Friday, August 31, 2007

Tenth Time's the Charm

James Blake finally did it.

After deeming Wimbledon the place to shake off his demons, Blake came up too short at the All England Club in late June, having to save his magic for the Magician himself - Fabrice Santoro - in a thrilling night match at Arthur Ashe.

And though Blake's road only gets tougher with Stefan Koubek in the third round and potential match-ups with Tommy Haas, Nicolay Davydenko and Roger Federer looming, he'll take comfort in his victory over the Frenchman. But for Blake to win his first Grand Slam, he'll have to pull out some of the tricks he did Thursday night against Santoro.

Not only does the five-set win give Blake a new confidence (he's now 1-9 in such matches), but it also sends a message to the rest of the men's draw: James is ready for anyone.

Though Santoro, mostly a journeyman who's made his living by playing crafty (and oftentimes ugly tennis), is far from the league of Federer, Blake has to know now that he can (and probably will) be stretched to five sets again during this tournament.

2-9 anyone? James'll take it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

On Goes the Open

Last night I got to catch a rare glimpse of tennis on the tube, watching John Isner boom his way into a third-round match-up with Roger Federer. It was also the first time I've watched Fed play since Wimbledon, and I forgot how easy and fluid he makes everything look.

The game of tennis seems to be blooming at the US Open this year, at least on the men's side. You've got rising American stars, top players holding on to their precious status, champions struggling to stay on their game and veterans making one last stand. The story lines are aplenty, hopefully the good tennis will be, too.

It was great to see Tim Henman post a victory in a Slam other than Wimbledon yesterday, and against a seed no less. A week-two run for the Brit? Maybe.

And while my boy Frank Dancevic couldn't quite hold on against Safin, I think it's safe to say he's on his way up. I predict at least a third round appearance at the Aussie...and that he finishes this year in the top 50(!).

But if Isner wants to crack the cream of the crop, he can't miss shots like this one in DC:

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Justin's Curtain Call

Andy Roddick made pretty easy work of Justin Gimbelstob in the elder American's last appearance at the US Open.

It was mostly fun tennis to watch, but the best part came after the match.

USA Network stayed on court for an interview with Gimbelstob, giving the veteran his due air time. It's hard to watch a guy as respectable and good-hearted as Gimbelstob step away from the game, but everyone has their time.

And lucky for us, he isn't going too far: he's got his eye on sports broadcasting.

Tennis Chatter: The Open Begins

John Isner served an impressive 34 aces in his upset win in the first round of the US Open.

2007 Roland Garros junior champ Alize Cornet snacked on 29th seed Samantha Stosur in just 68 minutes.

Andy Murray hushes critics and shrugs off injury to lose just five games while advancing to the second round.

Other than Venus and Serena, American women went just 2-6 on the day. The other two winners? Meghann Shaughnessy (who beat American Vania King) and Asha Rolle, who upset 17th seed Tatiana Golovin.

Rolle's win put an exclamation point on African American tennis for the night following the wins of the Williams sisters and the honoring of Althea Gibson for her tennis legacy.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Night at the Open

In tonight's US Open coverage on USA, Serena Williams wasn't the only one making a fashion statement. Now I by no means am a fashion expert - I'm actually far from it. I do, however, have a sense of what is okay and what is not. And Tracy Austin's outfit was just not okay.

(Austin's outfit was designed by Papa Smurf. AIPT photo.)

While Tracy was struggling with her fashion off the court, Tatiana Golovin was struggling with her game on the court. This French girl really baffles me. After finishing the summer with a solid performance in Canada and teaming up with Mats Wilander in what seemed to be a great partnership, she's goes out in the first round to a wild card?

Sounds like confidence issues if you ask me.

Donald Does It

Donald Young finally notched his first win at a Grand Slam tournament, just a week after winning his first-ever ATP match.

Maybe the whole I'm-going-to-work-my-way-up method is working well for him.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Taking the Hard Road

Remember Frank Dancevic from this summer? How about from this appearance. Or this one. The rising Canadian star had a stellar summer, going 8-3 in three events and seeing his ranking jump from #113 in the world to #67.

When the US Open draw deadline came up a few weeks ago, however, Dancevic didn't have a high enough ranking to slip into the main draw, meaning he would have to qualify for the year's last Grand Slam. After beating Andy Roddick and Fernando Verdasco, not to mention making the quarters of a Masters Series and taking Rafael Nadal to a dramatic three sets, Dancevic became a hot name on the tour, but his ranking still bestowed one thing on him that the Nadals and Roddicks of the tour didn't have to go through: US Open qualifying.

(Dancevic and his signature one-handed backhand. Photo by Eduardo Cavasotti via Flickr.)

So over the past week, Dancevic has played as the number one seed in a tournament for the first time this year, though it was a tournament with sixteen winners instead of one, all earning their right into the US Open main draw.

Joining Dancevic will be a cast of hard road takers, men who are just coming up in their careers like American teen Scoville Jenkins (who was not granted a wild card) and Amersfoort champion Steve Darcis along with journeymen like Andrei Pavel (once ranked #13), Rainer Schuettler (2003 Australian Open finalist) and Alexander Waske (playing in his 3rd-ever Open at the age of 32). They all advanced through the grueling three rounds of the qualies, just for the chance to get a crack at the main draw - and - the biggest tennis tournament on tour.

Dancevic gets Marat Safin in the opening round; Jenkins, not as lucky, meets Roger Federer. But for these guys the journey is already well underway. And while Safin and Federer might be working out the kinks in the superior games on Monday and Tuesday at Flushing Meadows, the qualifiers will have three matches under their belt and the hope for a chance to play just one more.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tim Says Good-bye

Surprised? Not really.

But man, I think I'll miss Tim Henman a lot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Travel Day

Getting up at 4:30 a.m. New York time means that I'm up at 1:30 Seattle time. If my math is correct, I've been up almost 21 hours pardon any fractured sentences or misspelled words.

Travel days always take the wind out of you, but I find it also kick starts your body in a certain way. The excitement of being in a new place - even if it is a familiar one - always gets my blood bumping.

I've been trying to keep my head about the aftermath of the Ethicist column that ran in Sunday's NYT. I certainly didn't anticipate such reaction, but have also learned a great deal through the process. And what is life without character-building learning experiences? I will say this over and over again: TENNIS Magazine is a clean, professional and dignified publication - both online and in print. No ifs, ands or buts about it. I wrote that letter months ago, and the editor in question has since left for unrelated resasons.

In the real tennis world, something called the US Open is looming. Men's and women's draws were released today and there are some interesting match-ups early on and potential quarterfinal battles. I will chat more about this sometime over the weekend.

But for now I must put an end to the 21-hour day; sleep sounds good. Tomorrow: Montana bound.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Come One, Come Rain

The rain drops started on Tuesday and they never stopped. I hoped for most of the day that they would stop, that the Pilot Pen might get some play in before my train back to New York. Come mid-afternoon, however, the rain had hit a persistent level and I had lost all hope.

I boarded a train back to New York at 3 - about five hours earlier than I had planned - with a little bit of disappointment weighing on my shoulders. It was, no doubt, a great experience just to have the chance to utilize my press pass, see the behind-the-scenes happenings and get a glimpse of what the future might hold.

(I just hope the future doesn't involved washed-out Tuesdays. AIPT photo.)

The Freshman (I'm Just a Spectator) Fifteen

You know how it's said that college students put on weight in their first year away? The Freshman Fifteen is what it's usually referred to as. Or, for some, the Freshman Forty.

Well, I'm not sure which to apply to Mirka Vavrinec, girlfriend of Roger Federer. The woman was once rocking the top 100 of the WTA Tour, now she just seems to be rocking the concession stands.

I'm just being honest here, but couldn't she take a few work out tips from Sir Rog? Or at least from her former self? I guess her and Marion have been hanging out lately.

And no, Mirka isn't a newly-christened college student. But all the time she spends parked in the stands could rival the couch sitting of any video-game playing frat boy.

New Haven: The New Seattle

If rain is out of fashion in Seattle then I know which city stole its style for the season: New Haven, Connecticut.

By 1:30 no tennis ball has been hit. And they don't even have grounds people working to keep the courts semi-dry: the rain has been upgraded to 'steady'.

(Look! An empty interview room. Which means no matches have been completed. Which means no matches have even started. AIPT photo.)

Oh what I'd give for a Ashley Harkleroad press conference right now. "So Ash, tell us about your MySpace quote..."

Off to New Haven

I know I live in Seattle most of the year, but does the weather really have to follow me cross country on the one day of the summer I get the chance to watch some pro tennis live?!? Bah humbug.

This morning my alarm rang at 6 a.m., which was about four to five hours earlier than I had been getting up the last four days with my brother in town from Montana.

My first order of business was to check the dang weather, which promised 40-50% chance of rain throughout the day. Part of me wanted to climb back into my comfy bed and forget the whole thing...but the other part of me couldn't stand not deciding to go and then finding out it had turned out to be a beautiful day in central Connecticut.

I hopped the 6:58 train to New Haven out of Grand Central Station and couldn't believe that some people do this - everyday. My daily commute in Seattle involves eight city blocks on foot, not miles upon miles of train tracks. And for some, that's just part of the journey!

My two-hour train rain concluded at Union Station in the grand city of New Haven. Exiting out of the station, I decided to forgoe the "Lucy's" taxi (in pink writing) and go with a more familiar breed - the Yellow Cab. My driver got me to where I had asked to be dropped off: the Yale Bowl. I, however, did not realize that when the tournament web site said "located near the Yale Bowl" that 'near' was a relative term.

Therefore, I walked back and forth, and forth and back for a good 20 minutes before finally finding a route that would lead me to the tennis. I found my media pass (no thanks to the friendly Pilot Pen staff that guided me to the Will Call line...) and then the media center.

And that's where I remain now. I've been up for nearly five hours and have yet to see a tennis ball struck. The rain, however, is hitting pretty hard. Will I get any live views at all today? Stay tuned to find out...

(A live shot from my cubicle in the press room! So official. AIPT photo.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Summer at TENNIS: Everything Ends

I grew up in a house built during the 1880s gold rush in Montana. It's brick, with white trim and has a romantic sense to it that my mom has brought out with her golden touch of decorating.

My favorite part of the house, however wasn't inside with the hardwood floors and intricate molding, instead, it was in the back alley, behind our garage. You see, the alley faced an old barn - yes, barn - that had the most perfect texture for hitting a ball against.

Starting at the age of 5, I would go out there most summer days, and some winter ones, too, and bash a ball against the wall until my forearm was numb. My neighbors were generous, never complaining about the noise or the wear-down on the wall I was guilty of. I became familiar with the drivers who used the alley as a short cut, and, remarkably, I won dozens of grand slam titles and thousands of adoring fans.

It had always been a dream of mine to be involved in professional tennis. Back in my wall-hitting days, I thought my role would be Wimbledon king and US Open prince, but past the age of 12, when I realized tennis was to Montana as water-skiing is to big cities, I turned my focus to my skill of the pen rather than my skill of the racquet.

This past summer, I have had the remarkable opportunity to work at TENNIS Magazine as an intern. It's been an opportunity that I at one point could've never dreamed of, and one that has taught me miles upon miles of lessons of the professional world.

For a boy from Montana, New York has no doubt been intimidating. The City has given me a lot, and hopefully I've been able to give back something through my taking. This all might sound cheesy and overdone, but it's given me a chance to see my future out of a pair of different lenses.

(The view from my intern cubicle. Well, actually this is from the top of Rockafeller. But a boy can dream, right? AIPT photo.)

Whether or not my future still lays in tennis or not, that I can't say, but I do know that I have a a good sense of where my ability stands, where my mind can take me and where my dreams still dwell.

A huge thanks to everyone at TENNIS, my summer savior Matt, Erwin for encouragement and all my family and friends keeping the emails and comments coming. Stay tuned to Talking Tennis for all your favorite updates from yours truly.

Tennis Chatter

Roger Federer turns 50. In titles, that is.

Donald Young finally won his first ATP match in 12 tries.

The Arthur Ashe countdown inches closer to number one.

Lisa Raymond and Lindsay Davenport draw the number one seed in Davenport's comeback match. Can they conquer?

And Jelena Jankovic blew another lead to lose her 7th straight match to JH.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Oh So Close

James Blake and Jelena Jankovic both got into a US Open Series final on Sunday by fighting through their own respective difficult draws.

Blake and Jankovic fell to a combined 0-14 against foes Federer and Henin.

For both Blake and Jankovic, their feats of getting there are well-respected and should be celebrated on their own, but the frustration of not being able to solve such head-to-head riddles must be getting to both of them.

Are they capable of coming through at the right time? The last time I checked, the US Open starts in eight days. As good of time any, right?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Clip of the Week: Pony Play

It's Friday and I still haven't posted my Clip of the Week. Shame, shame.

For the magazine, we do a segment called By the Numbers, which basically takes fun, quirky stats about players and lays it out in a get-to-know-you format. For next issue, we did Anna Chakvetadze, the up-and-coming Russian baseliner.

While researching, Troy found this great clip that I couldn't help but love. Chakvetadze's pony tail is up there with the greats: Pierce, Mary Joe, Anna K. But I'm not sure any of them ever had this problem. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

P-Cubed: Players' Personal Pages

Professional athletes have player profile pages all over the internet. In tennis, too, the ATP and WTA put out official guides for media resources like TENNIS to use for information.

The players, however, many of them high school and college age, can't help but do a little profile creating of their own. While some have their own web sites, others aren't quite to that level (or just don't have the money).

The answer? Facebook. And MySpace. And seeing celebrity tennis players at their most vulnerable: online personal profiles.

Here you can find Ashley Harkleroad's facebook friends list. Notice Ashley has 79 friends (small for Facebook standards) which includes a wide array of tennis names. Ansley Cargill (once ranked in the top 250), Chelsey Gullickson and Kelly Liggan, the Irish player. Ashley doesn't stop at Facebook though, she's got a MySpace profile too.

(A view of Ashley's MySpace page. Interesting quote, right?)

This is Romina Oprandi's friend list, which is 207 people long. Oprandi is currently 162 in the world after breaking into the Top 50 last year.

Here is Shenay Perry's friend list. Notice her dark and kind-of-creepy picture at the top of the page. Shenay has 199 friends. 120 more than Ashley, but eight less than Romina.

Scoville Jenkins. Michael McClune. And Alexa Glatch. Want to be friends with the stars?!? Just ask them. Well, just ask Ashley...she could use a few more.

DOU: Day of Upsets

It's hard to recall a day more ridden with upsets in the tennis world. Yesterday, six seeded men lost in Cincinnati while four seeds fell on the women's side.

The biggest of surprises came in the form of Rafael Nadal's and Novak Djokovic's losses - Nadal, retiring to Juan Monaco and Djokovic losing in straights to Carlos Moya.

While tournament organizers and fans cringe at draws ridden with pull-outs and early-round losses of big names, the hope is that all systems will be a go for the US Open, which starts in 11 days.

Marion Bartoli may have found her track again, winning the first set over Maria Kirilenko convincingly before the Russian retired with an injury in the second. Ana Ivanovic, defending champ in Toronto, won just four games in her second round loss.

"I'm disappointed I couldn't stay a bit longer," Ivanovic said in her presser. So were Anna Chakvetadze and Lucie Safarova, two other seeds who were bounced from the competition.

Your Cincinnati/Toronto champions ladies and gentlemen? Roger Federer and Justine Henin, who both won in straights yesterday.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Photoblog: Finally, An Intern

Disclaimer: the photoblog idea totally came from the brilliant mind of Matt Murphy. I always give credit where credit is due. So Matt, where'd you get the idea?

Though my real camera stopped working a few months ago (that's what I get for buying it at Costco), I still try to take (poor quality) pictures with my camera phone as often as possible.

This week, Troy and I were sent off on a task that only interns could complete: pick up the manikin legs. Yes, that's right, the manikin legs were done with their photo shoot and they needed us to move them. You see, manikin legs might be legs, but they don't necessarily move - hence us getting them.

So we set off to pick them up from Rainier, the German photographer (not the beer). And from here on out, I'll let the photos do (most) the talking:

(Troy and I lugged the manikins in body bags downstairs. Glares from passersby were numerous. AIPT photo.)

(Then the cab dropped us off almost a block away from our destination - the Land of Manikins. Troy did the carrying. I played paparazzi. AIPT photo.)

(We heard crying from inside of a building and what did we find? The Land of Manikins. Our legs were finally home. AIPT photo.)

(Once we returned the legs, we hit the streets again but were pulled into a dark alley by this mysterious du: Federelf and Mirkadeer. "Take this," they told us. Troy Venechanos illustration.)

(They handed us a minute piece of paper, and, alas! It was page 66 of the October issue of TENNIS Magazine. With me, a stamp-sized boy, rolling on a foam tube. AIPT photo.)

Our mission was complete. Our work as interns - done.

Canadian Triple

The last few weeks have been pretty good for Canadian tennis: Frank Dancevic made his run to the finals at Indianapolis before making the quarterfinals at his home tournament in Montreal.

Now, in Toronto, it's the women's turn to fly the Maple Flag.

Three wild cards - Marie-Eve Pelletier, Stephanie Dubois and Aleksandra Wozniak - all recorded first-round victories at the Rogers Cup, belting their way past higher-ranked players.

I always get excited about tournaments like the Rogers, especially for the home country. I think in a lot of ways, Americans lose touch with their tennis stars - and all sports stars for that matter - because of the vast size of our country. In places like England, Canada and even France, there's a romantic feeling around their tennis that comes alive when each respective country hosts a tournament. Something we can't match here in the states.

So to see Pelletier, Dubois and Wozniak all win their openers, that not only feels good for the tournament organizers, but for the fans as well. Can any of them get to round three? Well, that's a different story. But there's always hope for the underdog on the homecourt, that's for sure.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Taylor Dent Exclusive

I just spoke on the phone with Taylor Dent about an article I'm doing for SMASH about an up-and-coming junior named Michael McClune.

I have to say that Taylor couldn't have been nicer when it came to McClune and just in general. Dent has been out since February of last year with back injuries. He was as high as #21 in the rankings in the summer of 2005, and was part of the group that included Robby Ginepri, James Blake and Mardy Fish as Andy Roddick's supporting cast.

I had to ask him about his comeback and this is what he had to say:
"I have a PT scan on my back in a few weeks and hopefully that goes well. I'm looking forward to getting back on the tour."

Not much meat in the statement, but it sounds like Taylor is optimistic that he might be headed toward playing professionally again. My guess: Aussie '08.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tennis Chatter: Monday Mayhem

While Radek Stepanek continues a successful summer on-court, it sounds as though things with him and fiancee Martina Hingis aren't going as well. Stepanek announced through an ATP spokesperson in Montreal last week that he and Hingis have called off their engagement. Now can Martina focus on winning some matches? We'll see about that...

Novak Djokovic might be great on the court, but his off-court personality is one to really watch.

Sharapova withdrew from her semifinal against Nadia Petrova at last week's East West Bank Classic due to a leg injury. If that wasn't problem enough, the East West Bank Classic wanted to let you know it isn't the Bank of the West Classic, its counterpart to the north. Could the WTA be any more confusing?

The draw is up for the women in Canada. Most compelling first-round match up? Granville-Garbin or (Katerina) Bondarenko/ (Katerina) Srebotnik. Yikes.

Meanwhile, the men's draw is out for Cincy. The most compelling first-round match ups there? How about Murray/Baghdatis (two former Top-10 players)? Or Moya/Nalbandian (two former Top-5 players)?

Federer still hates Hawk-Eye. And did anyone see the Fed after his loss to Djokovic? He didn't seem one bit happy. Sore loser, perhaps?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Serbian Sundae: Served with a Double Scoop

Four years ago, in June of 2003, Nadia Petrova played Kim Clijsters in a tightly-contested match at the French Open semifinals. That same week, Ana Ivanovic was an unseeded junior, playing in the girls singles draw and losing in the third round to top seed Vera Douchevina.

A month later, Roger Federer hoisted his first of ten majors at Wimbledon. That same week, Novak Djokovic beat Cesar Ferrer-Victoria, ranked 973, in the finals of a Futures Three event in his home country of Serbia. Until that week, he didn't have an ATP Tour ranking - it was his third tournament ever.

Just four short years later, the four paths of those mentioned above crossed on two grand stages of professional tennis: Ivanovic claiming her fourth career title and Djokovic winning his second ATP Masters event and beating Federer for the first time in five tries. They've come a long way.

It's not that any of this is a surprise to us - Djokovic and Ivanovic have been on the rise for some time now. Yet the arrival of two such formidable players that breathe new life into a tennis game (especially in America) that has suffered in recent years is reason to celebrate.

Djokovic has fast become one of the most well-known and well-liked stars of the ATP Tour. And after beating Rafael Nadal for the second time in six tries this year (not to mention his win over Roddick in their first-ever meeting), Djokovic has established himself as a real threat not only for the US Open, but for Federer's crown as well.

His steady ground game, quick feet and all-court play make Djokovic the sort of player that can give the Mighty Fed a few problems. And his confidence both on and off the court shows that the youngster isn't afraid to step up and play with the big boys. Yet it's Djokovic's continued learning curve that has kept him on the move in the rankings: he has kept his hunger to get better, and with that, has seen formidable results. So now with two slam semifinals under his belt, the Serbian looks poised to take the next big step: a grand slam victory.

Meanwhile, across the continent on Sunday, Ana Ivanovic played with guts and guile to beat a steady Petrova. The new world #4 won her fourth title by winning the final points with authority: knocking a cross-court forehand past Petrova to open the game, then sending a serve out wide in the ad court to seal the victory for the title.

If Ivanovic's hiccup at the French taught us anything about the teen, it's that she isn't afraid to make mistakes. She followed her Paris performance up by belting her way to the semifinals of Wimbledon and now with a title in L.A. This week in Toronto, she is the defending champion at a tournament depleted of top-tier players; but to her, that is of no matter, she would gladly accept the title challenge with all of them there.

And that's what she'll do a few weeks from now in New York, when she attempts to climb up the final step on the ladder and win her first grand slam title. Much like Djokovic, Ivanovic will take on a field of hungry (and much more experienced) players for the a shot at the title. But if their upswings continue, both will find their place on top of the game very soon.

Sportingo: Bring on the Critics

A few weeks ago the WTA Tour web site published a press release that was titled "Calling All Budding Tennis Writers". Immediately, it caught my attention. So, I clicked the link and read about a web site called Sportingo. It's a sports news site that compiles articles written by fans, for fans. So I thought, why not?

I've made a pledge to write for the site once a week, and will usually do a dual post here on the blog, and then submit it to the Sportingo editors. It's great to get my writing out there and feel like an audience has the chance to digest it, even if people can be critical at times (or, all the time...). But, for a 'budding' writer, that's just what I need - right?

So, you can find the the Murray/Bartoli and Mirza/Kirilenko posts on Sportingo now. Perhaps this is the start of my online-writing career? Or, the beginning of the end...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

NYC Firsts: Photo Shoots and FederBear!

New York City has been the home of a lot of first-time experiences for me. This city has taught me a lot in the short two months that I've been here, and I'm sad to say I have just 10 more days before I depart for what could be eternity, or perhaps just a year. Only time will tell...

This week (my eighth at the internship) surprisingly brought three firsts of its own.

The Photo Shoot Delivery
On Thursday, David Rosenberg, our photo editor, asked Troy and I to make a little delivery for him. Another one of the photo editors was setting up a photo shoot just a few blocks from the magazine, and they needed props delivered from the office. So Troy and I took a little trot to W20th and 6th.

Upon entering the studio, I felt like I was walking into a scene from America's Next Top Model or some TV set. A vast space with shiny hardwood floors and a raised ceiling gave the room an air of importance. Tim, SMASH art director, showed us around the studio, giving us a peek at the manikins in which they were using for a shoe shoot.

We didn't get to stay for the shoot itself, but I'm guessing the manikins (and bottle of cologne) cooperated just fine.

(The giant umbrella protected the manikins from the fierce rays of sun coming from the ceiling. Photo by AIPT.)

Photo Shoot: More Than an Observer
The next day (Friday), I was enjoying my time looking for pictures on Getty for our player profile section when David approached me again. "Want to be in the magazine?" He asked.

I laughed him off as he walked by. Not really sure what he was asking, but all the while slightly embarrassed and slightly intrigued by his comment. Later during the day, he approached me with tennis shoes, shorts and a shirt and said, "Let's get you into these."

It seems as though a last-minute crunch for the October issue left them with one option for part of the fitness section: do an in-house shoot. For some reason, I was the chosen candidate. And soon I found myself rolling on a thigh-massaging device with the direction of our SMASH fitness editor and Mr. Rosenberg himself.

(My BlueSteel face was on for much of the shoot. AIPT photo.)

FederBear and the Photoshop Lesson
Friday afternoon also brought a little lesson for me: the art of Photoshop. Troy was kind (and patient) enough to show me little details of the program. I never will be much of an artist, especially a digital artist, but I've realized the more skills I can attain the more marketable I am as a 21st-Century journalist. Sound lame? It is.

However, Troy created the most not-lame picture of all-time to cap off a great week at the magazine.

(FederBear. Troy Venechanos illustration.)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tennis Chatter: TGIF!

For some reason I'm completely delighted that it's Friday. Finally finally finally! The thing is, I didn't really have a tough week. I only worked four days and enjoyed a couple nights out with Matt, and dinner with my friend Marysia, who's moving here to go to Pratt.

Therefore, instead of doing ample research and putting up a legitimate post, I've skimmed my favorite sites to bring the juiciest of tennis juice to you this morning. And as always, no pulp included.

Craig Hickman talks about Fernando Verdasco's bad behavior and Frank Dancevic's heroic moment late yesterday afternoon in Canada. Will Verdasco have explanation for his statement? Probably not.

Cheatwave 2007 has hit the WTA Tour. But didn't that hit the tour last year, with a banana leading the way? In fact, I thought Bolletieri said it's been going on forever...?

"Well-known tennis coach Nick Bollettieri authored a newspaper article during Wimbledon admitting he had called signals from courtside for a quarter century. He also argued for the legalization of on-court coaching as an unenforceable "fact of life." -A November 2006, USA Today article.

And it seems as though one of the new stars of the WTA isn't so fond of Maria Sharapova. Jelena Jankovic began a good old War of Words with Sharapova in LA this week. Will the two settle the dispute on the court? Man, I hope so.

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Introducing Jennifer Potter

While browsing around for my usual 'Clip of the Week' I decided to trot over to Flickr to check out if they had any good stuff to do a photo blog post.

I love Flickr for the fact that it is all amateur individuals (like myself) just doing what they love. It's always a great opportunity for me to post a picture by an individual who has attended a tennis tournament and link to their profile so they can get a little exposure. It's all about give-and-take in the blog world, right?

So instead of posting a COTW, I've decided instead to go with a Picture of the Week. Pavlobot, who I'll call the 'artist', not photographer - seems to be a creative individual, so check out the other photos in the profile.

Without further adieu, ladies and gentlemen, Jennifer Potter:

(With Harry's magical powers and Jennifer's wicked forehand, Jennifer Potter is a fierce 97-2 on the tour this year.)

Bouncy and Floppy

Mrs. Bouncy and Mr. Floppy belong in a fairy tale. They both sound like characters pulled from a Velveteen Rabbit or Winnie the Pooh cast, but lo and behold, the two names actually belong to Marion Bartoli and Andy Murray, both professional tennis players.

Mrs. Bouncy
You remember Marion Bartoli, don't you? She was the one-slam finalist wonder, from the way back year of 2007. She beat Justine Henin...and Jelena Jankovic...come on, don't you remember?

Well it might be tough to recall Bartoli's name in a year from now the way the Frenchwoman has played since Wimbledon. Her quirky two-handed game got her all the way to the finals at the AELTC, but the bounce couldn't quite take her all they way, and now Mrs. Bouncy seems to be on the downfall.

Fairy tales usually end in happily-ever-afters, but for Bartoli to find her feet again, she must take one match at a time, forget her horrific summer that followed a dreamy spring, and focus on what she does well: strikes the ball. At Wimbledon, she was an unlikely player on an unlikely surface, but now, at the Open, she's a likely player on a favorable court - but can she deliver?

Mr. Floppy
Andy Murray always has been a little floppy, hasn't he? His game has its quirks, with its all-court tendencies, firing groundstrokes and awkward movement, he's an unlikely candidate to be a Top Ten tennis player, but, as storybooks go, his career has been a Cinderella story thus far.

Coming into the clay court season, Murray was 23-5, with a second career title at San Jose under his belt and two wins over both Roddick and Davydenko. Murray had 'flow' in floppy figured out.

(Mr. Floppy wants to get back to the form that has made him a Wimbledon hero. Photo by Mercerballs via flickr.)

But then came a couple bad clay losses, a bum wrist, and a doubtful grass court season. It seemed as though England's new great hope would instead be an 'Ope!' for the year.

And so as Andy Murray makes his return to the tour this week in Canada, he's had both a 'flow'-ing match and an 'Ope'-ful match. His floppy-ness is something he can't help, it's been written in the script since day one. But the Scot is hoping for a little magic to carry him in to the US Open.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Tags for Two

For quite some time, I've been waiting to create tags for Sania Mirza and Maria Kirilenko. And yesterday, I finally felt as though their time had come.

Let's start with Mirza: Two years ago the girl from Bombay had quite the breakthrough in her home country, winning at Hyderabad as the 134th ranked player in the world. Not only did that launch Mirza into the Top 100, but she also soared into the media's radar as the Muslim girl who played tennis - and did so with an attitude.

Much of the controversy surrounding Mirza over the last two years has been just that: she was a female playing a professional sport from a country in which millions of people didn't approve of what she was doing. Not only did Mirza receive death threats, but she was told to cover up during matches, not speak her mind and to educate others around the world about the god we should all be praising.

To her credit, Mirza has stayed true to herself, her family and her career. Yes, she an 'upper-class' (read: 'rich girl') from Mumbai that honed her tennis at private clubs in an urban setting. But while much of India scowls at Mirza, she has also become an international icon. Millions of Indians watch, listen to or wait for results from her weekly matches, hoping that her powerful groundstroke game can garner her another hard-fought win.

(A Sania Mirza billboard in India, where she is - to some - a national hero. Photy by Azgar Khan via Flickr.)

After a successful 2005, in which Mirza wrapped up with a fourth round appearance at the US Open, injuries set her back and she dropped out of the Top 50 during the 2006 season. Results have been spotty: last fall, she beat Martina Hingis one week, only to lose to Olga Poutchkova and Meghann Shaughnessy the next two.

Yet following a 2nd round effort at Wimbledon, Mirza has seemed to finally take the strides toward becoming the hard court player she can be. Semis at Cincy, final in Stanford and quarters in San Diego (who does she think she is, Jankovic?). This week in LA, Mirza has already beaten Aleksandra Wozniak and Martina Hingis, and now awaits the winner Razzano/Peer.

While I've patiently been waiting for the upswing of Mirza, millions of men have been urging (and drooling for) Maria Kirilenko to break into the top tier of tennis for some time now. She's blond, beautiful, athletic and Russian - hmm, that sounds familiar, right?

Much like Mirza, Kirilenko's breakthrough season was 2005, when she shot up the rankings from #105 at the beginning of the year to #26 by season's end. She scored a win over that other Maria during the year, along with Patty Schnyder, her first Top-20 win ever.

Now with injuries behind her - the similarities to Mirza are just oozing - and a more confident, mature game, Kirilenko seems to have arrived on the WTA Tour. Last week, she scored big wins over Lucie Safarova and Jelena Jankovic (7-5 in the third) and just yesterday in LA, stunned Marion Bartoli in straight sets.

(Maria Kirilenko is 35th in the rankings and will move up after LA following her first round loss in 2006. Photo by Hugo Cura via Flickr.)

Kirilenko, whose claim to fame still remains ingrained in her looks and her Stella McCartney outfits, now takes on Gisela Dulko in the round of 16 in LA.

Can Maria of smaller stature and size seize her week? Not if Sania has anything to say about it. And, if they do meet, it'd be in the finals. Now wouldn't that be the ultimate arrival for both?

Rush Hour, Flood Hour

You know in the movies when they pan over a New York street? The avenue is packed with bumper-to-bumper taxi cabs and waves of people flow in the sidewalks as one. Well, NYC is kind of like that, but in Hollywood's way of dramatizing things, they get a little carried away.

Yet today would've been perfect for such a rush-hour scene. As I walked toward the subway, the AMNY guy handed me my morning paper with this greeted "The trains are flooded." The trains are flooded? Okay, so I can't take the 6, no big deal. "What about the N/R?" I asked him. Nope, he shook his head. So as I started making my way north on 4th Avenue, I began to realize the more densely crowded sidewalks, the groans of my fellow pedestrians became more and more apparent as I made my way from 8th to 28th.

It wasn't a bad walk for me. In fact, I always enjoy a good walk. However, New Yorkers aren't much into walking, especially in the muggy, sticky conditions the post-storm morning held. Cabs were impossible to get, because if you weren't south of 14th steet, they had already been taken. Buses were bursting with passengers, and didn't even bother to try to make regular stops where dozens - if not hundreds - of subway-turned-bus riders watched with envy as another full bus made its way past them.

In many ways, my New York experience has been unique. The steam blast earlier this summer was a pseudo-9/11 experience for many in the City, and now there's talk of the 2003 blackout as packs of pedestrians fill the streets of Manhattan.

For a city that manages so much crisis, New York certainly has given me tools for survival in 'the real world.' And, oh yeah, I'm doing an internship here, too...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Justine: The TV Star?

Justine Henin has done many bizarre things in her career. There was the hand incident at the '03 French. Her and Kimmy's less-than-friendly relationship. And then her odd reunion with her supposedly estranged family at Roland Garros this year.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, can top these two Justine-Henin-Being-Weird moments.

First, we have Justine (aren't the lips HUGE?) doing a personable commercial for Adidas. My opinion? Too personal. And creepy, right?

Second, Justine sings with Samson, who I'm hoping (emphasis on the hope) is a child icon in Europe. If not, JH has officially fallen off her rocker.

Ten Days: Ten Topics

Being gone from the tennis world - from the entire world, for that matter - for 10 days feels like a lifetime. Four delayed flights, five days at the cabin and one late-delivered bag later, I'm back in the TENNIS Magazine offices this morning. But, to my utmost shock and surprise, the tennis world continued while I was away. Here's what I missed the most.

1. Jennifer Capriati was on court at the Acura Classic after the women's final to help bid farewell to one of the WTA's most beloved tournaments. I hope it wasn't a pseudo farewell for J-Cap too...

2. Lindsay Davenport officially took the Hingis Train for her comeback transportation. From WTT to doubles to singles. Let's see if the new mama can make some waves on her return to the tour.

3. Sam Querrey and John Isner announced their arrivals on the tour. Is anyone else seeing a taller-than-6'3-trend here?

4. Troy blogged on the Road Trip commercial and the fans loved it! How could they not though, really?

5. The ATP is the next NBA? Yikes.

6. Luke Jensen came to Montana and I totally missed it. Damn, and he could have yelled loudly into my face instead of the TV screen, I'm so sorry I didn't get that real-life experience.

7. Venus supposedly hits the hardest ball in women's tennis - well, at least at last week's Acura. But what I don't understand is that if you're taking the hardest hit shot from a category of six or so, how does that warrant the hardest average? I smell system flaw.

8. Kim Clijsters hasn't updated her web site in two weeks! Someone call the authorities! Well, she could be trying to get pregnant...or saving puppies from the streets of Belgium. No worries, Kim fans, her book is still slated for publishing.

9. The ATP is getting so awkward that they hosted a fashion show to kick off Canada this week.

10. Madison Brengle won her first match in LA as a wild card. Up next? Dementieva or Makarova. Hmmm...

Sunday, August 5, 2007

New York Return

After a glorious week in Montana, I'll board a plane this afternoon to head back to NYC. I can't believe I've missed so much in just a week!

Sam Querrey. John Isner. Who are these guys?

Can't wait to let the blogging begin this week.