Google Down the Line!: 2009-01-25


Saturday, January 31, 2009

PREVIEW: Australian Open Men's Final


Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Roger Federer (2)
Head-to-head: Rafa 12, Fed 6
Last meeting: Wimbledon, Rafa 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5) 6-7 (8) 9-7

The next chapter in this already legendary rivalry between top seed Rafael Nadal and second seeded Roger Federer is ready to be told.

In the pair's 19th career meeting, Rafa will be looking to win his first hard-court major title and sixth overall when he battles 3-time champ Roger Federer who will attempt to tie Pete Sampras' record of 14 career major titles in Sunday's Aussie Open final. Let's take a look...

How They Got Here: Rafa played his first five matches in blazing form, not dropping a single set on his way to the final four. But that streak ended when he met up with compatriot Fernando Verdasco in an epic semifinal slugfest that now sits as the longest match in Oz Open history. No one will soon forget the stirring images from this now-classic match including the joy and relief of Rafa's reaction after a painful double-fault on match point by Nando gave the 22-year old a 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4 victory.

Regal Rog also began the tourney relatively well but hit a major speed bump in his fourth rounder, coming back from 2 sets to none down to defeat Czech Tomas Berdych. In his semifinal match, Fed confronted an in-form, in-shape Andy Roddick but bested the American baller for the 16th time 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 to enter his fourth Oz Open final and fourth consecutive major final.

The last time these two met was in arguably the greatest tennis match ever played - the '08 Wimbledon final. It was the third consecutive meeting for the pair in the Wimby final but this time Rafa came out on top, earning his first Championship and stopping the Swiss stylist's streak of 5 consecutive titles at the All-England Club with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7 win.


In his semifinal post-match presser, the Mallorcan Matador was asked about facing Fed again and what tactics he might employ:
Q. How exciting is it for you to finally play Federer in a Grand Slam on hard court?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, always is ‑ I don't know ‑ special play against Federer any match, no? You play another final of Grand Slam is more exciting, no?

Little bit unlucky. Don't know how I gonna be for the final. I gonna try my best for sure for recover my body and my physical performance. But, you know, after one match like this, the next days you feel much heavier, no?

But for sure for me is amazing play another final of Grand Slam. Here in Australia, the first one. Well, unlucky all the time is against the same: the best. For sure, I prefer another opponent. But that's makes big the sport, too, no, finals like this.

Q. Do you plan to play closer to the baseline against Federer? Tonight you had to run really a lot.

RAFAEL NADAL: Was tough to be more inside, no? What do you think? Did you see the speed of the ball or not (laughter)?

Q. I saw he was able to stay farther in front.

RAFAEL NADAL: I would love to be more inside, yeah. I gonna try to be more inside for the final, but I am playing against Federer.


Fed was asked about Rafa's grueling 5-hour semifinal bout and if he thought now had an advantage in the final:
Q. You had a bit of trouble watching last night's match did you, or did you have to get back down here to do it?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I was practicing at the beginning of the match. It took a while, so I went for dinner and saw the end. It was really exciting. It was an unbelievable match.

Q. What did you think about? What was going through your mind as you were watching it?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, as I didn't see the whole thing, it was kind of difficult to judge. But you heard, you know, that Fernando was struggling with his leg, you know, at one stage, but then looked much better again.

But it was just good to see such a close contested match, I thought. In the end it was unfortunate it had to finish on a double fault, but I thought the quality was very good.

Q. It was one of the great ones. Does it make you feel that you've got more of that advantage now that you've had the extra 24 hours and Rafa has had to dig so deep through five hours?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, you could think that way, but I don't think it's really going to affect Rafa that much. He's had very easy matches going into this semifinal.

Okay, he has a day less. But, look, I mean, you got to be fit and recover from this kind of a match. I think he will, even though he took a while. His matches usually take longer than other matches because he takes his time out on the court. I don't think he will be really affected on Sunday.
Outlook: In full flight, Rafa would have more than enough game to topple The Fed in Oz. But after his grueling semifinal that ended in the early morning hours on Saturday and only a day to recover and get in some practice, will he be fit for the fight? Big question mark. But if anyone has the mental and physical strength to push the pain aside and pull through, it's Rafa. This time, however, it may be too much to ask. The top baller will need to pull ahead early (as he did at Wimby), keep the points short, hold his ground on the baseline, and step inside and attack when the opportunity hits. If he gets the first set or two, then game on.

For his part, Fed will be looking to lengthen the rallies, move Rafa side to side, and maybe throw in some drop shots to gauge the Spaniard's fitness early on. But the 13-time Grand Slammer is certainly the fresher of the two and will hold the advantage if they match gets to a fourth or fifth set. He'll still need to serve well, dictate with the forehand, and end points at the net in order to keep the World No.1 from gaining any momentum. Fed will be smart to stay aggressive and attack at every opportunity because even a weary Rafa will push himself to run for the fences.

However, with all that's on the line for Regal Rog coupled with a possibly-fatigued Rafa, we'll most likely looking at history in the making when he earns his second consecutive Grand Slam title and record-tying 14th career major in Oz.

WINNER: Fed

(images via AP, Getty)

PHOTO OP: Serena stomps Safina, earns fourth Oz Open crown and 10th major title


Serena Williams proved once again that her game, when it's on and even when it's off, is the best there is on the WTA Tour.

The newly-minted World No.1 crushed a helpless Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-3 in 58 minutes, hitting 23 winners against 7 errors and slamming down 4 aces, to win her fourth Aussie Open crown, second consecutive Grand Slam, and 10th career major overall moving her past Monica Seles (9) to become seventh on the all-time list. Only Chris Evert + Martina Navratilova (18), Helen Wills Moody (19), Steffi Graf (22) and Margaret Court (24) are ahead of ReRe in terms of career Grand Slam titles.


In her post-match presser, she was asked how she managed to round into form over the fortnight after struggling early on:

Well, I've been playing better throughout the weeks. I think doubles was really able to help me out. And also I went out and hit a few balls this morning. I had a really good practice.

Watching some of the men's tennis, they were playing really well. I was really inspired like that. Especially last night's match. It was just crazy.

I thought, you know, I could do a little better. Just all the inspirations kind of added. And then I felt like, you know, going into today I didn't really have much to lose. Just go out there and do my best.
Would she ever want to play anything close to the 5 hour plus men's semifinal between Rafael Nadal + Fernando Verdasco?
I was trying to think of who would beat me worse, either Roger or Rafa, and how long, like a five‑minute set. They'd probably take me out in five minutes, so...

Oh, uhm, if it came down to it and I had to, I could. I mean, would I want to? If it meant the win, I would have to, yeah.


And what does it mean to now be the all-time career prize money leader in women's sports?
Yeah, I thought it was just in tennis, and then I realized it was really overall in women's sports. I thought that was really cool, because you look at people like Billie Jean King, then you look at things in the United States called Title IX, which gave women an opportunity to play sports. You really appreciate that.

You really appreciate the people, the pioneers, the work they've done to get me in a position to have an opportunity to be called even the highest‑earning female tennis player.

I just feel so honored that I had so many wonderful pioneers doing things to open doors ‑ not only me, but you think five years from now or ten years from now, say, there will probably be people earning more money than I am, because the prize money on the WTA Tour has already gone completely out of the roof from this year and last year.
So it's gonna be even better.
Congrats ReRe! Now at least we know one lady baller who deserves to hold the keys to the WTA Penthouse.

Could we be in for a Serena Slam, Part Deux or dare I say *gulp* the coveted GRAND SLAM this year?

Stay tuned.





(images via AP, Getty)

Friday, January 30, 2009

PREVIEW: Australian Open Ladies' Final


Serena Williams (2) vs. Dinara Safina (3)
Head-to-head:
ReRe 5, Dinara 1
Last meeting:
WTA Championships (hard), ReRe 6-4, 6-1

We've arrived at the first major final of the season in Oz and it pits one lady baller going for her first Grand Slam title versus another looking to add to her ever-growing major title haul of nine. Oh, and the winner grabs the keys to the WTA Penthouse from current resident Jelena Jankovic.

Serena Williams
will battle Dinara Safina on Saturday night in Melbourne for the Aussie Open ladies' crown. Let's take a look!

How They Got Here: ReRe, who just became the all-time career earnings leader in all of women's sports by reaching the Aussie Open final and winning the doubles crown with sister Venus, began the fortnight showing some rust but rounded into form during the third set of her quarterfinal match against Svetlana Kuznetsova. The 27-year old went on to oust the streaking Elena Dementieva 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals by serving with accuracy and defending relentlessly. It will be ReRe's fourth Aussie Open final and third consecutive Grand Slam final.

Dinara also struggled with her form during the tourney, going the distance in the three of her matches and coming back from 2-5 down and two match points to defeat Frenchie Alize Cornet in the fourth round. Like ReRe, the Russian was able to subdue another streaking lady baller, Vera Zvonareva, 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the semifinals to make her first Oz Open final and second career Grand Slam final.

The last time these two ladies met was at the 2008 season-ending WTA Championships in Doha when ReRe, who eventually withdrew from the tourney with injury, dominated an exhausted Dinara 6-4, 6-1 in round robin play.


The 9-time Grand Slammer was asked about battling the Russian and how her game has developed over the years:
Q. How important is the experience factor tomorrow, the fact you've been there so many times before, Dinara has only played in one Grand Slam final?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know if that factors in too much. Once you make it to one Grand Slam final, you pretty much know what to expect. So if she hadn't made it to the final before, then I would say, yeah, I'd be more experienced. Seeing as she's already been there, I think if anything she's going to be way more hungry for it and want it even more. That's going to be definitely going for her.

Q. You were on the tour five years before Dinara came along. Can you tell us how you looked at her when she first came on and how you've seen her develop.

SERENA WILLIAMS: She's developed a lot. She's gotten a lot more confident. When she first came, she was so young and so sweet. I mean, she's still sweet now. You can just see she's more focused now, more intense, and you can just totally see the change.

Q. What about from a game perspective?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, her game has just developed. It's improved leaps and bounds.


Dinara was asked about her lone win over the American and what it will take to beat her:
Q. In [Berlin '08] you also beat Serena Williams. Do you think that will help you going into the final?

DINARA SAFINA: Well, you know, it was a clay court. Now it's completely different. I don't know if we're going to play with the roof open, closed. So let's see what's gonna be on Saturday. So let's see how it's gonna be the conditions. It's different tournament. It's not only that I played her in Berlin, I played two more times against her. I hope I will use ‑‑ the mistakes that I did after, I will not use it next time.

Q. Do you think at the US Open and the Championships when you played her, you just weren't physically or mentally prepared for it?

DINARA SAFINA: Well, those two tournaments it's tough to judge, because playing US Open and Masters, especially Masters, I was just not ready to play at all. I was dead completely. There was nothing inside of me anymore. And also, US Open, coming after winning two tournaments in a row, playing final at Beijing, that took so much energy out of me. When I got there, I was just not ready to play. So now it's different. It's beginning of the season. It's another tournament. Just looking forward for my next challenge.

Q. Serena Williams, is she more intimidating to play against than some of the other girls? Other girls seem to crumble under the pressure of playing her at times.

DINARA SAFINA: I cannot talk about the other players, how they feel when they play against her. I just can talk on my own. You know, we played three times last year. I beat her once. I'm looking forward for this time to play against her.
Outlook: Dinara's game, especially her serve, has deserted her throughout the fortnight but she showcased her mental toughness by gutting out wins with pure desire and belief. That being said, her first serve percentage needs to be high in the final so that she can play first-strike tennis and control the center of the court. If not, she'll be on the defensive immediately in the point and spend the evening on her back foot defending against ReRe's barrage of groundies - a certain recipe for a Dinara disaster.

This match, like most matches involving ReRe, is on her racquet - no question. She possesses endless experience, a more complete game, can play tough-as-nails defense when necessary, and has proven her champion's mettle time and time again in the biggest matches. Plus, her serve is the best in the game when it's clicking - and it has since the Rod Laver retractable roof was closed.

It will take a zoning Dinara to knock a determined ReRe off the path to her 10th career major final - but I don't see that happening.

WINNER: ReRe

(images via Getty)

PHOTO OP: The Spaniards go almost-Frenchie during intimate post-match moment (drats)


After Rafael Nadal defeated compatriot Fernando Verdasco in their now-classic Aussie Open semifinal showdown, the friends went almost-Frenchie for their fans and performed an intimate post-match moment.

Ahhhh - share the love boys, especially while we're watching. *sigh*




(image via AP + TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

(UPDATED) PHOTO OP: Rafa falls to his knees in Oz, defeats Nando in 5-set semifinal thriller


INSTANT CLASSIC.

That's all that needs to be said about the knock down, drag out spectacular 5-set semifinal bout between compatriots Rafael Nadal + Fernando Verdasco which will go down in the record books as the longest match in Aussie Open history (5 hours 14 minutes).

It was a incredibly breathtaking display of raw athleticism, sublime shot-making, heart, and facial expressions but in the end it was Rafa's trademark desire and mental toughness more than anything else that told the tale. The world's top baller edged out Nando who served a double-fault on match point to go down 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4 in a match that featured a combined 147 winners - 95 by Nando alone. SICK.

And the point totals for both ballers? Rafa ended with 193 while Nando had 192. Talk about evenly-matched.

Unfortunately for Rafa, he'll have a quick turnaround for the Sunday final where he'll face Roger Federer in the pair's 19th meeting (12 Rafa, 6 Fed) and first since another classic: the 2008 Wimbledon final won by the Mallorcan Matador. Fed will be looking to tie Pete Sampras' all-time major record of 14 while the top seed will be going for his 6th and first on hard-court.

But a huge congrats to both Spaniards for an incredible effort and for some moments we won't soon forget...











UPDATE: Here's what both ballers had to say about the scheduling of the match:

Rafa -
Q. You're not only the No. 1 in the world, but you are one of the top players in the politics of the ATP. Is there nothing you can do to avoid this problem of scheduling, that you have one day of rest and Roger has two? Apart from Wimbledon, every tournament is screwed up. The US Open, they do what they want. Roland Garros, they do what they want. Here the same. Don't you think the players should do something?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I think Roland Garros is not like this, no?

Q. They play sometimes one day before the other.
RAFAEL NADAL: No. The last four years not (smiling).
Well, the US Open was for both player the semifinal the same day. Here is the only tournament is not like this. But, you know, you still have one day off. So that's the sport. For sure is a little bit more fair if you play the same day. But is like this. Last year was for me, and this year was for Roger in this case, no? Last year I played on Thursday. I lost. I didn't play the final. But, anyway, I play on Thursday, and Roger play on Friday.

Well, this little bit unlucky play one match like today, too hard. So for sure Roger gonna be in much better performance physically than me for the final.

But at the same time I gonna try to be recovered for the final and play my best. I don't know if we can do something because we are involved of the council. But the true, right now I not ready for speak about politic.
Nando -
Q. About Nadal having one day less to rest, don't you think that players should do something to avoid these problems all the time? At the US Open they play Saturday the semifinal before the final. Here they play one day, then the next. Don't you think you, as players, should start to do something?
FERNANDO VERDASCO: I will speak with them in next tournament (smiling).

No, but I think, for sure, the semifinals supposed to be the same day, both semifinals, because I think, you know, is the most fair for everybody, no? Because like right now, yesterday Federer play three sets, and today Rafa play five sets, five hours, and he will have one day less, and with a semifinal much longer.

I think that for sure they supposed to play the two semifinals like the womans, the same day. And I think also with two weeks, you have enough days to make the schedule right and have it like this.

But I don't know why they did it, no? I promise, I didn't know that Federer was playing yesterday. I thought that yesterday was playing only girls, and today two semifinals. When I saw that he was playing yesterday, I was a little bit in shock. I was like, Why he's playing one day before us? He will have much recover, and in the final he will have a little bit more of advantage because he had one day more.

So I don't know why they did it. And I think that, for sure, they need to change it.

Q. Only Wimbledon has the perfect schedule. The others do what they want.
FERNANDO VERDASCO: I think this is one thing that for sure they need to change. If they hear me here, the guys from Australian Open, I'm so happy because I make semifinals here, and is my biggest tournament. But I think that for sure they need to make it better.

And I think if they put the two semifinals the same day, is gonna be more fair for everybody, for all the four players.
(images via WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

VIDEO VAULT: Get dreamy with Rafa on The Balearic Islands

A big thanks to rabid Rafanatic Barcelona2012 for tipping me off to the latest Rafanews!

The world's top baller, who'll earn a chance to make memories with Regal Rog when he faces compatriot Fernando Verdasco in the Oz Open semifinals later today, is featured in a new ad for The Balearic Islands which are comprised of Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera, and Rafa's home of Mallorca.

It's a beautiful spot and not just because it features the 5-time Grand Slammer. There's a nice use of graphics + color and it offers a dreamlike sequence centered around the Mallorcan Matador.

Hmmm - I'm guessing it's not the first time that's happened...

CHECK IT:


VIDEO VAULT: La Monf works his new Prince stick all over the court

Thanks to the team over at Prince for sending me the newest TV spot for their just launched EXO3 line of performance racquets starring the incredibly athletic Gael Monfils.

The commercial shows La Monf doing what he does best (and I don't mean his French kissing ways.) He takes to the court with his new stick and slides, glides, and cracks an impressive Sampras-style leaping overhead.

PS - This one's for Sara, you Frenchie lover you!

CHECK IT:


PHOTO OP: Dinara looking towards a major final breakthrough in Oz


Could the second time be the charm for Dinara Safina?

The Russian lady baller, who defeated compatriot Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 7-6 (3) in the semifinals, survived 2 match points against Frenchie Alize Cornet in the fourth round and some serious serving woes (like 40 total double faults - eeks) to reach her first Aussie Open final and second career major final. She'll battle 9-time Grand Slammer Serena Williams for the title.

Talk about living dangerously D. Let's hope your serving issues become non-issues in the final or you might be looking towards the door and not a breakthrough on Saturday night.

(image via TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

Serena pushes Elena aside, aims for fourth Oz Open crown


Serena Williams, like Roger Federer, reached her fourth Aussie Open final while also making her third consecutive major final when she outhit and outplayed the hottest lady baller on the WTA Tour, Elena Dementieva in the semifinals. She ousted her Russian foe 6-3, 6-4 and will face her third consecutive Russian, Dinara Safina, who dismissed Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 7-6 (3), in the ladies' final on Saturday night.

Their serves made the difference in this match with ReRe hitting 10 aces, particularly in key moments, and Elena reliving her serving nightmares by throwing down 8 double faults. The 9-time Grand Slammer talked about the importance of serving well in this match during her post-match presser:

Q. What did you do better today? You lost to her not so long ago. What parts of your game do you feel you stepped up today?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I definitely served better. It's so important to serve well against her. She's a really good returner. I moved better and I was definitely more consistent and I kept my cool. So that was, I think, some important things I was able to do.


She was also asked about the possibility of hitting double-digits career Grand Slams:

Q. If you won the tournament, you'd be in a select group that have won 10 Grand Slam singles titles. What would that mean to you to get to double figures?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It would be cool. Maybe I'll get the special 10 plus bonus mail.

Q. Meal or mail?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Mail. Like I'm sure that people have 10 plus Grand Slams get special letters (smiling). I'll be part of a really elite club.

Q. Who would you most like to receive a letter from if you reach that club? Who would you like to write you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, uhm, hmm. I don't know. I'm not a part of the club, so I don't really know exactly all the members. So hopefully I'll be a part of the club.


The Russian was gracious in defeat saying after the match,

I think Serena played really well today. Uhm, I think I was maybe not aggressive enough and maybe I was playing not deep enough, which allowed her to be very aggressive and dictate the game. But I think she was very powerful today.
No kidding. Great win for ReRe especially against Elena who was playing lights out as of late (though she may have overplayed and been Russian toast mentally by the semifinal stage.) It always comes down to who really believes and who wants it the most and more often than not, it's ReRe. She has a great chance of getting entry into that double-digit Slam club when she faces Dinara in the final.

Check back from my preview of the ladies' final tomorrow!

(images via WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

PHOTO OP: Mirka loves to finger her Crackberry (addicted much?)


Mirka Vavrinec, who got fashion-y at the Aussie Open recently, was spotted texting her arse off (shocker) while watching long-time boyfriend Roger Federer reach his fourth Aussie Open final by defeating Andy Roddick.

ATTENTION MIRKA: PLEASE PUT THE CRACKBERRY DOWN. I REPEAT, PLEASE PUT THE CRACKBERRY DOWN. STEP SLOWLY AWAY FROM THE CRACKBERRY...

(image via WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

Regal Rog beats A-Rod, reaches fourth Oz Open final


Roger Federer reached his fourth Aussie Open final and fourth consecutive Grand Slam final when he defeated Andy Roddick 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 in the semifinals.

The pair played a high quality match but Fed held the edge in all categories: 51 winners against only 15 errors, 16 aces, 66% success on first serve deliveries, and 17 of 27 net approaches. A-Rod held 3 break points in the match but was unable to convert any of them. Bad luck.


In his post-match presser, Fed was asked about the continuing expectations he faces in his career:

Q. Last year you said you had created a monster of expectations. Has that faded for you given how you played in the year since, or do you still feel that weight?
RF: I'm still surprised how quickly the mood swings with the media, with the fans, with everybody.

If I lose a set or two sets against Berdych, everybody is like, Oh, my God, he's not the same anymore. And then you beat Del Potro and everything is back to normal. It's just not the way it's supposed to be, I don't think.

You don't lose your edge that quickly. It's just not possible. I know I'm playing well. I feel good. I know sometimes you can always run into a player that's hot and you can lose. I've been able to control my opponents, and definitely got close against Berdych.

I still think I fought hard and deserved the victory in the end. Came up with two great victories now against Del Potro and Roddick, and usually that's when I start playing my best: Towards the end of the tournament. I think this is where you should judge a great player.

Q. You obviously heard the criticism after the Berdych match. Do you get motivated by the swings you're talking about?
ROGER FEDERER: I don't think that it's criticism, just opinions. Everybody can have an opinion and everybody can say what they feel like. I know I didn't play the perfect match, otherwise I would have been able to beat him more easily.

But I can take criticism, no problem, any day.

"Watch that hand. Mirka's looking."

And who would he prefer to play in Sunday's final?
I'd like to play Fernando because he's never played a Grand Slam final before. I have an edge there. Playing Rafa is obviously, you know, more exciting because of the history we have playing in so many Grand Slam finals.

Him being the best player in the world at the moment, it would make it a very intriguing match.
Interesting statements from the 13-time Grand Slammer, especially that he's still surprised by the scrutiny after all these years. What's also surprising is Fed didn't say he'd prefer to play Rafa over Nando because, let's face it, a match against the world's top baller and his biggest rival would be the ultimate test and a more satisfying win.

Maybe this time, though, Regal Rog just wants his 14th Grand Slam.

(images via Getty)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

VIDEO VAULT: Nalby's belly bump makes Aussie Open appearance, smiles for camera

Thanks to the DtL reader Jorge for sending sending me this hysterically funny video of David Nalbandian at the Aussie Open last week.

The Argentine baller, who was embarrassed by Yen-Hsun Lu in the second round, was spotted carrying extra baggage in Melbourne and the boys at ESPN2 made sure to let us all know about it.

Not that we couldn't tell he was pushing the pounds (hi belly bump), but now we have proof. I think he's on my training regiment actually (read: lots o' beer).

CHECK IT:



(via Fue Buena)

PHOTO OP: Nando is Nando but Feli is a new man


Fernando Verdasco + Feliciano Lopez were spotted launching The Davis Cup by BNP Paribas: The Year in Tennis 2008 highlighting Spain's win over Argentina in the final. The Aussie Open semifinalist and DC hero is the book's coverboy while Feli gets the back.

Nando looks, well, like Nando but the important question here is: how cute does Feli look with his new 'do?!

So long rat's tail, hello hotness. *swoons*

PS - You can purchase the yearbook here.

(image courtesy of Paul Zimmer)

Official RAFANATICS Facebook page launches - can you stand it?!


In honor of all the rabid Rafanatics out there in this great, big cyberworld we live in, DtL in conjunction with El Toro de Rafa have launched the offiicial RAFANATICS Facebook page!!!

Here you can admire all the Rafaness your heart (and other places) desire. Plus you can have your own pictures, videos, and other Rafanews uploaded by emailing them to rafanatics@gmail.com.

Check it out and become a fan here!

Nando credits adidas for development + support, reveals more about Agassi sit down


Fernando Verdasco reached his first Grand Slam semifinal when he defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 at the Aussie Open. He faces his top seeded compatriot Rafael Nadal for a spot in Sunday's final.

In his post-match presser, the 25-year old gave credit to sponsor adidas for their unrelenting support including the opportunity to train in Las Vegas with Gil Reyes:

I need to say thanks because I didn't say before to adidas. Is because of my brand, no, that I had this chance to be with Gil in Las Vegas. You know, there is a development program for the players of adidas, you know, with Gil Reyes. They help us so much.

Some players, they don't like maybe or they don't want to do it. But me, because I don't have coach, you know, I decide to go there. Also because Agassi was my idol when I was young, I decide that it was, for sure, a good experience, that I will learn so much. So I took that decision.

Right now I'm feeling much better than before. They help me so much. They treat me unbelievable there. You know, I can't wait to go again there to start practicing again.

As I wrote about previously, the adidas-sponsored trip to Las Vegas also allowed Nando to spend some time learning from his childhood idol Andre Agassi:
[We spoke] about a lot of things. It was about the tournaments, how I should organize my year of tournaments. You know, I was asking him, you know, "This tournament, you think I need to play, I don't need to play, I need to practice these weeks, this week no. He was just giving me advices about, you know, what he thinks about all this, about what tournaments I need to play or which weeks I need to practice and be ready for the big tournaments. Also, after, about tactics, no, and about my game, how he thinks that I should play more and take more advantage of my game.

You know, we was speaking for two hours, so we spoke a lot. But he really help me so much. I'm so happy to had that conversation with him.
I guess if you're going to learn about winning, especially in Oz, you might as well speak with a 4-time champ like AA.

I'd be curious to know more about adidas' development program, how it works, and what they offer in terms of support for their ballers and, also, why more of their ballers don't take advantage of it. I bet there are requirements and stipulations that may be viewed as restrictive.

But based on Nando's recent results, I'd say their other ballers should think about jumping onto this bandwagon.

(image via AP)

PHOTO OP: Serena leaps past Sveta to reach Aussie Open semifinals, won't be flying coach yet


Serena Williams was down and out again but, in typical fashion, escaped to reach the semifinals in Oz.

The 3-time champ lost the first set and was down a break but still managed to topple Svetlana Kuznetsova 5-7, 7-5, 6-1. Sveta actually served for the match at 5-3 but an aggressive ReRe broke back and the rest, as they say, was history. She'll look to end a 3-match skid to current nemesis Elena Dementieva, who subdued Venus' conqueror Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-2, when the pair meet in the semifinals.

The 26-year old was asked about what she was feeling while the Russian was serving for the match:

Q. When your opponent is serving for the match, can you give us an idea what you're thinking at that point? Do you think she's going to be nervous? What are you feeling?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I was thinking, Okay, if you lose, you're going to fly coach all the way back to Florida (laughter), how uncomfortable that would be. That motivated me to do a little better.

Q. Do you fly coach?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I do. I mean, gosh, prices have soared nowadays. I told you, I'm really economic. I wouldn't necessarily want to go back 16 hours. I wouldn't allow myself to have the emergency row either. I would be so mad, I would have to sit like the last row, the tightest row. That way I wouldn't do it again.

Will somebody book me a spot in her next post-match presser? In fact, ANY presser with ReRe will do although I'd also happily take a coach seat next to her just to get the low down on her match - how fun.


Sveta wasn't feeling too happy, obvs, and was particularly peeved about the roof situation, which was closed due to the scorching heat after the first set concluded:

Q. Some people that were in the tunnel when you came off court suggested that you were a little bit angry to have been brought off court. Is that correct?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Well, yeah, definitely angry. Why should I not be? Game going my way. I'm fine playing with the roof. I think the guys yesterday, it was the same weather. Everybody was playing with the roof. Why today they had to close it? I didn't get it. Yeah, that was why I was angry.

Q. Who are you angry at?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I don't know (laughter).

Q. Did you ask the referee?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: What I have to ask them? It's the tournament, what I have to say. I'm just a player. I play. That's it. It's not in my hands, you know.

Q. Is it difficult for you and the other players to understand how the rule on heat works here?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I didn't get the rule at all. Closing the roof middle of the match, I don't get it.

Q. Was it especially surprising for you that you started with an open roof and then during the match they closed it?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Yeah. I mean, how you do that? I don't know. You just playing outdoor tennis, and one set you play indoor tennis. It's very good. Serena was tough. She's playing great. I give her credit. But I don't get this rule. This is it.

I agree. Even if the temperature wasn't at the minimum required level to close the roof, the forecast was calling for sky-high heat so why not just go the preventative route and close the roof before the match? Strange.

Nevertheless, Sveta served for the match in the second but couldn't close the door on ReRe. Her bad.

(image via PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)

PHOTO OP: Rafa defeats Sneaky Simon, satisfies fans' needs (well, almost)


A few obvious Rafael Nadal fans were spotted watching their boy battle Gilles Simon in the Oz Open quarterfinals.

The world's top baller wasn't at his sublime best but still defeated his French foe 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 and will next face his powerful compartriot Fernando Verdasco, who defeated last year's runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, for a spot in Sunday's final.

As we all know, not everyone was excited about the Mallorcan Matador getting sleeved and these fans here were sure to let Rafa know. So it's good to see him acknowledge his fans at the match and give them a little something to satisfy their needs:


Unfortunately for some of the Rafanatics, the Spaniard didn't go all Frenchie with Sneaky Simon post-match but I guess beggars can't be choosers...


(image via Getty)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Serena considers jabbing the streaker, writing a "dramedy" (oh crap)


Like Rafa, Serena Williams has been blogging during her time at the Aussie Open but for USA Today and she just posted her lastest entry for the paper's website.

The 3-time champ discusses the shock and hilarity that ensued when a streaker took the court during her doubles match with sister Venus:

Well I was shocked, and quite confused. I did not know what to do. I did not know if I should try some of my new left jab, one, two, three combos that I learned in boxing class or if I should throw him my towel. In the end I decided against the left jab, remembering what the french say Gardez votre sang froid— meaning remain calm. That was a full task in itself! The whole crowd was roaring with laughter, as was I and the people we were playing against in doubles. In the end we laughed it off and finished with a memorable win.
HA! No doubt I'd be afraid of staring down ReRe's left jab combos especially in the buff. Who knows where she might aim those guns. That streaker seriously lucked out.

Anyway, she goes on to mention the retirement of Victoria Azarenka during their fourth rounder and how she wanted to comfort her with a "big hug". Sweet.

But here's where things get a little sketchy:
Off the court I have a new goal. I love writing, and for quite some time now I have wanted to write a screenplay. Before, I wanted to write a script for a movie, but now my goals have changed. I have decided I would love to write a "dramedy" — a mixture of a comedy and a drama. I think my goals changed because of my recent obsessions with Desperate Housewives, Sex and the City and Lipstick Jungle. I spend most of my spare time on my HP computer surfing the Internet. I figured I should trade in my remarkable ability to waste time into my ability to write. I have nothing to lose. Don't laugh, because one day I will be at the Golden Globes accepting an award. I am currently reading this booked called Writing a TV drama Series. Venus bought it for me! I'm so excited!!!
Did ReRe just say she's going to be writing more and not less or am I having a nightmare? Good grief. She promised she would stop scaring us with her self-styled "prose" and do more vlogging and here she is winning a Golden Globe. It was all a lie damn it.

I guess if ReRe thinks she can be a fashion designer with 2 years of schooling then all bets are off.

Godspeed ReRe.

(image via Getty)

PHOTO OP: Dani's headlights are, like, WAY on


Thanks to DtL reader Coco for sending me the link to this hysterical pic of Daniela Hantuchova getting her sweat on.

Dani that top needs a bra. Just sayin'.

(image via wtnphotos.com)

Quote of the Day: Fed on Nole


I think Andy forced him also. If Novak were up two sets to Love I don't think he would have retired 4‑Love down in the fourth. Thanks to Andy that he retired in the end. Andy pushed him to the limits. Hats off to Andy.

- Roger Federer on Nole's mid-match retirement in his quarterfinal match against A-Rod

I'm with Fed on this one (shocker, I know!). It's a pretty harsh assessment and it's always hard to predict what could've happened, but A-Rod did make Nole feel even more miserable on the court than he already was feeling. He still had to win the match and, ultimately, the Serb couldn't stand the heat and left the kitchen.

Oh well - that's tennis.

(image via Getty)

(UPDATED) Rafa reacts to Nole retirement, takes in some timely meat


Rafael Nadal, who battles French kisser Gilles Simon in the Oz quarterfinals, is still answering reader questions for The Times.

In his latest Q&A, the Mallorcan Matador was asked about Nole's sketchy mid-match retirement during his quarterfinal match against Andy Roddick:

What do you think of Djokovic's retirement? How do you train yourself to play in the extreme heat of Australia? Miho, San Francisco

RN: I don't know well what happened. I didn't see all the match and haven't been able to speak to him so I prefer not to comment. It is tough though to see a player retire and it is obvious it was very hot today. Too bad but I am sure he had good reasons.


Smart move Rafa - take the high road. The world's top baller also posted the latest entry to his blog for the UK site:

Hi everyone,
Once again I am here writing this blog, that more than a blog is a diary. Maybe blog means that... or it should have been named digital diary... or maybe I am just not right. In any case I am good at doing this if I have to write about what I did during the day and a few thoughts, but not more...

So today I went pretty early to the tournament site. I practiced for over an hour and 30 minutes and tried to stay very little on-site. I think today it has been the day I have gotten back earlier to the hotel in many years. At 2pm I was back at the hotel and rest all day long. I did go to the gym a bit with my physio Rafa Maymo but not much.

We just came back from dinner where we were a few of us. My whole team Toni my uncle, Carlos Costa my manager, Rafa Maymo my physio, Benito Perez-Barbadillo my PR Manager, Tuts Robert from Nike, my father, Feliciano Lopez and his team Jose Perlas and his physio Marc.

We had a nice dinner at a place with excellent meat. It is funny since I normally don't eat meat the day before a match. I try to eat something lighter. But tomorrow I am playing at night so it is OK if I would play at 3 or something like that I would not have eaten it. I will go to the site at 4 to warm up around 5.30 and be ready for the match at 7.30. So plenty of time to get that meat well in my body.

Hope I can be with you writing again in 2 days...
Thanks
Rafa
Believe me Rafa, that's more than enough time to get that meat well into your body.

OH MY...

*faints twice*

UPDATE: Thanks to DtL reader Holly for pointing out that the "meat" reference was mysteriously removed from Rafa's above-mentioned blog. He also apologized in his latest blog for the slip saying, "Yesterday I made a mistake with my English (actually Benito who translates for me) so apologies for that."

Oh sillies - don't you know you can't remove the meat once it's been taken in? Well, unless you ask nicely...

(images via Getty)

PHOTO OP: JD waves off loss to Dinara in Oz quarterfinals


Jelena Dokic's Aussie Open dream run is over.

The 25-year old, who became the "It Girl" of Australia with her inspiring run, was defeated by Dinara Safina in the quarterfinals 4-6, 6-4, 4-6. JD hit 54 errors against 29 winners and 8 double faults. Not gonna cut it. Dinara will now face compatriot Vera Zvonareva, who blasted Marion Bartoli, for a spot in Saturday's final.

JD refused to blame the left ankle she rolled in her previous match for the loss saying, "It was fine". She also told the press,

Like I said, it's been a great start to 2009. I couldn't have asked for anything more. I have to take all the positives and negatives out of today and really learn for the rest of the year about what I will do differently in a match like that. But, yeah, like I said, there's absolutely nothing to be disappointed about.
Agreed - it surpassed anyone's expectations. Now the true test comes: can JD build on this momentum and stake her claim in the elite level of the WTA Tour? She showed the talent, skills, and fight to do it but it's a long season. Only time will tell.

PS - Is anyone else disappointed that we won't be seeing anymore of sexy coach Borna Bikic and his sick arms getting all emotional and excited?

*wears VERY sad face*

(image via Getty)

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