Google Down the Line!: 2008-01-20

Saturday, January 26, 2008

PHOTO OP: Israeli doubles team defeats Frenchies for title, but share similar celebratory moment

Double your fun: Jonathan Erlich + Andy Ram of Israel won the Australian Open men's doubles title by defeating the French team of Arnaud Clement + Michael Llodra. It seems the Israeli's - who are both rockin' some serious legs - took their post-match celebratory cues from the Frenchies, though.

Uh, we never found doubles very interesting, but we're starting to have second thoughts - and not all about tennis.

(image via AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

PHOTO OP: Pat Rafter inducted into Australia Tennis Hall of Fame, though likeness can't replicate hotness

Aussie cutie Pat Rafter was inducted into his country's Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday, Australia Day. The former World No. 1 retired in 2002 after capturing consecutive US Opens from 1997 - 1998. Upon accepting the induction Pat said,

"Obviously the International Hall of Fame is probably as high as it gets and the Australian one is as high as it gets here in Australia. I won the US Open and I would have loved to have won one back at home."
Pat, you'll always be a member of our Sexiest Tennis Ballers Hall of Fame...

(image via ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images)

PREVIEW: Australian Open Men's Final

Head -to-head: 1st meeting

So, we've arrived at the final singles match of this season's first Grand Slam - drats. Anyway, No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic will take on the unheralded and unseeded Jo-Wilfriend Tsonga for the Australian Open championship - a maiden Grand Slam title for either tennis baller's trophy case.

How they got here: Nole produced his most complete performance when it mattered most, comprehensively defeating World No. 1 and 2-time defending champion Roger Federer in straight sets 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (5). Jo-Willy caused the biggest upset at this year's tourney, blowing past a shell-shocked Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. This match will be the first meeting between these two rising stars.

Here's what Nole had to say about playing Jo-Willy:
"Yeah, of course. I've seen many of his matches. As I think everybody, I was impressed with the way he plays. Obviously, as he was saying on the interviews after the matches, you know, he's just living the dream. For him it's a great achievement. You know, I'm happy to play with some younger player, you know, somebody else. So we never played against each other, so it's going to be a new experience. You know, what a way to play, you know, in the finals of a Grand Slam. He was really playing well, especially in the semifinals. Nothing to lose. Something like that I might expect in the finals. But I'll try to recover and get the tactic ready with my coach."
Jo-Willy had this to say about taking on Nole:
"He won yesterday. He played well. It's never easy to beat Federer. We will play tomorrow at the final, and it's going to be a big moment of sports. [...] [Playing Rafa and Nole is] the same, no? It's the same, because Nadal is 2 in the world and Djokovic 3, so both of them won a lot of tournaments and they have more experience than me. I know it's going to be difficult, but I'm here and ready for that."
Outlook: Picking the winner of this match is a real toss up. Though the Serb has much more experience in these situations, Jo-Willy played lights out against Rafa, and if he plays to that level he will be unbeatable - his raw power can blow anyone off the court. But, we think the 20-year old, as he's done throughout the tourney, will play the big points smarter and take his opportunities. We're picking Nole to win in 4 sets and take home his first Grand Slam title.

(images via TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

Maria Sharapova defeats Ivanovic for first Aussie Open title, celebrates with trip down Yarra River

Champion again: Maria "Shriek"apova capped a dominant 2 weeks in Melbourne, capturing her first Australian Open title and third Grand Slam without dropping a set - color us impressed. The Russian spoke to the press after her match and said about the win,

"It's amazing. You know, sometimes you just ‑‑ when you're putting the work in it just seems so, so hard, and you never know when that work's gonna pay off. When you're going through tough moments, you never know when you're going to have good moments. I'm just so thankful that I got this one."

The new Aussie Open champ then took the winner's trophy on the road, or should we say the river. Dressed in a stunning emerald green silk tank and navy skirt, the former No. 1 took a ride down the Yarra River on the "Rebecca" to celebrate the big victory.

(images via WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images & Rob Griffith/AP)

Friday, January 25, 2008

PREVIEW: Australian Open Women's Final

Ana Ivanovic vs. Maria "Shriek"apova
Head-to-head: Ana 2, Maria 2
Last meeting: WTA Championships '07, Maria 6-1 6-2

Could this final be signaling a changing of the guard? These two 20-year olds have made their way to the first Grand Slam final of the year taking out experienced veterans and up-and-comers in their respective paths. World No. 3 Ana Ivanovic (who will move to the No. 2 position on Monday regardless of the outcome) will take on World No. 5 Maria "Shriek"apova for the Australian Open title.

How they got here: Ana showed real grit and determination in her semifinal match, coming back from a set and a break down to beat an annoyed Daniela Hantuchova 0-6, 6-3, 6-4. Maria benefited from an injured Jelena Jankovic, but stayed focused and got through her semifinal with an easy 6-1, 6-3 victory. The last time these players met up was in the quarterfinal round of last season's WTA Championships where the Russian dominated her Serbian opponent 6-1, 6-2.

Here's what Ana said about playing Maria:
"Yeah, she's definitely in a good shape and she's been playing some good tennis this last couple of weeks. Yeah, she improved her movement. And her serve, it's very high percentage, really strong. So, you know, it's going to be interesting match. We are 2‑All in victories. I managed to beat her before, so that's something I have to look for and try to perform like I did that time."
Maria had this to say about taking on Ana:
"She's already been in a Grand Slam final. You know, who knows. When you go out there, it really depends on how you feel you're playing. Her chance is just as good as mine. We're both Grand Slam finalists. We're here. We've had a great two weeks of tennis."
Outlook: This is a tough one - though Maria is the form player going into the final, Ana showed great composure in her semifinal. The Serb was able to think strategically and make small adjustments, which allowed her to climb into Dani's head. We think she'll play Maria tough, but the Russian fashionista is too headstrong - she'll win in 3 sets and walk away with her first Aussie Open title.

(images via AFP/File/Torsten Blackwood & Greg Wood/Getty)

Novak Djokovic upsets Federer, performs trademark celebratory shirtless dance

Baring it all: Our favorite member of the shirtless brigade, Novak Djokovic, caused a huge upset at the Australian Open ousting defending champion Roger Federer in straight sets 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) and making his second consecutive Grand Slam final. As we predicted, Nole kept his nerve and took his opportunities hitting more aces (13-10) and more winners (50-38) than the World No. 1. He'll take on surprise Frenchie finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for the title on Sunday.

After his stunning upset, the Serbian World No. 3 told the press,

"Well, yes, that was one of the positive facts, I think, in tonight's match, I was able to deal with the pressure in the best possible way, [...] And if you do that against the best player in the world, you know, you should get the positive outcome, which resulted of course with the win tonight. [...] I'm very happy that in crucial moments my serve was serving me, and it was probably my best element in the game tonight in the important moments. So it is a positive thing for the future."
Yes, the future is beginning to look a lot brighter for you Nole...

(images via WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Men's 1st Marquee Matchup: Australian Open Semifinals

Finally: Here's our first Men's Marquee Matchup of the Australian Open and it could be a great one. This semifinal pits World No. 1 Roger Federer, going for his 13th Grand Slam, against Novak Djokovic in a rematch of their US Open final battle from last season. The winner will take on a perfect-playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for the title on Sunday.

Fed took on a familiar foe in James Blake and closed the match with a familiar ending - a win for the Swiss over the American 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-4. Nole battled World No. 5 David Ferrer and, with the exception of a slight shaky ending, easily defeated the Spaniard 6-0, 6-3, 6-4. The last time these two tennis ballers met was in last year's US Open final where Fed saved 7 of 9 break points en route to a 7-6(4), 7-6(2), 6-4 victory and 12th Grand Slam.

Here's what the Swiss Stylist said about playing Nole:

"He obviously had seven set points in the first couple of sets [of the US Open final] and hurt him big time. But I think level was very good. So actually was the level at Montreal when we played against each other. And we usually have always very good matches when we play. I look forward to playing my best tennis about Novak Djokovic. I look forward to playing to win. That's what my mindset is, really."
Nole had this to say about battling Fed:
"So I felt that after the win against Roger in Montreal, I had big chances in the [US Open] final, though I didn't use my opportunities that has been given to me, and now I look at the things in a different way. You know, every time I play with Roger or with the best players in the world, I learn something new, I have another experience. And I try to ‑‑ I try to watch matches, you know, speak with the coach and see what I need to do so I can ‑‑ so I can play better, save some energy, you know, improve my game, and win against the best players in the world.
This match is all about execution - who will keep focus and hit their shots when it counts. We know how the World No. 1 will play, but will the 20-year old Serb stay calm in the tight moments? He missed countless opportunities in the US Open final but has shown composure when it mattered most here. We're feeling an upset brewing - so we'll pick Nole in 5 sets to reach his first Aussie Open final.

(images via ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images + Rick Stevens/AP)

PHOTO OP: French men's doubles team make Aussie final, share intimate on-court moment

More French hotness: Like we need more reasons to love tennis ballers so. Arnaud Clement + Michael Llodra celebrated their doubles win in the best way possible - with a little man-on-man action. The Frenchies defeated the unseeded South African team of Wesley Moodie + Jeff Coetze 6-3, 7-6 (11) to reach the final. The pair will play Andy Ram + Jonathan Erlich of Israel for the Australian Open title.

What do you think the French team will do if they actually win the whole thing? Ouch.

(images via GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

PHOTO OP: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga crushes Rafa and makes Aussie final, joins shirtless brigade for fans

A song for Tsonga: Unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga caused the biggest upset on the men's side of the Australian Open last night, crushing World No. 2 Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 and reaching his first Grand Slam final. Playing with the calm and ease of someone who had been here many times, the French hottie had everything going his way, making the match look all too easy.

, who joined the shirtless brigade this fortnight, told the press during his post-match conference,

"Everything was in and my backhand worked a lot and my serve also, my forehand, my volley, my dropshot, everything. It was ‑‑ I was moving on the court like never I move, so everything was perfect."
We agree, Jo-Willy, everything we saw was perfect...

(image via Andrew Brownbill/AP)

Ana Ivanovic squeaks out win, reaches first Aussie Open final

Getting through: Ana Ivanovic overcame a 0-6, 0-2 hole to defeat Daniela Hantuchova and reach her first Australian Open final. The win did not come without a little controversy, however. Our pick for the final, who will face Maria "Shriek"apova for the title, was accused of possible gamemanship by the slender Slovak for the constant squeaking of her tennis shoes while Dani was about to serve.

The World No. 9 was asked about the squeaking during her press conference after the loss:

Q. What about the way she squeaks her feet when she returns?
A. Yeah, that's ridiculous, I think. I was really surprised with that. I think it's unfair. It's a distraction to the server. Yeah, we played before and she never did it.

Q. Did you say anything to the umpire?
A. Yeah, in the first or second service game, but she didn't do anything about it. I don't think that was very nice.

Q. Is that something you've come across anyone else doing, or that's the first time that's happened?
A. Yeah.

Ana was asked about Dani's above comments during her post-match press conference:

Q. Daniela was very upset with the amount of noise your shoes were making on the court. She thought the squeakiness of your shoes, particularly when you're returning serve, is a form of gamesmanship, and you're deliberately making a lot of noise with your shoes on the court.
A. Well, I don't think so. If you see other matches I was doing exactly the same thing. It's just the way these courts play. And if you listen to the guys I think they're doing the same thing.
You know, I just tried to move my feet, to return the ball, so it really was not intentional.

Q. Are you a natural squeaker, or are these courts squeakier than other courts?
A. This ‑‑ I don't know, really. I just try to move my feet, and I don't pay attention to the squeaking of my shoes make.

Q. Could you sense it was annoying her at the time?
A. Once I saw she was complaining to the referee, you know. But there was nothing I could do, because if I want to move my feet to return a ball, you know, this was the sound I was producing. And, also, during the point, if I want to run with small steps around the ball, it was exactly the same thing. So, you know, maybe she was just trying to pick on something, to get upset.

We don't think it was gamesmanship, though the squeaking is probably annoying and distracting to hear right before serving. But what could be done?

(image via Rob Griffith/AP)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

PREVIEW: Australian Open Women's Semifinal Showdowns

The four ladies of the Australian Open semifinals have been decided and are set for the Women's Semifinal Showdown. Here's a preview:

Maria "Shriek"apova vs. Jelena Jankovic

Head-to-head: Maria 3, Jelena 1
Last meeting: Birmingham '07 (grass), Jelena 4-6 6-3 7-5

How they got here: Maria played the women's match of the tournament, so far, against World No. 1 Justine Henin. In her comprehensive 6-4, 6-0 defeat of the Belgian, Maria showed she's matured as a tennis baller by mixing up her game with sharp angles, drop shots, and volleys - everything we thought she'd need to do to grab the win. Jelena caused the biggest upset, knocking off a subdued and out-of-sorts Serena Williams and taking a 3-2 lead in their head-to-head. All credit to the Serb for keeping her focus and composure during her 6-3, 6-4 win over the 8-time Grand Slam champ.

The last time Maria and Jelena battled was at Birmingham, a Wimbledon warm-up tourney. The World No. 4 got the better of the Russian, sneaking out a 7-5 third set win over Maria on her favored surface.

Here's what Maria had to say about playing Jelena:

"This is a new encounter, a new match. This is a great opportunity for both of us. I'm very excited about the matchup. [...] Ever since the juniors we've always played really tough and we've always battled it out, and it's great to see her in the semis. It's great we're playing together."
Jelena has this to say about getting to the semifinals:
"When I think about [the first match, saving 3 match points], I get goosebumps, actually. It's really scary, scary thought. If you see the match point that I saved on that first day, you wouldn't believe I could actually win that point when it started, because I kept hitting the balls like a slice. It would go out and somehow landed on the line. Then the next shot I hit a slice and it floated and it landed on the line again. Then the next backhand went in the corner all the way on the line again. And I was like, I don't know who was playing or what's happening out there, but it was really unbelievable. And then being in a semifinal after those matches where I survived, it doesn't get better than that."
Outlook: Will Maria suffer a mental letdown after defeating Justine? Can Jelena's body hold up for another match, or has it finally reached the limit?? We think Maria will need to win the match in two sets - Jelena is a superior mover and could run the 6' 2" Russian around keeping her off balance. But, Maria has a third Grand Slam title in her reach and she won't let up - we'll take her in 2 sets.

Ana Ivanovic vs. Daniela Hantuchova

Head-to-head: Ana 2, Daniela 1
Last meeting: WTA Championships '07 (carpet), Ana 6-2 7-6(9)

How they got here: Ana made it 2 for 2, taking out a second Williams sister in as many days. Showing improved movement and fitness, the Serb battled Venus for a 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 win - her first over the American in 5 tries. Daniela, taking advantage of a ravaged draw that saw World No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova go down early, is making her first trip to a Grand Slam semifinal after a 6-2, 6-2 win over Polish teen Agnieszka Radwanska (who took out Kuzy in the 3rd round).

Ana and Dani last played each other at the season-ending WTA Championships last year in Madrid, where the Serb took a straight set win in round-robin play.

Here's what Ana said about taking on Dani:
"She had a great run. She had a lot of good wins. Obviously there is no easy matches in a Grand Slam. But she obviously has a lot of confidence coming into semifinal. I believe it's her first Grand Slam semifinal, so it's going to be a very tough match. As I already spoke before, we both have a good chance and I really hope it will be a good match. We had tough matches last time we played in Madrid and also before that in Luxembourg and once more also last year on grass. It's gonna be I think interesting match and I'm really looking forward for a challenge."
Dani had this to say about being a first time semifinalist:
"Well, it's going to be, again, a new experience for me, which I'm really excited about. Either way, whoever I play, it's going to be a tough match. But I've got nothing to lose. I'm in a great position. I'm feeling like I'm playing well. I'm just really looking forward to be out on the court again and give my best and see what happens."
Outlook: Ana should take this match convincingly - too much game. But, if she gets nervous Dani has enough experience to make things interesting. But, nevertheless, we're picking the Serb to reach her first Aussie Open final in 2 sets.

(images via Rob Griffith & Rick Stevens/AP)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

PHOTO OP: Serena joins Venus for doubles, suffers second loss in a day

Picture (im)perfect: Sometimes a picture is really worth a thousand words, and then some. After her puzzling loss to Jelena Jankovic in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, Serena Williams took the court with sister Venus for some doubles action - and lost again. The experienced Chinese team of Yan Zi and Zheng Jie defeated the Sisters Sledge 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

The defending champ met with the press after her doubles match and said about her loss to Jelena,

"I just think I'm not going to sit here and make excuses. I lost because Jelena played better than me and I made too many errors. I think regardless, the match was on my racquet, and I gave it away."
Based on this photo, ReRe's quarterfinal loss was still firmly on her mind, and may be for some time.

(image via AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill)

PHOTO OP: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga breaks through, gains Aussie Open semis over Youzhny

Tsemis for Tsonga: There's a new kid in tennis town. We first grabbed notice of this strapping 22-year old Muhammad Ali look-alike during Wimbledon last season and he continues to impress into 2008. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga gained his first Grand Slam semifinal by taking out the powerful Russian Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets 7-5, 6-0, 7-6 (8-6). He'll face World No. 2 Rafael Nadal for a spot in the finals of the Australian Open.

After his win, Jo-Willy told the press,

"I don't know how to [describe the feelings.] It's like I want to cry, I want to smile, I want everything. And it's a lot of emotion, so..."
Let the bandwagon jumping begin!

(images via GREG WOOD & William West/AFP/Getty Images)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Women's 2nd Marquee Matchup: Australian Open Quarterfinals

We've arrived at our second Women's Marquee Matchup of the Australian Open and this one has 'classic' written all over it. No. 1 seed Justine Henin puts her 32-match win streak on the line as she takes on Maria "Shriek"apova under the lights of Rod Laver Arena for a place in the semifinals.

Though she was broken while serving to close out her 4th round match, the World No. 1 was never in any real trouble against Chinese Taipei's Hsieh Su-Wei, winning 6-2, 6-2. Maria was more impressive in her match, destroying 2-time Grand Slam finalist Elena Dementieva 6-2, 6-0 in 62 minutes. The last time these players met was in the classic final of last season's Sony Ericsson WTA Championships in Madrid, with Justine sneaking out a 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 victory - the longest match in the Championship's history.

Here's what Justine had to say about facing Maria:

"I always know to beat her I have to be at my best. She's a real fighter. She never gives up. Very talented. She's a champion. So I know that against her I will have to be a hundred percent all the time."
Maria had this to say about facing the Belgian:
"Justine's the one to beat, [...] She's on a pretty good winning streak, but every match is new. [...] The one in Madrid was tough but physically she got me in the end -- she was tougher than I was in the end. But I had many chances and I was very close to winning."
Their strengths are clear: Justine has the mobility, versatility, and court-craft while Maria possesses bludgeoning power from the baseline. There's also no mystery between these two - they know each other's games well. Craig Hickman's Tennis Blog is giving the edge to Justine, but Maria has been the sharper player. We think the Russian will play first-strike tennis, rocket her groundies to the corners, and take balls out of the air - which is the only was she'll win. And we think she 3 sets.

(images via Clive Brunskill & Rob Griffith/AP)

FASHION FIX: Feliciano Lopez works Joma Sport, no longer with Nike

Change up play: Feliciano Lopez was quickly bundled out of this year's Australian Open in the second round by Frenchie Richard Gasquet 6-2, 6-1, 6-3. Maybe that's why we didn't notice the clothing sponsor change by the Spaniard. Feliciano, formerly part of the Nike stable, is currently working Joma Sport, a Spanish sports apparel brand based in his hometown of Toledo, Spain.

Could it be he was dropped by the global sports brand, or did Feli finally get tired of looking like everyone else?

(images via Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

SIGHTING: Nicole Kidman & Keith Urban take in the Aussie Open

Lending support: Soon-to-be mom and Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman was spotted with husband Keith Urban checking out countryman Lleyton Hewitt battle Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open Round of 16. Unfortunately, tennis' sexiest Serb took down Lleyton in straight sets 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals where he'll face Spanish speedster David Ferrer.

(image via ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Image)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

INSTANT REPLAY - Aussie Open Edition: a look back at the week's top tennis plays


Nike pulls a another switch-a-roo, sort of
Chalk another one up for the Serbian gene pool
Global Domination Tour gains momentum in Melbourne
Darth Federer strikes back
V's cheap-chic moment
Passion gets peppered

Women's 1st Marquee Matchup: Lindsay vs. Maria
Mixing it up with Aravane
A player's loyalty in question
Getting a bum wrap?
Fashion fight
Nole bores Maria
ReRe supports V's booty
Dani earns a break
Nole goes goth
James wins, joins shirtless brigade
The birth of a new fashion brand?
Leander goes all Elvis

SEPARATED AT BIRTH: Leander Paes vs. Elvis

Tennis twosome: We think India's Leander Paes is channeling his best Elvis Presley at the Australian Open - well, at least his hair is...

(images via & TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

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