Monday, June 30, 2008

LIVE BLOG: Tuesday, July 1st

I'm ringing in the new month and celebrating Ladies' Day (all four women's quarters will be played Tuesday) by doing a LIVE blog from 6 AM to 9 AM Mountain Time. Yes, my friends, I'm in the metropolitan known as Helena, Montana watching lots and lots of tennis.

You know you are jealous.

Swing by on your lunch break (East Coast), or breakfast (West), or perhaps dinner (London)!

Oh, and I'll have a video up tomorrow, too :)

A Williams' Wimbledon

Jelena Jankovic has just crashed out of Wimbledon in dismal fashion.

Now, it's all up to the Williams sisters.

More tonight - let the driving begin!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Middle Sunday

I'm taking the day off to finish up what has been an epic run of cleaning and packing the house the myself and four others lived in in Seattle for over two years. When that many people are in one place for that amount of time, you accumulate stuff. And, being the ignorant one in the house, I didn't realize that if you leave last, you're most likely to end up taking care of all the extra accumulation, even if it's not yours.

Tomorrow (Monday), I'm hitting the road for the Queen City of the Rockies, better known as my hometown of Helena, Montana. It's a 600-plus mile drive, so I'll be sure to be thinking all about how week two could go and should go while watching the hills of Eastern Washington roll by.

Be back with a video tomorrow night!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Halfway There

Well, getting up at 6:30 AM and not watching or listening to any tennis certainly wasn't in my day's plan, but I ended getting a lot of cleaning and packing done, and also took in a lot of reading and poking around the web. Not a bad morning at all.

What a first week we've had at Wimbledon. Some champions have risen to the occasion, while others have exposed gaping holes in their tennis armor that we didn't really know exist. Overall, it was a week of quality tennis. Lots of three set matches on the women's side (40) and five setters on the men's (17).

Fellow blogger and the much more fashionably-minded Erwin Ong was interviewed by the Globe and Mail in Saturday's issue talking about fashion in the world of tennis. A big kudos to Erwin for this interview as he continues to emerge as one of the sport's most knowledgeable fashion critics.

One of those fashion-wearing tennis players Erwin often talks about is Miss Jelena Jankovic, who avoided the upset bug and is into week two of Wimbledon following a three-set win over Caroline Wozniacki today. Lately I've been all superstitious when it comes to Janky, and wrote an article for comparing her to Jennifer Capriati and her "early years."

Now, this might be a stretch, but in 2001, in the "later years" (will there be "later later years?") of Capriati's career, she fell to Justine Henin in the semifinals of Wimbledon. She did so by losing the match 2-6 6-4 6-2 after winning the first two slams of the year. Today, Jankovic (or, as I like to call her, Jelena Capriankovic), beat Wozy 2-6 6-4 6-2. Yes, more Capriankovic-ing going on, but Justine did go on to win the tournament after that scoreline. Same result for Jelena? Venus is one who certainly stands in her way.

Superstitions aside, my favorite Kiwi, Marina Erakovic ended her bid at Wimby today with a tight, three-set loss to tour veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn 4-6 6-4 6-4. It's great to see such a young and spirited player like Erakovic play consistent and tough tennis over the last two grand slams. One thing I really appreciated about this match was two women representing such nations that aren't traditionally tennis havens in Thailand and New Zealand. For a couple hours on Court 11 today, Wimbledon was the Official Grand Slam of the Asia Pacific!

(Note: I said the Globe and Mail was based in London - that's the London Globe - in my video post. It is located in Toronto.)

Early and Agitated

It's a little past 6:30 AM in Seattle and for some reason I'm already awake. I wasn't happy to hear construction going on outside my window this morning so early, but I didn't mind that much because today was the day I was splurging a little and watching LIVE Wimbledon coverage on the tournament's web site!

I was as giddy and anxious as a young child on Christmas morning, so I pawed at my computer at my bedside and logged on as quickly as I could, wiping the sleep out of my eyes and blocking out the sounds of hammering and power drills as I do.

I went through all the steps to sign up, and just couldn't help but check the scoreboard to see which action I should check out first. "Oh!" I thought. "Janky is already in a tough battle with Caroline Wozniacki ... but, look! My favorite Marina Erakovic is serving to stay in her match against Tamarine Tanasugarn."

So I pointed and clicked my mouse as fast as I used to tear open presents and excitedly selected Court 11 to watch my Koala girl go at it. But wait! What's this?!? A message pops up and tells me that LIVE Wimbledon coverage doesn't work with MACs. I feel as crushed and disappointed as that kid who get coal in his stalking. (But really, who is that kid?!?)

I open Firefox in hope that maybe I can work around the system, but, alas, it wasn't meant to be. It's early and now I'm agitated, sent back to the world of YouTube highlight clips and online scoreboard gazing.

My live blogging from Wimbledon just wasn't meant to be, but I'll be near a TV in the near future ... so Christmas will come again soon, and I'll be as ready and excited as ever.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Live Blogging: Saturday, June 28

It's Breakfast at Wimbledon without all that cheesy NBC music and camera pans of strawberries and cream! I'm doing a live blog tomorrow, Saturday, of third-round matches from the All England Club.

No, no, my friends, I won't actually be there, but I will be buying a one-day pass off of Wimbledon's web site to watch any and all matches I please.

Stop on by to check out what middle Saturday will bring before the tournament takes its traditional Sunday break. Or, pop in sometime Sunday to check out my Wimbledon U mid-term grade video post!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Just Wear, Yes "Wear," is Maria's Motivation?

Watching the last game of Ana Ivanovic's implosion today against Jie Zheng was rather painful. Ivanovic ended the match with four mis-hit forehands, much like Maria Sharapova opened up her dismal performance yesterday with three double faults.

Women's tennis is have a miniature identity crisis currently, with two of its foremost stars plummeting out of the tournament in incredibly bad form. There has been an abundance of swirling talk surrounding Sharapova and her motivation following her loss yesterday, especially because there had been so much talk about her outfit during the first four days of the fortnight.

But I found this most interesting: Maria Sharapova had no idea who or what Alla Kudryavtseva was. This clip (especially 0:57 to 1:23) is rather telling:

Maria says "Did she?" when the reporter tells her of Kudryavtseva's close call with Venus last year here and then proceeds to mindlessly say she "Practiced with her" and played her on clay "a couple of years ago." No, no, Maria. Not a couple of years ago, honey, last year, at the French, a grand slam, in a match that Maria was down 1-4 in the second set.

To me, it's inexcusable and rather disrespectful for a top player to give more thought to how to change up her outfit from round one to two instead of her game. Yes, I understand that thousands of matches have been played in which a higher-ranked player gave little to no thought or effort into what their opponent would do on the court, but this is Wimbledon, and this is Maria Sharapova.

Kamakshi Tandon wrote a great piece over at about how the tour, the media, the public and the players love to hate Sharapova. Yes, it's true that she is not the most loved individual on tour, but Sharapova helps the process along when she refuses to say hello to others in the lockerroom, doesn't mingle at social events on tour and dismisses reporters like they are ridiculous for asking if the Biggest Sharapova Story of the tournament (um, her outfit!) has been distracting.

Wear is your motivation, Maria? Because the tuxedo outfit is history, and there's no trophy to go along with it this year.

Continued discussion on Maria and day five wrap below:

Video Post: Grades!

The first-quarter grades for the students of Wimbledon University have been posted:

Wimbledon University: First-Quarter Grades

The grades coming across the Atlantic are rather mixed after four days of play at The Championships. I'll have the full report card later today in a video post, but for now, here are a few thoughts from the professors of Wimbledon U (aka journalists):

Chris Clarey | Sharapova Exits at Wimbledon

Jon Wertheim | Wimbledon Tennis Mailbag

Steve Tignor | On Mauresmo and Pavlyuchenkova

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Video Post: The Inconsistent Dragon

Yes, I just called Marat Safin a dragon, but why not? I mean, the guy totally breathed tennis fire on the court today. So much, actually, that Novak Djokovic was still smoldering as he walked off the court, chin against chest.

The question now is, will Safin continue his run at SW19?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

LFAH? Not Me

OK, enough nakedness for now, at least until a streaker makes an appearance on Centre Court.

Here are my thoughts from Day 2 at The Championships:

In other news, the new "Looking for a Hero?" advertising campaign put out by the WTA Tour has made its debut and is so terribly bad that instead of having 23 people in the stands for the Tour Championships in Doha this fall, there will probably be 14 or 15, instead.

Here's my problem: the WTA just doesn't get it. There's nothing appealing about these women just running around the streets of Rome that makes me more interested in them. If you want me to think they're ordinary, make them ordinary. If you want me to think they're superheroes, make them superheroes. But watching Jelena Jankovic run through a rotating door looking awkward and almost smiling into a "this-is-ridiculous" laughter is flat out boring.

It will, however, be interesting to see how this campaign does for the tour. They are spending millions of dollars on it, and hope to reach new corners of the globe. But, I wonder how much people who haven't been attracted to tennis beforehand will really be drawn in by these commercials?

And, finally, shouldn't the WTA be focusing on the tennis that these women play? Instead of trying to build up these stars as bigger than life off the court, shouldn't the tour showcase how they play on it? To spend $75 million marketing women as individuals instead of the game that they play? I guess to me it just shows how much weight the WTA has thrown behind its "stars." Which, in looking at the recent past (Justine, Martina, Jennifer, Kim anyone?), is a dangerous move.

"Looking for a Hero?" 60-second TVC

"Looking for a Hero?" 30-second TVC #1

"Looking for a Hero?" 30-second TVC #2

Tennis Chatter: A New Dress Code

Professional tennis players are increasingly utilizing a new dress code on tour: the no-clothes dress code, that is. Yup, Wimbledon White may be in style for the next two weeks, but players are making headlines for their bare bodies almost as much as their blazing backhands over the last couple of months.

This month, ATP resident hottie Fernando Verdasco bared it all for UK Cosmopolitan to help raise money for a cancer cause, Everyman Male Cancer Campaign.

But (pun intended), Verdasco isn't the first ATP star to pose for the campaign. As the ATP site points out, Tommy Robredo did so a year ago. (Pictures | Story) Oh those Spaniards. I wonder who is next ... Rafa?

Keeping with the baring it all theme, who knew that American struggler Ashley Harkleroad could make such big Roland Garros headlines while winning just three games the entire tournament? Well, she did. After her first-round loss to Serena Williams, Harkleroad confirmed to reporters that she posed naked for Playboy Magazine.

Is Harkleroad going the way of Kournikova?

One player that's posed naked for the camera and still kept her tennis career aflame is Serena Williams herself. Last year, the two-time Wimbledon champion posed for Jane Magazine. And, to one-up Harkleroad, Robredo and Verdasco, she did the shoot in heels.


Photo by thesmokingsection via flickr.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tennis Chatter: Wimbledon Monday

As Tennis Week Magazine has done its best to re-vamp its coverage of the tennis tours both in print and on its recently re-done web site, you might think that IMG (who owns the publication) would be making sure that glossy look came with a competent copy editor, too. Can you tell what's wrong with the picture below? Let's just Jelena wouldn't be too impressed.

(Tennis Chatter photo.)

A few WTA stars have landed themselves on Forbes' Top 100 celebrity list. That's both current and retired, if you were wondering.

It may be the most traditional tournament in tennis, but The Championships at Wimbledon are not scared to do things a little differently sometimes - or, trendy - that is. The tournament has created a facebook page that features news stories, videos and other inside-the-tournament features for members to become "fans" of and get all their AELTC news while stalking their friends on the slightly-less-creepy version of MySpace.

Also on the new media front, Wimbledon was quick to take down any videos of play posted on YouTube last year during The Championships, so we'll have to see what happens this year. So far, you can see lots of Day 1 action on the site.

Canadien Frank Dancevic is through to round two after a rousing upset over David Nalbandian on Day 1. Don't want to brag, but I kind of predicted that this would happen.

Oh, and here's the light-hearted clip of Federer and Dominic Hrbaty at the end of their first-round match.

(Video by Deborahtje44.)

The Story of Jelena Capriakovic

At Wimbledon this year, Jelena Jankovic will walk onto the grounds of the All England Lawn and Tennis Club with scrubbed-clean finger nails, rid of the royal, bright blue she sported just a few weeks ago at Roland Garros.

She won’t be writing any love letters to British fans on her taped-up arm, as she did in Paris, or mimicking countrywoman Ana Ivanovic’s fist pump (at least until a possible repeat, semifinal clash).

That last match against Ivanovic was a heartbreakingly difficult loss for the Serb, now 23, reaching her fourth grand slam semifinal only to fall short of the big show for the fourth time, as well.

Her hard-hitting baseline game, tight-pulled ponytail, on-court antics and failure to breakthrough into tennis’ elite has me thinking of a certain American teen from the early 1990s. Any guesses on who?

Yes, Jennifer Capriati has been surfacing lately when I think of Jelena Jankovic and not just because they play alike, look alike and act alike, but more because Jankovic is at the dangerous point in her career that Capriati was at in 1991 when she faltered in her famous match against Monica Seles.

In 1991, Seles and Capriati were countrywomen, close in age, had similar styles of play and had tennis experts and fans alike calling for multiple-slam careers for the both of them.

Fast forward to 2008, and there was much the same going on at Roland Garros between Ivanovic and Jankovic. Ana had been slightly more successful at the slams and in their head-to-head history (like Seles), but hadn’t broken through as Monica had in ’91. And perhaps, as Americans, we forget what Roland Garros means to European players like Jelena and Ana, whose rivalry is growing at a faster pace than one of Jankovic's down-the-line backhands.

So, will Jankovic’s loss (6-4 in the third set) have the same impact that Capriati’s (7-6 in the third) did?

It must be pointed out that Jennifer had quite the different upbringing than Jelena did. Capriati was banging professional tennis balls by the tender age of 13 and succumbed to continuous pressure late in her “early” career.

Jankovic, on the contrary, has only been on a steady rise up the rankings, finally breaking through in 2006 at Wimbledon (beating then defending-champ Venus in the third round) to join the upper echelon on the women’s game.

But the significance of the Capriati loss 17 years ago had me thinking hard about how far Jelena has come and how far she could have already gone. There was a break in concentration at the ’06 U.S. Open against Justine Henin where she lead 6-4, 4-2 and decided to argue a line call for two games only to lose the next 10 and the match. And then there was a missed opportunity at Wimbledon last year where she blew her fourth-round match against Marion Bartoli (the eventual finalist), or her lack of confidence at this year’s Australian in the semis against Maria Sharapova.

The bottom line is, Capriati’s career went south after her loss to Monica Seles at the 1991 U.S. Open semifinals, and Jelena Jankovic has to be sure that history doesn’t stamp “Capriati” on her “Jankovic” passport.

Her loss to Ivanovic just two week’s ago was crushing for Jelena, who said after the match she just wanted to "get drunk" and forget about it and had reportedly been crying in the locker room before her press conference.

For Wimbledon to come so soon after the French is to Jankovic’s advantage – or, her disadvantage – depending on which way you look at it. She plays Ukranian Olga Savchuk in the opening round, whose current rank of 113 in the world is similar to Capriati’s first grand slam opponent after her loss to Seles: Natalia Medvedeva another Ukranian, who was ranked 96th at the 1992 Australian.

Perhaps the parallels that I’m drawing are rather stretched, but it is a thin line that Jankovic is walking right now in her fragile career. Where Capriati suffered from burnout, over-exposure and daunting pressure, Jankovic toys with playing too much and through injuries and an increasingly difficult psychological question: When will it be her turn?

For Capriati, that answer didn’t come until a decade later, when she won the Australian Open at the age of 24. But in today’s game, Jankovic doesn’t have a decade. Instead, she only has now, and if she wants to announce her arrival in the women’s game, there’s no place better to do it than at tennis’ biggest tournament.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Predictions: Wimbledon

I'm wearing my lucky Irish green and wishing that Kelly Liggan was in the draw...

Alas, here are my predictions (and hopes) for the AELTC 2008.

In case you forgot these two matches:

A Brief(?) Return

Well, folks, I've finally graduated from college. Nearly two years after I started this blog, I'm returning to it for coverage of Wimbledon and to see what sort of stuff I'd like to do for the year's greatest slam.

I've been toying with doing some video posts, delving into other women's sports and giving my tennis coverage a little bit of a different angle than any other site. Here's what you'll be getting from Tennis Chatter over the next couple of weeks:

-Original content
-Video posts
-Funny on-tour quirks
-Outside-the-lines stories
-My pure, unadulterated humor

I'm tired of tennis blog after tennis blog popping up all over the net and giving us the same thing that every other site gives: tennis news. Yes, it's great that the men's and women's games are getting ample coverage all over the Internet, but how much do we actually need 50 different sources telling us the same thing? If I learned one thing in college it was that we are drowning in a world content. There's content about everything imaginable out there, and in order to try to doggy paddle through it all, you have to sift through the stuff that's irrelevant.

That's why my return to Tennis Chatter may be brief. Perhaps I'm irrelevant. Perhaps I'm just another talking head that is under-educated about tennis and about life and is just spouting off un-needed opinion and taking up (cyber) space. I take myself (not too) serious as a tennis fan and as a writer, but perhaps I should be putting my energy elsewhere to make this thing called life work. I don't need to "prove" myself through a blog but instead I should be enjoying what I do while providing a unique and worthwhile service for my audience.

As always, comments are welcome.