Monday, June 30, 2008

Upsets--they're not just for singles

There were more upsets in Wimbledon doubles play today. The unseeded team of Ekaterina Makarova and Selima Sfar defeated 9th seeds Yan Zi and Zheng Jie, 7-6, 6-4. 11th seeds Venus Williams and Serena Williams defeated number 5 seeds Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual, 6-1, 6-4.

Molik gets wild card for Olympics

From On the Baseline comes news that bronze medal holder Alicia Molik has been awarded a wild card into the 2008 Olympics.

Other players receiving wild cards are Maria Koryttseva, Chan Yung-Jan, Ayumi Morita, Nuria Llagostera Vives, and Selima Sfar.

Wimbledon--a look back

If you haven't read Todd Spiker's entertaining and fact-filled Backspin Time Capsule; 1990 Wimbledon, Part 1, now is a good time to do so. If you remember the 1990 goings-on, you'll enjoy reliving them. And if you're relatively new to tennis fandom, you can get some quick perspective.

A new record

With today's elimination of Svetlana Kuznetsova from the Wimbledon draw, the top four seeds have be defeated prior to the quarterfinals. This is the first time this has occurred in a major tournament within the Open Era.

In praise of Bethanie Mattek

I have always enjoyed Bethanie Mattek. She has a great attitude, is most entertaining, and is her own woman. She has always had a really good serve and a pretty good game, but has not known how to use her skills to win matches. Over a year ago, she announced that she was getting a new coach (with whom she is no longer working), dismantling her game, and starting over. She said it would be at least a year before she saw any meaningful results from this change. I admired her for that because it demonstrated patience and desire. Then, after last year's U.S. Open, she disappeared for three months in order to make herself physically stronger and more agile. She did a lot of yoga and yoga-like exercises, and she came back in much better shape.

Mattek's doubles game began to improve, and--as with so many players--the better she did in doubles, the more she improved her singles skills. She and Vladimira Uhlirova won the doubles championship in Amelia Island in April.

Now, because of all this thoughtful planning and hard work, there is a new Bethanie Mattek on the tour, and her opponents may not like seeing her across the net from them. Getting to the Wimbledon round of 16 and being taken out, 6-3, 6-3 by Serena Williams amounts to having had a very fine run. The articulate and engaging Mattek has re-created herself, and it will be interesting to see how far she can go.

What they said--day 7

"I was almost playing in the parking lot. I almost need a helicopter to go to my court."
Jelena Jankovic seems some of the top women--Jelena Jankovic was on Court 18--have to play out and around the courts, whereas certainly Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are never asked to leave centre and No. 1.
"Well, you said it. It's true."
Venus Williams

Were you aware that Jankovic, the No. 2 seed, played on Court 18?
"18, I saw that, yeah. That was kind of bonkers, yeah."
Bethanie Mattek

"Can I say, wow, wow, wow?"
Tamarine Tanasugarn

Is there anything atmosphere-wise that you like about playing on Court 2...
"I'm actually really tall, so I feel a little cramped."
Venus Williams

"It's not worth it to be scared out there. You get a chance, you might as well go for it."
Bethanie Mattek

...your press conference, your first one, was so fresh and alive, and it showed so much--
"Are you saying it's not fresh and alive now?"
Alla Kudryavtseva

What are those differences and similarities between you and Venus when you play each other?
"I think Venus hits harder serves than I do...You don't have to nod your head that vigorously."
Serena Williams

"I was making a joke....I thought, well, if I just say, well, it's only tennis and everything, it will be quite boring. So I decided to freshen it up, and look what happened."
Alla Kudrysvtseva, on how reporters took her cheeky comment regarding Sharapova's outfit (and the sports press) and turned it into an "insult"

(And speaking of Kudryavtseva, be sure to check out her funniest interview moment.)

This and that from Wimbledon

Nadia Petrova's hip injury has still not been diagnosed.

Jelena Jankovic, on the other hand, has been diagnosed with a meniscus tear. She probably should not have played her round of 16 match, but at least--as far as we know--she did not increase the injury by playing. Since overplaying last year, Jankovic has turned into a walking injury. For fans like me, things do not look too good.

A member of the sports press, who apparently has been living on a deserted island for the last several years, wanted to know if anyone ever calls Tamarine Tanasugarn anything but "Tamarine."

Bethanie Mattek is hoping to get a clothing sponsor that will let her have her own line--fingers crossed.

The All England Club, hampered by having to dole out equal pay, nevertheless found a way to announce to the world whom it considers more important: For the round of 16, the defending champion was put on the graveyard court, and the second seed had to trek to court 18. (Of course, all pronouncements of equality will be considered false until we see a women's final on Sunday at a major.)

And the Martina Hingis Charming Broken English Award goes to Alla Kudryavtseva for this:
...but your press conference, your first one, was so fresh and alive...Well, the other day you seemed, if I could say, you seemed so much more...

As always, U.S. coverage is nonsensical

Today, for an hour, there was no Wimbledon coverage on television in the U.S. During that hour, Mario Ancic and Fernando Verdasco were engaged in what may have been the biggest thriller on the men's side so far. That match had ended by the time coverage resumed on NBC, but it would not have mattered because NBC showed the Serena Williams/Bethanie Mattek match, which had already concluded.

It is really hard for me to believe that American tennis fans (meaning, people who watch for more than five minutes) did not want to watch Svetlana Kuznetsova play Agnieszka Radwanska or Elena Dementieva play Shahar Peer...or how about Rafael Nadal, who was playing on Court 1?

We could just as well watch Serena Williams and Bethanie Mattek in the late afternoon or at night, when all play has been completed. I'm glad I subscribe to Wimbledon Live. If I didn't, I'd be miserable about now.

Wimbledon day 7--the upsets continue

Nicole Vaidisova came from behind to defeat Anna Chakvetadze at Wimbledon today

Anna Chakvetadze's meltdown in her Wimbledon round of 16 match against Nicole Vaidisova was as tragic as anything in sports that you could call tragic (which is actually nothing, but this was pretty bad). Chakvetadze played a brilliant first set, with a service game--first and second serves--that would be the envy of any player on the tour. She also played a very clean set, disguised her shots beautifully, and used the court savvy that got her to the top 10.

In the second set, Vaidisova became more focused, and made it harder for Chakvetadze to make points. This should not have really bothered Chakvetadze that much, considering the level at which she was playing, but we are talking about Anna Chakvetadze here. Vaidisova took control and even handed her opponent a bagel in the tiebreak. One of the commentators said he expected Vaidisova to surge ahead in the second set, then wilt a bit, and we would see Chakvetadze take over again. That is exactly what I expected.

What actually occurred was that Chakvetadze went to pieces. We used to see Chakvetadze do this a long time ago, but--despite being perennially inconsistent--she had gotten more of a grip on herself. But since the traumatic event that occurred in her life in December, Chakvetadze has not been able to do much of anything. She continued her decline in the third set until near the end, when some switch was turned on in her head, and she began to be competitive again. When Vaidisova was serving at 4-2, I thought Chakvetadze would break her, but she didn't. She did hold, though, and managed to bring Vaidisova's next game to deuce. She had a great opportunity to get a break point, too, but she blew it, and in another moment, Vaidisova won the match, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3.

A few days ago, Chakvetadze told the press that she was no longer troubled by the violent break-in that occurred at her house the end of last year. Perhaps she said that so she would not sound like she was making an excuse for her problems. Always a bit fragile, Chakvetadze is now in really bad shape, and it is hard to believe that her current state is not a result of the terrible thing that happened to her and her family six months ago.

Meanwhile, the trainers worked overtime in the match between Jelena Jankovic and Tamarine Tanasugarn. Jankovic's knee was giving her trouble again, and Tanasugarn complained about her back. It looked like a walk-in clinic out there. It also looked like a disaster for Jankovic, who was never in control of the match. Tanasugarn, for her part, stayed steady and let her grass skills glide her to a straight set victory--6-3, 6-2.

So the number 8 seed and the number 2 seed went out, but that wasn't the end of it. Wild card Zheng Jie, who removd top seed Ana Ivanovic from the tournament, defeated number 15 seed Agnes Szavay, 6-3, 6-4. I didn't see any of this match, but Zheng's grass skills are considerable, so it was not a total surprise.

Later, number 14 seed Agnieszka Radwanska took advantage of a mentally fragile (imagine that) Svetlana Kuznetsova, and the fourth seed went out, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tour website publishes useful Wimbledon round of 16 stats

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour website has an informative feature, "Fourth Round Facts," that will tell you just about everything you could want to know about the players in the Wimbledon round of 16. This is a reference you will want to check before you watch the matches or while you are watching them.

Venus Rosewater dish

A little history.

Experts' picks updated

Right here.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What they said--day 6

"I really like the clothes. I think it's great. I mean, it's different. That's what I want; I want to wear something different."
Nadia Petrova on her ELEVEN outfit

"I usually I don't know the day. Like today I didn't know it was Saturday. I just knew it was third round."
Venus Williams

A lot of the big names have lost in the tournament, a lot of upsets.
"And I was thinking maybe I'm the next one."
Jelena Jankovic

Wimbledon day 6: How much drama can you stand?

It was a bad day for legs. Jelena Jankovic, to no one's surprise, injured her leg when she stretched out wide, and had to see a trainer. The trainer wrapped her knee to the hilt, and Jankovic said it restricted her movement so much, she could not play. So, to the trainer's dismay, Jankovic had the wrap removed, and she somehow got through the match, defeating a very feisty Caroline Wozniacki, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. An MRI is being done of the bad leg, and we should no more tomorrow. Needless to say, fans (like me) are not happy with this development.

Then there was Dinara Safina, who played an error-filled first set against Shahar Peer, and moved on to an error-filled second set. About the time that I said "Is Safina going to pull one of those Berlin/French Open numbers about now?"--she pulled one. Some switch got turned on, and once again, Safina picked up her game significantly, winning the second set. She was totally switched on for the third set, though it was still a tight contest because the skillful, indefatigable Peer was on the other side of the net. What began as a somewhat ugly match turned into a thriller.

But all was not well with the French Open finalist. During the third set of this marathon event (doesn't Peer have a tendency to create these?), Safina's thigh began to cramp. She saw the trainer twice, and when she had used up her medical time-outs, she massaged her thigh with an ice pack. Toward the end of the last set, she was unable to put any weight on her bad side, so her serve went all to hell. Tossing puffballs at Peer, she still managed to stay in the contest, but finally--in tears with pain and frustration, she double-faulted her way out of the match. It was hard to watch the fighting Russian fade away like this. On the other hand, if she had been awake during the first set, it would never have come to this.

And talk about adding insult to injury: After Safina's terrible and physically painful defeat, she had to go play doubles. There she was, on the doubles court, playing on one leg, and serving to...Shahar Peer.

I only hope this defeat does not cause Safina to return to her former mental state; she needs to continue seeing herself as a winner. Hear that, Dinara?

Peer def. Safina, 7-5, 6-7, 8-6

Another thriller was the match between grass veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn and rising star Marina Erakovic. The action was fast and the lines were penetrated again and again by both players. At one point in the third set, Erakovic hit four aces in a row. Tanasugarn played a cleaner match, however, and now goes to her seventh Wimbledon round of 16.

Tanasugarn def. Erakovic, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4

Also advancing to the round of 16 are defending champion Venus Williams (def. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez), Elena Dementieva (def. Gisela Dulko in a very close match), Nadia Petrova (def. Victoria Azarenka in an even closer match), Alla Kudryavtseva (def. Peng Shuai), and Alisa Kleybanova (defeated Ai Sugiyama).

I expected the Dementieva-Dulko match to be very close. I must have been the only one; it was all the commentators on ESPN could do to even acknowledge that she was on the court. Dementieva's victory was her first over Dulko.

Kudryavtseva is to be commended for not succumbing to the ususal fate of giant-killers.

Friday, June 27, 2008

An all-Williams final? I don't think so

The idea of a Williams-Williams Wimbledon final has emerged in a big way now that both Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic are out. I really do not like it when the sisters play each other in finals. But I also do not believe it is going to happen. What do you think?

Didn't we just go through all this with the election?

Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post, who originally wrote about Justin Gimelstob's misogynistic radio rant, just cannot figure out why poor Justin is being chastised.

One comment poster at the New York Daily News likened the so-called sanctions (more like a wink and a nudge) to the goings-on of Communist China and the Communist U.S.S.R. against its enemies. Another poster even thought it was disgraceful that the virtue of "honesty" was being destroyed. That one is at least original--almost all of Gimelstob's other defenders insist he did not mean any of what he said.

One woman commented on a blog that she can no longer call herself a feminist (oh, dear) if this is the kind of thing with which feminism concerns itself.

Here are some things to think about for those (including fake feminists) who have obviously never in their lives thought about them before:

"Trash talk" is not harmless; it normalizes hate speech and teaches children that hate speech is acceptable.

Gimelstob, in his original "apology," edited by Tennis Channel, World Team Tennis, etc., made it clear that what he said about Kournikova was not trash talk, anyway--that he really does hate her.

If Gimelstob hates Kournikova, it may be classless for him to talk about it on the radio or it may be exciting, but he could have discussed her personality and failings as a human without hurling a gender insult at her, and without creating a sexually violent metaphor with which to attack her. When you attack a person's gender, race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, etc., you are attacking everyone of that gender, race, etc. You are also a bigot. When you display your violent sexual fantasies in public, you are kind of scary.

If you despise someone or have no respect for her, you can find plenty of things to say about her character, her personality, her associations, her history. But no matter how much you hate her, it is still inappropriate to attack her gender.

Pointing out your opinions about WTA players' bodies on a radio program is both sexist and crass.

Suggesting that you consider a woman so much trash but you would receive pleasure from having your brother have sex with her is both sexist and sick. It also implies a strong adherence to the ridiculous sexual double standard (what a surprise), and it reeks of misogyny.

When you have been making sexist comments for years, neither you nor your apologists should be surprised that many women and men finally insist that you stop.

A public figure does not represent only himself, but every organization with which he is involved or who pays him. In Gimelstob's case, that would include Tennis Channel, World Team Tennis, Tennis Warehouse, Wilson, and other entitites. World Team Tennis was founded by Billie Jean King, for god's sake, who risked her entire career to bring about some semblance of gender equality in sports. To be part of the orgainzation she founded and say humiliating things about women is beyond cheeky.

"Jokes" about gender, race, sexual orientation, etc., are usually clumsily masked expressions of hostility.

Taking one small quotation and saying "oh come on, it's not such a big deal," while ignoring the other dozen things Gimelstob said (not to mention years' worth of demeaning comments about women)--not only about Kournikova, but about other members of the tour--is neither rational nor honest.

Random Wimbledon observations

  • Nadia Petrova looks really nice in ELEVEN BY VENUS WILLIAMS.
  • Maria Sharapova's tuxedo design looked better as a drawing than it did on the court. I suspect it would look very good in black, but I do not really care for it that much in white. Neither does Alla Kudryavtseva.
  • I was relieved to hear Bethanie Mattek declare that she has not put away her wild clothes forever.
  • Edina Gallovits has withdrawn from her next two tournaments. If she hurt herself during her only Wimbledon doubles match, it would explain the early exit she made with her partner, Olga Govortsova. That first round loss really surprised me.
  • Alona Bondarenko has also withdrawn from her next two events. That knee injury seems pretty bad.
  • After today, will someone please tell Walter Bartoli to stop with the endless on-court drills? There is no way these hours-long drills have not contributed to Bartoli's chronic injuries. Hey, Dr. Bartoli--I'm telling you.
  • Watching Billie Jean King hawk Nutrisystem is creeping me out.
  • Bethanie Mattek--bless her--actually told reporters to stop mispronouncing her name. What a concept...

Getting interesting

The 2004 champion is out.

The 2006 champion is out.

The 2007 finalist is out.

The top seed is out.

The good news about Amelie Mauresmo is that she is looking more like herself again, but a paler version. How sad that we will not get to see more of that gorgeous game next week. Here's hoping she continues to improve, and can find her complete game again. Before everything fell apart, she and Serena Williams had a bit of a rivalry going, so perhaps today's match inspired the 2006 champion.

Will there be any more big Wimbledon upsets? I think there will be.

Ivanovic out--not the biggest shocker of the day

Zheng Jie signs autographs in Charleston; she proably signed a lot of them today

World number 1 and top seed Ana Ivanovic made a third round exit from Wimbledon today. For many of us, this was not a surprise. Ivanovic herself said that everything just went too fast for her.

What was shocking, however, was the second round doubles exit of number 2 seeds Ai Sugiyama and Katarina Srebotnik, who lost to the unseeded team of Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, two Americans, who beat them, 2-6, 6-3, 11-9.

What they said--day 5

"I really am not paying attention to that, and I don't want to give it any more significance than it has already received."
Anna Kournikova on Justin Gimelstob's misogynistic attacks on her

Do you feel you'll never be a complete tennis player until you have a Grand Slam?
"I have a Grand Slam."
Svetlana Kuznetsova

"I just tried my best and had to keep going, going."
Zheng Jie

"I think it was good. I really liked it. I step on Maria's side."
Svetlana Kuznetsova on Sharapova's Wimbledon outfit

"Right now I've played, you know, I don't know how many matches in a row. If I would have done this last year I would have been in a stretcher going off the court."
Bethanie Mattek

Gimelstob's latest "punishment"

World Team Tennis suspended him for one match, without pay. Ouch--that hurts! I also read that he apologized to WTT and to Kournikova. But there has still been no public apology to Kournikova, and no apology from him while he is on television.

Of course, any apology he makes is phony because one does not recover from a lifetime of bigotry in a flash. He will continue to make sexist remarks--as will his fellow commentators--and he will get away with it. He promised not to make any more horrible misogynistic (my word) remarks, but I doubt he realizes that those are only an extension of the sexist comments he makes constantly.

Friday cat blogging--big baby edition, part 2

Tarzan with one of his favorite possessions, known in our household as his "trashy duck"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pierce chosen to play singles at Olympics

Mary Pierce, who has not played on the tour for a long time because of injuries, has been given the singles berth on the French Olympic team that many assumed would go to Amelie Mauresmo. Mauresmo, who has been plagued with everything from surgery to injury to low confidence for over a year, will still play doubles at the Olympics.

The French singles team will consist of Pierce, Alize Cornet, Virginie Razzano, and Tatiana Golovin. Or at least that is the official story. But given Golovin's fragile condition following surgery for a cyst, I think there is a good chance that Mauresmo will wind up with a singles position on the team.

More seeds out at Wimbledon

Yesterday, the only seeded player to make an exit was Alona Bondarenko, and that was due to her retirement because of her injured knee. Under normal circumstances, Li Na would have been seeded, but she has missed so much play because of injuries that she came into the main draw without a seed and was defeated in the second round.

Today was a different story. The big news, of course, was that number 3 seed Maria Sharapova lost to Alla Kudryavtseva. But that was not the whole upset story:

Number 10 seed Daniela Hantuchova, who had not played a match since April, understandably lost to Alisa Kleybanova. 13th seed Vera Zvonareva lost a closely contested match to grass specialist and Ordina Open winner Tamarine Tanasugarn. Seed number 22 Flavia Pennetta lost to Ai Sugiyama, and seed number 25, Lindsay Davenport--suffering with a bad knee--gave Gisela Dulko a walkover. Number 26 seed Sybille Bammer, who is not having a good season, lost to the always-dangerous Peng Shuai. And number 32 seed Sania Mirza, who is not match-tough at this point, lost to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

How do you solve a problem like Maria? No big deal for Alla...

It has now been four years since Maria Sharapova won the Wimbledon championship. I had a strong feeling that she was finally going to repeat her win this year, and today, that feeling was proven to be, well...just a feeling. Sharapova went out in the second round in straight sets to the talented but inconsistent--and mostly unsuccessful--Alla Kudyravtseva. Kudryavtseva said that in her practice session, "everything worked." Conversely, the world number 2 said that it "just wasn't my day."

Kudyravtseva, who is ranked number 154 in the world, and whose highest ranking so far has been 59, saw vulnerability in Sharapova and went after it. The former champion double-faulted eight times and made more than twice as many unforced errors as her opponent, who played a very clean match. Sharapova's second serve, which used to be the best in women's tennis, failed her miserably. She was able to break Kudyravtseva only twice. Sharapova did outplay Kudyravtseva at the net, and she did hit three aces, but her good moments were too few to get her even a third set. She looked befuddled and out of sorts, and was simply not able to string together enough winning shots to take away her opponent's momentum.

Some of you may recall Kudyravtseva's performance at Wimbledon last year, when she did some deadly free swinging and went after Venus Williams' shaky forehand during a Court 2 first round match. Kudyravtseva pushed Williams to three tough sets, and--had she been just a bit more consistent with her shot-making--would have once again proven why Court 2 is called the graveyard court. This year, the young Russian was given Centre Court to show off in, but as far as Sharapova is concerned, it might just as well have been the graveyard court.

Don't miss Kudyravtseva's droll interview; pity only part of it is on video.

Kudyravtseva def. Sharapova, 6-2, 6-4.

What they said

From day 4 Wimbledon interviews:

What stage did you realize today that Maria was really off her game and she was there for the taking?
"Well, I realized Maria is not playing that great when she double‑faulted three times."
Alla Kudryavtseva

"Some days they don't bounce where you want them to bounce or they don't land where you want them to land."
Maria Sharapova

People say the women's game is predictable. It hasn't been predictable for the last two days.
"It's guys. They always say the women's game is predictable. They always say you women can't serve, you don't go to the net, you can't slice. No, we can do it all. We're strong. Don't listen to them."
Alla Kudryavtseva

Are you watching the football tonight?
Of course. That's why I'm rushing.
Dinara Safina

You suggested the other day that taking the time off between would be better, would be beneficial to you.
"Hey, now I have more time off. Better be careful what I wish for."
Maria Sharapova

Have you ever had a net cord decide a very important point in a match for you?
"No. I need to get a little luckier first, so...I'm working on it."
Venus Williams

You wound up winning the game (in which there was a replay).
"That's one game I didn't lose."
Maria Sharapova

Why (was it especially significant to beat Sharapova)?
"Why? Well, I don't like her outfit. Can I put it this way?"
Alla Kudryavtseva

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"The committee, it seems, didn’t think much of Venus Williams"

Tom Perrotta explains the Wimbledon seeding system. After you read this, you will wonder exactly what is in that tea Perrotta talks about.

Ivanovic answers fans' questions

Here is the follow-up to On the Baseline's exclusive chat with world number 1 Ana Ivanovic.

What they said

From Wimbledon day 3 interviews:

"Maybe today she can go and play lotto also a little bit. It would be a good day for her."
Nathalie Dechy on Ana Ivanovic

How do you relax?
"I don't know. I don't know. I haven't mastered that. I'm open to suggestions."
Serena Williams

"...I had 30-love leads, or even 40-15, and then stupid errors. And then that was that, really."
Elena Baltacha

Did you see what she did at the end of the match, walking up to the net?
"Did she kiss the net?"
"The net deserved it."
Nathalie Dechy on her opponent's netcord moment that saved a match point

New update on Gimelstob issue

Yesterday, I posted an update on the Justin Gimelstob issue. There is now an interesting new development: Tennis Channel has apologized on Gimelstob's behalf, and has posted Gimelstob's "apology," only not all of it. Tennis Channel leaves out the part about his acknowledging that he really does hate Kournikova.

And the "respect" part is a sick joke. Gimelstob is not capable of opening his mouth without saying something demeaning about women.

Wimbledon officials call for the end of pigeon-shooting

The All-England Club has agreed to stop shooting pigeons that hover around the Wimbledon courts. The nuisance pigeons were only innocent living things, so why not kill them, right?

Wimbledon experts' picks updated

The experts' picks list has been updated, as promised.

This has nothing to do with women's tennis

But it does have to do with gender. Leave it to Chris Fowler (or any of the male commentators, for that matter) to refer to Roger Federer's cardigan as a "Mr. Rogers sweater." You would think, after all these years, that Fowler would at least have a clue about what a traditional tennis/croquet sweater looks like, but apparently not. But then, why would a commentator want to miss an opportunity to "feminize" Fed? The white blazer, the white tennis bag (we heard about that on ESPN today, too), the cardigan--everything about Roger somehow gets turned into something "not masculine."

And while I'm at it, Fowler--No Doubt is not even close to being a "hard rock" band. You either need to get out more or keep your mouth closed. I vote for the latter.

Netcord save, hat incident, wind--what a crazy match

Nathalie Dechy lost a heart-breaking thriller against Ana Ivanovic today

Virginia Wade called it "cruel fate" when Natalie Dechy left the court to a standing ovation. It was heart-breaking, certainly for Dechy, and for a lot of fans (myself included). The grueling second round Wimbledon battle between Dechy and number 1 seed Ana Ivanovic had a bit of everything in it. The wind was high throughout the match, though you would not have known it from Dechy's outstanding serving. Dechy held two match points in the second set, and Ivanovic saved one of them with a netcord oopsie. Should Ivanovic go on to win the tournament, this will doubtless go down as one of the most most famous Wimbledon points of all time.

In the third set, the wind blew Dechy's hat off as she struck a winning volley. The rules do state that such a point must be re-played, and the umpire ordered it thus, but there was no way Ivanovic could have gotten to the ball, even if she were on wheels. Luck-wise, it just was not Dechy's day.

The match was a huge thriller. Ivanovic broke Dechy in the 3rd set , then Dechy immediately broke her back. But at 3-4, Dechy finally had trouble with the wind and was broken again. Then Ivanovic served for the match and was broken (though, at 0-40, she saved two break points with her serve). Then the hat incident occurred. At 5-6, Dechy was at 0-30, caught up, then saved a match point at 30-40, and another one after the first deuce. She held with an ace served in high wind.

At this point, each player had saved two match points. At 7-all, Dechy held at love. Finally, at 8-9, Dechy lost her serving momentum. Saying the match turned on a dime does not even come close.

I have always admired Nathalie Dechy's elegant game. Even before her injury (which caused her to concentrate more on doubles), she was--in my opinion--one of the tour's major under-achievers. Today she showed all of that unmet potential with amazing serving, excellent volleying, clever court tactics, and nerves of steel. But even all that was not enough to defeat Ana Ivanovic, who did what she did in Paris against Jelena Jankovic--found a way to win, against all odds. Ivanovic seems to be developing a Serena Williams-type ability to play her way out of very tight corners.

Ivanovic def. Dechy, 6-7, 7-6, 10-8

Standing in the frustration line right behind Dechy is Sam Stosur, who was up 3-0 in the third set, with a point for 4-0, against Nicole Vaidisova, and lost the match.

Vaidisova def. Stosur, 6-2, 0-6, 6-4

Doubles upsets in London

The team of Amanmuradova and Kustova has defeated number 4 seeds Chan and Chuang in Wimbledon play, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4.

Also falling were the number 8 seeds, Peng and Sun, who were defeatd by Castano and Kanepi, 2-6, 6-4, 9-7.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Interesting 2nd round matches

Schiavone vs. Medina Garrigues--Two clay specialists battle on grass.

Stosur vs. Vaidisova--Can the still rusty Stosur take out the slumping Vaidisova?

Kuznetsova vs. K. Bondarenko--Can the winner in Birmingham overcome a possibly shaky Kuzzy?

Domachowska vs. Radwanska--If they play each other like they did in Charleston, it will be the best match you see all week.

Dulko vs. Davenport--If Dulko brings her very improved serve, she can take out an ailing Davenport.

Kleybanova vs. Hantuchova--Can the young big hitter overcome Hantuchova, who has not played since April?

Zvonareva vs. Tunasugarn--One of the tour's hottest players meets the winner of the Ordina Open.

An interesting Wimbledon fact

From the tour website: The winner in Birmingham has gone on to win Wimbledon only once in the Open Era, whereas the winner in Eastbourne has gone on to win eleven times.

Sugiyama breaks record for number of consecutive major main draws entered

Former top ten player and current doubles number 3 Ai Sugiyama has broken the record for number of consecutive Grand Slam event main draws entered. This Wimbledon participation gives her 57. In all these years, Sugiyama has never had to deal with an injury issue prior to playing a major.

Update on Gimelstob "trash talk" issue

A reader of this blog was kind enough to post today about an email she received from Tennis Warehouse, one of the many entities that commentator, misogynist and former ATP player Justin Gimelstob represents. The reader received an apology from Tennis Warehouse as well as an apology from Gimelstob.

As far as I know, Gimelstob's apology is not something he has made public, which renders it meaningless, at least at this point. Also, he does not apologize for his history of sexism. And perhaps most important, he does not apologize to Anna Kournikova. And to all the people who insisted this was "just trash talk"--in his "apology," Gimelstob confirms that he does indeed hate Kournikova.

If you would like to join me in telling Tennis Warehouse--thanks, but that is not an apolgy, you may email them at

Like the commentators don't have enough problems with names...

Wozniack plays Wozniacki in the second round of Wimbledon.

What they said

From Wimbledon day 2 interviews:

If Naomi (Cavaday) was to ask you, What do I need to get to your level, what would you tell her?
"I would say she would need to train with Mr. Williams."
Venus Williams

"...I felt I showed tremendous courage to just get myself out of that mess and win the match."
Anne Keothavong

"I love how ten of the questions are about what we're wearing. It's amazing."
Maria Sharapova

"I think the players earned a lot of respect for him. You know, he's done amazing things for women's tennis..."
Lindsay Davenport on Larry Scott, whom she considered filing suit against not that long ago

"...I was just raring to go. I have been ever since the draw came out."
Naomi Cavaday

Because helping women and girls is always "political"

From an interview with Venus Williams:

Serena was saying yesterday when asked about Obama, she said, I admire him, but we're Jehovah's Witness. We can't vote. You're out there doing political issues all the time.

"Political issues? Which ones?"

You're talking about UNESCO, equal prize money. If you're out there advocating for an issue you're taking some kind of political stance. How do you feel about that?

"I feel that what I do in tennis isn't really political. I mean, I think equal prize money is more I mean, obviously we have equal prize money, which is great. I don't see it as political, that or the other thing you brought up, which I can't remember right now."


"UNESCO. I mean, helping other people is what we're all here to do, if you ask me."

Wimbledon day 2--Srebotnik the only seed eliminated

Yesterday, five seeded players fell; today, it was only one, and she fell in a dramatic way. The talented Katarina Srebotnik, whose volleying--theoretically--should take her deep into the Wimbledon draw, was defeated in the first round by Julia Goerges of Germany. Goerges, who is ranked number 102 in the world, defeated Srebotnik 4-6, 7-6, 16-14. (In case you are not familiar, there is no tiebreak in a Wimbledon third set.)

They two played for two hours and sixteen minutes, none of which I was able to watch. They broke each other eight times apiece, though Srebotnik had twice as many break chances against Goerges than vice versa. The remaining stats for both players are remarkably similar except for the unforced error count: Goerges had twice as many unforced errors as Srebotnik.

I am probably going to watch at least some of this later.

Goerges will play Marina Erakovic in the next round.

Krajicek out in first round of Wimbledon

Michaella Krajicek was not seeded at Wimbledon, but her elimination in the first round today feels like the elimination of a seed. Krajicek was defeated 7-6, 7-6 by her Wimbledon doubles partner, Marina Erakovic. The pair had just won the doubles championship at the Ordina Open.

Of all the young talents, Krajicek is the one whose career has been frustratingly stalled so many times. She suffered a bad wrist injury in January, and only recently won her first match of 2008, which broke a 12-match losing streak. She was not match-tough, and it took her a long time to finally gain enough confidence to win again.

But even prior to this unfortunate injury, Krajicek had issues. She missed Wimbledon in 2005 because of surgery for a knee injury. And she has always been inconsistent. Grass is her best surface, but I have seen her play on green clay several times, and she handles it very well; I expect she is good on all the in-between surfaces, too. Krajicek is a good hitter and a good mover, but something happens--I suspect is it something psychological--that keeps her from moving up in the rankings. Her win loss record--110-72--simply does not reflect her talent.

Krajicek recently hired a new coach. If she stays healthy and gets the right help, she could still go far.

"Birthplace of the upskirt"

Though American feminists may find it hard to believe--the sexism problem in professional tennis is considerably worse in the UK. Marina Hyde of The Guardian writes about it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

What they said

Some snippets from Wimbledon day 1 interviews:

On being asked whether she and her sister have a few years left to compete at Wimbledon:
"No, I mean, we have decades left at Wimbledon. We definitely plan on capitalizing."
Serena Williams

On being told that Alize Cornet was disturbed by her long medical break:
"So I was thinking about this only because it was a problem. I didn't want to disturb her."
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

" family's background is very sporty."
Elena Baltacha

Explaining that, because of her religion, she does not get involved in politics:
"We don't get a part of those worldly things."
Serena Williams

Chakvetadze out, Safina in

Anna Chakvetadze has not been able to get her game together since experiencing a trauma

Dinara Safina has been added to the 2008 Russian Olympic team, it was announced today. She will replace Anna Chakvetadze, who asked to be taken off the roster. Chakvetadze has not had an easy time of it since armed robbers broke into her family's house in December. They beat her father severely, and the ropes were bound so tightly around Chakvetadze's wrists that she had to receive special treatment for the pain. It goes without saying that there has also been some post-traumatic response to the event.

The other team members are Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva.

Five seeds out in the first round of Wimbledon

The highest seed to fall at Wimbledon today was number 12, Patty Schnyder, who lost to Casey Dellacqua. One of the Schnyder's best assets is her second serve, yet it totally failed her today.

17th seed Alize Cornet was upset by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 18th seed Maria Kirilenko was upset by Vera Dushevina, seed number 27, Virginie Razzano, lost to Evgeniya Rodina, and 30th seed Dominika Cibulkova lost to Zheng Jie.

A Wimbledon fashion note

Roger Federer has abandoned his blazer this year for a retro look--a beautiful cream tennis sweater with an "F" crest on the front. Serena Williams, in the meantime, has returned to her trenchcoat look. According to ESPN, she and Federer met in the hall of the media building, and he offered her one of the sweaters, which she accepted. Between the coat and the sweater, Williams will have some fine Wimbledon clothing and memorabilia. Perhaps Fed could try a trenchcoat?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Experts' picks for Wimbledon--first edition

Greg Garber--Maria Sharapova
Bonnie D. Ford--Maria Sharapova
Ravi Ubha-Serena Williams
Matt Wilansky--Serena Williams
Steve Tignor--Venus Williams
Jon Wertheim--Maria Sharapova
Tim Henman--Serena Williams
Brad Gilbert--Maria Sharapova
Martina Navratilova--Maria Sharapova
Pam Shriver--Ana Ivanovic
Bud Collins--Venus Williams (added 6/29)

This list will be updated in the next few days. I will post a notice when it is updated. Several experts refused to make a prediction and listed three possibles; I did not include their opinions.

Mauresmo to play Wimbledon

Amelie Mauresmo has had a diagnostic scan and treatment done on her quadriceps tear, and she reports that the injury is healing nicely. Unfortunately, she will not be fully healed this week, but it appears she believes she will be doing no further harm by playing.

Tennis Channel's Classic Matches best viewing on TV

If you live in the U.S. and you have Tennis Channel, then you have recently been treated to some of the greatest Wimbledon matches of the Open Era. Last night, the featured match was the 1995 final between Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. When the ninth game of the third set has thirteen deuces, you know you have a classic match.

Tonight's feature, to be shown at 10:00 EST, is the 1978 final between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Black and Huber win Eastbourne

Cara Black and Liezel Huber defeated Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs in Eastbourne today, 2-6, 6-0, 10-8, to win the championship.

Meanwhile, at the Ordina Open, Marina Erakovic and Michaella Krajicek defeated Liga Dekmeijere and Angelique Kerber, 6-3, 6-2, to take that title. Erakovic and Krajicek did not drop a set throughout the tournament.

Radwanska wins in Eastbourne

Holding her nerve after blowing three match points in a second set tiebreak, Agnieszka Radwanska broke Nadia Petrova at 4-all in the third set to serve for the match. On her fifth championship point, she won the International Women's Open, 6-4, 6-7, 6-4, giving her a 4-0 record in finals.

This was a very entertaining match with some thrilling rallies. Petrova hit a lot of winners and also made a lot of unforced errors. Radwanska came through on the big points, however, and toward the end--when she could have done something to turn things around--Petrova lost her focus.

The International Women's Open, a Tier II event, is the biggest win of Radwanska's career.

Never say never again--Tanasugarn wins Ordina!

When you are a specialist on one surface and that surface is the one least played on, tournament wins are few and far between. Until today, grass specialist Tamarine Tanasugarn had won only one tournament in her career, and that one was played on a hard court. But now she has won the Ordina Open, and she won it in a most impressive way.

Tanasugarn had to qualify to get into the tournament in Rosmalen, The Netherlands. In qualifying rounds, she defeated Stephanie Dubois and Mirjana Lucic. Then the real fun began: Tanasugarn's first round match was against Kateryna Bondarenko, who had just won the International Women's Open on grass in Birmingham. Then she beat the talented Ashley Harkleroad, and yet another tough opponent--the ace-whacking grass specialist Michaella Krajicek. In the quarterfinals, she had to go against Alona Bondarenko, another formidable opponent. And in the final, she beat the woman who is arguably the hottest player of the season--Dinara Safina, saving eight break points in the second set. Wow.

Congratulations to Tammy, who has gone a long time without winning a tournament. It has also been four years since she made her last deep Wimbledon run. She has what could be a tough first match against Petra Cetkovska, followed by a much tougher potential second round against Vera Zvonareva. She could also be headed toward another clash with Krajicek.

Tanasugarn def. Safina, 7-5, 6-3

"If she's not crying...then I did not do my job"

"The guy gets all the glory, the more he can score..." And you know the rest. The sexual double standard in the 21st Century is no different than it was in the 1950s, and who better to prove that than the perennially disgusting Justin Gimelstob? Gimelstob, in a Washington Post blog item that makes you want to take a post-read shower, says that he was sexually involved with Charlie Sheen's wife before her marriage and that "I don't think I was the only one."

So what? Kirsten Mueller has had sex with some men--what a complete slut that makes her, not only in the tiny mind of Gimelstob, but in the minds of most Americans (I cannot speak for other cultures). When does it end, this belief that men should have sex with as many women as possible, but women should not dare have more than one partner? I cannot tell you how many girls and women I meet who have bought totally into the belief that they are sluts and whores if they have sex with more than one man, but it is a credit to males to have multiple partners. Many of these same people--men and women--claim to support gender equality. How crazy is that?

In this same story, Gimelstob goes viciously after Anna Kournikova, calling her a bitch, a douche and a scumbag. With regard to playing against her in World Team tennis mixed doubles, he says "If she's not crying by the time she walks off that court," then I did not do my job." That is mild, however, compared to: "...she's gonna be serving 40 miles an hour and I'm gonna be just plugging it down her throat."

He denies he has any sexual interest in Kournikova, but goes on to say "I wouldn't mind having my younger brother, who's kind of a stud, nail her and then reap the benefits of that."

Of course, the defense of this type of blather is that is it "trash talk." I do not approve of trash talk because it gives the culture even more permission to be sexist, misogynistic, gay-hating, racist, etc. by normalizing hate. But even if one approves of sports trash talk, this goes over the line. And given Gimelstob's contempt for women, I'm not convinced that 100% of his diatribe is "only trash talk."

The time has come for Tennis Channel to get rid of the toxic and misogynistic Gimelstob. Don't expect Tennis Channel executives to do the right thing and fire him. Don't even expect them to perceive that anything he said (and constantly says) is inappropriate. We must be the ones to tell them. Pressure is the only thing that will make this happen (and it also needs to happen at ESPN, where Dick Enberg lives).

Tennis Channel emails:


The latest from Venus Williams' clothing line is Williams' dress for Wimbledon. I'm impressed by ELEVEN BY VENUS WILLIAMS, and I really like this dress.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Oh, good!--they're together again

The entertaining team of Gallovits and Govortsova heads to the court

I was worried, after Charleston, that Edina Gallovits and Olga Govortsova had decided not to play doubles together anymore, but here they are--reunited--in the Wimbledon draw. Their accidental and spontaneous teaming up at the Family Circle Cup was a real plus for fans. Gallovits and Govortsova played exceptionally well and wound up in the final. On their way there, they took out both Black and Huber and Peschke and Stubbs.

Gallovits and Govortsova play Sofia Arvidsson and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the first round.

Top stars have tough first rounds

Serena Williams sometimes likes to "play her way into" a major. She will certainly get a good workout in the first round of Wimbledon, when she plays Kaia Kanepi. Former Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo has her work cut out for her too, as she faces Ashley Harkleroad in the opening round. And 2007 finalist Marion Bartoli, who has been suffering from a sore wrist and thought she might have to withdraw, plays Sabine Lisicki, which could also be a bit of a task.

Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova, Jelena Jankovic, and Venus Williams have less complicated first rounds than the aforementioned stars.

Friday cat blogging--chill out edition

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Quote of the week

"We look at other countries and they have it so easy. In Britain, the first girl who hits two balls in, they give her everything."

Svetlana Kuznetsova

I entered Ana's world...and called for a rescue team

Ana Ivanovic is now the number 1 player in the world, and while I think her tennis is top-notch, I am not especially drawn to her persona. Today, I entered "Ana's World--an animated journey" on her website, and found nothing there to make me change my mind. The presentation is about Ivanovic's tennis--and her nude upper body. There are shoulder shots of a wet-all-over Ivanovic with nothing on, and there are full torso shots of a nude Ivanovic covering her breasts with her arms.

There is a place for photographs like these, to be sure, but not on the website of the world's number 1 tennis player. The Sony Ericsson WTA is guilty of marketing the tour via sex, as are management companies. Individual players, especially influential ones, should be demanding that they be recognized for their athleticism and accomplishments, not the number of Web hits triggered by one-handed surfers. The people who click on Ivanovic's photos are not going to buy tickets to Sony Ericsson WTA Tour events; they are not even going to watch women's tennis on television. They are just going to post crude remarks about their Ivanovic fantasies on Web forums.

No one supports Ivanovic's right to pose any way she likes more than I do; I just wish she would save certain photos--if she really wants to pose for them--for a venue that has nothing to do with marketing women's tennis.

Wimbledon begins Monday!

My favorite major, the French Open, is over, and now it's time to move to the grass. With so few grass tournaments played, the competitors do not get much of a warm-up for Wimbledon. Of course, with the courts playing significantly slower than they used to, this is not the liability it could be.


Venus Williams:
The defending champion has won Wimbledon four times. Her fortunes go up and down, but on occasion, she likes to stop by the All England Club headquarters and win the tournament. There is every reason to believe she can do it again this year.

Maria Sharapova: Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004, and in doing so, launched a huge international career. Since then, she has won two other majors, but has not reached the final in London. An educated guess is that she wants this title really badly, and she is definitely a top contender to win it.

Serena Williams: Williams has won Wimbledon twice, and--if she shows up in the right mode--there is no reason to believe she cannot win it a third time.

Ana Ivanovic: The winner of the 2008 French Open has what it takes to succeed on grass. Ivanovic has a huge serve and she likes short rallies. Her volleying is not the best, but it certainly isn't the worst. She is definitely one of the women who could win.

Jelena Jankovic: Jankovic thought she was going to win the French Open, and was crushed when her countrywoman took her out in the semifinals. The argument is frequently made that if Jankovic is going to win a major, it is going to be in Paris. Yes, she is a very good clay competitor, but she also has a game that works on all surfaces. Jankovic's first serve has improved significantly, though the second serve still needs a lot of work. Nevertheless, her new serve, her athleticism and her court sense can take her a long way, and she is a contender to win this title.


These are the women who--for one reason or the other--deserve to be spoken of with respect, but are not likely to win the tournament:

Amelie Mauresmo: The 2006 champion, one of the great grass players of her generation, is not having a good season. She did not have a good season last year, either, leaving the tour to have surgery, then falling victim to a surgery-related injury. Since then, her confidence has been down, and she has not played enough matches to make her tough. As of this writing, she may have to withdraw because of a new quadriceps tear.

Marion Bartoli: The big news of the 2007 Wimbledon tournament was that Bartoli reached the final. As a tennis fan, I consider her run unforgettable. Channeling Monica Seles, Bartoli stood in front of the baseline and used both hands as laser-like weapons, finessing her way past the likes of Jankovic and then-world number 1 Justine Henin. Her performance was a thing to behold. She was finally stopped by Venus Williams, but it was a hell of a run. It is unlikely that she will have such a run again--and a few days ago--it was unlikely that she would even be at the tournament, so painful was her wrist injury. However, she appears to be better and will probably not have to withdraw from Wimbledon. (Note to Tennis Channel: No, Marion is not in excellent health. And learn how to pronounce "Devonshire." And "Morariu." And everything else.)

Lindsay Davenport: Davenport won Wimbledon in 1999, and has since been a finalist twice. Both times, she was defeated by Venus Williams. She left the tour, then came back a year later, and is once again seeking a second Wimbledon title. Depending on the draw, Davenport could do rather well in London, but it is unlikely that she will emerge the winner.

Svetlana Kuznetsova: I mention Kuznetsova because she is simply one of the best tennis players in the world, but she seems to have a problem winning titles, now more than ever, and grass is not a good surface for her.

Dinara Safina: A few years ago, Safina had a breakthrough, but then again retreated to almost-great status. During this year's clay season, she had another breakthrough, and this one feels like the real deal. Her stunning performances in Berlin and at Roland Garros are more than noteworthy. I do not see Safina making the same splash on grass, but I think she is likely to resume her dominance during the hard court season. Nevertheless, she deserves recognition as a very hot player in 2008.


Agnes Szavay:
Her name is pronounced "SHAH-veye," and she has a backhand that must be the envy of many of her peers. Look for Szavay to cause some trouble on the grass.

Agnieszka Radwanska: Radwanska has already caused some trouble, making it to the round of 16 in 2006 (she was taken out by Kim Clijsters). Radwanska is getting used to a big stage, and could go far at Wimbledon this year.

Victoria Azarenka: Unfortunately, Azarenka had to withdraw from Eastbourne because of what now appears to be a chronic knee injury. As of this writing, she is still a Wimbledon entrant, but her fitness is questionable. If she is healthy, though, she could go far.

Michaella Krajicek: Krajicek was out for several months with a really bad wrist injury, and has had a hard time finding her way back. This season, she has won only three matches, all of them recent; she played extremely well in Eastbourne, hitting aces like crazy, but lost today in a very tight match. If she is going to shine, it is going to be at Wimbledon, where the grass is still fast enough (we hope) to bring her game to the forefront. She made it to the quarterfinals last year, then became of one Bartoli's many victims.

Sam Stosur: Stosur, too, has had a hard time of it, missing months of play because of illness. She's back now, though, and is generally a grass competitor worth watching.

Patty Schnyder: Okay, she isn't known for grass play; grass is generally considered her weakest surface. But last year, she made it to the quarterfinals, and lost a heart-breaking and very exciting match against Sharapova. So she's worth watching this year (some of us think she's worth watching any year).

Tamarine Tanasugarn: Tanasugarn has reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon six times in her career. The last time was in 2004. However, she is playing so well at the Ordina Open this week that she could cause some trouble for higher-ranked players. Grass is definitely her surface.

Daniela Hantuchova: As of now, Hantuchova is still entered, but her foot problems--which have taken her out of most of the season--may also keep her out of Wimbledon. Even she plays, she will not be match-tough. Nevertheless, Hantuchova has done well in the past (when not choking), and her elegant game is a highlight of any major.

Tamira Paszek: Paszek is in a terrible slump right now, but she could energize for the big one. The only time she ever entered the tournament--2007--she made it to the round of 16.

Wimbledon qualifiers announced

After winning three rounds, the following players have qualified for the Wimbledon main draw:

Zuzana Ondraskova
Viktoriya Kutuzova
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Maria Elena Camerin
Stephanie Foretz
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova
Rika Fujiwara
Magdalena Rybarikova
Severine Bremond
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez
Eva Hrdinova
Mathilde Johansson

"Sure, I've been on the Tube...I caught it to Eastbourne once."

I had forgotten about all the wonderful quotes published by On the Line, but I went back there last night to enjoy them again. There are multiple categories, and a few players (notably Marat Safin, Andy Roddick and Goran Ivanisevic) appear many times. Stupid quotes (mostly from commentators, of course), hilarious quotes, even some serious ones--are part of the collection.

Here are a few samples:

Ann Jones: "She puts her head down and bangs it straight across the line."

Martina Hingis: "I've always said I'm a good horse but I'm still an underdog."

Maria Sharapova: ""It's pretty hard being a tennis player and Mother Teresa at the same time and that's just the way it is."


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Seles to make Hall of Fame induction speech

Monica Seles will present Mark McCormack for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame next month. McCormack, the founder of International Management Group, will be inducted posthumously.

I really like this photo

Of Justine.

"Looking For A Hero"

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour is launching its new marketing campaign, "Looking For A Hero." The television spots have a kind of 007/Charlie's Angles look and feel to them which, in my opinion, does not quite come off. The good thing, however, is that women are being spoken of as sporting heroes, a description that has always been used to describe only men.

I do not like any athlete to be called a "hero." A hero is someone who risks her Congressional seat to do the right thing, or someone who dives into the street to save a dog from being hit by a car. But if we are going to call tennis players heroes, it is indeed refreshing to see the word being used to describe women.

The promo photo on the front page of the tour website, which has top players in provocative poses, is a real downer and belongs in the UK's disgusting "Think Pink" campaign. "Super strength, super speed, super cute outfits" is funny if it done tongue-in-cheek, but the photograph indicates otherwise.

Update on Mauresmo injury

Amelie Mauresmo is going to wait a couple of days before she makes a decision about Wimbledon, but as of now, it looks like a probable withdrawal. Is she cursed, or what?

Pre-Wimbledon injuries

Amelie Mauresmo has one: She tore her quadriceps at the beginning of match play today in Eastbourne and had to retire.

Lindsay Davenport has one, too. She withdrew from Eastbourne because of a knee injury.

Victoria Azarenka retired during the first round of Eastbourne because of a recurring knee injury, and Katarina Srebotnik retired today at the Ordina Open with an ankle injury.

It is always sad to see any player injured right before a major, but these are not just any players. Two are former Wimbledon champion, one is a potential big winner, and one is ever-dangerous.

Of course, there are other injuries. Akiko Morigami has already withdrawn from Wimbledon because of a knee injury, and Tatiana Golovin has missed most of the season because of cyst surgery. Marion Bartoli thought she might have to withdraw from Wimbledon because of her wrist injury, but she appears to be alright--for now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

U.S. Wimbledon commentators selected

First, the bad news: Dick Enberg, who should have been fired long ago for his inappropriate treatment of Sony Ericsson WTA Tour players, is back for his 25th anniversary of calling Wimbledon matches. "Oh my!" simply does not do justice to this news--more like "Oh please."

In the ESPN booth with the out-of-control Enberg will be Cliff Drysdale, and they will be joined by Mary Joe Fernandez, Mary Carillo, Darren Cahill, Bud Collins, Brad Gilbert (back from a two-year absence), Luke Jensen, and Chris Fowler. Unfortunately, they will also be joined by Patrick McEnroe. And the "roving reporter" will once again be the witty but ultimately annoying and manipulative Pam Shriver (who also deserved to be sacked for her meddling in the 2005 women's French Open semifinal and final).

Some things never change. We can expect mispronunciation of players' names from everyone but Collins and Carillo. We can expect sexism from Enberg and Shriver, with some also tossed in by Fowler and McEnroe. We can expect Fernandez and Drysdale to talk about Sharapova as though she were the world's only perfect human. We can expect Shriver to manufacture "controversies" that do not exist. And we can expect me to tie myself to the chair so that I won't be tempted to throw a brick at the screen every time McEnroe says "Droppa!"

Larcher de Brito watch--today's news is bad

Michelle Larcher de Brito did not make it past the first round of Wimbledon qualifying; she was defeated by Stephanie Foretz.

In better news, Sesil Karatantcheva defeated Elizabeth Thomas of Great Britain.

And in terrible news, Alicia Molik did not get past the first round of qualifying, either. She lost to Tatiana Poutchek.

Davenport withdraws from Eastbourne

She has injured her right knee.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tatiana Golovin withdraws from Wimbledon

Not a surprise. She has been replaced in the draw by Milagros Sequera.

Morigami withdraws from Wimbledon

Akiko Morigama, citing a knee injury, has withdrawn from Wimbledon. She has been replaced in the draw by Renato Voracova.

Top qualifying seed out in Eastbourne

Kaia Kanepi, the top-seeded player in qualifying at the International Women's Open, was defeated today in the final qualifying round by Ekaterina Makarova, 7-6. 6-3.

Meanwhile, at the Ordina Open, Michaella Krajicek has won her second match of the year, defeating Ai Sugiyama, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Final Wimbledon wild card announced

Zheng Jie has received the last wild card to the Wimbledon main draw.

LTA does no favor to girls

The DFS Classic included a promotion by the LTA's dreadful "Think Pink" campaign, which is designed to attract girls to the game of tennis by "looking to bring out the glamorous side of the game and really tap into what appeals to girls growing up these days."

This is--first and foremost--sexism at its ugliest. The presumption that girls will not be interested in playing tennis because they are not attracted to competition and hard work is a nasty presumption. The LTA believes that tennis must be made "girly" in order to entice females to participate. Such a promotion causes damage on several levels: It tells girls--once again--that they are not tough enough to really compete; it tells them that them that women's sports are somehow "different" from men's', and it tells them--don't worry, you'll still be "feminine," even if you play this sweaty sport.

Of course, the kind of "feminine" the LTA is implying is the kind that guarantees you will not win your matches, and has nothing to do with actual feminine identity. But the assurance of fake "femininity" also provides the ever-so-important message: Don't worry--no lesbians here. Because God forbid these girls should wind up really "thinking pink."

"We have to sell women’s tennis in a very different way to men’s tennis," says LTA national coach Claire Curren. No, you do not: You have to sell a message that girls can be just as competitive and just as successful as boys, and that a mature woman is capable of winning and enjoying it.

Bondarenko wins Birmingham

Photo courtesy of After Atalanta

Kateryna Bondarenko, the number 12 seed at the DFS Classic, won the title today by defeating Yanina Wickmayer, 7-6, 3-6, 7-6. This is Bondarenko's first tour title.

Top seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber won the doubles title by defeating Severine Bremond and Virginia Ruano Pascual, 6-2, 6-1.

Meanwhile, in Barcelona, Maria Kirilenko defeated Maria Martinez Sanchez, 6-0, 6-2. The doubles title was won by Lourdes Dominguez Lino and Arantxa Parra Santonja, who defeated top seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Martinez Sanchez.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

When the appetizer is better than the main course

Shortly before a major tournament, if I think about it, I like to watch a classic final from that same tournament. Today, I watched the 1997 Wimbledon final between Martina Hingis and Jana Novotna. It was a joy to see them play again, but when it was over, I was left with feelings of sadness and disappointment.

Watching Novotna's elegant and downright awesome volleying struck an especially deep chord, and Hingis's passing shots were spectacular. How odd it seems now that Hingis's serve--often very successfully delivered high and out wide--was considered "bad" when she returned to the tour after three and a half years. Novotna played the third set in pain because of an abdominal strain, but she still made it exciting. Virginia Wade and her colleages called the match, with no idle babble or "deep" discussions of the players' personal lives.

The final had everything--great athleticism, some good serving, tension, grace, momentum change, and outstanding volleys. The comaraderie between the two players was touching, and then there was the Duchess of Kent. Without her, Wimbledon just isn't Wimbledon. Every year, when I watch the final on television, I miss her. The young women playing on the tour today do not know what a friend they have missed having. Watching her take time to chat with each ballboy and ballgirl, speak intimately with the winner and finalist, and blow kisses at them was touching.

And of course, it was the Duchess of Kent who helped Novotna keep believing in herself after she choked away the Wimbledon final in 1993. Novotna called the Duchess right before she announced her retirement, and I thought it would have been fitting for Katharine Kent to induct her into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, but that did not happen.

Watching Hingis win her only Wimbledon title was sad for me, too--so many lost opportunities in a career that burned out in so many ways.

I still enjoy watching the Wimbledon final, but what goes on on the court today does not come close to the show that took place even a decade ago. What I saw today was pure grass tennis between two clever and graceful players. The ceremony was beautiful and personal and funny. The atmosphere was stirring. No screaming, no golf-whispering sidelines commentator, no senseless chatter from the booth, no complete dominance by one opponent.

The game has changed, yes. But changing something does not necessarily make it better.

The return of Li

Li Na returns to the tour next week, and not a moment too soon. The unfortunate Li was out for months last year with a rib injury. She returned this season and immediately won a tournament-- quite an unusual feat for someone who has been out for months. Then she injured her knee and had to skip clay court season. It will be nice to have her back. Her first opponent in Eastbourne will be Casey Dellacqua.

Cornet to face former Wimbledon champion in first round in Eastbourne

We know that Alize Cornet is a clay star in the making, but how does she do on what we may consider the opposite surface? She plays former Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo in the first round of the International Women's Open in Eastbourne next week. Mauresmo, of course, is as down and out as she has ever been. Months off of the tour because of surgery and surgery-induced injury has all but crushed the elegant Frenchwoman. Is there an upset in the making? Or will Amelie put her feet on the grass and start to feel better right away? I know which option I want.

Dementieva and Safina on course to meet again in s'Hertogenbosch

Dinara Safina beat her in Berlin, and she beat her at Roland Garros, but soon, Elena Dementieva is likely to have a good chance to reverse her fortunes. The two will probably meet next week in the semifinals of the Ordina Open. They are both clay specialists and do well on hard courts, so meeting on grass could challenge them both. Safina leads 4-2 in their meetings, but this will be the first time they have ever played each other on a grass court.

Bondarenko and Wickmayer to play in Birmingham final

Yanina Wickmayer, who made such a splash at Fed Cup this year, has reached her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour final. She defeated Bethanie Mattek in a close match, 7-5, 7-6, to reach the DFS Classic final in Birmingham. Her opponent will be Kateryna Bondarenko, the lower seed of the two Bondarenko sisters. Bondarenko defeated up-and-coming New Zealander, Marina Erakovic. It is also her first tour final.

Wickmayer defeated both Bondarenko sisters during the first round of the 2008 Fed Cup competition.

Lindsay Davenport's math--not as good as her tennis

As part of Tennis Channel's lead-in to Wimbledon, there is a feature in which different players are interviewed about equal prize money at the tournament. Lindsay Davenport explains to us that it is a good thing since "here in America, we're used to equality." The millions of women who make only 77 cents for every dollar American men earn for doing the same job--despite passage of the Equal Pay Act 45 years ago--might argue with that.

Maria Sharapova comments on equal pay, too--and how beneficial it is to "the girls."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008

3 seeds left in Birmingham quarterfinals

Depending on how the quarterfinals go tomorrow, the Bondarenko sisters may wind up playing each other in the semifinals, an event that would most certainly be a treat for spectators. Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko are two of the three seeds remaining--Nicole Vaidisova is the other.

Melanie South is to be commended. She defeated (in addition to wild card Anna Fitzpatrick) both 4th seed Sybille Bammer and 17th seed Aiko Nakamura to get to the quarterfinals, in which she will play Yanina Wickmayer. Sad though it may be, it is unusual to see a British player do this well.

About that Krajicek curse...

It was broken, yes, but unfortunately, Krajicek lost today in the third round of the DFS Classic in Birmingham. Krajicek was defeated by Yanina Wickmeyer, 6-3, 6-4. Krajicek is actually a much better player than her record indicates, but of course--without the record--the talent does not mean much.

Chat with Ivanovic--an On the Baseline exclusive

French Open champion and world number 1 Ana Ivanovic has accepted an invitation from On the Baseline to do a chat with fans. Questions for Ana must be submitted today, June 12 to

I will keep everyone updated on Ivanovic's chat schedule, and you can always go to On the Baseline for updates, too. During the first week of Wimbledon, selected questions will be published on On the Baseline.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"I am not delighted..."

" I was expecting to play in the finals, win the title and be number one in the world." So writes Jelena Jankovic about her experience at Roland Garros. I am not delighted, either; I wanted the same thing for her. Jankovic took a break and went to Zlatibor, a mountain in western Serbia. She hiked and wandered around the little villages, and hung out with Emir Kusturica. She is now home again and practicing.

More bad news about Bartoli

I posted earlier today that Marion Bartoli was defeated in the second round in Birmingham. It turns out that she may miss Wimledon because of a wrist injury. Bartoli has tendonitis, and it has been bothering her since before the French Open. As she herself puts it--"I am always having something, some illness or injury."

I saw her play in Charleston with her new serve, and she looked good, despite losing a well-played match to Vera Zvonareva. However, she was hampered in that match by what was an obvious lack of physical stamina.

Adding to the bad Bartoli news is the fact that her official website has disappeared (her main fan site is undergoing a webmaster change, by the way).

So I guess that's all the bad Bartoli news for now. It's enough.

Top seeds out in both Birmingham and Barcelona

Earlier in the week, top seed Shahar Peer was defeated in the first round of the Torneo Barcelona KIA. Peer lost to Nuria Llagostera Vives, 7-5, 6-2.

Today, top seed Marion Bartoli was taken out of the DFS Classic in the second round by Petra Cetkovska, 5-7, 6-4, 6-0. The DFS classic a major warm-up tournament for Wimbledon, whose 2007 finalist was Bartoli.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Junior girls top 10

Here are the current top 10 among junior girls:

1. Simona Halep (Romania)
2. Melanie Oudin (USA)
3. Arantxa Rus (The Netherlands)
4. Urzula Radwanska (Poland)
5. Noppawan Lertcheewakarn (Thailand)
6. Elena Bogdan (Romania)
7. Ana Bodgan (Romania)
8. Kurumi Nara (Japan)
9. Bojana Jovanovski (Serbia)
10. Stephanie Vogt (Liechtenstein)

6 Wimbledon wild cards announced

Main draw wild cards so far:

Elena Baltacha
Naomi Cavaday
Katie O'Brien
Melanie South
Urzula Radwanska
Carla Suarez Navarro

The other two will be announced at a later date.

"The suspension she is serving is totally wrong"

Alan Mills stands up for Martina Hingis.

Ivanovic withdraws from Eastbourne

Ana Ivanovic has withdrawn from the International Women's Open in Eastbourne; I do not know the reason.

And, sadly but not surprisingly, Daniela Hantuchova has withdrawn from the Ordina Open. Whether she will be at Wimbledon is unknown; I doubt she will make it.

The curse is broken

Michaella Krajicek won her first match of the year today, and in doing so, also broke a 12-match losing streak. Krajicek defeated Tatiana Poutchek, 6-2, 6-1 in Birmingham. Krajicek's first serve percentage was no big deal, but her win percentage was huge. She also did well with her second serve, and she broke Poutchek five times.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Nurseryman saves ASB Classic

The ASB Classic has obtained new life because of the generosity of Graham Windross, who owns a plant nursery in New Zealand. Windross's company, Zealandia, has contributed half a million dollars to save New Zealand's women's tennis tournament.

Raymond and Stosur out in first round in Birmingham

Sam Stosur, trying to get match-tough again after a very long illness layoff, went out (with partner Lisa Raymond) in the first round of doubles competition in Birmingham today. They were defeated by the impromptu team of Chuang Chia-Jung and Rika Fujiwara, 7-5, 6-3. Chuang's usual partner, Chan Yung-Jan, is out with a back injury.

Also upset were Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko, who were defeated 6-4, 6-4, by Severine Bremond and Virginia Ruano Pascual.

Quote of the day

" anyone else sick of this trope that posing nude for money makes you an ace feminist?"
Jon Wertheim

Amen, brother, and thank you. (Now if you can just stop calling us all "guys" and suggesting we write our "Congressman"....)

Tournament withdrawal update

I have already noted that Jelena Jankovic, Vera Zvonareva, Tatiana Golovin, and Dinara Safina have withdrawn from the DFS Classic. At the time I wrote the post, I did not know why Zvonareva withdrew, but it turns out that she is ill.

Thanks to On the Baseline for these other withdrawal updates:

Agnieszka Radwanska, as expected, withdrew from Birmingham because she is suffering with the same French Open-induced sore arm that has recently caused Jankovic so much trouble. (Jankovic was actually the first to report Radwanska's problem with her arm.) Chan Yung-Jan is out with a back injury, so Chuang is playing with Fujiwara. Victoria Azarenka is getting some rest and recovery.

In Barcelona, Kaia Kanepi withdrew because of a hip injury.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Jankovic and Safina withdraw from Birmingham

Defending champion Jelena Jankovic has with withdrawn from the DFS Classic because of the arm she injured during the French Open. Dinara Safina has withdrawn because of ongoing back problems.

If you like Ivanovic's tennis dresses...

You're going to love this.

The French Open--my top 10

Sculpture in the Stravinsky Fountain near Centre Georges Pompidou

The good, the notable and the devastating occurrences in my favorite (it's played on clay and it's in Paris!) Grand Slam tournament, in ascending order:

10. Allez, Alize!: The continued rise of Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, who made it to the third round, and almost made it to the round of 16. She lost a high-quality match against Agnieszka Radwanska, but is obviously France's great hope on clay, if not all surfaces.

9. Carla Who?: Carla Suarez Navarro gets a chance to show the world what a good clay competitor she is by going all the way to the quarterfinals.

8. Kaia Who?: Real tennis fans probably were not surprised to see the affable, big-hitting Kaia Kanepi reach the quarterfinals, after upsetting clay specialist Anabel Medina Garrigues in a barn-burner of a match.

7. Topspin rules!: Katarina Srebotnik's new-found glory was cut short by clay expert Patty Schnyder, who played one of those almost-perfect clay matches that was a joy to watch.

6. But where's her racquet?: In a bizarre turn, recently retired French Open multiple champion Justine Henin presented the trophies to the champion and the finalist. If the word "surreal" were not obscenely overused, I would employ it to describe this moment. Henin had a fever blister, perhaps a sign that stress does not immediately drop away. Commentator John McEnroe wondered if she had on tennis clothes under her street clothes. "I feel," he said "that she should play the winner."

5. One more time!: Virginia Ruano Pascual may have thought she had won her last major; if she did, she was delightfully wrong. The former doubles world number 1 and her partner, Anabel Medina Garrigues, won the title, giving Ruano Pascual her fourth French Open trophy.

4. Not this time: In Charleston, Katarina Srebotnik pushed Serena Williams to three tight sets. In Paris, she finally defeated her, removing who many thought was the presumptive champion out of the tournament. It was one of the great wins of Srebotnik's career, and a blow to Williams, who had her eye on a second French Open trophy.

3. A new champion: Ana Ivanovic, looking sharp, confident and considerably quicker than before, took over what could have been a more competitive final, and won her first major. The new world number 1 cruised through most of the tournament with a look of inevitability in almost every shot she made.

2. Domination: Jelena Jankovic was up a break--not once, but twice--in the third set of her semifinal against Ana Ivanovic. It looked as though she would finally get the win she needed over her countrywoman, but Ivanovic simply did not let it happen. This was, to me, Ivanovic's most impressive showing at the tournament.

1. "She's a roller, runs in the family...": After she won Berlin, I had a strong feeling that Dinara Safina was going to be a top contender at Roland Garros. It was the way she did it, taking out Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva, and always coming from behind. She served extremely well, hit stinging groundstrokes, used other players' power against them, won at the net, and kept a very cool head. We have always known that Safina had talent, but we did not know whether she could get her head together and make that talent pay off. In Berlin, she did, and then it was on to Roland Garros. I cannot remember a major tournament in which one player created so many thrills: Safina came from a set and 2-5 down when she defeated Maria Sharapova, and then did exactly the same thing when she defeated Elena Dementieva, saving match points in both contests. She cruised through her semifinal win over Svetlana Kuznetsova, then had (probably unfortunately) a day off, and was all but played out by the time she reached the final. The lesson for Safina is to provide fewer thrills and put less stress on her mind and body. But for fans--wow! Stay tuned...