Saturday, January 23, 2010
So the much-anticipated Aussie Open third round rematch between homeboy Lleyton Hewitt and rejuvenated former finalist Marcos Baghdatis became a bust when the Cypriot retired from the match with a shoulder injury down 0-6, 2-4.
The pair played a match for the ages back in 2008 when their delayed third round match was pushed back to midnight and ended 5 sets later at 4:30 am. The Aussie hothead fell to the court after winning that encounter while Bags left in tears.
I guess our consolation prize (at least for me) was a bit of MOMA from these two ballers - some hand-on-shoulder, hand-in-hand and hand-on-neck action. So far, Delpo + Blake are tops, so to speak.
Fernando Gonzalez, who will face Andy Roddick for a spot in the Aussie Open quarterfinals, brought girlfriend Daniela Castillo aboard the 'Rebecca' for a ride on the Yarra River.
Gonzo was smart to push a romantic boat trip with his pop singing girl and not a car ride. It might bring back bad memories and who knows what she might do. Don't believe me?
PS - Anyone else interested in watching Gonzo's thighs crack a few walnuts? *gawks*
Q. What were the chain of events that led to your latest Twitter posting about the underwear?
VENUS WILLIAMS: What do you mean?
Q. Were you getting ‑‑
VENUS WILLIAMS: I got on my computer and I posted to Twitter.
Q. Were you hearing that there were a lot of questions about that?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. Like I said, I never read the press. Like I don't listen to all of that. So it's kind of hard. I'm not always like in on the latest news.
But, you know, like when I'm here, like I hear things.
Q. How is it different now being a tennis player, because you all have Twitter and Facebook pages and you have this platform where you can interact directly with the fans? How is that different than before?
VENUS WILLIAMS: It's amazing actually. That's a good and a bad thing, because I've always been a really private person. So I do try to keep a part of my life very private.
There's a lot of things I like to share, too. When people are following you, those people are really your fans and want to hear what you have to say. I mean, I personally do all of my Twitter and I respond to people. There's a few people that I respond to over and over again.
So it's fun actually. But of course there is a limit to how far for me I'll go with sharing too much.
Q. How often are you checking and updating?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Just depends how busy I am. Right now I kind of don't as much because of everything going on. If I'm at home and I'm having days off, then I Twitter a lot more. Just depends.
Q. What do you think are the top pressing issues [for the ATP]?
ROGER FEDERER: At the moment?
Q. Yeah, for the tour.
ROGER FEDERER: I think it would be nice to have a main sponsor for the ATP. I think that's maybe No. 1. I always think figuring out, you know, sort of tennis mostly on TV as much as possible, especially in Europe where the markets are pretty difficult to get to sometimes.
Because one's French speaking, one's German, one's English, one's Italian. You have to go to each individual market which kind of makes it hard. I think that would be nice, to get as much tennis on TV as possible.
Other than that, just shortening of the schedule. I don't know if that's a really big priority. I mean, it's always something we'll talk about for the next hundred years. But we'll see if it's possible to change or not.
It's something we're always debating. And as the top guys, I think we'll come together and find a solution for that. The longer the season is the more weeks you have off during the season, so it always works.
Q. You are pretty good friends with Serena. Have you been doing stuff together here in Australia?
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: I mean, we've both been playing on the same days and everything. When we have the off days we're still here a little bit and chit‑chatting, having fun. She's a great and funny girl. We have great laughs in the locker room.
Q. You're wearing Stella McCartney, which is very nice clothes. How would you describe your fashion taste off court?
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: I think I'm feminine, but casual. I like to dress up when I'm going somewhere. Cute summer dresses are always a hit for me.
Q. Do you exchange tips with Serena about fashion?
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Definitely. If she sees something that I have that she thinks is nice she comments on it, and the other way around. Yeah, we talk about that kind of thing.
Q. Another question about your clothes line, was there problems with your socks that fell off?
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: It was the pom poms. I don't know what happened.
Q. Will you be wearing those again?
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: I'll probably think twice.
Q. You chose not to play in a ranking tournament before coming in here. What was the thinking behind that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it was one of the main reasons is because I've played almost hundred matches last year, and it was ‑‑ I got fed up, to be honest, with tournaments and matches. I didn't have a lot of time really to recover and just to relax like most of the top players.
I already started preparing, so I ‑‑ first of all, I wasn't ‑‑ tennis‑wise I wasn't ready for those tournaments, so I didn't want to go there to play one or two matches. Didn't make any sense.
So I just decided to come here earlier, ten days before the Australian Open starts, and put in some intensive workout. That's what I did.
Q. Do you feel fresh now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I do. Actually, I do. I think this workout is paying off.
Q. Assuming Serena Williams is up next [and she is.] You've won the last couple time you've met. What do you think about that?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: I'm looking forward to it. I've lived up to my expectation. Now I've got to where I should have got to. Playing the No. 1 player in the world, defending champion, I can go out there and really enjoy it.
I know I won the last time we played against each other. That's probably not going to mean too much going into Monday's match. I know I've be able to get over and beat her before. I'm going to try to go out there and play the best I can and really enjoy it.
Q. Anything you need to do specifically better to beat her?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: I don't know. I mean, playing someone like Serena, you have to be on your game. I'm going to have to serve well and take every opportunity that presents itself.
As soon as I get that shorter ball at half sniff to do something, then I've got to do it. I can't let those kind of go by and wait for a second chance.
It's going to be obviously quick points and hard hitting, so I'm going to have to stand my ground and really stand up to her and give her my best shot.
Q. Some players get intimidated when they walk on to center court and there's 15,000 people there. You seem to really enjoy being out there in front of the crowd and putting on a show for the crowd.
JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: Yeah, of course. Of course. I like tennis like this. I like, you know, watch tennis like this. You know, it's better to play in front of, you know, 10,000 people than two people that, I don't know, somewhere in the bush.
So of course it's good for me. I enjoy, you know, every moment, every match, every point I play on this court.
Q. Can you tell us about your meeting with Prince William? Maybe that's more fun.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think I'm just tired. It was super cool. Prince William was really dapper and suave. You know, he was just basically, shazam. (Laughter.)
Q. Could you share with us one key sort of tennis fashion tip for the year?
SERENA WILLIAMS: One key fashion tennis tip is, you know, own it. You know, whatever you wear, own it. Some people come out here with crazy designs but they own it. They really feel comfortable in it.
I think as long as you feel comfortable in what you have and what you do, you'll be fine.
Q. You've met a lot of celebrities and politicians, all that. Did you get nervous meeting Prince William? Can you remember a time when you met someone and said, Oh, my God I'm speechless?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Every time I see Leonardo DiCaprio I get totally speechless. Every time I'm like, Hi.
No, I wasn't really nervous to meet him. He was my age. I kind of always wanted to meet him, so it was kind of cool. We're the same age, so I thought it would be really cool.
I told him that I might like his little brother better because he's the little brother, and he laughed and said he might like Venus better because she's older. So we just had a little joke about that.
Q. So double date is gonna happen?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No. Unless Leo is there.
Q. What is it about Leo? Titanic?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think it was. I think it was how he just sacrificed the life. (Laughter.)
Q. If you had to marry another Russian tennis player, who would it be?
NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO: Marry?
Q. Get married, like husband and wife.
NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO: If I married another tennis player? Man or woman? (Laughter.). I have already wife. I have my beautiful wife. I don't want to have any ‑‑
IRINA DAVYDENKO: I hear you.
NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO: She's here.
Q. Sorry about that. (Laughter.)
[Photo(s): AP, Getty]
Friday, January 22, 2010
Just a brief respite from Aussie Open coverage to bring you guys some videos of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Fernando Verdasco.
The first two vids feature the defending champ in Oz and the '08 champ pimping NikeWomen.com and discussing what victory means to them. Can you guess which major both said was the site of one of their most important victories EVAH?
Fine, just watch then:
The last vid is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of an Air Europa spot featuring Nando with footballers Messi + Aguero. Now THIS looks like a fun shoot boys. Sign me up:
[via: Nike, HeartSetMatch!]
I'm not sure the Aussie Open has witnessed anything quite like Feliciano Lopez giving sex face over four tough sets. But I bet we're all glad he did.
Anyway, make sure to enjoy these pix and always remember to clean up afterwards. That goes for you too Feli.
[Photo(s): Reuters, Getty]
Jie Zheng caused another upset, albeit a minor one compared to Nads', when she toppled 11th seed Marion Bartoli 5-7, 6-3, 6-0 in the Australian Open third round. She hit 38 winners against 22 errors, 76% success on first serve deliveries, converted 7 of 9 BP chances and made 13 of 14 net approaches - impressive stats for sure.
She'll meet JJ-killer Alona Bondarenko for a spot in the quarterfinals.
And speaking of JJ-killing, I think the Chinese lady baller's uber-cute ANTA outfit (which looks like a v-neck tank paired with a skirt) totally outshines the Serb's party pinata. It fits her perfectly and features some subtle detailing that gives this simple design some pop like the white piping on the neck line, ruching at the bust and pleating on the skirt that reveals an eye-catching pattern when in motion. I even love the matching ribbon tie Jie's wearing in her hair - it really pulls it all together.
It would've been great to see it in another color but this one will work.
Q. You looked really relaxed out there. What did you do on your day off?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, yesterday what I do? Nothing. Practice as early as possible because I want to have as much rest as possible. So I practice early. Then I come back to the hotel. I eat somewhere close to the hotel. Then just hanging around in the room, watching movies.
The only thing I did yesterday, I went to the bookstore, and I bought from Julie and Julia cookbook. This is what made me walk out of the room.
Q. Did you see the movie?
DINARA SAFINA: That's what made me buy the book. I had to buy two books. I like cooking. I'm having new apartment in Moscow. I'm like, Okay, instead of library of books, I'll have cookbooks. I want to cook.
Q. Are you a good cook?
DINARA SAFINA: I'm just starting, you know. Until now nobody got sick, so this is the positive (smiling.) They might like, not like, but if they have problems with the stomach, it's not good.
But until now, nobody would complain about the stomach (laughter).
Q. What is your signature dish?
DINARA SAFINA: Actually, I can make not bad asparagus, risotto with asparagus. This is the thing that I can do. And, of course, green salad with olive oil.
Q. Pat Rafter said you could be the next man to dominate men's tennis in the world. What do you think of that?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: I don't know. He knows about this sport. But I don't want extra pression (sic). I have too much pression with me. So thank you to Patrick, but I have a long way to be the next No. 1 or to be better.
Q. You talked the other day about feeling nerves at the end of the Dementieva match. When you were down 3‑1, were you more relaxed today?
JUSTINE HENIN: I just tried to stay calm. I just tried to, you know, wait for that things were going better, and that paid. That was the most important thing. If you get crazy at that time, I mean... I just tried to play point after point, be focused on every moment, even if it's not easy.
Proved again that that's probably a good attitude to have. But sometimes it's okay, and sometimes you lose. But today I feel like I'm very happy to be in the tournament, to have another opportunity to play another match.
It's been more than what I could expect when I arrive in Australia. Now, even if I have the ambition to go further and win every match that I'll play, everything's bonus for me.
Q. Is there a story behind the new diamond ring you have on?
JUSTINE HENIN: Well, it's not coming from a lover, if that's the question (laughter).
Q. Is it just something you've treated yourself with?
JUSTINE HENIN: It's a gift from a friend. But nothing else, yeah (smiling). I was surprised the question didn't come earlier actually.
Q. Beyond just this match, how do you strike the balance between playing with passion but managing emotion?
ANDY RODDICK: Is, I don't know, an acceptable answer (laughter)?
As far as point to point, I think I approach matches maybe a lot more even keel than I used to. I kind of negotiate my way through the match. I'm assuming this is in reference to the other day [when he argued the umpire an cursed.]
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, overall I'd say I've definitely learned the balance. You know, obviously some things change in the heat of the moment. But what was a little bit lost the other day was the fact that, you know, it happened. I went and finished the match, then had my ‑ we'll call it an episode.
Q. In the first set up two breaks, were you thinking that you were playing really well?
NADIA PETROVA: I wasn't actually thinking anything. That was a good thing (laughter).
As soon as the point was over, my priority was the next point. I really wanted to win it badly. You know, that way I start collecting point by point, game by game.
[Photo(s): AP, Reuters]
That's how Kim Clijsters described how she was feeling after being comprehensively destroyed 6-0, 6-1 in the Aussie Open third round by Nadia Petrova. It was a 52 minute drubbing that left the U.S. Open champ and the Rod Laver Arena crowd stunned.
The Belgian hit a measly 5 winners against 29 UEs while her Russian foe ended with 15 winners and 10 UEs. And even though she had a 58% success of first serves, she only won 21% of the time when she had to throw in a second delivery. Double OUCH.
Afterwards, Kimmie could offer little to explain the dismal performance:
Q. Are you wracking your brain about why?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Of course. It's something that you know as an athlete that can happen once in a while. Like I said, once in a while, once a year, hopefully not more than that. But, uhm, yeah, the question is of course, Why? My coach, my fitness coach, are like, How can something like this happen?
We haven't changed anything really. That's the thing. That's probably the most frustrating thing about this. But then again, what is more frustrating: playing like this or getting beaten when you play your best? I lost because it was my fault.
My opponent, okay, she was better, but I didn't give her, you know, the best Kim out there today. And I think ‑‑ 'cause that's even more frustrating, knowing you get beaten at your best. That's probably even more frustrating.
I wish I could have brought that today because then I know I would have had a better shot at this.
Q. Have you felt like this before?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I'm sure it's happened before, you know, that I felt like I really couldn't hit the ball, like I wasn't hitting the ball well, that I wasn't feeling well out there. But obviously not in the last few years, I don't think so.
Q. With this game, do you burn the tape, forget it happened?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, this is something probably you want to forget as soon as possible and go home and, you know, just let it sit, get settled at home for a few days and then start working hard again and try to forget about it. Just stick to the routines. Everything I've been doing so far with my coach, my fitness coach, everything has been going really well. I'm going to try to not let a match like this get me down or start doubting myself or anything.
I've played some good tennis here, especially last week in Brisbane. I think that's what I want to try to take away from this trip. It's too bad it didn't happen here in Melbourne.
UGH. It's one thing to lose in the third round of a major. It's a whole other thing to do it against Nads with a score like 6-0, 6-1. Kimmie was completely out of sorts and dismantled in a tourney she was the co-fave to take, which I think caused this lackluster performance. The expectations were high here, unlike her winning run to the U.S. Open crown where she came in as a wild card and only hoped to do her best. She always had difficulties being a favorite, a front runner and it seems those demons may still be lurking somewhere. She'll be smart to forget this bad loss and look forward to the rest of the season.
In terms of the draw, Justine Henin looks to have a clear path to the semifinals now that both Kimmie + Elena Dementieva are out of that section. If she makes it there, she's slated to meet second seed Dinara Safina, whose path was cleared a bit after eighth seed Jelena Jankovic was upset by Alona Bondarenko today. The Russian will have to get by a streaking Maria Kirilenko, though, in the fourth round and the winner of A-Bon + Jie Zheng in the quarters (not a sure bet these days.)
Oh yeah, one more thing: I think we can stop calling Kim's return a 'comeback' now. She's been officially welcomed back. Thanks Nads.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Did you know you can tell the state of a baller's game just by the kind of salute they offer the fans? Let me explain.
First up: Mikhail Youzhny. He escaped an epic 5-set battle in the Aussie Open first round against Richard Gasquet after having match points against him then walloped Jan Hajek in three swift sets. But I wouldn't need to know all that stuff. Why? I could just examine his salute! Take a look at his photo above:
A) Tennis racquet - His racquet is resting nicely on his noggin in a straight line. This signals someone who's feeling balanced and steady with his energy flowing nicely.
B) Hands - One of Misha's hands is holding the racquet firmly while the other hand is performing a strong salute. These actions speak to a solid work ethic and deep discipline. Good job.
C) Face - The Russian eyes are intense and focused and he's smiling because he knows all that hard work and sacrifice is paying off at a major. Booyah!
Now, let's take a look at Ana Ivanovic shall we?
As we all know poor NaturAna was upset (and I use that term VERY loosely here) at the Aussie Open yesterday by Gisela Dulko and hasn't made it past the fourth round at a major in her last six tries. Boo. But even if I didn't know all that info, I could just look at her salute to know how her game was going:
A) Tennis racquet - MESS. Yonex is completely slipping off her head. In fact, I don't think it's even touching that raven hair. Now this is a classic sign of imbalance with a little impatience thrown in for good measure. Is she even trying???
B) Hands - I mean, REALLY. The hands aren't even being allowed to do their job because righty needs to catch the falling racquet while lefty is keeping her head from exploding. Geez.
C) Face - It seems her eyes are stunned while her mouth is probably saying something I shouldn't repeat here (in Serbian no doubt.) A girl's gotta have her secrets I suppose, though we're not fooled. It's time to take baby to therapy.
So next time you miss a match, just take a peek at the pix. They really ARE worth a thousand words. Or something like that.
Prince William made a surprise appearance at the Aussie Open today during Roger Federer's match against Victor Hanescu, won by the Swiss.
He even grabbed a photo with the 15-time Grand Slammer as well as Oracene Price + Serena Williams.
No word on whether Wills confirmed the marriage rumors with either baller.
Q. A lot better players like yourself have a particular trademark shot or style: Federer, movement, say, forehand; Roddick, serve.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You tell me what's mine, because I cannot figure it out. (Laughter.) I still didn't figure out. I wanted to hear if you maybe know.
I don't know. It's hard to say. I like the backhand long line. I'm a baseline player and my game is based from that part of the court.
But, you know, I've been starting to work a lot lately on my volley game, net play, and trying to take the balls a bit earlier and use the chances and be more aggressive. Of course, the serve.
So I could say for myself that I'm all‑around player, but probably the backhand long line is...
Q. Is [doubles] a fun thing for you? Does it sort of relax you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Definitely relaxes me. Sometimes I get stressed out because I don't like to lose in doubles. We take it very serious. You know, we had fun yesterday, but we're serious out there nowadays. We go for the best that we can do.
Q. Have you ever played with anyone else in doubles?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I have. I played, believe it or not, with Martina Navratilova . That was after the comeback, just F.Y.I., it wasn't when she was No. 1. I'm not that old. (Laughter.)
Q. Tomic was pretty critical about the scheduling of his match last night and the fact that it went too late. Just wondering, as someone who has finished a match after 4:00 a.m. Does he have a case?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, as I said, I don't know why they're putting some mens matches first and some after the women's. I have no idea. We've all been prepared, I guess, if we do go five sets, nine times out of ten I've always been the second match after the women's.
There's only been a couple occasions in my career that I've played in the last couple of years that I've played a 7:00 or 7:30 match. You always know if you go five sets it's gonna be a long night. That's just how it is.
Q. Should he expect any sort of leniency? He said because he was young, it was hard for him that late. Is that just part of the learning experience?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I think it's part of learning. I don't know whether he requested night or day or what he did. If you get scheduled at night, yeah, that's what's gonna happen. You gotta be prepared for that to happen.
Q. Have you met other members of the Royal family before at Wimbledon?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, the ones on court at the trophy ceremony. Do those count for you, or not?
Q. Yeah. (Laughter.)
ROGER FEDERER: Because those you should know. I mean, but not...
Q. But chatty‑wise?
ROGER FEDERER: Chatty‑wise, no, I don't recall. No. Chitchat, no. English breakfast tea? No, not yet.
Q. Are you a vodka drinker?
NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO: Yes.
Q. Is that where you get your strength from?
NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO: No, I don't drink really. I don't drink so much because, you see, I'm skinny. I mix only. Sometimes I drink clear vodka, sometimes mixed with Red Bull. Little bit get power in night club or disco.
Because if I drink only vodka I go sleep straight. That's what's something change.
Q. If you retire and you explain to your children why you're not working anymore...
NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO: It's interesting. We're not talking about tennis. We're talking about my life. This is my first experience like this in the press (laughter.)
Q. Can you tell us what they say when they sing in the crowd?
MARCOS BAGHDATIS: A lot of things: Marcos, I love you. I will never stop singing for you. Stuff like this.
[Photo(s): Getty, AP]
It seems these days post-match pressers involving Ana Ivanovic have become more sports therapy sessions than anything else - which she could probably use at this point.
After another early loss at a major this time succumbing to Gisela Dulko 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-4 in the second round of the Oz Open, the Serb was asked how she's been feeling about all of these setbacks. Like, A LOT.
Q. Seems like it's been the same story: you fight, try to improve, and you get in these matches and you're falling a little bit short.
ANA IVANOVIC: Yeah, I mean, it's a process. You know, it's hard. It hurts, I must say. For sure it will. But it's a process. I think I just have to be patient. It will take some time.
I do feel better on the court. I'm playing much better. I feel like my old self. There are still some areas that are not there for me to rely on when ‑‑ moments I need them the most. Some matches it's there, some not. I just have to sort of keep my head up and try to improve, work.
There are things I'm working on. Serve is a big part of that progress. I feel it's been going well at times, but it's just not consistent like I would like it to be. It just might just take some time, and I have to accept that, although it's hard.
Q. In some of the key moments, it seems like you're lacking confidence.
ANA IVANOVIC: Yeah, I was actually talking with my coach just before. What happens is that, you know, I start well and I play good, and then, you know, because I have no expectation, I just go out there to enjoy.
Then I think I can play like this all the time. Then I get tense and I start making mistakes because I want to play like that. Then I just want to go back to playing normal.
I just have to get rid of that a little bit and just try to play, yeah, consistent all the time. It might not be at the highest level, but just build on it.
Q. When you took three months off at the end of last year, how did you spend that time?
ANA IVANOVIC: Well, I had five weeks off. I don't remember the last time that happened. So it was really nice just to get my mind off, you know, everything. Because it's been quite intense, you know, period for me, and I didn't have much time off in between.
So to have that time off the court was really good. Spending also some time with the family and friends back in Belgrade, which was really nice. Then I start working on my fitness beginning of November already.
Then towards the end of November, I started to do tennis, as well; I did a block with Sven.
Q. What do you do this year to give yourself a break when you're away from tennis? How do you unwind and relax? Is there something different in your routine this year?
ANA IVANOVIC: Yeah, you know, I still have to find things that's gonna make me relax. I really like reading and watching movies.
Sometimes I spend too much time in the room; it's not good either. Just find something, go for a walk just to keep your mind off of tennis, you know, surround yourself with positive people.
Q. Is it still fun, or are there days when it's stressful and you feel like you're suffering?
ANA IVANOVIC: Yeah, I mean, I do. Yeah, that consumes a lot of energy, too. That's something ‑‑ you know, I think I'm very happy and I feel I have the right things in place and I'm playing, like I said, striking the ball really well.
That's why it's disappointing when I get on a court and I put so much pressure on myself that it's not enjoyable anymore, it's overwhelming. That's why I think it's important, yeah, to get away from it a little bit and just enjoy.
Well I guess these are the kind of media sessions you're going to get when your game has completely deserted you and you don't have any answers to give.
For what it's worth, I'm feeling better about myself already.