Victoria Azarenka finally made good. The talented Belarusian blasted Marion Bartoli 6-3, 6-1 in 71 minutes to capture her first WTA Tour title in Brisbane. Vika broke the Frenchie's serve six times and didn't lose a set all week.
That's pretty impressive stuff for the 19-year old and former top junior baller who's been touted as a future champion. Let's hope she can keep the momentum flowing for Melbourne - she could make some noise or at the very least make some other lady ballers miserable.
It's great to see Vika so side-splittingly happy to win her maiden title. Maybe if I ever come back as a pretty, leggy blonde loaded with tennis talent then I'll understand. Maybe.
(images via Getty)
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Andy Murray is in top form - no question.
The Brit baller capped off another brilliant week in the Middle East by capturing his first ATP World Tour title of the season (though second if you count the Abu Dhabi exo - and I do!) and second consecutive in Doha by defeating Andy Roddick handily 6-4, 6-2.
He can probably attribute his success this week not only to his new-found fitness but also to his serve: the 21-year old wasn't broken in either the final or semi-final and saved the only break point against him today. Nice.
I'm thinking all signs are pointing towards a career run for Murray in Melbourne - and I don't think I'm alone.
(images via Getty)
Radek Stepanek is taking his love of everything Czech to a new level in Queensland.
The Worm, who will battle Fernando Verdasco in today's Brisbane International final, has quietly snuck through the draw defeating Michael Llodra, Robin Soderling, and Richard Gasquet. But the same can't be said for his ALEA duds.
I'm sorry but this polo shirt could substitute as a picnic table cloth (or Scrabble board) and pairing the purple + white top with the all-purple shorts is asking for trouble. It's all just a horrendous distraction.
Gamesmanship, perhaps? I say yes.
(images via Getty)
So Rafael Nadal got shocked by Gael Monfils in Doha this week - boo. But he didn't leave empty-handed.
The Mallorcan Matador and compatriot Marc Lopez captured the doubles crown defeating the world's top team of Nenad Zimonjic + Daniel Nestor 4-6, 6-4, 10-8.
How refreshing it is to see the world's top-ranked baller playing doubles at an ATP World Tour event AND winning it. It doesn't happen often.
Anyway, here's the trophy ceremony (thanks Meri!) involving all the usual Rafaness (gracious attitude, complimentary words, wedgie pull) and a funny Marc whipping out notecards - because even he knows he may never be in this position again.
Friday, January 9, 2009
I distinctly remember someone talking recently about dominating the ATP World Tour again. Ah yes - that was Roger Federer.
The Swiss stylist may have to rethink that statement after suffering a third consecutive defeat to defending champion Andy Murray (fourth if you count Fed's loss to the Brit baller at the Abu Dhabi exo that is) in Doha today. After winning the first set, Fed went down meekly in the last two and lost 7-6 (6), 2-6, 2-6. The 21-year will look to retain his title when he battles American Andy Roddick in the final.
But back to Rog: The 13-time Grand Slammer can now definitively count two ballers, Andy and top baller Rafael Nadal, who own him outright. The World No.4 now holds a 5-2 lead and Rafa can boast a 12-6 lead in their respective head-to-heads. Novak Djokovic, the remaining baller in the Top 4, is down in their series 2-7.
As I said before, I believe Fed's dominating days are over. Of course, someone of his caliber will always be in the mix as long as he continues to play and we, not to mention the game, will be better for it. But he'll most likely have to face Rafa, Andy, or both at any tourney he enters not to mention Nole and a plethora of young, up-and-comers who may hold reverence, but not fear, of the Mighty Fed.
Big winning is a hard habit to break and it will probably take a huge mental shift for the Swiss to accept it. But at this stage, I don't think he has a choice.
(image via Getty)
A big congrats to Team Slovakia, Dominik Hrbaty + Dominika Cibulkova, who defeated the favored Russian team of Marat Safin and sister Dinara Safina to win the Hopman Cup today!
Both matches went the distance with Domi defeating Dinara 6-7 (3/7), 6-1, 6-4 and The Dominator edging out Marat in an epic thriller 6-7 (5/7), 7-5, 7-6 (7/3).
It's good to see The Dominator back in action after his recent injury woes. And Dominika, well, she just looks happy to have those lips on that shiny, new ball.
Jurgen's gonna be jealoussss.
(images via Getty)
Same old song for Amelie Mauresmo.
The 2-time Grand Slammer, who shocked top seed Ana Ivanovic in Queensland yesterday, was unable to build on the momentum today. Down 0-4 in the first set, she was forced out of her semifinal against compatriot Marion Bartoli with back and leg problems. In the final, Bart will face Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, who has yet to yield a set this week.
After feeling the initial pain, Amelie erred on the side of caution with the Aussie Open a little over a week away:
It happened in the second game. It wasn't such a big pain so I kept going but I couldn't really push off the serve and move the way I wanted.So, anyone surprised at Amelie's mid-match retirement?
It's frustrating and not how you want to end the tournament but I guess it's more sensible to make sure I'm 100 per cent for Melbourne (the Australian Open).
*listens intently to deafening silence*
(image via Getty)
Is this the face of the new ATP CEO? Rumor has it ex-Nike global sports marketing VP Adam Helfant, 44, will become the next head of the men's professional tennis tour.
According to ESPN.com,
Helfant's marketing experience at Nike, where he was involved in some tennis deals, and reputation as a skilled, fair-minded negotiator is said to have resonated positively with players and administrators concerned about the tour's ability to weather the current volatile economic conditions.
Helfant headed up some of the biggest deals for Nike including those involving NBA stars Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Carmelo Anthony.
With all the current issues on the ATP World Tour that need to be addressed - scheduling, tour sponsorship, match-fixing - it'll be interesting to see if another tennis outsider can come in and effect real change. We all saw what happened with former Disney chief Etienne de Villiers.
No official announcement has been made yet. Stay tuned.
(image via sportsbusinessjournal.com)
Thanks to DtL reader Phillip for tipping me off to the latest Anna Chakvetadze news!
The Russian lady baller, who was defeated by Venus Williams 6-7 (1), 3-6 at the JB Group Classic in Hong Kong today, was spotted working duds from her new clothing sponsor Fila. If you recall, Chaky made the switch from adidas to Fila during last season's US Open and joins Svetlana Kuznetsova + Agnes Szavay in the sports brand's stable.
Unfortunately we can't seen what she's wearing underneath the white cover-up (damn the weather!) so I guess we'll have to wait and see.
(images via AP, MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images)
Thursday, January 8, 2009
- Ana Ivanovic on the quick turnaround from her last match
HUH?! I guess it's time to question your fitness regime Ana. You're a former No.1 and current Roland Garros champ and you couldn't dig deep and find a way to win? Get a grip.
I'm very proud of the way I played today from the first one to the last.
- Amelie Mauresmo on defeating Ana
You should be Amelie! Good for you. Now go wreak havoc on these lady ballers before your clock runs out (if you can keep it together that is - and I have my doubts.)
(via Reuters, image via AP)
Gael Monfils couldn't have started his season any better, hair or tennis-wise.
The fuzzy Frenchie hit 7 aces to none in his stunning 6-4, 6-4 defeat of top baller Rafael Nadal in Doha today. It was his first career win over the Spaniard in four attempts; he'll next face Andy Roddick for a spot in the final.
La Monf must've been "treeing" today because he also won 83% of his first serves and hit zero doubles.
UPDATE: According to his site, Rafa will now be traveling directly to Melbourne where Uncle Toni will be meeting up with him next week. I'm thinking he'll be under some serious practice sessions when Uncle Toni arrives especially after this result. Break out the whips - ouch!
But doesn't Rafa look about 4-years old in the above pic? He's so versatile.
(image via Getty)
The Serbs are suffering from some ugly, early season losses already.
At the Brisbane International in Queensland Novak Djokovic got blasted by Ernest Gulbis 4-6, 4-6 in his opening round and Ana Ivanovic got dumped out of the quarterfinals 3-6, 2-6 by a revived Amelie Mauresmo.
And now in Hong Kong, Venus Williams completely crushes top lady baller Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 6-2 in their opening match.
These are pretty awful looking scorelines - I mean, not even a third set sniff? Granted, Ernests is screaming with potential while Amelie + Venus are crafty veterans with Grand Slam resumes, but don't think these ballers won't be sitting somewhere in their draws. Plus, none of these three have shown the skills yet to work their way into match shape (a la the Sisters Sledge) while competing in a major.
Their games are def not in gear yet so I'm chalking these losses up to early season cobwebs. With the Aussie Open a little over a week away, however, I'd say they have their work cut out for them.
But a Serbian Slide is not out of the question.
(image via Getty)
Anyway, I wonder how my sexy Serbian is doing in her match? (Not well Nando.)
I hope Anando wasn't too much of a distraction for us this off-season. Hehe! "Anando"...that's funny. I'm kinda famous now.
Oh yeah. Eyes on the ball..."
(image via Getty)
Aravane Rezai's feeling fancy. The Frenchie lady baller made the semifinals in Auckland for the second consecutive year, defeating unseeded Edina Gallovits 6-3, 6-2. She'll meet top seed Elena Dementieva for a spot in the final.
It seems Aravane got a bit overdressed for the occasion, which she's known to do, donning a cocktail-style dress (it's got wings!) for the match. Could it be she's dealing with a New Year's Eve hangover? Plus the all-black colorway can't feel so great in the Aussie summer heat.
I wonder who designed this number. Any guesses?
(images via Getty)
Something stinks and Ana Ivanovic is hoping it's not the current state of her game.
The Roland Garros champ and top seed was dumped out of the Queensland quarterfinals by Amelie Mauresmo 6-3, 6-2, the Frenchie's first win over a top tenner in almost two years (what took ya so long?!) Ana failed to hold 5 of her 6 last service games - a tough stat for a lady baller whose serve is supposed to be a crucial part of her game.
Fine - this loss isn't as horrific as, say, her loss to Julie Coin at the US Open last year. But it'll certainly hurt the Serb's confidence and, coupled with the recent announcement that she and coach Sven Groenefeld are parting ways, her chances at a another run to the Aussie Open final come seriously into question.
Let's hope the rumors Sven will still be working with her in Melbourne are true.
But, I'm thinking someone should've done more practicing and less posing during this off-season.
(images via Getty)
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
* Bad news for Nikolay Davydenko who was forced to withdraw from Chennai and the upcoming Aussie Open with a recurring injury to his left heel. The issue began in Moscow last season and flared up again last week. According to Kolya, "Whenever I take a few days off it starts getting better. But as soon as I’ve played a match the pain comes back. I got pain killers but it still was very painful. I cannot imagine playing a match with this injury in Australia if I feel this bad after playing two sets here in Chennai." Happy healing Kolya!
* Sign o' the times: Novak Djokovic officially signs with HEAD, Jelena Jankovic signs with IMG, Harrison brothers sign with Nike
* Former Aussie Open champ Amelie Mauresmo, who rarely discusses being a lesbian, unknowingly sat down with tennis scribe Douglas Robson for LGBT magazine The Advocate's latest issue. Her response to finding out the interview was for a gay pub? "Yeah, whatever." Be out and proud Amelie!
* Pat Cash, ambassador for the newly-named Barclay's Masters Cup in London this year, promises a more "glamorous" and "fun" event than what we saw in Shanghai. Promises, promises...
* Which baller answered "Meal from Congo — it's like chicken with peanut butter" when asked what their favorite meal is? Find out here.
* Andy Roddick is challenging fans, again, to submit their most original 50-question interview to the American baller. The winning interview questions with answers will be posted on his website. In other A-Rod news, Sandra Hewitt for ESPN.com wonders if the addition of Larry Stefanki will be the cure for his tennis ills
* This could be an odd year for Serena Williams, in a good way of course
* You guys know I'm loving Nike's new Air Max CourtBallistecs soon-to-be-worn by Rafael Nadal. But if the bright colors turn you off (really?) then check out the white/silver ($120) and black versions ($70, pictured) and you can still hit the courts in style.
(images via Getty, The Advocate, Tennis Warehouse)
Okay everyone - did you guess the baby baller correctly? Well, duh - it's Rafael Nadal showing off his baby booty of course.
And, since no day would be complete without peering at those famous ass-ets I give you a live action video of the Mallorcan Matador gaming with David Ferrer, Juan Monaco, and Mariano Zabaleta in - what else? - his tidy-whiteys and nothing else.
I'm feeling that's too much hotness in one room for any person to take. *thinks about how to grab an invite to next shirtless, pantless gaming party*
Thanks to DtL readers Meri + Bob for sending over the link!
PS - The clip is kinda long but be patient Rafanatics - it's SO worth the wait.
Frenchie baller Gael Monfils was spotted looking somewhat tense during his match against Nicolas Devilder in Doha but managed to pull out a tight 7-5, 7-6 (4) over his compatriot.
So La Monf will face top baller Rafael Nadal in the next round. Could that be why he looks worried? Or is it because he realized he's actually winning the "Who's fuzziest?" face-off against that ball??
A hairy situation for you, La Monf, is not completely out of the question - beware.
(image via AP)
Here's a first look at top lady baller Jelena Jankovic and the new on-court fashion she's working at the JB Group Classic in Hong Kong. She paired up with Portuguese shrieker Michelle Larcher de Brito for some doubles action at the tourney today.
The rumor mill was buzzing after the slidin' Serb left Reebok recently and no announcement was made about her new sponsor.
Does anyone have an idea what brand JJ's wearing here?
UPDATE: Thanks to an anonymous commenter who wrote, "There are people saying it's LiNing..". So being the dutiful blogger I am, I did some research and, voila! It IS a Chinese brand called Li Ning and they have a pretty cool looking website though I can't read a lick of it (watch it.)
Here's more from another anonymous reader on the brand:
Li Ning is a Chinese brand, owned by a former Chinese world-record 400m runner of the same name. That's the guy who lit up the Olympic torch in Beijing while suspended high up above the stadium.
The brand is becoming huge, they've dressed several complete national teams during the Olympics (Spain comes to mind: red official suits for the opening ceremony and white track suits, plus various gears for all sports).
Remember when Rafa's bags got lost in flight at the beginning of the Olympics, so for the first couple of days he practiced in those yummy low-slung rainbow bermudas and white tee with tacky gold lettering? That was Li Ning (he borrowed those). Also, he wore their white track suit on the podium for his gold medal award.
JJ's outfit is not a dress, but very short shorts and baby-dollish top with criss-crossed back straps.
I wonder if this move to Li Ning is temporary and just for the JB Group Classic or it's a true sponsorship?
(images via AP)
The controversy surrounding the Israeli's invasion of Gaza is being felt in the tennis world as well.
Israeli baller Shahar Peer, who has extra security with her this week, was asked via correspondence by a New Zealand protest group, Peace and Justice Auckland, to withdraw from this week's ASB Classic as a comprehensive sports boycott of Israel. When no reply was received, the group said it would protest outside the venue on Thursday when Shahar was scheduled to play her quarterfinal match.
The 21-year old, whose brother is a military-reservist and was called up, responded by saying,
I have nothing to do with this. I'm Shahar Peer. I came here to play tennis. I know I'm from Israel and I'm proud of my country and that playing tennis is what I'm going to do tomorrow.Sports + politics is such a tricky combination. Some athletes confront these situations head-on while others choose to avoid political issues altogether. Ultimately, it's a personal decision whether to engage the discussions or not.
Two days ago, I was crying a bit, actually more than a bit, so it was a hard time for me. I hope as soon as possible it will end and we will all be happy, because no one wants to be in a war.
But in any case, it must be a tough situation for Shahar and I think she made the right decision to play on. She's in Auckland to play tennis, not to be political.
Let's hope she stays safe over there.
(image via AP)
Here's video of Rafael Nadal + Roger Federer arriving for the promo launch of the ATP World Tour 2009 that took place on a vessel off the Doha shore.
The video shows the two top ballers in the world being interviewed about their prospects at the Qatar Open and for the season.
But word to the wise: the background music is horrific. Proceed with caution.
Venus Williams, who went MIA at the photo call for next week's JB Group Classic, was spotted looking completely excited at the opening ceremony for the exo tourney.
I guess when you've been on the WTA Tour for almost 15 years these ceremonies can become, well, tedious.
Just focus on the appearance fee V - that always helps (yeah right, like I'd know.)
(image via Getty)
Maria Sharapova, who's still getting her game together in hopes of defending her Aussie Open crown, was spotted with rumored boyfriend Charlie Ebersol ("MARLIE"?) in LA watching the Lakers lose to the New Orleans Hornets last night.
I guess Shrieka and her man are still going strong, and he def looks cuter here. But with only a week and a half before the Aussie Open starts I'd rather see more images of the Russian fashionista on a tennis court than a basketball court. *sigh*
Thanks for the link Tessa!
(image via AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
- Ernests Gulbis on his defeat of top seed Novak Djokovic in Queensland
Love that sentiment Ernests.
This lad from Latvia is surely one to watch this season, huh? I wouldn't be surprised if he pulled a "Tsonga" a hit his way into the Aussie Open final. And then? Anything's possible.
Let's just hope he grows out those lovely locks again...
(image via Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Thanks to DtL reader Meri for sending me the video link of top baller Rafael Nadal (and mos def his tidy-whiteys) receiving the year-end No.1 trophy in Doha today since he missed out in Shanghai with injury.
Not that it wasn't official, but now it's official official. Congrats Rafa!
PS - He also crushed Frenchie Fabrice Santoro 6-0, 6-1 in the first round - not too shabby.
It wasn't an auspicious start to the season for Novak Djokovic, to say the least.
The top seed was upset in his Brisbane International opening round by super-talented Ernests Gulbis 4-6, 4-6, his first career loss to the Latvian lad (with the lovely locks.)
Nole, who switched from Wilson to a HEAD racquet recently, mentioned the change and its effect on his preparation in his post-match presser:
The racquet is a pretty big change. I like everything (in my preparation) to be 100 per cent perfect, sometimes it is not possible. There are still some things (with the racquet) I am not used to and unfortunately I get this result.When asked if he would stick with the new racquet, the World No.3 responded, “I am under contract so I have to play with the racquet.”
However, Nole confirmed a wildcard into Sydney next week to gain more preparation for the defense of his Aussie Open title and seemed unfazed by the early loss:
I am not panicking. I am not seriously in big doubt. The Australian Open is my highest goal for this part of the year and I really want to play well there. It’s not the end of the world. It’s the first match, so I’m not going to be pessimistic. I have a lot of time now to prepare for the Aussie Open.No doubt about that one, Nole. I still find it strange that he, or any other baller, would make such a significant change in equipment at such a crucial time. He's about to defend his first, and only, Grand Slam title in a few weeks and decides to switch racquets? Not a very smart move.
Let's hope it wasn't just for the money because if it was, Team Nole may have some regrets.
UPDATE: HEAD finally released an official announcement about Nole today. Could they BE any later???
(images via AP)
Here's video of Serena Williams' appearance on the Regis Philbin-hosted Million Dollar Password last night.
The US Open champ and her partner were pitted against late night talk show host Craig Ferguson and his contestant- and lost. Oh well, ReRe had other things are her mind (like turkey dogs) and she managed to blog about it, of course:
I have a question for u all... Did u guys happen to catch me last night on Million Dollar Password? It’s the show with Regis? It was on CBS? Kinda cool to be on primetime :)Who knew ReRe was an emotional eater? Crazy! Anyway, here's a clip from her appearance.
Anyways I did not think I did good! Craig Ferguson was so good! I mean he was so quick and witty! I was just not on my toes! What a bummer. I also have grown to hate my voice. I know this sounds crazy but it sounds all muffled! If you guys are watching my tennis matches and u hear me sounding funny it is because I am working on developing a better sexier voice! Lol what do u think?
Ok so I was happy to lose because they had a crazy green room! I kept downing the turkey dogs! Hahah hot dogs r my FAV thing but no one ever had turkey dogs (I don't eat beef or pork). So every time I lost I took comfort in the dog!
BONUS: Have you seen the new commercial for Gatorade called "What's G?" featuring ReRe, Lil' Wayne, Derek Jeter, the legendary Muhammad Ali, and a bevy of other celebrities? It's pretty cool though you'd never know they were selling a sports drink:
Firstly, a huge "THANKS" to Argentinean tennis site Fue buena for voting Down the Line! 2008's Blog of the Year. So cool!
They also sent over this hysterical video of David Nalbandian, his physical trainer Diego Rodriguez, and some naked bodies in a singing + dancing contest at the main carnival in Gualeguaychu, Entre Rios.
Apparently Nalby became friends with the owners of Papelitos, one of the dance groups competing at the carnival, and this video shows him singing and partying all the while wearing a very questionable outfit.
So much for Nalby's off-season training intensive, huh Murray?
(image via fuebuena.com.ar)
A big thanks to DtL reader Courtney for tipping me off to these revealing images of top baller Rafael Nadal.
I'm thinking these shots may have been taken at last year's Wimbledon (can anyone confirm?) but, really, who the HELL cares?
O...M...G. These shots are *catches breath* smokin' hot people.
And either his tighty-whiteys are a bit small or Rafa really fills them out in every way. But again, who the HELL cares?! His baller bod is sick.
*keeps staring + faints*
(images via livejournal.com)
Monday, January 5, 2009
+ MONDAY NETCORDS: JJ gets smoochy...A-Rod promises more blogging...Vince vlogging for our comedy relief
* It seems things are still going well for Jelena Jankovic and her strapping boytoy Mladjan Janovic whom she met at the Beijing Olympics last year. The pair celebrated New Year's Eve together in Serbia and even swapped spit for the cameras. Awww - young love. Things also went well for JJ last season but she isn't feeling any pressure coming in as the top lady baller this year saying, "I don't really have to prove anything to anybody. I play tennis because I love to play. I want to achieve my goals..."
* Condolences go out to Kim Clijsters whose father, Lei, died on Sunday after losing a year-long battle with long cancer. He was 52.
* What kind of car does Nicole Vaidisova drive? What's it like inside Elena Dementieva's Russian home?? Can Caroline Wozniacki serve while blindfolded??? Find out the answers here...
* Venus Williams may be MIA in Hong Kong for the revamped JB Group Classic but the 5-time Wimbledon champ sat down with ESPN.com recently and gave her views on Centre Court's new retractable roof.
* Andy Roddick, who was spotted signing a camera condom (thanks TP!) after his first round win in Doha, promised to keep fans updated more frequently this year. According to his blog, "Ok so here is how I am gonna do it this year…. 24 blogs promised this year… sign, sealed, delivered…. am willing to take suggestions for what I have to do if I don’t meet the quota…. this one counts for the new year." We'll be watching A-Rod, no worries.
* Take Jon Wertheim's tennis pop quiz and find out how he answered his own questions - it's ingenious!
* Patricia Davis over at Tennis Diary wondered who will end 2009 as the top lady baller - an "ich" or an "ova" - but fears her "ova" might be "ova". Get it, got it, good.
* Have you checked out Vince Spadea's vlogs for the ATP World Tour? It features the usual Vince stuff (horrible headwear, more horrible rapping) and a fun fact: he traveled to the Brisbane tourney only to find out he's not even entered. It's pure comedy relief. CHECK IT:
(images via Women Tennis Photos, Getty)
Obviously, I can dominate the game. I have worked hard at my game and when you do that, things become easy for you. If I can play two good matches then I will feel really good going into the Australian Open.
- Roger Federer on the state of his game
Now that's more like it - not the snarky snippiness from last week but a more confident sounding Fed.
He won't dominate again, that's for sure. Love the Nike tee, though!
(image via Getty)
Shirtless brigade member Ross Hutchins, who accompanied friend Andy Murray during Team Murray's off-season training intensive in Miami, was spotted with the World No.4 at the kids' clinic today.
The duo also paired up for some Doha doubles action later in the day but lost to German ballers Christopher Kas and Philipp Kohlschreiber 5-7, 4-6.
It's good to see Ross finally getting some attention, but I can't say I'm happy he'll have to keep his shirt on or that I'll have to start watching doubles just to catch a glimpse.
Oh, the things we do for tennis...
(images via Getty)