I'll be going out of town this weekend attending to my non-tennis life (yeah, it actually exists.) Regular posting will return next Tuesday.
In the meantime, here's a video sent to me by Johanne that highlights the five match points Rafael Nadal saved during his fourth round defeat of David Nalbandian at Indian Wells. Check it out if you missed it.
Enjoy the rest of the tourney!!!
Friday, March 20, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Me thinks Kim Clijsters is a dead ringer for the most recent contestant to be voted off Survivor: Tocantins-The Brazilian Highlands, 19-year old Spencer Duhm.
Separated at birth or a spot on drag queen impression by Spence? DO TELL!
PS - thanks Aaron!
(images via TENNIS, CBS.com)
* More stories on Comeback Clijsters are popping up. NEWSFLASH KIMMIE: We all know you're returning to the game. Just announce it already. Geesh. [Sporting Life]
* Rumors continue to surround the pairing of Fernando Verdasco + Caroline Wozniacki. I suppose next to the definition of "man-whore" in the dictionary is Nando and his hairy situation(s). Don't you get it by now ladies? PS - Thanks Kirsten! [Crazy World of Tennis]
* Tom Perrotta gives his mid-term grades for Indian Wells and *shocker* FSN/MSG+ get an "F" for their U.S. broadcast. Ahhh - it's good to know they took the heaping criticism from last year and improved upon it. AIG bonuses for all! [TENNIS]
* Which lady baller said the following: "My favorite tennis player is Serena Williams. I like her because she plays a very aggressive game. (Ever talk to or meet her?) No, no [smiles]. I mean, I saw her in locker room but she's like big star"? [tennis week]
(image via ap)
After defeating Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6 (7), 7-6 (6) in the fourth round at Indian Wells, Novak Djokovic provided some interesting insights and commentary on a few hot topics during his post-match presser.
The defending champ discussed another quarterfinal meet up with Andy Roddick, their first since his controversial retirement from their match in Oz, his racquet switch, and the upcoming Serbia Open where he's partial owner.
Q. Let me bring you forward now with Roddick to Australia, where the match before you played him you finally appeared to hit a very good level. You play a good first set, excellent tiebreak, and then physically things got away from you. Just think about that time period and how disappointing it was, not being able to finish there.
ND: Well, it was very disappointing. Unfortunately, there were some side factors that affected my loss there, and I was a little bit disappointed with the scheduling there, as well. But, you know, I couldn't do anything about it.
I think there was no reason for me to play a day match when I had finished at, you know, 2:30 a.m. two nights before playing against Baghdatis. So I expected a night match so I can get more time to recover, but it didn't happen. So unfortunately I had to finish the Australian Open this year the way I finished it with the retirement. And, of course, there was a lot of speculations after that, which was very unfortunate for me. But, look, this is sport, and you just have to deal with it.
Q. You've talked a little bit about your racquets this week again. Sorry if this has been asked already, but why did you change them when you were doing so well in the first place? What was the reservation?
ND: Well, you know, there were a couple of reasons. Probably one of the reasons was, you know, the business change probably, the financing specter.
On the other hand, I already played with a Head racquet, so there were some things already in Wilson racquet that I played last year that I wanted to change. I've played well, but I think there were some more things that I could add up. Head stepped in and really made a good work and made a promise that they going to try to make as best a racquet as possible. We worked on that for really four or five, six months. Changing a racquet in tennis is probably the most difficult and most dangerous decision, especially in this time for me. But I have played, as I said, with Head already for a couple of years in my career.
There was just a matter of time mentally when I can really adapt to a new racquet.
Q. Futuristic question. What's your vision for the tennis tournament that your family owns now in Serbia and its development? How do you see it?
ND: Well, first of all, I'm very happy and privileged to have the tournament in Serbia after so many years. I think we deserve it because we have so many players, and we had the great success in the last two years. So we have, for now, the 250, lowest category of ATP events. But, again, we have tournament in our hands, so hopefully we can show to the world that we can be great hosts, and then next couple of years, you know, improve it and get the better event.
Q. Do you think you'll get better scheduling for your matches there than in Australia? (laughter.)
ND: I'll make sure I'll be present for scheduling.
Ah-ha! I knew there'd be some advantages (or conflicts of interest?) to owning a tourney you're competing in - like configuring the scheduling of your matches. Seriously, if Nole doesn't win the inaugural Serbia Open he should ask for his investment funds back.
And, with regards to the racquet change, it was pretty obvious it was a money-making move and I'm glad he finally put it out there. He seems to be slowly rounding into form so maybe he won't have regrets. We'll see.
(image via getty)
Mashona Washington, who lost in doubles at Indian Wells on Wednesday with partner Bethanie-Mattek Sands, was arrested on suspicion of felony vandalism said the Riverside Sheriff's Department.
The former top-50 lady baller was arrested on Monday at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort for charges specific to damages estimated at $5,000 or more. She posted bail of $5,000 later in the day and is scheduled to be arraigned on May 14.
WTF?! I wonder what went down in that hotel room...stay tuned.
(image via mydesert.com)
Rafael Nadal finally got the better of nemesis David Nalbandian at Indian Wells last night.
The world's top baller came back from a set and a break down to defeat Nalby 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-0 in the tourney's fourth round. Rafa saved five total match points in the second set - four on his own serve at 4-5 and one on the Argentine's. It was his first win over Nalby in three tries and the Mallorcan Matador will now face Juan Martin del Potro for a spot in the final four.
I guess Rafa was determined to end this streak with Nalby and he certainly put a stamp on the match by serving the Argentine a bagel. Oooh yummy!
(image via getty)
Could Indian Wells be Victoria Azarenaka's big coming out party (and no, not in THAT way silly)?
The big-hitting Belarusian upset top seed and World No.2 Dinara Safina 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals at Indian Wells. Vika was broken while serving for the first set and lost out in the tie-breaker but dominated the rest of the way. It was her first win over the Russian and will now meet Vera Zvonareva, a Russian whom she's never beaten either, for a spot in the big final.
I've been touting Vika this season and predicting something big for her, especially on the hardcourts. Her forehand is still slappy and can be hit a little late while her serve can still be much improved. But I'm pretty impressed with the 19-year old's determination + intensity to win every point - it's a rarity on the WTA Tour these days - and she can sure hit the fuzz off the ball.
This could be her time.
(image via getty)
Gwen Stefani + Baby Zuma Nesta Rock Rossdale were spotted playing (and probably sharing baby-raising tips) with mommy-to-be Mirka Vavrinec in the baller box watching Roger Federer dismiss Fernando Gonzalez 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 in the fourth round at Indian Wells. The 13-time Grand Slammer will next face the streaking Fernando Verdasco in a battle of forehands for a spot in the final four.
Zuma Nesta Rock Rossdale. Really? And some of you thought Baby Mango was ridiculous. Think again.
(image via getty)
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
- Ana Ivanovic talking with Steve Tignor at Indian Wells
Uh, I think you got into the wrong profession, NaturAna. Good luck with that one though.
(image via womenstennisphotos)
Rafael Nadal will battle nemesis David Nalbandian in a hugely-anticipated fourth round match at Indian Wells tonight. The world's top baller has yet to win a set against the Argentine in two career meetings. Ca-razy.
Ahhh - those capri pants bring back some fond memories. I miss thee.
See more of Rafa's practice session here.
(image via great tennis photos)
I wrote a post recently about the Serbia Open, which is partially owned by the Djokovic clan, and wondered aloud what, if any, conflicts of interest may be involved.
Well, my thoughts were heard and answered! Actually, I sent in the question to Jon Wertheim's mailbag over at Sports Illustrated since I figured he (and possibly their crack research team) could shed some light on the situation and it's featured in this week's edition. Check it out:
The Djokovic clan and some private investors recently bought the Amersfoort tourney and are transforming it into the newly-named Serbia Open, which debuts as an ATP 250 event this May. It's mentioned on his website he will be taking part in the tourney. A few readers (and me) were wondering if there's any precedent for this situation, e.g. an active baller buys into a tourney and then enters the draw? And wouldn't this setup be a conflict of interest for the tourney officials?
-- Rich, Brooklyn, N.Y.
• It's a huge conflict of interest, of course. (How would you like to be working as a line judge when Djokovic plays!) While I can't recall anything quite as flagrant as an active player's family owning a sanctioned tournament, conflict of interest is the coin of the realm in tennis. How different is this from a management group owning a tournament and also having players in the field under contact? (Gee, think IMG clients might get preferable treatment and first dibs at wild cards at IMG-owned events?) How different is this from broadcasters commentating on matches on which they have a financial stake in the outcome? How different is this from handing out appearance fees -- an inherent acknowledgment that some players are worth more to the tournament than others?
Taking a more charitable view here: tennis is obviously hot in Serbia right now and it only makes sense to penetrate that market. In addition to seizing the initiative and ponying up the cash, the Djokovic family can deliver the top draw but put him through his promotional paces. ("But I already went to a sponsor party yesterday!" "Shut up and press the flesh, son.") It's not an ideal situation, but you could argue the greater good is being served here.
True indeed Jon - tons of different hands diving into all kinds of cookie jars in this sport and probably many others too. And, yes, those Djokos will no doubt be put through the horse + pony PR show.
Smile for your cash boys!
(image via serbiaopen.com)
So remember DtL reader Terry Lee's quest to get his most coveted prize: a picture with Marat Safin? Well it seems he finally succeeded...kinda:
Where is Marat...he was already practicing at this time yesterday and it was getting late. I make a quick scouting trip around the grounds to make sure he didn't get passe me and no Marat. So I decide to wait by the players lounge for at least another 20 minutes or so and [my friend] James is telling me that I have to be really aggressive when I see him and tell him I want a photo with him. I agree and I am all fired up and guess who walks out from the players lounge...Marat!
Just as he turned the corner an woman steps in front of me with her fragile 90 year old mom and asks if Marat would take a picture of her...ugh. James told me to push the old woman out of the way, this was my photo opt and I should not be denied, but what if Marat was appalled by my actions and said no to my photo? I couldn't risk it so I let the old woman have her photo. I would remain calm and wait my turn, but then Marat said he didn't have time for any more photos or autographs so I leaned in next to him as he was signing the last autograph and James snapped the picture...not my best but it would do.
HA - nice one Terry Lee! Mission is complete.
But the story gets funnier people: Today I received an email from another DtL reader Matt regarding Terry Lee's Day 1 story:
I read [Terry Lee's post] about meeting Marat Safin and I started laughing hysterically.
"Then out of nowhere these two guys run up and say they were his biggest fans and wanted to take a picture with him and he agreed."
Those two guys were my friend Chris and me! We got two pictures with Marat and it was the greatest day ever. Please tell Terry that I am his biggest fan and have loved Marat ever since he came on tour. And I finally got to meet him!
OMG - it's totally like Six Degrees of Marat! I think I speak for tons of tennis fans when I say the sexy giant Russian will be SO missed when he re-, eh, I can't even say it right now.
But with his career winding down, I'd LOVE to hear from more DtL readers about their fave "Moment with Marat" and any pics you have with the him.
Now I think I'll go cry in a corner...boo hoo.
(images via Terry Lee, Matt)
Maria Sharapova's stylish comeback may have been short-lived.
According to Maria Sharapova Blog, the Russian fashionista is rumored to be pulling out of the main singles draw at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. During her Indian Wells post-match presser, she stated she could only practice for 4 straight days before needing a day of rest and would only return to full-time singles play once she could go 6 to 7 days straight of practice. It may have been wishful thinking.
This sucks - the WTA Tour is really struggling without her presence and I'm really struggling to watch the ladies play at all. Oh well, I guess Shrieka will have some time now to work on the pilot for the MTV show she's looking to produce.
UPDATE: It's official - Shrieka's out. It keeps getting suckier.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Here's a video interview with Andy Murray featuring other members of Team Murray, including Miles Maclagan + Jez Green as well as doubs partner Ross Hutchins, playing some footy during a recent practice session at Indian Wells.
Shirtless boys playing with balls - need I say more?
(video via Tennisstuff)
After shamelessly asking DtL reader Terry Lee, who visited Indian Wells, to p-p-p-please send over some insidery anecdotes and photos from his visit I was grinning this morning when I saw his email.
Apparently, he had two goals in mind. Well, one goal and two targets: to stalk and meet Rafael Nadal + Marat Safin (join the club.) I'll let him tell you the rest!
This was my first time at Indian Wells and I was very surprised at how open and accessible the practice courts are, you can literally sit on the court that the players are hitting on. The main mission was simple find Marat, find Rafa, everything else was secondary.
Immediately I see Richard Gasquet + Gilles Simon hitting, so I take a seat. I have always had a strange fascination for Gasquet, maybe it's because of the gay rumors, or maybe it's just because I think he is cute in a strange way, he has interesting ankles..and kind of a big butt right. Plus he was hitting with Simon, and after that pic of him in the weight room was posted, I am strangely fascinated by him too.
Richard walks by and I ask him if I could get a pic with him, even though I have terrible hat head from the visor I was wearing, I should have kept it on. He agreed to the pic (top photo) and I was just about to ask him to join us for dinner tonight when some stupid fan ruined my moment.
On the next court over was a large gathering and it was Novak Djokovic, who I had a crush on but lost it after last season. He looked good though and we got super close to him, his feet are larger than I expected them to be…I have a tendency to notice people’s hands and feet.
We decided to skip all of the matches until we got to see Marat + Rafa, so back to the practice courts. We noticed that there was still a large crowd of people where Roger Federer was practicing, so we kept going, only I saw Roger walking across the lawn…so who was everyone watching? It was Marat! Immediately we make our way over to the court and as the people ran over to cut off Roger’s path, I had direct access to watch Marat practice. I was standing 8 feet away from my hero and he was hitting with Oscar Hernandez. It was great - he was entertaining us with awesome shots and the power he uses is amazing. He would talk to himself in Russian and to Oscar in Spanish. I was totally star struck.
After the practice session was over he walked right by me and signed my program and I smacked him on the back, he was soaking wet from sweat, and told him he was best. It was all I could manage to say and hitting him was much like smacking a horse; the guy is huge, much larger than I expected and hard as concrete. Then out of nowhere these two guys run up and say they were his biggest fans and wanted to take a picture with him and he agreed. I was like, "Hold on…I am your biggest fan and if you are going to be giving out man on man pics, I am going to get on too." But I was still frozen and he left.
After an hour or so, I was standing at the fence next to the players lounge, hoping to see Marat again and staring off reliving my earlier encounter with him when I notice that Rafa was walking right towards me! He had a hat on so I didn’t notice him at first; just as he approached a mob of fans pushed me directly into him. He was so nice, he smiled and made sure I didn’t fall and started signing autographs. I finally thought to myself, "Self, take out the camera and get a pic stupid." Rafa was so nice, one kid took off his own shirt and asked Rafa to sign it and he did…what a nice guy.
We followed him down to the practice court and watched him hit for a while; he has such natural talent and the way he hits a tennis ball is like nothing I have ever seen before. After he finished up, he stopped to sign more autographs. It was then time for us to go because we didn’t have tickets for the night session plus we accomplished both missions for day one.
The mission for day two: get a pic with Marat!
(images courtesy of Terry Lee)
It was a French massacre at Indian Wells yesterday.
Gilles Simon, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, and Paul-Henri Mathieu were all unceremoniously booted from the year's first Masters 1000 tourney in straight sets within hours of each other.
Sneaky Simon continued his bad run of form as he fell to Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic 6-3, 7-6 (3); Jo-Willy was shocked by Russian Igor Andreev 7-5, 6-4; Reeshard fell to Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-2; and Paul-Henri was stopped by Andy Murray 6-3, 6-2. Gael Monfils, Florent Serra, Olivier Patience, Julien Benneteau, Michael Llodra, Nicolas Devilder, and Marc Gicquel have already been knocked out of the tourney.
Maybe it's a hangover for their country's poor showing in Davis Cup's opening tie where they were defeated by the Czech Republic 3-2 and where Sneaky Simon failed to win either of his rubbers. Or maybe some of them have been too distracted by some off-court Frenchie lovin'. I'm thinking the boys could use a strong leader right now - Sneaky's clearly not up to the task.
Whatever the case, the French will now have to rest their hopes on Jeremy Chardy who will face Spaniard David Ferrer for a spot in the quarterfinals.
(images via getty)
Monday, March 16, 2009
Not to be out done by the boy ballers this weekend, the ladies were out and about on the practice courts and the big lawn of Indian Wells sharpening their games, strengthening their bodies, and participating in some other, ah-hem, interesting activities.
I suppose girls just wanna have fun. I mean, don't you...in that same way?
Ana Ivanovic was spotted on the big lawn getting her practice on with a football during some off-court time.
Let's just say she needs more...of something...like eye-hand coordination. Actually, just coordination period.
Thanks to DtL reader Maja for tipping me off to the latest Maria Sharapova news!
The Russian glamazon, who finally made her stylish return to tennis action at Indian Wells this week, is reportedly in talks to executive produce a show loosely based on her life as a tennis pro for MTV Networks. No, seriously.
In 2007, Shrieka was supposedly working with the CW Network to produce a similarly-themed show but apparently that project fell through.
Hmmm - not sure what to think of this news. I mean, what a huge distraction from tennis. Plus, what kind of show will it be - a scripted show, a reality show, or a fake reality show like The Hills? Speidi better watch out. I'm sure they won't be too happy to share their on-air with another blonde bomber.
On the plus side, Shrieka could better her relationship with with Serena Williams and collaborate on the script since ReRe's been dying to pen a "dramedy" and snatch a Golden Globe. Yeah, that could work. But, let's hope they don't bring up that 2007 Aussie Open final during their talks. Just sayin'.
(image via getty)
(Hey y'all - I'm thrilled to add FreakyFrites of GOTOTENNIS to the DtL contributor list this year. I love her perspective on the game and her site's pretty great too - a must read especially for all you Fedophiles out there. FF visited Indian Wells this weekend and came back with some on-the-ground views of the action for our reading pleasure.
Also if you're ever interested in writing something for DtL drop me a line at DownTheLineTennis@Gmail.com. I'm always looking for new voices + views on the sport we all love. So without futher ado here's FreakyFrites!)
The highlight of my visit to Indian Wells (a.k.a. the BNP Paribas Open) this weekend was hanging out at the practice courts. Where else could a mere mortal like myself stand within arm’s length of Rafael Nadal while he soaked through his Nike t-shirt? And when Rafa, Roger or another one of my fave Top 5 players wasn’t hitting, I had fun cruising the rows of unobstructed practice courts in pursuit of quirky hitting partner combos, e.g., Simon/Isner, Safin/Tipsarevic and Haas/Stepanek.
Of course, the real thrill was catching Federer and Nadal’s practice sessions, which generated almost as much buzz as their matches. The two had vastly different routines – Rafa pounded balls for an hour or two while Roger barely got around to unzipping his RF warm up jacket - but both players attracted hoards of fans. We’re talking six-person deep crowds lining the court, kids climbing on top of trashcans for a better view and hundreds of faces peering down from the upper reaches of the main stadium.
The amateur sociologist in me enjoyed observing the true Rafanatics and Fedophiles in their natural habitats. Fed fans brought banners (“Federer is Better-er than Chocolate”) and Rafanatics brought their libidos (lots of décolletage and lip licking.) Both groups shun irony.
And then there was the grassy practice field, my favorite spot for witnessing chance encounters between the players. A typical scene: Nalbandian and Del Potro horse around with an Australian rules football while Daniela Hantuchova does jumping jacks in the background. Gasquet saunters between the Argentines, and a game of monkey-in-the-middle ensues. Then Gisela Dulko jogs by in her short shorts, distracting David. I also caught Rafa exchanging (air) kisses with a mystery WTA blonde and Tsonga switching places with his trainer to get a better view of Maria Kirilenko’s stretching routine. It was like watching the Real World: Tennis Tour!
When I needed a break from the excitement of all this practicing, I lounged on the main lawn with a beer or browsed the tennis gear for sale in the retail tents. I even watched an actual tennis match or two. But after being within sniffing distance of Rafa’s back sweat and Roger’s deluxe hair care products, everything else kind of faded in comparison.
FreakyFrites writes the blog GOTOTENNIS
(images via GOTOTENNNIS, photos courtesy of J. Nguyen)
Bethanie Mattek just launched a new website featuring all the usual stuff we've come to expect from B (read: bad hair, worse fashion).
It's good to see her back on court too after getting married and dealing with injury. However, I'm not loving the red/orange/copper crap dye job at all - icks - though it's not quite a hairy situation yet.
But with B I've come to learn to expect the worse but prepare for hilarity. It's just a matter of time.
(via Great Tennis Photos, images via bmattek.com, getty)
Here are some images of Roger Federer practicing at Indian Wells courtesy of GOTOTENNISBLOG.
It's amazing to see someone who's been so under the media microscope this week look this relaxed, even during training. This has got me thinking he could be a good boss and I could SO be RoKa's manny - just me and Baby Mango basking (or baking?) under the warm desert sun, sitting on the sidelines watching Fed's sweet swingin' ways.
*smiles at fat wallet*
FreakyFrites over at GOTOTENNISBLOG spent the weekend over at Indian Wells and will providing some on-the-ground coverage for DtL a little later today - yay!
In the meantime Rafanatics, here are some great photos they took of your boy during his practice session to tide you over. No worries Fedophiles - they took cool shots of Roger Federer and I'll post some of those too.
Enjoy guys - and I have a feeling you will. Just make sure to provide the details...in the comments section only....sillies.
Rafa: "It's super cool - still have to carry my own racquets, though. Toni's rules. I know, I know - yawn."
(via GOTOTENNIS, images courtesy of J. Nguyen)