Friday, November 30, 2007

Andy Up, Computer Down

Well, it looks like Andy Roddick is just about to close out Dmitry Tursunov in the first rubber to give the Americans a 1-0 lead over Russia in the Davis Cup finals.

It isn't surprising that Roddick has put the U.S. up, but it is rather impressive the way he did it. In their three previous match-ups, the pair had tight battles, including the instant classic 17-15 fifth set Davis Cup win for Tursunov last year in the semifinals and a 7-6 in-the-third win for Roddick at Indianapolis in 2005.

If this sets any tone for this tie, it's that the Americans are here to play. Can James Blake answer with a win over Youzhny? History favors Russia, again...

Meanwhile, my computer made a sad sighing noise before turning itself off this afternoon. Was that the last of its seven lives? I think so. And what perfect timing! Finals in two weeks :)

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I wish WoDaCu was the name of a new tennis wonder; a 13-year-old Nigerian girl who weighed just 95 pounds but hit a down-the-line backhand at 100 miles per hour.

But, instead it's my acronym-infused shortening for: Weekend of Davis Cup, which is as (or, more, depending on how you see it) exciting as a Nigerian child prodigy.

For all of you hoping for the dramatics of a typical U.S.-Russia DC tie, you're in for a treat. I'm hoping that the tennis is as good as the theatrics, and that Mr. James Blake can win his first big Davis Cup rubber, ever.

For now, I'll leave you with my new closest friend, Sweety. Here, Sweety auditions for American Idol, but is successful as Daniela Hantuchova was in attempting to beat a hobbled Serena Williams at Wimbledon this year (aka NOT successful). Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Power of a Mission Statement

As much as it pained Martina Hingis to lose, she couldn't help but do so sometimes. Especially late in her career(s), losing was something that came along with her game. The problem for Hingis, however, was that her mission statement was too short, too simple. The abridged version read something like this: "Win tennis matches."

Hingis' statement is similar to many top-tier players. Actually, it would be hard to find a tennis player at any level that didn't have "winning" somewhere in their mission statement. For the most part, that word would land in sentence one or two, as the forefront goal of a player.

The important part of any mission statement - whether its for a corporation, non-profit, stay-at-home mom or professional athlete - isn't about the end goal, but the process it takes to reach that goal. How, exactly, are you going to reach this stated goal? How are you going to achieve your mission?

If you were to read the unabridged version of Hingis' game, it might go like this: "Win tennis matches by out-thinking opponents." Okay, that's a little better, but still, where is the fuel that feeds the fire?

Let's take men's tennis current number one, Roger Federer. Federer's mission statement might read: "Win tennis matches by out-thinking opponents with the use of tactical slice, a powerful serve, cat-like movement and defense that looks like offense. Achieve this by surrounding myself with positive, confident people who boost my morale, but also keep me grounded. Train under a regimented schedule that challenges both my tennis game and my physique, especially focusing on long-term conditioning."

Federer's mission statement is obviously more detailed, and more goal-oriented. The problem with Hingis throughout her career was that she stuck to her simple mission statement, instead of being willing to change it up with an off-court conditioning program or a beefy serve.

History shows that those willing to re-write their mission statements have been most successful. In 2001, Jennifer Capriati entered the Australian Open shedding her old mission statement ("Hit every ball as hard as possible") with a new one: "Hit every ball as hard as possible and run down every ball hit to me. Do this with a stringent off-court training schedule."

Looking at the players of today, I see mission statement as brilliant as Federer's and as ignorant as Hingis'. The point is, unless there is context behind a great player, they no longer will be able to find success like great champions once did.

Just last week, Pete Sampras, during his well-documented tour with Roger Federer, said that the serve-and-volley game was extinct, and that players were now being taught to hit the ball as hard as they could, simply put.

While Sampras' words ring true, he may want to look at the track record of the last two years in tennis, when players liked Federer, Justine Henin, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams ruled. Sure, they all hit the ball hard, but it's the substance in their strokes - and their statements - that give them the edge to be the best.

Another Bird Lost

Thousands, maybe millions, of birds lost their lives this past week so America could chow down on the sacred day we know as Thanksgiving. It was my first go-around at the gorge fest as a vegetarian, and surprisingly, I did okay.

There was plenty of good food to eat at my friend's parent's house in Portland. Delicious mashed potatoes, incredible green beans, vegetarian stuffing and yams. Part of me missed the turkey, while another part was proud of sticking to my guns.

While I may have saved a bird (or half a bird, or just a few pieces of a bird), the game of tennis has claimed its fair share of the feathered creatures over the year. Once, in high school, a teammate of mine hit a serve that hit a trotting bird against the fence and ended its life.

In this video, too, a bird can't escape the giant green bullet moving at it with great speed. As sad as it is, enjoy the light moment toward the end. And, make sure to watch is super-slow motion so you know just what happened.

Miss Multi Talented

Who is tennis's ultimate girlfriend slash coach slash manager slash agent slash publicist slash match-watcher slash buffet champion slash fan?

Do you even have to guess?

I'm so proud. But still curious about what was on her Thanksgiving menu. I NEED TO KNOW!

All in the Family

(Photo by Paul Ruhter of the Bilings Gazette.)

So, this is pretty cool.

My Grandpa - and all 90 years of him - is on the front page of Montana's biggest newspaper, the Billings Gazette, today. A Basque that honed his pilot skills during WWII, Grandpa Gene is still flying every now and then, over 50 years after the war.

Check out the article, you'll be glad you did.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Beach Ball

As the rain continues to fall in Seattle, I wish I was on a warm, crisp beach somewhere chasing down this gorgeously green tennis ball.

(Photo by Jon Hawkins via flickr.)

I, however, am sitting in my living room with two pairs of pants on, a hooded sweatshirt and a wool scarf while drinking tea. It's 59 degrees in my house. Yes, I know, but, we're college students; and, for that matter, stewards of the environment.

For all of you wondering where this post is going, this is your friendly reminder about The Chatters. My amazing year-end awards post will feature the best and worst of the tennis world in 2007. Don't miss it on December 14th!

Fan Favorites Crowned on TTC

Recently on Open Access, one of The Tennis Channel's regular segments hosted by Murphy Jensen, the TV channel revealed the most popular tennis players in the history of the game via an audience vote.

While the cheesiness is oozing from this segment, you have to love that Murphy and producers embraced the comedy of it all by awarding the "Fan Favorites" with "Golden Fans".

Who was the #1 man and woman? Check out the video below.

(Story via the Monica Seles Site.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

In Case You Missed It...

The PSRF tour is the talk of tennis. Well, that and this other news story. But really, who's paying attention anyway?

For a video on the happier of those two news items, see below.

Oh, and welcome back to reality - it's MONDAY!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tennis Chatter: Side Dish

While I'm guessing your plate was, is or will be quite full, I thought I'd give you a side dish of entertainment. I was hoping to post some absurd YouTube video featuring turkeys playing tennis or something of the like. But, alas, no such video exists, which is certainly disappointing.

I did, however, gather a few fast facts to fill your tennis hunger for the day.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

--TENNIS online editor Kamakshi Tandon has compiled the key stats from this past year's WTA Tour.

--Jon Wertheim discusses Davis Cup and much, much more in his latest MailBag.

--Can Vaidisova cool down her temper to heat up her results? Ravi Ubha weighs in on ESPN.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving in Portland: A Week Too Early

As we made our way into Portland last night on I-5, I couldn't help but wish that the holiday was a week later this year. What an event it would've been: the Russians stomping into America on Thanksgiving weekend to play Roddick and company on American turf. What theatre it would've been!

Yet, in many ways, tennis has had its share of theatrics over the past eleven months, and more than anything, it would be great to end the season with something every true tennis fan loves: captivating tennis.

Sure, the drama is always compelling - especially when it comes to Davis and Fed Cup - but wouldn't it be great to watch James Blake gut it out in five sets to break a 2-2 tie and win the Americans their first Cup in this new millennium? I sure would love that.

If you've forgot about Mr. Sampras cramping twelve short years ago in the Davis Cup final, there's a comprehensive list of American-Russian battles up on the DC web site. Included is last year's semifinal, where Dmitry Tursunov beat Andy Roddick 17-15 in the fifth to give the Russians the edge.

And if there hasn't been enough to talk about with the claims of Tommy Haas being poisoned in the semifinals, or if Roddick will be healthy enough to play at all, it sure would be nice to see some terrific stuff played at the Rose Garden - even if I can't see it live.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Book of Face

Facebook has no doubt become an international phenomenon - and not just in the academic world. Tennis Chatter has joined the masses with my very own account.

Check it out and click the "Add" button if you so choose. Included are my posts from here, plus lots of fun updates, like my current one: "Tennis Chatter is wondering what Mirka is eating for Thanksgiving."

Really, what is Mirka eating? I'm SO curious!

The "Retired" Issue

Well, that was anti-climatic. But did you really expect anything else?

Monica chats it up with Tennis Week. The funny thing is though, they asked her everything but what we wanted to know: when is she coming back?!?

Jennifer Capriati? M.I.A.

Maybe we should all just realize that American tennis now consists of a cocky Texas boy wearing French clothing and two sisters that care more about glam that grit.

Too bold? You tell me. I wonder when we'll (and "we" includes "me") stop wishing our yesterday's champions back and just be content with what we have today...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Still Sad (About Martina)

Ten years ago, Martina Hingis had launched herself to the top of women's tennis. She was a bratty 17-year-old with cat-like quickness and a feline personality to match. She was tennis' ultimate diva arriving at the cusp of the millennium.

For everything that she was, I hated Martina. I thought her game was boring, her attitude disrespectful and her confidence cocky. She epitomized the exact reason I disliked tennis sometimes: arrogance.

But Martina was the best, and above everything else, that's probably why I hated her so. She ruled in '97, and carried her swagger into the '98 and '99 by retaining the world No. 1 ranking, winning two more slams and becoming a dominant force in the doubles game.

Ten years later, however, she's retired a second time - and this one just may be for good.

(Hingis could almost always find a way to win on the court, but finding happiness has been another thing. Photo by anam1973 via flickr.)

No one could have predicted what Hingis would face during the decade after she crashed onto the scene in '97 while winning three of four majors. She was the Queen of Cry at the '99 French, then the Princess of Puff when the Williams sisters arrived with their games of power in the early 2000s.

Martina was always somewhat disinterested in tennis, though her craftiness and passion we just as evident. She was born and bred an athlete, but unsure if that's really what she was supposed to be doing with her life.

But ten years and two retirements down the road, I'm still sad about Martina. I went from hating her, to being indifferent, to wanting her back, loving her return and being frustrated with her lack of results.

Now, I'm just plain sad. Wondering if the woman who looked so comfortable on any spot of a tennis court can figure out where she feels comfortable in life. I hope she does it. She certainly deserves to.

Tennis Chatter

There are plenty of advantages waiting up north for Jesse Levine, but the question is: will he go for it? There's no doubt that a 'notable' athlete in the States would be considered a super star in Canadian sports. Example: Frank Dancevic. (via ZooTennis)

Which was the better SEC? The men or the women? Justine and Maria put on an epic show to cap off the year, but Roger Federer is epic every time he steps on the court. Women's wrap. Men's wrap. Let us know which tour went out with a bigger bang.

Is there really competition between Roger Federer, the most genius and athletically sound tennis player on the earth right now and Pete Sampras, the former great who hasn't played a pro match in over two years? Koreans will decide that this week when the two go head-to-head in an exhibtion.

Oh yeah, and for winning the Masters Cup, Fed got another trophy. I wonder where he puts those things?

You do have to love Andy Roddick and the stuff he says in the interview room, even if his tennis is less-than-exciting sometimes.

And no matter who wins the battle of the GOATs, Rog and Pete will still be friends.

If you thought Novak Djokovic played bad last week, look how terrible the Shanghai crowd is in attempting to play some 'giant tennis'. Yikes.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Flawless Federer

Well, Roger Federer won today in Shanghai. No surprise that the Mighty Fed ended his year the way he started (and continued through) it. The question now is, who had the better year: Justine Henin or Roger Federer?

While Federer has been much more of a fan and media favorite, there is no denying that Henin has been as or more dominant than her No. 1 counterpart.

Federer took the title in Australia while Henin settled personal issues after divorcing husband Pierre Yves. Henin caught up at one slam a piece when she won at the French. The Fed would win the next two of the year, while Justine ran into a large-and-in-charge Marion Bartoli to fall short of her maiden title at Wimbledon.

While that one hiccup may have robbed Henin of claiming a better season, the petite Belgium did go 25-0 following that loss, while Federer went a decent 30-4 in the same span.

For me, the verdict is still out. If Henin remains healthy, she may become one of the most dominant player in the sport - male or female - ever. Federer, too, is etching himself into the stone of history with each passing year, as he will be sure to do in 2008, as well.

So, who do you think is better? I'm still undecided.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Back in Blogness

So after a minor brush with death (AKA my computer crashing), my computer is back up and running (for now).

It's funny how things can get so turned upside down when we become clipped from certain 'necessities' in our lives. During my first weekend in New York for my internship this summer, I lost my phone and felt - well, completely disconnected.

I certainly am a 21st Century adult: completely reliant on my technological devices. As much as I want to be simple, down to earth and free from any sort of attachment to material, instances such as losing my phone or being without a working computer for 24 hours have shown me that isn't necessarily the case.

Perhaps I need to go cold turkey and just wipe it all out of my life? But, in the society that we live in today, that's nearly impossible. As a university student, I'm told (and feel like I need) to check my e-mail daily for campus announcements, etc. And my phone is always on my hip, or in my bag...or palm for that matter.

Is there something wrong with that?

In a lot of ways, I would say yes, that there is something wrong with that. Just like I feel disconnected from the sport I love when it goes into its short but painful hiatus for 6 weeks, being without my technology is as hard as differing between decaf coffee and regular: it's not easy to do.

Yet this time around, I did my best to apply my most recent don't-freak-out-technique: deep breaths. They seem to work pretty well, and I went an entire day at work, school and through meetings without checking my e-mail, worrying about the blog (okay, only for a second) and thinking of another reason why I needed to 'Google' something.

I did, however, miss this girl. Listen and love, that's all I can say.

Through all of that processing, I'm not sure where I've arrived in this post or how I feel about possessions (especially technological ones) in my life. I guess it just take re-evaluating every now and then to know why we do what we do, and what it's all for.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Looks like school has taken its toll both on my and my computer, which died twice last night.

Let's just hope I can revive it for enough time to transfer everything to an external hard drive, right?

Meanwhile, posts will be slow throughout the weekend. But enjoy the last few days of men's tennis until '08! Should be a dandy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Kelly Concert Review; A-Train Rolls

Today, my good friend Matt Murphy over at Ranting Details put up my Kelly Clarkson concert review. One of the topics I discuss in the review is the diverse fan base that Clarkson has supporting her at concerts. I would argue that point for tennis, as well. Though long known as a "country club" sport, I think tennis has really internationalized and, over time, become more of a people's sport.

While the popular reach of tennis may be minute compared to the American past time of baseball and the global of phenomenon of soccer, the rise of non-American stars has no doubt helped the game go global and be available for a larger fan base, which I think we are all thankful for.

While Kelly was great on her third time around, Andy Roddick was just as good on his second. The American, who beat Nicolay Davydenko in three sets in his opening round robin match dispatched Fernando "Federer Beater" Gonzalez 6-1 6-4 to secure the first semifinal spot at the season ending championships in Shanghai.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tennis Chatter: Serbian Slump and More

Novak Djokovic is pulling a Jelena Jankovic in Shanghai this week. Jankovic tanked at the WTA Championships, losing every one of her matches and pulling out due to illness. The Djoker might being feeling a bit of the same fatigue after such an active year for him, as well.

Justine Henin beats Maria Sharapova in a long final at Madrid. Highlights are below.

Meanwhile, the men's No. 1 couldn't quite pull it off against his challenger.

Martina Hingis is waiting to see if the WTA will get involved in her drug case. Miss Hingis is most interested in clearing her name, and hopes that the WTA can help her do so.

If the WTA does clear Hingis' name, I have a question: will she un-retire? After realizing that she won't be remembered with the all-time greats, Hingis looks to have set her eyes on a new prize: the player who retired the most times. Current count is two, and I'm hoping that she retires at least four times!

Thought band-aids were out? You were so wrong.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Kelly Bound

I'm off to a Kelly Clarkson concert in an hour!

Hopefully I'll have video, pictures and all sorts of commentary sometime later this week.

Between KC, the boys of Shanghai and those things called school and work, I'll be pretty busy!

Shanghai Produces Opening-Round Surprises

Roger Federer's bumpy fall continued in Shanghai last night, where he lost to Fernando Gonzalez in his opening match of the year end championships.

It was an opposite performance than that of Federer's counterpart on the women's tour, Justine Henin, who beat Maria Sharapova in a thrilling Madrid final.

Gonzalez, the underdog, beat Federer to hand the Swiss No. 1 his first back-to-back losses since the spring of 2003, when he lost in the third round of Berlin and then the first round of the French.

Wouldn't it be a shocker if Mr. Fed was to go down in the Round Robin section of this tournament? It would be an unlikely end to a stellar year for Federer, but with all the scandal and upsets that have gone on in tennis this fall, it certainly would fall into the pattern of craziness.

That pattern was avoided by Rafael Nadal in his opening match, as he beat Richard Gasquet in three sets in Shanghai. Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, wasn't as lucky. The Serb lost to grinder David Ferrer, who beat Nadal at the US Open, 6-4 6-4.

The "Warriors" continue round robin play throughout the week before semifinals and finals are played over the weekend.

(The ATP players and their ATP Terracotta Warrior statues. Photo by mikehayes19 via flickr.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Justine is Queen; Maria on Upswing

Justine Henin crowned herself the Queen of Tennis this weekend, but Maria Sharapova isn't too disappointed to take the title of Princess.

Henin, the world No. 1 and undisputed Roger Federer of women's tennis proved this weekend that she may not need the aforementioned title comparing her to Federer - perhaps the Swiss is the Justine Henin of men's tennis?

Nonetheless, Henin ended the year 63-4, including winning her last 25 straight matches. Her last loss came at the hands of baby-eater Marion Bartoli at Wimbledon. Henin took revenge upon Bartoli this week while on her way to the Madrid title by double-donuting the Frenchwomen 6-0 6-0 in round robin play.

Yet it was the brilliance of Maria Sharapova that shocked both the crowd and the resurgent Russian this week. After a dismal season in Sharapova terms (she was 36-10 prior to Madrid and had four dismal losses at the majors), Sharapova rolled through her round robin matches and then dispatched Serbian Ana Ivanovic in the semifinals in straight sets.

The final, in which Henin won in 3 hours and 24 minutes after a 5-7 7-5 6-3 battle, was nothing short of epic. Henin's sheer resilience and consistency in the tight second set and her ability to close out the title in the third proved again to everyone how dominant the Belgian is in this global women's sport.

No doubt 2008 will bring more great tennis from both of these women after such an incredible end to the season. With the prospect of a healthy Serena Williams, a resurgent Jelena Jankovic and the returns of Lindsay Davenport and Amelie Mauresmo (remember her?), the tennis season should be a competitive.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Man With a (Movie) Plan

(Photo by Lindsay Beyerstein via flickr.)

This is Brad Pitt.

Click here to find out which tennis star thinks Mr. Pitt would be suitable to portray him in a movie of the tennis player's life.

Hmmm, really?

And who would play the girlfriend?

It Won't Stop

It won't stop until the Tours do something about all of this.

But will they ever?

I would argue no, but both chiefs - Scott and de Villiers - have shown that they can take a firm stance on the podium, but what about putting their foot down and really sending a clear and crisp message to players about certain behavior?

Or, as I said yesterday, are we all loving this attention?

Friday, November 9, 2007

SOS: State of (Women's) Sports

I had a disturbing realization while reading the New York Times this morning in my living room, Harvey Araton is absolutely right.

For a bit I felt rather embarrassed for the fact that I, as much as the next fan, always love a little scandal in women's sports. Tennis is chalk full of it over the last five years: the women - and girls - of the tour are able to make things dramatic while the tennis may lack in quality.

So does that make me less of a fan? Because I divulge in the cries of bad over-rules, the cat calls, the scandals - do I not respect women in sport as much as I should?

And, along the same lines, is that why women's tennis has been so successful as an international game? Many have argued that women's tennis is the single most popular women's global sport in the world. And while that fact is encouraging, does that popularity stem from the drama that seems to circle the tour with a constant buzz?

Did Big Babe tennis also bring about Cry Baby tennis? Are these pre-Madonnas so wrapped up in their own worlds that they can't see that they're not just playing a game - that they're professional athletes, too?

Maria Sharapova is the latest example of the glitzy girl: smiling for the cameras and keeping her off-court schedule busy while garnering a global fan base. So is the issue with players like Sharapova, who are well-rounded, out-going individuals? Or is it with someone like Justine Henin, who has thrown all of her petite being into being the best tennis player in the world?

Scandals and drama always take a catalyst, and often times that catalyst can be a single individual. So what sort of individual do we - the fans of women's tennis - want in order to fully enjoy the sport we claim to love?

Or, is it even fair for us to demand a certain type of athlete while enjoying so much of what happens after the end of the point? Are we truly "fans" in the purist sense when we smile a little to ourselves when Serena Williams goes bananas on a chair umpire, or Martina Hingis pouts and cries on her mother's shoulder?

My initial reaction is to say that "it all just comes with the territory." But does it? Are we able to be fans of those points - and just the points - without all the thrills and frills that come separate from them?

I want so badly to be a sincere fan, but my insatiable appetite for such drama no doubt wins out sometimes.

Between athlete and fan, there must be a balance. We must be okay with athletes being people - and, especially, women - and that sport comes with something more than just a game.

I just wish the headlines from Madrid were a little bigger this weekend than those out of the Hingis press conference last week. I fear, however, they won't be.

But does that really disappoint me? I'm still unsure...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Clip of the Week: See It, Believe It

Anna Chakvetadze somehow pulled out a three-set win over Jelena Jankovic to be the fourth semifinalist at the YEC in Madrid today.

Chakvetadze joins Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin and Ana Ivanovic in the semis. Doesn't it seem like this tournament just started? Crazy!

If you can see through your I-can't-believe-Serena-withdrew tears (Troy!), then here's a little tidbit of info you might enjoy: tennis on the internet.

I love the blogosphere for many reasons, but one of them is that information can be passed around so easily. Now, sometimes that might be a negative thing, but in the case of enabling those of us who do not own TVs to watch some high-quality tennis on the web, I'm all for it.

I did, finally, find some YEC videos on YouTube.

Oh, and in case you didn't see this score, be ready to feel really, really bad for Marion Bartoli. At least the holidays are coming up for Mari, she loves feasting with Mirka!

To rant for a minute, what a disappointing end to the season for Jelena Jankovic. I really feel that Jankovic didn't live up to her billing this year. Maybe that's unfair to say, but the Serb didn't win any big matches that proved to me she truly is a top-tier player. She still hasn't solved the Henin riddle (though few have), and her inability to win key matches (such as the one against Chakvetadze today) shows me that she isn't among the best in the game.

Now don't get me wrong, Jankovic is my favorite player on tour right now, and I admire so much of her game. But for her to be a threat in 2008, she needs to pull her game - and her head - together to make a run at some major titles.

Is Bigger Better?

We're trying out this new, bigger font.

Like it? Don't like it? Let us know.

The Ghost of Madrid

So this post is part Tennis Chatter, part gossip, part rant and part promotion.

First off, the whole "Ghost of Madrid" title is because of this: I can't find ANY videos on YouTube. I've put in every player's name, including Madrid, tennis and every possible tagging word I can think of. So, are they really playing tennis across the Atlantic? Or is it all just a ploy?

A few weeks ago, I purchased a T-shirt from an adorable online clothing company called Stick It Wear. I had discovered the company from Erwin, and had decided to check out the site for myself. Upon browsing their awesome tennis-inspired tees, I just had to have one. After ordering the "Clay Warrior" a few weeks ago, I was curious to why I hadn't received a package wrapping my stick-figured goodness yet. After a few email exchanges, a kind SIW employee named Joe informed that they had run out of the Warrior and were a little back logged. He promised me that the shirt was on its way, and that a second, complimentary shirt was included for my patience. So, in part, this is to tell you about an awesome T-shirt company...but it's also a bit of a pay-it-forward gesture. So check them out.

Jelena Jankovic is blogging this week from Madrid, while Serena Williams has just announced her withdrawal from the tournament.

No doubt Serena is hugely disappointed for having to leave the YEC without a title in her hand. I do, however, believe that this will be extremely motivating for Serena to make 2008 her year. 2007 was the year we saw Serena return to her championship form, but her "rivalry" with Justine Henin has taken a Federer-Roddick turn. JH owns Serena, winning their last three matches (all at majors) and losing just one set along the way. Sure, this is a sad departure for Serena, but I have no doubt that she'll be back to prove her "critics" wrong and make a charge for the No. 1 ranking in the world.

Meanwhile, looking ahead to next week, the groups have been laid out for the ATP Championships. Check them out.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

MIT: Matt's in Town!

Greetings all! Matt is in town this week from New York and we're doing our best to conquer Seattle in three days.

Check out all his posts of what we're up to day-to-day. I'll do a post sometime this weekend to summarize it all.

I'll do my best to keep up with the YEC in Madrid this week, too. Today, Serena delivered a bombshell, and it wasn't in the W column.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Birthday Thriller: Ivanovic Wins in Madrid

Ana Ivanovic matured in many ways yesterday in Madrid: the Serb left behind her teen years, turning the big 2-0 while winning her first year-end championship match in dramatic fashion, beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1 4-6 7-5.

The win gave Ivanovic a 1-0 record in the Red Group, where she and Kuznetsova will battle with Maria Sharapova and Daniela Hantuchova for a spot in the semifinals. The French Open finalist ran her record to 3-0 against the Russian this year and 4-1 overall. All three of their meetings this year have gone three sets, with Ivanovic winning two of them in extra innings.

Though Ivanovic has a winning record against the Kuz, it certainly was seen as an upset that the 20-year-old was able to beat the No. 2 seed here. Not only will this now make the Red Group more interesting, but it also puts Sharapova in more of an advantageous place after her opening-day win over Daniela Hantuchova. All together, the four women have played 31 times, so the fierce competition in the Red Group will no doubt surface over the next few days.

(Ivanovic was all smiles on a day when she took out the world No. 2. Photo by fred8912026 via flikr.)

No Ditty Dally

(Ditty at the 2007 US Open qualies - where she lost in the third round. Photo by robbiesaurus via flickr.)

Julie Ditty has taken her time to get into the Top 100 on the WTA Tour. Her run to the semifinals of the Bell Challenge in Quebec City last year was her first-ever appearance in a WTA semifinal after six seasons on tour.

Bonnie D. Ford has a terrific piece on the Vanderbilt grad over at ESPN. Check it out.

Honorable Mention

Ed McGrogan gave Honorable Mention to Lindsay Davenport and David Nalbandian yesterday on Peter Bodo's TENNISWORLD, saying that if the two were playing in their respective YECs they'd make some noise.

So if you had the chance to give Honorable Mention to one man and one woman on tour - who would it be?

Contribute to the Chatter -- TELL US!

Halloween, A Week Late

While play is already under way in Madrid (Hey! That rhymes!), there's something still Halloween-esque in the air.

Troy and I spent quite the summer at TENNIS Magazine. While in title, we were just lowly interns sent on various tasks (like fetching manikin legs), we certainly were professionals in other realms.

Those realms included (but were not limited to):
1. Banter.
2. Fighting about who got to marry Akgul first.
3. Arguing over whether Daniela had eaten 3 or 2 crackers during the year.
4. Lunch breaks in the park (Shakey! Shakey! FRIDAY!)
5. Troy knowing how to do everything and me knowing how to...well, do nothing.

One of those things that Troy was so well-versed on was photoshop. One afternoon I hunkered down next to him in his cubicle and he enlightened me on the world or re-sizing and cutting and pasting. While the words were coming out of his mouth at a slow and intentional pace (so as not to lose me), I felt like Charlie Brown in the fourth row. "Wah wah, wah wah, waaah."

So all of this chatter is leading somewhere, I promise. A few weeks ago, I emailed Troy and told him that I needed his mastery photoshop skills for a blog project (bloject?). Halloween was fast approaching, and I knew that the same hand that crafted FederBear, Mirkadeer and Holy Mother Mary would craft something grand and ghostly for the fall's best holiday.

Alas, Troy delivered. And though I'm a few days late in putting these up, I think that they're well worth the gander.

First, we have Serendaleezza Rice. After a strong 2007, Serena decided to give up tennis - and acting - and go into politics. Currently, she's lobbying for the Bush Administration to make Aneres, her clothing line, the official wear of all government officials.

Second (and last, for now), we have Justine Spears. Justine, too, was so over tennis. Instead of going the way of the law, Justine decided to try her luck in music. Her first hit, "Hand in The Air" was a flop though. Good try JuJu! At least she looks bomb on stage, right?

Troy Venechanos illustrations.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Tennis Chatter

The WTA Tour Championships get underway tomorrow, but the women have already been in action, doing a photo shoot for publicity. Check out the video of all the (photography) shots.

Martina Hingis' scandalous retirement announcement has already been made page 2 news, even on tennis-only sites like the Tennis Channel. Are we already over the Swiss Miss and her departure? Perhaps. But Steve Tignor did have some nice thoughts about the former No. 1 in his latest post on

How did I miss this awkward picture? Or is this a photo illustration? I'm so confused! Either way, David Nalbandian looks rather uncomfortable.

Erwin is back in action over at TennisServedFresh. As always, the popular Trophy Watch kicks off his Monday.

But wait, Hingis will fight the allegations? does that mean she hasn't actually retired? So confused....

Finals Videos

Paris Masters Series - Paris, FRA
David Nalbandian defeats Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-0.

Bell Challenge - Quebec City, CAN
Lindsay Davenport defeats Julia Vakulenko 6-4, 6-1.

...I know that Canadians do things a little differently, but does NO ONE in that country have a video camera?!? I mean, I know I'm asking a lot to have a video up the day after the final - but what's the deal, eh?

Because of the lack of a Quebec video, I decided to include this vintage match between Davenport and Monica Seles from 10 years ago(!), 1997. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

WTA Championships

The draw is up.

Serena is smiling.

Play begins Tuesday.

A Tale of Two Comebacks

Lindsay Davenport and David Nalbandian have both worked off their respective 'guts' in the past few months and the results are speaking for themselves.

The American, back from semi-retirement and giving birth to her first child, and the Argentine, back from a sluggish year and a brief dis-interest in his career path, have both claimed two titles this fall to the shock and surprise of the tennis world.

Davenport, following her September win in Bali, cleaned up in Quebec this week, beating Julia Vakulenko in the final of the Bell Challenge 6-4, 6-1.

It was the second title in three tournaments for the new mom, who returned to the tour a year after leaving. With the win, Davenport finishes 2007 13-1 and should move into the Top 100.

Meanwhile, Nalbandian captured two more prestigious tournaments this week, winning at the Madrid Masters two weeks again and claiming the Paris Masters this week in France.

The Argentine, a former Top 5 player who currently sits at No. 21 in the ATP - thanks in part to his win in Madrid - beat Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-0 for a comfortable win in Paris.

Salvaging a rather ugly 2007, Nalbandian has set himself up - along with Davenport - to be a major force on the tour in 2008.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Paris Masters: To Mt. Olympus and Back

Saturday greetings all! My parents and I are enjoying Seattle this weekend together, so I don't think I'll have much going on, unless Troy continues to shower me with incredible posts.

Today Mr. Venechanos has a special behind-the-scenes treat for us, with video to boot! Check out his posts over on Steve Tignor's Concrete Elbow blog on ("Wild Fires" and "Halloween in Paris".)

I am typing write now in the press tribune at the Palais Omnisports overlooking Center Court. There are no players on court yet. Instead, there are about eight Asian power drummers doing a really loud tribal song. Yesterday there was a group of Cirque de Soleil-esque dancers rolling around in hula hoops to Enya. But stranger things have happened on this court in the last couple of days.

This is the court where Nicolay Davydenko forgot how to serve. It's the court where Richard Gasquet took yet another unlikely win. And it's the court where I sat two rows behind Mirka.

I know, you're in shock. I am too. I probably will be for a while. But let me take you back to the beginning, to a time before I tasted the ambrosia of the tennis gods.

As you already know and will be reminded of for the last time, my friend Will is close with Eric 'Booty' Butorac. Booty lost in the second a couple of days ago in straight sets to the Czech duo of Dlouhy and Vizner. After his loss, we met up with Booty. He is an incredibly nice guy, your typical, down to Earth doubles player. Although, this might just be because he's from the Midwest. I think it's a genetic
impossibility to be from the Midwest and not be nice. Unless you're Ed Gein. Although as far as serial killers go, I think he was pretty nice - human skin lampshades aside.

Where was I? Ah yes, Booty. After his loss, he went back to the hotel to shower and eat. In the mean time, he gave Will a ticket to get into the Player's Lounge. This ticket would become my golden chariot. Will got into the player's lounge and I got my own pass and met him in there. It wasn't my first time in the lounge. My first time was uneventful; I saw a few notable players and had an awkward bro-like conversation with Mardy Fish on how Ana Ivanovic is a pretty girl. And yes, he used the term 'pretty girl' rather than 'hot chick.'

This second time was a completely different experience. Over the course of an hour, I saw every player in the ATP Top 20, excluding Federer. Nadal was canoodling with his girlfriend (also a 'pretty girl'). Nalbandian was playing games with a toddler (unsure of the relation). Brad Gilbert was talking with Anne Murray while waiting for Andy. Brad was talking about a Chinese Embassy - conversation which is now null
and void.

The French players were out in force as well. Grosjean, Llodra, Clement and Tsonga were all sitting in the same area watching a weird, dubbed movie with Pierce Brosnan. What is it with French players and Pierce Brosnan? Gasquet made a few appearances, he was constantly talkingwith his coach in preparation for his Round of 16 match with James Blake. Although at one point, Gasquet and Baghdatis were chatting. It turns out Marcos speaks great French, a fact I had forgotten.

The precious few Americans left in the tournament also hung out in a group. Once Booty returned, he lunched with the Bryans and even greeted Brad Gilbert. In case you ever run into him, call him 'BG' - it's what his bros call him. Yes, I thought I had made it. This player-saturated lounge was the real deal, the summit of every tennis fan's Mt. Olympus. It turns out it was just base camp.

Will had to leave early to catch an evening flight to Dublin. We said our goodbyes and he gave me the ticket that Booty had given him. It was the same kind of ticket that any member of a player's entourage would get. The same ticket as, dare I say, Mirka would get. I decided to wait until the evening session to use my ticket and in the meantime I enjoyed the Gasquet/Blake match as well as an all-French doubles match. I decided to get to that night's marquis match (Nalbandian vs. Federer)
slightly early because I knew seats would be in high demand - in the player's box that is.

I picked a great seat in the third row up. Great view, aisle seat, relatively little obstruction from the protective net - it was a good choice. Soon the entourages started to pour in. Nalbandian's coach and family filed into the front row. French tennis icons like Guy Forget took their seats as well. Still no sign of the courtside icon, Ms. Vavrinec.

Then I heard the clomping of expensive boots behind me. There she was, Mirka, in all her glory. She was extremely tall (not just because of her boots). Her hair was perfectly done and she clutched her ever-present purse in front of her as she chatted with another ever-present girlfriend. I was blinded for a second by her "I love you very much ring." At a few points, we made eye contact. Soon the match
started and her boyfriend started to battle it out with his new Argentine rival.

I had a great view of the match and it was a very entertaining one at that. I forgot what the following match up on Center Court would be and I asked the person in front of me what the next match would be. "Haas vs. Youzhny," he answered, "you might want to look next to you." Sure enough, sitting right next to me was the German wonder himself, Tommy Haas.

I decided to get concrete evidence of this event - a way of electronically pinching myself to make sure this wasn't a dream. As you can see in this video, Nalbandian's coach is to the left. I zoomed in on Mirka, although her radiance cannot be captured on film. If you look closely, I zoom across as Tommy is sitting next to me. I thought it would be socially uncomfortable to zoom in on him as he sat next to me.

As the match drew to an end, Tommy left to get suited up for his match. In his vacant seat sat Cedric Pioline's wife who brought along their adorable son. There wasn't very much room, so the kid and share seat space between his mother and I. I knew I was on Mt. Olympus when I had a Pioline on my lap.

We all know how the match ended; Zeus was dethroned. As I made my way slowly down the hallowed peaks of the tennis world, I hope I will come back soon. If not, Mirka and I will always have Paris...

-Troy Venechanos

Friday, November 2, 2007

Tennis Chatter: Hingis Update, etc.

While I was (not) going to class yesterday and picking up my parents at the airport, Martina Hingis was retiring from professional tennis.

The "breaking news" that I thought surfaced this morning was a nearly a day old - so is the life of a student blogger, right?

Lindsay Davenport - officially un-retired and cocaine free - continued her assault on the women's tennis tour, belting her way into the quarterfinals of Quebec, where she's a wildcard. Two titles in three tries for the California mom? It's looking that way.

Want to hear what Roger Federer had to say after his loss to Nalbandian yesterday? Click here.

Speaking of Hingis, the WTA issued this statement from Larry Scott.

Hingis' full statement can be found on Peter Bodo's TennisWorld.

And the video (for the emotion, not the words):

Breaking News: Hingis Retires

Martina Hingis has announced her retirement from professional tennis for a second time - but this one might be a bit more permanent.

The 27-year-old Swiss player announced that she tested positive for cocaine at Wimbledon this year and chose to retire because she does not want to fight a legal battle with the WTA for the ensuing two years.

More of this story as we get details.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Nalbandian Stuns Federer

David Nalbandian has pulled a Guillermo Canas.

Short of doing it in back-to-back weeks, Nalbandian has defeated Roger Federer at the Paris Masters Series event for his second win over the world's number one player in as many meetings.

The Argentine, who beat Federer at the finals of the Madrid Masters Series ten days ago, scored an impressive 6-4, 7-6(3) win over the Swiss.

We'll have in-depth coverage of this shocking upset and the following development of the Paris draw from Mr. Troy Venechanos himself. Stay tuned!

A Year Later: Mary Pierce Falls in Linz (COTW)

Just over a year ago, Mary Pierce suffered a horrific fall in Linz during a match with Vera Zvonareva.

The French veteran, who had a resurgent 2005 in reaching the finals of both the French and US Opens, was sidelined again with a torn ligament in her leg.

For much of 2007, Pierce has made sure the public knows that she'll be back. She was a socialite at the French, attending parties and doing commentary before helping present the trophies in a cream-colored frump gown...I mean, dress.

(Mary Pierce making a fashion "statement" at the '07 French Trophy presentation. Photo by Maria Victoria via Flickr.)

A call is in at the WTA about Mary's return. Any one have any info? For now, check out the fall itself - and hope that Mary is back in full health - and better attire - in 2008.