Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Art for the sake of tennis

Rafa and Roger may be rivals, but that doesn't stop them for getting together for the sake of art.

Whether you like artful tennis or whether you like smashmouth tennis, it's pretty hard not to enjoy the ATP's idea of putting stencils of action shots on canvas and letting Rafa and Roger have at it. There will be six other commissioned pieces to come from the other six World Tour Finals qualifiers, who have yet to be determined, making eight in total.

"It was a little bit like a challenge to put the balls in the silhouette," said Rafa. Sure, I guess it's easier squeezing that backhand pass through an opening as wide as Paris Hilton's hips while a flummoxed Novak Djokovic prowls the other side of the net, right?

"This I could do every day," says Roger Federer. "It's not so easy to hit from a long distance away, but I think I did a good job and the results are gonna be nice."

All of the signed artwork will be on display in London in a major gallery come November, and the proceeds will go to charity.

It isn't exactly Picasso or Van Gogh, but I think the ATP is doing a wonderful job with the project. They've chosen creative stencils that convey the essence of the players, and they've found a way to make the works personal by having the players color the canvases with their own personal strokes.

This is a fantastic idea, no doubt inspired by Martina Navratilova's similar experiment in 2008 with Slovak artist Jurak Kralik. But whether the approach is entirely original or not is of no consequence. The important thing is that the ATP and it's top players have proven that their priorities are where they should be. In embracing art and fostering charity, the ATP is ensuring that the Barclays World Tour Finals will transcend the sport by adding a healthy dose of philanthropy and creativity to the mix.

I hope that the ATP takes it one stop further and issues replica prints of the original canvases so that die-hard tennis fans can obtain a copy of their favorite player's artwork, and I'm sure demand would be high if the price was reasonable enough.

Monday, September 27, 2010

London Calling

Will David Ferrer, Mikhail Youzhny, and Jurgen Melzer make late runs at the World Tour Finals?

Well, the 2010 Slam season may be behind us, but that doesn't mean that we can all take a long snooze and set our alarm clocks for the Australian Open. As the Asian swing gets underway, there are still a lot of reasons for the world's top players to put their best hardcourt shoes forward - nearly 2 million to be exact.

With only 54 days left until the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals begin at the sleek and sophisticated O2 Arena in London, there are still six spots up for grabs. While Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Robin Soderling appear to be all but a lock for the event, numbers six, seven, and eight in the rankings (also known as Berdych, Roddick, and Verdasco) might want to get a few wins under their belt because a man by the name of Dah-veed is more than likely going to make a run at one or all of them.

David Ferrer made good use of his one and only trip to the WTF's in 2007, when he won four consecutive matches on his way to a loss in the final to Roger Federer. The relentless warrior netted a cool $700,000 for his showing, and the way that Ferrer has played in 2010, there is absolutely no reason to believe that he couldn't sneak up on the field and do some damage under the bright lights of the O2 Arena.

Others on the outside looking in at the moment are Mikhail Youzhny and Jurgen Melzer, but both in-form players are a few good tournaments away from making the likes of Verdasco, Roddick, and Berdych have to work for their spots.

In Berdych's case, given his recent form, and the amount of energy he expended over the spring and summer, I'm not sure what he has left in the tank. Roddick too, has been in a funk.

In other words, the top-8 at the moment may not be the top-8 on November 21. It could make for some very interesting matches and tournaments as the long river of tennis that is the ATP season finally makes it's way
to the River Thames.

Both Berdych and Ferrer will be in Malaysia this week at a 250 event, and they could meet in the quarters. Youzhny, Soderling, and Davydenko will be there as well.

Who do you think will come out with the most points?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Take it slow, Delpo

This is what I found when I searched the internets for word of Juan Martin del Potro's current form. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

If all goes well in the Juan Martin del Potro camp, we'll likely see the 2009 U.S. Open champ returning to top form around May of 2011. He needn't sweat the small stuff in Thailand this week - it's far too early for that.

If you haven't heard, del Potro has entered the draw in Thailand, and will be playing his first matches since January. If he makes the quarters, he could face Rafael Nadal, but I don't want that to happen. I hope the two don't meet in Bangkok, and here's why:

The tall Argentine needs to build stamina, especially in the muscles around the surgically repaired wrist -- he's only capable of so much tennis. Competing against a juggernaut like Nadal could force him to push it too hard. That is the precise opposite of what del Potro needs to be doing in his first live play in 9 months.

Let's not hurl our heavy expectations on the man until he's had at least 20 matches under his belt, with plenty of rest in between.

The last thing tennis needs is this phenom over exerting himself against Rafael Nadal in his first week back on the tour. The worst possible outcome right now is another injury of the wrist -- I hope delpo and his team make this the biggest priority until 2011.

For these reasons, I am officially hoping that two of the most exciting players in tennis DO NOT MEET in Thailand.

What do you guys think?

I wish I was there: Toray Pan Pacific Draw

Maria Sharapova is one of sixteen top-20 players that is ready to play the Toray Pan Pacific next week. Her 1st round opponent? Kimiko Date Krumm.

Just wanted to check in and let you all know that the stakes are about to get considerably higher for the women of the WTA next week in Japan. This Premier 5 event offers 350k to its winner, and a hefty 900 rankings points to boot.

On Twitter, I was asked to pick a winner, and I deliberated for quite some time before finally going with the No. 10 seed Kuznetsova. But don't bet your house, car, or boat on this one.

Without Venus or Serena (or Kim Clijsters, for that matter) in the draw, the tournament could come down to who is is the most prepared. You can also expect those players that are within striking distance of the top-8 to pick up their play a bit here. Na Li, Elena Dementieva, and Victoria Azarenka are all nipping at the heels of the final few spots for Doha, and there's only a month to go.

Jelena Jankovic and Francesca Schiavone are the No. 7 and No. 8 players respectively in the race, and each will more than likely play with a sense of purpose because of it.

Additionally, we could have a race for No. 1 as Caroline Wozniacki, the top seed at Toray, has only 6 (you heard me right) WTA rankings points to defend at Toray and Beijing, combined. Serena has 140 points in Beijing and 1500 in Doha, in case you were wondering. She currently leads Woz by just over 1000 points in the overall rankings.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stats in Tennis: Who Wants More?

Where can I learn how many times this guy served and volleyed while facing a break point?
More stats. Fans want 'em and coaches do too - still, our collective yearning for them doesn't seem to change anything. The list of available tennis stats is stuck in neutral at the moment.

Sure, cool stuff like break points won, and return games percentage won/lost are available, but there isn't a whole lot beyond that.

Think...what if we could log on to a players profile and look at their record in deuce games, or the amount of second serves they hit out wide while serving against lefties? The possibilities are endless, and who knows, maybe coaches would really be able to mine the data for game-changing clues about certain opponents.

But at the moment, it doesn't look like the days of tennis sabermetrics lie just around the corner. It feels more like they are in the next country over.

Why? Maybe the ATP or WTA tours don't possess the budget to expand their current level of statistical analysis, but I often wonder why some enterpriser doesn't just up and form a company that monitors obscure yet useful emerging trends in tennis? That company could then package them all into a neat little series of graphs, charts, and lists so that everybody who wanted them had them at their disposal.

Tennis is a cerebral game that demands that players implement strategies that takes into account strengths and weaknesses of opponents. Sure, you can look at a player and see what he does or doesn't do well, but it's never as simple as it looks. Concrete numbers never lie, but impressions gained from sight sometimes do.

Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim is a regular campaigner for deeper stats for tennis. Yahoo Sports (Chris Chase) and the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective have brought up the subject in recent posts.

Now it's my turn.

Here are five stats I'd like to see made available by the ATP, WTA, or an independently operated company that takes up the cause.

  • Ratio of forehands to backhands by 1) balls put in play 2) winners 3) errors
  • No. of rallies extended beyond 8 or more strokes, and who won them.
  • M.P.H of ground strokes, so that average pace could be calculated by player and by shot (forehand, backhand).
  • Error counts that contain backhand errors, volley errors, forehand errors. overhead errors - basically every error goes into a category.
  • Shot selection stats, i.e. how much of each did a player hit per match? Forehand flat, forehand topspin, backhand slice, backhand topspin.
What are your five?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Best of the Rest

Before Rafa and Nole tussle for the men's title, here's some thoughts on all we've seen thus far at the U.S. Open.
Man, can two weeks ever feel like a lifetime. Remember when it was hot and players were sweating profusely during warmups? Remember when 25 M.P.H winds wreaked havoc on a full week of tennis? Remember when Nole's Parent's t-shirts spiked in value on Saturday afternoon?

I do, but that will not stop me from reliving it right now. Call it a pre-final post-tourney memorial celebration. I promise to be brief.

Enjoy the men's final y'all!!!!

  1. Ryan Harrison - Let's not overhype him but let's not forget how refreshing it was to see an American display that kind of variety and court sense. Sure, he coughed up a big opportunity vs. Stakhovsky, but I'm guessing it will only serve to make him a hungrier animal.
  2. King and Shvedova - Can they comeback and win a second consecutive title? Either way, starting their Grand Slam career with a Wimbledon title and eleven consecutive wins absolutely rocks!
  3. Wawrinka - This was most I've ever enjoyed watching Stan the Man do his thing. His chip and charge to finish Querrey off in the round of 16 was classic.
  4. Maria Sharapova - Yeah, another tough draw for Maria, but I absolutely loved the way she played this year. I think when we look back on her career, we'll say that 2010 was the year that made Maria stronger than ever.
  5. Kimmie - 21 straight wins at the U.S. Open? That would have been tough to call last summer. U-n-b-e-l-i-e-v-a-b-l-e.
  6. Youzhny - Every time I see his salute, I love him a little bit more. The Youzhny-Wawrinka QF was classic old school tennis. Juicy rallies, one-handers, guts, and instinct.
  7. Gabashvili and Istomin - These guys stepped up on the big stage and kept the night sessions very interesting. Sure, we all want to see Rafa seek and destroy, but it's nice when he has to work a little in the process.
  8. The Heat - I love to watch tennis in oppressive heat. We get to see who has put in the hard yards over the course of the year, and we get to see shotmaking that is unaffected by gale force winds.
  9. Gasquet - Hey, the guy played his best tennis in a while.
  10. Monfils - Nice run for Monfils, and the new K-Swiss commercial is fun. But seriously, Gael, just get serious about winning please. There's a time and a place for all that amazingly cool stuff you do on court - and we love you for it - but just keep your eyes on the prize kid.
  11. The wind - Yeah, it sucked, but it gave us a chance to see just how amazing the pros are. It was blowing like a hurricane, but it was actually hard to tell when you saw the amazing tennis that pretty much everybody managed to play.
  12. Wozniacki - Disappointment against Vera, but a fantastic win against Maria, that was my match of the tourney for a few days.
  13. Federer's dad - The look on his face after Nole took Roger out was moving. If you saw it you know what I am talking about. Pretty heavy stuff.
  14. Schiavone - She played some amazing tennis and I thought she was on another magical run until Venus got her in the quarters.
  15. Bopanna and Qureshi - These guys need to win a Slam next year - they deserve it, and the world needs it.
  16. Verdasco and Ferrer - The type of classic match that you would expect from the Armada.
  17. Spain - the type of tennis, with 9 in the 3rd round, and 6 in the 4th round, that you'd expect from the global leader in tennis domination.
  18. Directv - Watching the first week of a Slam with a clicker in one hand and a tape recorder in the other, while typing with my toes, has become my new religion. Special thanks to the following: Darren Cahill, Cliff Drysdale, Jeff Tarango, Luke Jensen, Al Trautwig, Virginia Wade, Barry MacKay, Justin Gimelstob, Brad Gilbert, P-Mac, Johnny Mac, Tracy Austin, Martina, Bill Macatee, Jimbo Connors, Bud Collins, Doug Adler, and so so so so many more. We tennis fans are truly blessed to have the type of coverage and dedicated commentators that we have.
  19. Grandstand - IMHO, the best court in America - BY FAR!
  20. Armstrong - Not too bad either.
  21. Ashe - mixed feelings on the super-sized colossal wind tunnel - but nothing but admiration for the man that it was named after.
  22. Llodra - Poetry in motion. I wanted him to win the whole damn thing after two rounds.
  23. ESPN's SpiderCam - I love unique camera angles and slick production for tennis. This camera rocks, and I can't wait to see how many cool shots they bust out for the final.
  24. Sam Stosur - Finally past the second round in New York, and won a big match vs. Elena. My heart goes out to her, because I think she played the worst set of her entire life against Clijsters in the 3rd, but she'll be a force next year if she can conquer her stagefright.
  25. Ryan Harrison - So what if I already mentioned him? The kid is mature beyond his years, and he's humble in that Nadal-like way.
  26. Beatrice Capra - Her big upset of Rezai on Grandstand made me feel all mushy inside. Her post-match comments after getting blitzed by 'Pova show that she's a good kid with a sense of humor to boot.
  27. Andy Murray - Well, he didn't make any excuses. He'll get there.
  28. Janko Tipsarevic - His stunner over Roddick is still one of the top-5 matches of the tournament, don't you think? He played lights out in that match and it was fantastic.
  29. Troicki - It took all Nole had to knock him out of the tournament. Man, when he ratchets up that serve it is pretty impressive. I hope he gets a DC title to ease his pain.
  30. Querrey - Kudos to Sam for picking up his play after his childish episode at the French. He had a great summer and turned in his best U.S. Open performance (in spirit, and in result) to date.
  31. Jim Courier - This guy is an excellent commentator, and it was a pleasure to watch a few matches called by him and Johnny Mac (my personal fav) together.
  32. Roger Federer - Federer is god. And the tweener is his gift to the minions. Enough said.
  33. Tweener's in General - Schiavone hit a tweener? What?
  34. Sweaty Fans and cold fans - Hey, this show wouldn't go on if we weren't all so obsessed with it. I myself prefer the sweaty fans.
  35. The Bryan Brothers - 9 Grand Slams, 65 Dubs titles, and counting.
  36. Dudes like Bob Brett and Heinz Gunthardt - they go on and do interviews and totally increase my understanding of tennis.
  37. All the interviewers - Interviews are learning experiences. Thanks to dudes like Justin Gimelstob and Brad Gilbert, who work tirelessly to bring the players to us.
  38. Esther Vergeer - What she does is pretty inspiring, but it would also be inspiring if she let someone else win, just for once. She's on a 396 match win streak - WOW.
  39. Jack Sock and Daria Gavrilova - Your boys and girls junior singles champions!
  40. Charlize Theron and all the other celebs who attended - Thanks for me!
  41. Nole's mom and dad - Rock those t's, RF's got nothing on you guys now (except a few majors, but who is counting?)
  42. Venus - She came in cold, got hot and stayed hot, but in the end Kimmie was hotter. Her effort is still - by far - the best American singles effort, and she deserves some cred for that for sure.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wozniacki: Ready to Rumble

Caroline Wozniacki turned in her best performance of the year against Maria Sharapova yesterday. Can she top it?
The worn out knock against Caroline Wozniacki was the reason she was so damn awesome against Maria Sharapova yesterday. If you don't know what I'm talking about I'll give you a hint: It starts with a "D" and ends with a Sharapova error.

Not that there was a whole lot that Maria could have done.

"I felt like, you know, I was playing well out there. I made her do those errors," said Wozniacki when asked if she felt that Maria handed her the match. "I knew she was trying to be aggressive," added Wozniacki. "For me it was important to keep as many balls in the court but still try to and move her around and try to dictate, as well."

It was a strategy executed to perfection, as Wozniacki enticed Sharapova into several 20-plus stroke rallies that served to wear Maria down, while Wozniacki only seemed to get more dialed in and energized.

Wozniacki was so steady yesterday, and so focused, that it was easy to envision her winning the Open, in spite of the fact that she's primarily a defensive player who prefers to let her opponents beat themselves. We've all been watching the exploits of Kim Clijsters, Samantha Stosur, and Venus Williams over the first eight days of the Open, and each is a prime example of how important an aggressive attack can be on the Grand Slam stage.

But every player is different, and must base their approach to the sport on their strengths. Wozniacki's strengths at this point are obvious, and it's a credit to her and her coach/ father that she has stuck with her guns (or lack thereof) throughout this year's Open.

After making her first Grand Slam final at last year's U.S. Open, the Great Dane (also tabbed "the golden retriever" by Bud Collins) has not been beyond the quarterfinals of a Slam since. Losses to Na Li in Australia, Francesca Schiavone at the French, and Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon have left critics wondering how she could be content to play such a defensive style when the rest of the top players all had significant offensive weapons to rely on.

Very few people are questioning Wozniacki after yesterday's decisive victory of three-time Grand Slam Maria Sharapova, though. Yes, she may have relied on her defense, but rarely - if ever - has their been a better defensive effort from Wozniacki. Not only was she quick enough to get to practically every sizzling groundie that Sharapova launched at her, she also had the balance and the footwork to get in position and the supreme conditioning to tirelessly answer every shot that Maria sent her way.

Her uncanny consistency kept Maria pinned behind the baseline, and the forehand that many feel is prone to giving up short balls was flawless.

There are a lot of ways to spin the story of the match, and many will say that Sharapova's double faulting on a crucial break point or failure to employ the drop shot to get Wozniacki out of her comfort zone on the baseline were the reasons that she looked so stymied.

Others will acknowledge the fact that Wozniacki's remarkably low error tally (10 vs. 36 for Maria) was an amazing feat, especially given the constant pressure she was under from Maria. They will also point out that Wozniacki's backhand can be a significant offensive weapon when she is putting her weight behind it. And that her serve can be pretty dangerous as well.

Make no mistake about it: One match will not make Caroline Wozniacki a U.S. Open champion, no matter how brilliant the effort was. She'll need three more to get the trophy, but with the confidence that her big time victory over Maria Sharapova has instilled in her, Wozniacki as the last woman standing is not nearly as much of a longshot as it was before the tournament began.

"I definitely think I've improved a lot, not only physically, but also I believe in myself more" said Wozniacki. "I Believe I can do it."

Thanks to yesterday, she's not the only one.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

No Longer Mission Impossible

With a beefed-up serve, Rafael Nadal's chances of winning the U.S. Open are definitely better than ever.
Rafael Nadal doesn't want to talk about it, but it is something that has to be seeping into his consciousness. After two sparkling, albeit hard fought matches on Arthur Ashe, it is apparent that the time might very well be now for the 24-year-old Spaniard to capture the coveted career Grand Slam.

He sure as hell plays like someone who wants it badly, but in his pressers he's decidedly nonchalant about the feat that many tennis aficionados consider to be a measure of supreme greatness. "Seriously, for me, complete the Grand Slam at this moment is not a goal," he told the press after last night's straight set victory over Denis Istomin. "For me the goal is try to improve my level, to play well the next match," he added. "For me it is not an obsession and is not a real goal."

Even as Rafa downplays the importance of the achievement, it's clear that Rafa is playing the U.S. Open with more confidence than he's ever had before. He's healthy, and that is probably the most important factor of all, but he's also beefed-up his serve, which had been a comparative liability in year's past.

Rafa's serve topped out at 134 last night, and that's three M.P.H. higher than his first round high of 131 against Teymuraz Gabashvili. It's never been about pace with Rafa, but if you do the math, and factor in the surface, Rafa's growth in that department will take away time from his opponents and help him to generate more free points.

It's working so far, as Nadal has faced eight break points in his first two matches, and stared each and every one of them down.

"I started to serve well one or two days before the competition," said Nadal. "I changed a little bit the grip, like five or six days ago, because I felt when I played against the wind I didn't have free points."

With a big time first serve to complement his world class ground game, Nadal's potential opponents can't be blamed for feeling a little less anxious about playing him on the lightning fast New York hard courts.

"For the moment It's (the serve) working really well," said Nadal, "so I am going to try to keep playing like this. And, sure, to serve like this is a big confidence on my game."

Confidence is something that Rafa hasn't had on hard courts, especially in New York, for the last few years. He's managed to get through to the semifinals in each of the last two years, but he did so while not playing his best tennis, and with nagging injuries keeping him from trusting his body during the grueling second week of the Open, when scheduling issues can force players into matches on consecutive days.

Now that he's confident, serving bombs, and timing the ball exceptionally well, it's hard not to imagine Nadal putting up his best ever U.S. Open performance. Whether or not it'll be enough to get him the title is another story. Cement is also the best surface of the two players he'll likely have to go through to capture a third consecutive slam title: Andy Murray and Roger Federer.

How does he feel about the possibility of winning three straight slams?

"Doesn't matter if it's straight or not straight for me," he said. "Just if any day I have the chance to win here, it would be a dream."

Harrison's Heartbreak Hotel

Ryan Harrison brought the crowd to his feet for the better part of his first two matches. But it wasn't meant to be.
After two straight years where he fell in the first round of U.S. Open qualifying, young American Ryan Harrison broke through in 2010 and reached his first main draw. As many of you know, the fun didn't stop there.

Harrison's huge upset over No. 15 seed Ivan Ljubicic gave the tennis world a glimpse of what Harrison could do. He isn't the prototypical American baseline basher - he's more of a cerebral player that uses a vast array of shotmaking potentialities to keep opponents off balance. It's refreshing to see an American who isn't content to just serve big and rip forehands from the baseline, regardless of whether the strategy is paying dividends or not.

Harrison, who along with his younger brother Christian, has learned the game under the tutelage of his father Pat Harrison. He's also spent a lot of time at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, and when he's traveled on the tour he's had Jay Berger, who is a USTA men's national coach, with him as well.

If it sounds like a lot of people to listen to and be influenced by, you're right. This might be the reason that Harrison has developed such a nice variety to his game. "He has wide open ears, always willing to learn, wanting to grow and develop," says Tracy Austin.

And Austin wasn't the only tennis luminary who was wowed by Harrison's maturity, and his eagerness to soak up any opportunity that he had to learn, like a sponge. Navritalova, Connors, John McEnroe, and many others were impressed with the way the 18-year-old carried himself during his brief run at the Open. It's one thing to win a few matches, but it is entirely another to display the type of maturity, conviction, and humility that portend much more future success.

Harrison, with his calm demeanor, sense of respect for his coaches and higher ranked players, and his overall Nadal-like commitment to steadily and persistently improving, might have a bigger upside than most of his peers. "I love his attitude, and his work ethic as well," says Austin. It is a sentiment that was echoed by almost everyone who chipped in their two cents on the young man.

There truly was a lot to like about Harrison, who has a very calm on court demeanor, and seems to enjoy the art of problem solving and making adjustments a lot more than most 18-year-olds who've been thrust into their first taste of big time tennis.

"I'm trying hopefully to get to the top ten," said Harrison, "so I feel like one match doesn't make or break that. It's the experience of playing these types of matches that is really going to help me get there."

Harrison, who held three match points against Ukranian Sergiy Stahkovsky, saw his unexpected run end abruptly when his opponent hit two booming serves, then outlasted Harrison in a longer rally in which the American appeared to be visibly feeling the pressure. On the next point, the rattled Shreveport native double faulted, giving Stakhovsky a match point of his own that he would not fail to convert.

It was a shattering turn of events that quited a raucous crowd on Grandstand, and in a matter of a New York minute, Harrison went from being the can't miss kid from another player barely inside the top-200 that needs to learn how to deal with the pressure of closing matches out on a grand stage.

Perhaps the setback was exactly what Harrison needed? While Melanie Oudin, the darling of the 2009 Open, fell under the weight of unrealistic expectations in 2010, Harrison will have to head back to the practice court with a bitter taste in his mouth.

As good as he was this week, he was one big serve from being a heck of a lot better. But the sting of the moment won't deter from Harrison from trudging onward, and from looking at the big picture instead of getting bogged down.

"I'm just going to keep my head down, and work as hard as I can and listen to the people I trust and develop my game," he said.

"I've got a lot of work to do. From the time I get back home until my next tournaments, my goal is going to be improving my game until I can be a consistent contender, and the ranking and all that stuff will take care of itself."

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Old School in the New World

Micheal Llodra's brand of artistic serve and volley tennis is tailor made for the faster courts in New York.

Most people didn't expect 30-year-old Parisian born Michael Llodra to brush aside physical specimen and powerful ball striker Tomas Berdych as if he were a unknown qualifier in the first round, but he did just that.

According to the statistics, the Frenchman has been to the net 75 and 59 times in his first two matches, and until his opponents (next round he'll face Tommy Robredo) can find a way to stop him, expect him to continue in perpetuity with his crowd pleasing kamikaze brand of tennis.

He hasn't been past the fourth round of a Grand Slam, but Llodra just may find himself outpacing his past results if he can continue befuddling opponents the way he has in his first two matches. Players don't get to play against the style very often, and when it is executed to precision, as Llodra has done by serving out wide and volleying with incredible precision, they often find themselves out of sorts, and desperate to find their rhythm.

If Llodra's run continues, fans are in for a very entertaining display of the type of tennis that we often find tennis purists clamoring for. 'What happened to the serve and volley?' they say. 'Why all this boring baseline play?'

If Mr. Llodra's tennis-as-art installation keeps running in New York, fans may very well get what they've been wishing for. He is a pure serve and volleyer who wields his racquet like an impressionist era painter. When pitted against a field that is littered with modernists who play a brand of tennis that is aided and influenced by all the technology and fitness advancements the new millennium, Llodra sticks out like a blue footed booby among seagulls.

Sometimes it pays to be different. Llodra is hoping that his serve and volley gallery stays open through the weekend, and if things go well, perhaps beyond.

While his works are on display, New Yorkers might want to pass on the Moma and Guggenheim and take the No. 7 train down to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.