“, “Camille Pin“, and “Alize Cornet” come to mind).

Dork out: The SEWTA has its own book, while the ATP provides an edition that combines the men’s and the ladies’ info. Get a copy of the latter here.

(shoe image via nytimes.com; media guide image via atp)