short balls: an ailing andy (and rafa drinks rum!)

By Benjamin Snyder

Flip flop: As the Sony Ericsson Open winds down, two very different players are working their way up in the rankings. For the men, it’s Mardy Fish, who overtook Andy Roddick as the top American man with a win over David Ferrer in the quarterfinals. A sick Roddick succumbed to Pablo Cuevas in the second round of the huge hard court Miami event and was bounced out of the top ten for the first time in some years.

Maria’s back in the habit: While the Williams sisters fall outside of the top ten with illness and injury, Maria Sharapova is rising back to the top tier with decent showings at Indian Wells and this week in Miami. Masha has Andrea Petkovic in the semis, a player who flattened her when the two met Down Under in Melbourne. (More Maria: Those earrings!)

… but no royal wedding, yet: Apparently, the 23-year-old Maria is in “no rush to get married,” according to Show Biz Spy. And why should she be? We’d like to see Maria win two or three more Majors – she’s got them in her, we think – before strolling down to take Sasha’s hand. Meanwhile: No playoffs for his Nets.

But seriously, is Maria just getting cold feet? “In the beginning I was really, really excited, and all my friends were giving me like wedding magazines and wedding books. But I was quite overwhelmed with it, and then I just put them down and said, ‘Okay, I have plenty of time.’ We’re still very young.”

TSF Exclusive: Rumors say Djokovic has strolled down the aisle

Swan song for Petko’s dance? While Petkovic even has the ever-awkward Ana Ivanovic shaking her tail feather on the tennis court, the German – who is matching her play to her popularity this week – is retiring her famous jig following this week. She told the press that it’s time to move on from the ditty, which became an underground hit in tennis realms. Is she lending her dance skills to B-Spears? We sure hope so. But notice: She said “move on.” We’re sensing another dance number folks, just something new and, well, so Petko.

Rum like Rafa: Rafael Nadal recently signed a deal with Bacardi, receiving some backlash in the process. Says Nadal, “I am not presenting alcohol party, you know. It’s a responsible campaign, a social campaign. Anyway, I think alcohol is inside our lives, so is nothing new, no?” No Rafa, it’s nothing new to us. And we appreciate your push for responsibility. More: YouTube channel | Facebook

‘Round the world: Then there are the two Missoula, Montana, teens who just broke the Guinness World Record for the longest singles tennis match, ever. Isner-Mahut looks like a Roehampton side court to this Centre Court effort. The two high school seniors clocked in nearly 61 hours of tennis over three days before collapsing, raising $7,000 for charity in the process. Snaps for those court warriors.

(Image by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

short balls: what’s your britney moment?

Leave it to Andy Roddick to make a head shave seem hilarious and semi frightening all at once. The top American, who lost in shocking fashion to unknown Yen-Hsun Lu in the fourth round at Wimbledon, told the ATP that “There was no deep reasoning. I had a Britney Spears moment after Wimbledon.” No deep reasoning?! Andy! Didn’t you follow the 12 months of Brit’s life before that head shave?? Her reasoning couldn’t have been deeper. It seems as though Roddick was mightily bummed by his disappointing performance at the All England Club, capping off a topsy turvy 12 months himself. Southern refreshment: Andy has taken his new hair (and new game?!) to the Atlanta Tennis Championships with a wildcard into the new event. See the draw here.

While Roddick may be into head shaving, Serena is into nail-doing and Nicole is into marrying. In a recent Vogue online feature, writer Marina Rust, interviews Williams while she gets her nails done – by Serena! The manicurist (Serena aka Kandse) chatted about life outside of tennis while the two breathed in polish fumes, Rust making a good point when she said it was a better way for them to chat then trading a few groundstrokes. Meanwhile, former (yes, former) pro Nicole Vaidisova traded vows with Radek Stepanek over the weekend. Who knew that Vaidisova, who was locked in a tough semifinal battle with Serena just three years ago at the Australian Open, would be retired and married at age 21. Such is the life of a WTA superstar, we suppose.

Martina Hingis is no WTA superstar anymore (nor is she involved with Stepanek… though she once was), but the Swiss Miss is continuing her post-tennis life by exploring the different pleasures of life. Her most current obsession? Polo. Hingis was spotted in Florida getting some polo lessons last weekend. Maybe Britney will cast her (or Andy?!) in her next video.

After the cut: two online screen grabs that grabbed our attention this week plus a full (and plentiful!) version of short(er) balls, the best never-ending paragraph you’ve ever come across. [Read more...]

short balls: from both sides of the pond, juniors tennis, masha mania continues, etc.

Girls — read it and weep: Junior tennis titles do not serve as a predictor of pro success. Of the 20 champions at a Virginia Beach tourney, only two — Lindsay Davenport and Meghan Shaughnessy — cracked the Top 20 and won SEWTA titles. Two others cracked the Top 50. The rest didn’t do so hot. (The Virginian-Pilot via Zoo Tennis)

But it’s not all bad: Tennis.com’s Peter Bodo reminds us that Donald Young is a man who can back up the hype. Justin Gimelstob also chimes in about this 2007 Wimbledon juniors champ.

ESPN continues to tout Sharapova: Even though Serena Williams and Roger Federer have much better tennis credentials than Sharapova, the Russian continues to eclipse them in pop cultural significance. This time, she’s the only tennis player left standing in Page 2′s “Who’s Now” contest.

From both sides of the pond: British Prime Minister shows off his tennis guns while Britney Spears beefs up her arsenal. The pop star was spotted at a toy store picking up a racquet and some balls. Perhaps she’s made another play date with former hitting partner Howie Day?

(OT) From Pringles to Papier Maché: Rumors abound that an Olympic stadium in London could be built out of papier maché. As long as it doesn’t crumble like potato chips, we’ll be fine with it. (Sports Management magazine)

(OT, pt. 2) The new gilded age: Check out this New York Times article on how modern day robber barons deal with their wealth.