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.

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trophy watch: beijing goes big, orbs in japan, and a little slice of belgium

Frenchie Adrian Mannarino (Troy!) took out Steve Darcis in straight sets to take this little slice of the Ethias Tennis Trophy in Mons, Belgium.

At the Rakuten Japan Open in Tokyo, Rafael Nadal beat Gael Monfils 6-1, 7-5 to grab his first post-US Open title this year. (He lost to Gigi Lopez in the Bangkok semis last week.)

On the doubles side, Eric Butorac and former Bruin Jean-Julien Rojer won the final match against Fila boys Dmitry Tursunov and Andreas Seppi. Two snaps to Prince and Nike for coordinating the colors on the kits of the winning team.

And in Beijing, rain-delayed finals didn’t produce any upsets, with defending champ Djokovic and Wozniacki fending off Ferrer and Zvonareva. Caro takes her second trophy this week (the first for reaching the world No. 1 ranking by overcoming break advantages from Vera in the first set. (The Russian even won the second set.) Both ladies can take this performance as a confidence boost going into the women’s year-end championships, held in Doha.

(images via Getty Images)

sa watch, roland garros edition

The Brazilian doubles team of Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa — seeded 10th at this year’s French Open — lost in the first round to an unseeded pair, Igor Kunitsyn and Dmitry Tursunov. The Russian team fell in the quarters to top seeds Zimonjic and Nestor. And in the finals, Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes will face Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman.

sightings in the stands: nadal d. tursunov

Top seed Rafa Nadal is looking to better his 2008 performace at Indian Wells (he lost to Novak Djokovic in the semis) and he seems to be on track. The Spaniard faced Dmitry Tursunov in the third round and got through 6-3, 6-3.

Here’s Nadal’s assessment of the match: “[Dmitry] didn’t give me a lot of rhythm. He played good shots, but at the same time, he made mistakes” — 37 of them, in fact.

Bracketology: The men’s fourth-round match list reads like the draw for a major tournament; all but three of the 16 are seeds. It’s Rafa vs. Nalbandian, Isner vs. Del Potro (battle of the beasts!!!), Wawrinka vs. Djokovic, Ferrer vs. Roddick, Ljubicic vs. Andreev, Robredo vs. Murray, Federer vs. Gonzo, and Kohlschreiber vs. Verdasco.

We’re hoping for a Nadal-Djokovic top-half semi, and Murray-Federer for the bottom half.

(photo via Getty Images)

baby, it’s cold outside

From Los Angeles, with love: We can’t share our (relatively) mild weather with the rest of the country, so we’ll do our best to distract you from that nasty nor’easter, nor’easterners! Enjoy these outtakes from Dmitry Tursunov‘s December pin-up shoot with photographer Corinne Dubreuil for the 2009 ATP Calendar.

Clearly, all of Dmitry’s hard work pays off.

More: See all after the cut…

feli’s forehead!

What is Feliciano Lopez doing playing without a bandana? Does that mean we still get six more weeks of winter?

He’s made it to the elite eight of this week’s Open 13 tournament in Marseilles after beating Dmitry Tursnunov 7-6 (4), 7-6 (1). Too bad Dima couldn’t seal the deal. Perhaps he was still thinking about Grigor

Up next for Feli is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

(image via Getty Images)

grigor dimitrov shirtless? close, but not quite

asdkl;jf;alskdjfpoweuirpoqwiejfl;kasdjf!@#!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dmitry, Dimitrov: The D’s did their part to put on a show at Marseille’s Open 13, with Feliciano Lopez beating Tursunov 7-6 (4), 7-6 (1) to reach the quarters, and Dimitrov falling to French fave Gilles Simon 6-4, 3-6, 5-7 in the first round.

(Even off the court, these two are still working it. Enjoy the pic.)

Meanwhile, munchkin Arnaud Clement used the home court advantage to down Marat Safin 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in his opening match in Marseille; he lost to German Mischa Zverev in the second round. And Safin’s fellow swan-songer, Fabrice Santoro, bowed out in the first round to Julien Benneteau 6-4, 4-6, 2-6.

Is Grigor on your list? It’s probably about time to update my list — or at least expand it — to make some, uhm, accomodations.

(DTL; photo by Lorenzo Salemi)