Google Down the Line!: 2008-04-27

Friday, May 2, 2008

THE LOW DOWN: Will Venus skip the French Open?

What's going on with Venus Williams these days? When we last checked in with the 6-time Grand Slammer she was clearing the air about her supposed "hiatus" from tennis for an undisclosed medical reason saying,

To be very clear, I am healthy, I am not on an indefinite leave of absence and I will be back on Tour next month beginning in Rome (May 12).
Now comes word via that V may be skipping the French Open:
According to Davis Cup Committee Chairman Bill Kellogg via the SD Union Tribune's Jerry Magee, Venus Williams won't play Roland Garros.
We haven't heard a peep from the 27-year old since her last blog post. Anyone out there have the inside scoop?

(image via Getty)

Quote of the Day: Federer on his '08 campaign

This is a year when I want to save myself for the most important tournaments coming up now – the French, Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open. That's when I want to have extra energy. It was part of my scheduling that I knew maybe I wouldn't win a tournament early on.

- Roger Federer on his goals for the rest of the 2008 season
Exactly - Fed knows the schedule is screwed so he's made smart choices for himself knowing he may not win early tournaments.

Why can't other ballers take this approach?

(image via Getty)

THE LOW DOWN: Shady WTA Tour tries to muscle Sharapova, Russian pleads for help

I had no idea the WTA Tour was like something out of The Sopranos or in this case the Russian mob.

Maria "Shriek"apova has lifted the veil on some of the startlingly shady policies by the WTA Tour, and how the Tour is trying to muscle the Russian into paying their mortgage. But the always savvy Maria issued statements on her website and, in an unsual move, asked her fans to give her advice on her forum:

As many of you know, the WTA tour makes many players enter tournaments that they know the players will not be playing. I informed the WTA several months ago that if I played Charleston, I would have to pull out of Berlin. Now they are forcing me to give an injury for the reason why I am pulling out or they will give me an additional fine on top of the 125,000 fine already given to me. I am a very giving person, but I refuse to give anymore of my money to the WTA tour. So I want everyone to know that besides getting sick the past few days, I am healthy and I am looking forward to playing Rome. The good news is that the new road map for next year should solve all these problems.

I want all my fans to know that the WTA Tour is forcing me and several of the other top players to do a 4 hour commercial shoot for WTA Tour marketing materials. They want me to do this shoot on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday of the Rome tournament after flying 12 hours from LA. I have set my own personal rules when it comes to doing shoots and I never do shoots before tournaments because they are mentally draining and I want to just focus on my tennis. Now the WTA is telling me if I don't do this shoot they will fine me over $300,000. As you can see the WTA Tour loves to fine players. To be honest, I would love to do this and help promote the tour as much as possible, but to force me to do this shoot the day before a tier 1 tournament is just not right. I am interested in what my fans think I should do?

1) Should I just do the shoot?

2) Should I NOT do the shoot and take the fine?

3) Should I NOT do the shoot and take legal action against the WTA?

4) Should I contact the other top players and try to boycott the shoot?

5) Other
To voice your opinion go to the forum by clicking here.
Wow! I'd hate to run into the WTA Tour administrators in a dark alley - very scary. What's also very scary? Asking your fans what to do with your money.

(image via Getty)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

VIDEO VAULT: Carrie Milbank's job in danger by ambitious sales associate, fashion can kill

Tennis Week is upping their fashion ante by doing a Women's Spring Fashion video for your home-viewing pleasure (wait - didn't I already do that here + here? Back off Tennis Week!)

Hostess with the mostest Carrie Milbank visits a tight + cramped New York City store called Masons Tennis Mart (which looks to be located in the blackhole called the Manhattan Mall) to preview what the ladies-who-lunch might want to wear to their next country club meet-up.

Carrie is assisted by an obviously knowledgeable sales associate (the video description calls her an 'expert') who clearly would like nothing better than to steal her precious commentating job away (see said associates practiced camera stare):

Watch your back Carrie - she's coming for you.

FASHION FIX: The men of Spain dress it up for ISport magazine

Some of Spain's biggest ballers (excluding the biggest ball of them all - Rafa) took part in a photo shoot for ISport magazine, looking sharply dressed for any off-court occasion.

Check out Juan Carlos Ferrero, Tommy Robredo, Fernando Verdasco, Nicolas Almagro, + Guillermo-Garcia Lopez getting all gussied up for fashion.

(images via

Peter Bodo holds the secret to Nole's issues: Frank Sinatra

What do Novak Djokovic + Jimmy Connors have in common? According to Peter Bodo, a big mouth and a penchance for going all Frank Sinatra on the tour's ass.

Peter Bodo finally takes his (always lengthy) aim at Nole's retirement woes saying the two ballers share a "My way" attitude which may inadvertently hurt the Serb's physical well-being:

One critical similarity between Djokovic and Connors is that both have been accused of being lousy sports who did a fair amount of manipulation in their drive for success. For Connors, the accusations were based on his attempts to intimidate officials and opponents, and his "ducking" of the top players by refusing to play the main, WCT tour early in his career. The complaints against Djokovic are similar: he doesn't sufficiently "respect" Federer and Nadal; he "ducks" out of big matches against the best players by succumbing to mystery ailments. After all, there is no alternative tour, like there was back in Connors' heyday.

So Djokovic is loosely following in the footprints of Connors and any other player who can claim to have done things "My way." Like Connors, Djokovic has circled the (family) wagons and keeps his own counsel, although he has nothing like Connors's siege mentality. Djokovic also has a much better grasp of public relations and basic decorum than Jimbo ever did. This sense that you have to figure it out all by yourself, with such an enormous amount at stake, can become oppressive. It creates pressure, and pressure always seeks an outlet. If denied, the pressure shuts down the machine.

Interesting - so the mental affects the physical? How ingenious!

(image via Getty)

THE LOW DOWN: Rafa still steaming at ATP, "I am getting tired of it all," says Nadal

Rafael Nadal is still steaming about the tennis calendar and he doesn't care who knows it - especially the ruling body of the ATP.

The defending Barcelona champion publicly lashed out at the ATP again for the action-packed calendar this year including a shortened (by a week) clay-court tour and the Olympics saying Europe and its players are being 'destroyed':

These people are destroying Europe and Europe used to be the foundation of the tour. I think it's completely impossible to play at one's best level for all four tournaments -- Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Hamburg.

You just have to accept this situation, all the players will be the same, they will not be able to play at their high level for all four, I think it's totally impossible. I think that when a player loses in the first round or pulls out -- and they get criticized -- the tournament should ring these people (the ATP) and tell them that it is their fault.

I have some email conversations with these people but it is true that they end up doing what they like and I am getting tired of it all.
All players and fans know the calendar is over-scheduled but it seems Rafa is taking it very personally - as if it was created just to mess up his run on his favored clay surface. He's definitely feeling the pressure of not defending all of his points - or if he does, he'll be spent at the end.

One question: Why didn't he just opt out Barcelona, the one non-Master Series tourney here, to give himself a break? Surely he could save energy and make up the points somewhere else.

The more that is said about the calendar this year the more I respect Andy Roddick's tough decision to skip the Olympics. He seemed to realize you can't do it all and tough choices need to be made - so he made the right one for himself regardless of any criticism. Smarty-pants.

(image via Getty)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Shoulder injury stops Haas again - could it be curtains for the German?

Another day, another injury withdrawal for Tommy Haas. According to,

[He] withdrew [from the BMW Open] with a painful right shoulder. Haas said he would skip the upcoming tournaments in Hamburg and Rome.
So far the German withdrew from the Aussie Open, gave a walk-over to Roger Federer at Indian Wells, and retired from Monte Carlo and now Munich all because of his shaky shoulder.

I think the curtain is calling for the 30-year old.

(image via Getty)

THE LOW DOWN: Murray makes excuses for Barcelona loss - he's just not that into you, tennis

Andy Murray can't stop Super Mario, or himself.

The Brit baller has now lost to Mario Ancic for the third time in four meetings this year. His latest disappointment? A second round 6-4, 6-4 dismissal from Barcelona by the Croat today.

Here's what Andy has to say about the loss via his website:

I didn't get that fired up for the match. I was flat. I was going to be here practising anyway, so I had hoped to get a few matches. But my priority is to train for Rome and Hamburg. I wanted to continue from last week, but (playing here) is not the be-all and end-all.

I've now got four or five days to get ready for Rome. It and Hamburg are the most important ones going into the French Open. All of the major players should be there, which was not the case last week.

I find it interesting how Andy dismisses this loss by saying "I was going to be practising here anyway" and "[Rome] and Hamburg are the most important [tournaments] going into the French Open" as if this loss shouldn't really count. Plus, what does he mean the major ballers weren't in Monte Carlo last week? They were all surely there and it only took one to embarrass him 6-0, 6-4: Nole.

I'd love to give Andy a KISS - "keep it simple stupid" as they say. But don't get your giblets in an uproar - I'm not saying he's stupid. However, his 5o-person entourage, including newest member Alex Corretja, has yet to bring in any interesting results.

Less is more Andy - you may have too many cooks in your kitchen!

(image via Getty)

Nishikori hits paydirt, signs potentially record-breaking deal with Sony

In one of the most innovative tennis partnerships for a baller in recent memory, 18-year old Kei Nishikori, the youngest in the top 100, has just signed a 3-year deal with Sony to promote the brand globally. Via the press release:

IMG today announced that professional tennis player Kei Nishikori has signed a three-year global sponsorship agreement with Sony Corporation.

Nishikori, 18, will endorse a wide range of Sony electronics products. In addition, the Japanese-born tennis player will wear a Sony logo on his right sleeve during official competition. Nishikori currently has worldwide endorsement agreements with Adidas and Wilson.
According to Nick Bollettieri's blog, the buzz around the locker room is that it's a potentially record-breaking deal in tennis terms.

Damn - what's he gonna get when he actually wins a second title? Is Kei our Lebron James??

(images via

Berlin loses two top 'ovas, glamour quotient takes nosedive

Maria "Shriek"apova + Daniela Hantuchova have pulled out of next week's German Open.

Maria pulled out of the Tier 1 tourney to allow her body to recover, though no other specifics were given. I'm thinking birthday party hangover. It's like any newly 21-year old cutting all of her college classes for the next week or so to recover - we've all done it (okay, maybe just me.)

Apparently Dani has a stress fracture in her right foot, which forced her to pull out of the Fed Cup World Group II play-offs as well. Bad news for Dani. Injuries are never a great thing but stress fractures, in particular, can be career threatening. Ask Monica Seles.

(image via

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Federer talks celebrity, Hamburg '02, Mirka and French Open dreams with Inside Tennis

Roger Federer gave a lengthy interview to William Simons of Inside Tennis for their May issue. Apparently, it took Simons four years and many kindly worded rejections from his better half to lock down the wily Fed:

E-mails from Federer’s companion Mirka, saying “Sorry, dearest Bill” became treasured rejection slips, which carried a certain cache.
It was worth the wait. The Swiss stylist gives great insight into the mind of an athlete who has dominated their respective sport, discussing his celebrity status, the death of his first coach + mentor Peter Carter, the importance of Hamburg '02, Mirka's role in his career, which players own the best strokes, and what he'd like first - a Roland Garros crown, Davis Cup title, or Olympic gold medal:

INSIDE TENNIS: Everybody sees the glitz of celebrity. But is there a downside, a burden to celebrity?

ROGER FEDERER: It’s good we don’t have paparazzi in Switzerland. We don’t have people chasing you around and stuff. That’s a good thing. This is one of the reasons why I want to live there when I’m older.

IT: In your formative years, the Aussie Peter Carter was so important to you. The man was so much more than a coach to you. And then on a summer day in Canada, you got word about his sudden death in an auto accident. Soon you found yourself walking alone with your sorrow and loss in Toronto. That solitary night, a young athlete walking the streets alone with your loss was a moment of...

RF: It was difficult because of the disbelief. Until then, I didn’t have to deal much with anybody passing away who’d been close to me. It really touched me strongly because of everything Peter did for me and what he gave me as a player. At a young age, when a coach helps you, he’s more than just a coach. He’s a mentor. He’s your friend. He’s your father figure when your parents are not around. This is why it was so important to me. I wouldn’t say it woke me up, but it definitely made me work again extra hard because it just shows you how quickly it can be over.

IT: It had meaning?

RF: It did have an affect on my game, yeah.

IT: You’ve spoken about the importance of your big breakthrough on court in Hamburg in ‘02. Before that you said you were stuck outside of the top ten and you wondered what you had to do to get into the top ten. You were a struggling player within the pack — a player with great potential, but one who still remained a wannabe. Then you won and felt you were in contention to be No.1.

RF: I wasn’t playing too well. I lost in the first round in Rome the week before against [Andrea] Gaudenzi 4 and 4. I just had changed rackets, changed strings — the whole thing — to actually what I’m playing today. So six years ago almost? Before that I played with Pete’s [Wilson ProStaff] racket. I was in a transition period before that and a little bit frustrated on clay. I lost a lot of close matches, like, 7-5 in the third to [Andrei] Medvedev. Close. I was on a losing streak — my first 11 or 12 matches on clay. I knew I could play well on clay, but for some reason I started off with a terrible streak. I didn’t have the experience. I had just come through the juniors. But for me to then all of a sudden win Hamburg was a shock. And there was the way I did it, beating Guga and Safin. I beat quality players. It was just phenomenal.

T: One of the really unique things you have in your career is your relationship with Mirka. You’re so close. She, I imagine, provides so much companionship and even helps you some with your management and does some scouting.

RF: She’s been a great support, her always being there for me and being at every tournament. It’s just been good. You know, [you’re out on the circuit] having good times and bad and there’s always somebody reminding you what’s good and bad.

She’s known me since I had zero titles, and now I have 53. She hasn’t just been there since I had 20 or something. She came along with me right at the start. This is where she’s been so helpful. To clarify, people think she’s a manager or something. She’s not. She just handles a little bit of the press, but I’ve been trying to take that away a bit, because it does stress her out. I have a manager now with Tony Godsick and IMG. They handle that. She does organize flights and hotels, but...

IT: But still...

RF: She’s important. She oversees [a lot] and it’s always great to get her advice. She’s definitely one of the important persons in terms of my management, in terms of organizing everything. That’s where she really comes into play.

IT: Let me go through some strokes and off the top of your head, tell me the player who has the best stuff out there. Let’s start with the forehand.

RF: I’d have to go with Rafa [Nadal], Fernando Gonzalez or James Blake. Those are the guys with bigger forehands.

IT: First serve?

RF: You’ve got to go with Andy [Roddick] or [Ivo] Karlovic.

IT: Backhand?

RF:[David] Nalbandian.

IT: Volley?

RF: They’re not so many around anymore, unfortunately.

IT: Unfortunately, really?

RF: Fortunately.

IT: You saw a few pretty good volleys the other night from Pete [Sampras] in Madison Square Garden.

RF: Yeah. He would be No. 1 if he were still playing.

IT: If you could accomplish one more thing in your career — win the Davis Cup, take home the Olympic gold, hold that elusive Roland Garros trophy high in Paris or break Pete’s all-time record of 14 Slams — what would it be?

RF: I don’t know. I guess as a selfish individual player I’d have to pick the French Open. I would almost have beaten Pete’s record. I’d be just one short but would have won all four majors. The thing I’m really gunning for is to have all of them by the time I retire. Winning the French is very, very high in my rankings, because I’ve already achieved so much. I think how nice it would be to win the Olympic Games, the Davis Cup, because I love the team and our coach. It would be such a great feeling as a team to go so far, and try to chase all of them down. Hopefully, I can achieve all them.

IT: Twenty-five or 30 years from now, when players gather around, what do you want them to say about what Roger Federer brought to this sport?

RF: I hope they still remember me, because sometimes players don’t recall history very well. What’s important to every player is that you’re remembered in a good way. I hope I’m going to finish my career in a good way. I’d like to be remembered for my charity work, my results, my sportsmanship.

To read the full interview, click here.

(image via Getty)

Wimbledon purse hits $23.46 million, retractable roof on the rise

The All England Club announced today that each Wimbledon winner will receive $1.49 million in prize money this year, an increase of 5.8 % over last year.

The total purse for the grass-court major has increased 3.4 % to $23.46 million - holy crap. Now, remind me why I'm not hitting a little yellow ball over a net?

Additionally, the All England Club began its major renovation this week: construction on the Centre Court retractable roof scheduled for completion in 2009. Other improvements will include new digital scoreboards combining scores and the Hawk-Eye line-call challenge system and video.

(images via AP)

Blake off break, heads to Barcelona

No doubt inspired by his run to the Houston final, James 'on a break' Blake grabbed a surprise wildcard into Barcelona and sits as the fourth seed in the tourney.

His career record on clay sits at 35-35 - which end of the record will James fall on when all is said and done after Roland Garros?

The American may surprise.

(image via Getty)

THE LOW DOWN: Djokovic clan may suffer from Tourette's, Nole calls Brit ballers 'spoiled'

It seems Tourette's Syndrome may be a trait prominent in the Djokovic family line.

The sensationalistic Serbs seem to have a problem with self-monitoring, allowing their mouths to speak before their minds know what's coming out. The Djokovic elders were already given a Swiss-style smackdown by Roger Federer for yelling out during the Monte Carlo semifinals this past weekend and now eldest son Nole has a choice word to describe British ballers - 'spoiled'.

Speaking to BBC's Inside Sport Programme, the Aussie Open champ said,

I don't know if I should have the expression 'spoiled', but in the UK a lot of kids are a little bit spoiled because of all the conditions they have... and they don't work hard enough. If you have perfect conditions and everything you want, you get a little bit spoiled and then you don't want to work as hard as you're supposed to. You don't have the hunger for success because you have everything on the plate. You still have a lot of potential. You just have to find the right moment and change the mentality of the coaches and the kids.
Nole doesn't think he should use the word 'spoiled' then he goes ahead and uses it. See? The mouth speaks before the mind can say, "Shut the hell up!"

Ay - will someone hand this clan a family-sized shovel so they can dig a bigger hole for themselves?

(image via

Monday, April 28, 2008

ESPN may get US Open coverage, end Michael Barkan (and our) misery!

After grabbing coverage of Wimbledon through 2013, ESPN is in talks with the USTA to televise the final Grand Slam of the year, the US Open. No agreement has been reached yet.

Cable channel USA Networks, which has televised the major for years, will be ending their coverage after this year.

Does that mean we won't have any more of roving reporter Michael Barkan's awkward and, frankly, embarrassing celebrity interviews? Awwww....

(image via

SIGHTING: Rafa arrives in Barcelona, officially relaunches gi-normous website

Four-time Monte Carlo champ Rafael Nadal wasted no time after winning his first title of the year. The Spaniard hit the road and made his next stop in Barcelona for the Open Sabadell Atlantico and to relaunch his website, which I wrote about last week.

Hopefully they found a building big enough to fit the font on that site...

(image via Getty)

THE LOW DOWN: What's up with Nole's towel-throwing?

A few readers and I expressed disappointment (see comments here) in Novak Djokovic's retirement during his semifinal match against a parent-bashing Roger Federer.

After barely losing games against Ivan Ljubicic, Andy Murray, and Sam Querrey (even earning two love sets) the Serb pulled out of the match citing a sore throat, dizziness + fatigue:

Q. What's the problem, Novak?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I didn't feel good for last three days. I've been waking up with some sore throat. But I thought it's not going to be nothing special.

But obviously when you're playing against the No. 1 player of the world, you obviously get a lot of balls back and longer points, and I just couldn't get enough energy back after each point. I needed a lot of time. And I just decided not to risk anything.

Q. You were already sick in the first set of the previous match.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, it's always like this. Last three days, as I said. But the previous opponents were not, you know, not that tough and I didn't have long rallies against the previous opponents like I had today.

Obviously I needed that step further and to do something more and special to win the points today. Of course, it's normal, you're playing against the best player in the world. And, unfortunately, I couldn't do that.

But, you know, I have to look on the bright side.
It sounds like he gave up big time. But, no one knows how serious or not his condition is right now. However, this retirement is the fourth since 2007: two in Davis Cup play, semifinals of Wimbledon '07, and Monte Carlo - all big matches, right?

The Serb must realize that these mid-match withdrawals will do nothing but bring up tough questions about his physical health, mental toughnesss, endurance, etc. until he proves otherwise.

(image via AP)

PHOTO OP: The incredibly disappearing Ana

Ana Ivanovic defeated fashion disaster Nika Orzegovic 7-5, 6-1 in the Fed Cup World Group II play-offs to help Serbia enter the World Group over Croatia.

But is it me or does Ana look like she's slowly beginning to disappear? She's looking thinner than she ever has - and not in a healthy way. Could it be due to overtraining??

(image via Getty)

Fed Cup Chronicles: Russia + Spain to battle for championship

The Fed Cup final is set: Russia vs. Spain.

Russia won their tie 3-2 over an fresh-faced US team while Spain dominated their Chinese opponents 4-1. Russian owns three Fed Cup crowns - '04, '05, '07 - while Spain owns five.

The final takes place from September 13 - 14.

Question: when are they going to follow Davis Cup's lead and announce ranking points for Fed Cup play? It's only fair.

(images via Getty)


Rafael Nadal picked up where he left off this time last year in Europe - winning on the red clay and owning Roger Federer on the Spaniard's fave surface.

The 21-year old steamrolled the competition last week at the Monte Carlo Masters, displaying his trademark tenacity in the final by coming back from a break down in the first set and 0-4 in the second against Fed. He now owns a ridiculous 98-1 record on clay since April 2005 and becomes the first baller to win in Monte Carlo four consecutive times (plus winning the last two years without dropping a set.)

Oh yeah - he also won the doubles title with compatriot Tommy Robredo.

Pretty good week, eh?

(image via AP)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

VIDEO VAULT: Fed gives Nole's parents a verbal smackdown

Remember how I mentioned there's no love lost between Roger Federer + Novak Djokovic? Well I guess there's none between Fed and Nole's mommy + daddy either. Not that tennis fans needed proof, but here you go:

Could that be what made Nole sick?

INSTANT REPLAY: a look back at the week's top tennis plays


Jelena makes Moves then heads home
Weekend Winners I + II
Tennis' dapper duo
Maria's NYC birthday itinerary, suffers (bad) fashion flashback
Bolelli the beautiful
Nole's warning shot
Davis Cup Chronicles: Sebastien says...
Fed Cup Chronicles: Bosco signs on, US says...
Sam + Richard give good quote
Rafa revamps site with mixed results
Attack of the 50 foot woman!
Dirtballers rejoice
ReRe can't breath, will travel
grounds Richard

Blake on break
Monte Carlo mash-up

(image via AP)

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