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Archive for December, 2007

Photos: Victoria Azarenka

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

She’s being touted as the next hot thing in women’s tennis, so I wanted to share a few photos I took of Victoria Azarenka in Miami a few years ago - click each photo for a better version.

nasdaq 682

nasdaq 694

More players disappointed in new AO Plexicushion surface

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Plexicushion is not going to get a break this year - media attention toward unfavorable comments about the surface has increased and just about the only fans of it left are Lleyton Hewitt and the Plexicushoion makers themselves. Weighing in this time around we have Jelena Jankovic and Novak Djokovic, who experienced the surface at the Hopman Cup. Defendants of the surface (the manufacturer) have hinted that it will take time to “break in” the surface - in that case, I’d hope that was built into the installation time planned for the new surfaces in Melbourne.

Here’s what Jelena said: “I thought it was going to be faster but it seems to be a lot slower. It seems quite (a lot) slower than the Rebound Ace that I played on last year in Sydney and Melbourne. The balls get really fluffy. Here it’s indoors, so maybe it’s a bit of a different story. I don’t know how it will play outside.”

Djokovic was a bit more optimistic: “When the surface is new, it gets rough and it’s pretty slow, but after a couple of days or a week, it can get faster. We’ll see in a couple of days how it goes, but for now, it’s pretty slow.”

And Mardy Fish says that he just isn’t a fan of the surface.

Hopman Cup: US makes do without Serena

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Apparently Serena is out witha cold, not knee trouble. We’ll see if she makes the next match.

The United States made light of the temporary absence of Serena Williams as they took an unassailable 2-0 lead over India in their opening Group A match at the Hopman Cup on Saturday. Reuters

Myskina is pregnant

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

The original news story is in Russian, and google translator does an absolutely horrible job of translating, so here is the summary: she’s pregnant (she claims 4 months, but I’d guess about 5 based on photos), single and has no plans to get married in the near future. She’s also not talking about who the dad is…

Here’s the Google translated page in case you want a laugh.
Assuming this is true, it looks like she won’t be in another French Open final.

Monfils is injured

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Gael Monfils won’t make an appearance playing in the Hopman Cup. He’s being replaced by Arnaud Clement.

The 21-year-old Monfils, who was due to partner Tatiana Golovin in the Perth based tournament beginning on Saturday, was forced to withdraw after succumbing to tendonitis in his knee, an injury that also makes him a doubt for the Australian Open.

Switzerland-based Clement, who was an Australian Open finalist in 2001 before playing in the Hopman Cup the following year, will open the French campaign against Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela, partnered by Gisela Dulko, on Sunday.

Why do female tennis players grunt?

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Man, I would pay to see Jennifer Capriati tell Monica Seles to “shut the f*** up”!

Why do female tennis players grunt?

Maria Sharapova currently holds tennis’s grunting record with a shriek measured at 101.2 decibels, which is comparable to a police car siren. Despite objections from opponents, tennis fans and officials, she has no plans to change her habit. At press conferences, Sharapova has proudly worn a T-shirt bearing the slogan “I feel pretty when I grunt”. On the strength of her results she should carry on screaming: she was uncharacteristically quiet against Serena Williams in the final of the 2007 Australian Open, and went down accordingly in straight sets. She was also hushed when Justine Henin-Hardenne brought her 19-match winning run to an end in Madrid in November 2007.

A handful of male players have also grunted their way to victory, including Rafael Nadal, Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi, although the latter once failed to defeat Ivan Lendl in the US Open despite being allowed to go on screaming the court down in the face of his opponent’s protests. But it was only in 1992 that Monica Seles made the first steps towards making grunting an issue for tennis fans. Her 83 decibels – modest by today’s standards – inspired The Sun newspaper to create the “Gruntometer”. During that year’s Wimbledon tournament, Jennifer Capriati is said to have shouted at Seles to “Shut the fuck up!”, while an exasperated Martina Navratilova complained that her opponent sounded “like a stuck pig”. Finally, an umpire asked Seles to contain herself. Suitably warned, she lost in the final to Steffi Graf.

Action from the authorities has since been less conspicuous. When Wimbledon’s chief referee Alan Mills retired in 2005, he complained that officials can only act if the offender is “shown to be making the noises on purpose, which is virtually impossible to do”, and called for a crackdown. But today, thanks to Seles, Sharapova and many others, grunting is so common that it rarely provokes comment, which is odd when spectators are ordered to be quiet so as not to distract the players.

This is unfortunate, since grunting is clearly a form of gamesmanship even if, for Sharapova, it is not something done deliberately. It is rumoured that coaches are teaching players to use grunting as an integral part of their game, whether because it helps to focus aggression – rather like a martial artist breaking a plank – or because it intimidates one’s opponent. Nick Bollettieri, the sport’s most celebrated trainer, disagrees with that: “Never once has that entered into my mind. But I believe releasing your energy is good because if you don’t, it tightens up the body.” The celebrated American varsity coach Bill Maze said that he had never taught grunting to his students, but argues, “It’s certainly strategic sometimes. The grunts seem to get louder when the point is bigger. These players are probably doing whatever they can to get an edge over their opponents.”

The worst offenders insist that it is not a tactic to gain an advantage, but simply an involuntary release at a moment of exertion. However, cricketers and baseball players score sixes and home runs without bellowing, and high jumpers manage to clear the bar without shouting themselves over it. Even in tennis itself, Chris Evert and Billie Jean King played in silence, while Roger Federer, arguably the best player of all time, hits his hardest shots with barely a murmur.

As Martina Navratilova explained at the beginning of the dispute in 1992, there is more to grunting than merely irritating the opposition. The sound made by the strings of a racquet striking the ball gives the skilled player an important clue about the speed and spin of the ball they are about to face. Drowning this sound out with a loud grunt is going to deny that information to your adversary. Even if grunting does help to add power to a smash, it’s important to note that Sharapova shrieks even when she lobs the ball. Independent

Great answer to this question!

Serena delays her start of the Hopman Cup

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Serena is still trying to get her knee in top form before the AO starts…

Serena Williams is still recovering from the knee injury that forced her to pull out of the WTA Tour’s season-ending championships in Madrid in November and will miss the opening match of the Hopman Cup in Perth.

Last year’s Australian Open winner had been scheduled to take on India’s Sania Mirza (SAHN’-yuh MEER’-zah) on Saturday in the first match of the team event, but will be replaced by Meghan Shaughnessy.

Tournament officials say Williams will not arrive in the Western Australia state capital until the weekend, and plans to play for the Americans in Monday’s match against the Czech Republic.


Is anybody expecting a repeat of last year for Serena?

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Tennis Channel: Win Tickets to the 2009 Australian Open

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

The Tennis Channel is running a sweepstakes (and info gathering on how many of us get the Tennis Channel) for a two person trip to the 2009 Australian Open. If you are interested in entering the contest, the entry form is here.

Nadal and Federer - in the locker room

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

Here’s a few stories from this past year - one where Nadal and Federer cross paths after a match and another of how Nadal dealt with his loss of Wimbledon.

Fast forward to the semi-finals of the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai in November.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have barely walked off centre court and the pair cross paths in a corridor.

Federer has hardly broken a sweat destroying Nadal 6-4 6-1.

In another world, Nadal would have shunned contact with Federer at all costs.

Eye contact would have been avoided. Token conversation likewise.

But here is Nadal, effortlessly juggling a soccer ball off his arms, shoulders and feet as part of his warm down in front of an entranced Federer.

Instinctively, Federer joins in as the two best tennis players in the world chat while keeping the ball in the air.

After a few minutes marvelling at Nadal’s deft footwork, Federer generously declares the Spaniard has superior skills to Diego Maradona.

The men exchange smiles and Nadal happily takes his leave.

It is a new world. Fraternity has returned at the top and Nadal, at 21, is content to lead the way with Federer.

There is no doubt the muscular Spaniard would have handled himself in Cash’s era. Equally, there is no question over Nadal’s mental toughness.

Amazingly, he has been unable to use running as a training tool since 2005 because of stress fractures in his feet.

But he has remained world No. 2, behind Federer, while winning three successive French Open crowns and forging a rare winning head-to-head record (8-6) against the Swiss master.

Nadal’s affection for Federer has not blunted his desire to topple him, but his most savage setback in 2007 came at Federer’s hands in a stupendous Wimbledon final.

The Spaniard’s low point came about 7.30pm on July 8 in the wood-panelled All England Club locker room.

It was the moment Nadal was driven to tears amid the realisation the Wimbledon title and the season-ending No. 1 ranking had slipped through his hands.

As usual, there was no public sign of Nadal’s angst.

“When I arrived to the locker room, I sat down and, as it’s normal after losing the final of the tournament that you dream of winning, against the (world) No. 1 and with lots of chances, I started to cry of anger, of sadness,” Nadal said.

“It’s been the only match of the year that I’ve cried and one of the few in my career.

“It was a really close match. I was 20 or 25 minutes there (crying). When people started arriving, I sat down inside the tub. They were cheering me up.

“I thanked them and I asked for being alone. I don’t like people witnessing me crying.” Herald Sun

Aw, how sweet. I hope Nadal makes it back to the Wimby finals in 2008!

Stosur to miss Australian Open

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

As we get closer, I expect the list of players who are injured and unable to compete in the AO to increase…

Stosur announced on Christmas Eve that she could not play at her home event - the Australian Women’s Hardcourts on the Gold Coast starting on Sunday.

She will also miss the Sydney International a week later and then the Australian Open in Melbourne, which starts on January 14.

“It was a very tough decision - it stressed me out for a couple of days and I spoke to a lot of people,” she said.

“But they all thought I was doing the right thing, which backed up my own thinking.

“It’s not a smart move to play when I’m nowhere near 100 per cent, to be out there competing. As much as I want to play, I’m not going to risk my whole season.”

Stosur has been gradually rebuilding her strength and speed but she knew about a week ago that she was losing the battle to contemplate three tournaments in succession.

“I was hitting up (last week) and thinking, ‘I really should be playing sets now and starting some practice matches’ and I just knew I totally wasn’t ready for that,” she said.

“It’s a different story to be working on your fitness as opposed to being ready to play tournaments at this level.”

From the outset of her diagnosis, doctors told her to take it slowly.

“I probably need an extra four to eight weeks to be where I want to be and I don’t have that time right now,” Stosur said.

“If I did go out and push it and put myself under that kind of stress, physically and mentally, I might be fine, but I might not.

“It’s not a risk I want to take right now.”

But rather than return to her northern hemisphere base in Florida, Stosur will remain at the Gold Coast. She is unsure of her exact tournament return, but it could be in March. That would definitely rule out the Fed Cup zonal play-offs in Thailand, which start on January 29. The Australian