Google Down the Line!: 2010-09-12


Saturday, September 18, 2010

VIDEO VAULT: Table for two

Click here to watch the video

Venus Williams sits down with acclaimed chef Marcus Samuelsson, co-owner of Aquavit here in New York and contributor to her NYT bestseller "Come to Win," and stuffs her mug while talking a little bit of tennis and a lot a bit of food, music and design.

The 7-time Grand Slammer also lets us in on where she goes for some celebratory eats after a big win. Here's a hint: BEWARE THE CREEPY CLOWN.

[Via: MarcusSamuelsson.com]
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Friday, September 17, 2010

PHOTO OP: Ball busting

"It's large and in charge baby."

C'mon guys. I know that's a ball in Viktor Troicki's pocket but can't you just let me imagine the possibilities?

Sheesh.

[Photo(s): AFP PHOTO / Andrej ISAKOVIC]
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Djokovic shows his loyalty in sickness and in health


A surprise to probably no one, Novak Djokovic, who admitted this week he was exhausted from his US Open campaign where he reached the final, was forced to pull out of his opening round Davis Cup rubber against Radek Stepanek with a stomach flu. He'll be replaced by Victor Troicki when Serbia faces the Czech Republic for a spot in the Davis Cup final this weekend.

Huge credit to Nole for even making the trip and attempting to lead his team after Flushing Meadows. He could've pulled out but decided it more important to represent his country in such a huge moment. I'm not sure if he can recover or even be in decent shape in time to play his second rubber. But either way it shows a real commitment and dedication to his team. His awesomeness continues to grow in my opinion.

Visit the Davis Cup website to find out the latest scores.

[Photo(s): AP]
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

After his US Open win will Nadal grab the biggest piece of the pie?

And the kudos keep on coming in for Rafael Nadal.

The Mallorcan Matador has clinched the season-ending No. 1 ranking for the second time in his career according to the ATP World Tour after winning his first US Open title and completing the Career Slam over the weekend. He also owns this year's Roland Garros and Wimbledon championships and earned three consecutive Masters 1000 Series titles at Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid.

"It has been an incredible season - one of my best ever, if not the best," he said in a statement. "Winning the US Open together with Roland Garros and Wimbledon, as well as the three back-to-back (ATP World Tour) Masters 1000s in Europe, was not easy. I worked very hard to get back to the top and it feels really good to know I will end the year as No.1."

No kidding. And, as if that awesome news weren't enough an article out today by Bloomberg.com tips the 24-year old to surpass Roger Federer in endorsements by virtue of his achievements so far this year. In August, Fed topped Forbes magazine's list of tennis' top earners with an estimated $43 million in yearly earnings (includes prize money, endorsements, appearance fees, etc.) followed by Maria Sharapova with $24.5 million and  Rafa in third place with $21 million (third place never looked so nice, eh?)

That's a pretty huge leap to the front line but his management agency, IMG Worldwide Inc., is focused on ramping up his visibility here in the U.S. and aligning him with brands that speak to his values.

"Again he proved to everybody that he has no limits,” said Fernando Soler, head of the tennis division at IMG. “He is an amazing ambassador for any brand, and I think that it is our obligation now to target the U.S. market and deliver, for him.

There's so much more Rafa could be doing in the US market, but I think it'll take a little longer for him not because of his current grasp of the English language (though, like his game, it has improved dramatically over the years) but mostly because of his own desire to find the right balance between tennis, off-court demands and his personal life. I don't think he's interested or could necessarily handle the exposure and demand on his time that too many of these activities would require the way Fed has over the years. They're different breeds. He may opt for less opportunities so he can have more time at home in Mallorca with family and friends, a stated priority for him.

But, that being said, there's still a lot of room for Rafa to grow his 'brand' here even with any set limitations, and certainly with the win at Flushing Meadows the demand is there. And growing.

[Photos: Getty Images]

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VIDEO VAULT: Where's Ines Sainz when you need her?



We all know Novak Djokovic loves to sometimes show off his body (Exhibits A) and other times flash his tassel-covered niplets (Exhibit B.) So it comes as no surprise to see the sexy Serb doing push ups in his black unmentionables and taking questions draped in only a towel during a recent locker room interview. Seriously, there is a GAWD.

But next time I vote for Mexican correspondent Ines Sainz, who's embroiled in her own locker room controversy, to conduct the next interview. I'm sure we'd get the real measure of the man, and isn't that what we all really want to know?


If you prefer your Nole fully-clothed, which would make you either insane or a straight dude with a side of NOT curious, check out his model moment for sponsor Sergio Tacchini's Fall/Winter 2010 collection.





(via Tennis Served Fresh, ST photos via novakdjokovic.rs)
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

(UPDATED) MEDIA MASHUP: Nadal takes his turn on the New York media merry-go-round


Rafael Nadal did what Juan Martin del Potro did last year and what Roger Federer did the five times he won at Flushing Meadows: He hopped onto the New York media merry-go-round to meet with journalists, TV personalities and fans a day after capturing his first US Open championship and completing the Career Slam.

He made the requisite stop at Times Square with his new bestie and was joined by throngs of photogs, well-wishers and most of Team Nadal:


Afterward the 9-time Grand Slammer made his way to the Today Show to discuss the historic win and what more he'd like to accomplish:



Next up? Live with Regis & Kelly! Who knew Reg had a man-crush on Rafa? Join the club.



He also made a stop at Niketown in Midtown to take questions from John McEnroe and meet and greet more fans. (via @GVTennisNews)

Now, usually the winner makes a trip to the top of the Empire State Building for a photo op and also visits with Charlie Rose for some tennis talk. I'll update this post if and when the appearances occur.

UPDATE: First Fed, now Rafa. Blake Lively sure gets around.


[Photo(s): Getty Images]
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(UPDATED) MEDIA MASHUP: Nadal downs Djokovic, wins first US Open title to complete Career Slam


Rafael Nadal is the US Open men's champion.

The 24-year old defeated third seed Novak Djokovic 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to win his first title at Flushing Meadows and complete the Career Slam, only the seventh man in history to have achieved the feat and the youngest to do so in the Open Era. He also became the first man to win three consecutive major titles in a single year since Rod Laver won all four in 1969 to complete the Calendar Slam. Just amaze.

That's some pretty heavy history, and Rafa played like it mattered from the outset of this tourney. He gave himself the best chance to win here coming in healthy and adding a more potent serve to go along with his trademark forehand and athletic defense. Oh, and his net play was kinda good, too.

Moreover, the Spanish lefty's intensity and focus, which is usually very strong, was laser sharp from the first point of the tourney.  He was stingy with leads and didn't give up a set until Nole struck back and grabbed the second one today. When Rafa got on top, he wasn't letting go. And, he didn't until he won match point falling onto his back and rolling onto his stomach in celebration.

As I said on Twitter as the match was moving to its obvious, historic conclusion, it's remarkable to think only a few years ago he was labeled as a 'clay-court specialist' and now he holds all four majors - a sure sign of GREATNESS.

Rafole MOMA

Nole seemed to be playing better than ever after shocking Roger Federer in a classic semifinal on Saturday. He got off to a bad start, though, (bad like losing your opening service game of the match) and was never able to catch up. Eventually, it became one too many hurdles to climb and after getting broken early in the fourth the wheels came off. But the Serb was the only baller who took a set off the 9-time Grand Slammer and played him very tough so he should be feeling good about the direction of his game. Another Slam is surely right around the corner for Nole.

But, on this night, history was on Rafa's side. Congrats!


Check out SI.com's slideshow featuring each of his nine major championship runs. And, of course, Rafanatics should make sure to head over to NadalNews for Miri's coverage of her boy's big victory.

Here's video of the trophy ceremony:



Nike Tennis tribute:


And just one more for the road...


UPDATE #1: Here's an interesting quote from his post-match presser. There's always so much talk about his forehand and, during these two weeks, his serve but for Rafa a strong mentality and a willing to adapt are key. Read the full transcript here.

Q. You've achieved so much over these brief years starting maybe with the clay court streak and then winning in so many different circumstances. In the big picture, we sort of debate what are your greatest strengths. What do you think your greatest strengths are as a champion? Is it strokes or focus, willingness to make changes, attitude? What do you think are your two or three greatest strengths?

RAFAEL NADAL: What's my best thing? I think the mentality, attitude on court I think always was good for me. I am positive on court, and I fight all the time. But not the only thing. Positive attitude is not only fight on court. I think I was able to listen all the time to the coach and to have adjustments and to be ready to change things to be better and to improve. So probably that's was the best thing for me.


If we talk about the game, for sure for me I think the best thing that I have is my intensity on court, no? When I am playing well, the intensity always is high. The rhythm is high. Sometimes yes but not always I have easy winners or with one shot winner, but I can have winners after three, four shots having a great rhythm all the time, no? So the focus on court I think was -- that's similar, no, the rhythm and focus. I can, I think, play at the same rhythm and the same level long time. So that's what I think my best thing is.

UPDATE #2: Uncle Toni's reaction to his the historic win...
"Players said Rafa could never win on hardcourt because he played too much topspin, he's too physical. And now I believe there's not much that the players he plays against can argue with."

[Photo(s): Getty Images, Nike]
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Monday, September 13, 2010

PHOTO OP: On top of the rock

"Let's make this rock shot quick. Heels, people. Heels."

Standing taller than a skyscraper Kim Clijsters, dressed in Dries Van Noten, took a stroll over to Central Park (well, more like took a comfy ride in a blackened out SUV stalked by media) to grab a photo op with her new US Open ladies' trophy. She blasted Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 6-1 in Saturday's final to win her third title in Flushing Meadows and third career major.

The Belgian lady baller also made pit stops at The Early Show, Live with Regis & Kelly and CNN according to the WTA.



[Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images]
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Sunday, September 12, 2010

HE SAID/HE SAID: US Open Day Thirteen

Q. As somebody who's made plenty of history yourself, what are your thoughts on the opportunity that Rafa has to make history with a few straight slams and creating the career Slam?

ROGER FEDERER: Fantastic. It's great for tennis, and it's great for him at the young age, you know, he is to have that opportunity already.

I don't know when I had my first opportunity in Paris, how old I was, but my guess would be that he's younger, you know. It doesn't really matter if he's younger or not. It's a matter of can he make it, and chances are good now, especially that Novak is so tired and Rafa has been playing so well.

But it's exciting for tennis that we're doing something very special in tennis at the same time. Yeah, I won't watch, but I hope he wins. (Laughter.)

Q. […] on Novak, you've handled him well here before. Was he a different player in some ways today? Everybody in the crowd wanted him to go down because of the prospect of you and Rafa, and yet he held up under great pressure.

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, I was the favorite, so there was not that much pressure on him. But he played well under the circumstances, playing the semifinals of a slam.

Honestly, I think he played already well against me the last three times we played here in New York. So it was not like the guy can't play under pressure. He's proven his point, and time and time again. I knew he was gonna be a really tough opponent. The guys who overlooked him don't know anything about tennis, unfortunately.

Look, he played a good match. I kind of felt like the racquet was in my control, and I just let those couple of sets slip away too quickly instead of maybe making him work extra hard.
But, again, I did have match point, and I was, you know, a couple of points away, like I was a couple of points away from victory last year at the Open. So it's two tough losses in two years.
But anyhow, I feel like I played good tennis. That's positive, at least.

Q. How much of a shot do you think he has given...

ROGER FEDERER: I'm sorry? I didn't hear.

Q. You said Novak had a shot tomorrow. How much of a shot do you think he has given the Super Saturday, since you've been through this a lot, and the fatigue factor?

ROGER FEDERER: Ask him how he feels. Yeah, I mean, it's tough. We played second, so that's not an advantage.

I'm not gonna start saying bad things, but it's a tough setup, Saturday and Sunday finals, you know.
Yeah, we will see how he feels coming out tomorrow. It's a big question mark.

Q. Can you just walk us through what you think you'll do for the next few hours? I mean, do you have massage, ice bath, food?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. Popcorn, watching TV, relaxing. (Laughter.)

Yeah, I will do anything that comes up to your mind legally recovery wise. (Laughter.) I will do it. You know, I cannot go to the details too much.

Emotional recovery with my girlfriend, and a couple of things that I cannot talk about. (Laughter.)

It's not what you think. I know what you're thinking.

Q. When you were asked earlier about Rafa possibly becoming the greatest ever, and spoke quite reverently about his accomplishments and so forth. It's occurring to me that at 23 years of age, you yourself are somebody that there's a lot of great championships to be played. With a victory tomorrow, your name belongs in there, you know, in this conversation about Roger and Rafa. Roger himself said in the press conference that people that overlook you just don't know that much about tennis. Your thoughts on sort of all these questions.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, well, it's normal. There are two best players in the world at this moment. They are the two most dominant players in last five, six years, so it's logical that people talk about them mostly and they want to see them playing in the finals and everybody talks about their rivalry, their, you know, matchups, the greatness of each player.

It's normal. For me, I don't think I've done bad last three or four years. I don't think I've done bad with my achievements. But I am not, you know, kind of disappointed that people are not talking about me more. It's just waiting for my moment to come.

You know, I mean, I'm competing in an era of two, you know, great greats, two players winning most of the majors. It's not easy, if you know what I mean.

Q. It's true. But you're not 28, 29, you know, in the twilight of your career. You're 23. There's still so much tennis to be played.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Definitely, yeah, many, many more years to come. I look forward to it. I'm working hard on my game. I'm getting some things together, and hopefully on the court it's gonna pay off.

Q. When athletes win consistently and they reach the level you have, No. 1, they're very stubborn. They don't want to change anything. Why are you able to adapt and change things in your game even at the level you've reached?

RAFAEL NADAL: I think I changed the strings in the end of the season. So, yeah, you are in the top, but the things works very well, but can works better always and worse. But always you have a risk, and you have to -- I don't know. In English is not -- I am not inspired today. Only inspiration was on court. (Laughter.) Forget. (Laughter.)

Q. You've always been extremely hungry. You could have been the king of clay only, and you worked and worked to win Wimbledon. You could have done just that, and you worked and worked to do what you're doing on hard court. Does that hunger come from, I want to win everywhere, or is it just, I want to be the best I can be? Why is it you're always not satisfied?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, because I always thought I always can keep improving. That's why I am playing, to keep improving and to feel myself better player than before. I go to practice every day not to practice; I go to practice every day to try to learn something and to keep improving my level. I already won on hard, so that's not nothing new for me to win on this surface. But the conditions in every tournament are different, and I need to have more options to do to try to win against difficult players like today.

Like in the past, I had a lot of problems against Youzhny in the past, because I was playing before two meters behind the baseline or three meters behind the baseline, all the balls higher with topspin, and he had always the chance to come inside. Now I can change the rhythm. I can play a slice backhand. I can serve, win a little bit more free points with the serve, and I can play more close to the baseline.
So the position on court improved, the slice backhand improved, and it was important shot for me to stop the rhythm of that player. For sure the forehand always was good. The true, I think I am more close to the baseline now.

Q. Overall were you pretty happy with the last couple of weeks?

MIKHAIL YOUZHNY: Yeah, but right now, you lose the match you cannot be really happy. But actually it was good tournament for me.

Q. First of all, if you can elaborate on that a bit. I mean, you know, I guess it takes a little time to look back and reflect and say, Hey, I got to the semifinals of a Grand Slam. But is it almost that much more difficult? Because you were playing such good tennis coming in, and, you know, you start to think about maybe I can be a finalist here? Or can you look back and say, This was a great two weeks for me; I've played some great tennis?

MIKHAIL YOUZHNY: No, have to be realistic. Okay, how Rafa play today I don't have lot of chances to beat him, actually. So that's why if thinking like this one, I can start to think about, Oh, I can win Australia; but I pull out third round; I can win Wimbledon, but I lost second round. So anyway I try to be optimistic, and anyway it was a good two weeks for me.

Q. Do you feel in a way today you might have beaten yourself as opposed to Rafa beating you? Is there a bit of that?

MIKHAIL YOUZHNY: I feel I play really good one game at 4 3, first set, like was lot of emotions. But if I can play like this on every game against Rafa, maybe it's not for sure maybe I can get chance to win. But I don't have so much emotion like I have this game, so I can like sometimes wake up for some points or some games, but I cannot be consistent for all match.

Q. I think you said in your last press conference that you're hoping to be the bad guy.

MIKHAIL YOUZHNY: What?

Q. You were hoping to be the bad guy or the bad person. That didn't happen.

MIKHAIL YOUZHNY: Anyway you have to be nice.

[Photo(s): Getty Images]
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PHOTO OP: Clijsters continues her love affair with New York


Sometimes in tennis, the play between two ballers can be a beautiful battle of wills and ethereal shot making where the victor is determined by a few pivotal moments in a match as it was in the second men's semifinal yesterday. And, sometimes, it's a bloodbath.

Kim Clijsters absolutely demolished Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 6-1 last night to win her third US Open crown and third career major. The Belgian lady baller, who seemed to be zoning at times, was in pristine form seeing the ball big and controlling the match from start to finish. She managed to avenge her two losses to Bepa this summer in the 59 minute rout by serving well (77% first serve, 1 ace) and moving fluidly throughout the entire match suffocating the Russian with her defense and forcing her to go for too much on her shots. The 27-year old ended with 17 winners/15 UEs, made 10 of 14 net play and converted on 4 of 5 break point chances.


Kimmie's ground attack, most notably her blistering forehand, was a model of controlled aggression. The second seed consistently hit deep, pinning Bepa behind the baseline, and utilized angled backhand drives to open up the court for her forehand. A pretty simple strategy that was executed to perfection.

Sadly for Bepa it was her second consecutive loss at the final gate of a major. After staying close during the opening moments of the match her frustration began to grow due to her inability to make any impression on Kimmie's game. Her serve, which was a key to her win against top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals, was a non-factor winning only 48% of the time when she threw down a first ball and 38% on the second deliveries. Once Prince was put to pasture (he never stood a chance against the DecoTurf court) it was all but done.

Hopefully, Bepa will remember it sometimes takes a few opportunities to get used to the enormity of the moment and to land that maiden Slam. And she need look no further for proof than Kimmie, who suffered four tough defeats in finals before finally breaking through. It may not be the beginning but it surely ain't the end.

More images from the Belgian's win below!






[Photo(s): Getty Images]
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