Wednesday, July 31, 2013

John Isner is a Tiebreaker-Winning Machine Right Now

Hell hath no fury like John Isner in a tiebreak.

(July 31, 2013)--Watch out ATP: World No. 20 John Isner is very dangerous when he starts winning tiebreakers like he is right now. On Wednesday the big man won his fifth straight match, against Alex Kuznetsov, 7-6(2), 7-6(4), at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. The match was won in typical Isner cliff-hanger fashion, and that is a recurring theme for the 6'10" serving dynamo.

Isner has now played a tiebreaker in each of his last six sets, winning five during the streak. He's also won eight of his last nine breakers, and his record in the ATP's version of sudden-death tennis stands at a remarkable 28-7 on the season. That's 13 more tiebreak wins than the second-best on the ATP tour this season (Novak Djokovic, Kevin Anderson and Philipp Kohlschreiber each have 15).

Isner's 80 percent winning percentage in breakers this year is impressive (and a good deal higher than his lofty career numbers), but it's not all that surprising giving the atomic nature of Isner's serve, his uncanny ability to deal with pressure and his past results on tour. Isner also holds the best career tiebreak record among all current ATP players, at 189-98. His 66.7% winning percentage edges out Roger Federer's 65.3% (337-179) and Novak Djokovic's 64.4% (152-84) by a whisker.

Bernard Tomic, Andy Murray, Jerzy Janowicz and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are the only four other players with tiebreaker winning percentages above .600.

Isner will next face India's Somdev Devvarman in the third round in D.C.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Nadal May End Up Skipping Cincinnati

(July 29, 2013)--According to this piece, written by Joan Solsona of, Rafael Nadal is more wait-and-see than definite for this summer's Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati.

The piece alludes to the fact that Nadal may be dealing with an injury to his left elbow as well as his well-documented issues with left knee tendinitis. Here is a translated segment of the piece, provided by Nadal News.

"About a week ago, Rafael Nadal thought it would be very difficult to participate in both Masters 1000 in Montreal and Cincinnati. The idea was to choose one of the two to not jeopardize his participation in the U.S. Open, the last Grand Slam of the season that starts on August 26 in the courts of Flushing Meadows. The reason was the left knee tendinitis and elbow of the left arm with which he left Wimbledon, where he lost in the first round against Steve Darcis."

Doesn't sound like anything out of the ordinary here. Nadal will likely be very conservative with his scheduling for the rest of his career on surfaces other than clay (and even that too). But the worrisome part is that the elbow may be a problem. More will likely be known about the elbow in Montreal, if Nadal is willing to speak of it. Nadal did mention having difficulties with the left elbow at Roland Garros this year, and he has had other flare-ups in the past, specifically at Wimbledon in 2010.

Watch: Djokovic "Doing Some Beatboxing"

(July 29, 2013)--It's getting close to time for another Masters 1000 hard court event (next week in Montreal), but in the meantime, Novak Djokovic is quite content to take 'er easy for a few more days, if his latest video on You Tube (see above, posted July 29) is any indication. Maybe the World No. 1 just releases these things to give his opponents the impression that he's getting lazy, when in reality he has been working 24/7, with the goal of conquering the tennis world again by the end of summer? I guess we'll find out in due time.

I'll have to say I agree with the top comment on Djokovic's YouTube page right now, which reads "Thank goodness you can play tennis ;)" from a user named Daniel Dixon.

Djokovic is a man of many talents, but his beat boxing definitely does need some work. Check out the video below and you'll see what I mean.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Alisa Kleybonova Named WTT Female Rookie of the Year

(July 26, 2013)--24-year-old Russian Alisa Kleybanova was named the WTT's female rookie of the year on Thurdsday. Playing in singles, doubles and mixed doubles for the Springfield Lasers, Kleybanova helped the Lasers to the No. 1 seed in the WTT's Western Conference. The former World No. 20 singles and World No. 10 doubles player was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2011 and has been on the comeback trail ever since.

Since May, Kleybanova has competed in three ITF challenger events, winning a title at the 10K Challenger in Landisville in May, reaching the final of the 10K Buffalo Challenger in June and reaching the quarterfinals of the 50K Sacramento Challenger in July.

“I am very happy to receive this award," said Kleybanova. "My first season of Mylan World Team Tennis has been amazing! I’m hopeful I can play more seasons in the future as it’s been a lot of fun with my teammates.”

Kleybanova will try to help the Lasers win the WTT title when they meet the Washington Kastles in the Mylan WTT Finals on Sunday evening in Washington, D.C.

Troicki's Case Proves that ITF Anti-Doping Program Needs to Improve

Troicki: Guilty, or Not?
(July 26, 2013)--Viktor Troicki's 18-month ban from tennis, based on a failure to provide a blood sample for a routine anti-doping test, has set the tennis world into a frenzy this week. The ITF has released its findings in a convoluted, slightly biased 25-page document here, while Troicki's comments can be found here.

For those who want to make some sense of the fiasco, good luck. While the case doesn't prove that Troicki is doping, it does prove that the ITF's Anti-Doping Program has to do a better job of training its employees to effectively communicate with the players its system governs.

Now, before I make a few points, let me say that the most egregious error in all of this was made by Viktor Troicki, a tour veteran for many years, and a person who should have been familiarized with all the rules and regulations surrounding the Anti-Doping Program by now. Troicki could have avoided all of this by bucking up and supplying a blood sample, and if he was truly incapable of doing so then he should have been seeking medical attention rather than going back to his hotel to sleep. Extra credit goes to his coach, Jack Reader, who apparently confessed to not having much familiarity with the rules of the program despite being a coach for the last two or three decades.

What Troicki has done has raised suspicion and caused us to wonder: "Maybe he was doping, and maybe this is all a clever scheme concocted to save him the trouble he would have faced had he actually provided the sample?" At this point, after perusing the related documents, as much as I like Troicki, I'm not entirely inclined to believe that he skipped the blood test because of a fear of needles or a persisting illness that he encountered on that day (according to him it was both).

But enough about Troicki for now. Let's instead take a closer look at the ITF's Anti-Doping Program, starting at the top. Apparently during the time when Troicki was hemming and hawing with Dr. Gorodilova (the Doping Control Officer who interacted directly with Troicki on this case), she advised him to place a call to the "big man" also known as ITF employee Dr. Stuart Miller. Troicki, wanting to make "100 percent sure" that he wasn't going to face recrimination for his decision to forgo the blood test, attempted to contact Miller by telephone, only to find no answer.

Stop right there. Already, we see a clear case of a blurry chain of command where the DCO, Dr. Gorodilova, paints herself as someone who really doesn't have all the answers and recommends that a player in a crisis should call Dr. Miller (Executive Director, Science & Technical Department) to find out if skipping the blood test to due his issues (fear of needles and sickness) is kosher.

Strange that Miller wasn't available to take this call, or at the very least that Dr. Gorodilova couldn't have put Troicki in touch with someone who might have talked some sense into him, since it is obviously of pretty urgent nature, but, alas, true.

Next we move down the chain to to Dr. Gorodilova herself, a fifteen-year veteran of the Doping Agency who was on this day in Monte Carlo encountering for the very first time a player that was unwilling to submit to one of the tests. Apparently, Gorodilova needs a bit of practice in this area, because she managed to leave Troicki with the impression that if he wrote a simple letter to Dr. Miller telling the "big man" of his difficulty with needles, etc... that everything "should" (or was it "could?") be fine.

Here is where the crux of the debate lies: Did Gorodilova do enough to inform Troicki that he would basically be up the creek without a paddle if he didn't let them draw his blood? I'm not so sure. Rather than have a set of clear and transparent protocols in place with regard to such a scenario, it sounds like the Dr. tried to reassure Troicki, telling him that maybe writing a letter would help his case. But the very notion of encouraging someone to write a letter in a situation like this indicates that the Dr. was giving Troicki a sense of false hope, rather than giving him the straight smack. How about saying, "Look, Viktor, fun time is over. Lay down and give me your arm or I'm pretty sure they're going to label you a cheat and take away your livelihood for a year and a half," rather than saying "Oh, yes, write a letter, that might help things, sure."

Clearly Troicki was in a state of naivete or denial or some toxic combination of the two, and the last thing in the world he needed was what he got from the DCO: Some sympathy and some really bad advice. Shame on her, and shame on the ITF, for letting Troicki's case get to where it currently is.

In no way am I insinuating that Troicki isn't culpable in this case. He's a grown man and he should have the common sense to know the trouble he was about to get himself into when he gave this "Dog ate my homework"-type of excuse to the ITF.

But he could have used the advice of some well-trained medical professionals along the way. And it would have been nice if Dr. Miller had answered his phone as well. He's got the time to hand out career-destroying suspensions, but he doesn't have the time to pick up the phone for a player in need?

Instead of encountering a clear-cut set of rules and regulations outlining the possible ramifications of Troicki's non-test, the Serb got a litany of not-so-clear and all-to-vague suggestions, ones that ultimately led to his demise.

He might have been doping, and he may have bailed on the blood test even if he had concrete knowledge of the ramifications of doing so. Unfortunately, we'll never know. All we know now is that Troicki will never skip a blood test again--if he ever plays again.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

That Sinking Feeling

What does the future hold for the Swiss maestro? Your guess is as good as mine...

(July 25, 2013)--In the wake of his 6-3, 6-4 loss to Daniel Brands in Gstaad on Thursday, there has never been a better time to speculate wildly about the future of Roger Federer than the present. Not that it will help make things any clearer, because, really, who the heck knows what is going to become of Federer in the next two to twenty-four months? There are myriad scenarios, and unless you've come back to July 25, 2013 from a time machine, the only hope is to play the guessing game.

Theories abound. The most common is that Federer's back is the main reason that he's struggling right now. If that's the case--and it appears to be, as just today Federer alluded to the fact that the back started to bother him last week in Hamburg again, and that he had considered pulling out of this week's event in Gstaad even as late as during the warm-up for Thursday's shocker--then there are more theories that abound.

Let's assume the back deserves sole responsibility for the fact that Federer has lost to players outside the top 50 in three consecutive tournaments then, shall we? If it's the case, then Federer is clearly doing a bad job of managing the injury. Clay is easiest on the joints, but with characteristic long rallies it's a grueling surface on the lungs and the muscles, so it makes very little sense that Federer would choose to play extra events this summer on a clay court when his back has been the single thing that is plaguing him the most this season. Why not rest instead, head to the beach with the kids, get lots of therapy, lots of rest and relaxation?

Clearly, in Federer's mind, the back is not the biggest piece missing from the puzzle. If it was, then how do we explain the racquet change and the sudden urge to pick up and take wild cards into Hamburg and Gstaad?

Federer hasn't talked about the injury too much of late, but he was wearing kinesio tape in Hamburg, as super-sleuth Courtney Nguyen of Beyond the Baseline has pointed out, even tweeting the photo as proof. And he did talk about it today, saying ""I've had serious problems with the back, I had to get some anti-inflammatories last week in Hamburg due to the back pain... It was so tough to play and move out there today."

He added: "I'll just have to take treatment and see how it all goes... My back felt OK enough, but not enough to play at 100 percent. I knew coming into the match that it would be a tough one. I didn't decide to play until after the warm-up, that's what a close call it was."

Serious problems? Not at 100 percent? Really? And so you play two tournaments when you should addressing the issue most directly related to your recent slump? It's just too hard to pin down the rationale.

If the back issues are truly the catalyst for the rapid drop-off in Federer's game, then the Swiss maestro needs to get a grip and realize that the answer might be to play less, not more. Perhaps he should take a page from the Rafa playbook and take the rest of the year off? Spend some time with the new racquet and work on visualizing the Roger Federer who isn't done winning Grand Slams. He's only 31 and soon to be 32, not 34 and on his last legs, so why not address the problem holistically, rather than desperately?

But it appears that Federer is conflicted, caught between wanting to race out there and win some titles to rid the taste of losing from his mouth, and wanting to rest the back so he can finally play the game he wants to play (with the serve and the movement that he needs to have). It's admirable that he's seeking change, willing to enter these draws and accept these bitter defeats, all in the name of regaining some semblance of the regal game that we've all come to know and admire him for. But something about it smacks of desperation, rather than determination. Maybe Federer is like the rest of us, wildly speculating on what will become of him in the next six months, frantically feeling despair with each poor performance, and trying too hard every chance he gets to turn things around?

It's so hard to really get a sense of how much of Federer's issues are about the back and how much of it is about a general sense of decline that happens to all players. Is Federer's body built for tennis after 30 in the same way that Tommy Haas's is? Can Federer come to grips with reality and still truly love to play the game without his magical powers so readily at his disposal?

Now that he's fallen so far so fast in recent months (in reality it hasn't been that bad, but when compared to the Federer of old it has been alarming), we will get a chance to see if Federer really embraces the role of being the underdog as he has said he would. He might this summer, but if he can't end his slump by the end of the year--either in New York or London--what hope will he hold for 2014?

It's easy to speculate, but harder to know. Not since he was a young unnacomplished lad have we known so little of what is going to happen to Roger Federer in the immediate future. It could be time to say goodbye or it could be time to prove to everybody just how wrong they were about Roger Federer once again.

Only time will tell, whether Federer's half-empty glass is about to run dry or be full again.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

16-year-old Borna Coric Impresses in ATP Debut

(July 24, 2013)--16-year-old Borna Coric played his first ATP-level match this week at the Vegeta Croatia Open in Umag, and he nearly pulled a massive upset on World No. 58 Horacio Zeballos in the first round on Tuesday. Coric led 7-6, 3-0 with points to go up 4-0 in the second set, but Zeballos rebounded to emerge victorious, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-0.

"Against such a player you have to convert opportunities you have or you will lose the match," Coric told the tournament's website. "I had two chances in the second set and if I had those converted match would be over. But what I experienced and what I am happy about is that I was able to find out how big is the tennis difference between top 50 player and me at this moment. It is rather small. This was big experience for me and this is exactly what Goran Ivanisevic told me after the match."

Coric is ranked No. 6 in the world in juniors, and he reached at least the quarterfinals of all three Grand Slams this year, including semifinal appearances in Melbourne and Roland Garros.

Here's what he told his fans on facebook about the experience:
"Wow, crazy couple of days! I was given a wildcard into the ATP Vegeta Croatia Open in Umag. On Monday I played doubles with Nikola Mektic against Andreas Seppi and Viktor Troicki and lost (7-6, 6-1). Then yesterday evening I played against the world no.58 Horacio Zeballos from Argentina, I lost (6-7, 6-4, 6-0) but it was a great experience to play against him and do all the press and media work that comes with it. Thanks to everyone for the huge support at the tournament."

Coric may have come up empty in his first ATP experience, but based on the photos he's posted on his facebook page, strength is not going to be a problem for the Zagreb native. The kid, simply put, is ripped.

Tweets: Gstaad Rivals all ATP Tour Stops in Bucolic Appeal

(July 24, 2013)--Roger Federer's new cow Desiree is pretty cute, but she pales in comparison the beauty of her environs, the gorgeuos town of Gstaad, Switzerland, which is playing host to the Crédit Agricole Suisse Open Gstaad this week. Talk about picturesque! Have a look at some tweets from players and fans who are at the event:

For those interested in the tennis as much as the scenery, Roger Federer will open his campaign on Thursday, facing Daniel Brands of Germany with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.

Read the full singles draw here.

Roger Federer Has a Cow

(July 24, 2013)--Seriously, when you have a chance for a headline like that, how do you pass it up? Roger Federer HAS A COW? No joke, just see the following tweet for proof:

For a full report on how this cow (named Desiree) came into Roger Federer's life, click here.

Watch: Bryan Brothers Esurance Video(s)

(July 24, 2013)--Bob Bryan tweeted the finished product of the Bryan Brothers Esurance add today, so we figured we'd pass it along, along with a lot of the behind the scenes shots from their Esurance TV Spot.

The Bryan Brothers have had a long-running relationship with Esurance, and they've teamed up on many charitable enterprises in the past. Mike and Bob also make an annual appearance at the Esurance classic in northern California each year. That event won't be running this year, but you can click here to learn more about The Bryan Brothers relationship with Esurance, and possibly win a night out at the U.S. Open with Mike and Bob.

Here's the video:

Here's some other behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the add:

Behind the chest bump:

The brothers did a great job with the 30's stuff -- very entertaining:

The 60's stuff was cool, but where were the peace signs?

Grab your wigs and earrings and breakout your best tweeners--it's the 90's!

A word with the director. Sounds like a cool chap.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Watch: Fognini Saves Three Match Points against Delbonis in Hamburg

(July 22, 2013)--Fabio Fognini won his second consecutive title in Hamburg on Sunday and in the process he improved his current winning streak to ten matches. To give you an example of just how blazing hot Fognini is, check the following stat: Only three other ATP players have had winning streaks of at least ten matches this season and their names are Nadal, Djokovic and Murray.

Pretty nice company for the 26-year-old who has never finished a season inside the ATP's top 40. But after his second career title in eight days, the Italian has reached the top 20 and also become one of only three players to have won a title after saving match points (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga did it in Marseille and Andy Murray did it in Miami).

Fognini was elated with the victory and his recent stream of success but he did acknowledge the fact that he had lady luck on his side against Federico Delbonis on Sunday in the Bet-at-Home Open final in Hamburg. "I was I think a little bit lucky," he told reporters after the match. "Today, I didn’t play really good but I fought really good. I think this was the key."

In case you missed the action, Delbonis had three match points in the second set tiebreaker, and Fognini looked like he was ready to cave after he missed a backhand to trail 6-5.

Here he is picking up his recently tossed racquet and spewing some more venom before the first match point:

But miraculously, with the point practically won, Delbonis flubbed the volley. "I tried to hit hard my serve and I was running," Delbonis later said. "I went to the net to close and then he hit very hard and I tried to volley, but it was in the net. I don’t know if I played bad. I tried to do the best on these three points. But Fabio also played good on these points. And this is it."

Here's match point two, in which Fognini slaps a trademark forehand low and hard where Delbonis can't retreive it:

And, finally, Delbonis gets a third match point on his serve, but his forehand clips the tape and lands far outside the line, giving Fognini the lifeline he needed to get out of trouble.

Call it luck, call it tennis, whatever it was, Fognini made his returns and forced Delbonis to beat him. The 22-year-old, playing in his first career final, was not up to the task, but he still looks back on the experience of reaching the finals from qualifying at Hamburg as a good one. "To lose the final with match point is disappointing," he said. "But at the end of the week the result of all the week is positive for me. It’s my first final. I beat Roger yesterday. All the balance here is positive."

Fognini felt pretty positive about the experience as well. "It’s an amazing week," he said. "I can’t believe it right now. I just feel incredible, a real good sensation, I’m very happy."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Federer: "I don't think it had much to do with racquet"

Roger Federer's struggles continue, at least for now

(July 20, 2013)--Roger Federer looked to be in good shape for a title run at the Bet-at-Home Open in Hamburg after surviving a roller coaster ride of a match against Florian Mayer, but on Saturday against qualifier and world No. 114 Federico Delbonis the Swiss Maestro dropped two tiebreakers to fall 7-6(7), 7-6(4).

Instead of passing John McEnroe to move into sole position on the ATP's all time title list, Federer achieved a less desirable milestone when, according to ATP stats guru Greg Sharko, he lost to players outside the top 100 in back-to-back events for the first time since 2002:

Federer has now lost to players ranked outside of the top 100 12 times in his career, but it had not happened since 2005 until he went down to Sergiy Stakhovsky at Wimbledon.

Natrally, Federer was not thrilled with the loss, but in the end he accepted defeat, saying that Delbonis was the better player and that he was happy to have gotten in some much-needed match time with the new stick:

"I don’t think it had much to do with the racket today," Federer said. "I mean I’m in the semi-finals, I know how I’m feeling. I tried hard. I tried everything I could at this tournament. It’s been a difficult week throughout. But I’m happy I fought through many matches. It gives me the matches I was looking for. I was clearly hoping after winning a tough one yesterday to somehow get through today and then give myself an opportunity to win the title tomorrow. Also it’s disappointing but defeats like that happen sometimes."

Is it time to push the panic button yet for Federer? Or, was that button already pushed when Federer decided to switch to a larger racquet and play two clay-court events in the middle of what is typically his post-Wimbledon holiday?

I think the answer is no to both questions. Clearly Federer is struggling, both with confidence and with feel right now, but the good news is that he's got another event coming up in Gstaad next week, and he'll get more matches with the new frame before he heads to the U.S. for a surface that is much more favorable to his game.

"Yes, of course I’m happy I came here," Federer said. "There is no disappointment or downside of playing here. I had a good week... Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the finals but nevertheless I did have four good matches and these are the kind of matches I need. They weren’t straightforward, they were hard fought. That’s something I didn’t have that much this week. Clearly I hope to return one day to this tournament. But for now that’s it. So, hopefully I’ll come back soon."

Federer, seeded first in Gstaad, will play the winner of the first round match between Daniel Brands and Marco Chiudinelli in the second round.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sharapova-Connors Pairing Will be Entertaining, Could be Lethal

(July 18, 2013)--I'm sensing a lot of doubting of Jimmy Connors right now, and I just want to warn you all that there could be some payback coming for that.

Why, you ask?

Because Jimmy Connors takes pride in proving people wrong. And while he doesn't need the extra motivation right now, he'll gladly take it. The man has a chip on his shoulder the size of West Virginia--he'd rather tap dance on your flower beds than help you water the plants. He's also ornery, and he proved that in spades in "The Outsider," his punchy, in-your-face, recently released memoir.

More than that, Connors, a gambler in the truest sense of the word, is hungry to have a horse in the race. In Sharapova he has taken the reigns of a very fine thoroughbred.

But will Sharapova and Connors mesh together?

Hmm... Now there's a good question. Most people tend to believe that Connors has little to offer the shrewd, world-beating Russian in terms of strokes, but even if he doesn't there are other ways that he can help her immensely. There's tactics, for one, and Connors was a shrewd tactician, well-versed in the art of chiseling away at and exposing the enemy's weaknesses. In truth Connors would be best served in leaving Sharapova's game alone, instead focusing his efforts on teaching Sharapova the kind of things that can't be taught.

Does it matter that Connors had losing records against Borg, McEnroe and Lendl, and lost nearly as many Grand Slam finals as he won? No. Sharapova will never hold a winning record against Serena Williams now that she's fallen behind 2-14 in the head-to-head, but she can gain some ground on her.

That's where Connors can help her. Connors is a down-and-dirty, rip-your-throat-out-and-eat-it street fighter who looks under rocks for ways to beat people. Sharapova may be down and dirty, but the general impression is that she hasn't been looking far and wide enough for solutions to her problems with Serena Williams. Just prior to Wimbledon she got into a bit of verbal volleying with Serena, and while many didn't think much of it at the time, it might have been the first clear indication that Sharapova was ready to really get down and dirty about ending her miserable run against the younger Williams sister. She didn't get to face Williams at Wimbledon, but one wonders if Sharapova's public shot across the bow of Serena was a sign of things to come.

With Connors now in the fold, more shots are sure to follow. But Sharapova knows that Williams has a taste for the down-and-dirty as well. Williams has been fighting fire with fire her whole career, so any off-court diversions that Sharapova might choose to partake in ought to be chosen wisely.

Sharapova may have shown a willingness to get dirty with Serena in the press room prior to Wimbledon, but she has yet to do so on the court, at least effectively. The Russian's on-court resistance has been futile at best in recent years against the World No. 1, and her moral victory in Miami, where she won the first set, then promised that she will eventually beat Serena at some time afterwards, is not the type of sustenance that will keep a hungry lion like Jimmy Connors--or the media for that matter--satisfied.

Can Connors help her with the mess she has made? Is there a way out of the deep, dark hole that Serena Williams has relegated her to?

You better believe that if there is, Jimmy Connors is the type of man that can help her find it. He's spent a long career of antagonistically pursuing his on-court rivals, so he ought to be well-suited to helping one of his charges do the same. And, Connors is hungry to pad his legacy. He may be getting gads of cash to work with Sharapova (rumor has it), but don't be fooled into thinking that Jimmy Connors is the type of man who would mail it in to collect a paycheck. Here's what he had to say about getting back into tennis when I interviewed him in early May. Clearly, Connors has gotten the itch.

"Whether I get back into coaching or try to figure out a way to find some good players to come up and take over and be the next US Open champion," Connors said, "I'm trying to get back and get busy now. I've got a number of years left and it's just a matter of how I want to spend them, and how much energy I want to put into it. And if I get back into it I want to put into it what I've always done and try to go about it the right way, and that's going to take a bit of time to get the feel, because I have been away for a bit of time."

He's been away since he finished up his tenure with Andy Roddick in 2008, but let's not forget that just over a month after they formally announced their partnership, Connors guided Roddick to the U.S. Open final after a dismal year that included a fourth-round loss in Australia followed by a first-round exit at Roland Garros and a third-round dump at Wimbledon.

"Once I get the feel and the opportunities, then hopefully I can take advantage of them," Connors said.

He did that with Roddick, guiding the American to the 2006 U.S. Open final, where he fought tooth and nail with Roger Federer. That he lost that final in four sets is probably more a product of the fact that Federer was in his prime in 2006. That he pushed Federer, splitting the first two sets before losing a very tight third set and a blowout fourth, is probably more of an indication of just how fired up Roddick was to be playing with Jimmy Connors, one of the game's all-time greats and one of its greatest fighters, sitting in his box.

Will Maria Sharapova, a player who has been there and done that and is probably jaded a bit when it comes to celebrity and legend, feel the same electricity when she looks up to see Jimmy Connors in her box during this year's U.S. Open?

That all depends on the chemistry the pair have. Word on the street is that Sharapova had been considering working with Connors for a long time, and, additionally, Connors has the backing of Sharapova's father Yuri. If that's the case, than she might feel a sense of wholeness as their partnership starts moving forward. It may put a gust of wind in her sails and give her the clarity she needs to finally find a solution to her most vexing, invincible rival.

And, at the very least, Sharapova will be able to look back at this period of her life someday, and say "I gave it a shot." Right now, she really has nothing to lose. Neither does Connors, who has been out of the game for so long, he's hardly considered a viable coaching option.

Now they can take the gloves off and get down to the fight. The world is waiting to see what they will bring.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Watch: Roger Federer is Getting the Hang of his New Stick

(July 18, 2013)-- Just two matches into the Roger Federer 98-square-inch era, the Swiss Maestro appears to be feeling quite comfortable with his new stick. Federer dispatched World No. 140 Jan Hajek 6-4, 6-3 in Hamburg on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals of the Open.

Federer spoke about his experience with the racquet after today's match, saying, "It's a process I'm going through with Wilson at this point. We've been testing racquets for a long time, so this is a prototype that they've come up with... It still might change as we go along in the next few months and years, but I'm really liking it so far."

After spending over ten years with his previous frame, Federer says he likes the idea of something new after all these years. Call it the honeymoon effect. "It's fun, it's fresh," Federer said, "playing with something a bit different again for a change. even though I've made changes as well in the last ten years, but this one's a bit more drastic."

But those are just words, if you really want to know how Roger Federer is liking his new, larger-framed racquet, all you need to do is watch some video tape.

1. Can he serve well with it? You be the judge:

2. How about that legendary forehand, has the added power forced him to lose control? You be the judge:

3. And the backhand must be really difficult to control, now that he's sacrificed some maneuverability for a larger sweet spot. Well, okay, maybe not.

Federer will face Florian Mayer in Friday's quarterfinals.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Federer's New Frame: Harbinger of Revival?

Say goodbye to that puny frame

(July 17, 2013)--As the saying goes, it's not about the racquet, it's about the player swinging the racquet, but in Roger Federer's case the decision to go with a larger-sized frame (at least on a trial basis) this week in Hamburg is more than a means to an end, it is also a symbol of a long-awaited philosophical sea change in the man himself.

Federer has been unequivocally stubborn in this regard, but after a second-round loss at Wimbledon that didn't sit well with him, he's elected to finally embrace the change that many pundits and armchair tennis players have recommended he make for years.

Funny as it sounds, Federer has been through this racket before. The shanks and mishits, the difficulty living up to expectations. Way back in 2002, when Federer was playing with the 85-square-inch head of the Wilson Pro Staff, the unproven yet promising man who would one day become the Swiss Maestro sought a larger frame to combat—you guessed it—shanks and mishits.

Tennis writer Miguel Seabra chronicled Federer's racket change in a 2008 piece that was published at

“Federer's transition to the pro tour was fairly rapid, and by the end of 2001 he was closing in on the top 10," wrote Seabra. "But despite a landmark victory over Pete Sampras at Wimbledon, he had yet to make it past the quarterfinal of a grand slam. The following spring, he made a bold decision right in the middle of the clay-court season switching to a 90-square-inch version of the Pro Staff. The larger sweet spot allowed him to hit fewer balls off the frame and reduce his unforced errors."

The rest, as they say, is history. And the rewriting of said history...Federer would win Hamburg two weeks later. Fast forward 11 years and 17 Grand Slams, and here we are at the familiar crossroads again.

Does Federer's decision mean that greener pastures lie ahead? If we choose history to be our guide, then quite possibly.

“I switched from 85 to 90 back in 2002 just before I won Hamburg,” Federer told Seabra. “That was for me a big move because I was really shanking a lot of balls.”

Federer has shanked plenty of balls—the casual observer would say an ever increasing amount, though there is no official statistic in tennis—since turning 30, and even though his remarkable, regal game came together magnificently at Wimbledon in 2012 when he won his seventeenth Grand Slam title, there has been audible clamor for several years that the tiny 90-square-inch racquet-head that Federer uses is making the difficult task of keeping up with his younger, fitter rivals downright Herculean.

As for why Federer didn't make the switch sooner, and how many more titles and Grand Slams he could have won if he had (and how many less airmailed backhands that land back near where the ballboys and line judges sit), we'll never really know.

But now, as he begins the back half of a year that has been disappointing at best, Federer has commendably decided to embark on a new journey with a new stick.

It's a beautiful thing. To know that the man who will probably go down as the greatest tennis player of all-time when it's all said and done is fully committed at this stage of his career to finding a way out of his current malaise is uplifting. It's yet another sign that Federer's love for the game has not dwindled, that he's not about to pack it in just because of one mystifying loss at Wimbledon. Quite the contrary, he's going to swallow his pride and search for solutions, knowing full well that there are no guarantees or easy fixes.

Maybe he'll find the new stick doesn't give him the feel he wants, or that it's too difficult to maneuver. Maybe the shanks will still be there, and the tough losses too. None of that matters right now. All that does matter is that Federer is dead set on reversing course on a difficult season.

As much as we want to turn this into a technical conversation about racquet head acceleration, sweet spots, string beds, and feel, the fact of the matter is that the discussion should begin and end with one word: Change.

Federer, right now, has the courage to change. He's not content with a second-round loss at Wimbledon, he's not content with being No. 5 in the world for the first time in over a decade, and he's itching to do something about it—and fast.

So he's pulled the car off the road and parked it in Germany, where he'll try to mount an assault against the new regime. He'll be 32 in less than a month, but if things go as planned, he'll feel like he's 21 again, back when he switched racquets, won Hamburg and took tennis world by its tail and shook it violently for several years.

Maybe he'll fall in love with the new stick and it will put a second wind in his sails.

Maybe he'll smash it in the clay during today's match with Daniel Brands, walk off the court, and say “I'm never coming back.”

No matter what happens, the real story here is that Federer is still hungry to win, and for those who aren't quite ready to deal with tennis beyond Federer, that is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Caroline Wozniacki Does NOT Have a New Coach

(July 16, 2013)--For those of you hearing Caroline Wozniacki-Thomas Hogstedt collaboration rumors on the interwebs--not so fast. Wozniacki tweeted the following this afternoon, just so everybody could be crystal clear on the matter:
Since we're on the subject of the former World No. 1 and current World No. 10, the Dane is reportedly being held culpable for Rory McIlroy's current slump.

She's also officially done with Yonex as a racquet sponsor, per Matt Cronin's tweet:
And, finally, in other Wozniacki-related news, her puppy came to watch her practice for the first time today:

And that's a wrap on Caroline Wozniacki news for the day. Time to move on, people...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Halep, Keys, Puig Hit New Career-High Rankings

(July 15, 2013)--Hard work is paying off for some of the WTA's brightest up-and-comers, as four players aged 21 or younger hit new career-high rankings inside the WTA's top 50 on Monday, per this tweet from the WTA:

Simona Halep, 21, has won three straight non-Slam events and has gone 16-1 since the French Open; Madison Keys, 18 is ticketed for the top ten and maybe higher by many pundits. She's the second youngest player in the top 100; Monica Puig, 19, finished last season at 127 and has been turning heads all summer; Annika Beck, 19, is the youngest of five Germans in the top 50.

Puig was thrilled about the news, and deservedly so:

Rhyne Williams Inks ABN Amro Deal

Rhyne Williams at the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships/ AP

(July 15, 2013)-- Rhyne Williams played in his first ATP doubles final partnered by Tim Smyczek on Monday in Newport, losing to Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in a match tiebreak. But the news wasn't all bad for the 22-year-old American. Williams' agent, Octagon Tennis, announced a multi-year agreement with ABN Amro that will include a blog on the bank's website.

Here's what Octagon had to say about the deal:

McLean, Va. (July 15, 2013) – Octagon Tennis today announced a multi-year association between rising American tennis star Rhyne Williams and ABN AMRO. Williams will sport an ABN AMRO logo on his sleeve while competing, as well as chronicle his experiences in a blog on the bank’s website that will document his training regimen and share the sights and sounds of his journey and progress on the ATP Tour. ABN AMRO provides banking services, financial planning, insurance, private wealth management, prime brokerage, and clearing and trading.

“ABN AMRO is proud to be associated with such a young and promising player as Rhyne,” said Janbart de Boer, Chief Commercial Officer of ABN AMRO. “We believe his hard work and commitment to his sport are an inspiration to our staff and our clients around the world. ABN AMRO is a young and growing firm with great ambitions; like Rhyne we believe stamina and training and perseverance will bring excellent results.”

Ernst Boekhorst, Manager of Sponsoring & Events at ABN AMRO, added: “Since we are a longtime fan of tennis with our sponsorship of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament we are very pleased to welcome Rhyne Williams. We hope to see him play during our tournament in February.”

A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Williams is currently ranked 129 on the ATP Tour. Earlier in the year, Williams was a semifinalist at the U.S. Men’s Clay Courts in Houston, won his first ATP Challenger event in Dallas and earned a singles main draw wild card into the Australian Open. Williams, who played college tennis for the University of Tennessee, was the 2011 NCAA singles finalist and won the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championship.

“We are excited to have been able to procure this truly unique partnership for Rhyne with one of the worldwide leaders in the banking/financial industry,” said Kelly Wolf, Senior Director of Octagon’s Personalities & Properties division. “The association is a reflection of ABN AMRO’s continuing commitment to international tennis and its future stars.”

Williams, currently ranked 129 in the world, reached the semifinals of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships in April. It is his best tour-level performance to date. He also won the Dallas Challenger this February, and competed in the main draw of the Australian and French Opens.

Welcome to Benoit Paire's World, Where Beauty and Disaster are Never Far Apart

(July 15, 2013)--Benoit Paire is as talented as they come, and he proves that on a daily, if intermittent, basis. But this short video clip, garnered from the highlight package of the Frenchman's quarterfinal loss to Victor Hanescu at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart (he's 0-4 vs. Hanescu), shows the extreme volatility of Paire in all its blazing glory. From the absolutely ethereal backhand flick (so sublime!) to the smashing of the ball into the stands (always welcome, in my book), to the I-don't-give-a-crap-anymore double fault (where I draw the line), it's all there.

Paire, clearly, is a real talent and a real headcase all wrapped into a nicely trimmed, bearded form. It may be just a matter of time before he clears all that angst from his soul and makes a serious go of being a top ten player, or, it may be just the beginning of what will be a long, head-scratchy career replete with near misses, blown chances and heaping portions of existential self-sabotage.

Either way, stay tuned, it's destined to be a fun ride.

Paire is currently only three paces off his career-high ranking of 25, so he must be doing something very, very right. And, given all the things that he's obviously doing wrong, the 24-year-old Avignon, France native has nothing but upside, even at this lofty spot in the rankings.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Dissecting Djokovic

We've all done a good job dissecting Andy Murray and his first Wimbledon title of late. We're practically obsessed with it. We are writing about it, reading about it, toying with the notion of it, contemplating the grandness of it, and that's all well and good.

But I haven't seen too much talk of Novak Djokovic. He's been sort of lost in the wake of the massive Murray wave that is still rippling through mainstream tennis publications. But I do believe it is finally time to circle back to the Serb and try to decipher what it all might mean for Novak Djokovic, now that he'll be leaving Europe with nothing but bitter memories and the taste of heartbreak on his tongue.

Now that Murray has defeated Djokovic in two of the last four Grand slam finals, we must ask: Does Murray's achievement imply that Djokovic is a soon-to-be World No. 2? Is Djokovic already on the other side of the mountain, with his best years (year?) already behind him? Hard to say. He's still the world number one by a large margin. He is still a phenomenal freak of nature, an uncanny artist of the angle, and an on-court contortionist of the highest regard...

Oh, I know why we're not talking about Novak Djokovic lately: Because we're talking about Andy Murray!!!!! Murray tous les jours and vivre le Murray, all the oceans and all the stars Murray, and deservedly so.

That said, FYI, in this corner of the blogosphere I've decided to put a moratorium on Murray talk, as excruciating as that might be, for the sake of discussing Djokovic.

Remember him? Serbian guy. Short hair, no gluten, does imitations. Floats like a gumby stings like a bee. Has dominated Tennis since 2011. The only guy with a snowball's chance in hell of defeating Rafael Nadal on a clay court. Remember now? 184-24 since the beginning of 2011? Won five of the last eleven Grand Slams, only missing the finals of three? Yeah, that guy.

He's been a revelation, but he's also proven himself to be vulnerable this year, Dkojovic. He's been close to perfect a lot of times, even been perfect for slivers, but Djokovic hasn't been perfect enough to dominate the game like he did in 2011.

There were times this year, particularly after Australia and after Monte Carlo, where we imagined Djokovic might slip into his Superman costume and make mincemeat out of the rest of the big four once again. There he was, serving, needing only two games for what would have been a momumental victory over Nadal in the Roland Garros semis; suddenly he gets too cute on what should have been an easy put-away and ends up doing the tango of death with the net.

In the end what looked to be the possible makings of a run at the calendar-year Grand slam was just another searing heartache. If Djokovic had won this year's French Open we'd be tipping him for double-digit Grand Slams by the end of 2014. But as it stands, we aren't even tipping him for 10 by the end of his career. The fact of the matter is that the loss to Murray has taken Djokovic down a notch in terms of reputation.

Now, it seems more likely that Murray will dominate the next two years, and if Murray dominates the next two years where does that leave Djokovic?

Impossible to know. There were times during that Wimbledon final Where Djokovic looked as good as he ever has. There were other times where it was hard not to be scratching your head about his decisions. Why did he come to net so many times when it was clearly a losing strategy? What was the rush? Even on Murray's first match point, Djokovic played a suicidal sequence at the net that took him three pitch-perfect volleys to win. Why was he so reluctant on this day to spar with the Scot from the baseline, especially when the alternative was clearly doomed to fail?

Djokovic wasn't outclassed in the Wimbledon final by any means. He had very good chances, with break leads in the second and third sets, but his inability to recognize that attacking the net behind anything but a near-perfect approach was a tactic that was doomed to fail and inevitably lead to his downfall.

Was it ego?

Was he injured?

Will it happen again?

All fair questions, and in time we will know all the answers. For now, all we know is that Djokovic's most dominant year appears to be behind him while Murray may be in the midst or on the cusp of his most dominant period.

But keep in mind that if Djokovic wins the U.S. Open this summer he'll have finished a three-year period in which he'd won fifty percent of the Slams and participated in the final of 75 percent.

That's the fickleness of tennis. One day you're the cat's meow and the next you're the cat's hairball. Djokovic could be either by the end of the summer, and only time will tell.

Dimitrov, Fognini Searching for Maiden ATP Titles this Weekend

(July 12, 2013)--Being a human highlight film has not parlayed into winning ATP titles for Fabio Fognini and Grigor Dimitrov, but each is making a strong case for their first title this weekend in Stuttgart (Fognini) and Bastad (Dimitrov).

Dimitrov (29) and Fognini (31) are two of the highest-ranked ATP players yet to secure a maiden ATP title. Jerzy Janowicz (17) and Benoit Paire (27) are the two highest. Strangely, the argument could be made that these four players are the most preternaturally gifted athletes in terms of shotmaking abilities in the top 50, and it makes one wonder: Is there an inverse correlation between being wildly talented and winning lots of titles? Clearly, judging from the likes of Roger Federer (77 career titles) and Rafael Nadal (57 career titles) the answer is no.

The more likely scenario is that both Fognini (26, but a late bloomer) and Dimitrov (22), just need a little time for their games to come together on the big stage. Fognini is headed for his first-ever year-end top 40 appearance, and so is Dimitrov. With lots of hard work and patience, Dimitrov and Fognini have put themselves in position to break out this weekend.

Dimitrov defeated Juan Monaco for the first time in four career matches in Bastad on Friday, a very nice result, particularly on clay, while Fognini took out the ageless wonder Tommy Haas in two easy sets in Stuttgart, a great result considering Haas is so difficult to beat on his home soil.

Dimitrov will face the red-hot Fernando Verdasco in his semifinal tomorrow, while Fognini will face the up-and-coming Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.

We're betting that one of these two wildly talented players gets the monkey off his back this weekend.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wimbledon's Men's Singles Final Drew Highest TV Audience of 2013 in Great Britain

(July 10, 2013)--Andy Murray's 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final drew the largest TV audience of 2013 in Great Britain. The BBC's broadcast had a five-minute peak audience of 17.29 million people watching Murray break the 77-year-old curse of Fred Perry, amounting for a 79.6 share of the overall U.K. TV audience at the time.

In other words, the British like watching Wimbledon a lot more than the Americans.

But ratings were up in America too, as ESPN stated this week that Sunday's final between Murray and Djokovic garnered the second-highest audience in it's 34-year-history of broadcasting tennis. Nearly 2.5 million tuned in. Nothing to shake a stick at, but when you consider that 15 million more people watched the final in Great Britain it gives you an idea of how Wimbledon mad the British truly are. Would 17 million watch the U.S. Open final if an American hadn't won it in 77 years? Tune in in 67 years, and you could find out...

Here's what the Guardian had to say about the final's TV audience:

"It was the biggest peak audience of any television programme so far this year, and eclipsed the 11.4 million average and 16.9 million peak for last year's Wimbledon final, in which Murray lost to Roger Federer.

This year's final was also the biggest audience of any Wimbledon final since at least 1990, the earliest that accurate audience statistics are available."

Not to be overlooked is the fact that Prior to Wimbledon, the most popular program of 2013 had been the final of Britain's Got Talent on 8 June (It's a Simon Cowell show), which averaged 11.1 million viewers (51.4%) with a peak of 13.1 million.

Musing on Murray, Bartoli

(July 10, 2013)--For those of you who haven't connected the dots to find me over at Tennis Now, please jump over to read my pieces on Marion Bartoli: With Conviction, Bartoli Breaks into Grand Slam Pantheon and on Andy Murray: Musing on Murray: Past, Present, Future

If you still can't get enough of Andy Murray and Marion Bartoli, here are a few other recommendations that you might enjoy:

1.'s Steve Tignor gives the rundown of the British Press's coverage of Murray's Milestone here.

2.'s Beyond the Baseline posted a nice compilation of photos from the Wimbledon ball here. Among my favorites are the picture of Marion Bartoli with her pop, and Andy and Ivan Lendl posing with the trophy. As far as Marion Bartoli's boots go, well, your guess is as good as mine as to how high they actually are.

3. A nice take from Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal.

4. Chris Clarey of the New York Times talks Murray Knighthood, among other things...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Andy Murray Dreamt He Faced Denis Kudla or Radek Stepanek in the Wimbledon Final

(July 7, 2013)--Andy Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon since 1936 when he defeated Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 in the final today. But the match didn't go exactly how Murray had dreamt it would. During a post-match interview with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi, Murray revealed details of a strange dream he had the night before the match.

"Wierd dream last night," Murray said. "I thought I was playing Radek Stepanek or Denis Kudla when I woke up this morning. Weird, I know, but my mind was obviously all over the place, a lot of stress and stuff, just weird thoughts go through your head in those certain moments."

Murray famously dreamt that he won Wimbledon last year after losing to Roger Federer in the final.

No matter, because Murray played the match of his career in reality, striking 36 winners against only 21 unforced errors, breaking Djokovic's serve seven times, and withstanding a furious last-ditch rally from the Serb in the final game to close out the match in straight sets.

In Murray's case the reality ended up being far better than the dream. Must be nice.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Tweet-Tastic Day of Semifinals at Wimbledon

(July 5, 2013)--Holy sweet bejeezus. If you aren't worn out from that day of tennis, you, my friend, are in seriously good tennis-watching shape. Just spent the last hour poking through Twitter to get some of the tasty delectables that were posted on the social media site during today's semifinals on Centre Court.

In case you foolishly decided to do something other than watch tennis on this glorious day, here is a brief recap of both matches:

Novak Djokovic withstood a gargantuan effort from Juan Martin del Potro in the first semifinal to win 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-7(8), 6-3, while Andy Murray defeated Jerzy Janowicz 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 in the nightcap.

Del Potro saved two match points in the fourth set against Djokovic, rallying from 6-4 down to prolong the match to five sets.

Janowicz had a 4-1 lead in the third set and looked like he was headed to the final, before Murray rallied to take the third, then came back under a closed roof to finish off the ground-breaking Pole with a big, fat exclamation point.

Have a look at some of the days tweets to find out what you missed:

1. They may be not clamoring in America about Wimbledon, but in Great Britain they are a little, well, excited...

2. Delpo finally has got his feet underneath him well enough on the grass so that he can fully unleash his game. He definitely looks more like a future Wimbledon winner than ever...

3. Ubaldo, didn't anyone tell you that they don't keep stats on journos? Only the players, silly.

4. Not only was Djokovic tough--he was rough and tumble...

5. How good was Djokovic-Del Potro? Damn good. But don't believe me, I'll let the pros tell you...

6. Mighty Mel was digging it.

7. You could have said this a hundred times.

8. It wasn't just long--but it sure was long!

9. Can't tell you how many times I have thought this during Wimbledon. Djokovic is treating the grass like it is a slippery hard court. It's Matrixesque.

10. Needless to say, with Andy Murray playing the second match, everybody saved some energy for the long haul.

11. And Jerzy Janowicz and his amped-up serving made sure the British faithful were kept on the edge of their seats.

12. Evidently the tape on Janowicz' arm doesn't keep him letting it fly.

13. The women appear to be intrigued by Janowicz "gentle touch."

14. Did some people get carried away when officials elected to close the roof due to darkness (or, rather, the rumor of darkness) after the third set? Do bears hibernate?

15. Anna Wintour, however, remained cool and calm.

16. In the end, it wasn't about the roof, it was about Murray being the better and more experienced player.

17. And, even on the craziest fortnight in recent memory, the trend prevails. It will be Murray and Djokovic in the final. Who could ask for anything more?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Is Andy Murray Good Enough to Overcome the Curse of Cameron?

(July 4, 2013)--First off, a very happy 4th of July to all of my American readers.

Good, now that we've got that out of the way, let's get back to the matters at hand across the pond at Wimbledon. The British press have made a very big deal out of the "Curse of Cameron" ever since Laura Robson got a shout-out from the British Prime Minister's official Twitter feed and proceeded to get bounced out of Wimbledon in a winnable match against Estonian Kaia Kanepi.

Robson's loss wasn't the first time that a British athlete lost a sporting event despite the unabashed backing of Prime Minister Cameron. According to The Telegraph, Cameron witnessed the hardships of many a British athlete during the 2012 London Olympic Games, and he was also in attendance for last year's Wimbledon final when Andy Murray lost to Roger Federer.

Which is why Great Britain is breathing a collective sigh after Murray fought back from a two-set deficit against Spain's Fernando Verdasco to reach the Wimbledon semis even though this tweet from Cameron had hit the internet prior to his match:

Either Murray is some kind of superhuman who is impervious to the curse, or, perhaps more likely, the curse is a product of the press's outlandish imagination and lack of, um, shall we say better ideas?

Murray isn't having it that's for sure, here's what he told the press after Wednesday's win over Verdasco:

Q. There's been talk about David Cameron having tweeted you this morning and the so called curse of Cameron, which I think sort of spooked the country a bit. Is that something you were aware of? How superstitious are you about things like that?

ANDY MURRAY: No. What he tweets has absolutely zero bearing on the outcome of my match today zero at all. It's nice to get messages from the prime minister, but whether I win or not, his tweet has no bearing on that at all. That's just people trying to make a story out of nothing.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Jerzy Janowicz and Lukasz Kubot Exhange Shirts After Wimbledon Battle

The first all-Polish meeting in the men's singles at a Grand Slam resulted in one of the longest man hugs in Wimbledon history (followed by a good old-fashioned, soccer-style shirt exchange) after Jerzy Janowicz took out his compatriot Lukaz Kubot, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time. (See video above)

"I think that was really, really cool," Janowicz said afterwards. "As I said, I know Lukasz pretty well. He's my Davis Cup mate, so we know really good. He's my good friend. So I think this was nice from both of us."

As strange as it seems, the match was the first meeting between two players from the same country in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 13 years. Pete Sampras and Jan-Michael Gambill met in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2000, and while we don't have footage of Sampras' 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 victory over Gambill, we doubt that it was as spirited as what took place between the two Poles.

"It was everything happen so fast," Kubot told reporters afterwards. "I saw his emotions. He went on the ground. I just want to came up, and, you know, congratulate him as fast as possible because I knew it was anyway big moment for both of us. I think he deserve for sure to win today. And it came, you know, just very quick. I said, Let's go. Let's exchange. Let's make our tennis more famous, more popular, and show that Poland tennis is in the map of tennis. Because this never happen before, and that's it.

Not only was the victory a great moment for the 22-year-old Janowicz, it was a great moment for Polish tennis, and one no doubt that the people have been cherishing all day and night.

Janowicz is the first Polish male to ever reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam. He will meet Andy Murray in Friday's semifinals.

Del Potro Was "Really Close" to Retiring Against Ferrer

(July 3, 2013)--Juan Martin del Potro had a huge scare when he hyperextended his right knee during the first game of his 6-2, 6-4, 7-6(5) victory over David Ferrer on Wednesday, but some "magic pills" from Wimbledon's physicians helped Del Potro grin and bear the pain and become only the third player from Argentina to reach the Wimbledon semifinals.

"It was a horrible moment," said Del Potro, in a post-match interview with Bill Macatee and Jim Courier of the Tennis Channel. "The match had just started. It was the same as four days ago, I hyperextended my knee once again. I was scared because the doctor told me 'we can't do anything else--just the tape, took some anti-imflammatories and see you serve, see your next movements and see how you feel.' "

"What a scare that must have been, what a shock to the system," said Courier. "Right away in the opening game of the match. For him to stay there, stay in it, not get distraught--which could have been easy for him to do--was really remarkable."

Del Potro originally injured the knee during his third-round victory over Grega Zemlja. Despite the taped-up knee and the bad luck, the big man has yet to lose a set at Wimbledon. He has reached the semifinals at a Grand Slam for the first time since he won the U.S. Open in September of 2009.

"The doctor gave me some magic pills," Del Potro told the BBC with a chuckle after the match. "In the end I play my best forehand ever in this Wimbledon," said Del Potro. "I was lucky that it was in and I win the match."

Monday, July 1, 2013

Is Sabine Lisicki's win over Serena Williams this Year's Biggest Upset at Wimbledon?

(July 1, 2013)--It has been a fortnight full up upsets at Wimbledon, and the shockers kept on coming today as Sabine Lisicki took out five-time and reigning Wimbledon champion Serena Williams 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 in what has to be the most entertaining match of the tournament thus far.

But was it the biggest upset?

Today there was some inspired debate in the ESPN studio about that very subject.

"Of all the upsets in this tournament--of Nadal losing, of Federer losing--to me this was the grandest of them all," said Brad Gilbert. "Just by the way Serena was playing. Federer was a seven-time champion but he came in third favorite like an 8 to 1 [odds]. Serena was 1 to 4 to win this tourmanent on her best surface. To me, the way she lost, at 3-0 in the third set you could have written her into the draw, at 4-2 in the third set you could have written her in the draw."

"Not very often you will say Serena looked like she almost played not to lose," Gilbert added. "She played tentative in that third set and full credit to Sabine Lisicki who played aggressive in the first and took her chances in the third. Even when it was over you were surprised the umpire was saying 'Game, set and match Boom Boom Lisicki.' "

Mary Joe Fernandez, meanwhile, politely disagreed. "It was a big surprise, I don't think it was bigger than Federer [or Nadal] going out because the credentials that came on to this court are much higher than the ones that took out Nadal and Federer," she said. "She has knocked out the French Open champion here now FOUR times. She is a quality player and we knew this was going to be the biggest test for Serena."

Fernandez did acknowledge that she didn't expect Lisicki to pull it off. "We still thought Serena would advance though."

Lisicki owns a career record of 17-4 at Wimbledon and has knocked out the world No. 1 in the fourth round of Wimbledon on consecutive years. Last year, she took out Maria Sharapova before falling to compatriot Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals. But this year, in coming back from a three-set deficit against a five-time Wimbledon champion who was on a 34-match winning streak, Lisicki has pulled her biggest Wimbledon surprise.

She out-aced the woman who many consider to be the best server in the history of women's tennis, and broke her three consecutive times in the final set.

Nadal was rusty coming into Wimbledon after a long slog on the clay, and Federer is proving to be less and less of a factor at the Slams in 2013. For my money, I'm siding with Brad Gilbert. Lisicki's win was the biggest upset of the tournament. We knew she had it in her, but how many actually thought that Lisicki actually had the gumption to get it done?

"She's one of the girls in the locker room that's not scared of the big stage and not scared of playing someone who's seeded higher," said ESPN's Darren Cahill. "Before this tournament even started we had contact with Sabine, and she said 'This is my house.' That was a big statement because she's never won here, but this is her house because she plays her best tennis on this court."

Lisicki will meet Kaia Kanepi of Estonia in tommorow's quarterfinals.