short balls: superfantastic saturday

Kiss me, it’s Saturday.

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer played one of the more memorable matches in recent history late this afternoon at the US Open. The Djoker prevailed 7-5 in the fifth set, in a match that saw him save two match points at 4-5 down in the fifth. What a fight, no? Next up? Rafael Nadal.

D-Listed got into the tennis spirit this past week, putting up a few pictures of celebs at the USO. While we like seeing the images, the writing on D-Listed never fails to amuse in one way or another, or at least raise an eyebrow or two? USOpen.org got into the spirit, too, posting their own gallery and making sure we kept up on the whereabouts of Joba Chamberlain. Ohhhhhhhhh, he’s a baseball player. We thought maybe that was Kathie Lee Gifford’s co-host on the Today Show. Our bad.

While the New York Times had behemoth coverage on the Open again this year, (full disclosure: I was apart of that team), the Wall Street Journal pushed their own tennis agenda on the grounds of the USTABJKNTC over the last two weeks. In the last year, the WSJ has amped up its coverage of the greater New York area to compete directly with the Times. Making sure to cover all angles, the paper got in on the culinary action of the grounds, while also getting their stopwatches out and putting together a healthy amount of data on how long players were taking to serve (they’re allotted 20 seconds after the previous point had ended). Most entertaining, though, was Ralph Gardner‘s piece on spending a day with Tennis magazine legend writer Peter Bodo and feeling a part of the inner, ‘frat-boy’ tennis culture. A great read. Plus, if you want a great watch/listen, there’s a video on – surprise! – the grunting women of the WTA Tour.

There’s plenty of grunting (and yelling and screaming) in the collection of videos that CNNSI.com put together known as “Fifteen Famous Tennis Tantrums.” Our favorite is probably the Roddick video from the 2008 Aussie, where he argues (wrongly) about a point awarded to Kohlschrieber. Seems as though Mr. Roddick has a habit of arguing points/ causes/ issues that just don’t fit and are just plain incorrect. It was also plain incorrect for this goalie to celebrate so quickly. Oops.

And while some of this video left us scratching our heads, we definitely love some play on words now and then, especially when they involve -ovas and -vitches from the comedy duo The Stone Bros. “Whateva Slevtova”? (Read: Whatever’s left-over.) Brilliant. Click the image to watch the clip.

(djokovic photo by stan honda via getty images; youtube screengrab)

nic’s six: author nic brown provides observations from this year’s uso

As the US Open winds down, we wanted to corral author Nic Brown into throwing over a few of his thoughts the TSF way. We asked the Doubles novelist to send us a list of five things from the last 10 days and he came back with one extra in “Nic’s six”. The guy has a way with words, no? If you didn’t notice, Nic’s good friend and former ATP doubles expert Tripp Phillips was featured as a recruiter on the Straight Sets tennis blog. -NM

1. The Serbian (Fashion) Equation
Exhibit A: In the past, the cast in the Novak Djokovic box have simultaneously removed their shirts in celebration.
Exhibit B: During Djokovic’s fourth round match against Mardy Fish, his father wore a black t-shirt emblazoned with a huge airbrush-type image of his son.
Exhibit C: Djokovic’s new wardrobe is decorated with dragons seemingly inspired by Ed Hardy.

Closing argument: I do not know much about Serbia, let alone Serbian fashion. But I do know quite a bit about the sun-burnt population of the Carolina coastal region. Hence, I think during this Slam, I have, for the first time ever, uncovered a direct cultural parallel between monster truck fans in Myrtle Beach and Djokovic supporters in Belgrade.

2. Wheel Me It Isn’t So
The Dostoevsky tattoos, the on-court glasses, the beard: Janko Tipsarvic is clearly rad. I have always loved this guy. But when he trotted out on court to play Andy Roddick wheeling behind him a giant tennis bag on wheels, he shot into the stratosphere for me. I guess he’s already been sporting this thing for a few weeks this summer, but this was the first I saw of it. He clearly doesn’t give a damn about toeing the traditional tennis line, and I love him for it. On a more complicated note, he has confounded my previous theories about Serbian fashion. There is definitely no one in Myrtle Beach who looks like Janko.

3. Spraying Balls as Performance Art
In the first seven points of Feliciano Lopez’s round of sixteen match against Rafael Nadal Tuesday night, Lopez sprayed three balls into the stands off miss-hits. I don’t takes cuts like Lopez does, and I’m not playing Nadal in post-Earl wind gusts, but still – if I lose one ball a set I’m embarrassed. Also, I’m not in the top twenty-five. I’ve never seen anything like it. It immediately erased any consideration I had that it was going to be a good match. And it wasn’t. More interesting, though, is the fact that I just learned Lopez plays himself on a Spanish sitcom. Very performance art of him. Perhaps that’s what was going on with the stray balls, too?

4. Back, And Looking Fabulous
Everyone seemed to think Roger Federer’s Wimbledon back injury was caused by some infection of sour grapes, but I had some inside sources who told me it was quite serious. I still thought it was sour grapes. But I now have to say I think he really was injured in England, because he’s moving so well again and looks better than he even did in Australia. If Nadal can’t pick up his return game by Sunday, and if Federer gets past Djokovic in the semis, Federer might actually win a grand slam final against him for the first time in three years.

Sign language and shoe-tastrophes to finish off Nic’s list. [Read more…]

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…]

big changes for the little ones

The USTA put out a press release today, along with this ad (click image above to see video) detailing the changes in the youth game, particularly with kids 10 and under. Along with its new teaching system, QuickStart, the USTA is pushing a more accessible and ready-to-use kit for tennis teaches and enthusiasts to get youngsters out on the court called 10 & Under Tennis.

This ad focuses on the fact that tennis – separate from most other sports – has its young players play the game from the get-go on big-time courts, just like the ones the pros play on. Now, coupled with QuickStart, the USTA will implement that 10-and-under sanctioned tournaments (beginning in 2012) will be on smaller courts, and different teaching techniques, systems and equipment will be available to get kids on the court.

Along with the change in court size, balls will be lighter and not as bouncy (so as to develop hand-eye coordination) and racquets will be lighter and shorter (a better fit to the youngsters’ body sizes).

And if you aren’t interested in this issue whatsoever, just watch the ad… we love the cinematography. Kudos!

For artistic sake, a couple more screen grabs of the commercial after the jump, along with the full text of the press release from the USTA. [Read more…]

who needs wags? tsf has your habs right here

Husbands And Boyfriends, that is. With all the love for the Wives And Girlfriends out there, we figured it was about darn time to make sure that this game of payment equality was also about equality in and about the scouring of the player boxes for attractive looking people – of both sexes. Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy the HABs of the 2010 US Open.

We’re leading off the pack with a known entity: Tomas Berdych. You can find Berdych in the corner for longtime-GF Lucie Safarova. Both are Czech. Both are beautiful.

WTA looker Dominika Cibulkova - herself included in Urban Daddy’s list – has tattooed fella Miso Navara giving her thumbs up during her matches.

Are these two still together?! Mladjan Janovic with Jelena Jankovic. What a household the Janovic-Jankovic home would be, no?

More BAHs after the cut. (It’s worth the click.)

[Read more…]

the tsf uso podcast, week 1

After my day-time duties were complete, I sat down with David Thorpe, a good friend and freelance tennis writer, for a little chat about our respective days at the US Open. While David and I had planned to meet up early in the day, that didn’t quite end up happening. We connected over a couple of beers and to chat about Day 4 of the Open.

David and Nick on Day 4: TSF Podcast USO Week 1

(uso photo by paul slate/usopen.org)

now opening on (tsf’s) broadway: tennis, the musical

We found a picture of a tennis net on a stage. No, don’t get too excited. It’s just visual enhancement. (Photo by alliancetheatre via flickr.)

Just in time for the US Open, TSF presents our interview with tennis/Broadway expert, Bob Kim. This interview is about the two worlds of tennis and Broadway colliding and the fun to be had when imagining what it would be like if stars from their respective worlds tried to make the jump onto the unknown stage or unknown court. Not an expert on both worlds like Bob? Don’t worry, you’ll still love his quippy answers. And his perfect Broadway-meets-tennis-day is one to be emulated, or at least attempted. -NM

The bio: Bob lives and works near the ATP Legg Mason tennis tournament.  That would be Washington DC, where the regional theater is charming and often surprisingly good and the big theater is mostly lowest-common denominator Broadway.   This is Bob’s first big blog opportunity.  He has performed in off-blog venues, such as in letters to the editor and in nonprofit newsletters.  He thanks his parents, all of his friends and Muffy for all of their love and support (xoxo hugs!!!!!), and Amtrak.

TSF: What current tennis star would make the best leading Broadway man? Woman?
Bob Kim: Where to start?  First of all, it really depends on the show.  Tennis is an international sport so there’s a natural fit with certain shows.  For Evita, you could go with Juan Martin del Potro, the Argentinian and reigning US Open champion.  But you’d have to resurrect Gabriela Sabatini as Evita because I can’t think of a top, current Argentinian in the WTA at the moment.  For Miss Saigon, you could go with Ai Sugiyama or Na Li or Tamarine Tanasugarn.  None of them are Vietnamese, but since when has ethnic verisimilitude mattered on Broadway?

If I had to pick one man and one woman, I think you have to go with Serena on the women’s side.  She already has acting experience and an extensive IMDB page.  Judging from her last USO performance, she can definitely emote.  She would have been perfect delivering a profanity-laced diatribe in last year’s Reasons to be Pretty.

For the men, I’d pick Novak Djokovic.  His on-court imitations of other tennis players like Roddick, Federer and especially Maria Sharapova suggest real underlying acting talent.  He’s a ham.  He likes being in front of people.  Too bad these days he’s complaining of nausea and dizziness on the big (tennis) stage.  I think he’s a bit of a drama queen.  We’ve never seen those on Broadway before!  He’d be perfect.

TSF: OK got it. Enough with the drama queens though, who on the ATP tour would make the best chorus boy? Why?
BK: I’m going to say two people — the Bryan brothers, Mike and Bob.  They’re twins so they almost count as one.  They already sing (in a band), and they are clean-scrubbed, extremely boring white boys who look exactly alike — and they play pro doubles, which is like the tennis equivalent of off-off-Broadway.  They are used to being in the background rather than in the lead.

TSF: Speaking of the lead, if Roger Federer, a quintessential leading man, could belt one show tune about his career, which would he choose and why?
BK: Uh, hello! Everything’s Coming Up Roses from Gypsy.  Federer has 16 freaking Slam titles. This song holds true even before he won the French last year — he was the crazy maniacal Mama Rose trying to pretend he was happy and that Nadal wasn’t in fact his eternal nemesis thwarting his goal to win all four majors and sail into tennis immortality.

TSF: Quite rosy, indeed. OK, let’s switch gears a little bit. Which current Broadway star would have the best chance of becoming a tennis star?
BK: I would say any of the Billy Elliotts.  Everyone else is too old to have a chance.  Well, then again you have Kimiko Date Krumm on the women’s tour, who retired last millennium and is now back in the top 100.  She’s like 83 years old now. Didn’t she play against Margaret Court?  Maybe there’s hope yet to see Angela Lansbury at Wimbledon.

TSF: Well, Angela does have “Duece” under her belt. Even if it didn’t get rave reivew. What show currently on Broadway mirrors the tennis tours the most?
BK: God of Carnage.  No one can survive the brutality of the year-long pro tennis circuit.  They’re all walking wounded.  Between that and the vicious gossip (not to mention Andre Agassi‘s tell-all book), everyone is getting ripped a new one.

[Read more…]

players manage balancing act while prepping for nyc’s big show

Kim Clijsters threw out the first pitch after meeting the Mets team in Queens on Friday in New York. A day earlier, she was the USTA’s guest of honor at the draw ceremony (AP photo via Yahoo! Sports).

RalphLauren.com pulled out all the stops on Thursday afternoon for an event featuring Venus Williams, in which Venus took questions from online submissions from around the world in a live clinic. At the Sportime Randall’s Island tennis center in New York, Venus was on court for the first time in a public setting since her eyebrow-raising loss to Tsvetana Pironkova in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. But instead of thwacking errors and a look of confusion, Venus was all smiles and tennis knowledge in the clinic, which was hosted by the British TV personality (and former player) Annabel Croft.

Venus, who is the no. 3 seed at the US Open and one of the favorites though she hasn’t been on tour in two months, talked fitness, forehands and gave plenty of tennis tips from her 26 years of experience on the court. The event was hosted by Ralph Lauren and Mercedes Benz, based on RL’s homepage for viewers to log in and watch live while Venus answered questions relayed by Croft. (Watch a full replay of the clinic here or click on the image after the jump.)

“It’s good for me to remember the basics when I’m about to play a big tournament,” Venus said, referring to the Open. Venus partnered with Ralph Lauren in the design of the dress she wore, a white number emblazoned with the logo of Eleven, Venus’s clothing line.

Guests were greeted with sweet mint tea, pistachio ice cream sandwiches and caramelized popcorn on the upper deck at Randall’s Island, which hosts the New York Sportimes during the World Team Tennis seasons. Male models clad in red Ralph Lauren polos dished out the goods as Venus strode through the crowd on her way to hair and make up (this was a live, online clinic, after all).

The clinic was a part of a myriad of events happening in New York this week, which all lead up to the big show at Flushing Meadows starting on Monday.

[Read more…]

adatbotw (a day at the bank of the west)

I wrote this post a couple weeks ago the day after attending the Bank of the West in Palo Alto. Please excuse its tardiness! -NM

Eight years ago I attended a professional sporting event for the very first time at the age of 16. It was the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, and my dad and I took in two night session matches on the stadium court(s). Back then, the tennis facility at Stanford kept its two-courts-in-one-stadium format for the tournament, allowing fans to watch two high-quality matches going on at once. While part of that set up was maddening, the other part was refreshing and invigorating: two tennis matches happening side by side and one crowd to enjoy them at once.

The night that we went was a crowd-pleasing one: Anna Smashnova versus Anna Kournikova on one court and Lindsay Davenport versus Anne Kremer on the other. The crowd was highly entertained by the presence of Kournikova, and everyone split their watching time between her match and the Davenport drubbing of former Stanford player Kremer, who got encouraging calls from the bleachers.

Today marked somewhat of a full circle for me as I arrived back in Palo Alto for the first time to attend this tournament again, this time as a member of the media. I feel semi-adult, wearing an “M” media badge and sitting in the press room typing away at important documents (read: “a puppet’s ode to lynn welch“). The thrill is still child-like for me, though. Going from the stadium to the practice courts, I’m not necessarily analyzing ground strokes and checking out who is practicing with whom, but rather just watching the tennis take place, taking in the action like a giddy teenager.

There was plenty to be giddy about on this day: the walk through California-big trees from parking to the tournament grounds; watching Melanie Oudin practice the day after another harrowing win; finally seeing Kimiko Date Krumm in person; judging Christina McHale for her Jersey-ness; wondering what happened to Dominika Cibulkova; Palo Alto-perfect weather; and meeting fellow bloggers along the way.

More than anything, this tournament reminds me of watching my childhood hero, Monica Seles, battle through a tough three-set encounter with Tamarine Tanasugarn from the second row. I could see the sweat beads dripping off Monica’s forehead as she battled that night, and was impressed by the will and determination of Tanasugarn. Much of that was brought back in the Date Krumm-Dementieva battle that occurred Wednesday night, three sets of I-won’t-give-this-up tennis in which KDK fought with all her might to get Elena off balance for the win.

Spending the day at Stanford was an absolute joy, something I don’t think all media folk can say for another weekday at a WTA event. For us tennis geeks, there’s nothing better than a small-time tournament with big-time names that make us feel like we’re running into Madonna on her way to pick up some groceries or her morning coffee. Not much drama, just some pretty good match tennis to take in, and some practice court fun to be had and some players to cross paths with in between. Maybe the WTA should go with that as their new marketing campaign?

(photo by amorimur via flickr)

tsf podcast: the botw roundtable edition

We wanted to make something new and we did. It’s called a podcast. And you should listen. (Photo by 20×200 via flickr.)

BOTW Roundtable: TSF Podcast 2010 BOTW Roundtable

I was lucky enough to wrangle C Note (of Forty Deuce fame) and Chris Oddo, a freelancer here writing for On The Baseline to participate in a roundtable discussion between sessions at the Bank of the West Classic. Check out the audio for our thoughts on who will be the queen of the US Open Series, why practice courts are the best places to be at small-time tournaments and what we think Lynn Welch does on her down time (the little of it that she has).