Thanks to DtL reader Maja for this incredible Rafael Nadal find!
Okay Rafanatics: brace yourselves. Your boy took part in a ad campaign photoshoot for Pure Nike's Eugene Track Jacket (which Fed was working in Kooyong this week) and along with images there's an interview with Rafa himself:
What does victory mean to you?
Well, victory is something that I like, but it isn’t everything for me. For me victory is really important, especially in some moments, but it is not everything. Many times if I am playing well, I am satisfied with myself, even if I lose in the end.
Which words would you choose to describe the meaning of victory?
Triumph to do my best
What has been your greatest victory on and off the court?
The final in Wimbledon is the one that caused the greatest stir. And outside the court, I am lucky to have a great family, this is a victory, I guess.
Where you familiar with the photographer Rankin before today’s shooting?
No. It was different from the other shootings, in particular the powder shoot. I had fun - but not now that we have finished because I am full of powder everywhere!
What does Pure Nike mean to you?
Well, Nike is different from the other brands. It is a special brand, always innovative, and I think that this fact, the fact of being so innovative, makes it different from the others.
Is there any athlete that represents Pure Nike for you? And why?
Tiger Woods. I like his image with Nike.
How was the shoot today?
It was really special with all that powder and the set they have built. It has been different from the other shootings, much more fun.
Can you walk us through the sense of victory and what it means to you?
I do not know how to explain it, it deals with feelings hard to describe. I guess, the most important thing is the personal satisfaction, and the excitement that you feel in that special moment.
How was the Olympic victory different from the others?
The victory at the Olympic Games has a special meaning. When you are playing outside Spain, you know that you are representing your country, you are representing Spain. Really, during the Olympic Games, when you are representing Spain at 100 %, it is a very special victory.
And where would you place it in the list of your accomplishments?
I think that I would place the Olympic Games next to the five grand slam titles.
More images below and here. Are you dying yet?!
(images via suhzie)
Saturday, January 17, 2009
A shirted Andy Murray was spotted on the Melbourne Park practice courts again today working a suspicious looking tape job on his right knee.
Uh-oh. Could the bookies' fave (and one of mine) to take the Aussie Open crown in a fortnight be dealing with an unfortunate injury or is this just a preventative job?
(image via Getty)
Fernando Verdasco was spotted getting some cover during his match in Kooyong today. In a battle of "Nandos", the sexy Spaniard dismissed Fernando Gonzalez 6-4, 6-3 to win the third place playoff.
Well I can't say I'm disappointed to see Nando covering up that hairy situation with a new-fangled adidas head wrap. Maybe he ditched that 'do and will reveal his own Aussie Open surprise to us all.
Let's just hope he doesn't cover up those legs, though.
(images via Getty)
Roger Federer completed his preparation for next's Aussie Open by comprehensively crushing doubles partner, good friend and potential quarterfinal foe Stanislas Wawrinka 6-1, 6-3 in 57 minutes to earn his second Kooyong title.
No real surprise here but it's still a good confidence win for Fed before the year's first major. But the big question is: when did Stan leave adidas and join Lacoste?
Fed's longtime nemesis David Nalbandian is up to his usual tricks again. After a relatively non-existent 2008, the enigmatic Argentine stormed back to take the Sydney title by defeating Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 6-7(9), 6-2 for his 10th career title. Regal Rog owns a 10-8 lead in their head-to-head and the pair, who sit in the same half of the draw, could meet in the semifinals.
Speaking of Argentines, Juan Martin del Potro has picked up where he left off last season when he won his first four titles consecutively and reached a major quarterfinal for the first time at the US Open. The 20-year old defeated American Sam Querry 6-4, 6-4 to capture the Auckland title and is the eighth seed next week. He sits in the bottom quarter of the draw that features Fed + Stan, Marin Cilic, Marat Safin, and controversial Aussie prodigy Bernard Tomic.
In a rematch of the Beijing Olympics gold medal round, Elena Dementieva won again and evened her head-to-head series with Dinara Safina to 5-all by pulling out a 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 over her compatriot in Sydney and earning her second title in as many weeks (Auckland). She's the form lady baller going into Melbourne and if her legs stay under her, watch out.
Congrats to Petra Kvitova who defeated her Czech compatriot Iveta Benesova 7-5, 6-1 to win her maiden WTA title in Hobart. She sits in the bottom quarter of the draw that features 9-time Grand Slammer Serena Williams.
(images via Getty)
This top lady baller is def one of my faves to take her first Aussie Open crown in, oh, about two weeks time.
She's got a big baseline game and hit a high mark last season by reaching the Roland Garros final.
Is it Ana Ivanovic or Dinara Safina?
(image via PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)
Friday, January 16, 2009
The WTA Tour has been in flux ever since Justine Henin’s sudden retirement last season - no question.
Case in point: In 2008 four different ladies hoisted Grand Slam trophies while five different World No.1’s were anointed. Moreover, defending champion Maria Sharapova is still on injured-reserve (since last August) and won’t be making the trip to Melbourne. So the act of picking faves for the ladies’ crown is, uh, challenging to say the least.
But let’s try, shall we?
Without the afore mentioned lady ballers, all talk of non-clay Grand Slam championship runs begins and ends with the Williams sisters, and for good reason. The sisters own a combined 16 majors between them and have both been ranked No.1.
ReRe is a 3-time champ ('03, '05, '07) in Melbourne, owns a 37-6 record, and seems to thrive in the sultry Aussie summer heat whether her game is on and even more when it’s off. She fell in last year’s quarterfinals to Jelena Jankovic but with this being another odd numbered year and ReRe packing a new US Open title under her Nike belt (and a surprising albeit short return to No.1 afterwards) her confidence will be high – and that spells trouble for the entire field including…
V capped off the 2008 season in style with her first year-end WTA Championship and began 2009 by leading Team Americas to the title at the revamped JB Group Classic in Hong Kong. Surprisingly, the 28-year old’s lone trip to the Aussie Open final was in 2003 when she lost to her sister in a 3-set tussle. She’s traditionally a slow starter and doesn’t really get going until she steps onto her beloved grass at Wimbledon where she won her fifth title last summer. But her two US Open titles (’00, ’01) show she can win big on the hard stuff .
The WTA Penthouse's current resident, Jelena Jankovic, holds the distinct “honor” of being the first and only baller to end the year at No.1 without ever winning a Grand Slam. But the slidin’ Serb made her first major final losing to Serena at the US Open last year and will surely be hungry for more. The 22-year old spent time this off-season in Mexico and South Florida working on her fitness and endurance so the heat shouldn’t be an issue. What could be issues are her recent bout with the flu and a still yet-to-happen racquet switch that could distract JJ from the most important priority: winning her first major.
Sister Serb Ana Ivanovic, last year’s Aussie Open runner-up to Shrieka, already owns her first major defeating Dinara Safina for the Roland Garros crown and grabbing the top ranking to boot last spring. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there: she fell early at Wimbledon and then suffered a thumb injury that derailed the rest of her season (and seemingly her confidence along the way.) The 21-year old owns a blowtorch forehand (arguably the best in the game) and if she can consistently find it over the fortnight, a first Aussie Open crown will be within her grasp.
A breakthrough 2008 season, including runner-up finishes to Ana at Roland Garros and Elena Dementieva at the Beijing Olympics, propelled Marat’s lil' sis to a career high No.2 ranking last year. Her best result in Melbourne is the third round (I know!), and like JJ, has yet to prove she can take that next step. Dinara’s improved fitness and newfound confidence, not to mention a run to the final in Sydney this week, can only help her in that department so expect a much deeper run here.
Which lady ballers are dark horse candidates in Melbourne?
Elena Dementieva – This statuesque Russian has become the hottest lady baller on tour earning back-to-back titles in Auckland and Sydney. Last summer, she earned the biggest prize in her career when she won the gold medal in Beijing defeating Serena then Dinara in the final. And let’s not forget she also reached the finals of Roland Garros and the US Open in 2004 both without the improved serve she’s shown off recently. Let's hope she's not running on empty if she makes the second week.
Caroline Wozniacki – Wozzy has future champion written all over her. This feisty 18-year old already has 3 career titles to her name and held 3 match points against Serena Williams before falling in a 3-set Sydney thriller this week. One to watch in any case.
Victoria Azarenka – This former junior No.1 has been touted as a future champion ever since hitting the professional ranks. The Belarusian’s powerful baseline game is rounding into form right on time as evidenced by her championship run in Queensland last week, Vika's first career title.
The 2009 tennis season has barely begun but here we are at the first Grand Slam of the season: the Aussie Open!
*clap, clap, fizz, fizz*
This major is a true test of fitness and endurance and those ballers who spent their off-seasons honing their games and strengthening their bodies are duly rewarded. Those who primped, posed and partied, well, good luck to you.
So who are the faves to take home the boys' title? Let's take a look!
In tennis, you’re only as good as your last win and Rafael Nadal knows that better than anyone. After one of the best seasons in tennis history, Rafa enters Melbourne with some questions: His ’08 season was cut short due to injury forcing the 22-year old to miss both the Masters Cup and his country’s Davis Cup final and leaving him short of match play (his early loss in Doha last week to Gael Monfils exposed some rust.) Moreover, he’s yet to even reach a hard-court major final, the closest moments coming last season when the Mallorcan Matador made the semifinals here and in Flushing Meadow. But let’s not forget the 22-year old did win gold at the Beijing Olympics last summer which had a similar surface to the US Open and has hoisted trophies at a number of other hard-court tourneys. Big-hitting ballers can be a nightmare for Rafa on this stuff but if he finds the right mix of aggression and defense he can add a sixth career major to his resume.
Roger Federer isn’t used to playing second fiddle to anyone (see quotes) but ever since he lost his Wimbledon crown and top-ranking to Rafa last season, life hasn’t been the same for Regal Rog. Even now, the 13-time Grand Slammer enters Melbourne as second helpings to a streaking Andy Murray as the bookies’ fave to take home the crown. But unlike last year when his preparation was hindered by mononucleosis, he arrives in Melbourne fit + fresh. Plus, who can argue with the facts: in the last five years Fed has gone 3-0 when reaching the final and has made the semifinals twice, including the classic battle against Marat Safin in 2005 when he lost 7-9 in the fifth. Will a Pete Sampras-tying 14th major be awaiting him in two weeks?
Talk about someone entering Melbourne with some questions (no seriously, discuss!). The defending champ, Novak Djokovic, went full-circle last season capturing his maiden major in Melbourne and then capped off the year with his first Masters Cup title. But some funny stuff happened in between (like some bad losses and a more questionable attitude) that left fans wondering what was going on with the usually affable Serb. Fast forward to 2009: The 21-year old makes the jump from Wilson to HEAD (more funny stuff, right Tim?) and consequently falls in his opening round match in Queensland to Ernests Gulbis. Clearly he knows what it takes to win big but Nole will need to get his mind out of these money-making moves and back onto the court where it belongs. Otherwise, his reign as the Aussie Open king will be very short-lived (and his loss to the Flying Finn in Sydney today won't help.)
Is anyone on the planet playing better ball than this Brit? Me thinks not. Andy Murray has been tearing up the ATP World Tour since his bicep-busting victory at Wimbledon last season when he came back from 2-sets to love down against Frenchie Richard Gasquet. Since then the 21-year old reached his first major final at the US Open (losing to Fed) and has collected 4 titles including 2 Masters Series shields (Cincinnati, Madrid). He's beaten Fed four times in a row since that loss in New York (including an exo in Abu Dhabi earlier this month), and has wins over Rafa + Nole. Now comes the tough part: can he shoulder the expectations and prove his champion’s mettle?
Here are a few darkhorses to peel your eyeballs for:
Marin Cilic – The towering 20-year old Croat just won his second career title in Chennai last week and will be entering Melbourne with confidence.
Juan Martin del Potro – Another towering 20-year old by way of Argentina, this baller made history last season by winning his first four tourneys in a row on two different surfaces (clay, hard). J. Martin’s already reached the final in Auckland, his first tourney of the year.
Andy Roddick – I even surprised myself with this one. A-Rod is all about change right now opting for a new coach in the much-heralded Larry Stefanki and an impressively leaned down but still muscular build. He reached the final in Doha falling to Andy Murray (but who hasn’t lately) so he’ll be feeling good about his chances (especially since he's in Nole's quarter of the draw.) And as a former US Open champ and World No.1, why wouldn’t he?
(images via Getty)
Rafael Nadal was spotted on the Melbourne Park practice courts again as he continues to sharpen his game for the first major of the year, the Aussie Open.
The world's top baller also debuted the new Nike Short Sleeve top in white + neo turquoise he'll most likely be wearing during his campaign this fortnight. I'm guessing Rafa's wear-testing the shirt and getting comfortable with it before having to wear it in match play.
Okay here's the negative: it has sleeves! But I do love the bright yet airy feel of the colors and it's fitted enough to still show off his, eh, goods.
I suggest the Matador give the Rafanatics at least one measly shirtless practice before they're forced to watch two weeks of him covered up.
It's only fair.
(images via Getty)
So remember the post when I wrote about the rumors of Bethanie Mattek's wedding based on tennis scribe Stephanie Myles' story in The Montreal Gazette? And remember when I confirmed the rumors with images and info from her November nuptials??
Well someone wasn't too happy with me.
Imagine my shock to find this oh-so pleasant email from Stephanie greeting me this morning in which she assumes I got the photos from her (false) and not B's publicist at CMPR (true), calls me "irresponsible", and makes all kinds of other strange statements:
Please remove the Bethanie Mattek wedding photos from your fabulous blog.
They're not yours to reproduce there; they were obtained by my newspaper and remain our property.
You can link to my blog, but that's as far as it can go. It's called intellectual and copyright property. You haven't even given me the courtesy of doing that, which is irresponsible.
A word of advice. If they cared to, Getty Images could also tell you to take all the photos they own off your blog, too, by the way. They're a for-profit company that charges people for the use of their photos. If bloggers just take them and use them for free, they'd be out of business pretty quickly. They probably just haven't found you yet, because from what I can see, you abuse the notion pretty freely.
Just because it's on the internet, doesn't mean anyone can just use stuff free of charge. A stunning concept, I know.
For example, I can use Getty and AFP on my blog because our newspaper has a contract with them and pays them, even though I don't often do it, because I have a huge log of photos that I took the last 12 months at all the Grand Slam tournaments and others. But that's the distinction.
Thanks for you prompt attention to this.
Wait - no "thanks" for linking to her (maybe) highly read and insightful Open Court column? No invitations to "do lunch" and gossip about the Tours and dating rituals of other ballers (and drink ourselves silly of course)??
There's appreciation for you.
(image via www.impress-photo.com)
Thursday, January 15, 2009
- Serena Williams on her loss to Elena Dementieva in Sydney today
A few of you guys were NOT pleased with this quote from ReRe. Fine - it's bad sportsmanship and typical of her when she gets handed a tough loss (anyone remember when she ate sour grapes at the 2007 US Open?
I don't know why but like the other lady ballers, including big sis' V, I'm pretty numb to these ridiculous statements at this point. We all know that a bad loss = temper tantrum with her.
So next time ReRe's words get on your nerves try putting her in a mental time-out. Or call the Super Nanny.
But either way, do yourself a favor and move on.
(image via Getty)
Thanks to DtL reader and rabid Rafanatic johanne for tipping me off to this exciting Rafael Nadal news!
The Mallorcan Matador will be chatting live online with fans for the Herald Sun as long as he's in the Aussie Open. No, seriously.
Via the Herald Sun:
RAFAEL Nadal, the world's No. 1 tennis player, will be available to our readers online during the Australian Open.Well, if you insist. But I can't be held responsible for what the raunchier Rafanatics will ask him. Just sayin'.
For as long as he is still in the tournament, the most exciting player on the planet will answer your questions exclusively on heraldsun.com.au
This unprecedented contact with the Wimbledon, French and Olympic champions starts right here on Sunday.
So here's your chance to chat with Rafa. Take it while you can, tennis fans.
(image via Getty)
Here we go again.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to withdraw prior to his quarterfinal match in Sydney against the Flying Finn, Jarkko Nieminen, with another back injury.
The Frenchie, whose litany of injuries havs been well-documented including his back, was unsure about his prospects ahead of the Aussie Open where he made a surprise run to the finals last year:
I hope it will not affect me for the Australian Open but I don't know. I had a problem with my disc a long time ago and sometimes it happens. I just have to wait and come back on the court when I feel better. I can't do anything for the next two days. I will stay maybe in my bed and hope I will be better.Ay, yay, yay. Why can't you stay healthy for any significant length of time, Jo-Willy? I mean, look at the results you had last fall when your health was intact (2 titles including Paris Masters).
You look to be a big, strapping boy so I'm think there's something funky about your technique somewhere.
I won't, I can't, I WILL NOT hide my disappointment Jo-Willy. No, not this time...
*screams to the heavens, throws fist in the air*
(image via GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
Andy Murray finally joined the Shirtless Showcase this week in Melbourne (what a tease.)
The bookie-backed Brit was spotted at a practice session looking all kinds of cut-up. And it seems Andy has actually worked on that much-needed tan and *gasp* gained some color while balling Down Under.
This is all well and good but I'm thinking he's def due for some doubs, too. So I ask again: Where's Ross?!
*taps foot impatiently*
(images via Getty)
An out-of-sorts Serena Williams paid the price for her heroics this week in Sydney.
The 9-time Grand Slammer, who saved a total of 7 match points in her matches against Samantha Stosur + Caroline Wozniacki, got absolutely pummeled in the semifinals by Elena Dementieva 6-3, 6-1 in 68 minutes, her second consecutive loss to the Russian (Moscow, Beijing Olympics). It will be an all-Russian final (and Olympics final rematch won by Elena) when she battles Dinara Safina for the title.
I never worry about ReRe's bad losses or form prior to majors, especially the Aussie Open where she's 3-time champ. She could come in with one leg and one hitting arm and still at least make the final.
So no worries ReRe. Little do they know you've got them right where you want them.
(image via Getty)
A natural Ana Ivanovic was spotted get her practice on under the watchful eye of Sven Groenefeld at Melbourne Park today.
The Roland Garros champ had announced the pair would not be continuing their partnership on a regular basis but then confirmed recently that Sven would be helping her at the Aussie Open.
It's good to see the 21-year old in Melbourne working with the man who helped her get the keys to the WTA Penthouse and her first major. But in the long-term, I do hope she finds a full-time traveling coach who can advise her along the way. She's still very much developing her game so an extra set of experienced eyes couldn't hurt.
More images from today's practice session below.
(image via PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
So the rumors of Bethanie Mattek's marriage to JPS Insurance President Justin Sands are true and you know what? Here are the pics to prove it!
The marriage took place on Saturday, November 29, 2008 at Edgewater Beach Resort in Naples, FL.
In typical style, B's wedding was far from traditional (I mean FAR) and it seems "zebra" was the theme of the day: she worked an all-black Romona Keveza wedding dress and Marciano zebra print stilettos and wore a 5.5 carat custom engagement ring paired with a wedding ring made from 3.5 carats of black + white diamonds resembling zebra stripes.
Flowers arrangements were created from purple orchids, white lilies, and white hydrangeas and the cake, continuing the theme of the day was made from vanilla and strawberries and a layer of chocolate mousse.
I wonder what it says about the bride when her dress is straight up black? I have my guesses. And her hair, well, it's giving me flashbacks to those egg pods from Aliens. Creepster!
In any case, she's done The Corpse Bride justice and I'm sure she couldn't be more proud.
Congrats again B - can't wait to see you (and your "fashions") back on court soon. You'll be missed in Melbourne!
(images via www.impress-photo.com)