short balls: open hangover

We don’t know this guy, but he’s serving our post headline brilliantly with this beer-carrying pose. Great concentration on the step up, wouldn’t you say? (Photo by feltonamus via flickr.)

If you’re having a little bit of a US Open hangover like us, make sure to check out our week 2 podcast if you haven’t already. Erwin and I are chatting it up about all things TSF cares about at the USO. Which is all you should care about, too. Now, the short balls:

There’s nothing like curing a good tennis hangover with some non-tennis news. This version of (OT) is gay-tastic, which shouldn’t come too surprising to most of our readers. The VMAs happened on Sunday night in LA, and as a prep before the big show (in which Lady Gaga wore a meat dress – yes, meat), OUT.com put together a list of the gayest moments from the show’s nearly 30-year history. OUT also compiled photos from photographer Jeff Sheng that chronicles service men and women who have been effected by the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The exhibit is opening at the Kaycee Olsen gallery in LA on September 28th.

(MORE (OT)) As if you couldn’t get enough we have plenty of (OT) news up our sleeves this week. The blog we once loved to love is still churning out content, even after getting a book deal and getting published. Stuff White People Like is a hilarious and satirical blog. The latest ‘stuff’ white people like: The TED Conference. Hilarity. The US Olympic web site is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Sydney Olympics (remember Cathy Freeman? And Michael Johnson?!). And the New York Times flexes its graphic muscle with this panoramic view of the new Meadowlands Stadium, home of the Jets and Giants.

There’s been much (tennis) controversy following ESPN2‘s decision to cut away from the trophy ceremony at Flushing Meadows to commentary before the second Monday Night Football game of the night (yes, the second) between the Chiefs and the Chargers. Chris Chase laments on the Yahoo! tennis blog Busted Racquet about the debacle. We agree: us tennis fans are greatly outnumbered by the NFLers, but give our boys a little credit for the work they’ve done, and the history they’re making. Pretty sure no history was made on the gridiron on Monday night, no? Luckily, Forty Deuce has us saved with the full trophy presentation here. (And kudos on that post title, Courtney… )

While Serena (and Fashion Week) had/have nothing to do with the 2010 Open, there’s still plenty of connection between the two events. Fashion Week mainstay and Vogue editor Anna Wintour is a constant face (force?) in Roger Federer’s box and yesterday, Wintour’s right-hand man, Andre Leon Talley, penned a note for the Vogue Daily about Serena walking the runway for Fashion Week. As we write this, it’s 3 PM on Wednesday, so the big event’s already taken place (1 PM catwalk call time for ReRe at LaQuan‘s show at the Peninsula Hotel). Hopefully pictures soon. Meanwhile, this picture of Wintour and Serena at the Michael Kors show will have to do.

Serena and sister Venus both were a part of the Huffington Post‘s recent online musings. Venus’s US Open fireworks dress, which we talked at length about in our TSF podcast, was the subject of a photo gallery on the Huff‘s web site, while Serena is one of eight athletes selected by the Post as part of their Game Changer’s series.

Read more short balls with an epic version of short(er) balls after the cut. [Read more...]

it must be summer time!

We’ve just received word that Andy Roddick will be participating in this year’s Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day, to be held on August 29, 2009. As you know, the annual event kicks off the U.S Open. American Idol Winner Jordin Sparks and comedian Will Ferrell will also be performing and participating at the full-day tennis and music festival. (Other talent include “rising stars” Honor Society and Justin Bieber.)

On the ‘tube: The event will be broadcast on Sunday, August 30 at 12pm EST on CBS. For more information and tickets click here.

last call for USA

If only we could get CBS to step aside…

As great a tournament the Open has been this year, when considering the event in its entirety, you’ve got to start with the coverage (the face of the event, after all). I don’t know if it’s because of the conventions, but I’ve been more conscious of how the tournament has been delivered to me this year than ever before.

In case you haven’t heard, this is USA Network’s last year covering the Open. With its bevy of weaknesses aside — I’ll get to a few in a sec — can we just say thank god for USA’s day and weeknight coverage? CBS’ work might not be different from years past, but the grating horn section of their intro and outro, the overexposed light, Mary Joe’s pre- and post-match interviews, Dick Enberg — how much of it can one take?

Thanks for the relief, USA, but here are a few things your replacement can improve upon:

— When Mueller and Davydenko were 9-10 in the fourth set tiebreak, the producer switched over to the start of the Andreev/Federer first set tiebreak, despite McEnroe’s request to stay put. (They did show the end of the tiebreak on tape, but the piss had been taken.)

— The night-match guests invited to join Ted Robinson and John in the booth really tested our patience and sanity: the Ryder Cup captain left me yawning and Boris Becker’s visit felt bloated.

— McEnroe and Jim Courier both have good and bad: Mac offers great insight and passion until he eventually devolves into his usual self-aggrandizement, occasionally revisiting earlier top form. Courier gets major points for his latest insights, my favorite being pointing out that guys ranked in the 80s in the world could be starters on an NBA team (a sentiment I’ve been aware of for a while). On the other hand, he’s still Mr. Smug.

By the way, I’m really intrigued by all the personal bits that Courier alludes to in his commentary, so I’m asking my readers for the latest info on this man: is his Manhattan apartment a duplex? penthouse? both? What kind of art does he collect? What Rosetta Stone tape is he currently working on?

Hope you enjoyed USA’s last night of coverage, and that CBS doesn’t give you too much of a hangover.

Michael Shaw writes about tennis and other subjects for the Los Angeles Times and is also an artist. He can be reached at michaelshaw_sar AT yahoo DOT com. Read his previous posts for TSF here.

watching the men’s semis: nole + ferrer, roger + kolya

Congrats to Novak Djokovic for downing David Ferrer in three easy sets — 6-4, 6-4, 6-3; and to Roger Federer for beating Nikolay Davydenko (le sigh) after a seesaw third set that saw a million breaks of serve (7-5, 6-1, 7-5).

A few things I noticed while I watched these U.S. Open men’s semis with Chris and Matt:

  • Using the ball bounce as a beat was great sound for the opening montage of CBS‘ coverage.
  • We laughed out loud at the Tina Fey AmEx commercial. It was like a short episode of 30 Rock! “No, the other kind of german shepherd!”
  • Srdjan Djokovic takes off his shirt after his son Nole does so after his win. And the father encourages the rest of the Djokovic box to do so. Uhm, NO.
  • Apparently Justin Gimelstob was talking about Tommy Haas‘ nipples on last night’s episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
  • As of 3-2 in the first set, CBS had not panned to Mirka, nor had the commentators Dick Enberg, John McEnroe, and Mary Carillo made any mention of R-Fed besty Tiger Woods.
  • We were fans of Ferrer’s multiple necklace charms, as well as Davydenko’s wedding-ring-on-the-neck. Kolya’s hot wife, Irina, was there to cheer him on. As was his brother and coach, Eduard (also wearing Airness).
  • Celebs in the stands: Catherine Zeta-Jones, plus Kirk and Michael Douglas. Also Robert De Niro, Ilie Nastase, Boris Becker, and Anna Wintour.
  • Nevermind. The Mirka sighting was at 3-3 in the first set.
  • And comparison to Tiger in the eighth game.
  • Kolya, in all his matches at this year’s Open, was never scheduled for a night match. Is this what being the fourth seed affords a player?
  • As Enberg waxed nostalgic over the last two weeks, he mentions that Jankovic has recently been signed to endorse toothpaste.
  • Speaking of Dick (dick?), did he really say something — at two different occasions, even — about Roger’s back muscles? He was in awe of Federer’s “two ridges…” Whaa?

RELATED POSTS
>> TSF’s u.s. open coverage continues…

thank god for usa network

Thank god for USA Network. In their decades of covering the U.S. Open, they’ve settled into a style that’s worlds better than CBS‘ (such a relief!). They also keep it consistent and simple: no unnecessary graphics; minimal “comeback kid” or “on the rise” profiles; ample servings of quality matches not involving Americans; a nice sampling of play (i.e., they’ll cover those outer court, low-Q-rating matches in the first week); and they take air breaks of very reasonable length — essentially just enough to cover the changeovers.

The Commentators:

  • Jim Courier — Wow. Where does one begin? With Mr. Courier, it seems we have a perfect balance of pros (brilliance) and cons (hubris, arrogance). Let’s start with the pros: here’s a guy who can back up the goods. Not unlike Johnny Mac, he also has tremendous access to the players and makes good use of it. He’s smart guy, surprisingly articulate, and occasionally makes insightful cultural references.But the true bonus with Jim is his tendency to deconstruct tennis broadcasting: “I’ve just been told I can’t say ‘hot chicks’ anymore,” he said the other day in reference to a comment about Safin’s former box-sitters. Or “I’m being told I need to wrap it up,” he’ll say, I’m sure to the great chagrin of his producers. Novice? Yes. Novel? Definitely.

    Another example: the other night, after a long post-match analysis from Jim, host Al Trautwig asked if he wanted to keep going, upon which Jim said, “Okay. Can I read your prompter?” This brashness with which Courier tears down the fourth wall is quite a breath of fresh air.

    He even got into it with Tracy Austin, insisting that Radwanska, who upset defending champion Maria Sharapova, used gamesmanship and broke the locker room code of ethics in attacking Masha’s second serve. Austin countered that this brashness is just the way players are today. Courier’s apparent anger, verging on hostility, brought a little verité into the USA Network booth.

    All that said, Courier is far from perfect: quite often he is the epitome of smug. “Let me tell you how much I know about this; and let me also tell you how much I know about that,” he seems to be saying. He’s passionate — which of course is important — but when he continues to expound deep into a game without stopping, he’s cut off his nose to spite his (and our) face(s). One wonders whether Courier has spent any time reviewing tapes of his broadcasts; if he does, one hopes that he’ll notice his tendency to ramble. Once he corrects this, we may have a truly great player-cum-commentator on our hands.

  • Tracy Austin — All designer business suits (bright blue ones, no less) and mind-numbing, somewhat grating patter, Austin has milked her playing days into a commentary career like a character on The Surreal Life. (Racqonteur gives her a C-.)
  • Al Trautwig — Nice deep pipes and always solidly on-the-ball, Trautwig is the best studio host USA has had. His transitions are impeccable and I’ve never seen him falter in improv mode. A weakness: in his one-on-ones, he doesn’t allow the interviewee much time to respond. But at least he keeps things moving.
  • Michael Barkann — This long-time roving reporter is great at what he does, and far too often it’s a relatively thankless task: I wouldn’t want to be interviewing players who clearly don’t want to be interviewed (which seems to be the case before every Ashe stadium match), but he does it (though I’m fairly sure it wasn’t his idea). He’s also accomplished at the mostly heinous celebrity-in-the-crowd interviews, an equally unenviable task that he manages to get done (thankfully there have been few of them thus far in ’07, though we were horrified to see him sit down for a long exchange with Donny Trump during the Ferrer-Nadal match). He’s at his best doing the roving reporter thing, perhaps throwing in a quick exchange with a fan or two.
  • Ted Robinson — Almost no complaints; there is nothing about Ted that’s not to like. He has a great memory for past matches and players; he keeps things moving but doesn’t ever seem to talk too much; he throws out some relevant anecdotes when things on the court are a little slow; and he knows how to keep it brief at crucial periods in a match. His one downside, which has been minimal at this Open, is his tendency to set McEnroe up for patting himself on the back, which he (Mac) clearly doesn’t need any help with. Still, overall Robinson is a key fixture for USA’s coverage. (add Ted’s blog to your reading list.)
  • Bill Macatee — he’s substantially better here than on CBS. He’s a nice, dry, straight man with an ample smidgeon of personality. Easy enough to tune out, or in, as is appropriate.
  • John McEnroe — Hey Mac: keep the focus on the match and the players and off yourself, and we’re all good. Has the way that Mac has been doing a little biographical digging, and age comparing (is Hyung-Taik Lee the oldest player left, or is Moya?) shown signs of maturing? Heaven forbid.

(photo of Courier by mugley)

Michael Shaw is currently following the Open from his couch on the West Coast.

RELATED POSTS
>> TSF’s u.s. open archive
>> michael shaw archive

sketches of the open's humble broadcasters

Those of us neither out in Flushing, nor subscribers to extremely high-end satellite packages with live feeds, are ultimately resolved to endure CBS’ weekend coverage. As green as TTC proved to be in covering their inaugural slam at this year’s French Open, one perversely hopes that they’ll gain enough leverage to buy out CBS’ Open contract.

NBC is not without substantial guilt for its own slam (RG and Wimbledon) coverage, but the combustible pairing of a major network and its home (okay, American) slam leads to far too much spoon-feeding of emotion and drama, akin to the worst of a Hollywood movie.

We as viewers are savvy enough to bring our own sense of meaning to any given match or storyline (and, if there isn’t one, then we can always fast-forward). Serious tennis fans can really do without the amped-up graphics, schlocky promos, and sentimental broadcasters, not to mention the three-to-one ads-to-tennis ratio.

It was quite a jolt adapting from USA’s coverage to that of CBS': what with the eye strain adjustments to deal with all the bleached out and overly sunlit footage. (Can’t they just use the same filter that USA does?)

And whoever decided to greenlight those pre-match interviews should be hung.

Hey, at least the CBS commentators are a relatively known bunch.

  • Bill Macatee — basically innocuous, with an even more sterilized persona than on USA.
  • Mary Carillo — she’s her usual effervescent and laugh-happy self, a solid and colorful voice, if at times a bit too harsh. (It’s hard to erase the memory of her referring to Davydenko, back when he was ranked #3, not only as “the most anonymous #3 player in the world ever,” but also as “a total mook”.)
  • John McEnroe — Mac has become familiar enough in the booth that he’s not too hard to tune out, or at least tune down. Mac can bring brilliant analysis to the table for any given match, which he deserves credit for, but his overall vibe gets watered down by an ego untethered and run amok. Somehow the CBS dynamic doesn’t allow him quite the forum for inevitable self-aggrandizements.
  • Patrick McEnroe — P-Mac’s commentary is overall equal to John’s, if only because he’s more consistent and doesn’t indulge in his own accomplishments (perhaps just a function of having far fewer than his brother?). His pairing with Mac for the Nadal-Tsonga match was both fun and efficient. His broadcast voice has come off as a bit thinner than it has on ESPN.
  • Ian (pronounced EYE-en) Eagle — not only a capable but even an enjoyable play-by-play guy; newest to the team. It’s a shame he’s been relegated to something of a transition host with minimal air time.
  • Dick Enberg — give this guy an opportunity to sentimentalize, and he’ll take it and run. He’s actually a fine commentator, but over the years most of us have gotten more our fill; and, within the confines of CBS (Enberg joined ESPN’s Aussie Open coverage last year), it all feels just that much more mainstream.

Up next: a look at USA Network’s coverage.

(photo by artnwine1)

Michael Shaw is currently following the Open from his couch on the West Coast.

RELATED POSTS
>> TSF’s u.s. open coverage
>> michael shaw archive

short balls "c" edition: carson, canas, cbs, college tennis, etc.

It’s on for Carson: The city adds a few more notches to its tennis belt. The Home Depot Center will host both a men’s and women’s Challenger tournaments in the early summer.

Not so fast, TTC: CBS announced that they have cut a more profitable deal with the USTA in renewing their coverage of the U.S. Open and U.S. Open series tournaments. CBS has rights through 2011. And the TTC is chugging along with its own plans of domination, offering free previews of the channel in different media markets. (via Variety and Tennis News)

Roger & Me: The only thing I love more than stories about meeting players are references to I Love Lucy. [via Kenneth in the (212)]

canas roma 07Canas has finally arrived: The TimesNeil Harman sums up Guillermo Canasreturn to tennis elite after a 15-month doping-related suspension. Sad moment: soon after the doping scandal broke, Canas was turned away from the U.S. Open as a spectator.

After this week’s TMS Rome, the Argentinian will no longer need to play qualies. And he has no points to defend between now and September. Will he join the rest of the top 20, picking up Federer’s sloppy seconds, or will he be feasting from the Swiss rankings pie? Something tells me it’s the latter. He’s currently 3-1 against the world number one.

Local NCAA players return to Athens: Pepperdine looks to repeat as the men’s team champions, Trojan Lindsey Nelson looks to avenge her loss in last year’s final against Cardinal Suzi Babos (who Nelson beat in last month’s Pac-10 championship), and UCLA’s Benjamin Kohlloeffel will defend his men’s singles crown.

Borg’s back: After a seven-year absence, Wimbledon legend Bjorn Borg will make an appearance at this year’s tournament. He seems to have made peace with the sport after all these years. The Swede will also play the Liverpool International Tennis Tournament (an exhibition, of course) in mid-June. (via the Evening Standard)