trophy watch: open sud de france, pbz zagreb indoors, vtr open

This past week week, the women and the men swapped spots for world team play; with the ladies competing in their first Fed Cup ties of the season and the men duking it out for titles at the PBZ Zagreb Indoors, the VTR Open in Vina del Mar, and at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier.

Marin Cilic - PBZ Zagreb Indoors 2013

Top seed and local Marin Cilic won his third PBZ Zagreb Indoors title after defeating Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-1 in the final. Cilic also won this title in 2009 and 2010. Melzer is looking for an uptick on his win-loss record for 2013 so far, which has seen upsets to lower-ranked players and upsets against Tomas Berdych in Melbourne and Grigor Dimitrov in Brisbane.

Melzer, on his loss to Cilic:

“He was the better player today. I needed it to be close at 4-all, 5-all in the first set to give me confidence. That didn’t happen and he ran away with it. I felt like I was hitting the ball really well at the beginning, but he hit the ball even better. What made the difference in the first few games is that he had free points on serve, whereas I had to work for them: hit a winner or play well so he missed. He deserved the victory.”

More: Trophies from France (our pick of the week!) and Chile, plus the Fed Cup ties — after the cut…

save a tree: fed cup and davis cup media guides go digital

Digital versions of Fed Cup & Davis Cup Media Guides released by ITF
The ITF today launched digital editions of its 2013 Davis Cup and Fed Cup media guides.

The publications will be updated after each round of the competitions to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information for the media. The guides can be downloaded as a PDF and printed in hard copy; the digital version will replace the printed editions distributed to media in prior years.

Browse: Davis Cup Media Guide | Fed Cup Media Guide

(screengrab via ITF)

fed cup: jankovic is one step ahead of the law

Can you convict her of a fashion crime if she’s already in prison stripes? Sneaky, Jelena!

We’ve already pointed out a few highlights from this past weekend’s Fed Cup ties, including Yanina Wickmayer‘s parade and the ladies with their patriotic manicures. Below’s what’s left, including Jankovic in Anta, Sabine Lisicki in geometric Under Armour, and Aravane Rezai toning down but spicing up where it counts: there’s a flirty lace hem on her black skirt!

Photos: after the cut…

fed cup fashion: nailing it!

WTAers wore patriotism on their nails at this past weekend’s Fed Cup ties. Sabine Lisicki contributed one point in Germany’s sweep of the US in the World Group Playoffs by beating Christina McHale in straight sets — all while painted in black, red, and yellow. In Melbourne, the green and yellow fingertips on Australian Anastasia Rodionova contributed to three defeats in the hands of of a Ukranian team anchored by Olga Savchuk and Lesia Tsurenko. As for Vika Azarenka, her outfit matched that of the Belarus flag (red up top, green down below) so the blue manicure must’ve just been for show.

(images via Fed Cup)

yanina wickmayer's purple hearts no match for the czechs

Fed Cup fashions: Belgian Yanina Wickmayer had outfit changes as she fought alongside Kirsten Flipkens against the Czech Republic at this past weekend’s Fed Cup World Group semis. For her match against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova — which Yanina won 6-4, 6-4 — she brought out a black Erke bubble skirt to help play the pink accessories. She lost her reverse singles rubber (to Kvitova in three sets) wearing a grey tank and a white skirt. The pink drop earrings from her hardcourt run were replaced with purple hearts.

More info: The Czechs won 3-2 (details) and will play Team Russia in the November final.

(images via Getty Images)

zvonareva's bunnies

Sequined bunnies showed up for Vera Zvonareva‘s presser on the eve of the 2011 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. Buy: A similar Bad Bunny Sweatshirt, $59.99, from French Connection.

Fed Cup: Vera is on the Russian Fed Cup team that faces Italy in this weekend’s semi, to be played in Moscow. Others on the Russian squad: Kuznetsova, Pavlyuchenkova, and Makarova. On the Italian side, they’ll be without Fed Cup regulars Schiavone and Pennetta. Schiavone opted out in order to focus on defending her Roland Garros title; Pennetta’s nursing a shoulder injury. The roster’s made up of Vinci, Errani, Brianti, and Camerin. The Russians should take this, no prob. What do you think?

Read up: All the tie details are here.

(image via Getty Images)

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…]

quick draw: courier gets dc capt’n post

Not so slow: Doug Robson‘s piece on USAToday.com about Jim Courier being chosen for the Davis Cup captaincy. We’re excited for ya, Jimbo, but hoping you cut that mane a little before you take the bench! (screen grab via usa today)

Ladies’ choice: The American squad for the Fed Cup final has been named by captain Mary Joe Fernandez and include Bethanie Mattek Sands, Melanie Oudin, Liezel Huber and Coco Vandeweghe. Fernandez is hoping that home-court advantage will help her ladies conquer the mighty Italians next week.

short balls: it’s not over until the (small) lady sings

Justine Henin made her return to Belgian television earlier this week by singing and dancing on a variety TV show. Singing the song “Now It’s Time” on the show Cap 48. Was that lip synching we saw there, JuJu? Might have to refer to this video to figure it out. Hopefully Lady Henin didn’t re-injure her elbow in said dance routine, in which she wore a bright white pant suit, black dance shoes and had her hair put up. Now we get why she wants her phone on a desert island: she has the Autotune app.

Justine is scheduled to take on Kim Clijsters in an exhibition in December, though she hasn’t made her 2011 schedule public yet. Guga Kuerten is due to play an exhibition in his home country of Brazil in December as well, flying down former rival Andre Agassi for a little hit and giggle. Fame bound? Meanwhile, Andre headlines the 2011 ballot for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The last time Andre was in Newport? To help honor his wife Steffi during her own induction in 2007.

With the tennis season winding down, the exo season is picking up. The Belgians will do battle in their home country and Guga has Andre going south. Roger has invited Rafa up to Switzerland for a duel of their own, which, if the trailer runs true, will be mostly giggling and not much hitting. Stateside, no less than four exo’s will take place in November and December, with players like Anna Kournikova, Martina Navratilova, Mark Philippoussis, Mardy Fish and the Bryan Brothers participating in one event or another. (Line up: Surprise, Ariz. | Delray Beach | DC | Vero Beach, Fla.) (Exhibition info from tenniswire.org)

The season is prematurely over for a myriad of WTA ladies, including Venus, Serena and Maria Sharapova. The Williams sisters will not only miss the Season Ending Championships but also the Fed Cup finals, which they had expressed interest in playing after controversy swirled in their lack of participation in the team’s ties earlier in the year.

More of short balls – featuring short(er) balls – after the cut. [Read more…]

short balls: nearly french

Is that Mary we see?! Upon closer inspection, no… no, it isn’t. Does this mean Troy can tell the future?? (TSF illustration by Troy Venechanos)

We wonder if Aravane Rezai could become this decade’s Mary Pierce at the French Open? It’s been a decade since Pierce, the on-again, off-again French citizen (according to tennis enthusiasts), won the title at Roland Garros much to her fans’ pleasure. Rezai has already allowed controversy to swirl around her young career, and her Iranian heritage runs parallel to Mary’s history with Canada. Both are bigger-built girls who belt off the baseline and use their hard, flat strokes to make up for less-than-best movement.

It will be interesting to see if this really could develop. Rezai has been steadily rising in the WTA ranks for the last three years, and might use 2010 as her breakthrough year after winning in Madrid last week. In what has mostly been a lackluster year, Rezai beat Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams to win the tournament. Rezai is a respectable 9-6 at Roland Garros, and this year is a guaranteed seed now that she is in the top 20. Could she be a week two contender? Guess we’ll see which Mary… we mean Aravane, shows up.

Looks like the USTA will have plenty of choices when it comes to this year’s Fed Cup final between the U.S. squad and the Italian team. 11 cities have entered bids to hold the November tie. Among the bidders are three cities in Texas (San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth) and two in California (Pacific Palisades and San Diego). Looks like Montgomery, Ala. decided to sit this one out (surprise!). Our guess: one of the Texas sites. No WTA event is held within a solid 1,000 miles of said state.

[Read more…]