how cute is heather watson?

That 1000 Watt-son smile. Seriously. How cute is Heather Watson? The new British no. 2 was one of eight girls to make the leap into the top 100 following the French Open. The 19-year-old Watson moved up from no. 117 to no. 93 in the world by reaching the second round after winning three qualifier matches at Roland Garros. In Birmingham this week, Watson takes on Chanelle Scheepers in the first round, the no. 15 seed. In this WTA Xperia vid, she tours the crew around the grounds and couldn’t be more candid, cute or genuinely sweet. Ew… Now I’m grossing myself out. The girl is cool. You get it!

More: Birmingham draw | Copenhagen draw

short balls: the in-between edition

Ed note: We were planning on getting a podcast up for djy’all’s enjoyment this week, but real life got in the way. Check out TSF early next week for a Roland Garros wrap-up and a look-ahead to The Championships, Wimbledon. -NM

In case you missed it in our last post, there is something called the World Cup going on in South Africa. It’s the biggest athletic event of its kind on the globe, and will be happening for the next month (!) as 32 teams battle it out for the cup. The media has covered this event from every possible angle, and I wanted to share a couple of those with you faithful folk. The first is a bit historical and artsy: the history of the World Cup soccer ball (compiled by the NYT). The second is a bit of the shallow variety, but it’s worth it.

While some people might not be very impressed with Maria Sharapova‘s Birmingham warm-up frocks (and we sort of agree), the Russian lady was out in the community supporting the game of tennis for youth and unveiling a mural put together by local artists. The WTA put together a video of the scene (linked above in the image, too).

One former player who knew how to paint the court with winners, Monica Seles, was featured on the WTA’s web site last week. Can she joing the comeback train, too?! She’s our second pick behind Mary, Our Lady of Roland Garrolupe. Seeing as though there are now two Italians in the WTA’s top ten, it wouldn’t be the craziest of things to happen.

Laura Robson was in a bit of hot water over the weekend for quotes that she provided to Vogue UK for an upcoming article in the British pub. From the looks of her Twitter account, Robson got the memo from her PR team to issue some sort of response (later a full press release was issued) and since then has been a rather silent Sally while winning four matches (three in qualifying) at Birmingham. Talk about adding to the pressure for this year’s Championships.

After the cut: Shorter balls and a look at the second-ever outdoor WNBA game (along with the first!). [Read more…]

sunday survey: birmingham or bust?

This last week, the USTA announced that Birmingham, Ala., will host the Fed Cup semifinal tie between the U.S. and Russia in late April. While I’ve never been to Birmingham, I’m sure it’s got plenty of Southern charm and warmth – exhibited first-hand by this caboose downtown in the historic district. But does a town of 220,000 people deserve such a tie one year after hosting the Davis Cup? It seems peculiar.

What do you think of Birmingham hosting Fed Cup this spring? Is it fair to the rest of U.S. tennis? Do you have an inside scoop as to why a site like Birmingham was awarded another big U.S. tennis event? Let us know what you think.

(photo by Southernpixel via flickr.)

trophy watch: roger retreats to routine while rafa rolls on with record

The Queen’s Cup

Rafael Nadal continues to make his case for winning this year’s Wimbledon title with a 7-6 (6), 7-5 victory over Novak Djokovic at The Artois Championships in London. Rafa, who took home $133,000, is the first Spaniard to win a grass court title in 35 years (bookending Andres Gimeno‘s 1972 Eastbourne feat).

Does Rafa already have a toothpaste endorsement deal? It could be very lucrative…

Meanwhile, Roger Federer scurried back to the teat of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, where he tried to erase last week’s French Open drubbing with his fifth title at this smaller grass event. He beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4. He didn’t drop a set in five matches, helping extend his record to 25-0 at this event (and to 59 straight wins on grass dating back to 2002).

Looking forward: Roger will seek his sixth straight Wimbledon title this coming week.

Top seed Nikolay Davydenko chips away some more of that (unfounded) match-fixing notoriety with another title, this time at the Orange Prokom Open in Warsaw. He has racked up three titles so far in 2008, tying Nole and trailing only Rafa’s five. Kolya beat second seed Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-3. Great track jacket from Airness!

Kateryna Bondarenko switched to a more even K-Swiss outfit for the DFS Classic final. Kateryna overcame Yanina Wickmayer 7-6 (7), 3-6, 7-6 (4).

In this week’s only clay contest, Maria Kirilenko made quick work of Maria Martinez Sanchez (6-0, 6-2) in the Barcelona Open. Maria turned this around with a first-round exit at Eastbourne this week.

(photos by Getty Images)

flashback: kateryna’s turn to show off k-swiss

Withdrawals and upsets left this year’s Birmingham tourney with four unlikely semifinalists: Yanina Wickmayer beat Bethanie Mattek 7-5, 7-6 (7-2) while 12th seed Kateryna Bondarenko took out Marina Erakovic 6-3 6-2.

Has the New Zealander secured the Beijing Olympics wildcard that she’s been jonesing for?

The “other” Bondarenko (the Veronica to Alona‘s Betty) wore a very Mattekian assymetrical top from K-Swiss.

I don’t think I ever showed you my picks from their premiere collection; here it is below:

Fiery Red Lightweight Jacket, $110; Black Color Block Jacket, $130.

Classic Slim Polo, $80. I really like the perma-popped collar on this one.

(Bondarenko photos via Getty Images; K-Swiss images via KSwiss.com)