Google Down the Line!: 2011-05-29

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Falling Forward

This fortnight in Paris much of the talk surrounded around these new-fangled Babolat balls: they’re harder, they play faster, and they’re a bit punchier (now that’s a ball I could get with). Inevitably, this led to discussions about the democratization, if you will, of the court surfaces. Hard courts and grass are slowing down while the clay is getting sped up, the days of the “specialist” are over and on and on. So, as I thought about the ladies’ final pitting the powerful Li Na against the crafty Francesca Schiavone it occurred to me that this match could have the future written all over it. Would the old-school stylings of the Italian survive the clean, flat ball striking of this new-school clay court tennis? If Li’s 6-4, 7-6 (0) win is any indication, the future is now.

There aren’t many like Fran left in the ladies’ game especially with the likes of Justine Henin retired again. And with the red clay playing more like a hard court now those ballers with their slices and spins could find it a difficult place to make their magic (incidentally, with all the sliding on hard courts maybe we should’ve seen this coming). During the final you could see Fran struggling to produce her long-flowing strokes; she barely had time to set up at times with a Li return or groundie approaching mach 80.

But the Chinese baller wasn’t going to win on hard court tennis alone. In fact, she showed off her clay court stride, sliding into short balls, out to wide balls and onto her ass after match point like she had grown up on the stuff. Even she admitted people might have to start seeing her in a different way after defeating Victoria Azarenka to reach the final four:
"After I won the match, I was feeling, 'Wow! I can play in the semis at Roland Garros'. I never thought about that before. So many people think I'm not so good on a clay court, but I think now they should change their minds a little bit."
Uh, I think they already have, girl.

So, yes, the future. We won’t know if this new-school clay style is only of this moment or a benchmark for future Roland Garros champs. It’s a wait-and-see kinda deal. But this 29-year old wisecracking Chinese rebel, and not a wide-eyed, fresh faced prodigy, is almost certainly the embodiment of the future. Li, with the Couple Suzanne Lenglen by her side, has surely given hope to girls (and perhaps boys) around the world who may see their future in her eyes. It’s something very personal for me being of Asian descent. I knew watching her fall on her back in obvious and well-deserved ecstasy after earning her first Grand Slam title that it was, is and will be possible.

Check out Nike's tribute to the newly crowned Roland Garros champ after the jump.

Friday, June 3, 2011

PHOTO OP: Serena does a body (really) good

I only have a couple of comments about this pic Serena Williams tweeted today:

1. I miss you, girl

2. DAYUM, where can I get me those abs?! Must I drink Gatorade to do it?!!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled Roland Garros viewing...

[Photo(s): Serena Williams tweet]
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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Getting to know the Roland Garros men's final four

Yesterday, we got a chance to know the final four ladies a little bit better. Now it's time for the boys. The top four seeds fought their way to the penultimate match at Roland Garros and ensured we'd get some epicness this fortnight. The top half features Rafael Nadal taking on Andy Murray while the bottom half pits Novak Djokovic against Roger Federer. C'mon, let's take a peek...

NAME: Rafael Nadal
AGE: 24
BIRTH PLACE: Manacor, Mallorca, Spain
RESIDENCE: Manacor, Mallorca, Spain
This Spanish southpaw is the 5-time defending champ and has lost only one match on the red clay of Paris in his career. He enjoys long walks along the beaches of his beloved Mallorca with his girlfriend, Xisca Perello, fishing, competing against his boys on Playstation while in their undies and playing down any and all talk of him winning anything. EVAH.

NAME: Andy Murray
AGE: 24
BIRTH PLACE: Dunblane, Scotland
RESIDENCE: London, England and some place in Miami, FL
This Brit baller is gunning to reach his first final at Roland Garros and fourth overall. He’s been known to stretch out his jaw and stick out his tongue (see pic) all weirdly during matches, vacay with Blackberry and his girl, Kim Sears, and, like Rafa, play with his joystick. A LOT.

NAME: Roger Federer
AGE: 29
BIRTH PLACE: Basel, Switzerland
RESIDENCE: Bottmingen, Switzerland and Dubai, too
The 16-time Grand Slammer is going for his second title in the City of Light. This husband and father of two enjoys hanging out with his celeb friends such as Gavin Rossdale, Gwen Stefani, and Anna Wintour, monogramming anything he can get his Swiss hands on and swimming while fully clothed (I suppose I would too if I got paid big bucks to do it).

NAME: Novak Djokovic
AGE: 24
BIRTH PLACE: Belgrade, Serbia
RESIDENCE: Monte Carlo, Monaco
This Serb is undefeated in 2011 and is going for his second consecutive major in Paris and third overall. Never one to by shy, he enjoys wearing speedos while walking down runways or being shot for a magazine story, playing tennis on the wings of a plane and swapping spit with his girlfriend, Jelena Ristic, on some of the world’s most glamorous red carpets.

Good luck boys!

[Photo(s): AFP, AP, Getty Images]
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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Who are your final four ladies of Roland Garros? Let's find out!

So it's set. The Roland Garros final four of the ladies' draw were decided today: In the top half we have Francesca Schiavone battling homegirl Marion Bartoli while the bottom half features a Nike showdown between Maria Sharapova and Li Na. Wanna get to know them better? Anyone? Bueller? Fuck it. Just read on.

NAME: Francesca Schiavone
AGE: 30
BIRTHPLACE: Milan, Italy
RESIDENCE: Milan, Italy
This lady baller is the defending champion and likes to go by the nickname “Schiavo”. She enjoys gesturing wildly during her matches (did I mention Schiavo’s Italian?), referring to herself in the third person and making out with the clay when she wins. Last year, she became the first baller from her country to win a major. BRAVA!

NAME: Marion Bartoli
AGE: 26
BIRTHPLACE: Le Puy en Velay, France
RESIDENCE: Geneva, Switzerland
SEEDED: 11th
This Frenchie has an IQ of 175 to match her unorthodox tennis game. She plays double-handed on both sides, enjoys shadow swinging between points and playing yarn games with her cat named Calinette. Oh, she'd also like a sponsor, so if anyone has any interest please tell her dad. She kinda plays well you know.

NAME: Maria Sharapova
AGE: 24
BIRTHPLACE: Nyagan, Russia
RESIDENCE: Bradenton, FL and some place in Manhattan Beach, CA
This Russian blondezilla, affectionately nicknamed “Shrieka” on this blog, is a 3-time Grand Slammer who recently got engaged to fellow giant Sasha Vujacic, a basketballer for the New Jersey Nets. She likes to design her on-court fashions, learn about architecture and spend nights counting her ever-growing bank account. Dislikes? Volleying. She’s due to release her latest creation, SUGARPOVA - a tennis-themed candy, in the very near future.

AGE: 29
BIRTHPLACE: Wuhan, China
RESIDENCE: Wuhan, China
This semifinalist from China is all about making history. She became the first baller from her country to reach a Grand Slam final (Oz Open ’11) and first to make it past the fourth round in Paris. She enjoys shopping, using credit cards and generally kicking ass in all interviews.

Good luck ladies!

[Photo(s): AFP, Getty, AP]
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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Francesca Schiavone

 I live and love tennis when I can express myself. I'm improving. In some years I'll be good.

- Francesca Schiavone on her on-court expressiveness

Heh. Boy, that Schiavo can play some dirt ball. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, like Caroline Garcia against Maria Sharapova, played a stellar set and a half blitzing the defending champ. But when it came time to close the deal experience prevailed. Disappointing loss for the Russian but Fran be tough on the slippery stuff.

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PHOTO OP: Dust bowl day

 Tennis anyone?!?!

[Photo(s): AP]
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PHOTO OP: Squeeze play

I thought it was his ankle that needed support. My bad.

Anyway, huge props to Andy Murray for coming back from being down 2 sets to none and 2 points from defeat and pulling out a 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 win over Viktor Troicki in match spanning 2 days. Phew, that's a lot of 2's. The Brit baller wasn't going to let a tendon tear in his ankle or some ball boy drama stop him from reaching the quarterfinals of Roland Garros.

Muzz certainly has received his share of criticism over his will and desire in the big matches. But I have to say I'm really impressed by what he did in this match. He showed real grit and determination (and a lot of pained facial expressions, too). It's like the injury got him out of his head and allowed his game to flow. Muzz was just focused on the fight. Me likey, and so does Mama Murray:

[Photo(s): AFP]
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Monday, May 30, 2011

FASHION FIX: Kuznetsova keeps it classic in Fila

Could it be Svetlana Kuznetsova has turned a corner in 2011? The former Roland Garros champ has struggled all season long but seems to have found her game in the City of Light. She defeated and in-form Daniela Hantuchova 6-7 (8), 6-3, 6-2 and will face off against Marion Bartoli for a spot in the final four.

I really like the Fila kit she's been working on the red clay this year. She's been wearing the Whiteline Sleeveless Polo ($50) in black and white paired with the Essenza Ball Short ($28) in white.

The top, part of Fila's heritage collection, is a true throwback style which makes it stand out from everything else out there but with the large windowpane design stays modern. And while I'm not a big fan of shorty-shorts during matches, particularly during majors, they really work with the sleeveless polo style. But, if I had my way (like being the tours' stylist - please??) I would reserve them for the boys. I mean, they ain't called the Ball Short for nothing (though don't tell Sveta that).

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Pippa Middleton, sister to Kate, was spotted watching Gael Monfils overcome the always scrappy David Ferrer 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 1-6, 8-6 in a fourth round match at Roland Garros that was held over for a second day due to bad light. His reward tomorrow? Roger Federer. Hope the Frenchie's got some gas left in that purple K-Swiss tank after today's battle.

So, will we be seeing the newly-crowned Duchess of Cambridge in the Royal Box come Wimbledon? Perhaps, and then some!

One more shot of Pippa (and her duds) after the jump...

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