Google Down the Line!: 2008-07-06

Thursday, July 10, 2008

THE LOW DOWN: Can Fed vs. Rafa bring US fans back?

Highly-respected Washington Post columnist and ESPN personality Michael Wilbon penned an insightful piece on the state of US tennis through the lens of the Wimbledon men's and ladies' finals and, more specifically, the need for rivalries such as Federer-Nadal and Venus-Serena to bring US fans back to tennis.

But, Wilbon isn't feeling very confident that even those rivalries can stop the slow bleeding of casual fans away from the game. He says the sport needs a "Tiger Woods-like figure on the men's side...or maybe brothers who have the impact and star appeal of Serena and Venus Williams."

And why isn't Fed vs. Rafa enough you might ask? Wilbon has his guesses:

"...we don't like to admit it but we're more than a bit xenophobic when it comes to our sports. We're still begrudgingly accepting international stars in the NBA, even though they've been established since the early 1990s and players such as Toni Kukoc, Manu Ginóbili and Tony Parker won enough to be beyond suspicion as "foreign players." Americans are the only people on the planet who don't embrace soccer, mostly because it ain't ours. And as much as we might be able to appreciate the greatness of Federer and Nadal, the bet here is we're not going to identify with them enough to become rabid followers of what they do."
Sad, but true. We Americans can be so self-absorbed.

Okay fine, but what about our own home-grown ballers like Andy Roddick or James Blake? Why aren't they drawing fans in droves the way John McEnroe or Jimmy Connors did back in the day?? "[They] simply don't win enough or do it charismatically enough to drive Americans to their TV sets or the tennis courts. They're both sweet enough guys; neither is inspiring," says Wilbon. Again, sad but true.

Unfortunately, he isn't seeing any light at the end of the tennis tunnel saying,
Maybe if the Federer-Nadal rivalry continues on, say, through the U.S. Open in September and beyond, more people will come to the tent to watch. But even then it's probably a leap of faith to bet on it.
I prefer to lean more towards the belief that everything is cyclical and some day tennis will gain the respect and fan base that it deserves in the US. I don't think it could ever be at the extraordinary levels seen during the 70's and 80's, though, because it's a global game now with new countries taking a piece of the pie every day and other sports demanding attention.

Maybe that's sad, but I believe it's true.

(image via Getty)

Venus + Serena get gussied up for Glamour magazine

Venus + Serena Williams are meeting up again but this time it's not for a place in tennis history.

The Sisters Sledge, looking strong + confident wielding racquets in designer gowns, are appearing together in the pages of Glamour magazine for their "The 11 Greatest Bodies on Earth" feature which spotlights 11 of the top female athletes heading to Beijing for the Summer Olympics.

About V, the magazine says:

Venus Williams made history when she won her fourth Wimbledon last July: She became the first woman in the 123-year-old event to earn the same prize money as the guys. (The year before, the pay gap was nearly $60,000). Williams, who had been seeded twenty-third in the tournament, was thrilled. "It wasn't about the money," she says. "It was just about being treated as equals." Heading into Beijing, she's playing as strong as ever--last year she set a new record with a 128.8 mph serve. "I'm glad I never had to play Venus," tennis legend Martina Navratilova once said. "She's just too long, too fast."
The mag had this to say about ReRe:
She's won eight Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold, but Serena Williams believes she hasn't "accomplished all that much" in tennis. "I feel like I'm just getting started," she says. After an injury forced her to pull out of the 2004 Olympics, she publicly vowed not to miss Beijing. But by 2006 her ranking had plummeted due to injuries. Still, Williams never gave up. Now she's ranked fifth and headed to Beijing. "What defines a person's character is not how you are when you're on top. It's how you are when you're on the bottom and working your way back," she says. Besides, she adds, "I love proving people wrong."
Love, love, love it...

(images courtesy of Glamour magazine via TennisWTA)

SIGHTING: It's Rafa, Rafa and more Rafa

Let the stalker-atting begin!

After snatching the prestigious Wimbledon title last weekend, Rafael Nadal has become THE sports celebrity of the moment with Rafa sightings filling the blogosphere like no other.

So on his much deserved vacation, the Mallorcan Matador was spotted frolicking with girlfriend Xisca on the beaches of his beloved hometown.

Then, Rafa and Uncle Toni were seen hitting the greens at a course in Mallorca with the 5-time Grand Slammer driving the golf cart and looking pretty in Nike pink.

And although some have begun questioning whether Rafa has what it takes to become a marketing machine a la Roger Federer or Maria "Shriek"apova, I honestly don't think he'd want to give up his lifestyle for a few more measly sponsorship obligations.

And looking at these pictures, would you?

(Correction: Thanks to an anonymous reader tip about Rafa's golfing partner in the picture. It's his other uncle Miguel Angel.)

(images via just jared, gossip girls)

Sports Illustrated sucks it up, finally features tennis on its cover

So it seems Sports Illustrated has decided tennis is finally cool - at least for this week.

The pub, which never had the balls to choose Roger Federer as its Sportsman of the Year, is finally featuring the world no. 1 on its cover with Rafael Nadal and declaring their epic Wimbledon meetup as "the Greatest Match Ever." Thanks for clearing that up SI.

Oh - and as if trying to get all the tennis news in at one time, they're also featuring Anna Kournikova on the cover as part of their "Where Are They Now?" story (as if she still counts as tennis news.)

I guess we'll have to eat these crumbs they're feeding us because we all know how long it'll be before we see another baller on the mag's cover. How about never?

(image by simon bruty for sports illustrated)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Letter to DtL readers: I'm taking a mini-break

Hey y'all,

After almost four straight months of non-stop tennis coverage, I'm beat! It's been an incredible season already and there's so much more to come but I need a breather.

I won't be posting the rest of today or tomorrow but will return on Thursday. Have a great next couple of days - I know I will.

And as always, thanks for reading and happy hitting!!!


DtL's shameless self-promo moment: The Preppy Princess

Hey readers -

I'm excited to say my recent post discussing the insanity that is Ana Ivanovic's adidas "ladyfinger" dress was quoted on The Preppy Princess, a guide to everything preppy including fashion, publishing, sports, celebrity, etc.

Here's the excerpt from their post The Pirate over the Preppy, Sharapova’s Next Dress…?:

As the good folks at Down the Line Tennis note:

All you want is an originally designed, inspired and functional dress to wear for the final Grand Slams of the year and here’s what they give you: The Wimbledon dress (above), in the required white with lilac piping around the neckline and arm holes, was supposedly inspired by flower petals but I’m thinking someone was eating lady fingers when they came up with the design. And for the US Open you’re sporting the same dress but in some drab grey-brown moment (below). *Yawn* Even the proportions, most noticeably the length of the dress, seem awkward on you.

BTW, Down the Line is a must see for anyone favoring fashion + tennis, a wonderful read blending those two elements and more.
Very cool! Thanks again TP!!

(image via

Venus featured on cover of Shape magazine's August issue

Thanks to DtL! reader Marcell for tipping me off to newly recrowned Wimbledon champ Venus Williams on the cover of Shape magazine's August issue.

The 7-time Grand Slammer tells the pub that Serena remains her biggest inspiration:

Without her, I couldn't have achieved anything. She's helped me believe in myself.
The mag also gives us a sneak peek at an inside shot of the 28-year old working a bikini - lookin' good V!

(image via shape magazine)

Monday, July 7, 2008

SIGHTING: Maria hits up London club, low-key lifestyle in danger

Maria "Shriek"apova was spotted in London again hitting up the Mahiki Club with BFF Camilla Belle by her side (that's her in the background with the belted green sheet on.)

Hmmm - after seeing Maria in Paris at the Valentino Haute Couture show and now going out clubbing, her recent claims of being a "low-key" homebody who doesn't need the glamorous life should go right out the window, eh?

Nice try Masha, nice try...

(image via

PHOTO OP: Venus' championship run at Wimbledon

Here's a look back at Venus Williams' 7-5, 6-4 triumph over sister Serena, defending her Wimbledon title and grabbing her seventh Grand Slam title.

"I think definitely winning this tournament so many times definitely puts you in the stratosphere, to be honest, just because of what this tournament means. I think had I had this achievement at any other tournament it would have been awesome, but not nearly the same meaning at Wimbledon. I think the difference is just because of the prestige of this event."

(images via Getty)

WIMBLEDON 2008 Wrap-Up: The ladies

(Hey people - I want to introduce Christina, a new DtL! contributor. She's giving us the ladies' wrap-up for Wimby, so without further ado heeeere's Christina!)

You can expect a certain amount of upsets in every tournament, but this year’s Wimbledon was full of surprises! With the curtains drawn and their crisp white uniforms ready to go, the ladies took to the stage.

The Ladies

Major questions followed the ballers when the tournament began: Would reigning world no. 1 and tennis’ latest "it girl", Ana Ivanovic, be able to repeat her success at Roland Garros? Would Maria Sharapova once again capture the Wimbledon title she won not too long ago or would the Williams sisters just beat everyone to the punch? Oh the drama!

You can never really count out Venus or Serena Williams in any event that they play. From the beginning of the tournament, the sisters looked sharp. Neither one lost a set on the road to the final so it seemed inevitable that the two would meet each other across the net for the Wimbledon trophy. V was looking to defend not only her championship, but also her pride as she has lost five consecutive Grand Slam finals to ReRe. Often criticized for their lackluster play against each other, the sisters put on a show filled with long rallies, multiple deuce points, slips and slides. In the end, it was V's power and 129 mph serve that helped her rally past her younger sister with a satisfying 7-5, 6-4 win earning a fifth Wimby title and seventh Grand Slam overall. And although she lost, ReRe can take solace in the fact that she made her first Grand Slam final since her title run at the '07 Aussie Open and should be a major factor for the remainder of the season.

Top seed Ana Ivanovic settled right into her first match winning in straight sets against Paraguay’s Rossana de los Rios, 6-1, 6-2. Ana looked focus and determined although she skipped the warm up tournament in Eastbourne and was playing her first match in grass. Her second round opponent, Frenchie Natalie Dechy gave the Serb a real scare forcing her to save 2 match points in the 3 hour and 24 minute battle and winning 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 10-8. Lo and behold Ana's third round opponent, Zheng Jie ranked 133 in the world provided the biggest shock of all. It took all of Zheng’s 5’5" stature to knock the off the top seed but despite this early round loss, the 20-year old will retain the top stop, but it may not be for long.

Always the fashionista 2004 champion Maria "Shriek"apova debuted a new tuxedo-inspired outfit in this year’s tournament. Unfortunately, that was the only part of her run in Wimbledon worth talking about. Maria breezed through her first match against Frenchie qualifier Stephanie Foretz, 6-1, 6-4. But the biggest insult of all came from compatriot Alla Kudryavtseva and not just because she knocked the 21-year old out of her beloved Wimby. It was her now infamous hatred of Maria's outfit that was the inspiration for Alla to defeat her countrywoman.

Second seeded Jelena Jankovic cruised through her first two matches against Olga Savchuk and Carla Suarez Navarro. Unfortuntely, her injury woes continued to haunt JJ as she hyperextended her left knee during her match against Caroline Wozniacki. Although she lost the first set, the Serb battled back to win the match despite the heavy bandages that kept her knees under wraps. As JJ hobbled on the court for her 4th round match her ornery attitude and powerful ground strokes were not enough to propel her in the match. She lost to Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-3, 6-2.

Fourth seed Svetlana Kutznetsova was also bitten by the upset bug, going down to rising Polish baller Agnieszka Radwanska in the 4th round and making this the first time in Wimbledon history that none of the top 4 ranked women reached the quarterfinals. Who would’ve thought the highest seed on the women’s side in the second week would be Elena Dementiava?

As you can see from this year’s Wimbledon, the women’s game is wide open with no clear and predictable winner in any tournament. Let’s just hope that the top 4 seeds make it past the US Open quarterfinals!

What were your fave moments from the ladies' draw? Tell us!

(image via Getty)

PHOTO OP: Rafa's championship run at Wimbledon

Here's a look back at Rafael Nadal's extraordinary 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7 win over Roger Federer at Wimbledon.

"Is unbelievable for me have a title here in Wimbledon. Is probably -- well, is a dream. I always, when I was a kid, I dream for play here, but for win is amazing, no? For any Spanish player win here is unbelievable. For every player, no, but for the Spanish especially, because we don't have a lot of titles here, and have one is unbelievable."

(image via Getty)

WIMBLEDON 2008 Wrap-Up: The boys

I guess the Wimbledon gods wanted to save the best for last this fortnight. After many of the tops seeds fell to the wayside early in the tourney, a lull fell over the green grass of The All England Club. But that moment was truly the calm before the magnificent storm, providing fans some of the most exciting, dramatic and exquisite tennis ever seen at Wimbledon.

The Boys

The big question on everyone's tongues this morning seems to be: is Rafael Nadal the best baller in the world? After his incredibly inspiring and dramatic 9-7 in the fifth win over 5-time defending champion Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final (the longest men's final in its history), it's hard to argue otherwise. The Mallorcan Matador kept the form that saw him crush the Swiss in Paris and dominated the tournament from start to finish with his penetrating groundies, world-class athleticism and laser focus on every point - Rafa gave nothing away (well, except for the potentially disastrous double-fault in the fourth set tie break.) He becomes the first baller on the ATP Tour to win the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back since Bjorn Borg in 1980 and the first Spaniard to win the Championship since Manuel Santana in 1966. And with the Tours now turning to the Olympics and the US summer hard-court swing, the time is ripe for the Spaniard to make his move to the top official.

And what of Roger Federer now? Well, this loss will hurt badly - very badly. The Swiss maestro went through the draw without dropping a set but was broken is his second service game in first set and was never able to regain the edge - symbolic of his efforts so far this year. But Fed can find solace in the fact that the meat of the season is upon us and I'm sure a gold medal in Beijing would help right his wrongs. But what can be said of his confidence? Only time will tell.

Marat Safin became the comeback story of the fortnight. The giant Russian finally found his grass-court feet, dismantling then sharing a tender moment with third seed Novak Djokovic in a second round stunner. Unfortunately, Marat's run ended quickly at the hands of Fed in the semifinals but his effort will see the 2-time Grand Slammer jump into top 40 after beginning the tourney at no. 75. I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention Rainer Schuettler, who emerged from the challenger ranks to make the final four of a Grand Slam for the first time since his run to the '03 Aussie Open final.

Speaking of Nike-wearing Nole, what's to make of his disappointing second round loss to Marat? Clearly, the pressure of being a favorite at Wimbledon and potentially taking the second spot in the rankings undid the Serb. But don't despair Nole fans: the hard-court swing is upon us again where the 21-year old's game truly soars. Could he be Fed's spoiler at the Olympics and US Open this time around?

And let's not forget Andy Roddick. The disappointments continue to build for the 2-time Wimbledon finalist, getting shown the Club's exit door by crafty Janko Tipsarevic in the second round. How many chances does the American baller have left to add to his lone Slam title? Not many but he may have saved his savviest move for this year's US Open, opting to skip the Olympics to train and focus on the year's last major. A-Rod might be the last baller standing when all is said and done in September.

Kudos also go out to Tipsy for his win over A-Rod and Andy Murray, who sleighed a few demons by making his first major quarterfinal after coming back from 2-sets down to defeat dancing Richard Gasquet and shelving the "Mopey Murray" name tag for now.

What were your fave moments from this year's Wimby? Do tell!

(image via Getty)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

PHOTO OP: Rafa + Venus dress it up for Champions Dinner

2008 Wimbledon Men's Champion Rafael Nadal and Ladies' Champion Venus Williams arrived at the Park Lane Hotel for the Champions Dinner.

Congrats to both ballers for their impressive play the entire fortnight - I'm still in awe.

(image via Getty)

Quote of the Day: Oracene Price on Serena

Serena thinks everything is supposed to go her way, that’s the bottom line. She thinks that’s the way it’s supposed to go in life. But this is life. She’s going to have to learn how to suck things up. Say, ‘OK, I’m not going to win everything. I just got to be, this is going to make me a better person, this will build character for myself and I have to learn how to lose.'

- Momma Williams, Oracene Price, on Serena after her loss to Venus in the Wimbledon final

Yeah, couldn't have said it better myself. Anyone with a younger sibling knows the baby always wants to win, and usually gets their way.

I found ReRe's reaction to the loss humorous and somehow very familiar...

(image via Getty)

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