Google Down the Line!: 2009-09-06


Friday, September 11, 2009

(UPDATED) PHOTO OP: A total washout - or is it?

"Duck...duck...duck...ah, shut up. It's frickin' raining!!"

So obvs my trip to Flushing Meadows today to check out the ladies' semifinals was a total washout. And USOpen.org officially postponed today's session though I just received a text saying "there is a slim chance that the Nadal-Gonzalez match will resume if the weather permits."

UGH.

But fear not: I will be there whenever the matches are rescheduled.

In the meantime, here are some images from today's "action."

Brian Lynch + Kim Clijsters





UPDATE: The Rafonzo match has been postponed.

*stomps feet + cries*

(Photos: Getty, Philip Hall/usopen.org)

Letter to DtL readers: American Express

Hey y'all,

I wanted to let you know about a program I'm working on with American Express. As an enthusiast of the charge card and a social media user, they've asked for my help in communicating my experiences - good, bad, or in-between - with using the many benefits of their cards.

I was invited to a half-day conference yesterday to learn about these benefits and will be given 50,000 rewards points to utilize for this purpose. And, I'm excited to say they're inviting Kalil + me to the US Open today to watch the ladies' semifinals and the completion of the Rafa/Gonzo match as part of the program! *fingers crossed for a rain break*

I felt it was of the utmost importance to be transparent with you about my work with AMEX. I may be mentioning my experiences with their charge cards from time to time on DtL and Twitter as it pertains to tennis, sports, and just plain life.

Moreover, I'd LOVE to hear about any of your personal experiences with their charge cards and benefits. Feel free to leave your anecdotes in the DtL Peanut Gallery or contact me via Twitter. If you're not following DtL, click here.

Have a great one and enjoy the rest of the US Open!

RiCH

Sugs calling it quits, to retire after Toray Pan Pacific


Ai Sugiyama officially announced her plans to retire at the end of the season during a press conference in Narita, Japan.

The 34-year old told the press,

I am normally the type that can picture what the near future holds but to be honest at this moment in time I can't see myself competing next season.

I knew that the moment I realized I could play well in fits and starts but not over the course of a season then it would be time to retire. Now I would like to give something back to tennis.

Sugs reached a career high ranking of world No. 8 and made a record 62 consecutive Grand Slam appearances. She won six career singles titles, but her best results came in doubles where she racked up 38 titles including 3 at majors.

Her final tourney will be at the Toray Pan Pacific which begins on September 27.

(Photo: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

PHOTO OP: Hurts so good

"Bite me. I must be dreaming!"

A big congrats to Juan Martin del Potro who made his first US Open semifinal today knocking out towering twin Marin Cilic 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 in blustery conditions. The Argentine cracked 27 winners against 24 errors and managed to overpower his Croatian foe down the stretch.

He'll face the winner of tonight's rain-delayed match between Rafael Nadal + Fernando Gonzalez with the Spaniard winning the first set in a tiebreak while the second set went to a tiebreak before play was suspended.

Delpo seems to have rounded into top form at the right time and is executing his power game with great confidence. I think whichever baller he plays is going to have his hands full dealing with those blazing groundies.

(Photo: Getty)

Rafa reacts to "stolen kiss" moment on Times Online blog


Rafael Nadal is blogging again for The Times Online during his US Open campaign and discusses the "stolen kiss" incident from the other night in his latest entry entitled "That fan was funny - although I didn't like his kiss!". We figured, but anyway...

Hello everyone,

Hope you all are good. I am great and feeling very good. Yesterday it was very late when I posted my blog. I think that it is the first time ever I have done it after coming back from the tournament so late. I ended up going to sleep after 4 am. It is quite late even for a Spaniard... Specially if you are a tennis player and have to play.

Many people asked me today about yesterday's match. I said to everyone who asked me that I found I played better, starting to feel good. But when I was elaborating on my game I was immediately cut and asked not about the match but about the incident of the guy jumping on court and kissing me and everything you've seen on TV.

To be honest, I didn't see the guy coming. I'd just taken my shirt off to change it when I saw a guy coming to me, kissing me and saying that he loved me... Then I saw the security jumping to him. I didn't think it was important, not serious, and tried to stop the security at some point to leave the guy. You can actually read my lips saying "it's OK". Not that I know a lot of English to explain to them that it was OK, that he was cool and that for me it was OK. Not that I liked the kiss... :-)

So I didn't really give too much importance to it. I just thought, as I say it was funny.

I understand that the tournament's security got nervous, but I was cool with it. As a matter of fact, when I was in the locker room, one of the main guys of the tournament, David Brewer, came to the locker and asked me if I was OK and if the guy had hurt me. I told him I was fine and to please not to do anything to the guy. Jokingly I said "One fan I have tonight - please leave him". I was told that the guy was going to be prosecuted (I think it is the correct way to say it). Hope he is OK.

I understand it is a delicate issue but I have to say that this tournament really takes good care of me. They are really, really nice with me and have lots of attentions with me and my team. From my side no complaints whatsoever, on the contrary I have to thank them for everything they do. Maybe the only complaint is the scheduling... We'll talk another day about that...

Hope this whole thing is taken positively and no one suffers for something like this.

So thanks US Open staff for everything.

It warms my parts, eh, heart to hear Rafa be so understanding about the scary incident. He's taking it in stride and not making a big deal about the fact that the fan was a man who planted the smooch.

I'm pretty sure not every boy baller would react the same way to the incident.

(Photo: AP)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mels meets her match, gets booted by Wozzi at US Open


Melanie Oudin's fairytale run at the US Open came crashing down at the hands (or racquet?) of Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals tonight.

The 17-year old was a shadow of the lady baller who knocked off four consecutive higher-ranked Russians, hitting baskets of errors and constantly burying her forehand into the net during her 6-2, 6-2 loss. On the flip side, Wozzi played steady, heady ball baiting Mels into going for low-percentage shots from awkward positions on the court with her loopy groundies and angled attacks.

She'll face fellow 19-year old Yanina Wickmayer, who defeated Kateryna Bondarenko, for a spot in Saturday's big final.


Mels gave credit to the Danish teen during her post-match presser:

Q. So what happened out there tonight?

MELANIE OUDIN: You know, um, Caroline played a really good match. I think I started off slow. I wasn't able to come back. She's such a strong player. She doesn't give you anything for free.

She plays incredible defense. Makes me hit a thousand balls and really is a really great player. I mean, I don't know what else I could have done. I could have been more consistent and been more patient, but she really made me think out there and made me have to hit a winner on her to win the point.

I was missing some. I was a little too impatient, I think. But overall, I think she played a great match.

It seemed the pressure of the moment combined with all the recent attention (and probably not some unfortunate personal issues) may have gotten to Mels, who couldn't seem to play her 'A' game against a lady baller who forced her to come up with the goods. She seems to play her best when she has pace to work with in a match, something Wozzi doesn't bring to the table consistently. In any case, congrats to Mels on a tremendous breakthrough tourney and I'm sure we'll be seeing more of her in the near future. *fingers crossed*

On a side note: does anyone else think Stella McCartney is celebrating her decision to dump Maria Kirilenko for Wozzi now? I mean, talk about GREAT timing.

(Photo: Getty)

PHOTO OP: This is AWKWARD

"Just act like no one's looking and maybe they won't notice. Much."

Fernando Verdasco received treatment on his abdominal area during his 7-6 (2), 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 loss to Novak Djokovic in the US Open quarterfinals today.

Nando played well for a good stretch there but the injury plus Nole's superior experience in big matches took its toll. Hopefully he'll recover okay.

(Photo: Getty)

(UPDATED) VIDEO VAULT: Rabid Rafanatic puckers up, plants kiss on The Matador



Rafael Nadal received a very personal congratulations by a Rafanatic after his 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 fourth round win over Gael Monfils at the US Open last night.

While changing out his shirt a man jumped from the front row, leapt onto the court, planted a *smooch* on the Majorcan Matador, and tried to grab a hug before security pulled him away.

He was asked about the incident in his post-match presser:

Q. What did you think when the man came out of the stands and came up to you?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, for me it wasn't the problem. The guy was really nice (laughter.)

Q. Did he say anything?

RAFAEL NADAL: Yes. He was a great fan. He said, I love you, and he kiss me. (laughter.)

Q. Was he speaking Spanish?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, in English, but I understand that. (laughter.)

Interestingly, a man loudly shouted out "I LOVE YOU RAFA!!!" right before his first serve at the start of the match which caused a sly smile by the 6-time Grand Slammer.

Clearly the security at the US Open needs to be reviewed so something like this is prevented in the future. Rafa kept a good attitude about the entire situation which, luckily, didn't turn out to be dangerous.

And, just for the record, I was NOT at the Open last night so my hands (and lips) are clean.

UPDATE: The man was arrested for "interference with a sporting event". Uh, I'm thinking it was more a "crime of passion" but that's just me.

(video via Meriko100)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

(UPDATED) Marin stuns Muzz, makes first major quarterfinal at UpSet Open


Marin Cilic caused one of the biggest shockers at this year's US Open upending a mopey-looking Andy Murray 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 in the fourth round. He hit 35 winners against 41 errors in the win and will next face Juan Martin del Potro for a spot in the final four.

Congrats to Marin for making his first major quarterfinal and stepping up against the world's second best baller and many pundit's picks for winning the whole tourney.


As for Muzz, well, it was a very disappointing effort and gave me flashbacks of his lackluster effort in the final last year against Roger Federer. Pressure is the name of the game and I think it took hold of Muzz today, like it did last year, and didn't let go. And, to make matters worse, he could lose the second spot in the rankings to Rafael Nadal if the Spaniard wins his match against Gael Monfils tonight.

Is it possible the Brit baller is a mental midget in disguise?


UPDATE: Muzz was asked about a left wrist issue in his post-match presser but the 22-year old refused to discuss it in detail or blame it for the loss.

Q. You seemed to be having trouble with your left wrist. Is there a problem? And if so, has it arisen today or has it been ongoing?
ANDY MURRAY: I had a problem with it for a week or so. But regardless, I mean, you know, I just struggled today. I played poorly. You know, I'm obviously very disappointed. I mean, after, you know, the way that the last three Slams went I felt like I had actually played well and lost.
And today, you know, it didn't feel like didn't feel like I played well. I had my chance in the first set, and then, you know, struggled after that. You know, energy was I mean, I guess the momentum went with him, and I didn't manage to get it back. So, you know, I wasn't able to return well.

Q. The hand was bothering you on the return, is that what you're saying?
ANDY MURRAY: No, regardless of my wrist, it has you know, I lost the match. I returned poorly and he served well, and, you know, that was really the difference, guess.
I felt like in the first set, you know, when I was getting into the rallies I was able to move him around and have my chances. And then, you know, once he got the first set, he started serving well and started playing really aggressive. He was shanking a lot of forehands in the first set.
Then in the second he started dropping in, and then he started hitting the ball very clean after that and dictated all of the points.

Q. Do you know what the wrist problem is exactly?
ANDY MURRAY: Yeah, but I will try not to discuss injuries, as, you know, I leave it to my doctors and physio to let me know, you know, what I should be doing with it and how much I should be playing and how much time I need to take off.
You know, but I'm not going to give out any details.

(Photos: Getty, AP)

Mels gets the short end of her hotel stick

"Damn you Marriott. Now Wozzi's gonna pay."

Melanie Oudin may be starting to get respect in the locker room because of her rousing run at this year's US Open, but apparently she's not getting much from The Marriott hotel chain.

Via Sports Business Journal:

Melanie Oudin was booted Sunday from her Times Square hotel because her reservation was up. The 70th-ranked tennis player had not expected to remain in N.Y. so long, as she was only booked at the Marriott through the first week of the tournament. Her agent, BEST Tennis President John Tobias, through the company's travel agent, Sport Travel, quickly got her into the Intercontinental. Tobias: "Obviously, we will not be sending any of our players back to that hotel.” The Marriott could not confirm Oudin was staying there, spokesperson Kathleen Duffy said. She said it was possible Oudin was staying there registered under a different name.

Nice moves Marriott. Not that Mels needed more motivation to win in tomorrow night's quarterfinal but now you've pissed her off. Wozzi better beware.

(Photo: Getty)

(UPDATED) VIDEO VAULT: Nole finally gets funny again, does his best JMac



After obliterating Radek Stepanek 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in the US Open fourth round last night, Novak Djokovic finally returned to his impersonating ways taking on legend John McEnroe and even screaming his iconic line, "You cannot be serious!" before hitting a few serves.

JMac was calling the match for ESPN and was in the booth during the performance. He came down, khakis and all, to hit a few balls with the Serb.

Only in New York. GREAT stuff boys. And to Nole: so good to see you having fun out there again. THIS is why fans fell in love with you in the first place, not to mention your explosive game. Keep it up.

Thanks Jyocka!

UPDATE: Here's coach Nole giving an instructional to TIME.com showcasing his technique for the serve, forehand, backhand, dropshot, overhead smash, and return of serve. He's of course challenged to do an impression - guess which one he decided to do? Fine - just watch the vid.

(via spatzlelg)

VIDEO VAULT: Kimmie updates fans before US Open quarterfinal battle



Kim Clijsters, who has a tremendous opportunity to reach the US Open semifinals when she faces China's Na Li today, gives fans an update in this video message.

The Belgian lady baller seems pretty relaxed. I'd love to buy a bottle of that feeling to take before my matches - and those are just in the park. Ugh.

(video via clijsterstube's channel)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mels knocks out Nads while OudinFam brings the water works


No. 4? Check.

Melanie Oudin's fairytale run at this year's US Open has continued in stellar form as the 17-year old made her first Grand Slam quarterfinal defeating 13th seed Nadia Petrova 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3. It was the American giant killer's fourth consecutive Russian scalp after already taking out Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Elena Dementieva, and former champ Maria Sharapova in the previous rounds.

A more confident-sound Mels told the press aftewards,

It's kind of hard to explain how I've done it. Today, there were no tears because I believed I can do it. Now I know I do belong here. This is what I want to do. I can compete with these girls no matter who I'm playing. I have a chance against anyone.

She'll face either '04 champ Svetlana Kuznetsova or Caroline Wozniacki for a spot in the final four.


Mels' mom Leslie has been in attendance the entire tourney but father John, twin sister Katherine, who blogged about watching her sister slay Shrieka for NY Times' Straight Sets, and younger sister Christina made the trip today.

Okay full disclosure: I already spewed a few tears after her big win Saturday but seeing her family in tears today, too?

Just kill me.

*grabs kleenex*


(Photos: Getty)

USTA offers apology for Dinara dust up

The USTA has offered an apology for the handling of Dinara Safina's third round match which saw the top lady baller ousted by Petra Kvitova.

The Russian, whose match was first up that evening, was none too pleased about being moved to Louis Armstrong so James Blake's match could be started.


According to WTA tour CEO Stacy Allaster,

The U.S.T.A. has acknowledged they should have notified Dinara and the players much earlier in the process of what was going to happen. I think they’ve apologized for that and I think that what’s most important now is we move forward. They’re going to look at their procedures and try to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Serena Williams was asked about the incident in her post-match presser and came to D's defense:

Q. Safina, because the day session ran long, her match was supposed to be the first on at night on Ashe got moved to Louis Armstrong. She was disappointed in that. She thought it was disrespectful that the women's match got moved. Any opinion on that? If placed in a situation like that, would you be upset?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, why didn't they move the men's match again? They were second on.

Q. She said they told her they wanted to give fans the chance to see a best of five set match and they moved her to Armstrong.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think that was just a good thing to tell her to silence her at that moment. But I have to take her side on this. I think that she was first on. She should've played at 7:00. They should have moved the men's match. Simple as that, that's how it should be done. If you're supposed to play a match, you're supposed to play it, and then you move the next match.

Firstly, nice to see the ladies' stick up for each other here even amongst all the smack talk that's been going around.

It was a total slap in the face to the top seed Dinara and I'm glad the USTA acknowledged their unfortunate mistake.

(Photo: Getty)

SIGHTING: Nicole + Keith need to get a room


Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman and her musician hubby Keith Urban were spotted swapping spit during Roger Federer's imminent destruction of Tommy Robredo, who is currently down 2 sets and o-4 in the third set of their fourth round match at the US Open.

Clearly this boring match hasn't captured the couple's attention - or mine. Take me to Yawnsville.

(Photo: Getty)

PHOTO OP: Rafa + Shrieka take cover with Nike's AW77


Rafael Nadal + Maria Sharapova joined other Nike superstars including Sofia Boutella, Alexandre Pato, Manny Pacquiao, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to present the story of one of the brand's most iconic pieces: the AW77 .


The athletes were photographed by renowned photog David Sims, styled/directed by Karl Templer and were shot in three cities over four months, with each bringing their own personality and attitude to tell the story.


"I think in the end, the most important thing is being true to yourself, being honest with yourself. You know what you are doing wrong, then, you correct and improve," said Rafa. "Off the court, I see that being normal will help you be better on the court. I like more or less to feel comfortable with what I wear on and off the court. And I like to be well dressed.


Check out more images from the campaign below and some behind-the-scenes action with Rafa here and with Shrieka here.

Thanks James!




(Photos: Nike)

Muzz, Rafa, ReRe and Rog leave a big impression


Illustrator/artist Vietnam the Movie, based out of Stroud in Gloucestershire, has come up with another series of impressionistic limited-edition prints of some our fave ballers including Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, and Roger Federer.




Check 'em out over here!

(images via vietnamthemovie.com)

Letter to DtL readers: Happy Labor Day!

Just a quick "Happy Labor Day!" to those of you out there celebrating today.

Have a safe holiday and enjoy...

RiCH

Rafa, Kimmie, and Flavia overcome obstacles and injury to advance at UpSet Open


Rafael Nadal made his way into the US Open fourth round after defeating compatriot Nicolas Almagro 7-5, 6-4, 6-4. But the bigger news was the re-aggravation of the stomach muscle injury he showed up with in Cincinnati. He and Nico both received treatment during the third set but The Matador was quick to dismiss any talk of injury in his post-match presser:

Q. What did the doctor say about your injury? Are you worried for the next matches?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, I don't want to talk about injuries. Sorry. No, no, I am a little bit tired to talk about injuries. I am here to try my best every day.
I won the match in three sets, so happy for that. I'm going to try my best next round. That's all.

Q. You said you didn't want to talk about injuries. Was that your knee or the abdominal situation?
RAFAEL NADAL: I said I don't want to talk about injuries (laughter).


Q. Can you at least talk about how you felt after you got the treatment for the rest of the match?
RAFAEL NADAL: I won 6 4, so you can see I didn't serve very fast. But I think I played better from the baseline than before.

Q. We are used to see you much more cheerful, especially after a win. Today you answer as if you're not happy.
RAFAEL NADAL: No, but I know I came here and I know everybody want to talk about the injury. I really don't want to talk about that. That's the thing.

The stomach muscle issue seemed to hinder him a bit on his serve so it'll be interesting to see how this situation develops. The injury will most likely be tested when Rafa faces the Gael Monfils in a match sure to be athletic and acrobatic.


Kim Clijsters put a stamp on her return to the WTA tour when she ousted third seed Venus Williams 6-0, 0-6, 6-4 in a strange but emotional fourth round match. In 2005, the Belgian defeated the 2-time champ on her way to her first, and only, Grand Slam title so could it happen again? Like duh, of course! She's facing Na Li and holds a 3-1 lead in their H2H with a potential blockbuster Serena Williams semifinal lurking ahead.

On a side note, V's loss means ReRe is the only Top 5 seed left in the draw as well as being only 1 of 4 Top 10 seeds still alive after four rounds. Stunning.


Watch out for Flavia Pennetta who saved 6 match points in her 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-0 upset of seventh seed Vera Zvonareva. See what a little confidence can do for your game? And Flavia will need every bit of that confidence intact when she faces defending champ ReRe, who crushed a helpless Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 6-0, in the quarterfinals.

(Photos: Getty, AP)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A-Rod + Dinara join other sidelined seeds at the UpSet Open


Upsets at this year's US Open are becoming as ubiquitous as those pesky double faults.

Andy Roddick's quest for a second US Open title came crashing down in defeat to compatriot John Isner 7-6 (3), 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 7-6 (5) in their third round match. He becomes the highest seeded casualty in the boys' draw so far. The giant American will now face Fernando Verdasco for a spot in the quarterfinals.

I'd say A-Rod is probably still dealing with some lingering effects from that epic loss to Roger Federer after his early exit here. It was definitely a winnable match for him but his confidence and self-belief may be a bit shaken at the moment.


Dinara Safina used up her last lifeline at Flushing Meadows late last night. After scraping through her first two matches, the top lady baller was unable to close out her third round match against Petra Kvitova and fell 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5). Dinara even held three match points in the decider and couldn't seal the deal. The Sisters Sledge are the only ladies in the Top 5 to still be alive at the Open. Color me NOT shocked.

Clearly, this result is not surprising based on her recent results and sketchy serve of late. I feel for her, though, after her match was moved to Louis Armstrong so James Blake could play his on Arthur Ashe. Plus, all the talk of not D not deserving the WTA Penthouse keys has taken its toll but I think even she will have a hard time defending that stance now.

(Photos: Getty)

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