strokin': when tennis met music

By Jonathan Scott

It may not be tabloid fodder like every Taylor Swift dalliance, and it’s not nearly as insufferable as Brangelina, but the marriage between music and tennis is itself a storied love affair. It stretches across decades and genres, and it knows no bounds – well, none other than those pesky white lines.

Try to set aside the disappointment that the artist Sergey with the song “Tennis” on iTunes is actually not Vera Zvonareva‘s ridiculously good-looking model/coach. And, however possible, repress the memory of Justine Henin‘s song-and-dance scareoke on TV. Yes, Novak Djokovic and Ivo Karlovic have tried their tongues at rapping, as has Vince Spadea with amusingly deplorable results, but that doesn’t mean you should try it at home after perfecting your Djokovic-ian down-the-line backhand, does it?

As the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival just wrapped its annual song-a-thon in Austin, Texas – soon to be the site for a volatile USA vs. Spain Davis Cup tie in July – here’s the skinny on the latest hot shots in tennis-tinged music and an homage to some of the greats.

Best Newcomer: James Blake is a dub-step soulman and a veritable crooner. The British JB, that is. His American counterpart is a best-selling author and owner of a laser forehand whose best days are past, but Blake the Brit is taking the music world by slow-burning storm, releasing his rave-reviewed eponymous debut in February and – well before that – igniting the blogosphere with his faithful but quirky cover of Feist‘s “Limit to Your Love.” Let’s just pray that, when we hit up a James Blake concert sometime, his fans aren’t half as annoying (adorable?) as the American Blake’s J-Block can be in the tennis stands.

Dainty she is not. Our fave album cover from Blonde Readhead’s 23. (Image via band website)

Best Dressed: Sometimes it’s okay to judge a band by its cover. Oxymoronic indie rockers Blonde Redhead out of New York City put out the best, most elegant tennis-themed album art when they dropped 23 in 2007. But, no, the song “Top Ranking” has nothing to do with disputed no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

Worst Dressed, but Best Sound: Yea, there is a band simply called Tennis, a married duo specializing in ’60s surf-pop for 2011. This act released its debut Cape Dory in January, and though the song “Marathon” doesn’t harbor the words “Isner,” “Mahut” or “Wimbledon” anywhere in the lyrics, it’s solid stuff. Consider it your soulful throwback soundtrack for this summer – but steer clear of wearing skintight aqua as with the album cover. It looks like leftover fabric from a hideous Nadia Petrova creation.

Best Tournament Run: This has to go to the ginger-haired heroine in the video for Vampire Weekend‘s “Giving Up the Gun.” She rips through a draw that includes Joe Jonas, a Daft Punk-helmeted doubles team, and even a flask-swilling Jake Gyllenhaal in tear-away pants. It’s a great song, and the immaculately-white indoor court is sharp – even if the choked-up strokes from the damsel look laughably bad in reality. Girl, who taught you to grip a racquet like that? Topping it off: RZA from Wu-Tang Clan serves as the chair umpire, and Lil Jon offers astute on-court coaching. Brill.

TSF Vault | The many lives of tennis-themed music vids

Best Clay-Court Match: French DJs Martin Solveig — oddly in tasteful Wimbledon whites — and Bob Sinclar, sporting some hot-magenta vintage-Agassi styles, squared off on Roland Garros‘ red dirt for the video for Solveig’s dance track “Hello” sung by Dragonette. The match and music video are both visceral, a veritable heartbreaker. Check out the cameo by that flashiest of the current French tennis stars as he comes on the scene and devastates the darling DJ.

Hello? Could Martin Solveig look any cooler? We think not. (YouTube screengrab)

Best Charity Hit: Andy Murray and Thom Yorke of Radiohead teamed up for charity single “Two Minute Silence” to benefit serving and former British troops and their families. Strangely enough, its title is no lie. “Hear” — but really just see — it here. British Prime Minister David Cameron and more also got in on this quiet riot. Truly the oddest not-quite-a-band lineup ever, but hey, can’t wait for their episode of “Behind the Music.” Finalist: Wozniacki put out a charity single called “Oxigent” (or “Oxygen”) to benefit Danish and Polish Paralympic athletes. Because, you know, she has oodles of free time.

Top Passing Shot: Meg Baird‘s lovely, lilting “Waltze of the Tennis Players.” It’s just pretty, and we do pretty.

More of Jonathan’s music musings (including “Best Grunt” and “Best Musical Ode to a Tennis Player”) after the cut. [Read more...]

short balls: nearly french

Is that Mary we see?! Upon closer inspection, no… no, it isn’t. Does this mean Troy can tell the future?? (TSF illustration by Troy Venechanos)

We wonder if Aravane Rezai could become this decade’s Mary Pierce at the French Open? It’s been a decade since Pierce, the on-again, off-again French citizen (according to tennis enthusiasts), won the title at Roland Garros much to her fans’ pleasure. Rezai has already allowed controversy to swirl around her young career, and her Iranian heritage runs parallel to Mary’s history with Canada. Both are bigger-built girls who belt off the baseline and use their hard, flat strokes to make up for less-than-best movement.

It will be interesting to see if this really could develop. Rezai has been steadily rising in the WTA ranks for the last three years, and might use 2010 as her breakthrough year after winning in Madrid last week. In what has mostly been a lackluster year, Rezai beat Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams to win the tournament. Rezai is a respectable 9-6 at Roland Garros, and this year is a guaranteed seed now that she is in the top 20. Could she be a week two contender? Guess we’ll see which Mary… we mean Aravane, shows up.

Looks like the USTA will have plenty of choices when it comes to this year’s Fed Cup final between the U.S. squad and the Italian team. 11 cities have entered bids to hold the November tie. Among the bidders are three cities in Texas (San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth) and two in California (Pacific Palisades and San Diego). Looks like Montgomery, Ala. decided to sit this one out (surprise!). Our guess: one of the Texas sites. No WTA event is held within a solid 1,000 miles of said state.

[Read more...]

jake gyllenhaal + vampire weekend = tennis shout out?

Watch it to believe it. We dig. Vampire Weekend‘s “Giving Up the Gun” not only features a tennis-themed plot, but hottie Jake Gyllenhaal makes a cameo that’s worth a watch.

The outfits are happening, the art is fantastic, the white tennis ball is beyond vintage and Jake is fabulous as usual.

(video link via towleroad)