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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

[UPDATED] VIDEO VAULT: Sabine Lisicki throws downs a 131 mph serve and sets new record

During her opening round match against Ana Ivanovic in Stanford, Sabine Lisicki served a 131 mph bomb that the WTA tour certified as the fastest recorded woman's serve in history. The former record was 129 mph held Venus Williams.

It was certainly a phenomenal consolation prize since Boom Boom ended up losing the match in straight sets.

UPDATE: Here's Boom Boom's tweet about the record-setting serve. Even she admits it's a pretty good consolation prize:

Will the U.S. Open Series mark a return to form for Andy Murray and Victoria Azarenka?

Andy Murray and Victoria Azarenka aren’t as different as it might seem from the outside. They both own two majors, and won one title in 2012 and another in 2013 (the U.S. Open and Wimbledon for Murray and two Australian Open championships for Azarenka). Both of them prefer the firm footing of a hard court. They can be, eh, vocal when playing - he to his baller box and she to basically anyone who is in earshot of the stadium. And, for the last few weeks these former top-five ballers have been sitting at number ten in their tour’s respective world rankings. With the North American hard-court season and the US Open Series underway, Muzz and Vika will be looking to salvage a so far forgettable season on a surface where they thrive.

No one was really surprised about the let down that occurred after Muzz became the first British man in 77 years to lift the Wimbledon trophy last summer. He had spent years hearing the voices and feeling the pressure of being “the one” who could finally end the drought. When he converted match point against Novak Djokovic during the lengthy final game of the men's championship match, like a pressure valve, the years of expectation were released in a primal scream.

At the U.S. Open, Muzz, the defending champion, reached the quarterfinals but also dealt with a recurring lower back injury. He underwent surgery at the end of 2013, and entered 2014 not in the best form. At the Australian Open he reached the quarterfinals falling to Roger Federer, and the fourth round and quarterfinals at Indian Wells and Miami, respectively. It was during his campaign at the Miami Masters where he and coach Ivan Lendl parted ways. Lendl was looking to play more on the Champions Tour and it affected the amount of time he could dedicate to Muzz.

After getting thumped by Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros semifinals, the 27-year ended the speculation about his coaching situation by announcing the appointment of Amelie Mauresmo for the grass-court season (he is expected to officially announce Amelie as his full-time coach soon). Wimbledon, where Mopey Murray rose from the dead during a straight-set loss to Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals, was too soon for the partnership to show any effect. But Muzz will be hoping the fellow 2-time major winner can help him rediscover his motivation and reestablish his confidence.
“I have a very strong coaching team already in place, but I think Amelie brings with her experience and tactical expertise and will push us all to improve, “ he said about the decision. “Everyone I know talks very highly of Amelie, as a person and coach, and I’m convinced that her joining the team will help us push on – I want to win more grand slams.”
A good start would be reaching a tour final, something he hasn’t done since winning Wimbledon (a pretty shocking stat for a baller with his resume). He’s certainly been hard at work. The Brit has been posting a constant stream of photos and videos on his Facebook page showcasing some of his workout regiment under the watchful eye of the Frenchwoman. But it’s not all work; he took some time out to catch up with fans during a hilarious #AskAndy Facebook Q&A. Andy’s first tourney in the U.S. Open Series will be the Rogers Cup Masters on Aug. 4th where he’s a former champion. Ballers say going back to a place they’ve had success gives them confidence they can do well again. Let’s hope he has better luck in Toronto than he did at Wimbledon.

Vika had a solid start to the 2014 season reaching the finals in Brisbane where she lost to Serena Williams. As the two-time defending champion at the Australian Open, she eased here way through the draw, not losing a set until the quarterfinals where she was defeated in three sets by a zoning Agnieszka Radwanska in a breathtaking, jaw-dropping display of all-court tennis.

A left foot injury forced the Belarusian to withdraw from the Qatar Open in February where she was also the two-time defending champion. She attempted a return at Indian Wells but did not look anything close to healthy in her loss to American Lauren Davis in her first match at the tourney. Withdrawals from Miami, Monterrey, Madrid, Rome, and Roland Garros followed. While she was certainly frustrated by her absence from the game, Azarenka took a decidedly philosophical approach telling the French sports newspaper L'Equipe,
“I've really played very well the past three years, and this is maybe my body sending me a signal, finding a way to tell me to take a step back. This has given me the opportunity to do different things, analyze why I miss tennis at this point."
Azarenka announced her return to competition at Eastbourne where she received a wild card. Although she lost in her first match against Italy’s Camilla Giorgi, it went three sets and nearly three hours, and her foot held up. Wimbledon soon followed where she fell in the second round to Serbia’s Bojana Jovanovski in another tight three-setter.

Both matches proved that, although she was lacking match play, her fight was still very much intact. Ever the fierce competitor, it wasn’t enough for Azarenka to just be competing again; she expected to win. “The thing is that I created a lot of things to make happen for me today,” she said at the time. “I just didn't use any of those opportunities. All that stuff that I built up was good, but not taking advantage was not great.”

Her summer hard-court campaign begins this week at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford. It will be good measure for her game with the likes of world number one ReRe, Angelique Kerber, Dominika Cibulkova, Ana Ivanovic, and a resurgent Venus Williams in the draw. Vika reached three finals last summer, including at the U.S. Open, which means she could fall even further down the rankings with some early losses. If Azarenka wants to begin the climb back to the top of the sport and save what's left of the season, she'll need to start with a strong showing during the U.S. Open Series.

[Photo(s) credit: Getty Images]

Thursday, July 24, 2014

VIDEO VAULT: Del Potro back hitting backhands, Raonic practicing with Serena and Nestor

There were a couple of videos that made the rounds today and they were pretty noteworthy. The first one shows Juan Martin del Potro hitting backhands. He's basically pushing the ball to protect his surgically repaired left wrist. It's a start. I, personally, can't wait for the BIG LUG to return. #biglugluv y'all.

Milos Raonic was practicing today in Toronto and brought along a couple of friends...Serena Williams and Daniel Nestor.

ReRe tweeted about the practice session afterwards:

[Photo credit: Milos Raonic Facebook page]

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

(UPDATED) +NETCORDS: Stephens and Annacone split, Neil Harman caught plagiarizing, and Vaidisova practicing again

Busy day in the tennisphere...

- Soooooo lookie (up) there. If it isn't our old friend, the ex-Worm loving Czech lady baller who retired at the age of 20, Nicole Vaidisova. She was hugely talented, although I always thought her backhand technique was, er, funky. But Vaida had big wins and was on her way up before calling it quits. Then there was the marriage to Radek Stepanek. Let's not relive that one. Apparently she's back to practicing and feeling good: These last couple weeks Im finally able to serve with less pain then i have in over 3 years, it makes me hopeful and happy to see progress after struggling the last couple years with repeated surgeries,rehabs and setbacks..its one step at a time but finally getting a step closer..

- Remember when I mentioned there would likely be more baller-coach partnerships ending? Well...

You can read more here

- Speaking of coaching partnerships, Ana Ivanovic, who recently split with Nemanja Kontic, will be working with former baller Dejan Petrovic on a trial basis through the North American hard-court season. Here's an all-black look she posted on Instagram today for a photoshoot in Napa Valley. Innnteresting.

- Ben Rothenberg on what Neil Harman said to him after being busted for plagiarism: “As you can imagine, I’m utterly, utterly shocked by the whole thing. It’s left me numb.” He said he “had no idea of the extent to which I have unfairly used other people’s words.” Um, I'm not even going to go into how lame Neil's explanations are and how disingenuous his remorse feels. He's clearly in deep denial and reaching for any excuse to save face. There was no public apology when he was first confronted with the evidence - only when it was about to go public. What I really want to know is who at the All England Club will be held responsible for trying to keep it all quiet; for allowing the Wimbledon Yearbook to still be sold even though they knew sections were plagiarized; and for still giving Neil media access at Wimbledon this year even after the plagiarism was discovered? Somebody has some explaining to do. A MUST READ OBVI.

- Genie Bouchard covers the August issue of Elle Quebec

- John Tomic is disputing news from IMG Tennis that both parties agreed to end the partnership with his son, Bernie. On July 16, the sports agency tweeted that they "mutually ended" their relationship with Bernie and wished him "great success." Papa Johns was no having any of it. He told Fairfax Media that they had been looking to leave IMG for the last year-and-a-half, but the agency wanted compensation to cover any losses they would incur from losing Bernie. Uh-huh.

- Caroline Wozniacki's dog, Bruno, has its own jersey courtesy of adidas. Because dogs are awesome.

- Andy Murray has been posting a bunch of training photos and videos on his Facebook page (I found the vid below on drills without actually hitting a tennis ball particularly fascinating). You can see Amelie Mauresmo in some of the photos which some believe signifies Muzz's intention on keeping the partnership intact. Perhaps. There hasn't been a formal announcement yet, but according to The Telegraph "the fact that Mauresmo has travelled to Miami, breaking her habit of holidaying in Biarritz in late July, suggests that she is committed to the project over the longer term." Solid reporting, y'all. 

UPDATE: According to Matt Cronin of, Sloane has brought on Thomas Hogstedt as coach. He has worked with Maria Sharapova, Li Na, and Caroline Wozniacki among others. Speaking of others, wasn't he just with Daniela Hantuchova at Wimbledon? What happened - was it just for the grass-court season?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

(UPDATED) THE LOW DOWN: Did Maria Kirilenko end it with Alex Ovechkin over this Instagram photo?

Is this photo the reason why Maria Kirilenko called off her engagement and ended her relationship with Alex Ovechkin? According to Sports Illustrated, this picture of Ovechkin with gymnast Karolina Sevastianova taken by the hockey star's friend, Russian basketballer Russian basketballer Vitaly Fridzonon, and posted on his Instagram feed led to the breakup.

In the statement released to Russia's R-Sport by Kiri, she said there were "a lot of reasons" for the breakup but did not go into detail. It may look harmless, but there's probably more going on there than meets the eye if the reports are true.

UPDATE: Kiri was interviewed by Sovetsky Sport and denied this image had anything to do with the breakup. Via Deadspin:
Maria, can you comment on the story about the pictures with Sasha and [gymnast Karolina Sevastyanova] on social networks, which are being so vigorously discussed in the media?

Maria Kirilenko: Believe me, over the years I have seen so many pictures of Sasha in the company of young ladies, that I have gotten used to it. That is normal. We are public figures, and people often want to take pictures with us. This is the first time I heard about this girl, and I made my decision to break up the engagement long before these pictures appeared on the social networks. It is laughable to point to them as the main reason behind the breakup – after three years together couples do not break up over a couple of pictures. There are much more significant reasons. I will not go into any more details about them. But let's just say it is not a secret for anybody that Sasha has certain habits and particulars of behavior that I did not consider worth tolerating anymore.
"Certain habits"? "Particulars"? Bueller? Bueller?

 [Photo(s) credit:]

Monday, July 21, 2014

FASHION FIX: Betterer isn't just for Federer anymore

Now you can be Betterer, too. This Nike RF V-Neck tee ($40) is also available in heather grey. Git it.

[Photo(s) credit: Tennis Warehouse]

VIDEO VAULT: The year was 1997 and the music was ________.

All the talk last week was focused on a 17-year old, Alexander Zverev, and a 16-year old, Ana Konju, who will turn 17 in December. Just to prove what an old you are (yeah, and me, too) compared to these fresh-faced wunderkinds, here are the Top 10 songs from the year they were born (according to Billboard). And that year would be, ahem, 1997...

10. Wannabe - The Spice Girls

9. How Do I Live Without You - LeAnn Rimes

8. Return of the Mack - Mark Morrison

7. Don't Let Go (Love) - En Vogue

6. I Believe I Can Fly - R. Kelly

5. Can't Nobody Hold Me Down - Puff Daddy ft. Mase

4. Un-Break My Heart - Toni Braxton

3. I'll Be Missing You - Puff Daddy ft. Faith Evans and 112

2. Foolish Games - Jewel


1. Candle in the Wind - Elton John!!!!!!!!

Yup. I'm an old.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sloane Stephens and the art of the magazine interview

Sloane Stephens is featured in the August issue of Elle magazine in an article that asks, "Is Sloane Stephens the Future of American Tennis?" It's a profile piece on the 21-year old they dubbed the "newly anointed princess of American tennis." Fair enough. Amongst the crop of female upstarts in the US, including Madison Keys, CoCo Vendeweghe, Lauren Davis, and Grace Min, Sloane is the only one to have broken through at the majors (reaching the second week six straight times at one point) and to have defeated Serena Williams. The article, however, is far from fairy-tale stuff. If the goal of the interview was to enhance Sloane’s public persona and engender her to a mainstream audience, she may have lost the plot.

From the beginning, it’s obvious the writer was thrown for a loop once she meets Sloane in the flesh.
“I’m at some level expecting Grace Kelly; instead, I get Cher Horowitz.” 
So there’s the set up. The article continues and, at one point, Sloane discusses a visit to her gynecologist, who happens also to be a tennis fan.
“I saw my gyno today, and she’s like, ‘I can’t wait for Indian Wells,’ ” Stephens says. Indian Wells, for the uninitiated, is a major tennis tournament in Southern California in March, and Stephens’ doctor, it seems, is also one of her ardent fans. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! She’s looking in my vajay!’” 
Overshare much? Not quite the image you may have had of Sloane, or wanted for that matter. Later, she pays a visit to the offices of Lagardère Unlimited, her management company. After complaining about the trek to get there (yes, LA traffic is notoriously horrific), she and the writer arrive for a session of autographing items for a USTA kids’ day event. Sloane signs a batch of visors and signals that she’s had enough.
“I’m not signing those wristbands, I hope you know,” she announces, breaking the awkward silence that has settled over the room. Soon, Stephens declares she’s done. “I’m not signing any more. There’s not that many kids in the world.”
Gruff. She also manages to pack in references to Caroline Wozniacki, Khloe Kardashian, Katy Perry, and Beyonce in the piece. They’re all reminders that, after all, she’s only 21-years old.

There’s been plenty of criticism online towards Sloane for the things that were said in this article; and some of it is deserved. She comes across at times like the stereotypically spoiled athlete who can’t pump her own gas or who won’t sign enough wristbands. Rather than consider the fact that she might be missing out on something important like a formal education, she’d prefer to take a nap. Not major offenses, but certainly immature. But, how many stupid things did I say when I was 21 that I wish I could take back? There are plenty. Lucky for me, though, they’re not in print (unless you count my journals…and you can’t).

It was only last year that Serena made controversial remarks in Rolling Stone magazine about the Steubenville rape case (MUCH worse) along with catty musings allegedly referring to Maria Sharapova. She made the obligatory public apology and vowed to do better. ReRe has been in the media glare going on 15 years and she was still caught off guard by some of things she said that ended up being published. It’s a continual learning process even for a veteran.

There’s definitely something about her penchant for oversharing that feels generational. She’s part of an age group that has grown up with social media, where oversharing has become normalized and habitual. And it doesn’t end online. If you know anyone of that generation, you’ll see that their first instinct once something happens in their lives – good, bad, whatever – is to share it with their friends and “friends.” It’s a way of connecting and belonging, and it doesn’t change just because someone is famous. The oversharing also feels compulsive and, as the writer put it, an “unconscious ploy to put people at a distance, to keep expectations low.” With all that Sloane’s been through in her personal life (as detailed in the article), it shouldn’t be a surprise that her best offense is a strong defense.

As the public, we want our athletes to be “real”, to be heroic, and to tell us what they think. We seek them out on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with what they’re doing on a daily basis. We follow them on Instagram hoping for a genuine snapshot of their lives, only to find out that what we’re seeing is both literally and figuratively filtered. We don’t really want to know that they’d rather not autograph every single freebie because they happen to be in a mood (I MEAN, IT’S FOR THE KIDS!!). They owe us, the fans, a genuine effort and an appreciation for the position they worked hard to achieve.

Maybe having a veil over what they really think and feel is a good idea after all.

[Photo(s) credit:]

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Maria Sharapova towers over Floyd Mayweather at the ESPY Awards

GIF: Maria Sharapova boxes out Floyd Mayweather, then leans o... on Twitpic
No one upstages Maria Sharapova. Unless you're Floyd Mayweather.

The diminutive boxer was given the royal treatment during his introduction at last night's ESPYs by host Drake, including a rolled out red carpet. But the Russian was having none of it. She walked out in front of Mayweather, took over the podium, and then asked, "Wow, where was my introduction?" Maria then used the 5' 6" boxer to prop herself up. Drake isn't making many friends in tennis.

Sharapova won for Best Female Tennis Player and Rafael Nadal picked up the ESPY for Best Male Tennis Player.

Grigor Dimitrov and Sloane Stephens attended the show along with Maria.

We even got a peek into the shoe collection the 5-time Grand Slammer got to choose from for the night's festivities.

And, an awards show wouldn't be complete without some selfies, right?

[Photo(s) credit: Getty Images]

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

PHOTO OP: Roger Federer's game on Lindsey Vonn's surface - who wins?

Roger Federer and Lindsey Vonn came together on a make-shift tennis court atop a glacier in the Swiss Alps as part of the #chocolateheaven promotion for Lindt Chocolate. The company is opening a new store in town and brought along the sports superstars to help with the launch.

Now THIS is what you're supposed to do on ice:

ICYMI: The pair shot a video that features them talking about the challenge via Skype.

[Photo(s) credit: Getty Images, Reuters]

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