Google Down the Line!: 2011-05-15

Saturday, May 21, 2011

+ NETCORDS: Quick hits from around the grounds

- It was Les Enfants de Roland-Garros a.k.a Kids' Day at Roland Garros today. Weeee! Shockingly (not), Novak Djokovic stepped in for Bob Sinclar and hit the decks with DJ Big Ali in Philippe Chatrier Stadium. And he doesn't look one inch out of place. I see a post-tennis career in the making. Don't you? More shots from Kids' Day here and video here.

- Speaking of Nole (and who isn't - right Johnny Mac?) you must check out this awesome story by SI's S.L. Price on the Serb and his move towards history this fortnight.

- Tom Perrotta interviewed the head of the USTA baller development program, Patrick McEnroe, and Jose Higueras, the USTA's director of coaching, on the challenges facing U.S. tennis and what steps they're taking to overcome them - namely getting the ballers to be more proficient on the clay. "You can't predict the future, technology, whatever," PMac said. "But the way the game is going, it would be very surprising if we went back to some kind of bang-bang tennis. One-shot tennis is dead."

- Make sure to check out the Roland Garros Twitvid page. It's chalk full of quick but super fun footage of practice sessions, interviews and other action you don't normally get to see. Insidery, if you will.

- Marty's got Maria's back: "There is no real reason, though, why Sharapova, whose victory in the Italian Open in Rome came against last year’s French Open runner-up Sam Stosur, cannot also win this year’s title at Roland Garros."

- Bethanie Mattek-Sands is at it again. No, it's not her on-court fashions. Yet. She's blogging for USA Today again.

- Bear Grylls grabbed a hit with Andre Agassi and apparently held his own. Um, yeah.

- Christopher Clarey of The New York Times interviewed Bjorn Borg and grabbed a money quote: "I always have said that records are meant to be beat, not only in tennis but in all sports. I wish Rafa the best of luck. It would be great to see him win the sixth time or seven or eight times." You should also check out his other piece. It's 20 years in the making.

- Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, and Venus Williams all made the 2011 Forbes Celebrity 100 list. Translation: How to Make Bank and Influence People.

- Mary Carillo, who is now with the Tennis Channel as a broadcaster and analyst, not only enjoys being in front of the camera but also behind the scenes as she explained in a conference call this past week for Roland Garros:
I love the sport of tennis, but I also really like the sport of television. I like a lot of different parts of it. I like pre-production. I like post-production. I like live. I like editing. I like writing. I have written a couple of documentaries. I am really hoping that if this goes well, I get to hang around and do all kinds of things for Tennis Channel.
So I guess it should come as no surprise that one of the reasons for her departure from ESPN late last year may have been due to differences in opinion with regards to the production of their telecasts. Here's Mary in an excerpt from ESPN Book:
ESPN is very graphics oriented, and [it] was explained to me – because I was having a hard time watching the screen get smaller and smaller – that all the wizardry is there because there’s a lot of places where the sound is off. ESPN is shown in bars or people have it on in the background. They’re watching out of the corner of their eye...So they want to give them a lot of graphics. I got some really big issues with that.
While we're on the subject of Tennis Channel here's a look at their promo spot for Roland Garros. And don't forget: TC will be streaming matches LIVE on their website starting tomorrow at 5 AM EST and showcasing matches in 3-D for fans with AT&T U-verse®, Comcast or DIRECTV during Memorial Day Weekend. CHECK IT:

- TOTALLY OFF-TOPIC: Darren Criss and all his adorkableness for GQ; Bert sans Ernie meets Andy Samberg and all hell breaks loose (not really); Hunger Games' Jennifer Lawrence takes Elle in Miu Miu; RIP Macho Man; it's a boy for Oscar winner Marion Cotillard; Bane from The Dark Knight Rises is revealed; Messi the genius; "Stand by your man..."

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VANtage Point: Bonjour y'all, it's Roland Garros time!

Hey, it’s Van, returning to the scene of VANtage Point’s greatest triumph…

It was a year ago when the staff at VP (that being me, Van) made one of the boldest calls in bloggers-blogging-about-tennis history with the selection of Francesca Schiavone as a finalist at the 2010 French Open. I’m officially retiring any more mention of that choice since it’s all I’ve talked about for the past 12 months (“Sir, can I take your order?”/”Sure, I’ll have a burger and fries, and oh, did you know I picked Schiavone for the French finals last year?”)

In other words, let’s move on starting with …

This Week’s Spotlight: It’s upon us - no, not the Rapture - rather, the second major of the year, the French Open. And there are plenty of storylines going into this year’s event.

For instance, how about that Novak Djokovic fellow? He’s been playing pretty well lately, huh? (And for my next obvious statement: WATER IS WET.) Rafael Nadal’s been swept up in the Djokovic win streak this year. Can he turn the tables on his new rival? What about Nadal’s old rival, Roger Federer? Is there still something left in the tank?

As for the women, there’s Caroline Wozniacki’s quest for that elusive first Grand Slam title. Will it happen here? Or is it Maria Sharapova’s time? All that talk about players and their particular storylines makes for a nice segue into ...

Players to Watch: All eyes are on Djokovic, which is how it should be when someone’s on a near historic run like he is. I think he’s going to do just fine at this tournament. There's also Nicolas Almagro, a player poised for a major breakthrough. If you were to poll the men on who no one wants to play early on, after Djokovic and Nadal, the next likely man would be Juan Martin del Potro. Something has to give if he meets Djokovic in the third round.

On the women's side, watch out for defending champ Schiavone, who will surprise a lot of folks again. The other shock finalist from 2010, Sam Stosur, could have another nice run here. But you know who can really shake things up, provided her body holds up? Victoria Azarenka. She should take her place among …

The Final Fours: For the men, I think it will be Nadal over his countryman Almagro, then Djokovic topping Federer. On the women’s side, it’ll be Stosur (who I like to upset Wozniacki in the quarters) turning the tables on Schiavone and Azarenka topping Sharapova. And let’s keep it clean Vicki: no potty mouth!

And the Winners Are … : Unbelievable, historic, whatever you want to call it: I just don’t see anyone topping Djoko this tournament. And it’s Azarenka’s time. She seems to have the fire and game to join the Grand Slam-winning elite.

So get ready for an exciting tournament, folks. Au revoir!

Van Sias writes the blog Tennis Talk, Anyone? Follow him on Twitter @ttanyone and Facebook here.

[Photo(s): Getty Images]
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Friday, May 20, 2011


 - Andy Murray giving a bit of ribbing to The Times' preeminent tennis scribe Neil Harman for mistakenly tweeting he would "miss Roland Garros" due to injury


By the tone of his tweet I'd say Muzz is in pretty good spirits ahead of Roland Garros. The Brit baller even tamed his hairy situation just for the occasion:

Niiiice. You know what? He should be feeling good and here's why: Muzz came the closest to defeating Novak Djokovic during the clay court swing and he landed in a pretty favorable quarter of the draw. So rib on, Muzz. Rib. On.

[Photo(s): Getty Images]
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FASHION FIX: It's a tee off!

Even though I'd prefer to have my ballers shirtless during their practice sessions, there is one reason to have them clothed: THE PRACTICE TEE.

Shots of Ana Ivanovic, Gilles Simon, Rafael Nadal, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova and Stanislas Wawrinka in their baller best at Roland Garros after the jump - click the head.

POLL: Who's getting served an 'UPSET SPECIAL'?

Just a quick note y'all: I set up two polls - one for the boys and another for the ladies - in the right side bar listing out some of the highly intriguing first round match ups at this year's Roland Garros. The tennis draw GAWDS were not kind to some of the top ballers. And, as we know, everyone gets the jitters in the first round of a Grand Slam. Everyone. No one is safe.


Oh, right, so go vote. Pretty please?

P.S. - If you don't see your UPSET SPECIAL listed then let me know which one you're eyeballing. Color me curious, that's all.

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RICHARD'S RANKINGS: All eyes on Roland Garros

Roland Garros
ATP World Tour, WTA tour: Grand Slam
Defending champions: Rafael Nadal, Francesca Schiavone

Everyone wants to know what might happen during the French Open in the men's rankings. I've pored over the numbers so let me get this out of the way: If the “on fire” (can we even call it that anymore?) Novak Djokovic makes the final against anyone, including Rafael Nadal, he will secure the No. 1 ranking, whether he wins the title or not. This calculation diminishes their potential match-up a little bit, but the numbers don't lie. So why is it possible? Well, Nadal has 2,000 points to defend compared to 360 for Djokovic. Simple as that.

Moving on in the men's rankings, no matter what happens above or below him, Roger Federer will end the French Open as the No. 3 player in the world. However, if he is bounced in the first round and Andy Murray wins the entire tournament, only 35 points would separate them afterward. The most movement is likely in the 4th – 7th ranking spots, which represents Murray, Robin Soderling, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer, respectively. For instance, if Murray is bounced in the first round and David Ferrer wins the whole tournament, he would leap into Murray's No. 4 spot. That's how close they are. The player who could take a big fall is Robin Soderling. He is currently at No. 5, but with 1,200 points to defend as last year’s finalist, he is in real danger of slipping out of the top eight.

For the women, there is a slight chance they could see a new World No. 1 in Paris. Caroline Wozniacki can hold the spot if: 1) she wins Brussels and reaches the RG quarterfinals 2) loses Brussels but reaches the semifinals in Paris. In any case, Kim Clijsters would need to win the title to have any shot of overtaking her. Vera Zvonereva will at least hold her No. 3 ranking; but, with a little luck, she could take back the No. 2 spot from Clijsters if the Belgian is out before the quarterfinals and Zvonareva reaches the final four.

Just like on the men's side, the 4th – 7th ranking spots, which includes (in descending order) Victoria Azarenka, defending champ Francesca Schiavone, Li Na and Maria Sharapova, could see a huge shakeup and it all begins with Schiavone. With her 2,000 points to defend, she could see a landslide out of the the top echelon if things go poorly in Paris; and Li, who currently sits less than 300 points behind her, has only 160 points to defend and would be the one most likely to move up. With her win in Rome, Sharapova brought herself into the No. 7 position and could strike as high as No. 4 if she were to win the title.

Needless to say, there are a lot of possibilities so enjoy the ride. If Paris has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.

About Richard: A life-long tennis fan, Richard offers thoughts on rankings for both the ATP and WTA. He runs a tennis blog, The Let Tennis, and is the author of two books, including his latest, Anything is Possible. You can visit his website at

(CORRECTION: A correction was made to the chances of Caroline Wozniacki holding her No. 1 ranking. Initially, we stated there was no chance of her losing the top spot. But after recalculating the points totals there is a small window for Kim Clijsters to take it.)

[Photo(s): Getty Images]
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

VIDEO VAULT: (Wo)man or machine?

Boy. Not only does Beyoncé have ridic moves (seriously, how do her arms not snap off that body?) but she's got great timing to boot. She may not be human.

Anyway, here are a few things I learned today: 1) Andy Roddick pulled out today with the recurring shoulder injury along with former champ Juan Carlos Ferrero 2) Yanina Wickmayer may be dealing with a serious back injury after retiring in tears from her match in Brussels 3) Novak Djokovic is fucking everywhere.

And tomorrow we finally arrive at the official draw ceremony for Roland Garros! I don't know about you but I'm starting to feel those familiar jitters building in the pit of my stomach. Like butterflies on crack or Beyoncé dancing. SOMEBODY HOLD ME.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

I just play to have fun, play my best tennis, take pleasure from the fight [in a match] and that’s it. I want to be spontaneous and not have any outside influence. I just want to be me, so I don’t have any regrets.

- Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on being coachless

I guess only time will tell, but most ballers at some point realize they need a coach. And I don't think Jo-Willy will be the exception. But I'm sure he's enjoying having the freedom to make his own choices and answer only to himself. Let's hope he can stay healthy, do some winning and get back on track.

[Photo(s): Francisco Leong /AFP/Getty Images]
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PHOTO OP: Djokovic does Vogue

Perhaps Anna Wintour preferred Novak Djokovic in a speedo over Roger Federer. Good call.

One more shot of Nole after the jump.


PHOTO OP: The shoes (un)make the man

"Those shoes. Here. Really?!"
Based on my in-depth analysis with Twitter friend and uber-knowledgeable tennis fiend @Ataraxis00, I've come to the conclusion that this image of Rafael Nadal and Tio Toni has everything to do with shoes. More specifically, the ones Tio is wearing. I'm with Rafa. What are they and why is hear wearing them at all???

What do you guys think is happening in this shot? Feel free to let your thoughts be known in the DtL Peanut Gallery.

More shots of Rafa practicing at Roland Garros after the jump. You know what to do.

PHOTO OP: Poolside play

So, can you guess the identity of the soaking wet chorizo with the chiseled abs? If you can't, don't worry. Here's a clue: He and a few of his shirtless friends took part in a fun and frolicky photoshoot for Glamour España Magazine. Still stumped? Then lick, er, click the head to see the big reveal after the jump. Oops, my bad.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

News of Note

True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard covers the June issue of GQ really, really Philip Roth won the Man Booker International Prize but it wasn't unanimous, to say the least...Pippa Middleton's infamous ass-ets inspired a Facebook page and now we know how...Newt Gingrich gets GLITTER BOMBED (sadly it wasn't JJ)...ladies, keep your weaves and real hair on lockdown...Mrs. A-Rod pulls out her best Britney for charity...Ronald McDonald under attack...speaking of overly made up characters, Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way' was released today...Netflix is taking over the internets and making us pay for it...'Oz: The Great and Powerful', the prequel to the iconic and legendary 'The Wizard of Oz', has found its cast. DYING.

[Photo(s): GQ]
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(Ladies, gentlemen and those living in the muddy middle I give you Fierce Tennis' own Bárbara Galiza...take it away, girl.)

How do I begin to explain Victoria Azarenka? She’s flawless. She’s never punched me in the face, but she has been accused of calling other opponents ‘fucking bitches’. And she does WTA commercials in Belarus. Okay, maybe that’s enough to describe her, sure.

If you follow tennis (if not, what are you doing here...oh, you’re here for the hot boys...huh...just skip this post then) you know Azarenka has the lovely personality of a time bomb. If you need that extra spice in your life and you think a drug habit is too expensive to maintain, being a Victoria Azarenka fan is a good option. It’s fun, really. Being a fan of her means you’ll be equally surprised if she loses first round to a qualifier or takes the title without losing a set. It’s a gamble without the risk of losing your car.

Azarenka is going to Roland Garros as one of the top favorites. I mean, at least that’s what I’ve heard the serious journalists on Twitter say. Killer backhand!!! Regular groundstrokes!!! Moves into attack effortlessly!!!! Adorable dimple!!!! Wait, no, the last one was me. Sorry.

Last year during the clay season, Azarenka nurtured a leg injury and had, well, less than average results. In Paris, she fell first round to Gisela Dulko in straights. She only accumulated 211 points during that span (she has a total of 5425 points currently). As a blind, delusional fan, I totally think she can be a threat on the Parisian clay - she has the tennis. If I'm being honest, though, it’s not that special head of hers that worries me. It’s her luck. For me, Azarenka lacks the luck. Badly.

She’s had a few absurdly stupid things happen in crucial moments of her career. In 2009’s Australian Open, she was up a set on Serena Williams when she had to retire. The cause? Ate something bad and nearly fainted. Last year, at the U.S. Open, she retired again – after actually fainting. In the warm-up, she fell while running on the treadmill and hit her head. Sense a pattern? Bad luck and likes fainting.

She’s in great form right now and can actually beat anyone when she’s “on”. In 2009’s Roland Garros, when Dinara was playing the tennis of her life – before that mess of a final – Azarenka showed what she could do on clay. She didn’t win, but she played one of those flawless sets (one unforced error only) where she pounded and pounded the ball – and it still landed inside the court.

Azarenka has said herself she's matured. She tries not to take herself too seriously on court. I still think she can improve on it. You need to be a perfectionist in every sport, but a line needs to be drawn where you don’t go insane after every mistake. If she can truly get past errors, keep her head in the right place and not get injured then she can do this.

The field in Paris is dismantled: The Williams sisters are out, Kim Clijsters is injured and last year’s finalists - champ Francesca Schiavone and Sam Stosur - aren’t playing well. But there are still a lot of worthy opponents and players that should be considered favorites before Azarenka. Do you want to ask Maria Sharapova how much she wants to complete a Career Slam or how much longer Caroline Wozniacki wishes to be a Slam-less number one? This isn't just any tournament - it’s a major. There are 128 players in the draw and Azarenka is just one of them. All other 127 want just as much to lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen trophy.

Last week, she injured her wrist in the Rome quarterfinals (it doesn’t seem to be very serious) and has less than a week to get healthy and give it her all at Roland Garros. She can do damage on clay and owns the tennis to conquer a Grand Slam. Is it going to be in the next two weeks? Well, I don’t have a fucking crystal ball, do I? But if I had to bet, I’d go with the Russian giant. Sports never go my way.

Bárbara Galiza writes the blog Fierce Tennis.

[Photo(s): Getty Images]
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VIDEO VAULT: Bethanie Mattek-Sands gets the Gaga treatment - should we be scared?

Let's be honest. I know I've been a little bit tough on Bethanie Mattek-Sands and her ideas of fashion over the years (Exhibits A, B, C, D, E, F). Fine, a lot a bit.

But I'm being completely genuine when I say I cannot wait to see what over-the-top insanity she'll be wearing after Alex Noble, a fashion designer who has worked with Lady Gaga, gets through with her. Apparently, this dress will involve tennis balls and strings. Does that mean she'll be carried out for her first round match at Roland Garros inside a tennis store? Hey, if Gaga can arrive in an egg for the Grammys then anything is possible.

*waits with bated breath*

[Via: WTA]
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

SIGHTING: Nolena hit the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival

Novak Djokovic, who hit the catwalk last night for charity, and his girl Jelena Ristic went full-on glamour as they walked the red carpet at the Palais des Festivals during the Cannes Film Festival today. They were attending the premiere of 'The Beaver', a film directed by and starring Jodie Foster along with Mel Gibson. I'm not even going to touch that because I usually don't. Touch that.

Three more shots of Nolena after the jump - click the head.

+ NETCORDS: Quick hits from around the grounds

- Credit Suisse has released the official commercial for their international image campaign I previewed last month starring a soaking wet Roger Federer and shot by Jordan Scott.

- Maria Sharapova is interviewed in the June edition of O Magazine in a feature called 'My Best Life'. Apparently she discusses the joys of karaoke. Can someone please get her in the French Open karaoke box please? I'm sure it'll be an instant classic.

 - Andy Roddick ain't happy with the ATP. He and doubs partner Mardy Fish were docked $42,800 - the prize money they made for reaching the final in Rome - after the former U.S. Open champ pulled out with an injured shoulder. Here's a bit of what he said about the incident: "We're going to have to beg for the money we've earned. Why should Mardy be punished when I can't play? Mardy has played the (semifinal) match, he won the match, he earned the money, you can't take away something he has already done. This is embarrassing for the tour."

 - Looking for Marat Safin fix? Well, you're not alone - believe me. So here you go: The sexy Russian is interviewed and featured in a pretty good looking photo spread for the May 2011 issue of InStyle Russia. Did I mention I drool for a SexGawd in stripes? I do, it's true.

- While we're on the topic of Safin, little sister Dinara has put her tennis career on hold indefinitely to deal with her never-ending injury issues. Sad news for the former top lady baller. Be well.

- Double OMG. Feliciano Lopez was caught in the act! And then he wasn't. WHATEVAH pretty boy.

- As we all know, Serena Williams isn't competing next week at Roland Garros due to her continued recovery from the pulmonary embolism she suffered recently. Her absence will def be a blow to the fashion meter at the tourney. But FEAR NOT! Here's a look at what she would've worn has she made it to Paris. Click here to check out what a few of the other Nike ballers will be wearing.

- Tennis Channel will be streaming French Open matches live and on-demand again this year via their website. Those fans with AT&T U-verse®, Comcast or DIRECTV will have the added bonus of viewing matches from Philippe Chatrier Court in 3-D during Memorial Day Weekend, May 28-30. Love it.

- Never one to shy away from ANY spotlight the undefeated Novak Djokovic hit the catwalk at the Cannes Film Festival's Fashion for Relief benefiting Japan. Not sure who he's wearing but I've seen him in better outfits on a runway. Check out the pics here and some video footage here. (Thanks for the tip OnTheGoTennis!)

- Vienna tourney Tennis Trophy has lost its main sponsor, Bank Austria. TD Herwig Straka is hoping to announce a new main sponsor shortly. The CEO of Bank Austria explained the decision saying the tourney venue announced a sponsorship deal with their main rival.

- For all of you who are lucky enough to be in Paris this week: Rafael Nadal will be making an appearance at the Nike store on the Champs-Elysées this Friday. Get it, peeps. BONUS: Here's a Babolat print spot featuring Rafa, A-Rod and Kim Clijsters from the latest issue of TENNIS.

- Kei Nishikori will be ready for Roland Garros. The Japanese baller had to forfeit his opening round match in Rome last week after suffering from kidney stones. Via his FB page: Hi everyone, just wanted to give you a little update. I went back to Japan to get a second opinion from a Japanese doctor last Saturday. After some examinations and more treatment from the doctors here in Tokyo, I am feeling better and I am ready to play the French Open. Had my first practice today in Tokyo and I am leaving Japan tomorrow to join my coaching team in Paris and start preparing for the French Open.

- Tomas Berdych + Marcos Baghdatis take to the streets of Nice.

- I'd like to wish all the best to Ken Rosewall who was hospitalized after becoming ill during the Rome Masters last week. Though the exact cause is unclear, the Australian media was reporting the tennis legend may have suffered a stroke.

- TOTALLY OFF-TOPIC: Arnold Schwarzenegger had another baby mama; Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld is the new face of Miu Miu; stateside The X Factor is ramping up(front); Steven Tyler tried to go gay while an NBA exec has come out all the way; so what's with this Bamboo Ceiling?; the trailer for "X-Men: First Class" fucking rocks; and since it's Frenchie time here's a last little tid bit: First Lady Carla Bruni may be preggers. BOOM.

[Photo(s): TENNIS, InStyle Russia, Credit Suisse]
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Monday, May 16, 2011

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Kim Clijsters

The advantage is that I still have the spirit of the past Grand Slam tournaments. If I play well, I can win. Attitude is very important, even though the situation is physically very different.

- Kim Clijsters announcing her participation at Roland Garros this year

She knows who she's up against. But, ever better, she knows what damage she can do.

Preach, Kimmie.

[Photo(s): Al Bello/Getty Images]
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VIDEO VAULT: Roland Garros Nike preview for Nadal, Federer and Sharapova

Nike Tennis recently released videos featuring Creative Director Janice Lucena and Footwear Development Director Gary McCourt discussing the inspiration and design for the kits Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova will be wearing during their Roland Garros campaigns. I'll have a review, including links for "where to buy", once play begins since you can never tell how the duds will fit until they're actually on the ballers.

In the meantime, enjoy these sneak peeks!


Baller: Rafael Nadal
Inspiration: Earth (derived from the four elements of air, fire, earth, water)

Baller: Roger Federer
Inspiration: Speed, racing

Baller: Maria Sharapova
Inspiration: Paris, The Eiffel Tower


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Rick James meets Down the Line! I don't know about you but I think it's about damn time.

It really is the only descriptor left for Novak Djokovic: SUPER FREAK. How else do you explain what he has done during the first half of the 2011 season? After his grueling three set bout against Andy Murray in the semifinals he came back the next day and defeated Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-4 for a fourth straight time to grab the Rome Masters crown; he raised his opening season winning streak to 37 matches (39 counting last season) in the process. As a bonus, he's the only baller to defeat Rafael Nadal + Roger Federer three straight times in a single season.

After doing my RAFOLE PREP before the match I thought about Nole's chances for pulling off the win yesterday. I knew mentally he would be around but how would he fare physically after the Muzz match? It's a lot to ask of any baller to play an epic battle the night before and come back and win the final, particularly when faced with Rafa on dirt. But as he's done all year the Serb came with full game face on and went to work, cracking his cross court backhand with murderous intent and defending like, er, Rafa 2.0 or something. He always seemed one step ahead in the points and, even if he wasn't, he fought his way to the fore. Nole may have been done up like a baller going to the beach with his technicolor Tacchini (much prefer the white over that black version BTW) but he wasn't there to relax. The World No. 2 was there to win. And he did, falling to the dirt in ecstatic victory.

Nole now brings this winning streak and shit load of confidence to Roland Garros. Rafa, in typical style, is already handing over the title of FAVORITE and all that comes with the role (read: pressure) to Nole. We all know what a mind game tennis can become so this news comes as no surprise. All I know is when you're dealing with a SUPER FREAK you never know what you're gonna get. So buckle up bitches. It's about to get interesting.

If you took Maria Sharapova out of the tennis court, or the world of sports for that matter, and plopped her into a college classroom or cubicle she might just stand out. Oh, something about being a freakishly tall blonde bomber who has an affinity for heels and high fashion. Not your typical 24-year old. But in between the lines she puts these qualities to use exacting precision and power over opponents all while looking like she might hit the brunch buffet at the club afterward. And in Rome it was no different.

Shrieka won her first title since Strasbourg last season dismantling Sam Stosur 6-2, 6-4 in the final. The 3-time Grand Slammer found vintage form (and I'm not talking the "cow on ice" eating dirt) during her semifinal defeat of top seed Caroline Wozniacki and brought it to her match against the Aussie hitting with the pace, depth and consistency we haven't seen in years. Her cross court forehand, in particular the running kind, was used to devastating effect. Her serve held steady in the tight moments and her returns were also on point negating any advantage Sammy usually gets on her potent kick serve. She walked to the trophy stage without having surrendered a single set all week.

So does this win, her biggest on the slippery stuff, mean she's a favorite heading into Roland Garros? Fuck yeah. I mean, Shrieka's not the top choice but she's certainly in the mix especially when you consider the current field. She even managed wins over Wozzi + Sammy in Rome, two lady ballers who most certainly are in the running as potential winners, and kept her groundies under control while still going for her shots. It's a potent mix that has won her majors in the past. And now Shrieka believes she's back and can play against these other lady ballers on clay and win big. "This is just the beginning of many things to come. This is just the start of everything," said the Rome winner. ZOIKS!

Besides, she has the best fist-pumping cheerleader ever seen in a baller box:

With all that going for her I, for one, would not count her out. Would you?

[Photo(s): Clive Brunskill/Getty Images, AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO]
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