going green: venus williams (‘s diet)

By Benjamin Snyder

Venus Williams has had to change her diet since being diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome

No more Oreos or Jamba Juice? Venus is aspiring to have a better diet in 2012. (AFP/Getty)

A tall order for the taller sister. Can the meat-and-potatoes Wimbledon-queen summon her past success as a leaner and greener player?

Older sister Venus, who’s claimed five titles at the All England Club, is having a health scare of her own after being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease, which can lead to damage of the body’s vital organs. The illness forced her drop out of the US Open this year and has pushed meat out of her diet.

Despite the seriousness of the condition, Venus has been sporting a positive attitude and even healthier eating habits. She told reporters, “I changed my diet completely, so lots of vegetables. I [altered] my mind frame completely because I was the person who always ate their steak first and their salad second.”

Times are changing for the superstar, who said last year that she “eats to live and not lives to eat.” She continued talking foodie favorites, saying that she considered “beans and rice and blackened chicken” a top meal choice.

Venus discussed her new diet’s impact on the future. “My goal next year is to play a full schedule. It will take some work to get there, but I’m no stranger to hard work.”

TSF Vault: Venus Williams

This recalls the gourmet changes for 2011 ATP success stories Novak Djokovic, who’s claimed three major titles this year, and Andy Murray, who went on a 17-match winning spree after the US Open.

Djokovic’s decision to cut the carbohydrates to curb his Ciliac disease helped him achieve his best season ever, including the No. 1 ranking. Meanwhile, Murray discussed his own gourmet foray into becoming more fit. Before losing to Tomas Berdych in the Paris Masters, he said, “I think there’s a bit of difference in my approach to training and the diet; I feel pretty fresh.”

Not all’s well for the scrawny-looking Scot, who misses being able to pick up a menu and order what he wants. You can almost imagine his mouth watering when he said: “It can be quite frustrating when everyone else is dunking their bread in olive oil or smearing it in butter.”

Murray aside, Venus’ newfound form and fitness will no doubt have fans worldwide salivating for a dominating force in an otherwise floundering WTA. Petra Kvitova, 21, the current world No. 2 and winner of Wimbledon and the Season Ending Championships, might be the answer. She’s still, however, young and half-baked in terms of talent and poise.

It’s time for Venus to turn up the burners and bring back the motivation for which she’s known. Currently ranked No. 103, having only played a handful of tournaments this year, Venus quickly doused rumors of retirement.

“I love the game. The racket feels right in my hand and I’m planning on going right back to where I was at the top of the rankings in the singles and doubles.”

With Venus back in-shape and on form, the alarm bells should be sounding for the rest of the women’s tour. It’ll be tough to get out of the fire and back into the figurative frying pan that is professional tennis at her ripe age of 31. But if anyone can come back from adversity and succeed, it’s a Williams.

High stakes (steaks?), indeed.

short balls: tennis in cincy is a BFD, is the open draw fixed? and more

Cin-sational: If you didn’t think that the Western & Southern Open wasn’t a big deal, take a peek at Cincinnati.com. The online hub for everything Cincy can’t get enough of the ATP‘s Masters 1000 event that is now a double dip (and mini US Open) with the women joining the men for the first time this year. The .com team has littered (in a good way) their homepage with blown-out coverage for the entire week of the tourney, which goes through this weekend. Think the New York Times should take note? We’re not so sure that they can fit some 19 links on their top bar alone, as the Cincinnati site did on Thursday. #crowded

It doesn’t stop there: If a regular old news site isn’t enough for you, CincyTennis.com offers some of the best coverage of a tournament’s site outside of the four majors. We’ve been keeping an eye particularly on the writings of TSF contributor Benjamin Snyder, who is writing for CincyTennis. | Draws: Men | Women

Fixed? ESPN‘s Outside the Lines had quite the compelling report (with plenty of fancy numbers) saying that the top two players in the US Open get a fixed draw to deal with year in and year out. Watch the report for how they average out the players’ rankings that the no. 1 and no. 2 seeds must play against. You think it’s rigged too? We can’t quite buy it. | Reaction: Busted Racquet

What’s up with the Williamses? Both Venus and Serena are expected to be at America’s wedding of the year. That’s right, Kim Kardashian is finally tying the knot! Was Serena’s injury well timed? We all know Serena doesn’t like to miss a big party, and if she did well in Cincy that meant no E! red carpet for Kim’s nuptials. Just… thinking out loud. Meanwhile, Venus sat down with Tennis.com and revealed that she is, indeed, a grunter. And what else? She sees more of a future for herself in the design world than running the WTA from Stacey Allaster‘s spot. And while Venus said she wasn’t “a committer” in her interview, she and Serena committed to a December exhibition — in Italy. They will be joined by Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta.

Roddickulous: It was a manic Monday for Andy Roddick in Cincinnati, who was attempting a mini comeback of sorts prior to the US Open. A-Rod blew a set and a break lead, then was broken in the third set when a point was awarded to his opponent as Roddick was serving at break point down and smashed a ball into the crowd. Cue the arguing from Andy. | Change of plans: Roddick takes Winston-Salem wildcard

Love kills? Things didn’t go so well for love birds Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy this last week. Rory finished 64th at the PGA Championship while Wozy was stunned by American upstart Christina McHale in the second round in Cincinnati. At least they could cuddle, right? Rory visited Caroline in Cincy for the tourney. | Open Court blog: Caro’s dad/coach just dad now

short(er) balls: Commentators (and brothers) John and Pat McEnroe talk all about the US Open in ESPN call. | Trendy, chic fashion for black men? A new duo is emerging on the cutting edge. | Who is running things at J.Crew? That’d be Jenna Lyons. | Check out New York magazine’s fall fashion coverage. | A teaching professional has been arrested in the Boston area for video taping a male member in the locker room. | New York fashion makes its way to Cincinnati for runway show during W&S Open. | Are you a recreational player trying to look cool? That’s uncool, the Wall Street Journal says. | Johnny Mac knows that your body starts to break down as you get older. | US Open wildcard playoff (for a spot in the main draw) will go through Sunday. Among those playing: Beatrice Capra. | Blake Strode looks to win the National Playoffs once again, gaining entrance to the USO qualifying draw. | Headed to the Open but not sure where to eat in Queens? The NYT has got you covered. | Rafael Nadal will appear at Macy’s in New York on Thursday for an unveiling of Armani jeans.

(Caro and Rory photo by the AP)

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)

short balls: the sunday pull-out edition

Third is charming, at least for Rog: While he may be the world’s no. 3 tennis player now, Roger Federer is still living the high life. Credit Suisse, one of his sponsors, has a whole page dedicated to the Rog. A Mario Testino photo shoot? Doesn’t mind if he does. But more importantly: is that David Ferrer holding the reflector? Geez, Rog really does live it good.

Oh, how the weekend gets away from us: We certainly wish that we could spend our time wasting away in a coffee shop all weekend, but that never actually seems to be the case. A lovely lament from a real-life barista on Thought Catalog on why hipster barista give you an eye roll when you chirp out your order.

Simon, singing: If you are still in love with the trashy brilliance that is Bravo‘s “Real Housewife” series, then you’re probably soaking up the first few glorious (hideous?!) episodes of the New York installment over the last few weeks. But here’s something for everyone … er, NO ONE. Simon, hubby to one Alex McCord, has a single. Yep, it’s called “I Am Real” and as far as we can tell, none of it is real. Or really him. Or really good, whatsoever.

Click the image below to listen. More: Tennis-inspired music on TSF

Donald’s middle finger gets tweet-happy: Good Friday has never been better for Donald Young. The American journeyman, once a hot commodity for the “future of American tennis” has always had a rocky relationship with the USTA because of reportedly over-zealous parents and a poor work ethic. Now we’re guessing his aforementioned relationship is plainly non-existant after this tweet on Friday, which was followed by an apology and then — deletion of his account. “Fuck USTA!! Their full of shit! They have screwed me for the last time! #enoughsaid” – Donald Young at 5:01:14 pm ET Apr 22nd

Patrick McEnroe‘s supposed response? Not. Happy.

Tina Fey? Is, well, brilliant.

Draw(n) conclusions: A few musings from the draw of the USTA Pro Circuit event in Dothan, Alabama. (1) Stephanie Foretz Gacon, once ranked as high as no. 63 in the world (now no. 145) reaches the final. (2) Michelle Larcher de Brito, once of grunting infamy, wins five games in a first-round loss. She’s still Portugal’s no. 1 gal at no. 174. No reports on how loud she is now that she’s outta the top 100. (3) Alexandra Stevenson, 12 years after her run to the Wimby SFs, wins two matches before bowing out in straights to eventual winner, Melinda Czink. Stevenson is now ranked no. 250 and has won one WTA-sanctioned match this year (compared to zero last year). (4) Americans were 8-9 overall, mostly thanks to Stevenson and a run to the semis by Allison Riske.

Big props for DFW: The Infinite Jest author David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide in 2008, is getting rave reviews for his piece of work released posthumously, an unfinished manuscript called The Pale King.

Read: DFW’s NYT piece on Federer — a ‘religious experience’

Melzer’s tour BBF? That’d be Philly Petzscher: Following his jaw-dropping win over Roger Federer in Monte Carlo, the ATP had Jurgen Melzer take FB Qs from fans. Our fave exchange is here: Question: Since you stopped wearing your White Adidas hat, you’ve gone on some great runs. Any coincidence? -Nick Leone, United States Melzer: Well… maybe! I thought I was practising really well without the hat so I was a little superstitious in Monte-Carlo, so I stopped wearing it and it went well. Until I start to have a losing streak, I will take the hat away.

The many freaked-out faces of Klaus Goerges: We’re loving this video that Stephanie Myles of the Montreal Gazette put together of Julia Goerges father, using screen grabs from the TennisTV.com livestream. Click Klaus’ frowning face below to watch the whole hilarious thing.

Swinging out: On OutSports.com Cyd Ziegler writes about Bowdoin College’s openly gay tennis coach Colin Joyner and his push for the acceptance of LGBTQ athletes at the collegiate level. Prompting this was the story of openly gay Bowdoin lacrosse player Ben Chadwick. A tough tale: “When Joyner heard about Chadwick, he harkened back to his time as the only openly gay male athlete on campus. It was a lonely time for Joyner in many respects, and he didn’t want Chadwick to be the only one anymore.” Therefore, Joyner started Anything But Straight in Athletics (ABSA) “to help closeted athletes come out by dismantling homophobia in Bowdoin athletics.”

Contributing from Benjamin Snyder

(Federer screengrab via Credit Suisse website; Simon screengrab via NYMag.com; Goerges screengrab via the Open Court blog on MontrealGazette.com)

short balls: is that a jimmy in your phone or are you just… ?

By Benjamin Snyder

Basically Jimmy: Prepare for Jimmy 2.0, or rather “Jimmy Connors 109,” as the retired tennis champ’s newly released app is called, reports Tennis.com. USA Today initially broke the story, writing, “Part tutorial and part anecdotes, the video app showcases Connors to a whole new generation, while at the same time appealing to fans who watched him become one of the best and most popular players in the 1970s and ’80s.” In Connors’ own words, “I go back to basics, which is how I learned to play. I really believe simpler is better, and as I’m describing a shot or a grip, I’m showing you exactly how I did it.”

Roger Federer 007: Need a paparazzi decoy? Don’t ask Mirka, that just means she’ll wear sweat pants to dinner. Instead, Fed is your man, as he was the other night when out with BFF (Best Fashion Friend) Anna Wintour (oh yeah, and Mirka came too, yaaaaawn). According to the New York Post article, Federer helped Wintour escape from the paparazzi after the meal concluded. The article cites a spy (Mirka?!): “He and the group exited the side door carrying presents. The photographers ran to the side, but the queen of Vogue was nowhere to be found. One yelled, ‘Where’s Anna?’ Federer took his time loading the car, smiled and went on his way. Anna walked out the front door unnoticed.” As the article states, “chivalry still rules for Federer,” and it seems to be nowhere near dead. At the same time, how did Mirka feel about Federer’s kind acts for Wintour on her b-day? Can’t wait for that story line to develop!

Lisa’s lines: The wheels are turning for Lisa Raymond‘s WTA blog, “Lisa’s Spin.” In a recent post, the dubs specialist talks about country music (!??!???!), cupcakes, her doubles “break-up” and more. Let us repeat again: she talks about her doubles drama. Read it. Plus, what is a day without some life coaching from one, LaRa? Raymond says, “And like any relationship, the forming of a doubles partnership is a bit like dating – you seem interested in someone, you confirm they are single and/or on the market, ask them out, and hope you live happily ever after or something like that! ;-)” Did she really just ;-)??? We can’t with the emoticons.

Loud-mouth Johnny: As loud as John McEnroe is on court, he’s able to spit out the decibels in public places, too. Apparently, he’s just as “obnoxious” off the court, a blurb in the New York Post recounted. It says he “annoyed fellow diners at Recipe, on the Upper West Side recently by loudly recounting tales of his tennis glory days. The court legend entertained his wife and two friends with stories of “beating Bjorn Borg and other victories.”

Chris Chase of Yahoo! Sports is having none of it: “It’d be bigger news if McEnroe went to a restaurant and didn’t talk loudly about Bjorn Borg. What’s most surprising is that the old tennis champ wasn’t boasting about that time he partied with The Rolling Stones.”

The next loud-mouth superstar? Speaking (yelling?) of Johnny Mac, his protege, Ingrid Neel continues to make waves in the tennis world — the boys’ tennis world. The 12-year-old from Minnesota is playing tennis with the boys – and only the boys. Her hometown coach Mike Cartwright to the Minnesota Star Tribune has this to say about the pint-sized puncher playing with the fellas: “It will be interesting. It’s going to be hard for some guys, wondering how the heck they are losing to a seventh-grade girl. But she’s just really talented.”

Time to go? David Ferrer‘s recent ad campaign for Bovet watches in Spanish Revolution magazine. He’s rocking the sepia tones and the specs. Looking good (???), David! And… sort of like an Avatar.

(Connors image by ICN via USA Today; Ferrer image via Spanish Revolution)

short balls: jewelry gets ballsy inspiration

By Benjamin Snyder

We’d hit and wear that: Sure there’s tennis ball furniture, but how about some accessories, too? Simone Preuss of 1-800-recycling.com reveals some “creative uses” for worn-out tennis balls. Preuss writes, “Tennis balls are probably the most difficult of any kind of sports ball to recycle, as the rubber used is not biodegradable. However, about 300 million balls are produced each year, contributing to some 20,000 metric tons of rubber waste.”

Never quite imagined that more could be done than simply tossing those dead balls after an intense hitting sesh, did ya? Well, from bracelets (above) to jar holders to tripods and purses look no further than this post for ideas to glamify your world with a little more tennis love. The only problem, Simone, where’s the how-to guide to make these ballin’ beauties ourselves? Needing it.

We get hashtag fatigue sometimes, too: Looking to check up on the tweets of even more players than usual suspect Serena Williams (who BTW now has over 2 millions followers)? Check out Tennis Players on Twitter. The new website allows fans to check in on all players at all times – in real time! Links go directly to players official pages, just in case you want to further investigate on Twitter itself. Really, this is cool. Oops: #reallythisiscool.

Big game, but how about Playboy fame? Caroline Wozniacki apparently denied Playboy and Maxim, which both wanted the Dane to grace their pages naked, according to a report from Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet. She told reporters, “I’m not going to take off all my clothes,” while agent John Tobias continued, “She is still only 20 years [old]. That kind of photo series we’ll keep away from right now.” For more, click here.

Take us with you, BMS?

So maybe her attire is a little outrageous, but that’s why we love you, Bethanie. Well, girl can write, too.

Top 10-er, still: Besides fashion sense, American tennis in general seems to be on a bit of a decline up top with Serena Williams being the only top-ten ranked player after the latest rankings were revealed. Somehow, Serena managed to move up a couple spots despite having not played for months. Go figure. Then again with Serena, it’s better to stop trying and just roll with whatever story she headlines next, especially when it deals with the WTA ranking system.

(Images from 1-800-recycling.com and Twitter)

serena goes … sexy? … in game ad

By Benjamin Snyder

Let’s just call this Serena Williams’ version of a sex tape. While Serena can’t get dirty on the court these days, she’s doing her best to emulate BBF (Best Booty Friend) Kim Kardashian and get steamy – off it. As reported by the New York Daily News, Serena’s commercial for Top Spin 4 may be “too hot for TV.” Dubbed the “world’s sexiest tennis player,” the ad pits her against Rileah Vanderbilt, named the “world’s sexiest tennis gamer” (guess we missed that press release). The two tennis hotties (or drag queens in disguise – as some have commented) wear revealing black leotards, serenaded by a kind of grunting that probably should never be uttered on a tennis court. If that’s not enough, flames spurt around Vanderbilt as she hits an awkward backhand and golden confetti rains around Serena’s purple strands of hair.

Did we really just write that? Yes, read on oh weary one. There’s more.

Serenagate? When Serena is in the picture, there’s always gotta be drama. 2K Sports claims the video was never meant to be released, as reported by Joystiq. The company had this to say about the ad: “As part of the process for creating marketing campaigns to support our titles, we pursue a variety of creative avenues. This video is not part of the title’s final marketing campaign and its distribution was unauthorized.”

Vanderbilt didn’t seem to mind. She released the video herself via YouTube (before “distancing herself from it” by Wednesday), according to the Daily News. Now, however, if you try and search her YouTube for the sexy 57-second segment, you find the words “this video is private.” But really, after this, is anything private, Rileah?

Then, there’s Serena’s own misstep. She posted the following on Monday:

But never actually tweeted the link.

It all seems a little strange, right? Hey, don’t try to think too hard. Just try and “enjoy” this fab, flesh-filled ad while it’s still going viral online.

(photo by 2k Sports via the Daily News)

short balls: tennis goes cross-country

By Benjamin Snyder

Bottom’s on top: It’s official! The classy poster of a woman scratching her derriere in flattering tennis whites has been posted as one of the all-time best-selling posters, according to a recent article in the Guardian. Model and poster will soon be reunited after 35 years for an upcoming event celebrating tennis art, writes Patrick Kingsley. Pictured above, Fiona Walker, now 52, tells all in a piece from the Telegraph. (ed. note: Meanwhile, how cute is Patrick?? TSF is always looking for more freelancers… )

Feeling bi(coastal): Indian Wells is over, and it’s time to move on to Miami for some more fun-in-the-sun at the Sony Ericsson Open. But, before we leave Cali behind, how about news on the Serb we’ve been loving lately, Novak Djokovic? Not only did he thrash Rafa in the final set to take the title, word on the interwebs is Caro has been pining for him, at least symbolically. Move over, Ana – and longtime girlfriend Jelena Ristic – this lovely lady has the ranking and the sense of humor Nole just might be looking for these days. Or do you think he’d go for more of a Fiona Walker-type?

Ballin’: Tonight several top players – Nole and Rafa among them – were taking to the soccer pitch for a fundraiser for the victims of the Japan tsunami disaster. If it looks anything like the boys playing a little soccer tennis last summer, we’re sad we missed it.

World order, struck down: So while Novak’s getting the girls, the titles and playing some soccer for a good cause to boot, Roger‘s just plain losing – a lot. Ousted by the Djoker in a three-set semifinal showdown for the world no. 2 spot, Rog also succumbed in doubles with partner Stanislas Wawrinka. Fed suffered a “triple tennis blow” in Cali, says one piece. Now that’s one way to put it – and no, it doesn’t mean what you were hoping it did.

The Devil Watches Tennis: At least Roger has one Anna Wintour to comfort him. The Vogue editor is the subject of a much-talked-about Wall Street Journal magazine piece released online today. What is Anna doing in the lead image of the profile? Watching Rog – on TV.

As if they needed an excuse: Boasting like it’s some sort of change of pace, Miami is getting ready for the SEO with music, parties and … well, tennis. Is that any different than any other time of the year? Our pick: Funkshion Fashion Week. Shows happen all week long, including the Masquerade Motel on Saturday night, a beach-front show that’s already been sold out.

Little lady on the small screen: Dominika Cibulkova is being noticed for more than her small size (she’s just 5’3). For the entirety of the SEO, she’ll be a star on the online reality show Xperia Hot Shots, which is set to “follow the lives of six aspiring stars of the WTA as they try to build their Facebook fan base.” Says Domi: “It is so exciting to be part of this unique campaign … it’s a privilege to be just one of only a few girls selected for this.” While Cibulkova has 4,652 “likes” on FB, we’re curious: is that really her in the profile pic? Coulda fooled us.

(poster photo by paul grover/the daily telegraph; fed and anna by getty images)

short balls: march madness

by Benjamin Snyder

Maria got an eight seed and Caro a nine. Serena? Nowhere to be found. (Screengrab via Esquire.com)

Is tennis (and the world) suddenly in the palm of Maria Sharapova’s hand again? Esquire‘s battle of beauty and search for the sexiest woman alive has the web abuzz during the month of madness. In the brackets, seeded 8th, her first competition is none other than Caroline Wozniacki, the 9th seed. Step aside world no. 1 because against Masha you’re better as Miss Congeniality. Plus, it looks like Esquire’s made up its mind on which blonde to root for: “On the tennis court, we’d probably pick Wozniacki, but on whatever kind of court this competition occurs on, our hearts will always be with Sharapova.” Yeah, cuz she sells ads, y’all! Click here for Esquire’s entire bracket brilliance.

Don’t think we’re done there… a revamped Maria, a revamped website. Reports the WTA, Masha’s actually “the world’s most followed female athlete on Facebook with 3.85 million fans.” Who knew? (Serena must be pissed!) In a statement, Sharapova wrote, “One on one engagement is important to me as my fans continue to provide an honest voice for me.” How does fiancé Sasha Vujacic feel about playing second fiddle to the fans? We’ll find out as that part of Masha’s life becomes more prevalent… er, is that possible? Royal wedding, Russian edition, here we come!

Around the game: Indian Wells action continues to heat up in the California desert as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer advanced over tough opponents in qualifier Somdev Devvarman and American up-and-comer Ryan Harrison. Will they clash in a much wanted and much rarer – at least these days – battle of the titans in the final? Novak Djokovic – with a stunning 15-0 record so far this year – will do his best to prevent it.

For the women, however, we’re left without fan-favorite Kim Clijsters who retired (from her match… not the sport) with a shoulder injury against the two-handed force – on both wings! – of France’s Marion Bartoli a la Monica Seles.

Williams Watch: It’s been tough following the medical drama from the Williams camp, especially Serena’s severe blood clots.  It seems her mental game has also taken a big hit, according to a recent USA Today article. The 13-time major champ revealed just how much the injuries have affected her emotionally. She said, “I definitely have not been happy, especially when I had that second surgery (on my foot), I was definitely depressed. I cried all the time. I was miserable to be around.” | Her Twitter, however, paints a brighter (Serena-fied) picture: “I am feeling Much better Guys thanks again for all the support. I hope to be working out soon. Very soon….  about 14 hours ago via web”

LOVE: We love ESPN the Magazine’s newest plot to distance itself from competitor Sports Illustrated: an annual fashion issue. Need tennis experts? We’re here, ETM.

(maria/sasha images via getty)

davis cup: feeling the heat in chile

by Benjamin Snyder

”The Rock” takes on clay: Jim Courier’s now in charge of the US Davis Cup team since Patrick McEnroe’s resignation late last year. While McEnroe did a great job in his decade at the top (including a title win in 2007), we’re looking forward to what Courier brings to the table. Aside from holding the top spot in the ATP rankings, Courier also helped his Davis Cup team to victory in 1992 and 1995. This could be key to getting the US guys winning again. That is, if they’re all still standing. (Get well, Sam!) Oh wells, at least we have Andy.

But save those sighs for his torso, my friends; Roddick’s mere presence doesn’t guarantee relief (nor a win). Since that ’07 title win, it’s been a rocky road for the US Davis Cup squad. While many reasons point to a Chilean shutout by the red, white, and blue in the first round — we’re the heavy favorites with a 4-0 head-to-head –, don’t be quick to discount the host team. Check out these reasons below:

First, the obvious. The match takes place in Chile and that means the play’s on clay. Sure, The Rock understands the stuff — he won two consecutive French Opens –, but the all-star team of Roddick, John Isner, and the Bryan brothers? Not so much.

Second, the pressure’s on. With the Americans favored to win, that underdog mentality could boost Chile onto the second round. Don’t get distracted by the numbers, boys. It shouldn’t matter that they have no one ranked inside the top 150, nor that Fernando Gonzalez is still recovering from his hip surgery. Eyes on the prize!

(By the way, USA Today’s Doug Robson tweeted today about running into Gonzo at the DC presser in Santiago, where the he shared that he plans on returning to the tour before Roland Garros.)

And third, we’ll share this snippet from Chilean captain Hans Gildemeister:”I think the pressure is on America, and I hope tomorrow they are going to feel the pressure on the court…The Americans need to beat us. They have the better rankings, they have a great team, and we are the underdog. I like that.”

And of course an intangible. The Chileans are rockin’ the tall, dark and handsome South American-style to the Americans, well, tall. The US need to step-up more than just their physical game to claim a holistic victory. They need to look good, too, if they want our vote. (Apparently, captain Courier is doing great setting the sartorial tone for the team; even the normally unfazed Roddick chimed in positively.)

So take these reasons with a grain of salt if you must, but it’s going to be a compelling match-up regardless. Bone up: See all the tie details here.