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Archive for January, 2007

Hooray! I’m not screwed over by the Tennis Channel

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

ESPN and The Tennis Channel have entered into a multi-year arrangement to share rights to the Australian Open and French Open through 2011.

The networks announced they will share coverage of the Australian Open beginning in 2008, with The Tennis Channel adding 100 hours of live and prerecorded programming to ESPN’s coverage. The Australian Open has been televised exclusively on ESPN and ESPN2 since 1984. ESPN

Good news for those who don’t get the Tennis Channel…I hope the coverage isn’t too crappy, as ESPN might be more inclined to show Americans or major matches only.

Tennis in best sports ads

Monday, January 29th, 2007

Looks like the Winnipeg Sun put together a list of the top 10 sports ads in prep for the SuperBowl, and we have some tennis ones making the list:

We liked the first Andy Roddick commercial, in which he gets cracked on the head by a trophy falling out of a plane’s overhead compartment. They outdid themselves with the Roddick vs. Pong spot, where the ’70s video game icon returns every ball Roddick hits. Not sure what it has to do with credit cards, but entertaining nonetheless.

I guess no one wants to talk abotu the sad no-trophy no-mojo ads he did? I didn’t like the Pong ones as much as the earlier ads.

Maria Sharapova is not a great actress. She does not deliver dialogue convincingly. But her other qualities make her Canon Power Shot commercial, where she spells out “Maria was here” by blasting balls into a chain-link fence, a veritable feast for the senses.

I don’t think this ad should be on the list, but I do prefer humorous ones.

That’s it for tennis, but I really liked these:

From what we’ve been able to tell, the Terry Tate: Office Linebacker ads have absolutely nothing to do with athletic shoes. Doesn’t matter. We love watching this 250-pound monster absolutely destroy people for taking long coffee breaks or failing to use cover sheets on their faxes, then standing over them and taunting them. “Get ready for the pain, woman! The pain train is coming! Woo-woo!”

Sadly, we don’t get to see too many of these promo ads up here in Canada … just the lame efforts of their TSN counterparts. But any visit to the States (or YouTube) will yield some real winners. Our faves include the one in which “security guard” Rob Ray mercilessly pummels a delivery boy while yelling “Next time, show some ID!” and the spot in which Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin wrestles the Florida Gators mascot in the hallway. Good thing it wasn’t the mascot for a certain Florida baseball team.

The full list (with links to endless other lists) is here.

Serena reveals a bit about her pre-AO training

Monday, January 29th, 2007

One thing I love about Serena is that she keeps so much out of the public eye - she knew that people were (and still are) doubting her fitness, but only now that she feels vindicated does she talk about it. It makes me think of how before the final she was asked how she would spend her time until the match and she replied that she’d be hanging out in her hotel room. For all we know, her hotel room has a built in gym, or Nintendo Wii tennis! She’ll never give away her secrets! A true competitor…

Speaking here on Saturday night after her victory, Williams recalled struggling to breathe during one training session at Bradenton, having been ill the day before. “I said: ‘Nick, I’ve been running stadiums, I’ve been doing stairs, I’ve been working out, I’ve been running miles.’ I was so frustrated and I was in tears. Nick said: ‘Serena, don’t worry about it. It’s going to come.’ That was awesome.

“I remember another time when I did a five-kilometre run. Afterwards Nick said in his rasping voice: ‘Serena, it’s going to happen.’ It’s little things like that I remember. OK, I didn’t go on to win the US Open last year, but I stayed focused, kept working, kept running those stairs and those miles.”

Until her victory here the cynics still doubted her desire. Williams said that what had hurt most were the suggestions that she was unfit and overweight, particularly as she says she is the same size and weight as five years ago.

“I felt I was really fit,” she said. “Because I’m larger in some areas than other girls and don’t have a flat chest and a flat ass, people said I wasn’t fit. But I was looking in the mirror today and I said to myself: ‘Am I fit or what?’ My waist is 28 inches.

“I went three sets with Shahar Peer and Nadia Petrova here and the next day I practised at seven in the morning. I wasn’t tired at all. I was ready for the whole tournament. I was never not ready, even though I feel I could be better.” Independent Online

Sampras is back!

Monday, January 29th, 2007

It looks like he is scheduled to play twice this year - the second tour event he’ll play in is not yet announced, but the first is rumored to be the Outback Champions Series, May 2-6 at Boston University’s Agganis Arena. The formal announcement appears to be scheduled for tomorrow.

“This is kind of my first dive into the waters, so to speak, to see how I feel and play a match I really want to win,” Sampras, owner of a record 14 Grand Slam singles titles, said in a telephone interview with the AP.

“I still love the sport — I practice two, three times a week — but I don’t miss the grind. This is a time to catch up with old competitors, old friends, and see if I still have a few things left in the bag,” he said. ESPN

Here’s some good info about the other contenders (from the same source):

John McEnroe and series co-founder Jim Courier also will be in the eight-man field in Boston, where there will be $142,000 in prize money. Michael Chang, Goran Ivanisevic and Mats Wilander are other major champions who have participated in the Outback Champions Series, which is entering its second full season. To qualify, a player must have reached a Grand Slam singles final, been ranked in the top five, or played singles on a Davis Cup championship team.

Venus joins the Fed Cup team, maybe Serena also?

Monday, January 29th, 2007

“Venus is really looking forward to playing Fed Cup this year,” Garrison said during a teleconference call. “Venus contacted me around the end of November and said she was really interested in playing. She’s excited about trying to bring the Cup back to the U.S.”

Williams has a 13-3 Fed Cup record and helped the United States win the title over Russia in her Fed Cup debut in 1999. The U.S. has won the Fed Cup 17 times, but not since 2000.

Garrison said she’d like to lure Serena Williams, who won her eighth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, onto the Fed Cup roster.

“I have been in talks with Jill Smoller, Serena’s agent, and been texting Serena about playing,” Garrison said. “I think our being back in Delray Beach gives me a lot of edge since it’s close to her home.” ESPN

It’d be nice to get that trophy back into the US - with a healthy Serena and Venus, the chances seem much better.

Serena’s critics don’t back down

Monday, January 29th, 2007

I really love articles like this.

Dressed, partly it has to be said, in luminous lime, Williams proved again that tournaments are there for her taking. Men’s tennis is being overwhelmed by grace while the women’s game explodes in clunky power.

[snipped out some standard Federer worship]

The fascination with Williams - and to a lesser extent nowadays with her older sister Venus - can centre on her personality at the expense of the tennis.

Rather than pour beads of sweat on to the court, she actually poured beads - of the hair-holding variety - on to it once. She turned up at Melbourne last week with what looked from afar like cymbals dangling from the ears. What next? Glockenspiels?

Williams blows hot and cold, lacking the relentless tenacity and spirit of champions through the ages. She may turn up, or she may turn it up.

Her presence, and triumphs, hint at where women’s tennis may get to, rather than where it has been. Surely, a player or players will emerge with not only her brute force but also the guile of Martina Hingis, the heart of Chris Evert, the athleticism of Martina Navratilova to take women’s tennis to a brilliant new place.

There are times, in witnessing Williams, when you feel you are most definitely watching the world No 81 - the men’s 81 that is. Accolades tumbled towards Williams, who is returning from a knee injury, but women’s power tennis can look like bad men’s tennis.

Left to more lithe beings such as Sharapova, the women’s game contains itself within borders where it thrills at its own particular level. But plant more muscular figures such as Williams there, and it can appear worse (to some eyes) even though it is being played better.

Michelle Wie has downgraded women’s golf because her disastrous foray into men’s tournaments has highlighted the gap between the sexes. Likewise, Serena Williams has shown that relatively unskilled and cumbersome power can obliterate the next best. Williams lacks the subtleties, the touches, the elegance which always serves tennis so well and takes the breath away, as Federer does.

It would be no surprise at all if Williams disappeared back into the world of her sponsor-emblazoned handbag, to emerge as a winner again only when she has the rub of the green.

You know that your argument lacks any technical basis when you have to make fun of a attire - from the beads to dresses and earrings…we’re all back in grade school! At least that is a somewhat legitimate thing to dislike - what I really don’t understand is the belief that Serena Williams (or any other player) owes it to tennis to be in shape and always playing. Personally, while I am no huge Serena cheerleader, I could care less if she enters a tournament and wins even though she hasn’t played in years. By doing this, she isn’t ruining the game or anything - she is just playing. That’s how it works -why judge her? I actually think (even though she claims to not read the press) that Serena feeds off of commentary like that of the moron quoted above. She doesn’t seem like the type of person who craves the approval of the media or fans - but if she can shove it in all of our faces, she surely will enjoy it.

I don’t think anyone understands Serena, including myself. Her choices don’t affect my enjoyment of tennis in the big picture, and her decisions on when and where to compete don’t bother me in the least. She certainly doesn’t owe anyone anything.

As for lacking the grace of Federer, sure. I won’t argue. But how many Federers have we had in the history of tennis? And since when is it winning ugly when you don’t use injury timeouts, coaching from dad, etc? If anyone really thinks the women’s final sucked, then the fault also resides partly with Sharapova for caving so easily.

Murray injured - with blisters

Monday, January 29th, 2007

Laaame. Hasn’t he had enough time off to heal up?

Andy Murray has pulled out of next week’s indoor tournament in Zagreb after suffering a blister on his foot. Murray had been due to fly out to the tournament in Croatia following his exit from the Australian Open.

But the exertions of his five-set fourth-round defeat to world number two Rafael Nadal have taken their toll.

A statement on Murray’s website revealed that the 19-year-old Scot planned to return to action on February 13 when he defends his title in San Jose. Eurosport

Feds does it again, who will stop him in Paris?

Monday, January 29th, 2007

Now we know he is thinking about the French Open Paris - who has the chance to stop him from getting all four slams this year? I have a lot less confidence in Nadal to stop him this year, mostly because I think that Nadal has lost confidence in himself.

The 25-year-old Swiss, in defeating the gutsy Fernando González, became the fourth man to win a grand-slam title without dropping a set, only one of whom — Björn Borg, at the 1980 French Open — played a full seven best-of-five-set matches. Ken Rosewall, who was perched in the VIP box here, played five matches in the 1971 Australian Open at Kooyong, having received a first-round bye in a 64-man draw.

This was Federer’s tenth grand-slam title, equalling the record of Bill Tilden, the American legend of the 1920s who won seven of his at the US Open, five against the same foe, Bill Johnson. Federer does at least face a new challenge every now and again, González being the eighth man to have been disposed of on these gala occasions. Federer has lost only one grand-slam final, to Rafael Nadal in Paris last June.

Last year in Melbourne, Federer dropped the first set of the final to Marcos Baghdatis, of Cyprus, who then tightened up and could not make the most of his early effervescence. Yesterday, in a brisk wind that played havoc with the usually faultless Federer forehand, González stuck to his guns, floating his backhand slice, pounding away when the opportunities arose on his own famed forehand and ruffling the champion to the extent that the Chilean had two chances to claim the first set at 5-4. In that game alone, Federer played three — for him — appalling forehands.

But it is at these moments that a challenger has to take his chances and, quite often, the reality of what he might achieve blunts his instincts. Times

Anna Kournikova answers 20 questions…and one is about Playboy magazine…

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

And some of them are about tennis!

1. How’s your game right now?

Well, it’s OK. Obviously, it’s not on a professional level. I play a few times a week, you know, and that’s it. I’m just looking forward to being back in Chicago and playing with Jim and Jana and John. We always have a great time together.

2. How’s your back?

My back is fine. I’m not working out excessively, as a professional aims to, and it doesn’t really bother me when I’m working out for pleasure.

3. How’s Enrique?

He’s very good. He’s working and finishing his album up, so he’s going good.

4. Australian tabloids “report” that you guys are secretly married; are you married or do you plan to?

Huh? I think I’m a little young to be married, and I don’t really necessarily think about it much. I think that everybody can be together if they want to be together [as couples] and if they want to get married, it’s great, whatever. I don’t really pay much attention to that.

5. The Super Bowl’s going to be in Miami – have you been invited to see the Bears and Colts?

No, I don’t really have any plans to go yet. … I don’t really know [which team] will win. I’m not much of a football fan. I know so little.

6. What did you have for breakfast?

I had oatmeal.

7. Why is it the most important meal of the day?

It is, because you need energy for the rest of the day. It’s great for your metabolism, and it’s a healthy way to start your day. There’s no description of how healthy having breakfast is. It’s making a dedication to start the day the right way.

8. People in the media in the past have called you an overrated tennis player. But you were ranked as high as No. 8 in the world in singles, and at times have been considered the best doubles player going. Does it upset you that the perception was more or less opposite of the truth?

I tried to be immune to the criticism, because if you’re going to believe everything that they’re going to say, you can go crazy. You just have to think about what’s really important for you, and what’s the truth – and you know it – and that’s all. I did the best I could under the circumstances.

9. Was any of the criticism fair?

Probably. I can’t point to one thing, but yes. I criticize myself all the time, too. Nothing is perfect.

10. Why are you such a good doubles player?

Maybe it was just natural. I always had a game of mixing up shots with variety, and that works with doubles. It really works when you have good hands and you come to the net, so maybe that’s why.

11. What do you think of Maria Sharapova?

I think she’s great. She works hard; she deserves her success. She’s great for tennis.

12. What do you know about Chicago?

I’ve been to Chicago a few times, but I haven’t seen the heart of the city in a long time. I’m just looking forward to being in the cold and seeing the beautiful sky-scraping scene. I’m excited to be in a city with energy.

13. What is McEnroe like?

He’s great. He’s fun; he’s energetic; he’s got character. He’s awesome.

14a. Do you get back home to Russia at all?

Once or twice a year, I will stop by. But mainly my family comes here to visit, so I don’t really have much of a reason to go.

14b. Is there anything you miss that you can’t get here – food or a feeling?

To really experience Russia, you have to be there. So even if I had Russian food, it wouldn’t be the same. You have to be in Russia. But I’m really adaptable. I’m kind of used to bouncing around and traveling around. It really doesn’t matter where I am, as long as I’m with the right group of people.

15. Would you do anything differently about your career?

I think about that time, when you thought “it was the right way” to do it a certain way. I wouldn’t be where I am in my whole life if I hadn’t done some of the things I did. The only thing I wish really would have been different was being healthier. I had many disappointing injuries.

16. Would you do anything like pose for Playboy Magazine?

Oh my God. Right now? No! I don’t think so [laughs]. I’m sure I have been asked in the past, but my agents and people around me didn’t even convey the message to me because it’s not an option. It was never an option before, and it’s certainly not an option now. It’s not something I’m interested in. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. I just feel like I’d probably be too embarrassed.

17. The Sports Illustrated shoot you did a couple of years ago would be the extent of something like that?

Yeah, I mean Sports Illustrated … it’s all about who’s comfortable with what. I don’t think I would be very comfortable doing [a Playboy] type of thing.

18. Do you like attention less than you used yo?

When I was young, I really didn’t care about the attention. I definitely went with it. Now, in the past few years, I’ve become much more shy in the public eye. I try to [control] putting myself in that situation. I try to lead a normal, simple life and I don’t really, you know, go to many things. I’m not every day in public. Now it’s more restrictive that I go to events that I believe in and want to support. That’s when I put myself out there.

19a. What would you like to do with the rest of your life?

I’m still so young. I’m only 25. Only just now in the last couple years I’m experiencing a normal world outside of being a professional athlete – which is pretty narrow-minded. I’m exploring a lot of things. I’m doing a lot with the Boys and Girls Clubs; that’s really my main passion right now. We’ll see what will happen. I’ll just keep working with kids. That’s what I really enjoy.

19b. Would you like to have kids of your own, maybe start a family?

Someday, of course. It’s not something that I have, like, certain plans for, or anything. I don’t like planning things. I don’t like to jinx stuff [laughs].

20. In some ways, do you feel older than 25?

Yes and no. Every year I get older, I’m like, “How much smarter am I now, and how stupid was I when I was 18 or 20 or even 24?” I do feel older because I have experienced so much, I’ve traveled so much. In certain ways I feel older, and in certain ways I feel like a kid. I feel like, with every year [that passes], “Oh my God, I really didn’t know ANYTHING!” And I still don’t. It’s a mixed feeling. It depends on the topic. NW Herald

Gonzo had a set point…

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

A few of them actually. I was ready to celebrate - this is a match against Federer, after all. I may not be a Federer fan, but I know the guy is amazingly good, and you bet I will celebrate someone taking a set off of him. Now, at 6-5 in favor of Feds, I can only hope Gonzo will get another chance…