Google Down the Line!: 2008-05-11

Friday, May 16, 2008

THE LOW DOWN: Rafa + Nole to battle for no. 2 ranking - who wants it more?

Okay tennis heads, the stage is set for a blockbuster showdown in Hamburg! Rafael Nadal will face Novak Djokovic in the semifinals with nothing on the line but the no. 2 ranking - that's all folks.

Rafa, who recently acknowledged he could lose his position sooner than later, crushed his old friend and mentor Carlos Moya 6-1, 6-3 and hasn't shown any signs of the Barcelona blisters. Nole was almost as dominating in his 6-2, 6-3 dismissal of Albert Montanes and has looked determined to make his move towards the top.

I don't think we'll see a retirement from Nole after his Monte Carlo fiasco; he's also been very clear that the no. 2 spot is a bump on the road to his ultimate goal of world no. 1. But Rafa has held the spot for a record 147 weeks and he's not giving it up without an epic fight. And to top it all off, the on-court tension between these "card-playing pals" is pretty palpable - which will only add to the drama.

Who will seize the moment and take it?

(images via Getty)

FASHION FIX: Fun in the sun for Tipsarevic + Men's Vogue

The fashionistas are really soaking up the Serbians these days.

We all know their love for Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic and now Janko Tipsarevic has entered the glamour game. The 23-year old is featured in a June story called "Storming the Beach" for Men's Vogue.

The editorial highlights all things summer and showcases the world no. 33 in Y-3, Bottega Veneta, DKNY, Osklen, CP Company, and Prada.

(images via Men's Vogue, photographed by Matthew Brookes)

VIDEO VAULT: Has Serena lost her mind? You be the judge.

Serena Williams sent a video message from Rome - more evidence, clearly, that ReRe has lost her marbles:


Thursday, May 15, 2008

PHOTO OP: Kiefer returns to form, shares joy (and abs) with the world

Nicolas Kiefer continued his renaissance (not to mention his disrobing) in Hamburg today.

The German giant-killer earned his second top-10 scalp of the week taking out world no. 4 Nikolay Davydenko 7-5, 6-3 and making the quarterfinals for the first time this year. Nicolas also took out world no. 10 Stanislas Wawrinka earlier in the week.

Doesn't he seem like a man possessed, enjoying every moment and sharing his joy (and body) with the world? I say "onward man"!

(image via AP)

Quote of the Day: Sharapova

The ranking has never been a big deal for me. Whether I'm No. 1 or 5, my main goal is just to keep winning tennis matches and the ranking will take care of itself if I keep winning.

- Maria "Shriek"apova on taking over the no. 1 ranking from Justine Henin

Okay, all together now..."BORING!"

(image via Getty)

A-Rod pays tribute to Agassi for TIME's 100 most influential people

Tennis legend Andre Agassi made TIME magazine's 5th annual list of 100 of the world's most influential people this year and Andy Roddick was given the honor of writing his tribute:

Andre Agassi

By Andy Roddick

"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." —Arthur Ashe

Arthur could well have been talking about Andre Agassi. We are all aware of his tennis accomplishments, the brilliance and flash of his career. It's impossible to forget his epic U.S. Open victories, and also—though he might want us to forget—the mullet and acid-washed jeans. But the greater challenge for an athlete is to have a positive impact away from the cameras. I've been privileged to witness firsthand Andre, 38, do just that.

When I was 17 years old, we were on a flight together. I was very nervous, but Andre was kind and encouraged me to ask him questions. When I asked about his biggest regret, I expected some answer related to our profession. Instead he said it was not starting his charitable foundation earlier. I was shocked that a person who has set such a high bar for athletic philanthropy still felt like he could do more. But that is Andre.

There are most likely plenty of kids at Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a model K-12 charter school for disadvantaged children in Las Vegas, who have never watched a match of his. I promise you that Andre could not care less. He would rather be viewed as the man who gives them dreams and opportunities.

(image via Getty)

FASHION FIX: Uninspired Sharapova still regurgitating looks - is she bored by fashion?

Maria "Shriek"apova, the almost world no. 1 after Justine Henin's shocking retirement yesterday, played a rematch of the Amelia Island final defeating Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the second round of Rome.

The Russian fashionista also sported the same style Nike duds in this match that she worked in Amelia Island but wore the Nike Paris tank in dark obsidian and the Paris skirt in lilac. I much prefer the color combo from Amelia Island - I've always thought a dark top over a lighter bottom looks strangely unflattering.

Anyway, in more Maria news here are a few captures of the 21-year old in the now infamous "Superheroes" WTA photoshoot. Is this what all the drama was about? Maybe she was really pissed that there wasn't a stylist on set, because she's still having bad fashion flashbacks:

(images via Getty)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

THE LOW DOWN: Gasquet may skip French Open - did he read my open letter?

Sometimes it's fun to think that you write these posts, blogging about things you think you know about and maybe, just maybe, some of the ballers are actually reading them. Fine - not likely but weirder things have happened (right Justine?).

Such is the case with Richard Gasquet. I wrote an open letter to the Frenchman laying out the terrible start to his year and suggesting he skip Roland Garros and take a sabbatical - well, more to the effect of taking time off to hook up with one of Amelie Mauresmo's fave sports shrinks.

Now comes word today that Richard, who lost in Hamburg's second round today 6-3, 6-2 to Andrea Seppi, is considering skipping his country's Slam to catch a break after a successful 2007:

I am completely burned out. I haven’t fully recovered from the efforts I made last year. And I am paying for it at the moment. I am not fit to play tennis - running, moving, everything is becoming difficult.

I am going to cut myself off for the week. Forgetting about my racquet can’t do me any harm. For Roland Garros, we will see. Don’t expect a big tournament from me if I take part in it.

It is nearly two years since I have had a break. I miss that. Imagine what I would do at Roland Garros, it would not be nice for anyone.
Hallelujah! No Richard, it wouldn't be nice for anyone, including yourself, to see you struggle and lose early in Paris in front of the notoriously fickle French fans.

Who knows what could happen as you perform the walk of shame towards the locker room - barraged by baguettes? made to eat cake?? Again, ask Amelie because she's been there. You two could be BFF's right now sharing war stories about life on the tour, being too self-conscious, lacking real tenacity and grit, etc. You know what I'm talking about...

Anyway, take the break. I wouldn't say you've earned it per se but you certainly need it.

(image via Getty)

Behind-the-scenes of infamous WTA marketing campaign

So finally we get to see what all the hype was about...

Here are some behind-the-scenes images and video from the infamous WTA Tour "Superheroes" marketing campaign photoshoot that Maria "Shriek"apova made a public stink about recently. Unfortunately we don't get to see Maria in action, but we do get Maria Kirilenko, Ana Ivanovic, Venus + Serena Williams, and Jelena Jankovic.

ReRe enjoyed her experience saying,

This has been a fun experience and I love anything in front of the camera! Matthieu is a great director and I could really follow his vision.” She added, “This is a great campaign for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and it’s another sign that women’s tennis is the leading sport for all female athletes worldwide.

(images via Getty)

BREAKING: Henin to announce retirement today according to Belgian newspaper

Is Justine Henin retiring from professional tennis? Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad is reporting the world no. 1 will announce her retirement today. Justine has been struggling of late and I wondered where all the talk of retirement had been coming from - now we know where her mind has been recently.

This news would truly be shocking.

Stay tuned - she is scheduled for a news conference at 10am EST.

UPDATE: Justine announced her official retirement from professional tennis in a news conference in Belgium. She has been considering the decision for the past six months or so, said her agent Ken Meyerson:

She's simply burned out and has no more juice to go on. I was surprised at the urgency of the decision. We, as agents, like long farewells. I'm really sad. She did so much for the game, and we need her in the women's game. Pound-for-pound, she was one of the best tennis players in history. She was an underdog. She was someone we could relate to.
"It's the end of a wonderful adventure but it's something I have been thinking about for a long time," Justine said about her career.

(image via Getty)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

VIDEO VAULT: Venus gets personal for Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel

Venus Williams sat down with Bryant Gumbel for Real Sports to give a rare glimpse into her inner world and off-court life. The 6-time Grand Slammer discusses her need for privacy, her boyfriend Hank Kuehne, her role in getting equal prize money at Wimbledon and some of her father Richard's more infamous quotes.

One of the most revealing moments was when Gumbel asked V about her father's belief that sister Serena was the better player.

BG: How much does it bug you that your dad always thought [Serena was] the better player?

VW: Ummm...

BG: You just answered the question when you give me that "Ummm". Looking for a way to say it. It bugs you.

VW: No...

BG: Oh c'mon!
Check out the full interview:

(image via Getty)

BREAKING: Perry Rogers removed from ATP Board of Directors

Tennis Week is reporting that Perry Rogers, who managed Andre Agassi throughout his career, was voted off the ATP Board of Directors by the players council.

The council is comprised of 10 current players, one former player and a coach and includes President Ivan Ljubicic, vice president James Blake, Thomas Johansson, Olivier Rochus, Paul Goldstein, Davide Sanguinetti, Bob Bryan, Kevin Ullyett, Paradorn Srichaphan, Martin Garcia, alumni David Adams and coach Ricardo Piatti. The vote required at least 7 of the 12 members for it to pass.

An ATP spokesperson confirmed the change on the board saying,

We can confirm that there has been a change to the composition of the ATP Board by action of the Player Council and look forward to working with the new Player Board Representative. We thank Perry Rogers for his dedicated service on the ATP Board.
Rogers was seen as a strong supporter of ATP CEO Etienne de Villiers, who has come under heavy fire by top ballers recently for a number of issues including the heavily packed schedule and the downgrading of Hamburg from Master Series status.

Expect more news to come.

(image via

PHOTO OP: Anna + Jelena get pretty for Whirlpool

The now-infamous Maria "Shriek"apova photoshoot wasn't the only sponsor obligation for the lady ballers in Rome.

Anna Chakvetadze and Jelena Jankovic were spotted getting their hair and makeup done for a photoshoot with WTA Tour sponsor Whirlpool. The background image features Justine Henin, Elena Dementieva, and Amelie Mauresmo along with Anna and Jelena getting their spa on.

What, no love for Maria Whirlpool?

(images via Getty)

THE LOW DOWN: Hewitt struggling with hip injury - could his career be in jeopardy?

Bad news for Lleyton Hewitt.

The Aussie hot head, who suffered a hip injury during last season's US hardcourt swing, may not be fully fit in time for the French Open or even Wimbledon:

The hip is starting to feel a little better, but I'm yet to fully test it out on court. The specialist did a couple more tests today but the results won't be back for a few days. Once I get those I can make a decision on the French Open and the grasscourt season.
At 27-years of age Lleyton is already on the downswing of a very good career. But a chronic hip injury in tennis usually spells curtains on a career, particularly for a baller whose movement is an integral part of their game. Gustavo Kuerten and Magnus Norman are prime examples of what a hip injury can do and now it looks like Lleyton Hewitt may soon be added to the growing list.

I'm thinking this injury will unfortunately seal the deal if it doesn't get better.

(image via Getty)

Quote of the Day: Federer

The more you lose, the more they believe they can beat me. But believing is not enough, you still have to beat me.

- Roger Federer on his challengers this season

Finally the world no. 1 is starting to talk the talk with some attitude...which he needs to do. Nothing wrong with a little psychological warfare between friends, right?

(image via Getty)

Monday, May 12, 2008

THE LOW DOWN: Rafa swims against the tide, but will it drown his game?

Rafael Nadal is having a rough go of it lately.

The Mallorcan matador fell with blisters in the second round of Rome, giving eventual champion Novak Djokovic a golden opportunity to leap frog into the no. 2 spot on his inevitable climb to the top...and Rafa knows it:

Djokovic is very close, there's no doubt about that. I think, no I'm certain, that the logical thing is that he goes past me here, gets to number two here or at Roland Garros or in Wimbledon. He's a great player and he's doing things very well. If I'm number three I'm number three. When it happens I just have to accept it and fight to get the position back.
Do I hear a hint of resignation in his tone? Most likely.

To add clay to his wounds, the Spanish federation has decided to host the Davis Cup semifinal tie versus the US in Madrid, which sits at a high altitude making the court surface faster and allowing the ball to fly - never pleasant news for clay-loving ballers.

To say Rafa and his teammates are unhappy with federation president Pedro Munoz is an understatement:
We never had any problem with playing in Madrid. But we can't accept that the president told us 100 times that we were going to decide, and then we don't decide. What you can't do now is keep saying we're the clear favorites. We're not playing against number 50 and 60 in the world.

Roddick is at number six and Blake is at eight and they have the world's number one doubles team. It's going to be a very difficult tie and we'll do everything we can to win but it's going to be very open and anything can happen.
I give Rafa a lot of credit for being so young but so vocal about these issues. But he seems more tense and anxious these days than ever before, taking the weight of the tennis world on his bronzed, muscular shoulders. But don't let his physical appearance fool you - the culmination of these moments won't be good for his game - mental, physical, or otherwise.

He might want to just focus on the ball right now.

(image via Getty)

Kournikova website gets botoxed, can't tell if its happy or sad about it

For those of you who still give a damn about a non-playing/non-retired tennis baller still living off the fat, I give you the latest Anna Kournikova news. The original Russian glamourpuss has just relaunched her website, sponsored by K-Swiss.

The site was given a few shots of botox (I said the site, not her) but nothing new in the way of content, save for an added feature called "Current Status". I assume it gives Anna's hardcore fans an idea of what she's doing right about now - or somewhere close to now. Think Twitter, but not really.

And what's her "Current Status" you might ask? "Saw Ironman movie this weekend, its great!"

Do you feel closer to Anna now? I do.

(image via

THE LOW DOWN: Sharapova opens Pandora's Box, but WTA Tour reaches compromise anyway

Maria "Shriek"apova and the thugs of the WTA Tour are finally playing nice after the Russian publicly blasted the Tour and its executives through her website, reaching a compromise that both sides can feel happy about...well, mostly Maria that is.

The photo shoot in question was reduced to 90 minutes from 5 to 6 hours, with Maria talking on the phone while taking a ride around Rome:

I was riding around in a car for an hour talking—pretending like I’m talking on the phone. The timing compromise was still pretty difficult since it’s before a very big event for all of us. Considering the time reduction, it definitely makes that a lot easier than going into a four- or five-hour shoot with hair and makeup, which adds another hour.

And did the new world no. 2 find her bullying tactics to be a success? "I’ve obviously made my point," said the 21-year old. "I wanted to let my fans know that I didn’t feel like people were listening to me. I think it’s in the best interest of the tour.”

Yes, the tour must be thrilled that you opened a Pandora's Box - good times!

(image via AP)

They're laughing at you Serena...they're all laughing at you

Serena Williams may be getting paranoid in her old (tennis) age or she thinks everything is about her (more likely scenario.)

After her tight 3-set loss to eventual Berlin champion Dinara Safina, ReRe felt the world turning on her, laughing at her misfortune:

It was funny when I lost I was in the locker room and I could hear the entire players lounge really loud like really happy and joyous. Like down goes the champ! Someone beat her!!! It was like a big hoopla.... I just smiled to myself thinking you just wait... just wait......
Ohhh scary ReRe! It sounds like she didn't enjoy that moment but something makes me think she enjoys believing the world is against her and that everyone MUST be enjoying her loss.

Could it be the players were happy for Dinara? No way - that wouldn't be motivating for ReRe and isn't that what the world is all about?

(image via Getty)


Rome - Novak Djokovic

It seems Nole was on a mission to silence the criticism surrounding his withdrawal in Monte Carlo and it may have worked. The 20-year old earned his fourth Master Series shield defeating new top-10 resident Stanislas Wawrinka 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 and giving his Roland Garros prospects a huge boost. And with 310 points now separating the Serb from Rafael Nadal in the rankings and only a quarterfinal showing in last year's Hamburg tourney, could we be looking at the soon-to-be world no. 2?

Berlin - Dinara Safina

Color me impressed. Dinara kept the "Safin syndrome" at bay all week in Berlin earning the biggest title of her career and defeating three top -10 ballers along the way, including Justine Henin, Serena Williams, and Elena Dementieva 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the final. Though she's probably not on anyone's long list to take home the French Open crown, I'd put her into the dark horse category after this impressive week of tennis.

(images via AP)

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