Google Down the Line!: 2008-07-13

Friday, July 18, 2008

THE LOW DOWN: Tennis has a dirty, little secret - or so it thinks

Steve Murray wonders aloud in his recent article for whether the tennis world is harboring what he calls a "Sexist Secret"?

Essentially he argues that as much as the sport wants to view everything in terms of athletic ability and wins, it's struggling with TV viewership, sponsorship dollars and a dwindling fan base. And, who better to PR the sport than many of the top lovely lady ballers (and those floating somewhere below.) Sex sells, of course, but is that okay in tennis?

Hell yeah. C'mon, most other sports play up the sexy celebrity status of their top female AND male athletes with no issue. Think soccer's David Beckham + Christiano Ronaldo, baseball's Madonna-loving Alex Rodriguez + Derrick Jeter, racing's Danica Patrick or swimming's Amanda Beard for instance. These sports understand that "personalities" sell and build interest and awareness and, as a result, their very loyal fan bases continue to grow - something tennis sorely lacks.

WTA CEO Larry Scott hit the mark when he told The London Financial Times,

All sports are trying to distinguish themselves through their athletes and the glamorous nature of what they do. That’s what sponsors are after.
Sports marketing 101, people.

But why is tennis so stuck in the mud? My guess is the sport has been lost in its long, stodgy history of crisp whites and politeness. Purists continue to argue that tennis media concentrates too much on the ballers' personalities, fashion, gossip, etc. and doesn't focus enough on the simple yellow ball.

But think about it - some of our sport's best rivalries were great not only because of the matches played but also because of the contrasting personalities involved and how they were played up. McEnroe vs. Borg, Evert vs. Navratilova, Graf vs. Seles, Federer vs. Nadal. Personalities sell the sport, and the sport is a business at the end of the day.

The irony here is the ballers themselves are pushing the envelope and building their own brands through forays into the worlds of entertainment, fashion, music, etc. Ana knows her FHM cover builds a certain image that can be sold to her sponsors and fans. Same goes for Roger Federer walking onto Centre Court in his Gatsby-esque cardigan moment. Besides, how do you think we get a lot of the stories we write about on a daily basis? Ballers' websites.

There's no denying anymore that tennis needs to fast forward into the 21st century. No secret there.

(image via FHM magazine)

PHOTO OP: More of Ashley's spread - tastefully done, mind you

Hot off the press!

The peeps over at the WTA Tennis Blog have the remaining censored (read: boring but PG-13) images of the Ashley Harkleroad Playboy spread from their August issue.

I love when people do these porno spreads and say afterwards they're "tastefully" done. Since when does tastefully mean cheesy? Oh Ash...

(image via Playboy)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Quote of the Day: Serena on Michelle

If she plays the way she plays against me, she’ll be a great player.

- Serena Williams on shriek-ster Michelle Larcher de Brito after almost getting booted from Stanford by the 15-year old phenom

Alright Michelle, that's some praise coming from the 8-time Grand Slammer! It seems like your game is coming together though that high-pitched howl could become a nuisance.

But you're young and you know what they say: early detection is the best prevention. Do it to it.

(image via Getty)

VIDEO VAULT: Fed is truly invincible, at least for Olympics TV ad

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has released a new TV ad starring a number of Olympic hopefuls, including Roger Federer, in a spot promoting the Beijing Games.

The "Heroes" ad, part of the larger "Best of Us" Olympic marketing campaign, was inspired by the film "300" and features runner Haile Gebrselassie, the NBA's Yao Ming, Fed and others playing mythic Greek heroes.

The top-ranked Swiss takes on the "Invincible Man" who is seen soaking wet and airborne wielding a golden racquet.

The ad will appear internationally by all broadcasters who have the rights to the Olympics.

Check it:

Jelena feeling flabby, blames balky knee for over-eating

It's the same ol' song for Jelena Jankovic.

The Serb, who has a chance to take the top ranking from compatriot Ana Ivanovic after LA next week, is still rehabbing the balky knee she tweaked at Wimbledon according to her blog:

The last time I wrote you, I informed you about my knee injury. Since I came back from London, I had to cancel my vacation plans in order to get daily treatments on my knee so I could be ready for everything that awaits me in the next couple of months. The specific problem is with the meniscus which is recuperating bit by bit. I only practiced one hour a day at the beginning of last week, and last night I arrived to the United States where I will start my more intensive preparation for Los Angeles and Montreal.

But apparently that's the least of JJ's worries. The camera-loving baller is worried that her inactivity has caused her to put on a few noticeable pounds:
One of the things you will be able to notice is that I have eaten too much chocolate, candies and breads, hahahaha. When you do not play for two weeks, muscles start relaxing too much which definitely I do not like so I am glad to start practicing again and bringing my body back to the great physical condition. I need to burn some of that additional fat gathered from this time while I was not playing.
Uh-oh. It seems like someone has serious body image issues because I can't see where the "fat" is living on her very fit body.

I guess she's not afraid to hide it - the issues not the flab, geez!

(image via

SIGHTING: Venus gets glamorous for 16th annual ESPY Awards

Book-writing Venus Williams was spotted on the press line for the 16th annual ESPY Awards looking incredibly stylish in a black sequined empire waist dress and bejeweled heels.

Roger Federer earned his fourth straight award for best male tennis baller while Maria "Shriek"apova won her second straight ESPY for best female tennis baller, though neither one made showed up to collect their trophy.


(images via Getty)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Venus brand continues to build, will pen book for HarperCollins

Hot on the heels of the beautifully photographed coffee table book Venus Williams by Koto Bolofo, Publisher's Weekly has just announced that the 7-time Grand Slammer has signed a deal with HarperCollins to pen The Coach Matters: Life Lessons Beyond the Playing Field, "an inspirational book about how a memorable coach’s winning advice can translate into success beyond sports."

V will draw upon her own experiences with co-coaches and parents Richard Williams and Oracene Price and discuss how the lessons she learned from them have translated into success both on and off the tennis court. She will also interview leaders in the worlds of business, politics, sports, entertainment, etc. who also share similar experiences with coaches from high school, college and/or the professional ranks.

I have to say V impresses me more and more each day with how she handles herself in every situation and how she continues to evolve not only as a baller, but as a human being.

(image by Koto Bolofo for Venus Williams)

PHOTO OP: More of Maria + Camilla's wacky European vacation

Supposed apron-wearing homebody Maria "Shriek"apova and her BFF Camilla Belle really did it up in Europe after the Russian's embarrassing second round loss at Wimbledon.

As I wrote earlier the dynamic duo took advantage of the Maria's unexpected time off, taking in haute couture fashion in Paris and hitting the clubs back in London. Apparently the trip also involved the duo hawking on some impossibly good-looking, impeccably dressed men friends, Maria modeling (of course), and some kind of strange mime dance.

Oh what it must be like to be a giant, blonde, well-off Russian tennis machine.

(images via

Quote of the Day: Bartoli on Rafa

No, not even a little bit.

- Marion Bartoli on whether she was happy for Rafael Nadal after his Wimbledon victory

That's cold-butted. Apparently, the Frenchie idolizes Roger Federer and actually cried for him after the match.

Oh Marion, get a grip - he doesn't need your tears. You know what does, though? Your falling career.

(image via Getty)

VIDEO VAULT: Do we have another "Shriek"apova on our hands? You be the judge.

Rising Portuguese baller Michelle Larcher de Brito made noise and then some in Stanford, defeating Argetine Gisela Dulko 7-5, 7-6 (1) in the first round. The 15-year old qualifier will next face 8-time Grand Slammer Serena Williams for a spot in the third.

But what about the siren sound that comes out of Michelle's mug? I'm smelling Maria 2.o people and it's not pleasant. Are you?

(image via Getty, video via Forty Deuce)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

First look at Ashley Harkleroad's Playboy magazine moment

Here's a sneak peek at Ashley Harkleroad's much-talked about August Playboy spread, so to speak.

The mag gets down to the nitty-gritty with the 23-year old baller discussing sex, locker room looks and Anna Kournikova. Some choice quotes:

“I do think athletes have better sex,” she asserts with a bashful giggle. “Who wants a waify girl with no definition to her body? I like that I have some power and that everything’s tight.”

“Tennis players don’t mind showing off their bodies,” she said. “Often in the locker room I feel other girls’ eyes on me.”

“Anna [Kournikova] is stunning to look at, but she’s probably a bit damaged from what she’s been through. That’s how she acts — a bit damaged.”

Ahhh - just the way you've always pictured Pebbles, right?

(Update: Just found a "clean" version of the cover and a new ESPN The Magazine interview with Ashley discussing the shoot and other stuff.)


Monday, July 14, 2008

Alexandra Stevenson blogs for, still relevant for some reason

Hey - remember Alexandra Stevenson? Yeah exactly, but she and are hoping we'll still care.

The sports site has given the oft-injured baller, who made headlines in 1999 when it was revealed her father was NBA legend Julius "Dr. J" Erving during her run to the Wimbledon semifinals, a prime assignment to blog about the trials and tribulations of the low-paying Challenger circuit. (Geez - I hope she's getting something for this.)

In her second post for the site Alexandra, apparently the "It Girl" of the Challengers, discusses the media circus that swarms her every move saying,

Most players don't have a press contingent come around at Challengers events after they lose. I've lost count of how many reporters show up in small towns and big cities to interview me, win or lose. My mother, Samantha Stevenson, a journalist, tells me, "Feel flattered that they care about you."
True. Still, nice one Momma Stevenson!

The world no. 205 even waxed poetic (literally) about what it's like to constantly lose for a class at the University of Colorado. Here's an excerpt:
A feeling of despair, her muscles twitching
The player's racket dangling by her side

The actress inside forcing a cool appearance on her face

But she is thinking, "My God, not again."
Wow. Maybe if her racquet was doing more than "dangling" she might be winning more matches.

But Alexandra wants to make sure she clears the air with tennis fans about her delayed progress when she asks aloud,
You might wonder why it's taking me longer to get back than it took Martina Hingis during her comeback or Lindsay Davenport following the birth of her son?
Actually, I'm not. In fact, it makes perfect sense to me.

Now, can we get a real baller who's actually won something to blog for the site or, at the very least, a true up-and-comer?

(image via

SIGHTING: Tati looks to revive game, practices at Nick Bollettieri Academy

Tatiana Golovin seems to have put her persistent injury woes and boyfriend merry-go-round behind her at least for now.

The Frenchie baller, who hasn't played a match since losing in the first round of Berlin in May, was spotted getting her practice on at the Nick Bollettieri Academy recently.

Let's hope Tati can get her game and focus back on track.

(image via

Rafa's heavenly body now on display for the world to see!

You'll really be star-struck next time you see Rafael Nadal in all his glory.

Astronomers from the Wimbledon champ's home of Mallorca sent a letter to the International Astronomical Union requesting an asteroid, discovered in 2003 and known as 128036, be named after their champion as a tribute "to one of the greatest tennis players of all time.”

Oh! I thought the asteroid tribute was for one Rafa's most admired ass-ets. My bad.

(image via Getty)

VIDEO VAULT: Naughty Dani wants to see what you do behind closed doors

Who knew Daniela Hantuchova was a bit freaky?

In her video card for the WTA Tour, the slender Slovak is asked which "Talent [she] wished she had". Her response reveals a little spicy something about innocent-looking Dani:

(video via

WEEKEND WINNERS: Fabrice, Tommy, Juan Martin, Victor, Sara, Alize

Fabrice Santoro - Newport

The Frenchie baller worked his magic at the Hall of Fame Championships, "santorizing" Indian wild card Prakash Amritraj 6-3, 7-5 and becoming only the third man to defend his crown in Newport. This title was the sixth for Fabrice, who will be retiring at the end of the season.

Tommy Robredo - Bastad

The Spaniard earned his first title of the season at the Catella Swedish Open when he easily dismissed Czech headcase Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-1.

Juan Martin del Potro - Stuttgart, Victor Hanescu - Gstaad

Juan Martin and Victor both grabbed the first titles of their career this weekend. The Argentine defeated a resurgent Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-5 to win the Mercedes Cup and a new white Mercedes-Benz SLK 350. See what good hair can do for your confidence?

Victor became the first Romanian since Ilie Nastase in 1973 to win in Gstaad dismissing Russian Igor Andreev 6-3, 6-4.

Sara Errani - Palermo, Alize Cornet - Budapest

Both lady ballers also secured maiden career titles this weekend. Click here to read more about Sara's unfortunate trophy-biting win. Up-and-coming Frenchie Alize took out unseeded Andreja Klepac 7-6(5) 6-3 and finally won a tournament final after two previous tries this season. To top it off, both women also won the doubles titles at their respective tourneys. Nice week ladies!

(images via Getty, ATP, AP)

PHOTO OP: Errani grabs first title, bites first trophy - head cold to come

Sara Errani won her first career title in Palermo, easily defeating Mariya Koryttseva 6-2, 6-3.

But what's up with this trophy biting trend most famously performed by Rafael Nadal? It was cute at first but frankly it's nasty and the best way to catch a head cold - who knows how many random, grimy hands have touched that thing? Ick.

(image via Getty)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Comment of the Week: Barcelona2012 on Rafa

That [Bloomberg] article is disgusting. Rafa's English has come a long way. And why does he need to change a thing to become more marketable?! I've been to Nike stores in Spain: he's perfectly marketable. Markets here are just ignorant if you ask me. They shouldn't want to change him and mold him into something he's not. It's not about the bottom dollar for him and you know what, that's one attribute that makes him even more marketable in my opinion: Heart.

- Barcelona2012 on Rafael Nadal's supposed un-marketability

B2012's argument is well taken. For every maniacal marketing machine like a Maria "Shriek"apova, I'll take a baller like Rafa any day. It's rare to watch someone of his stature stay so true to what he values, no matter how many golden carrots are dangled in his face.

But in any case it's nice to have options, huh Rafa?

(image via Getty)

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