Google Down the Line!: 2008-06-15

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Quote of the Day: Rafa on Tiger Woods

I like a lot his mentality. I like a lot his eyes when he's going to have the important shot. He always plays with unbelievable determination in important moments.

- Rafael Nadal on Tiger Woods' classic sudden-death US Open win this week

If Rafa's feeling even a little inspired by Tiger's performance at Torrey Pines (and really, who wasn't?), the men's field is in serious trouble.

Watch out.

(image via Getty)

PHOTO OP: Top ballers prepare for Wimbledon assault


The world's top ballers have all made their way to The All England Club for the third and most prestigious Grand Slam of the year, The Championships at Wimbledon.

Current and former champions Roger Federer, Venus + Serena Williams, Maria "Shriek"apova and Lleyton Hewitt were joined by new world no. 2 Jelena Jankovic on the pristine green lawns for some practice sessions.

(images via Getty)

PHOTO OP: What the hell is Rafa thinking?

Rafael Nadal looks absolutely thrilled to be answering questions from the media at Wimbledon this weekend. Oh the fun, glamorous life of a professional athlete.

What is the French Open champ thinking here people???

(image via AP)

Friday, June 20, 2008

WIMBLEDON 2008 PREVIEW: The ladies

With no dominant lady baller in sight, the draw at Wimbledon, like the Aussie and French Opens this year, remains a free-for-all with a number of women favored to grab the title. And, even though the WTA Tour has a new number one in Ana Ivanovic, this is grass - rankings & seedings can go right out the window. Just ask Venus Williams

Last year, V became the lowest seed and lowest ranked baller to ever hoist the Wimbledon trophy, the fourth time overall for the former no. 1. She may arrive on the grounds with little in the way of match play and her game may falter on other surfaces (most recently during her French Open third round loss), but when those EleVen-designed sneaks hit the green turf her serve is smacking, her forehand ferocious and her net game neutralizes anyone on the other side. V’s the most dominant grass-courter of her generation and a fifth title is well within her (long) reach.

Lil’ sis Serena is no stranger to the winner’s circle at The All-England Club having been the champion here in 2002 and 2003 besting her sister in both encounters. ReRe had been on serious run this year with three titles (Bangalore, Miami, Charleston) before suffering a shocking third round loss to Katarina Srebotnik at Roland Garros. But never one to dwell in the past, the 8-time Grand Slammer’s power game and superior serve are ideal for the quick skidding grass not to mention her world-class athleticism. ReRe’s been drawn on the opposite side to her sister so they could only meet in the final and with her conqueror last year, Justine Henin, happily retired a final meeting is a very real possibility this year.

Someone who’s familiar with battling and beating ReRe at Wimbledon is Maria “Shriek”apova. The 2004 champion began the year with a dominating run to the Aussie Open title and continued with wins in Doha and Amelia Island. But like V + ReRe, Maria was bundled (and booed) out of the French Open earlier than expected. She’ll be more than happy to be back on the grass, however, where her flat, penetrating groundstrokes are at their most lethal and first-strike tennis is rewarded. But her serve has been inconsistent most noticeably at Roland Garros where double-digit double faults became the norm for the Russian. If her serve is on the way it was in 2004, she could make her second trip to the final Saturday. If it’s off, however, Maria could be reliving Paris all over again.

The newly crowned French Open champion and current world no. 1 Ana Ivanovic is living the dream. The sexy Serb arrives at Wimbledon as the top seed at a Grand Slam for the first time and a newfound belief in her game. Ana has shown all year that when the going gets tough, she gets going (just ask Daniela Hantuchova) and she owns the best forehand in the women’s game. But her serve can be inconsistent and she can be overpowered by bigger, stronger foes, which could pose a problem for her on the quick grass. The draw gods were kind to the 20-year old, though: Russia's Anna Chakvetadze is the highest seed in her quarter. A potential semifinal meeting with Serena Williams could be waiting in the wings for Ana.

Call me crazy but I’m picking Lindsay Davenport as my darkhorse this fortnight. The 1999 champion hasn’t been playing much lately and just pulled from Eastbourne with a knee injury. But she has the experience and weapons to make a run here. She could have a tricky third round meeting with French Open finalist Dinara Safina, who admittedly isn’t fond of the grass, and a potential quarterfinal Marquee Matchup with Maria “Shriek”apova. But with nothing to lose and her personal life in great shape, Lindsay can really swing for the fences and if a few hit the lines in key moments during the next two weeks, who knows?

Click here for the full women’s draw.

(image via Getty)


For the last few years, all talk of Wimbledon used to begin and end with Roger Federer and his dominance on the green lawns of Centre Court. But after going 0-2 in Grand Slams and only grabbing two small titles (Estoril, Halle) so far this season, pundits and fans alike are saying his reign at The All-England Club could take a big hit by the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and a host of other capable grass-loving ballers. Let's take a look!

Roger Federer is done.” That seems to be the mantra these days after the Swiss was obliterated by Rafael Nadal in the French Open final 2 weeks ago. But let’s face the facts: The world no. 1 lost on his least favored surface to arguably the best clay-court baller EVER playing his A+ game, so full credit to Rafa. But, Wimbledon and Fed go together like the ubiquitous (and apparently outrageously priced) strawberries + cream at The All-England Club and he owns a staggering 59 straight matches on the grass - nothing to sneeze at Bjorn Borg! A sixth consecutive Wimbledon championship is not out of the question for the world no. 1, no matter what the haters say.

Rafael Nadal is riding some serious momentum after crushing Fed for his fourth consecutive Roland Garros crown. A finalist the last 2 years at The All-England Club, the Mallorcan Matador won his first grass-court title ever when he defeated Andy Roddick then Novak Djokovic in a thrilling Queen’s Club final, becoming the first Spaniard in 36 years to accomplish the feat. Rafa has transitioned from clay to grass with near perfection this year and made subtle but smart adjustments to his game for the surface including a stronger serve, flatter forehand and closer baseline stance. All of these elements together make himself a strong favorite for the title, becoming the first man to accomplish the "double" since Bjorn Borg in 1980.

Though Novak Djokovic gave up big leads in that Queen’s Club loss to Rafa, the Serb served notice that after only three years ever playing on the green stuff, his game is well-suited for the surface: his strokes are flat, his game athletic and his competitiveness is second to none. A semifinal loser the last two years to Rafa, the trash-talking Aussie Open champ will be keen to take the next step towards a second Grand Slam this year and continue his march towards the top ranking. But the 21-year old ended up in the top half of the draw with a Federer semifinal looming - could it be deja vu for Nole?

The world of Andy Roddick has been quiet since his injury withdrawal (shoulder) from the Rome semifinals. But the American baller reappeared last week at Queen’s Club looking recovered but short of match play, falling to Rafa in the quarterfinals. A-Rod can take solace in the fact that he's beaten the top three ballers in the world this year, snapping a 11-match losing streak to Fed, and made the finals of Wimbledon in 2005 and 2006 on the back of his trademark powerful serve. No one would be surprised if A-Rod made it deep in the draw this year but what's surprising is his seeding at no. 6 this year below Nikolay Davydenko (4) and David Ferrer (5). Fortunately for A-Rod, though, the draw gods were smiling on him today with Kolya and James Blake the highest seeds in his section.

I have a “tough love” approach towards my darkhorse pick Richard Gasquet. I’m fighting myself even as I write this preview since I’ve been hyper-critical of the Frenchie baller this year. But his colorful game seems to come alive on the grass, particularly that ethereal backhand down the line. How can anyone forget watching that shot pick away at A-Rod’s hopes, and his 2 set lead, in last year’s epic quarterfinal win for Richard? Moreover, the 22-year old recently brought in Guillaume Peyrea as coach which will hopefully bring a refreshed approach. Richard has been due for a major breakthrough and there’s no place like Wimbledon to make that happen.

Also, keep and eye out for the lass from Latvia, Ernests Gulbis. The big-swinging baller with the lovely locks is in Rafa's section of the draw and could meet the Spaniard in the second round. With his big serve and power groundies, Ernests could trouble the French Open champ particularly this early in the tourney. And, if he gets past Rafa anything could happen for him.

Click here for the full men's draw.

(image via Getty)

WTA ladies drop gear for gowns + glam at pre-Wimbledon party

The ladies of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour got their party on at last night's pre-Wimbledon party hosted by Sir Richard Branson and held at the Kensington Roof Gardens.

Venus Williams (sporting new hair extensions), Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Daniela Hantuchova and Sania Mirza were some of the ballers spotted walking the red carpet.

Also, check out the video below to see some inside footage from event.

(images via wireimage, video via sonyericssonwtatour)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

DtL Diary: I was a kid in a candy store watching two tennis legends at work

As I mentioned earlier today, I happily attended the Wimbledon + HSBC promotional event hosted by Justin Gimelstob where I met tennis legends Monica Seles and Jim Courier. They were close enough to touch (but I didn't - there was security.)

Monica + Jim took some time to hit balls on a miniature court built at the corner of 4oth Street and 5th Avenue with members of the crowd. Justin was the play-by-play guy and apparently the comedy relief though that still remains questionable. They even offered their thoughts on the favorites for The Championships next week (see videos).

It was so exciting to see them in person, particularly Monica who, without a doubt, got me to love tennis they way I do.

They both looked like they were in great shape and both ballers can still work a racquet. Monica was trim and healthy while Jim, who was always a fitness freak, still looked like he could play a 5-setter.

So I hope you enjoy the images and sometimes shaky video from the day (and don't hate on my lack of video skills - it's hard to work a video camera and digital camera at the same time, I swear.)

Oh yeah - check back tomorrow for my preview of the top contenders for the men's and women's crowns at Wimbledon!

(images + video via DtL)

Letter to DtL readers: I just met Monica Seles + Jim Courier!

Hey everyone,

Okay, color me so excited (and a little out of breath...) I just left a personal appearance hosted by Justin Gimelstob and starring Monica Seles + Jim Courier here in New York City!

The two legends were doing a promotion for Wimbledon with partner HSBC Bank on the corner of 40th Street and 5th Avenue and they hit balls on a miniature court for about 30 minutes this afternoon.

I took tons of pictures, some video and got their autographs. I'll upload them as soon as I get home later!


A coddling Judy Murray already raining on Andy's Wimbledon parade

I didn't realize Andy Murray's mom was such a "Debbie Downer."

Judy Murray echoed Fed-bashing Bjorn Borg's recent comments about the Brit baller when she spoke to BBC Scotland's Jane Lewis recently. She told Jane her youngling won't win Wimbledon this year, even saying Andy agrees:

I think he may have a chance in another couple of years. He still has a lot of improving to do in his game, which is quite exciting. I think he has said it himself that he's not ready to win it. But he will be out there challenging for sure.
You'd think your mom would be completely behind you and supportive, not in a Yuri Sharapov throat-slitting kinda way, but at least pretend to believe in your chances in the press. Why even show up then?

Plus, you never know what could happen in tennis but, at this point, you may have just burst your son's bubble (like he needs more injuries.)

Geez - maybe Juan Martin del Potro had a point about you Judy. Stop the coddling!

(image via Getty)

THE LOW DOWN: Borg picks Fed as third favorite for Wimbledon. Is he still pissed about Paris?

Bjorn Borg is over Roger Federer and he's not afraid to show it.

The legendary Swede has shockingly put Roger Federer as his third favorite at next week's Championships behind Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, respectively. "I pick Rafael Nadal as the winner. My second choice is Novak Djokovic, and my third choice is Roger," said the 5-time Wimbledon champion.

And why, might you ask, did the Swede make such a public claim?

A year ago, I would have had Roger as my favourite, but that was then. Nadal and Djokovic are playing much better tennis than they were a year ago. I think that Roger is going to be the No 1 player at the end of the year anyway. But for him to beat those guys at Wimbledon, he needs to play much better than he did last summer. He knows that he is going to have to play some unbelievable tennis to win again. This is the most open Wimbledon in years.
Bjorn also said he wouldn't be surprised if the top-ranked Swiss followed his lead and hung up his Wilson racquets early, even by next year:
I think Roger will probably carry on playing tennis, but if he retired next year that wouldn't surprise me. He has been through so much, he has done so much, he has been professional, he's been working hard, he's been winning everything. It probably won't happen, but if Roger suddenly decides to retire that wouldn't shock me at all. People expect Roger to win the whole time, and that's both mentally and physically tiring. It's not going to be like it used to be, when he won almost every single match he played. That time has gone.
Has Bjorn lost his marbles or is he still reeling from the embarrassment of publicly choosing Fed as his pick for the Roland Garros title on the eve of that match? He picks Fed to win on his least favored surface then picks him to come in third where he's a 5-time defending, grass-loving champion.

It seems like passive-aggressiveness and/or fair-weather fandom. Either way, that sucks Bjorn.

(image via Getty)

Serena and Scott join forces in launching WTA Tour's "Looking for a Hero?" campaign

Serena Williams joined WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott in London for the launch of their 3 year $15 million "Looking for a Hero?" marketing campaign, the largest in the Tour's history and in women's sports, including the premiere of the infamous Superheroes ad. The campaign will be comprised of a print/digital advertising, and viral/social community based initiatives.

Speaking at the press conference, Scott was enthusiastic about the launch saying,

This is a thrilling moment in the history of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Never before have we planned, created and invested in a marketing campaign of this magnitude. The multi-platform campaign in many ways crystallizes how far we have come as a sport over the past five years, and everything we mean when we speak about the star power of our athletes and the excitement of women's professional tennis. I'm delighted and proud of the way the players have bought into the campaign. It's a huge testament to their professionalism and commitment to the growth of the game.
ReRe, along with 30 other ballers, stars in the Tour's campaign and believes it's a huge step for women's tennis:
Women's tennis is a premier sport for all women athletes, and I think it was a great opportunity to have the best athletes, female athletes, get together and be a part of such a wonderful advertisement. I was really happy to have an opportunity to be in it. I was more than excited to do it.

The director of the spots,
Matthieu Mantovani, was also on hand for the ad's launch and said he was inspired by the women's ability to balance the demands of their professional on-court lives with their personal responsibilities saying,
Once I first received the brief my inspiration was to demonstrate the energy and high-intensity lives of these modern, successful, professional women. They possess amazing physical gifts on the court, but equally so off the court in lives that are provocative, glamorous and aspirational in so many ways. It is perhaps simple to point to features from the film world which helped shape and grow that vision but, for me, stylistically, elements of 'Charlie's Angels', 'Ocean's 11" and ' Mission Impossible' are reflected in this campaign.
The first phase of the campaign, which will be comprised of TV, print, and digital, begins at the end of August and runs through to the WTA Championships in November. The second phase will launch at the start of the 2009 season and continue throughout the year.

Here is the 60 second commercial followed by two 30 second spots, with a bonus behind-the-scenes video at the end:

(images via Getty,

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Quote of the Day: Nole on Fed

New names are coming, fresh talented players who believe more they can win against him and I am one of them. Suddenly he is worried a little bit.

- Novak Djokovic on Roger Federer's recent on-court struggles

Worried? Here goes Nole and his Tourette's again. The Serb loves playing mind games in the press, huh? Let's just hope he can put a Wimbledon title where his mouth is...

(image via Getty)

THE LOW DOWN: Sharapova isn't who you think she is...well, according to Sharapova

Maria "Shriek"apova is a goofy girl who enjoys making home-made lemonade for her 5 friends.

Well, that's what the 21-year old would like us all to believe, anyway. In an interview with The Telegraph, Maria discusses her preference for slumber parties with friends at her Manhattan Beach pad over red-carpet nights and movie premieres:

It's strange for my friends when they see me on TV and in magazines, because the person that they see doing interviews and pictures on the red carpet is not the person that they know. The person that my friends know is much more low key than the person that everyone else sees. I'm a very low-key person. I don't need many things. I don't need glamour and attention to be happy. I'm very happy being settled and working my butt off and trying to win grand slams. I want my tennis to speak for everything.
In fact, the former no. 1 still doesn't understand the fascination with her celebrity and finds it "weird":
I still find my celebrity weird - it's always weird, you know, when I see my image on the cover of a magazine. That's very, very strange. I remember for a while I had been getting a lot of praise from people, but I never felt as though I deserved it until I had won grand slams and held the world No 1 ranking. And then I thought, 'OK, all that talk, I understand it now'. But before then it was just random.
But don't get her wrong. Maria appreciates what her celebrity status ultimately affords her - opportunities:
The best thing about my life is that I've had the opportunity to do many more things that I wouldn't have done if I was just in school or something. I absolutely love that because if it was just 'tennis, tennis, tennis' I would get mad. I've met some amazing people and been a part of some great projects, and taken care of my family and my grandparents financially.
I'm sure it's all gravy now that you have fame + fortune, Maria. And, you may not necessarily need the glamourous life, but it sure beats keggers in college, huh?

(image via wireimage)

PHOTO OP: Nole + adidas celebrate Wimbledon and 2012 Olympics

Novak Djokovic was spotted taking part in a promotional event for adidas in London today in celebration of Wimbledon and the 2012 Olympics which will take place in the English capital.

The Aussie Open champ was joined by London mayor Boris Johnson on a make-shift adidas tennis court at County Hall.

(images via Getty)

PHOTO OP: Bartoli's in the pits...and in more ways than one

Okay Marion Bartoli. I understand that being a professional tennis baller means you're, like, really busy and scattered and you don't have time to pay attention to every detail. Plus, I realize that it's a big world with many cultural differences between us.

But seriously - couldn't you just take a razor to those hairy pits knowing you're on the world stage and at some point you might raise your arms in championship triumph?

Oh wait! It's you we're talking I get it.

(image via Getty)

FASHION FIX: Another Wimbledon dress surfaces for Sharapova - could this be the one?

Here's another dress option that Maria "Shriek"apova could be wearing next week at she goes for a second Wimbledon crown.

This is called the Nike Sharapova Wimbledon Dress and it reminds me of a baby-doll dress with its empire waist and duel-tiering. There seems to be some interesting etching on the fabric which gives the dress texture.

But there's also a blue version which is called the US Open Day Dress and I'm sure she wouldn't wear the same outfit for both Grand Slams.

The mystery continues!

(image via

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

FASHION FIX: Sharapova's Wimbledon outfit revealed? Maybe so!

The time has come for the annual "Maria Mystery": what will the Russian fashionista be wearing on the green lawns of Wimbledon this year?

Suffice it to say I would be completely shocked and a bit impressed if Nike and Maria came up with the following outfit for her to wear. Traditionally the 21-year old leans towards dresses, and there is also a dress option this year, but what she's wearing in the ad campaign is the Sharapova Wimbledon Sleeveless Top and the Sharapova Wimbledon Woven Short from the White/Gold Collection.

The top is reminiscent of a men's suit vest with the 3-button placket on the front (and we know how much Maria's been loving that look.) The dreaded shorty-shorts, which I've never liked, make up the bottom of this outfit. I like that they're not super low-rise and have interesting 2-button detailing on the waistband and a cinch on the back. I'll take a wait-and-see approach on the shorts.

The second option, which would be the obvious choice for the Russian, is the Wimbledon Tiered Pleats Dress which looks similar to the much ballyhooed Swan Dress from last year's Championships. The dress is essentially a tank dress with triple-tiered pleating and a keyhole back. Simple, elegant and classic.

Here's the description:

Under the tagline "Pretty Traditional", this slogan represents not only the underlying beauty of the dress as well as a double meaning inferring its traditional design albeit with a non-conservative approach. Sharapova was also given the Wimbledon Blazer Mid Lux, a reinvented version of the classic Blazer basketball shoe. As part of the Grand Slam Lux Line, it combines top quality premium leather coupled with high-class touches such as satin ribbon laces. The sneaker also draws references to Maria's appreciation of the Wimbledon Tennis Dress with ruffles on the back tab.

Say what?! A basketball shoe with ruffles paired with that dress?? So they've clipped her wings and given her high tops. Innovative.

I searched around and found a version of a Nike Blazer Mid Lux, and if Maria's working something close to these shoes, I'll die, die, die:

(images via,,

Is it Wimbledon or Wendy that's making me an Anglophile?

Freelance writer Wendy M. Grossman is blogging for from Eastbourne, which according to Wendy is England's version of Florida because "it's theoretically warmer than the rest of England and people retire here" and you probably get sightings of leathery-skinned old people like Nick Bollettieri or something.

Anyway, I'm thinking Wendy's English because she made some observations in the typically deadpan, bitchy way English people do that may not have been meant to be hysterical but made me laugh in my cereal. You know, the way Tim Henman just recently described Czech ballers as being a "bit niffy" which, translated, means they smell like roadkill or something. Sounds fine in English but that's snarky Timmy.

For example, Wendy explains the appeareance of real, live British ballers in Eastbourne but explains away the rare occurrence by saying it must be "early in the tournament." Wendy continues by saying she's noticed something new with Brit Katie O'Brien:

She showed the effects of a very notable change in British tennis: she looked fit. Last year, the British women were easy to spot because they all looked like they'd just gotten out of school.
Ouch! I'm convinced you're English, Wendy, or at least you write like you are. In any case, keep 'em coming because you're keeping me in tears.

(image via Getty)

SIGHTING: Fed + Mirka spotted at Euro 2008 with Tony Parker + Eva Longoria

Roger Federer and girlfriend "Mirror" Vavrinec were spotted taking in Euro 2008 with the NBA's Tony Parker and his wife Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria. They were all in Zurich watching the Group C football match France vs. Italy.

I love seeing images like this. Who would've ever imagined Fed hanging with Eva Longoria? What the hell are they all talking about?? Did Mirror and Eva go shopping and stuff???

Maybe Fed's deciding whether to go all Hollywood like another baller we all love...

(image via Getty)

Quote of the Day: Bartoli on Yuri Sharapov

He didn't put any pressure on me. He wasn't saying, 'You have to win,' or 'You have to do this or you have to do that'. He's not like Maria Sharapova's dad. It's completely different.

- Marion Bartoli on comparing father, Walter, to Yuri Sharapov

Damn - just put it all out there Marion. The Frenchie does have a point, though, since Maria's dad is, like, c-r-a-z-y.

(image via The Age)

PHOTO OP: A fan's-eye view of Rafa at Queen's Club + Roland Garros

A huge thanks to DtL! reader Mereana, a New Zealander livin' it up in London, for providing these images - a fan's view of the action from the recent Queen's Club tourney where Rafael Nadal won his very first grass-court title and some practice shots from Roland Garros where the Spaniard won his fourth consecutive championship.

If anyone else will be attending tournaments soon, particularly the Grand Slams, I'd be more than happy to post the photos for you here. Contact me at!

And, check out the rest of Mereana's tennis photos and more at Planet Ranger.

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