novak plays on a plane

Yep, Nole‘s already soaring high after that win over Rafa Nadal at yesterday’s men’s final at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. That three-setter — 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 — puts him at 18-0 so far this year; at No. 2 in the world (taking over for Roger); and puts him in that elite company of guys who’ve been both Rafa and Roger in the same tournament twice (the other two: Nalbandian and Kolya).

…Which made it the perfect time to release this video that he hinted at last week, the one of him recreating that image of two folks playing tennis on a plane. We’re still not quite sure if Nole actually got air time (while strapped in, of course), but we wouldn’t put it past him.

Watch: Click on that image above to watch the video.

(Djokovic picture courtesy of Head)

practice makes perfect: from russia, with love

Svetlana Kuznetsova lost in her opening round of the BNP Paribas Open to American (and wildcard) Christina McHale, who took her out 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7). While Sveta looked good — like, dropped-pounds-in-the-double-digits good — she was simply outplayed from the baseline by the more consistent McHale. McHale lost a three-setter to Nadia Petrova in the subsequent round. (Draw: Women’s Singles.)

For the curious: that Fila shirt on Sveta’s only for practice, alas, and is not for sale to the public. Sometimes a girl has to have something that’s just hers, yknow?

(image by TSF)

maria's spring 2011 for cole haan

More love to our favorite Russo-American: We would never have thought of uttering “Maria Sharapova” in the same breath as Dossier, Theophilus London, Bureau V, Kate Neckel, and Bamboo Bike Studio — yet here we are. She’s been added by Cole Haan to a list of makers, creators, and innovators that they’re spotlighting throughout the spring.

Browse: Check out a some adorable pictures of Maria (she should smile more often!) plus a mini-Q&A that looks into her creative process here. From her Spring 2011 Cole Haan collection, our faves: of the bags, the metallic Viola Tote, which she was also using for practice sessions at Indian Wells (image); and of the shoes, the strap-happy Air Jasmine OT Pump.

Bracket: At this week’s BNP Paribas Open, Masha bounced back after a surprisingly tough opening round match (vs. Anabel Medina Garrigues) to beat Safina, Rezai, and Peng Shuai. She now faces top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the semis; the winner plays Bartoli. (Draw: Women’s Singles.)

(photo via colehaan.com)

WANT: from ruffles to duffles

Fine, fine. The cheese stands alone. No one’s into that Caro dress except for me (and hopefully Woz herself). You should see it up close, though, if you can. I think that’s how I got sold on it. But that then raises the question: who are you selling for — the person wearing it or those who have to look at it from afar?

Anyway, while snooping through the stores on the grounds of the BNP Paribas Open, we ran across this duffle from Fila, part of their 100-year collection. It’s in a quilted navy blue nylon with tan leather trim and gold hardware. These were flying off the shelves, so we think the public agrees with us loving this piece.

Sadly, we didn’t take one home with us; no more bag purchases until we thin out the stock in the TSF West accesories closet!

Buy: Fila 100-year duffle bag; peacoat (navy blue); $120; fila.com.

(screengrab via fila.com)

folks ruffled by caro’s latest dress

We here at TSF West are giddy about the dress adidas by stella mccartney dress Caroline Wozniacki debuted during her match today against Sloane Stephens at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. We’d seen this ruffled number in pics and saw it (on the IW grounds) two nights ago.

Seeing it on Caro led a lot of folks to spew the snark but I beg to differ: that color’s a nice, cool shade that’ll work well through the French (similar to the blue dress Maria Sharapova wore in 2009) and all the sheer cutouts and the ruffles will come to life especially during Wimbledon’s moratorium on color. Besides, no one was complaining when Maria Kirilenko was wearing this stuff (granted, MaKiri’s match record didn’t give the outfits much airtime) and the label’s sensibility hasn’t changed. So what’s different? I think it’s the way Caro wears clothes. She doesn’t have the knack for carrying an outfit. Exhibit A.

Really, leave the ruffles alone!

Scoreline: By the way, Caro, as the top seed, moved on with a win over wildcard Sloane Stephens 6-3, 6-2. We don’t see her facing any stiff challenges until a potential meeting with eighth seed Vika Azarenka in the quarters. (Draw: Women’s Singles)

Buy: Tennis Ruffle Dress in white or blueprint, $120, adidas.com.

(photos by TSF)

stay, don’t go

By Jonathan Scott

Another brand of March Madness is upon us: With the unisex goodness that is the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells tournament, the 2011 pro tennis campaign kick-starts into high gear. This 1-2 punch of Cali and Miami makes for a full month of top-notch tennis. Indeed, spring’s done sprung.

Now a curious trend seeped into tennis again in 2010: jumpy observers of the sport seeking to retire players -– good, even great stars who reaped some solid results -– before they themselves are ready to hang up their racquets. The guilty parties: too many tennis writers and other observers and “personalities” involved to various degrees. Their victims? Among them, Andy Roddick, Venus Williams, and even Roger Federer, proving that not a single star is exempt from these hasty calls to exit.

But Roddick won Memphis last month, dousing the ballyhooed, raging fire that is young Milos Raonic and coming up with possibly the best championship-point winner ever. He also ignited his fellow Americans’ effort on the Chilean clay in Davis Cup, punctuating his clinching win with a scissor kick (Video: here) that would make Sally O’Malley salivate. Too many quickly forgot that Venus seized some early 2010 titles and vaulted to no. 2 in the world before injuries in part derailed both her autumnal and 2011 Aussie exploits. (Oddly, she’s now singing 311 karaoke on a MIA-to-Turks cruiseship and showing off some fly dance moves for someone with chronic knee issues.). Fed himself ran the table at the London year-end championships in December, outdoing even Rafael Nadal in the final, and snagged an early 2011 title before a taking-all-comers Novak Djokovic rolled over him in Melbourne.

Still, retirement happens. It’s inevitable. Justine Henin’s departure has itself turned into a piece of music with multiple movements, the strings swelling and falling at different points. Henin has been like that lover who breaks it off and then loiters for attention: Mercy. And merci.

All of the brouhaha catalyzed a thought: Who or what in the sport truly needs to go?

Without further ado, a few items –- persons, peccadillos, and other pesky minutiae –- that best get gone. Now. Conversely, some other talents and trends are welcome to get comfy. So there it is: Stay, or Go.

GO: Foremost, let’s be done with the freak injuries. Some stars are making the maladies on TV hospital dramas seem realistic: Victoria Azarenka scarily passed out on court after bopping her head during a warm-up run, and then Anna Chakvetadze did her best Vika impression. Meanwhile Andy Murray strained his hand by playing video games excessively (okay, that one proved a fib). It seems a few players just need to be grounded.

Granted, Serena’s recent pulmonary embolism/hematoma scare is more than legit. Anyone who relishes compelling tennis, even if no fan of hers, whether onlooker or media, can only hope she makes it back into the mix again. Tennis needs her fight and her bite. Not every player needs to be Mama Kim Clijsters, portrait of civility.

Speaking of, GO: Can we just be done with all the talk about Clijsters’ motherhood? Cute turned to precious in a hurry there, and not in a good way.

GO: That hand-strain hoax aside, Murray might want to consider tempering his video gaming: Girlfriend Kim Sears reportedly already broke up with him once over the habit. Word to the wise, young gun: the lady has you on watch.

Judy Murray, we heart thee.

GO. STAY. Good dog: Not to pick on the Murray familia too much (see below), but what of these tweets from the family’s resident cur, this Maggie? So let it be written, so let it be done: No more Murray mutt tweets, at least not until Andy bags that virgin Major. It’s no less lame to put your pet on Twitter than it is to fashion a Facebook profile for it.

STAY: Judy Murray, British tennis coach and mom to Andy and Jamie. Yes, she advises her son. She also isn’t afraid to shoot a witty retort at a former player who yaps about her spawn’s chances at winning big with her on board.

GO: Boris Becker. Just let it be, Boorish. You were a fine player, a flame-maned, serve-and-volley stud on grass. Then you knocked Murray and his mum for his underperforming at Slams, chiding him for his closeness to Judy and (good grief!) for standing by his girl at age 23. So a former player cheats on his pregnant wife with a Russian model (in a closet), resulting in a lust child, and then doles out unsolicited relational advice? Laughable. Not content to merely stand by his statements from the fall, BB waxed on again after Murray’s mopey, one-sided loss to Nole in the Aussie final. Sigh. Everyone’s a Carillo. Click to read more, kids. You don’t want to miss these musings.

[Read more…]

chris: how the women will fare in the desert

The women’s draw for the BNP Paribas Open came out today, and TSF bracketologist Chris takes a look at who’s going to end up the last women standing.

The WTA has had 8 different winners at this event over the past 10 years; 7 of those are in action here. All are in the top 32 and will get a bye into the second round.

Caroline Wozniacki: There’s been a lot of debate recently about Caro’s slamless #1 ranking. She went 31-5 on North American soil last year and has finalist points to defend here. She’s drawn to play Pennetta in R16, which’ll be the toughest test — along with questions about the legitimacy of her top ranking — on her way to the semis. Final.

Kim Clijsters: If we did our calculations properly, Kim needs to best Caroline by just one round to reclaim the top ranking. But her track record, both overall — 16-2 on the year and 27-3 since (and including) the 2010 US Open — and at Indian Wells — twice a champ (pre-retirement, in ’03 and ’05) — might not be enough to buoy her through the toughest draw of the top 4 women’s seeds: Groth in R32, Petkovic or Bartoli in R16, Kvitova, Jankovic or Ivanovic in QFs. SF

Vera Zvonareva Vera’s won her before (in 2009, the title that catapulted her in the rankings and helped her gain control of her emotions) and lost to a formidable Stosur in R16 last year. Of the top 4, she has the easiest route; the only woman in the way is Schiavone in the QFs. Win.

Sam Stosur: We’re still waiting for Sam to bounce back from that loss to Schiavone at the French. The Aussie’s 6-6 on the year and 10-11 since the US Open. Those SF points from last year are going to be hard to defend; we don’t expect her to make it past the QFs with this draw: Hantuchova in R32, Sharapova or Rezai in R16, Li, Kuznetsova or Petrova in QFs. QF

Francesca Schiavone: It took seeing Schiavone in person at Indian Wells last year (she lost that match to Rezai) for us to appreciate her athleticism. She’s never made it past R16 here (a three-set loss in ’08 to eventual champ Ivanovic) but we’re giving her a little bump past that. QF

Jelena Jankovic: The San Diegan (soon!) and defending champ has a dismal IW record (six first- or second-round losses in nine appearances) yet plays well on the California hard courts. That being said, she’s only 7-4 this year and finished last year 5-11 after Wimbledon. Needless to say, this is the biggest slump she’s been in for quite a while. Despite semi loses to eventual champs Wozniacki (Dubai) and Zvonareva (Doha), I thought she was in good form. R16

Li Na: She started 2011 with a title win in Sydney and an appearance in the AO finals. However, Li’s lost in the first round of her two tournaments since. We’re hoping this is just a period of adjusting to being on everyone’s radar (Ed: even our non-fan parents are talking about her!). While she made the IW semis in 2007 (loss to eventual champ Hantuchova), Li probably needs one more post-AO tournament to get her back into form. She’ll be back by Miami. R16

Victoria Azarenka: Vika’s been many a journalist’s pick for slam contention for quite a while now, but we don’t agree. She needs to work on her mental state and physical fitness to match her potential. R16

Agnieszka Radwanska: We’re putting her in the same lot as Azarenka (though we prefer her game over Vika’s). Aga’s a defending semifinalist and reached the QFs in ’08 and ’09. QF

Shahar Peer: A middling year thus far with an 8-5 record, but Shahar’s hovering near her career-best ranking so she must be doing something right. QFs here in ’07 (loss to Hantuchova) and R16 in the past two years. R16

Svetlana Kuznetsova: Sveta’s had a better 2011 compared to how she did in 2010 this time last year. She played well as she handed Henin the Belgian’s final career loss in Melbourne, and there was no reason why she should’ve lost that epic match against Schiavone. (Sveta got her revenge by taking out the Italian on the way to the Dubai final.) All that being said, after reaching the Indian Wells finals in 2007 and 2008 she lost her first match here in the last two years. What should we expect in 2011? We’re thinking that seeing the ups and downs of her countrywomen — Safina’s ranking slide (but now a doubles specialist!), Vera’s potential ascent to #1 (something Sveta’s yet to do despite having two majors), Dementieva’s tearful retirement, and Sharapova’s continued commitment to the game despite injury — will give her a little something more to fight for. She’s only 25 (seriously?!) and can still get 5-7 years of play, so she should decide whether to push back to the top or be content in top 30 purgatory. Lucky for us, she seems to be on the Masha/Bepa train instead of Elena/Safina. SF

Petra Kvitova: All’s good with the Czech, who’s 16-2 record for 2011 matches that of Clijsters (whom she defeated in the Paris final). Her only losses are in the QFs in Melbourne (Zvonareva) and a two tiebreaks in Dubai to Morita. Kvitova’s third trip to IW will have her in the same seciton of the draw as Jankovic and Ivanovic. We have her going out to Clijsters in the quarters. QF

Ana Ivanovic: Nowhere to go but up for the Serbian, who followed a title and a finals appearance (in ’08 and ’09) with a first round exit in 2010. Ivanovic got her act together and went 21-6 to finish the year, picking up titles in Linz and Bali. Unfortunately, she’s sputtered in 2011 so far. Can the desert winds bring back some of her mojo?

Daniela Hantuchova: The two-time IW winner (’02 and ’07) has done alright so far, taking the title in Pattaya City with a win over Zvonareva then lost to her in 3 tight sets in the Doha quarters. We’re expecting her to take out Stosur on her way to the quarters. QF

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Jarmila Groth, Gisela Dulko, Greta Arn: All these ladies have won titles this year. Pavs and Groth are seeded but will run into Peer and Clijsters in the second rounds. We think Dulko’ll go the deepest into the draw. Vania King shouldn’t pose too much trouble in 1R and Kanepi (R64) and Wickmayer (R32) are always liable to be upset.

R16
1 Woniacki d 13 Pennetta
9 Radwanska d 8 Azarenka
26 Hanutchova d 16 Sharapova
11 Kuznetsova d 7 Li
5 Schiavone d 10 Peer
3 Zvonareva d Dulko
12 Kvitova d 6 Jankovic
2 Clijsters d 15 Bartoli

QFs
Wozniacki d Radwanska
Kuznetsova d Hantuchova
Zvonareva d Schiavone
Clijsters d Kvitova

SFs
Wozniacki d Kuznetsova
Zvonareva d Clijsters

Finals
Zvonareva d Wozniacki

before the draw, chris’ preview of the men

by Chris Phillips

We’re taking a break form the Davis Cup ties to think about how the guys will fare at Indian Wells. Weather forecasts showing that day matches will be played in the low 80s and night matches’ll dip down into the 50s. Brr. (Yes, CHILLY. Some of you might consider that a heat wave, but anything below 65 causes us to bundle up and set fire to anything that can keep us warm). Players also have to factor in some unpredictability in the form of gusty winds, which rattles even the steadiest of players. Here are our thoughts on the guys in the top 10 and some other notables:

Rafael Nadal: This will be the Spaniard’s first test after that injury at the Aussie Open. This weekend’s Davis Cup matches don’t count since his toughest Belgian opponent will be Olivier Rochus. At Indian Wells, Rafa is Rafa but I predict that he’ll lose to a top 20 player in the later rounds but make a better run — if not win — Miami.

Roger Federer: Other than Monfils at Bercy (3 tiebreak sets) and Murray in Shanghai and Toronto, the only guy who’s been able to beat Roger in the past 6 months has been Novak Djokovic (and even so Nole is still down 3-4 since the beginning of 2010). But while these stats are in R-Fed’s favor, consider this one that isn’t: Roger hasn’t taken Indian Wells since 2006. I predict that he’ll extend that streak through 2011.

Novak Djokovic: His is probably the only case where winning a Davis Cup turned someone around. After Serbia took the 2010 title, Nole’s been 12-0 (titles in Melbourne and Dubai). This BNP Paribas Open is his title to lose.

Robin Soderling: If anyone’s had as good a year as Nole, it’s Soderling who’s 17-1 already capturing three titles in just as many months (Brisbane, Rotterdam, Marseille). That being said, the only success the Swedish Sod has had at Indian Wells was last year when he took out Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in route to losing to Andy Roddick in the semis. Depending on draws I think you can pencil him into the quarters or semis again.

Andy Murray: Oh Andy, Andy, Andy. You made it to the Aussie finals in rather convincing fashion and you’ve lost your last two matches in an even more convincing fashion. A lot of pundits think you have a slam in you, but I’m not one of them. We’re putting our money on you making the quarters, none better. And if we’re thinking up an early upset special (without seeing the draws), you’d be the main ingredient. That Australian Open loss is still in your head and will take a while to work itself out.

David Ferrer: Two titles in 2011 already? Do not collect $200 on your way to the semifinals.

Tomas Berdych: He’s only had one good win on the year (d. Verdasco). We expect him to match his best IW performance — which was getting to the quarters last year.

Andy Roddick: He’s got finalist points to defend here from last year (and that match against Ljubicic was his to lose). So far Andy’s 12-2 on the year with losses only to Soderling and Wawrinka. He looked good in his win in Memphis (over Raonic) and his Indian Wells track record ain’t bad: semis 4 of the last 6 years here (and quarterfinals 6 out of 8 here). Depending on how the draw plays out, Roddick’s got a good chance to reach the semis but I think defending those finalist points will be a tall task.

Fernando Verdasco I let out a shriek of sadness when they dismantled FeVer’s CK billboard on Sunset Blvd. (but now we have Rafa’s Armani ad, so life is good!). With his best win of the year being over 49th-ranked Istomin, we’re putting Fernando to fall in the Round of 32.

Jurgen Melzer: We see him doing just as good as his seeding. And after based on this past weekend’s Davis Cup performance, maybe even earlier.

Nicolas Almagro:: Sadly, one can’t leverage great clay court performances for a hard court title. We’re putting down money for him to the get to the quarters. Maybe.

Juan Martin Del Potro: If any player can make some noise in this tournament it’s Delpo (taking the reins from another persistent IW troublemaker, David Nalbandian). He impressed us with his play (even in his losses) during this early spring swing on the American hard courts. One concern: fatigue; this’ll be his fifth tournament of the year. We’re picking him to upset Roger or Rafa — if the draw pans out.

Mardy Fish: If he’s healthy, we’re expecting him to go deep. Remember: he took out three top-ten players (Roger, Kolya, and Nalbandian) before pushing Nole to three sets at this tournament in 2008.

Sam Querrey and John Isner: We got nothin’. Hoping Isner can shake off those Capdeville nightmares before his first round match.

Alexandr Dolgopolov: Even with wins over Soderling and Tsonga in Melbourne, we’re wondering if Dolgopolov will adjust to the hard courts of Indian Wells after spending the last month on clay.

Milos Raonic: Ahh, that other young canadian making folks swoon south of the 49th. Let’s hope taking a week off (for good reason) doesn’t ruin your mojo coming in.

Kevin Anderson/Ivan Dodig/Tommy Robredo: We’re wondering how to read the tea leaves for these guys, each of whom have bagged titles in 2011. Anderson’s big-serving pony is getting boring. We’re already waiting for what Wayne Ferreira‘s offspring will do for South African tennis. This will be Dodig’s first time playing Indian Wells, so we’re watching. And we mention Tommy a bit for nostalgia’s sake. The top 20 just isn’t the same without his consistency; he always lives up to his seeding — never loses before he should and never wins matches he shouldn’t.