shirtless: juan monaco

Juan Monaco‘s playing at this week’s combined Mutua Madrid Open, winning his first-rounder against Andrey Golubev 2-6, 6-2, 6-2. He’ll need to step it up if he wants to upset ninth seed Gael Monfils in the next round. They both share the same quarter as Andy Murray (though we think it’s Tomas Berdych‘s to lose). Browse: Mutua Madrid Open Draws.

Taking pic(o)s: Some shots we took of Monaco earlier this year at Indian Wells.

(images by TSF)

madrid masters master a new domain

By Lindsay Sakraida, on Twitter

Hangin’ above the crowd: This week, the tennis tour hits the Madrid Open, the most controversial stop on the clay-court schedule. And while much focus has been on Rafael Nadal‘s disapproval of playing in the high altitude before Roland Garros, there’s more to the Madrid cache than a public disagreement with its most famous compatriot. At every opportunity, the Madrid Open creatively and strategically aims to differentiate itself in a very modern way — and the tennis tour is all the better for it.

Mastered differences: Madrid has always been unconventional. It changed from hard courts to clay in 2009, at which point the tournament director announced that he was considering forgoing the iconic rust-colored dirt for a thoroughly modern blue. (It never came to fruition, to Nadal and Federer’s approval.) Long before the surface change, the tournament began using models as ball kids during the later stages of the draw, and the fetching — in more ways than one — “kids” continue to raise eyebrows nearly a decade later. (But just to be clear: these are no “kids.”) And just this year, the event was publicized by dangling racket-wielding acrobats off the side of a court-covered building. In all manners, Madrid aims to get people talking with arresting visuals.

But the most telling distinction between Madrid and the rest of the tour lies in its most accessible marketing device: their website. It combines vibrant graphics and Flash-based design to convey a unique energy and atmosphere, and there’s even a custom animation at the top that pays tribute to the distinct form of the Caja Magica. It’s fairly obvious that the site isn’t your typical tournament’s digital home, but the most significant deviation from the norm is quite subtle; Madrid doesn’t use the ATP template (nor the WTA template, for that matter) in its design. Take a look at the Rome, Monte Carlo, or Indian Wells sites. Each uses the same architecture and rotating carousel of top stories and images. Madrid isn’t the only tournament to shun the standard — both Cincinnati and Paris are moderately different, for example — but it’s one of the few locations, especially among the big nine Masters Series, to forgo the status quo in favor of something truly unique. And with continuous debate about what tour stop should be bequeathed the “Fifth Slam”, Madrid’s deliberate branding seems like a move for the title.

TSF Vault: Our love for the webby Madrid

Along with its home page, the tournament also has a vibrant YouTube channel. It’s not unusual for a tournament to post press conferences, daily recaps, and occasional behind-the-scenes content, but — despite YouTube’s history of creating viral phenomenons — few use the video service to genuinely engage the audience. But in the lead up to the main draw, Madrid has done just that. It challenged its Spanish-speaking audience to submit videos proving why they are the ultimate “Super Fan,” which resulted in a plethora of charming tournament tributes. It remains to be seen what sort of content they will provide during the tournament proper, but if this promo video (which features Feliciano Lopez) is any indication, it’ll be just as vibrant and lively as its carefully-cultivated image.

More: Springtime teal in Madrid | Rafa’s distaste for colorful clay

Above all, Madrid serves as an example of what the sport can become in this new age — a Europeanized (and better version) of a US Open Series event. Tennis has always stood on the shoulders of the many cities that host it, but quite often, standardized tournament branding fails to effectively represent each location’s diverse nature. Hopefully, with its constant attempts to break the mold, Madrid will inspire its fellow tournaments to modernize and engage the global audience. After the jump: More high-flying pics from Madrid’s on-the-wall acro-tizing. [Read more...]

you + pen & paper = trip of a lifetime?

By Lindsay Sakraida

Lindsay Sakraida is a freelance writer who, in addition to tennis, has covered fashion, film, photography, shopping, and music. Check out her musings on Twitter at @LinTENNIS (tennis-related) or @LinSakraida (generally non-tennis related, but sometimes she can’t help herself).

As eloquent as he is, we’re thinking Rog is going to have trouble with this whole 100-words-or-less thing. (Super Stock photo)

The write choice? We here at TSF are devout fans of the upcoming Madrid Open’s aggressive cultivation of a sleek and modern brand, and if you’re likewise moved by the tournament’ s vivid colors, style, and daring innovations, then be sure to check out the latest competition in coordination with ellesse. The equally-chic Italian label has designed uniforms for the ball kids, and to celebrate the relationship, ellesse is giving away an all-access trip to the contestant who can best wax poetic (in 100 words or less) about why he or she should win. Flex a creative muscle (preferably in a Rafa-esque fashion), and you and a friend could each snag a flight from anywhere in the world, hotel accommodations for eight nights, an invite to the opening party and a bit of spending cash. Hurry, though: the competition ends at 5 am ET on April 22.

By the way, we’ re serious about that “ flex a creative muscle” thing; the winner of this competition will also have to detail the Madrid experience by keeping a daily diary. We can see it now: Dear Diary – I think Feliciano winked at me during his practice session today. Do you think he has a girlfriend? Or a second baby mama? Or maybe he just got a little clay in his eye??

Click the link above or the image below to visit the contest entrance page.

li ning posterboy ljubicic is first to scalp a seed

Ivan Ljubicic was the first to scalp a seed at this year’s Mutua Madrilena Madrid Masters. The Croatian wild card broke Jo-Wilfried Tsonga three times, with two of those coming in the second set when Ljubicic rallied from 5-2 down. The final score: 6-4, 7-5.

Props to his clothing sponsor, Li Ning, for continually surprising us with novel designs for his on-court kit. This go-’round combines a bright yellow polo with a silver print overlay.

More where that came from: Above are some athletic and casual looks from the current Li Ning line. They were showcased as part of the ATP launch of its Chinese-language site.

tennis’ George Clooney

Butter is back to weigh in on Marat’s current affairs

Where is my favorite Russian? Hmmm… His body is not into tennis (shoulder injury forced a withdrawal from Madrid, replaced by lucky loser Simone Bolelli), and, as everyone has found out recently, his head isn’t there either:

Instead, he’s been knockin back brewskies with some pretty ruskies, specifically pop singer Nastya Osipova.

What do you think? I almost fell off my chair when I watched this! haha… Is it just me, or do we all miss the Dasha-Marat era? I do! I know Tony Kornheiser does! What about the Silvia-Marat love story? Well, like Marat said before:

“If you date blondes for a long time, you would want a brunette. You have to have variety in life! (laughs). Besides, it really doesn’t matter, it needs to be interesting and not boring.” (Marie Claire Russia, 2007)

So don’t worry, Rich, we might not have to stare at Ms. Osipova’s dresses for too much longer. Who’ll be Marat’s next brunette? Ana Ivanovic?

the boobs are back in madrid

Feminism? What’s that? The ladies of the Mutua Madrilena Masters Madrid are back for yet another seven days of bouncin’ and ball-retrievin’.

Thankfully, tourney organizers opted out of last year’s bejeweled tattoos (leave that for Mariah‘s back) and instead focused on more subtle accessories for these fashion models-cum-ballgirls: a muted slate tank top, a cute black mini-brim cap with a tie on the back, and a pair of bright silver Diadoras for some pop.

(photos by Getty Images)

trophy watch: open letter to the champions cup

Okay, Champions Cup Boston — the ball is in your court (hyuk). Last month’s Masters Senior Comunidad de Madrid gave out the most adorable trophies to winner Alberto Costa and runner-up John McEnroe:

mcenroe and alberto costa mcenroe holding his trophy (Click to enlarge.)

Little. Red. Teddy Bears. how effin awesome.

I look forward to seeing you top that. And please, do better than Champions Cup Houston:

jim courier wins champions cup houston

xo,

CBHM

(McEnroe/Costa photos via Masters Senior Comunidad de Madrid website; Courier photo via Champions Series Tennis website)

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