short balls: open coverage explodes, around the parties and irene

Here we go! The all-out media blitz for the 2011 US Open has begun, the New York Times seemingly sounding the starting gun this morning when Novak Djokovic lived on its homepage for much of the morning with a piece written by Greg Bishop about the all-out transformation of Djoko over the last year: the diet, the game, the ranking and the media appeal. It doesn’t stop there with the Times, which has stories about Irene, finding tennis courts in NYC and qualies of course. But those are just the meat-and-potatoes posts. More? Andy Samburg dresses up (and celebrates like) the best champs from tennis’ past, though he didn’t pull a Djoko and sport a Maria-inspired wig. Check out the hilarious video here.

TSF Vault: Short balls | US Open

Time out: But don’t think the Times is the only one who has it going on. New York magazine has an entire US Open guide section while Time took the time to follow Djokovic around, too. Tennis.com is unsurprisingly all blinged-out, currently with a Richard Pagliaro Q&A with Andrea Petkovic. Their USO-specific page is a looking a little bit like it’s stuck in 1999, though we’re positive that Tignor, Bodo and the rest of the crew will be on the grounds and covering as they always do. TennisNow.com is looking more and more like Tennis.com these days, which isn’t necessarily a horrible thing. But we do enjoy their easy-to-read breeze through the fashion of the men and women at Flushin this year, which is heavily linked to outside sources. CNN/SI gives little/no cover play to the Open on this Friday, but we expect them to beef up coverage as the tourney actually gets underway. No doubt they have frontman L. Jon Wertheim‘s piece on the seeds (he’s all Serena on the women’s side) featured on the tennis page. Tennis Channel wants folks to play in its Racquet Bracket challenge — and we would — if only that meant a date with James LaRosa of Sweet Spot fame. His latest Spot? A drinking game, of course! Oh James! You keep us sober (in life)! ESPN.com doesn’t have any USO coverage on its homepage, either, and hasn’t even pulled the “Tennis” section from out underneath the “More Sports” bar. But the .com side always adds to what TV has going on — which is bigger than ever. ESPN3 went as far as sending out a release to tout their individual coverage that supplements TV. What can we say? We sort of love it.

And the little guys? On the blogosphere, it’s business as usual around the horn. The blogging has been slow for C Note, but the tweeting? Outta control. So much so that Merriam-Webster finally appeased and made “tweeting” an actual, real world. Way to go, C! 52,346 tweets and counting. Down the Line has this hilarious cartoon via Women’s Tennis Blog. Tennis Panorama braved the epic crowds at Macy’s yesterday for the Rafa unveiling of a (shirtless) billboard. Did we expect anything else? Number of Rafa billboards? One. Number of words he spoke on stage? One. (“Hel-lo.”) The-Slice has tasty crumbs from Taste of Tennis last night. And Adjusting the Net is all about Winston-Salem. Someone had to be, right?

short(er) balls: The Post calls Serena’s path (she has Vika in the third round) “easy” for title. | TSF contributor Lindsay Sakraida has NYMag.com’s official preview of the men and women. | We didn’t see this coming: the USTA cancelled Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day because of Irene. Won’t reschedule. | Richard Evans writes on FoxSports.com that this is Mardy Fish‘s big opp. | More 3D tennis from Panasonic and CBS. Should we care? | Pete Sampras and other fellas part of an “Old School” tennis event last night in Murray Hill, Manhattan. | New Haven got all shaken up (and evacuated) after Tuesday’s earthquake. | Lleyton Hewitt? Out of the Open. | Tennis Channel is still battling with Cablevision. #overit | But really, NYT? Who is eating around the grounds. People are just eating in the grounds. | The next great gay film? We sort of think this is it. | Shameless plug: Housing Works has plenty of good sales this fall. In the city for the Open? Live there? Have the ability to shop online? Do. It.

(nytimes.com screengrab; hw photo provided)

 

short balls: rog’s b-day, serena’s love life, worst fashion and more

Oh, Canada! It’s been a wacky and weird week in Canada — both at the women’s event in Toronto and for the men in Montreal. Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal all saw early exits, as did top women Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki. Are we in for such a tumultuous two weeks at Flushing Meadows, too?! Hopefully the top tier will have their games a little more finely tuned for the USO. Oh right, and did we mention the power outages? Yes, there were several. Draws: Men | Women

Better with age: Federer wasn’t the only one celebrating a birthday this last week. The Swiss Mister turned the big 3-0 in Canada and while there have been plenty of questions surrounding the aging of the GOAT, the Tour took a few days to celebrate the former world no. 1’s turning of age. While Federer is under increased pressure as he grows older, 90-year-old Donald Van Blake doesn’t have such weight on his shoulders. The teaching pro who helped motivate a generation of tennis players was celebrated this last week in Central Jersey, over 100 people attending the festivities at a local tennis complex.

The Serena Times: While it’s great to have Serena Williams back on the court for tennis’ sake, the first female of the sport never disappoints headline-wise off the court, either. This week, there was plenty of ink action for SW: a pilot for a reality TV show that centers around a nail salon that Serena has supposedly been rejected (reported by New York Daily News) by Lifetime (and OWN). But Serena got to do Oprah‘s toes, so that’s enough, right?! Additionally, Serena was spotted hanging and hitting a few balls with rapper Drake at a South Florida resort recently. Dating?! Is Common officially outta the picture? | TSF Vault: Serena

Fashion, now: The crew at TennisNow.com has put together a slideshow of the worst tennis fashion of all time, but with a little twist. It’s their “non-Williams” edition, meaning both Venus and Serena didn’t get considered for wacky outfits for the summer. Cue the Bethanie Mattek-Sands shots!

short(er) balls: Before she bowed out from play in Canada, Clijsters had a great Q&A with SI’s Jon Wertheim. One take away: girl’s got no time for Snooki. | Eating curry can help cure tennis elbow? One study says so. | Just over a week away, New Haven makes final preparations and checks in with two-time defending champion Wozniacki. Plus, the tourney has offered a wildcard to Venus Williams, who pulled out of Cincy. | A tennis dad beats up a player in the stands — for cheering against his daughter. Take that, Jim Pierce! The beaten player, Elise Tamaele, is listed on the WTA site. | Crowds in DC for the Legg Mason Classic were down this year, from 75,039 last year to 67,161 this year. | Martha’s Vineyard tennis fashion? WASPs have never been so WASP-y. | Elena Dementieva — and that Yonex dress — play in an exhibition in Russia.

short balls: those who follow us

D.Y. has had a great week in D.C. No, really he has. A semifinalist, y’all! Men’s draw | Women in San Diego

Oh, forgetful us: Sometimes it slips our minds that people really are reading this blog. No, we’re not trying to pat our own backs. But if you’ve ever written your own blog or contributed to one, you’ll know that it’s less about the numbers and more about wanting to crank out good, entertaining and — maybe just in our case? — semi-naked content. That’s always been our goal at TSF, but as Trophy Watch this week reminded us that, yes, we’re just here to watch the trophies, we got reminded that we’re being watched/followed/read/paid attention to, as well. That would be by many of you, and by Tennis.com’s Steve Tignor, who wrote the following about our trophy wrap-up and his own opinions on the metal, plastic and glass we measure success with on the respective tours:

Tennis Served Fresh provides a “trophy watch,” which is always an entertaining, and often a head-scratching, activity in tennis. Check out Marcel Grannollers receiving his own personal mountain in Gstaad on Sunday; I guess it beats a cow. It reminds me of one of the better tennis lines from my new Brooklyn neighbor, Martin Amis. The Brit writer once described the sport’s fall indoor tournaments as, “greed fests where the first prize is something like a gold helicopter.”

He’s a cracker jack, y’all. TSF got to re-connect with the always-entertaining James LaRosa while we were hanging around the Farmers Classic last week. James’ musings on Tennis Channel‘s website — the Sweet Spot — are a must-read, especially his LA ride with eventual-winner Ernests Gulbis. Our fave moment from the car-ride between the two quick-lipped fellas?

James: You know those Lindsay Lohans aren’t doing too good these days.
Ernests: Who is Lindsay Lohan?

JL: Shut the **** up. 
EG: I don’t pay attention to American stars.

JL: She was in Mean Girls. Freaky Friday..?
EG: I’m not watching these movies.

Nole’s media blitz. It’s the summer of Novak Djokovic. We should all pretty much accept such a fact. First it was the cover of Serbian Hello! magazine with GF Jelena Ristic, then it was both The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Conan O’Brien Show. To watch him with Jay, click here. For Conan, click here.

Feeling Lacosted? Seems as though the French brand that we heart “Lacosted” the Hamptons over the weekend — and that’s the Wall Street Journal‘s verbage, not ours. Lacoste used its American mainstay Andy Roddick to push its look for the summer at a social gathering that included quite the smattering of fashion folk at the fancy-pants Bridgehampton Beach and Tennis Club. Brooklyn Decker was even there, wearing Lacoste. “I don’t really play that much tennis. I leave it to Andy,” she told the Journal. | Browse: Lacoste’s men’s tennis wear

short(er) balls: Our friends over at Strawberries and Scream have stepped off the blogging stage for the time being. Even they said their retirement speech was more Henin (or Hingis?) than Agassi. | Polo Ralph Lauren has officially launched their 2011 US Open collection — expect much more from us on this soon. | The world is now a better place: Rafael Nadal has joined Twitter. Heres to epic broken-English tweets. “Paahsta y gambas!” | OUT magazine has an exceptional photo gallery (and articles) featuring straight athletes who have supported gay rights’ causes over the years. The batch includes Michael Irvin, Ben Cohen and our fave, Hudson Taylor. | Want to go to the US Open finals weekend this year? Panasonic will send you. Seriously, we don’t make this stuff up. | Probably one of the US Open’s best pre-tourney events, Taste of Tennis, is back this year and features a fine line-up: Roddick, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Victoria Azarenka among others. And we dig their logo. It’s a forquet. Or a racqork? | We really, really can’t wait for this Xperia Hot Shots vid. It’s looking like a Katy Perry meets Sorana Cirstea dance number. And we love!

(Donald Young image by lagosf via flickr)

trophy watch: robin's robin? & filo's furry fury

Is that a Robin in there? No but really: there’s a bird in his trophy. Swedish fella Robin Soderling played hometown hero yesterday when he fought his was past a tough David Ferrer 6-2 6-2 at the Swedish Open in Bastad. It was Soderling’s second title in three years in front of a home crowd, winning his fourth tour tournament of 2011. Soderling improved to an impressive 10-4 against Ferrer.

Furry fury. We guess Feliciano Lopez wanted to just head to the Colombian mountains, grow a little beard and unzip his JOma jacket — ahhh, the life! But FiLo played some tennis, winning in Bogota over Colombian Carlos Salamanca 6-4 6-3 at the Seguros Bolivar Open.

TSF Vault: Feliciano | Joma

That’s really her trophy. Remember that Andy Roddick commercial where he buys two tickets for the return flight? (Note: He doesn’t have to do that much these days.) This picture reminds us of said commercial. Here the folks in Bad Gastein, Austria, must have been upset that Maria Jose Sanchez Martinez took out their home girl Patricia Mayr in the final (6-0 7-5) so they gave her this giant, ridiculous trophy to PUNISH her. We think it may have worked.

[Read more…]

book review: high praise for 'high strung'

For our review of High Strung, TSF takes a rare dive into the serious, introspective world that sometimes the tennis world can inspire. Enjoy. -NM

It’s not the fault of Jimmy Connors or Vitas Gerulaitis that they were left off the cover and out of the title of High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis’s Fiercest Rivalry, written by Stephen Tignor of Tennis magazine. For Connors and Gerulaitis will never have the Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe rivalry to their names, and that is nothing they can change, but it doesn’t make them any less instrumental in the story of tennis’ most storied few years.

Many in tennis do pin the 1980 final — and the season that went along with it — as the best that tennis has ever seen. The Mac-Borg tiebreaker is often referred to as the gold standard for drama and quality, and that McEnroe won that breaker 18-16 only to lose the fifth set made it that much more of a legend. “This is terrible,” Tignor writes Borg said to himself after the breaker. “I’m going to lose.”

TSF Vault: John McEnroe | Bjorn Borg

But the climax of that match (Borg won, BTW: 8-6 in the fifth) was as unexpected as the twists and turns that Tignor takes the reader through in High Strung. He puts out the 1980 final as the book’s first offering, and at my initial reading, I feared that the book wouldn’t have much to build on from there. But it’s there that Tignor weaves in the stories of Connors and Gerulaitis (and eventually makes a fearsome twosome actually a foursome) along with a host of other eccentric characters.

High Strung is bold in its claims about tennis’ shifting landscape, especially from the amateur era (pre Open tennis, before 1968) and that which came after. Tignor puts as much (if not more) weight on the arrival of the oversized racquet, the technology that stole the game from the Mac-Borg era and passed it along first to Ivan Lendl and then to Boris Becker, Andre Agassi and to the baseline-bashing game we know today.

More Tignor: His Tennis.com “Concrete Elbow” blog

What Tignor does so beautifully (and makes the book so compelling) is tieing in both history in a factual sense with that of juicy detail, quotes and I-didn’t-know-that kind of research. It’s obvious he spent a good amount of time with a tape recorder sitting down with everyone he could possibly get an interview with, but that he then states that “[n]o account of [Ilie Nastase] would be complete without at least a partial list of his more memorable antics” and then goes on to list such antics (pp. 129 to 131 if you’re a thumbing in a B&N), makes the read both fascinating and snappy.

I’m no tennis historian. Actually, I’m 25, pay somewhat close attention to the goings on on tour but can better recount that Matthew Perry was in Jennifer Capriati‘s box during the 2003 U.S. Open than tell you about the career of Bill Tilden. Yet, with that said, this book not only held my attention, but I felt pretty dang enriched by it. Even (dare I say it?) entertained. From Borg’s rocky marriage to McEnroe’s family life to the upbringing of Connors to the rise of Lendl to the death of Gerulaitis, Tignor does his duty in roping in the reader.

That last note — the death of Gerulaitis — is the last inclusion in the Epilogue, in which Tignor gives a Six Feet Under sort of wrap up of the post-1981 lives of these tennis players slash rock stars. I won’t go into too much detail about how the writer unfolds such events, but I will say that on a smelly, Uptown-bound 1 train in New York, I missed my stop because I was so wrapped up in his telling of what happened — and crying.

Suffice to say, I highly recommend picking up High Strung.

Buy: High Strung on Amazon for $16.79 (used from $13.50 and up).

(Image provided by Harper Publishing)

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…]

dancing queen

Before Andrea Petkovic, the best tie the tennis world had to dancing was Monica Selesfrightening stint on Dancing With the Stars. We all remember how that turned out, right?? Petkovic’s moves are refreshing – just like her personality. We took awhile to warm up to the German, but watching her fight her way past Maria Sharapova was enduring, and now the dancing seems a little more appropriate, eh?

More: Courtney Nguyen‘s USAToday piece on the dancing Petko | Petkorazzi on YouTube

And: Aussie ladies: Ekaterina Makarova outfit no-no gets Mariana Alves outta her chair | TSF Vault: Alves

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.

after beating sharapova, caro takes on the world

A day after manhandling Maria Sharapova in the fourth round of the US Open, Caroline Wozniacki is on top of the tennis world. The whole world, that is. TSF noticed all the buzz today, and is here to chronicle it for you in one, easy-to-read blog post. Voila!

On the Twitter front, @carowozniacki, Caroline herself, power-tweeted all day long. First there was chatter about overtaking John Isner in followers, then she showed that she has stolen the lives of Maria and Serena Williams by being a fashionista, even in week two of a Slam.

If the prowess couldn’t be felt through Wozniacki’s tweets, surely an at reply congratulations would do the trick from the one and only Serena. And another tennis diva giving Caro props was Tennis Channel‘s James LaRosa, scolding anyone who still thought Wozniacki plays as a human backboard.

Not to be outdone, the mainstream media got on the WozniackiExpress today as well, with the USA Today churning out an article about Wozy as tennis’s new “It” girl; the New York Times featuring Caroline on its homepage for a good chunk of the afternoon (see screen grab after the cut); the WTA web site had a feature on her as long as Tweeting a year-old video of Wozniacki hanging out with soccer superstar David Beckham; the LA Times relegated its coverage to a blog post (how dare they!); the New York Daily News not only complimented Wozniacki’s play but her put-together look; and the New York Post couldn’t have been more blunt with its headline: “Wozniacki has look of future champ“.

More on the Wozniacki craze – including what was happening in the blogosphere after the cut.

[Read more…]