australian gothic: wilson fetes vika azarenka’s australian open win

Victoria Azarenka wins the 2013 Australian Open using a Wilson Juice tennis racquet

Fight to the Finish: The road to the second consecutive Australian Open title for World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka was long and hard. Not only was everyone trying to topple her, they came close to doing so: Jamie Hampton pushed Vika to three sets in third round but eventually lost because of a back injurySloane Stephens couldn’t continue her momentum after Azarenka’s 10-minute medical timeout in the semis; and Li Na rolled both ankles and hit her head — enough for the 2011 finalist to lose any edge she might have had over Vika in the final. And add to that the already anti-Vika crowd who became rabid after that questionable timeout and was out for Schadenfreude and blood.

But these were all mere distractions which Azarenka’s “fighter” mentality swatted away. She ground out a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Li in Saturday’s final.

FYI, Azarenka’s playing a Juice racquet from sponsor Wilson. (Review: Tennis Now’s Robert Martin on the Juice 100 BLX.)

Australian Gothic: Meanwhile, this ad sent out by the Wilson folks after Vika’s win is creeping us out. What happened to her eyes? Full version of the tribute after the cut…

short balls: who’s next? PINK & football, TOMS goes Maria + more


Who’s next?
We’re sort of obsessed with the art and function-ability of Prince‘s “Who’s Next” campaign, which let’s users click through a barrage of up-and-coming Prince-racquet toters. US Open junior champ Oli Golding gets his own profile page and the youngsters are splashed across the racquet-maker’s homepage in a well-made vid. Who’s next? Whoever doing is doing Prince’s graphics, we say. One more shot of Prince’s crowning campaign after the jump.

Serena and Venus approved?
We sort of have a love/hate relationships with the whole I’m-a-sexy-chick-wearing-an-NFL-jersey thing. If you’re going to wear a jersey, just wear one, right?! But if honor of all things consumer-tastic, we don’t mind the Victoria’s Secret adventure into sports-timate wear. Just for Serena and Venus, we chose to snapshot the Miami Dolphins page above. Zip-up hoodies run for $68 and “Hipster panties” go for $10.50 or three for $25.50. See a couple more items after the jump.

TOMS, too.
Looks like TOMS, the ever-popular shoe among fashionable do-gooders, is taking a lesson from Maria Sharapova.  Following the great success of Maria’s ballet flat for Cole Haan, TOMS announced that on Feb. 15 of next year they’ll begin to sell their own version of the chic shoes (blue suede, picture above). The shoes will retail for $74 to $129. | More: And if you didn’t know already, TOMS is now taking their you-buy-one-we-give-one-away model to eyewear, which has been a popular hit already.

Hey, New Yorkers!
TSF East really wishes that we could be at this one: Gelf magazine is hosting a tennis-centric reading night this Thursday, Oct. 6, at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village. Who will be there? That’d be the Wall Street Journal‘s Tom Perrotta, Sports Illustrated‘s S.L. Price and L. Jon Wertheim (here’s his latest Mailbag, if you want talking points). The chatting starts at 7:30, but we advise to be there around the 7 p.m. doors-open time.

short(er) balls: Tom Ford
gets the nod from Out magazine readers as the best-dressed gay. Worst? Boy George takes that honor, according to the mag’s brethren. Who was the most versatile of the crew? TSF fave Johnny Weir was fourth in voting for both best AND worst dressed out of 50 fellas. Double axel! | Staying gay: a list of the all-time best queer TV characters. | Reebok‘s EasyTone shoes? Not so toning, says the US government. | Hope Solo is posing sans clothes for ESPN the Magazine‘s body issue. No tennis players are on the to-pose list, as far as we can see. | Need your tennis betting fix? The new site Tennis Prophet allows for interactive chatting with other fans. | Ticketmaster is giving away a free clinic with the Champions Series Tennis tour (Johnny Mac, Sampras, Agassi + more involved) and other gear. You can’t really beat a free deal anywhere, y’all.

Prince and PINK after the cut (and we don’t mean the artists).
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on the 6th day of giftmas: racquet racket

Remember the Wilson BLX Blade that we spotted in the city back in September? It’s still been on our mind. The series of Six.One Blades that Wilson has put out have been high quality as a pack, and we’re giving thumbs up to most of the collection. The racquet has a “classic Wilson feel,” which means that you get pin-point accuracy and a good connection with the ball, especially if you want to hit consistently from the baseline. Below the Six.One Tour BLX. And how can you not dig the tan-colored grip on this baby? Classic, indeed. Buy it: on TennisWarehouse for $199.

If you want a racquet with a little bit of a different feel from the Wilson but still the same results, we’re digging Yonex’s EZONE, with a 100-inch head and a 27-inch length. Big-hitters like Monica Seles have favorited these racquets for a simple back-swing and a frame that the ball bounces off of. Buy at TennisExpress for (also) $199.

See our kids’ picks after the cut.

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“love” offering from across the channel

Diplomatic rally? Forget an Andy Murray-Gael Monfils rivalry bubbling up in the near future. How about a Nicolas Sarkozy-David Cameron one? The British prime minister revealed to the public today his gifts from foreign dignitaries, and Sarkozy’s topped this list: tennis rackets. Cameron has been known to be a baller himself, but we’re not so sure of Sarkozy’s skills.

Other gifts on the list included an iPad from NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg and ties from the Italian prime minister.

What kind of rackets did Sarkozy send? It’s hard to say. Cameron has been pictured with Wilson sticks in the past, but now that he’s a British political big wig, should he be switching weapons? He also played with a Prince racket a few years ago when doing a clinic visit with former British no. 1 Andrew Castle.

(photo via the guardian by dan chung)

spotted in the city: pink is the new black

Which way will the plinko chip fall? A few weeks after we were wowed by Wilson‘s Fall 2010 dress, displayed at the US Open by Mandy Minella and Anne Keothavong, we ran across this picture snapped last week of a Wilson racquet. The BLX Blade, perhaps?.

If that’s where Wilson’s headed (i.e., more shades of pink in their offerings), TSF’s on board — even for the guys. (Hey, if Roger and Rafa can pull it off, so can we!) And in case the fellas out there need more convincing, the Spring 2011 collections of Duckie Brown, Loden Dager, and Robert Geller are all spiced up with a little pink.

short balls: tears of joy

Dressing, acting and crying like a 12-year-old boy (all so charmingly, might we add!), Rafael Nadal embraced the World Cup in all its glory by cheering on his champs, Spain, in South Africa on Sunday. The Spanish team downed The Netherlands 1-0 to win the country’s first-ever World Cup title, and Rafa got all giddy (and shed some tears) over the futbol success. Looks as though Rafa will keep one foot on the soccer field in the near future as it was also announced last week that he is now a partial shareholder of the Real Mallorca club team.

While one future Hall-of-Famer was in Africa rooting on his countrymen, seven tennis personalities were inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame over the weekend in Newport, R.I. Most notably were the doubles tandems of Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge and Natasha Zvereva and Gigi Fernandez. Brad Parks, one of the founding fathers of wheelchair tennis in America, was also honored, as were Derek Hardwick (a pioneer in modernizing the game to its current Open format) and Owen Davidson (a doubles specialist) were also inducted.

In this economy, it might be good to be a tennis player. The US Open announced that the winner of its men’s and women’s singles titles will walk home with $1.7 million each, with the chance of each winning an extra $1 million for talking the US Open Series crown during the summer. The tournament had a 7% increase overall in payout, bringing its total purse to $22.6 million. Ka-ching!

Donnay, once the racquet of champions, is trying to make a resurgence in the global tennis market. The company launched nine new racquets recently, and will use the success of Yanina Wickmayer (their only notable player) to help market the brand. The company once was a big-time player in tennis as the club of choice for Bjorn Borg, Andre Agassi, Margaret Court and Cliff Drysdale.

There’s a whole lotta short(er) balls and (OT) after the cut.

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2009 holiday gift guide

While the tennis season is fully wrapped (and the exhibition season in full swing), TSF is ready to take a break for the holiday season. But before we do, it’s more than necessary to point out a few items (and looks) that you must take a peek at for the holidays. It’s our 2009 Holiday Gift Guide, and we hope you enjoy it…

First off is the Barricade L3 tennis racquet (and bag!) from adidas. That’s right, adidas. If you love to be matching in all things, then pick up this combo (in stores or online for $185) so that you can sport the adidas stripes throughout your entire game. As for adidas tennis balls, those still don’t exist. DIY, here you come.

While we love the chic look of the adidas racquet and bag, nothing beats the tennis fashion of Polo Ralph Lauren this holiday season. While the brand may not have a tennis pro to flaunt their pretty product around the globe, tennis fashion expert Dana Mason calls the fall/winter line her best seller in the store.

“I love navy and there’s a lot of that in this line. The dresses are very fitted and short with a deep v-neck,” Mason explains. “It’s all perfect for winter vacationing.”

Two of our winter faves are the Tonal Diagonal Stripe Polo (pictured below), which is on sale online right now for just $49 and the Ralph Lauren Matchpoint Dress, with much inspiration from the US Open line in which Polo took ball boy/girl (and lines person) fashion to new heights. (Dress can be seen after the cut).

Read more on our holiday recommendations after the cut.

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the need for speed

The folks at HEAD are wasting no time milking the newest member of their stable, Novak Djokovic, for some Q-rating padding. They have chosen Nole as the main vehicle for a new racquet technology named Speed. (Nevermind that they’ve already had Andy Murray and Marat Safin, right?)

The deets of the stick were hush-hush until Djokovic played with them at the Australian Open (pics), and HEAD moves onto the next step of their campaign with “Speed Lessons by Novak Djokovic”.

You can think of the site, found at speedlessons.com, as a cross between Teen Girl Squad and Palin as President — a mix of animated shorts and other mini-gags (including mouseovers voiced by Djokovic himself).

Look out for a total of six flash-based “tennis lessons”, released about once a week. Much like the hammy Serbian, these shorts should be taken with a grain of salt. Watch ‘em and you’ll know what we mean.

Mousing over the landing page induces a few cute sound bites (e.g., “With a two-handed backhand, you won’t have a free hand for a remote control.”). The folks we talked to at HEAD said that Nole had a good time recording the voiceovers for the site.

And finally, users can take a three-question quiz, after which they can enter to win one of ten Speed racquets autographed by Djokovic.

The global campaign, conceived by an Austrian agency, will culminate with the racquet’s retail launch in late April or May.

HEAD wanted something “new, fresh, and online based because that’s what everybody is,” said a company rep. They’ve included links for Facebook, del.icio.us, Technorati, and Google to help spread the word.

Visit: Speed Lessons.

Scoreline: Djokovic, who retired in the heat against Andy Roddick during the Aussie Open quarterfinals, bounces back after a two-week break to reach the quarters (vs. Mischa Zverev) in this week’s Open 13 in Marseille. Nole hasn’t been looking his best, but has yet to drop a set in two rounds.

La Monf switches to Prince in 2009

Gael Monfils

Breakdancer Gael Monfils might not be making as much noise as compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga these days, but he’s still being pegged as one of the sport’s future stars. Racquetmaker Prince recently signed the Frenchman to play with the company’s new line of racquets, slated for release in spring 2009.

He first picked up the new sticks prior to the ATP event stop in Vienna and has notched two top 15 scalps and a finals appearance since.

Prince has been mum about what’s behind this new technology, only saying that it “breaks the laws of physics.” Even Monfils didn’t give us much to work with. “I knew as soon as I hit the first ball with it, there was something different, something better,” he said via a press release. “It is hard to explain, but the holes and the technology made a difference. It just felt right.”

We’ll let you know as soon as we hear more about the new racquets.

(photo courtesy of Prince)