Google Down the Line!: 2009-02-15


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jo-Willy tops Nole in Marseille, collects fourth consecutive win over the Serb


Jo-Wilfriend Tsonga has Novak Djokovic's number and it's four.

The Frenchie baller claimed his fourth consecutive win over the World No.3 in Marseille, defeating the Serb 6-4, 7-6 (1) and preventing Nole from reaching his first final of the season. Jo-Willy threw down 9 aces and had 70% success on first serve deliveries. He'll battle his face-licking compatriot Michael Llodra, who defeat another Frenchie Gilles Simon, for the title.


The pair play virtually the same game so why is the 23-year old dominating his younger foe? I'd venture to guess the Frenchie is all up inside Nole's head especially since the Serb's confidence is at a low after his shaky start to the season. This lack of confidence keeps him from playing the key points with clarity as evidenced by his failure to convert 5 break point chances in the first set and then going down 0-5 in the second set tiebreak. Not gonna cut it.

Moreover, Jo-Willy is bigger and stronger than Nole and, when his game is clicking, can actually overpower him.

Maybe Nole should be taking to heart some of his own lessons these days.

(image via AP)

Nole gets cheeky with "Speed Lessons", helps HEAD launch Speed Pro stick


Novak Djokovic and sponsor HEAD have launched a new, interactive website called Speed Lessons to help promote the new Speed Pro racquet launching this spring.

The site will roll out six cheeky, live action sketches over a few weeks time showcasing different lessons on various techniques and the sexy Serb will provide a voice-over during parts of each lesson.

In addition, visitors to the site can take the "Speed Test", a multiple choice quiz where readers can enter to win 1 0f 10 Speed racquets signed by Nole himself.

This is a great example by the racquet maker of creating innovative marketing that smartly infuses a baller's personality with their messaging. Babolat may want to take some notes - just sayin'.

Check out Lesson #1 - "The Service" below featuring a Pamela Anderson cartoon look-alike. I figured she liked balls and a good stick but who knew she liked tennis? Ca-razy.



(UPDATED) A-Rod to skip Dubai over Shahar controversy, will not defend title


Andy Roddick will not be defending his Dubai title next week in protest of the UAE's actions against Shahar Peer.

The American, who reached the semifinals in Memphis by defeating compatriot Sam Querrey 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, had a brilliant week last season in Dubai defeating Rafael Nadal + Novak Djokovic on his way to the title. But he expressed disappointment with their decision saying,

There were a lot of factors why I should probably go, and obviously having played well there doesn’t make it any easier.

I don’t think you make political statements through sports.
A-Rod said he'll also be able to better prepare for the Davis Cup tie versus Switzerland taking place in Alabama by not traveling to Dubai.

This move is pretty surprising especially from the defending champ of the tourney. And, it's great to see someone take a big stand in the middle of all that money, particularly someone from the ATP.

I wonder why some of the ladies didn't do the same?

UPDATE: The WTA has fined the Dubai tourney a record $300,000 (more than double the largest fine last levied) for their actions against Shahar. The monies will be divided between the Israeli ($42,250 plus 130 ranking points) and doubles partner Anna-Lena Groenefeld ($7,950) to compensate for the prize money they could've won. The balance will go to a charity chosen by Shahar and Tour's.

Additionally, the Tour "was requiring the organizers to post a $2 million performance guarantee -- something normally not required by established, financially sound events like the Dubai Tennis Championships."

And the following conditions must be met in order for Dubai to remain on the calendar for 2010:

- Confirmation of the written assurances already received that all players who qualify for the tournament shall, regardless of nationality, or any other reason, be allowed to play in the Dubai event and shall be issued entry visas or permits

- Proof of approved UAE entry permit to enter the UAE for any Israeli player a minimum of eight weeks prior to the start of the 2010 Dubai tournament

- Guarantee that Shahar shall be offered a wildcard to play the Dubai tournament in 2010 in the event that she does not qualify by ranking.

WTF? Please tell me this slap on the wrist (and slap in the face to Shahar) for one of the richest tourneys is not the end of the sanctions. TELL ME IT'S NOT THE END. This money is pocket change for them.

It's not enough. Based on WTA policy Dubai can, and should, be removed from the calendar for their actions. The damage has already been done. This is a joke and Larry Scott should be ashamed.

UPDATE #2: Dubai tourney Managing Director Colm McLoughlin says A-Rod has withdrawn due to a hernia. A-Rod rebuffs. I think he'd know about his own hernia Colm. Nice try though.

(image via Getty)

Friday, February 20, 2009

VIDEO VAULT: Venus begins assault on WTA Penthouse, edges out Serena in Dubai



In their 19th career meeting, Venus Williams topped lil' sister and top lady baller Serena Williams in the Dubai semifinals 6-1, 2-6, 7-6 (3) in a little over two hours. The Wimbledon champ took the lead in their head-to-head matchup 10-9 and will face Frenchie Virginie Razzano who defeated the American in their last match at the Japan Open in 2007.

Maybe V wasn't kidding when she said her top priority this season was to kick some sisterly arse and knock ReRe from the WTA Penthouse.

Good start.

BONUS: The 7-time Grand Slammer will re-enter the Top 5 after making the Dubai semifinals for the first time since 2003. *sits in shock*

VIDEO VAULT: More Rafa in red, Babolat "proves" LIVE CHAT was indeed live (oh sure)


Here's some behind-the-scenes video of Rafael Nadal at the commercial shoot for sponsor Kia I posted about yesterday.

I've decided LiveAction Rafa is my fave.

CHECK IT:




In other Rafanews, Babolat has released a video from the supposed LIVE CHAT with the Mallorcan Matador that few fans were able to attend. They say proof is in the puddin' but this doesn't show me anything. In fact, I still don't get the idea of "pre-registered questions" for a live chat. WTF?

Rafa's PR flack, Benito, might want to let go of some control.The questions and his answers are getting a bit boring now.

CHECK IT:



(via Nadal News, El Toro de Rafa)

Shahar releases statement on UAE's Andy Ram decision


Shahar Peer released a statement through the WTA acknowledging the decision by the UAE to grant compatriot Andy Ram a visa to play Dubai:

I welcome the decision just announced by the United Arab Emirates and the Dubai tournament to reverse a stance that until now has prevented Israeli athletes from competing in the UAE. This is a great victory for the principle that all athletes should be treated equally and without discrimination, regardless of gender, religion, race or nationality.

It is also a victory for sport as a whole, and the power of sport to bring people together.
It is still very unfortunate that due to the decision of the Dubai tournament and the UAE, I could not participate in the tournament this year. This has hurt me significantly both personally and professionally. However I am very happy for Andy Ram, who will be able to compete next week in Dubai. I hope and believe that from this day forward, athletes from all over the world will be able to compete in the UAE and anywhere else in the world without discrimination of any kind. I personally look forward to competing in Dubai next year.

This has been a very difficult period for me, and I want to thank the many thousands of fans and organizations all over the world that made this breakthrough possible, including the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and my fellow players. All of them have supported me these past days, weeks and months. It is truly humbling and also inspiring to know how many of us feel strongly and are willing to do all that we can to break down barriers of discrimination.
The ball's in your court now, WTA.

(image via theage.co.au)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

(UPDATED) VIDEO VAULT: JJ shoots promo for BJK Cup, right side still MIA


Jelena Jankovic is featured in a fun HBO promo for next month's PNB Paribas Billie Jean King Cup exo taking place at Madison Square Garden in New York. The spot takes places at the fictional Dave Hill Tennis Academy and showcases JJ being JJ: cheeky remarks, lots o' laughs, and a demo of her flexibility (read: the splits).

But imagine my shock + awe (and a few other words) to see the segment shot entirely from the Serb's LEFT SIDE! WTF?! It seems she can't even turn to look at Dave who's seated on her left side at the beginning of the video.

I'm seriously starting to wonder if her right side even exists. If somebody finds it, please contact her agent (and me.)

CHECK IT:



UPDATE: Here's another promo featuring JJ as well as Venus + Serena. But question: where in the world is Ana?



UPDATE #2: Thanks to anonymous reader for this news on the MIA fourth baller (no, not JJ's missing right side *drats*). I don't know if this info is true, but it sounds feasible. We'll see!

the videos were shot early december last year. vee, serena and jj were all in the US (jj is still wearing her reebok dress) then while ana was enjoying her off-season with now ex-bf fernando in spain (and she's the only one among the four who's based in europe). hbo flew to serbia during the fed cup to film ana in the abandoned swimming pool where she used to train as a kid. boring compared to these comedic skits, yes, but this is probably the first time that she's going to be filmed there. i'm really curious how it's going to turn out...

PHOTO OP: Rafa gets pretty red-y for commercial shoot, withdraws from Dubai


Rafael Nadal just announced he will not be competing in Dubai so he can rest the ligament he strained under his knee in Rotterdam. He is, however, looking to compete in the Spain vs. Serbia Davis Cup tie:

I am very disappointed not to be able to compete in Dubai but the doctor has advised me to stay home and rest after the pain on my knee in Rotterdam last week. Nothing to be worried about but it needs some rest. I ask my fans and the tournament organizers to understand and I am sorry for this. Dubai is one of my favorite tournaments and I have always played there. The field is always great and more important the crowds are always supportive. I expect to be back in competition the following week for the Davis Cup tie in Benidorm against Serbia and then traveling to Indian Wells and Miami after.
Not completely unexpected but it's certainly another big blow to the tourney after Roger Federer's withdrawal and all the controversy surrounding Shahar Peer + Andy Ram.


In other Rafanews (thanks to Maja) the world's top baller was spotted working some pretty red colors (a great choice for him BTW) on some pretty red clay courts and standing by a pretty red sports car shooting another commericial. And guess who tagged along? Xisca, of course. Do they always have to look SO cute? Damn you Rafisca!


Now that I think about it, there's really nothing else for a massively famous, laid up athlete to do besides make a boat load of dough off-court. I'd like that option please. *begs and pleads*

Anyways, which version do you like best: Sporty Rafa, Casual Rafa, or Anything Rafa?

DO TELL!





(images via bauer griffin)

MEDIA MASHUP: Behind-the-scenes with Venus at Marie Claire shoot, profiled for CNN's Revealed series


When she's not speaking up as a leading voice for women's tennis, Venus Williams can be found doing just about everything else.

The 7-time Grand Slammer will be featured in an upcoming issue of Italian Marie Claire shot by her fave photog Koto Bolofo, who photographed her for his coffee table book Venus Williams.


CNN was on hand to shoot some behind-the-scenes images and video profiling V for their series "Revealed" to be aired this week. (Side Note: You can see the show in advance: Parts 1, 2, and 3.)

It's an interesting, inside look at the evolution of the Wimbledon champ from her humble beginnings to her place as a global presence in women's sports, ending the show with her triumph at last year's WTA Championships. (CNN, however, incorrectly counts the number of Grand Slams for V at six - tsk, tsk.)


During the interview she was asked about her the contrast between her laid-back personality off-court and the powerfully intense one on-court:

I just always go with the flow. On the court, that's when I get most intense. In practice, I scream and yell and threaten to throw my racquet but in the match I'm not like that at all.
V also revealed her big goal for the 2009 season is to knock lil' sister Serena from the WTA Penthouse. "I think I am in a great position to do that," said the 28-year old.



(via Tennis Grand Stand)

VIDEO VAULT: More Shrieka practicing at Nick Bollettieri's, comeback in full force



Maria Sharapova, or her publicists, want to make sure we know she's taking her comeback very seriously.

After being filmed on Valentine's Day hitting actual tennis balls at Nick Bollettieri's, the Russian glamazon was spotted again at the Academy getting in more practice. She's even seen hitting a few slices in a row - crazy!

It's always good to add some new wrinkles to the game Shrieka.





(via Maria Sharapova Blog)

PHOTO OP: More from Marseille, Dmitry goes for Grigor

Dmitry: "Must...touch...abs..."
Grigor: "Uh, those aren't my abs you're going for baby."

So after yesterday's fun photos from Marseille, the ATP World Tour site is showing more images from Dmitry Tursunov, Grigor Dimitrov + Michael Llodra's visit to the DIESEL store in the French city.

First Michael's face-licking now Dmitry's "abs"-grabbing? The ATP seems SO fun! I'm def qualified to hold a position there (watch it.)

It's SO not fair. *pouts*



(image via lorenzosalemi.com)

Venus discusses Dubai, reveals meeting at Indian Wells next month


Venus Williams, who is a leading member of the Players Council and a leader on the issue of equal prize money in tennis, continued her role as the elder stateswoman of the game and was asked to speak about the Dubai controversy and the Council's next steps to deal with the fallout.

On the importance of the meeting scheduled to take place next month at Indian Wells (where, ironically, the Williams sisters have boycotted for years):

We have been successful in the past with many things. This is a large tournament, with unprecedented prize money this year, and equal prize money (with the men) and all kinds of wonderful things. But of course we know how to work on it. Of course we don't jump to any conclusions. We feel like communication is the important thing and we know how to do that. That's what we need - good communication so we stay involved.
On the why there wasn't a baller boycott to support Shahar:
There are so many other people involved. Sponsors are important to us. We wouldn't be here without sponsors. We can't let sponsors down. Whatever we do, we need to do as a team - players, sponsors, tour and whoever - and not all break off in one direction. We are team players.
On her personal reaction to the events:
I know she's previously played in the Middle East, in Doha, so it was my understanding she would have the opportunity to play here also, despite legislative issues. Obviously I am disappointed she hasn't had a chance to do this because she's a good person and works just as hard as anyone else om the tour, and should have the opportunity to play.

She shouldn't be denied, it's not right, she's just a person. We are all people, no matter where we are from.I have to look at the bigger picture. The big picture is that Shahar Peer didn't get a chance to play. But making an immediate decision, we also have to look at sponsors, fans and everyone who has invested a lot in the tournament.

We are all going to consider what are options are for next year - but (this year) we didn't even know till Saturday (that Peer had been denied a visa). I think there are rules and protocols as to how you can proceed.
On Andy Ram, who the UAE confirmed today will receive a visa:
I can't comment on what might happen, but hopefully it will be something different. I hope the message would be that second time around that they have an opportunity to be all inclusive.
Well, it's always good to hear a baller speak up instead of the tennis officials who always seem, and many time are, out of touch with what is happening on the ground.

But V confirmed what we all knew: you can't just walk because money does talk. Let's hope they do right by Shahar, though, and sanction the tourney in a big way for breaking WTA policy. Wishful thinking, I know.

(image via Getty)

Billie Jean King speaks out on Dubai controversy, discusses coming out in tennis


Billie Jean King has spoken out against the United Arab Emirate's decision to deny Shahar Peer a visa and hopes the WTA will take appropriate actions against the Dubai tourney:

The United Arab Emirates' refusal to grant a visa to Shahar Peer and preventing her from competing at this week's Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in Dubai is shameful and definitely a step backwards.

In the 21st century there is no reason a person should be restricted from doing his or her job because of their nationality, creed, race, gender or sexual orientation.

Given the progress we have made in providing equal rights and opportunities for all, I trust the WTA Tour will look closely at the events in Dubai and take every step possible to ensure this type of distraction never happens again.
I think more than a few of us were waiting to hear what the tennis pioneer had to say and it's exactly what I was expecting.


In other BJK news, the 12-time Grand Slammer recently sat down with James Larosa for an insightful Q&A on TENNIS.com to discuss her coming out as a lesbian almost 3 decades ago:
James LaRosa: What were your emotions back then, after having just been outed?
Billie Jean King: I felt very violated. I felt blackmailed. And yet I want to tell the truth. I argued with my publicist and my lawyer for two days so I could do that press conference. They didn't want me to do it, but I was insistent. I did the right thing. It's better to tell the truth.

Within 24 hours I lost all my future income. I was just getting ready to leave the game. And I had all these wonderful contracts happening. And I was finally going to make some money. Because my generation didn't make any of the big bucks the way the next generation did. It was really an important time for me to have my financial security, and that wasn't going to happen.

I think all that helped though. I think every time somebody comes out, it just pushes us forward. It's harder for people once they know you. They have a harder time thinking it's wrong.

What was the reaction in the locker room?
The straight players were great. Chris [Evert] was fantastic. Nobody cared. They were very supportive. Life went on. I thought that showed a lot of compassion. To this day, nobody talks about it on the tour. Nobody cares.

The great thing with Mauresmo is that she was able to keep most of her endorsements. You can get a lot of applause from Madison Avenue but the next day you go in to get an endorsement, and they say, “sorry, we can't do it.” Applause is nice, but it doesn't feed you. You can't eat it.,
She was also asked about the difference in reactions to Amelie Mauresmo's coming out 10 years ago at the Aussie Open compared to her own personal experience:
Her reception was also a bit different than yours.
I thought the French were fantastic towards her. In fact, I think she went up in popularity after the announcement.

No person should be discounted by their sexuality or any other reason. You just don't do that to other human beings. We're all human. And it's very important we treat each other the way we want to be treated. That's been my whole life since I was a 12-year-old – my epiphany. I'd always fight for equal rights and opportunities for boys and girls.

What I ended up doing was having to help women more because we got shut out. I went to the men when they were forming the ATP and I said, “you're going to have the girls, aren't you?” And they said no. So that's the reason we started women's professional tennis. It wasn't because that's what I wanted. I wanted us all to be together and have one voice as a sport. Which I think would've made us more powerful. I think it's going to happen before I die.

I guess it fits my personality and my epiphany that [being outed] happened to me. You have to have a lot of firsts in life, but the first "galimony?” (laughs). It's one of my claims to fame. God had plans, I'll just go with them. The LGBT community is very important to me. If I've helped in a very small way, I'm very happy about that.


What's the biggest difference you see today compared to 1981? Or even 1999, when Amelie came out?
I lost endorsements before. Because I'm gay, I get endorsements now. I had three commercials this last year. I'm 64. If you're an older women you don't get any endorsements. Unless it's Depends (laughs). The [gay] community is more powerful. More people are out, they're making things happen.
Larosa ends by asking about the possibility of a gay male baller coming out:
What's it going to take for a gay male player to come out?
We're never going to be 50 percent of the population. We need straight people, particularly in the male arena, to support the gay guys. They have to. And if they stand up for us, that's how we gain acceptance. We need our friends, or brothers and sisters, especially if they have influence. Federer and Nadal and those guys have to say we don't care. Once the influence starts to talk like that, it makes a huge difference.

It's got to be the top players. [They] influence where the tour goes. That's part of the responsibility of being in the Top 10, the Top 5 in the world. That goes hand in hand with making the big bucks, getting the most exposure, getting the most endorsements. That's part of the deal, I think, if you're going to be in that position. And our job in that position is to stick up for whoever is getting a bad deal.

It wouldn't hurt if the gay player was the top player.
I wish we could get a guy at the top of his game just saying I'm gay, let's move on, next. But it's got to be while he's playing. While he's at the top of his game. But they're going to take a lot of heat, man.

The first is always a breakthrough. There's always a shift when that happens. It's a little bit like an earthquake in a way. But it's not going to be as big an earthquake today as it would've been years ago. What the seismic equation is, I don't know.

As time keeps moving forward, it will be easier than it was five years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, and then for all the different people before. We stand on their shoulders. And you want the kids to stand on yours.
Ah yes. My thoughts exactly. I've always thought the only way the attitudes about gay people would start to truly change in the world is if high-profile, popular, actively-playing athletes, particularly male, came out at the height of their careers. Many women have faced the music and survived but not a single man. The idea of a gay man in the locker room seems to have deeper implications and causes the most discomfort with the public - so that's where we need to go. But who has the courage to take the step? I wonder.

Sports has always been at the forefront of breaking down barriers of all kinds and this is no exception.

(image via Getty)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quote of the Day: JJ on Dubai loss


She didn't have to do too much. Basically, I beat myself. I don't know what happened out there. I am ashamed of this performance.

- Jelena Jankovic on her loss to Kaia Kanepi in Dubai today

Nice - going all ReRe on the girl. Listen, there are always two people on the court and even though you were supposedly "losing" the match she still had to win it. And she did.

Get a grip JJ.

PS - Thanks Pamela!

(image via Getty)

PHOTO OP: Dmitry, Grigor, his abs, and the gang send regards from Marseille


What a pretty postcard from Marseille!

Dmitry Tursunov, up-and-coming cutie (sans faux-hawk *yawn*) Grigor Dimitrov, and a gang of others including a face-licking Michael Llodra (below) took some time out of their Marseille schedules for some fun photos.

Okay one more time: where do I sign up for this ATP World Tour thing?

*imagines lifting up shirts, showing other's abs*


(UPDATED) BREAKING: Andy Ram to receive visa to play in Dubai by UAE

Jonathan Erlich + Andy Ram

Israeli doubles specialist Andy Ram will receive a visa by the United Arab Emirates to play in Dubai, according to Reuters.

Via ESPN.com:
An Israeli men's tennis player will get a visa to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships, a U.S. congressman said on Wednesday, adding that as a result he will not ask the ATP to cancel the event.

In the wake of the Gulf state's denial of a visa for a female Israeli tennis player, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) had scheduled a news conference on Wednesday to press the ATP to withdraw its backing for the tournament, a spokesman for the congressman said.

But Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Washington, has assured Weiner that the men's doubles player, Andy Ram, will be allowed to play in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, which starts Monday.

The female player, Shahar Peer, has already missed her event, because the women's open portion began earlier this week.

"Ms. Shahar Peer is a victim of politics over sportsmanship," Weiner said in a statement.

The event is one of the WTA's most prestigious events and attracted additional international attention this year because of the UAE's decision to bar Peer from entering.

That prompted The Wall Street Journal's European edition to withdraw its sponsorship on Tuesday. The Journal's parent company, Dow Jones & Co., is owned by Rupert Murdoch's international media conglomerate News Corp.

The UAE, like most Arab countries, has no diplomatic ties with Israel and routinely denies entry to Israelis.

The tournament's organizers supported the decision to deny Peer a visa, saying local tennis fans would have boycotted the championships if she had been allowed to compete. Peer's presence would have antagonized fans who had watched recent television coverage of Israeli attacks on Gaza, tournament director Salah Tahlak said.

The three-week Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip killed 1,300 Palestinians and 14 Israelis. The attack, which ended in January, sparked outrage in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Israel said it acted in defense of rocket attacks from the Gaza strip.
No word yet from the ATP. I'm more interested, though, to hear the WTA's and Shahar's response to the ATP's successful actions.

In other news, the Sweden vs. Israel Davis Cup tie to be held in the Swedish city of Malmo will be played in an empty arena as a result of planned anti-Israeli demonstrations at Baltic Hall. This sucks.

UPDATE: So the decision may not be finalized just yet according to Doug Robson.

UPDATE #2: The UAE confirmed it was giving Andy "special permission" to play in Dubai, reports The Independent. Let's hope this issue finds a rightful conclusion.

(image via Getty)

PHOTO OP: JJ buries her face, Kaia buries her game in Dubai


Has Jelena Jankovic decided to switch places with Ana Ivanovic?

The Serb, who began this year as the WTA Penthouse resident, continued her Serbian Slide and was shocked by Kaia Kanepi in straight sets 6-2, 7-5 in the Dubai third round, following Svetlana Kuznetsova + Dinara Safina out the door. The Estonian will now meet Sveta conqueror, Elena Vesnina, for a spot in the semifinals.

This disappointing result can be piled on to her strangely lethargic fourth round exit in Oz at the hands of Marion Bartoli and a semifinal defeat in Paris to Amelie Mauresmo where she lost the last set 1-6.

So what gives?! Like sister Serb Ana, it seems JJ has had difficulty dealing with the pressure of being a World No.1 as evidenced by the collapse of her game this year. It takes a mental shift to go from the huntee to the hunted and mental giants these ladies are not.

Ana, though, is beginning to rise up from the doldrums (good news) but it's taken her almost a full year to get even a little bit of confidence back (bad news). Will it be the same for JJ? After these recent bad losses, it wouldn't surprise me.

*sigh*

PS - Justine Henin + Kim Clijsters would be fools, FOOLS I say, not to come back now. It would be like stealing candy from a baby!

(image via Getty)

MEDIA MASHUP: A closer look at Ana's serve during Dubai defeat of Camille


Ana Ivanovic, who had some see-saw serving during her revenge win against Alisa Kleybanova, cleaned it up big time in Dubai today.

The Roland Garros champ served 7 aces against only 3 doubles and had 63% success on first-serve deliveries during her 6-2, 7-6 (5) defeat of Frenchie Camille Pin. She'll either face top lady baller Serena Williams or Jie Zheng in the quarterfinals.


So, taking a look at some images of the Serb's serving (say that 3 times quickly - phew) in the match it becomes very clear why there's still so much inconsistency in her serve right now: her weight continues to fall to her left, not forward into the court and she seems off-balance during and after the follow-through.


These issues seem to all start with her sketchy ball toss (below). It's a big mess. The ball is running away from her so I guess Ana will have to chase it - not good.


It's definitely not the service motion she utilized brilliantly at Roland Garros last year. But it seems the 21-year old is still moving in the right direction.

CHECK IT:



(images via Getty)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

PHOTO OP: Follow the bouncing bird at the Dubai baller party

"So, I have to hold the damn bird this year?"

Jelena Jankovic, Venus Williams, Ana Ivanovic and Serena Williams were all spotted getting their party on at the Dubai baller event today.

The fearsome foursome (HA - not really all of them) are, of course, taking part in next month's PNB Paribas Billie Jean King Cup exo at Madison Square Garden in New York.

"First the henna on my neck and now the bird. I'm totally being used."


"Why is that creepy old dude staring at me? No seriously, WHY??"


"Yeah, I don't do birds. Let me drop in on this family photo for a minute. Cheese!"

(images via Getty)

Fed withdraws from Dubai and Davis Cup with recurring back injury


Roger Federer will not be competing in Dubai or Switzerland's Davis Cup tie against the US citing the back injury that forced him out of the Paris Masters last fall.

The 13-time Grand Slammer made the annoucement via his website today:

Dear Fans,

Today I am disappointed to announce that I am withdrawing from both Dubai and the Davis Cup tie in the United States. This was a hard decision to make as I am missing not only one of my favorite events on tour in Dubai but I am also missing out on an opportunity to help my country try and move on to the next round of Davis Cup. After injuring my back last fall, I did not have enough time to strengthen it completely. As a precautionary measure, I will use the next few weeks to make sure the back injury is fully rehabilitated and I am ready for the rest of the 2009 season.

As always, thanks for your continued support.
Roger
You know it's hard to garner anything out of these prepared statements besides what they want you to hear. Is it really the back injury or does Fed need more time away after the crushing loss in Oz?

If the explanation is truly the back, then it could be a sign that the injury is developing into something chronic (and they usually do.) Fed has been very healthy throughout his career and has never really had a recurring injury so this could throw him off a bit. He may want to give himself more time to recover and get fit before tennis' March Madness begins.

Fed may also be looking for a mental break, however, after the Aussie Open devastation to Rafael Nadal. It seemed pretty obvious to everyone watching he was a broken baller.

I guess we'll see...

(via GOTOTENNIS, image via Getty)

PHOTO OP: Monica squashed by JJ in Dubai - but how do you explain her faces?


Monica Niculescu an her unorthodox game faced off against former WTA Penthouse resident Jelena Jankovic today in Dubai. Unfortunately, JJ made quick work of her Romanian foe besting Monicu 6-3, 6-2 in the second round.

So you know what else is really unorthodox? Monicu's competition faces. I mean, really. You're hitting a tennis ball, not giving birth on court (because that would be, like, really gross.)

*shivers*



(images via Getty)

PHOTO OP: Dinara holds out a hand for help, joins WTA's "No Confidence" Club


Another day, another Russian goes down and this time Virginie Razzano is to blame.

The Frenchie baller shell-shocked Dinara Safina 6-4, 6-2 in Dubai today capitalizing on a flurry of errors by the Russian second seed including 12, yes 12, double faults.

Seriously, what's with these serving issues from the lady ballers? They must be competing to see who can crack the most doubles in a single match.

Like I said yesterday, confidence is THE key with serving and apparently Dinara hasn't had it since arriving in Melbourne for the Oz Open where she hit 45 doubles over the fortnight (and the ReRe-style drubbing in the final didn't help.)

I guess she can join the WTA's fast-growing "No Confidence" Club now...

(image via Getty)

THE LOW DOWN: Sveta gets dumped in Dubai second round - is a head shrinker on speed dial?


Svetlana Kuznetsova may have hit rock bottom.

The Russian headcase, who has the distinct "honor" of losing her last 10 of 11 final appearances, faced compatriot, qualifier, and World No.75 Elena Vesnina in her opening round match in Dubai. Sveta won the first set 6-4, lost the second 3-6, and was served a stone cold bagel in the third set. Double *ouch*.

After the humiliating loss the former US Open champ told the press,

The court was fast, and I just could not get the feel of the ball throughout the match. I am now off to Moscow, and I really need to work hard on my game.
Like, duh - and I'm not talking about the supposedly troubling "fast" court.


Sveta is one lady baller who can't be accused of not playing enough. Last year she played 19 tourneys, including all 4 Grand Slams, the Olympics, and WTA Championships not to mention the semifinals and finals of FED CUP. This season she's already played in Sydney, the Aussie Open, the opening weekend of FED CUP, and now Dubai.

Clearly she's burnt out and needs a break, a hiatus from the Tour (like a month) to get her game together. It's a very slippery slope to tennis oblivion and at this point in her career the 24-year old's focus should be narrowing to the major tourneys and the Grand Slams.

It'll also give her an opportunity to sit down with a sport shrink. Now, I don't like to throw that card out lightly but this lady baller is a prime candidate for some couch time, don't ya think?

*calls Amelie for references*

(image via MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

(UPDATED) THE LOW DOWN: ATP World Tour preparing for Dubai action, Tennis Channel cancels coverage amidst Shahar controversy


There's more fallout from the UAE's decision not to grant Shahar Peer a visa into Dubai.

The ATP World Tour has been closely following the news with their tourney beginning next week. The Israeli doubles team of Jonathan Erlich + Andy Ram have expressed interest in playing and ATP board of directors member Justin Gimelstob said the organization would stand behind their ballers:

We are very disappointed to hear about the decision with Shahar Peer and we are looking at it and are very concerned.

We believe very strongly that players of all religions, ethnicities and nationalities be allowed to play. We discussed that with Dubai and are adamant all players get access to the tournament.
If Andy Ram were not to get his visa that would be very troubling. It's a clear-cut rule that everyone should be allowed to play tour events.

We are on top of it and are trying to sort out the information.
ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti also condemned the UAE's decision saying,
We will be in contact with the UAE Tennis Association to remind them the ITF constitution does not permit discrimination on any grounds. The ITF believes sport should not be used as a political tool but rather as a unifying element between athletes and nations.
And U.S.-based Tennis Channel has canceled their coverage of Dubai after Ken Solomon, the chairman and chief executive of the network, learned of the UAE's decision and discussed removing coverage of the tourney with staff and their board of directors:
This is an easy decision to come by, based on what is right and wrong.

Sports are about merit, absent of background, class, race, creed, color or religion. They are simply about talent. This is a classic case, not about what country did what to another country. If the state of Israel were barring a citizen of an Arab nation, we would have made the same decision.


It’s easier for us to pull the plug. It’s different for Larry and the WTA, who were more or less strung along and led to believe she would get the visa. His players were on the ground, and everything was in motion.

The rug was pulled out from under their feet.
The entire field of competitors is diminished by this happening. It hurts them all. Shahar earned the right to be in the tournament. She’s been on a roll and could have won it.

It’s just hard to imagine this happening in this day and age.
Tennis in many ways has been at the forefront of sport, with people breaking down barriers like Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King.

It’s harder for the Tennis Channel to turn the other cheek and not do the right thing.
Huge kudos to the Tennis Channel for taking a stand on this issue. And, it'll be interesting to see what "stand behind their ballers" means to the ATP if Andy is denied a visa by the UAE (which will most likely happen.) They will have had a bit more time to make a Plan B after watching the WTA's struggles.

Still no word on any further actions by the ladies' governing body.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Dubai tourney officials site security concerns as reason for denying Shahar a visa -
Organizers of a major Dubai women’s tennis tournament say fears of protests and security threats were behind the decision to bar the entry of an Israeli player.

The statement Tuesday was the first from the Dubai Tennis Championships. It came three days after the Emirates denied a visa for Shahar Peer.

Tour officials strongly criticized the decision and said they may consider dropping Dubai as a future WTA site.

The statement said the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza “antagonized” local fans and Peer’s presence could have sparked protests, boycotts and threats.

The UAE could face more pressure from tennis officials if Israeli doubles specialist Andy Ram seeks to play in the men’s championship next week.
UPDATE #2: Doug Robson is reporting that according to a source Andy's request for a visa has been denied.

(image via Getty)

Monday, February 16, 2009

VIDEO VAULT: Shrieka shows up at Bollettieri's in actual tennis gear, hits actual tennis ball



Maria Sharapova fans rejoice!

After all the injury talk, your girl Shrieka was actually spotted at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy on Valentine's Day not shopping, dating, posing, or pouting (well maybe a little bit) but actually hitting a fuzzy, yellow tennis ball.

Now, do you think her people put this video out to prove that point? Me thinks maybe!

(via the double bagel)

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