Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Make That 20 Minutes...

The underdog had her day, again.

Melissa Torres, the sub-400 ranked Mexican wildcard, who downed 8th-seeded Nicole Pratt on Tuesday, kept her good fortunes going in her home country today, beating 71st-ranked Eva Birnerova 6-4 6-2.

For some reason, this story has grabbed my attention and I've followed it with vigor, finding out whatever I can on Torres and sloppily deciphering the excited Spanish on the Acapulco tournament Web site.

Tomorrow she will face Julia Schruff, an 83rd-ranked German who took out top-seeded Marion Bartoli with ease in the second round.

Up north in Las Vegas at the Tennis Channel Open, both James Blake and Gustavo Kuerten lost their opening round robin matches. Kuerten did his work as a wildcard to get through his play-in match over the weekend; meanwhile Blake lost to unknown Russian Evgeny Korolev.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mexican Milestone

Melissa Torres, the second-highest ranked Mexican, got her 15 minutes of fame in Acapulco today, beating 8th-seeded Nicole Pratt 2-6 6-3 6-3. If you want to see a happy girl, look here.

It's the first time in the history of Mexican tennis for a woman to advance past the first round of a WTA-sanctioned event. Torres is currently ranked 404 in the world and has been as high as 292 in 2002.

The 23-year-old has made a spectacular $201 this year prior to this week, where she'll pick up at least $2,105. She faces 71st-ranked Eva Birnerova in the second round.

Monday, February 26, 2007

King of Emotions

I've never seen someone with as much competitive emotion as Roger Federer.

It's something I both admire and am in awe of Federer for. There are few tennis players who can be so extremely competitive, yet maintain such the humbleness and personality that he does.

As Federer breaks Connors' record of consecutive weeks at number one, (161 weeks to be exact), the man doesn't look to be slowing down. There is more talk this year of a Grand Slam for Federer than anything else. Can anyone stop him?

There are certainly players out there with the weapons to threaten the Mighty Fed, but I'm not sure anyone - present or future - can consistently bang with this guy. He's in a league of his own.

No doubt the ATP is happy about its new-found mega star. The push now is to make Federer as marketable as any tennis female with good looks, and he has the charisma to go along with it.

Plus, he plays pretty good tennis.

For visuals, click here.

Or watch here (with cheesy music):

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Really? poll: Do you agree with Wimbledon's decision to give equal prize money to the men and women?

64.16 % - Yes
35.84 % - No

Total votes: 1,543.

I guess I'm confused. Does over a third of our adult population really believe that this wasn't the right move?

Every blog, column, article and professional point of view I've seen is singing praise for this decision by Wimbledon. So is there really that big of a division within the public?

Are these sexist men? Or subservient women? I guess I'm not sure. Either way, c'mon folks, get with it!

Thursday, February 22, 2007


One of my best friend's parents live in England and today she confirmed for me that the English - though extremely liberal - tend to be a bit sexist.

Well, finally that sexism has left Wimbledon.

Finally we're moving forward.

And the media is loving this story.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Farewell Tour

There's much to be admired about the Farewell Tour of Kim Clijsters. Last year, it was Andre Agassi doing his own shortened version of such a farewell, giving fans an opportunity to reflect and bid good-bye to one of the game's greatest champions.

This year will be a bit different for the gal from Belgium. She certainly doesn't have the track record of Agassi, or - of course - the longevity. If she doesn't win another slam this year, Clijsters will certainly go down as the most talented one-slam wonder of all time, man or woman.

Yet there's some good these departures do for the game: they give us a chance to think. Agassi let us look at where tennis has gone from the mid '80s to today and Clijsters - I believe - will make us look more inside ourselves than anywhere else.

Tennis is about personalities. It's about people who do good things on the court, but great things off the court. Billie Jean King. Arthur Ashe. Andre Agassi. These champions will always be remembered for who they were as tennis players, but they are household names today because of who they are as people.

Kim Clijsters will never reach the household-name status that those other champions did. But Clijsters made us all think about ourselves, about the kind of people we are and the kind of people we want to be. Clijsters just may be one of the best tennis athletes we've ever seen, but for Kimmie, it's time for family and friends.

As much as I hate to see Clijsters go, I respect her decision and understand that tennis is not her life. She has other plans. Maybe that's something we should all think about.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Clip of the Week

Reading, writing and thinking about Venus got me missing the elder Williams.

I went perusing through YouTube (it was a study break) and found this great clip of Hingis versus Williams from Warsaw last year. Another classic match-up: Williams' power and Hingis' savvy.

It's one of 228 videos that comes up when you search for Miss Venus on YouTube. Go ahead, try it out.

Venus is Back!

Venus won her opening round match in Memphis last night, but not without a little bit of a struggle.

Meanwhile, up and coming star Caroline Wozniacki is Venus' opponent tonight.

This youngster from Denmark has some game:

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bridging the Gap

The men and women are playing together this week - and they're not at a major.

In Memphis, the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships kicked off this week. This event models what the future of the tours should look like: men and women playing together, at all levels, attracting fans, television audiences and growing the community of the two tours together.

Scheduling issues are wreaking havoc on both tours: the men are trying out round-robing while the women are slowly, but surely cutting our big events (bye, bye San Diego) because the tour is trying to please all parties.

Having more conjoined events would mean bigger crowds would get to see more players playing top-level tennis. I really enjoy the way that Toronto and Montreal have continued to switch their tournaments every other year. If the men and women were to join together at one location on year A and then jump to another location on year B, the tour(s) could continue to hit as many locations as possible while hopefully gaining more fans.

Creating community between the two tours is something that not only should happen, but needs to happen. This sort of connection would foster good relationships between players, coaches, agents and all those other inside people to make sure that the tours are attractive events that culminate four times a year at the Majors.

Meanwhile the WTA has caught on to the success of's player blogs. This week, Vania King (who already lost in a heart-breaking first round singles match) is the blogger on the women's side while Tommy Haas (defending champion) is blogging it up on the men's side.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Wet Week in Brazil

I wouldn't want to be the tournament director in Brazil this week. This rain is relentless.

Wimbledon is feeling so dry right now.

Back in the states, an indoor tournament in the middle of winter can't be hampered by rain or snow in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Two interesting developments in little Minny: Madison Brengle and Alexandra Stevenson both won their opening rounds. A past American champion and a future one to cross paths in the Midwest? Just maybe...

A Pattern

Poor James Blake. First he runs into Fernando Gonzalez at the Aussie, then gets roughed up by Berdych in his only Davis cup match and now Ivo Karlovic in San Jose!?! Not fair! Not fair at all.

But for Blake, it's always about the comeback...and I'm sure we'll see him bouncing back in style.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

New (Players) Please

AA few years ago the ATP did all it could in the advertising department with the "New Balls, Please" ad campaign. It was a creative sort of run. There were superhero pictures with players like Hewitt, Safin, Roddick and Coria all gracing the blue/gray ATP posters and billboards with a sort of attitude that said, 'Yeah, we know we're big stuff.'

But the thing is, the NBP generation certainly hasn't produced what the tour thought and hoped it would. Coria is still slam-less (see: '04 final meltdown for that explanation), while Roddick remains a one-slam wonder (see: Federer, Roger) while Safin and Hewitt are known more for being head cases than for their games.

While Federer may have saved that generation on his own, it seemed as though the late 90s guys passed on the torch to the wave of players we are just beginning to see emerge now. With the new issue of TENNIS Magazine out, the abundance of new stars is pared down for those of us who gets all the new -ovics mixed up with the -ovas and criss-crossed with the, get the point.

This "Hot Shot" section is one I really enjoyed. Though Nadal is the only Slam-winner of them all (he owns two French crowns), I don't think the hot shots of this generation will suffer the same fate as the lack-luster crew of the NBP campaign.

There is something about the Ivanovic/Vaidasova/Jankovic future of the WTA that I really like. There is personality, flair, drive and drama. There is also maturity, something we rarely see in women's tennis players prior to their 21st birthdays (see: Hingis, Martina). Is Vania King in the same league as these other girls? Well obviously not yet, but she certainly has the potential, and hey, TENNIS is giving its U.S. fans the optimism we all want.

Same goes for the men: look at that list! Nadal/Djokovic/Monfils/Bagdhatis and Gasquet sure make for a fun top five. What about Andy Murray? He's certainly up there, maybe just not as unknown as the latter four of that group. And while Nadal has been around a good while now, the guy is still young and still willing to do the publicity the ATP wants for a new sort of campaign. Sam Querrey falls in the King category: he can get there, he still has a way to go.

The fact is, the starts will just keep coming. For tennis today, however, I think it is necessary for fans to begin to establish relationships with players early. Look at the way those men listed above have already riled up crowds in many matches; that's something the women must learn to do as well, get some of that on-court spunk and get the crowd behind you. The last thing we need is an unpopular core of top five tennis players...something I doubt the Hot Shot Generation will be anything about.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Oops...A Week(!)

It's been nearly a week since I last blogged.

It's the middle of the quarter, hence mid-terms and a little thing called Search.

Yes, life goes on for me outside the tennis world. I'll try my best this week to post on the Davis Cup shocker (US over the Czechs, of course) and dig up some more material for the near future.

Back to studying...

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A Sad Sight

This is what we have to get used to for the next nine months. This is what we have to suffer through. This is a champion saying farewell. Is it really already time?

I wish not.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Comic Relief

I found this random clip on YouTube while trying to find some stuff on Maria Kirilenko for a post. I'm assuming this is a German commercial, but I could be wrong. I love the satire in this, completely hilarious.

I'm not sure if they were trying to personify any certain players, or just the women's tour in general.


History Re-pete-ing Itself: Another Comeback in the Works?

First Martina Hingis, now Pete Sampras?

Don't get all excited, but there's certainly a pattern here worth mentioning.

Hingis competed in World Team Tennis, then took part in a couple of exhibition matches to 'see how she felt' before committing to her comeback in the fall of 2005.

Now Sampras - who like Hings, retired in 2002 - has already made quick work of the WTT, is exploring a stint with the Champions Tour.

I won't jump to conclusions too fast here...but the daily grind on the golf course just hasn't satisfied those ingrained competitive urges that Sampras has lived with for 30 years of his life.

Just a little food for thought.

Overseas Success

Madison Brengle isn't the only up-and-coming American teen.

Vania King, who won her first WTA Tour title last fall in Bangkok, won her opening match in Pattaya City, Thailand this week.

King has already had a busy 2007. After qualifying at Gold Goast, she suffered two first-round losses (including a first-round loss to Ivanovic at the AO) before going 2-1 at the qualifying draw in Tokyo.

She got a direct entry into Pattaya City this week and swept aside Jelena Kostanic Tosic 6-1 6-3 in the first round.

For King to continue her success she must keep playing a variety of tournaments. It is good that she still has to do some qualifying, it keeps her grounded and gives her good match experience. She has solid results last spring and summer that'll she'll have to follow up this year to keep inside the top 50 and - hopefully - move up.

As for Brengle, she sits #469 right now. She can continue to work on her minor-to-major shift slowly and hopefully enjoy the 2007 success that King had in '06.

For a continued success overseas, King will have to play points like this one from last year's Bangkok final against Tanasugarn:

Sunday, February 4, 2007

More on Madison

The USTA has named Madison Brengle, the 16-year-old Australian Open girl's runner-up, its spotlight player of the week.

The thing about Brengle is her size: 5'4. Justine Henin (no more Hardenne, the divorce papers are being signed) is the only woman of diminutive size who's really made an impact on the game in recent years...can Brengle do the same?

It will be interesting to watch her progression now that her name is on the map for many.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Mid-Winter Lull

Tennis lulls come two times a year for me. The first is following the season-ending championships, when the season is over and I know I have six plus weeks of waiting before I can check scores religiously, read over match summaries and catch up on the latest happenings of each tour. The second comes now, following the Australian Open when the tour obscurely scatters throughout the globe and no big tournaments are to be played for a month.

This one has hit me especially hard. Winter is dragging on (it's only the first week of February!?!)and there is no sight of spring coming soon (at least not in Seattle). I haven't had the motivation to blog, mostly because I have lacked the amenities I came to cherish during the Aussie: AO radio, live scoreboards and an occasionally-televised match.

Yet there are things to look forward to:
--Martina Hingis has a chance to redeem her two embarrassing losses in Tier I finals from last year in one foul swoop. After defeating defending champion Elena Dementieva (whom she lost to in last year's final in straights) in the semifinals she has the opportunity to get some revenge on Ana Ivanovic, who destroyed her in the Roger's Cup final in August. In order for Hingis to start building confidence toward a French Open run, she needs to string together some of these big wins (she's beat Stosur and Dementieva this week) to believe in her ability to win seven in a row, and that elusive post-comeback major.
--Gustavo Kuerten is at it again. The now-30-year-old made his return to the ATP after a year away from the game at the Movistar in Vina del Mar (don't ask, I don't know). Though he lost both round-robin matches, its great to have this grand slam-winning personality back on the tour. I especially love that on his ATP profile he lists his own clothing line as his apparel. Classic.
--The American men are certainly out to prove their critics wrong in 2007. After a decent showing in Melbourne (Blake to 4th Rd.; Fish Qtrs.; Roddick Semis.) this week in Delray Beach has been rather impressive. Vince Spadea got to the semifinals before losing to Xavier Malisse and James Blake has a chance to make his second final in three tournaments this year with a win over Benjamin Becker. Jesse Levine, a 19-year-old college student at Florida, charged all the way to the quarters before losing as a wildcard.

If there is anything that can warm up a cold winter better than a the fireplace and a cup of hot chocolate, it's some good and intriguing tennis during the usually lack-luster snowy season.