short balls 2.0: like a train, we’re still going

Who knew today would be such a busy tennis news day?! And here we were thinking all we’d have to do is count how many times John McEnroe used “she” in his commentary instead of identifying Zvonareva, Pironkova or Kvitova by name. We think it was somewhere in the ball park of 2,000 or so.

My first-person account of trying out to be a US Open ballperson is up on the New York Times Straight Sets tennis blog. No, I haven’t heard back yet, but I can assure my tryout wasn’t quite as entertaining as Jimmy Fallon’s from last year’s Open. Hilarity.

In case you haven’t heard yet, Justine Henin has sustained an elbow injury at Wimbledon and has already stated she’s likely not to play the US Open. So much for that comeback, eh? Oh, and remember the 35,000-seat stadium that was going to host the Justine versus Kimmy exhibition? 34,999 people are breathing a sigh of relief that Serena signed on to take her place.

(OT) The Target Corp. is opening a new store in Manhattan’s Spanish Harlem nabe, on 116th and Pleasant Avenue. The company is going all out with advertising, including buying and entire 6 Train (which runs on the east side through Spanish Harlem) – inside and out – for brand advertising. Click the image above to see video.

Pardon our forgetfulness, but we had somehow lost track of the kennethinthe212 blog, a witty and well-written corner of the web that dedicates a good deal of virtual ink to the world of tennis. Or, more importantly, the catfights of tennis. Most recently, Kenneth made sure to post Sandra Bernhard‘s angry Tweets scolding Pam Shriver for existing… er, we mean, for ridiculing Venus Williams. You tell ‘em honey!

And in a not-so-surprising move, the Huffington Post has selected Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovicas the top two male hotties at Wimbledon. #3? John Isner. We’re not so sure about that one…

early discussion: aravane the streaky

Canadian sports writer Stephanie Myles has a great anecdote on yesterday’s El Tabakh-Rezai match on Centre Court. (Screen grab via Twitter.)

We don’t do too much in-depth, let’s-talk-about-the-tennis coverage here on TSF, but every once in awhile it’s a healthy practice just us TSFers to dive into and we’re pretty sure you get a kick out of us trying to sound like we know what we’re talking about.

I’ve had high hopes for many a players on the WTA Tour, especially those with such salacious backgrounds. You know who I’m talking about: the Jelena Dokic‘s and Melanie Oudin‘s of the world. To me, there is nothing better than a mid-ranked player making a run for her country at her home Slam with the crowd (and the world) cheering her on. It’s something unique about women’s tennis that you can’t quite find elsewhere, and though it rarely happens, when it does it is purely magical.

Last year, two such runs captured the attention of tennis fans as Dokic and Oudin made respective runs to the quarterfinals at their home Slams. The back stories were mostly inspiring and the chance for us to ride with them on their incredible journey felt refreshing and new in a women’s tennis tour that can often feel like another tattered episode of Beverly Hills 90210.

At the French Open, it has been a while since such a run has been made. A decade ago, Mary Pierce finally capped off a tumultuous Roland Garros record by winning the title over Conchita Martinez, and she surprisingly made a run to the finals in 2005, taking out Lindsay Davenport along the way before being humbled by one Justine Henin in the title match.

So this year, as Aravane Rezai makes her march through the women’s draw, she cannot do so as a dark horse. Her win two weeks ago in Madrid was a dazzling display of Pierce-like Big Babe tennis, where she hit through the likes of Henin, Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams. The thing about Rezai seems to be that she really can hit through her opponents with little regard (unlike Oudin) but also has her head squarely screwed on after five years on tour (unlike Dokic).

Her history is that of a Dokic-Pierce storybook, chalk full of stories of an over-involved father and threats of playing for a different country (Iran) and spats with the French Tennis Federation. Perhaps such histories have plagued girls on the WTA in the past, but if Rezai continues to play with the resolve she showed Sunday in a 6-1, 6-1 drubbing of Canada’s Heidi El Tabakh, then the French could get their first home-grown story line in quite a while.

Amelie Mauresmo could never quite enjoy her experience at Roland Garros because of her distaste for the pressure of the French. But to watch the powerful strokes of Rezai is something special. Few players are not physically intimidated by the Williams sisters, but Rezai can go toe-to-toe with them in a baseline brawl, and if she doesn’t suffer from the Frozen Foot Syndrome that plastered Pierce’s feet to the clay in the 2005 final against Henin, she has a legit shot at being a threat for this tournament.

Like peers Sania Mirza and Shahar Peer, Rezai makes the internationalization of women’s tennis feel more enlightening. And though she can be a streaky player, Rezai seems to be enlightened herself by the journey thus far, something that could prove vital for a shot at Roland Garros glory: “When you play tennis, you make sacrifices to reach that level so this pressure, you like it, it comes with the reward.”

A reward next Saturday for Rezai? First she has to get past Angelique Kerber, a player who drubbed her at this year’s Aussie Open.

timeless faces

When I used to blog over at Tennis Chatter, Troy did incredible work for me in the Photoshop department. Well, I’m glad I’ve corralled him to be a part of what we do at TSF, because he’s plain brilliant. This TIME cover features a soccer-playing Rafa, a dapper Roger and the one and only Lady JuJu. She might be able to hold court with Justine Spears, a good friend from our Chatter days.

[Read more...]

sunday survey: who’s your favorite?

Justine Henin and Rafael Nadal were both victorious at separate big-time clay events today, taking out formidable opponents to garner wins in May. Later this month, both will look to re-vamp their careers with campaigns at the French Open.

It got us thinking: who do you think has a better shot at Roland Garros? Henin or Nadal? Or, if you think neither of them have much of a chance at all, tell us who you think looks like a good bet to leave Paris with a Slam title.

(photo by afp via getty images from the 2007 french open draw ceremony)

short balls: the comfy version

The Comfortable Changeover: You gotta love the peeps at the Family Circle Cup for keeping those couches on court every year. Whether you think the things are plain hideous or completely awesome, you can’t really deny that they add a little bit of home to the court. Was this year the best couch ever? At least maybe the cleanest couch ever. After Patty Schnyder sweated all over this one, an attendant makes sure things are fresh and clean for the next gal.

Record Breakers: Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin are doing their best to undue a 37-year-old tennis record: the most folks to ever watch a match. That record was set back during “The Battle of the Sexes” at the Astordome in ’73, but the two Belgian gals are set to compete for a charitable exhibition in a 40,000-seat stadium in Brussels. If you thought Arthur Ashe had bad sightlines, we’re guessing Baudoin Stadium can rival that, especially if they can pack the place.

20 Wins to a Slam Title: The U.S. Open playoffs kicked off this weekend to much fanfare throughout the country. We’ve gotta hand it to the USTA for this one: they’re giving people the opportunity to be a part of the nation’s biggest tennis event directly, and by doing so allowing grassroots tennis to grow in the meantime. The New York Times told the story of two men of different generations battling with a similar dream, while CNN-SI.com’s Bryan Graham took good survey of the quirky field and noticed that in just 21 wins, one of these Joe Schmoes could be a Major title holder.

This Time, is it Bad News? We’re wondering if winnings going up starts to be bad news at some point? Should pro tennis players really be making that much?! Wimbledon announced their new figures for the year. Ay yi yi!

Diversifying the Ladies? Peter Bodo‘s writing showed up on NBC Sports’s web site this week (anyone have inside details about this??) and he was all a-chatter about the Stosur-Zvonareva final in Charleston. Is it a game-changing moment? Perhaps the WTA is on the cusp of a more diversified, unique tour, Bodo suggests. If anything, it will be interesting to see who of the Stosur-Zvonareva-Azarenka-Jankovic-Wozniacki-Peer-Radwanksa-Cirstea crowd actually steps up their game in the not-too-distant future.

(photo by chris smith via the wta web site)

tsf presents: an illustrated pov

TSF is glad to have Troy Venechanos on board with our team. The former Tennis magazine intern and Northeastern grad is now an AmeriCorps volunteer in New Orleans, Louisiana. That doesn’t stop Troy from following the tour with gusto, where his two favorite players are Venus and (no shocker here) Akgul Amanmuradova. You can find Troy perusing J. Crew catalogs for clothesguys and he likes to spend summers on the lake with Yaya.

wta-comeback-oct09

The Comeback Bandwagon: WTA Looks to Past for Future Success
Co-starring Davenport, Date Krumm, Clijsters and Henin, illustrated by Troy Venechanos

Enlarge: Make sure to click on the pic above for a closer look!

sunday survey: coffee chat

Coffee-Belgian

Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin have always had a strange relationship. They made it clear when they both rose to the top of the game that they weren’t the best of friends, and though the two women have great respect for one another, it had to be a little strange for Clijsters to watch Henin announce her own comeback just 10 days after the new mom had claimed the US Open title.

What would Kim and JuJu chat about if they were out to coffee together? No media present, no handlers… just the two Belgian bombers out for some famous chocolate and a cup of coffee. What would they speak about? Would they speak at all? Who would carry the conversation? Would any bad blood come to be discussed? 

Sure, Kimmie’s always been known as the ‘nice girl’ on the tour, but get a little caffeine in the gal and her mouth is sure to run as fast as she does on the court, right? 

We want some honesty brewing on this coffee date…

(photo by openaperture via flickr.)

ana’s firsts: a no. 1 ranking and a grand slam title

Ana Ivanovic did one better than last year’s Roland Garros performance — when she won only three games against Justine Henin — by denying Dinara Safina another come-from-match-point-down performance. She shut out the Russian, who was also vying for her first Grand Slam, with the 6-4, 6-3 win.

Henin, who would’ve taken this whole thing had she not retired 24 days prior to the final, was on hand to pass the baton to Ana. The Serb earned the No. 1 spot as of yesterday’s rankings and becomes the first woman to win a title for Serbia (following Nenad Zimonjic as the first Serb ever to win a GS title and Nole Djokovic as the first singles winner).

(photos by Getty Images)

why ana’s coach is not sitting in her player’s box

Ok, stop staring at Justine Henin‘s cold sore and look over at Ana Ivanovic‘s player’s box. That’s right — there is no sign of her coach, Sven Groeneveld, hanging out next to her family. He’s been asked by adidas to stay neutral in this match because of his involvement in the company’s Player Development program (which both Dinara Safina and Ivanovic participate in).

The initiative, started in 2006, offers a unique mix of advice and support to both junior and senior players, from coaching tips to hitting partners to nutritional and career management plans. Other pros currently in its stable are Sam Querrey and Sania Mirza. Gil Reyes helps out with off-court training.