Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summing Up All of Wimbledon's Early-Round Carnage in One Spectacular Tweet

(June 27, 2013)--Hats off to @RomiCvitkovic of Tennis Grandstand fame, for summing up all the crazy, chaotic, Humpty-Dumpty madness of the first four days of the Championships with one stellar, media-savvy tweet. Only 83 Retweets? C'mon now!



Does Wimbledon Need to Change the Grass? Jim Courier Thinks Maybe



(June 27, 2013)--I go more in depth on my feelings on the spate of grass tumble-related injuries in the first four days of Wimbledon in my Grass Clippings column at Tennis Now, but since it's on the tip of everybody's tongue right now, I'd like to keep beating this dead horse some more.

Yesterday Jim Courier made some really interesting remarks while doing his talking head duties for the Tennis Channel, which helped introduce some perspective into the ongoing slippery grass-court debate. "The game has changed dramatically in the last 20 to 30 years as far as the speed the players are dealing with," said Courier. "So the reaction times are much smaller. Look if we're playing with wood racquets I don't think you're seeing players falling on the ground, because they have more time to get the ball and they have more time to adjust their movements. But they don't have that luxury, and every year that reaction time gets smaller and smaller. That's a problem."

Courier says the courts have always been slippery in the first week at Wimbledon, so that hasn't changed. "The lush courts in the first week--they're greasy, they're slippery--that has been the case every year. I used to actually try and intentionally slide like on clay in the first week because I knew that if I tried to stop my shoes would slide out from me. I don't think we're going to see that aspect get better."

Like pretty much everybody else at this point, Courier isn't quite sure what the proper fix would be, but he does know that one likely needs to be made. "I think they may have to think about changing the grass to make it softer again, if they want the players to have the footing, or allow the pimples on the shoes to be a little bit longer for better traction," he said. "I don't know the answer, we're up here second-guessing everything that we're seeing, but it's clear that they're not having good footing out there."

Courier on American Tennis Low Point: "Get Used to It"



(June 27, 2013)--Novak Djokovic's straight set win over Bobby Reynolds on the last match of day 4 was more than just a ho-hum victory for the World No. 1 and consensus Wimbledon favorite. It also marked a low point for American tennis, as Reynold's loss meant that for the first time in over a hundred years, no American males will reach the third round at Wimbledon. While it doesn't come as a surprise--American men have been languishing for the better part of a decade now--it doesn't ease the sting for die-hard American tennis enthusiasts and it certainly doesn't bode well for the sport's popularity stateside.

"It's not a happy day," said Jim Courier, a four-time Grand Slam champion who is commentating for Tennis Channel at Wimbledon. "I can give you all the excuses. It doesn't matter. The fact remains we're all disappointed if you care about American tennis that there's not an American male in there."

Making matters worse, the current crop of young Americans--while promising in some areas--appears to be a long way from making a dent on tour. "The game has gone international--we've all heard the stories of why it's tougher out there," said Courier. "What today points out more than anything is how lucky we've been and we're not entitled as a nation to have players in the third round, we have to earn it like everybody else."

American women currently have three players in the third round and one still alive in the third round. Several American women have generated buzz this year, but many feel that the men are experiencing a dearth of talent because their are too many other lucrative options for American men in sports. Whatever the reason, Courier thinks that parents--not the USTA--can be the agent of change in the equation. "Parents are the reason that people play tennis," said Courier. "There is no great answer out there as to why Serena Williams is a great champion other than Richard Williams saw a woman with a checque in her hand and said 'My daughters are going to do that.' "

With the U.S. hardcourt season around the corner, the odds are likely that the U.S. men's tennis narrative could get worse before it gets better. At least one American has been in the top 20 ever since the ATP started maintaining its rankings system in 1973. That could change with Sam Querrey (19) and John Isner (21) on the fringe.

"Get used to it," Courier warned.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Could Laura Robson and Madison Keys Be in the Top Ten This Time Next Year?



(June 25, 2013)--18-year-old Madison Keys and 19-year-old Laura Robson are two of the most exciting teenagers on tour right now, and each came through with big wins at Wimbledon today to reach the second round.

Is each both at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to realizing their massive amounts of potential?

Both were teen prodigies that ignited the passion of tennis fans in search of the next best thing at a very young age. Robson won junior Wimbledon at 14, and Keys became the seventh-youngest player in WTA history to win a professional match when she defeated Alla Kudryavtseva in Ponte Vedra Beach in 2009.

For Robson, who became the first British woman to upset a top ten player at Wimbledon in 15 years on Tuesday, expectations have been sky-high since her professional breakthrough at the 2012 U.S. Open. She has climbed as high as No. 35 in the rankings, but she has plateaued there, seemingly plagued by inconsistency, a lack of fitness, and nerves. Keys, too, has had her high points, but she's been inconsistent too and hasn't been past the quarterfinals at a WTA event to date.

The potential has certainly been there for a while.

So is it time? Are Keys and Robson on the cusp of taking things higher at Wimbledon this year or, if not now, sometime in the not too distant future?

Lindsay Davenport, for one, is eager to see it. "I'd love to see that," said Davenport. "For so long in women's tennis we've seen some players come up that haven't had those big weapons. Madison Keys we all know, and Sloane Stephens (Robson was also mentioned in the discussion, though Davenport didn't mention her in this quote), they have the ability to finish the point. They have that big weapon. A lot of times, you can't teach that. You can't learn that in your twenties."

SI.com's Jon Wertheim thinks there is room for some new players inside the WTA's current top ten. "I think there's a big three [in women's tennis]. After that, there's a couple of soft spots. Sara Errani dropped out in round one... Li Na is north of 30. There's some room for some of these young players to really sort of infiltrate that top ten--that's not crazy talk."

Davenport doesn't think it's crazy talk, but the three-time Grand Slam champion knows that it won't be easy.. "It take consistency and it takes commitment, and we'll see from these youngsters that are 18, 19, 20 now, if they have that."

Keys will face 30th-seeded Mona Barthel of Germany in round two, while Robson will take on Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia.

Federer's Forehand: What a Weapon



(June 25, 2013)--Stumbled across this video of Roger Federer practicing then being mobbed by scores of awestruck fans at Wimbledon today (above). I can do without the latter (or the subscribe button at the top of the page for that matter), but getting back to the former, would you look at the velocity that Federer generates when he hits these forehands in practice? It's freaking superhuman! Oh my word, what a forehand! Everybody recognizes Federer as this truly regal, ethereal presence on a tennis court, and all of it is true, but when it comes to the forehand, Federer is a cold-blooded assassin. Look at him whip that heavy Wilson racquet through the hitting zone. I bet he could chop through a concrete wall or a 20-inch thick block of ice with that thing.

Federer plays Sergiy Stakhovsky tomorrow on Centre Court. He's four matches behind Boris Becker for the second-most all-time at Wimbledon. Stakhovsky is a very fun player to watch on a grass court, and this should be a very entertaining match to watch, regardless of the score line.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Courier: Nadal Couldn't Use Defense to Stay in Match



(June 24, 2013)--Speaking via satellite to Mary Carillo and Jon Wertheim on the Tennis Channel, former Wimbledon finalist and four-time Grand Slam champion Jim Courier gave some good insight into Rafael Nadal's stunning first-round loss to Steve Darcis on Day 1 of the Championships.

"When you factor in that Nadal's coming in without the tournament play, he's playing on a greasy, lush court that hasn't seen much action," said Courier, "it spelled risk. You wouldn't have seen the upset coming but it's a tough court to play defense on and that showed today.

"On this surface, on this day, it's the most vulnerable day of the year for the top players, because in best-of-five sets in these tournaments, you see these guys have tough offensive days but find there way out of it, but today Rafa couldn't do that. Nadal just didn't look himself in a lot of ways out their from my eyes."

Despite the fact that he felt Rafa was off his game, Courier was more than willing to give the 29-year-old Belgian his due, saying, "Good for him. He took his chances out there today."

Courier praised the World No. 135 for playing to win, rather than playing not to lose.

"It's nice to see players with nothing to lose play like it for a change," said Courier. "So many times these guys go out there just happy to shake hands and be on the court with the great players, but Steve Darcis came out there and he was focused and he was opportunistic. Darcis had a beautiful slice backhand working, shades of [Ken] Rosewall out there at times--it really was something to see."

Darcis will face Lukasz Kubot of Poland in the second round. He has never reached the third round at Wimbledon before.

Making Sense of Nadal's Early Wimbledon Exit



(June 24, 2013)--On Monday at Wimbledon, Rafael Nadal lost in the first round of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career (35 Slams, if you're curious), and now it's time to ponder: Where did it all go wrong? What does it all mean? For Roger Federer and Andy Murray, who both were lumped into a very difficult half of the draw with Nadal, it means a lot. But in the big picture for Nadal, this devastating loss might end up being nothing but another speed bump.

In short: it's nothing to panic about.

Steve Darcis' 7-6(4), 7-6(8), 6-4 victory over Nadal was a shocking upset in some ways, but in other ways, given what Nadal had to put himself through to achieve his record-shattering victory in Paris, it's not all that surprising. Simply put, Nadal was temporarily spent at Wimbledon, and he played like it. His tank was on E, red light and all, and he'd been driving across Europe for days. After a long, glorious slog through Latin America and Europe, something had to give, and it gave today. Not even the fumes of his legendary greatness could save him.

Does it make the loss sting any less for Nadal? Certainly not.

After riding a wave of momentum that enabled him to long-board through Paris, Nadal seemed to have everything under control. So much so that it make perfect sense to consider Nadal a serious contender to win his third French-Wimbledon double, which would have tied him with Bjorn Borg and made him one of only two players to have accomplished the feat three times in the Open Era.

It was one of the many compelling story lines on the mens' side, now it's a dead dream, kicked to the curb like yesterday's tandoori.

And we are left with the poignant realization: Control is a fleeting thing when it comes to Nadal. Quite often these days, he's at the mercy of his health, and that scenario reared its ugly head today.

But, alas, such is life. The knees giveth and the knees taketh away. Even the greats have their holes, and Rafa, a man who plays a brand of tennis that is clearly at odds with his brand of knees, clearly has his, and at times like this those holes stand agape, opening wide for all the world to see.

But before we take this as a sign of the end of Rafa, let's take a moment to consider what he was up against at Wimbledon. After redlining his body since his return to the court in February, Rafa simply wasn't ready to take on the challenge of Wimbledon so soon. With a ridiculously short (and thankfully, soon to be expanded) two-week break between the French Open and Wimbledon, it left Nadal no time to even step on the grass, let alone ramp his game up in true Nadal style, for Wimbledon.

Anybody who knows Nadal, knows that preparation is his foundation. He's gotten more adept over the course of his career at getting up to cruising speed more quickly, but after such a whirlwind scenario, in which Nadal won 43 of 45 matches and seven titles in six vamos-filled months, it just wasn't possible.

Let's face it: After skipping Halle, Nadal was basically coming to Wimbledon on a wing and a prayer. With no practice on the trickiest, most slippery surface in tennis, Nadal was bound to be tentative, even if he was completely fit. And so, today's result isn't all that surprising, much in the same way his loss to Horacio Zeballos in Vina del Mar wasn't that surprising either. Nadal simply lacked the necessary time to prepare.

Does his loss at Wimbledon mean that Nadal is a one-trick pony, that he can't—or won't—play up to snuff on anything but clay for the foreseeable future? I don't think so. The man has won Grand Slams (and convincingly) on every surface, and if he chooses to prepare for the grass the way he prepared for the clay, he can and will win Wimbledon again.

Think about it. Nadal ended Roger Federer's reign of five consecutive Wimbledon titles in 2008. Why? Because he made it his vision quest. He lived it. He dreamed it. He did it.

This year at Wimbledon, Nadal's vision quest was still in the rearview mirror, somewhere near the Champs-Élysées. He had given everything to winning an 8th French Open, and on Monday he paid a dear price for that.

Was it worth it? You bet.

Will he be back with a vengeance in the not-too-distant future? You bet.

So let's not hang our heads in despair for Nadal. Consistency has never been his calling card like it has been for Roger Federer. Nadal is more of a shooting star.

He may have crashed and burned today, but he's bound to light up the sky again real soon.

Bank on it.

Vika's Fall is a Perfect Ten



Honestly, words fail me. Vika will face Flavia Pennetta in round two.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Andy Murray BBC Video Getting Rave Reviews



(June 23rd, 2013)--The BBC's hour-long special on Andy Murray stirred up a lot of chatter on Twitter today, as the network streamed the video live to the U.K. on the eve of the first day of Wimbledon. The video, entitled "The Man Behind the Racquet," features interviews with Murray's girlfriend Kim Sears, mother Judy, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and actor Kevin Spacey.

Find out more about the video here.

Or, watch the video in its entirety above...

Here are some of the early reactions on Twitter from those who've seen it:


Friday, June 21, 2013

Andy Roddick Misses Tennis, but Only for 5 Seconds at a Time

(June 21, 2013) -- It turns out that Andy Roddick does miss tennis, but not enough to get on a plane and beg for a wild card into Wimbledon.

“I’ll see a night match, with the electricity in the air, and that makes me jealous for about five seconds,” he tells Erin Quinn in an interview for the June issue of Austin Monthly. “Until I realize that it takes about two weeks of travel to get there, acclimatize, settle in—there’s a lot that goes into that two or three-hour moment.”

Roddick, who retired at last year's U.S. Open, has been enjoying the good life, chilling with his wife and their two English bulldogs, playing some golf, talking on the radio and getting his favorite post-tennis project--the Andy Roddick Foundation--off the ground.

“It’s not going to be a full-time school, it’s going to be more mentoring after school, in the same spirit of wanting to help in the way Andre has,” Roddick told the magazine. “It’s certainly not a carbon copy, but you can learn a lot from him and other people who have had success in this area.”

According to the article, Billie Jean King has joined the boad of ARF, and Roddick has reciprocated by becoming a part of the World Team Tennis ownership, with plans for an expansion franchise in Austin in the not too distant future.

Things are going well for Roddick. That's good news for him, but bad news for those of us who would prefer that the former Grand Slam champion be bored to tears and planning his return to the game. Not likely. He appears to be just fine chilling in Austin. "People make the mistake of saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re retired at 30,’ " Roddick told Austin Monthly, "And I say, ‘I’m retired from tennis, not existence.’”

Simona Halep is on Fire Heading into Wimbledon

(June 21, 2013) -- Besides Serena Williams, who is rolling into Wimbledon with a 31-match winning streak, a lesser known Romanian might be the hottest thing in women's tennis right now.

21-year-old Simona Halep has won nine straight matches, and apparently it doesn't matter what surface she is playing on. Halep won the Nuremberg event on clay last week and this week she's into the final of s'Hertogenbosch, where she will face Kirsten Flipkens for the title.

"I played a lot of good matches with good players in Rome, and after that tournament I felt more and more confident," Halep said. "I've been feeling very good about everything, not just mentally, but also physically. I've been believing in my game a lot and playing more aggressively, and that's all.

"It's not easy even just to play on grass after playing so many matches on clay, So for me to be in the final this week, I'm really happy about it. I'm feeling good and playing well too."

Halep has won five matches against the top 20 since May 13. She'll face Olga Govortsova in the first round at Wimbledon, and could face Li Na in the second round if she advances.

Halep was 1-5 on grass entering this week's event in the Netherlands, with only one career win at Wimbledon. Could she be this year's Wimbledon dark horse?

Sergiy Stakhovsky Hits Killer Diving Backhand Volley

(June 20, 2013)--I came across this tweet from Sergiy Stakhovsky earlier this week:

So I went looking for the evidence. This is what I found. Awesome!



Keep an eye on Stakhovsky. He plays Rogerio Dutra Silva in the first round at Wimbledon and if he makes it through he'll face Roger Federer in round two. Even if he doesn't win, the serve-and-volleyer will be sure to bring the crowd to its feet a few times.

Maria Sharapova Calls Djokovic and Dimitrov "Clowns"

(June 21, 2013)--Many wondered whether Maria Sharapova would take kindly to her boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov partaking in some good-natured imitations of her (along with the king of all imitations in tennis, Novak Djokovic) during an exhibition at The Boodles earlier this week. Would she be mad? Would Grigor be forced to carry her bag onto the court for her first-round match at Wimbledon?

For those who haven't seen the video, have a look below:



Well, Sharapova has spoken:



No hard feelings, apparently...

Federer and Nadal Could Meet in Wimbledon Quarterfinal



(June 21, 2013)--The gods of the draw have deigned that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal should meet in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2013, and who are we to argue? With men's and women's singles draws released on Friday morning at the All England Club, Federer and Nadal's were drawn to face one another in the quarterfinal. Additionally, both have been placed in the same half of the draw as 2012 finalist Andy Murray.

Novak Djokovic, seeded first, would face Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals and David Ferrer in the semifinals if the seeds hold. Click here for a peek at the full draw.

Federer and Nadal have met ten times at Grand Slams, but never before have they met before the semifinals at a major. Nadal owns an 8-2 record over Federer in those meetings, but Federer's two wins both came at Wimbledon in 2006 and 2007. In their last Wimbledon meeting, Federer and Nadal played the longest final in the history of Wimbledon at four hours and forty-eight minutes, with Nadal winning 6–4, 6–4, 6–7(5), 6–7(8), 9–7.

Nadal leads Federer 20-10 all-time, and the Spaniard has thumped Federer in their last two meetings at Indian Wells and Rome, losing only ten games in both matches.

Federer will attempt to win Wimbledon for a record 8th time this year. The only man to win 8 titles at any major is Rafael Nadal, who won his 8th French Open less than two weeks ago in Paris.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

With Quiet Confidence, Jamie Hampton Climbs Rankings

(June 19, 2013)--Jamie Hampton didn't look surprised at all after she notched her first top five win of her career on Tuesday in Eastbourne, and she didn't suffer the all too familiar letdown when she faced a lesser opponent in Taiwan's Su-Wei Hsieh on Wednesday. Instead, she looked calm, matter of fact; not quite nonchalant, but certainly not too wired to focus either.

It's been a fantastic late spring for the 23-year-old, and that uncanny sense of calm--shall we call it maturity?--most certainly has a lot to do with it. Hampton will bid for her third WTA semifinal of 2013 on Thursday when she faces Lucie Safarova, but no matter whether she wins or loses, Hampton already has learned the most valuable lesson a young player can learn in 2013: that she can play with the best.

When asked by reporters on Tuesday, Hampton cited her three-set loss to Victoria Azarenka as the match that set the tone for her 2013 more than any other. "I think the Azarenka match... I was able to bring my game out and compete against the best in the world," Hampton said. "And even though I didn't come out on the winning end of it, just to have the belief, 'okay, I am on the right track, this is the right thing, and even though you didn't win today, you know, you still can compete with them and you can beat them,' " she added.

Hampton has been competing ever since. At the French Open, Hampton upset Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova before finally bowing out to Jelena Jankovic in the fourth round. Playing with an ethereal disposition that is in direct contrast with her gun-slinging tennis, Hampton is part poise and part reckless abandon, but never does she look overwhelmed by where she is, who she is playing, or what the stakes are.

After qualifying for this week's Aegon International in Eastbourne, Hampton wasn't running scared when she found out she'd be playing top seed and 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska in the first round. Rather than curse the cruel gods of the draw, she was actually hoping to play the top seed. She revealed in her post-match press conference that, yes, indeed, she wanted another shot at Radwanska and believed she could beat her if she got it. "When I found out the qualifying spots, you know, I told my coach, 'I want to play Radwanska,' I hope I draw her, because, one, we have never played on grass and she's beaten me the last four times," Hampton said. "I want to have the opportunity to play her again and make sure I come out on top. I have been close before, but, you know, it's nice to come out with a win today."

At a time when young Americans Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys are soaking up all the press's ink, Hampton has been quietly demonstrating, week in and week out, that she is a player to be reckoned with on any surface.

Hampton, an army brat who lived in Germany until she was eight, is half-Korean, and she regrets never learning the language from her mother. Reportedly, her mother said she was too stubborn as a kid to learn it, but when it comes to soaking up the nuances of the grass court game, Hampton is proving to be a quick study. In just her second career event on the green stuff she's already reached her first quarterfinal. "I think that the grass suits my game much better than the clay," said Hampton. "I have never played on grass. Last year at Wimbledon was my first match, and everyone told me that, you know, you're going to have a ton of fun on grass. Your game translates well. You're going to be able to come forward and take balls out of the air."

Turns out they were right. Hampton has been aggressive in her matches on grass, using her big serves and forehand to set up put-away volleys at the net. She plays a very clean, assertive game, with a lot of gusto and very little drama. At times, she'll berate herself, but her self-chiding seems constructive rather than pathological.

There's a lot to like about Jamie Hampton at the moment, both in her results and in her approach to the game.

And with another big quarterfinal coming up, Hampton hopes the fun doesn't stop any time soon.

"I'm having a ton of fun on the grass, to be honest," she says.

Nadal Seeded 5th at Wimbledon: Fair or Unfair?

(June 19, 2013)--Wimbledon officially announced its seeding for the men's and women's singles draw on Wednesday, and while it didn't come as any surprise that the All England Club seeded according to its predetermined formula, there were some who expressed dissatisfaction with the result.

ESPN's Brad Gilbert was emphatically against the decision--or, non decision--tweeting:

Gilbert's is a sentiment that many share, and they have good reasons for that. With Nadal seeded fifth, he could face any of the top four seeds in the quarterfinals. In other words, if you thought it was a travesty that Nadal and Djokovic played their epic five-set nailbiter in the French Open semifinals instead of the finals, then get ready for a possible Djokovic-Nadal quarterfinal at Wimbledon.

But, really, is the alternative any better? If the Wimbledon committee would have moved Nadal up to fourth, it would have been forced to move David Ferrer down to fifth. It sounds like a logical--and just?--decision to make, but when you factor in the decision that the seeding protocols have been put in place for a reason, throwing Ferrer, a player who has done everything in his power to be the No. 4 seed, to the wolves might be unjust also.

John McEnroe gave his two cents on the same subject in an ESPN conference call yesterday:

Q. (Question regarding the men’s seedings and whether they should deviate from current rankings.)

JOHN McENROE:
"I think they should seed Nadal in the top four. I don’t think anyone would murmur any complaint whatsoever. I think Wimbledon is the only tournament I’m aware of out of the four majors that does change the seedings. I don’t know exactly how they do it. Apparently there’s a formula, a committee, a combination. But clearly he should be one of the top four seeds in my book."

Q. Let’s say they don’t. That would obviously have an enormous effect on the other four.

JOHN McENROE: "Ferrer is going to be the five seed if he’s not the four seed. Therefore, if he played Nadal in the quarters anyway, it would be like the same old, same old for him, because he’s always had to play one of those four guys in the quarters. If you were to, say, have Nadal play Djokovic in the quarters, possibly Murray or Federer, that would be a big difference, yeah. It would be absolutely wrong for that to happen, in my opinion."

Well then, what is wrong and what is right? Roger Federer, just last week at Halle, argued the case for Ferrer, saying, "The problem is if you say 'he’s the No. 5 seed and that’s a joke' then this is completely disrespectful towards Ferrer and I don’t like that. Nadal will shortly be back in the Top 3, that’s for sure. So, it’s not worth making a big fuss about it now. It’s just a question of time."

Andy Murray, seeded second this year, doesn't seem to be losing much sleep over Nadal's seeding, even though he could end up having to face Nadal, Federer and Djokovic in consecutive matches to win his first Wimbledon, an unenviable task if there ever was one. Speaking in his BBC Sport column on Monday, Murray said, "As a player you can't get too obsessed about the draw...I'd sign up to be in the quarter-finals against Rafa tomorrow if someone offered me that. You could say if I get through that match, then the semi-final might not be as tough, but if you want to win the biggest tournaments you have to beat the best players in the world. It doesn't really matter where they are in the draw."

Wimbledon seeds players based on current ranking and a weighted combination of the two previous year's grass court results. Ferrer, a quarterfinalist at last year's Wimbledon, reached his first Wimbledon quarterfinal in his tenth appearance at the Championships in 2012. He also won a title at a grass court event in the Netherlands last season, further helping his seeding cause.

Nadal was seeded third and Ferrer fourth (due to Andy Murray's withdrawal) at the French Open this year, but even after Nadal won his eighth French Open title, he slipped behind Ferrer in the rankings due to the fact that Ferrer reached the final, whereas last year he lost in the semifinals.

Serena Backtracks on Rolling Stone Quotes



(June 19, 2013)--Serena Williams is doing a bit of damage control for some comments she made to Rolling Stone magazine about the Steubenville rape case. The piece, released online on Wednesday and immediately picked up by Deadspin, caused waves of criticism and debate. Less than a day later, Williams took to the internet to clarify things a bit.

In the piece, Williams was quoted as saying: "Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don't know. I'm not blaming the girl, but if you're a 16-year-old and you're drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don't take drinks from other people. She's 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn't remember? It could have been much worse. She's lucky. Obviously, I don't know, maybe she wasn't a virgin, but she shouldn't have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that's different."

Predictably, backlash started immediately, with the polarizing Williams the subject of many an online tirade. Today, Williams was quick to try and quell any vitriol by publishing a statement on her homepage. Though the apology is welcome, Williams isn't exactly owning up to the quotes, referring to the words as something she "supposedly said." Not a great angle to take, particularly because her original quotes about the horrible crime were about owning up to the inherent responsibilities of life (the crux of which few can argue), but nonetheless, the apology should help mitigate the harm that Williams' words have caused.

“What happened in Steubenville was a real shock for me," wrote Williams. "I was deeply saddened. For someone to be raped, and at only sixteen, is such a horrible tragedy! For both families involved – that of the rape victim and of the accused. I am currently reaching out to the girl’s family to let her know that I am deeply sorry for what was written in the Rolling Stone article. What was written – what I supposedly said – is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame.

I have fought all of my career for women’s equality, women’s equal rights, respect in their fields – anything I could do to support women I have done. My prayers and support always goes out to the rape victim. In this case, most especially, to an innocent sixteen year old child.”

The article, written by Stephen Rodrick, will print in the July 4 issue of Rolling Stone. "When you write a profile there’s always the fear that one statement is going to be cherrypicked and it will overwhelm the piece, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes," Rodrick told Amy Fetherolf, in an interview with The Changeover. "If you read the entire piece, I think you’ll get a different understanding of Serena than if you just repeat the soundbite. You may like her more, you may like her less."

And now, back to your regularly scheduled pre-Wimbledon programming...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

McEnroe: Nadal-Djokovic Was the Best Clay-Court Match I've Seen



(June 18, 2013)--Speaking via telephone on an ESPN conference call, John McEnroe confirmed my belief about Rafael Nadal's thrilling 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7 semifinal victory over Novak Djokovic at the French Open. McEnroe thinks it's the best match he's ever seen on clay.

"I think it gives you an idea of how determined and well Djokovic was that he put himself in a position to be up 4-3 in the fifth on a pretty hot day," said McEnroe, while fielding a question about Nadal on clay, "[to] be that close to winning, five points from winning the match. To me that was the greatest clay court match I've ever seen."

I had pegged it as the best men's match at a Grand Slam since the Wimbledon final in 2008. About a week later, while ruminating on the five hour and fifty-three minute 2012 Australian Open final between Nadal and Djokovic, and a few other classics that have occurred in recent years, I was beginning to change my mind. Maybe I was getting carried away, letting my own personal feelings about the match get in the way of objectivity? Now that I know McEnroe's on board, I'm sticking with my guns.

Certainly the tennis was sublime, and the fact that the match ended up being a semifinal instead of a final due to the luck of the draw should have no bearing on how history views this classic. What we should remember is how much was at stake: Nadal, gunning for immortality on clay, and Djokovic, bidding to win his first French Open in the most dramatic scenario imaginable, against the best clay-courter in the game's history.

Chris Evert Does Not Think Big Four Domination is Boring for Men's Tennis



(June 18, 2013)--Speaking with reporters on an ESPN conference call, Chris Evert shot down the notion that men's tennis had become boring because of the dominance of its top stars. "There's nothing boring about greatness," Evert said. "Those top players, like John [McEnroe] said, are at a level by themselves. That will form rivalries. Hopefully there's one stirring up right now with Nadal/Djokovic. Their matches are epic matches. So I don't think 'boring' is the right word. I wished the women had four up there like the men do right now. Right now it just seems to be one."

As the men head to Wimbledon, Evert agrees that the big four will call the shots yet again, but she believes that there's an air of excitement about which one of the big four will be able to prevail.

"Yeah, I think this is the beauty of having the top four players playing so evenly and closely," Evert said. "Djokovic comes to mind only because I think the disappointment at the French Open. Then Federer, you know, the thing is that I have a sneaking suspicion that Federer has put all his eggs in one basket and he's gunning for Wimbledon. It's the only Grand Slam that he really has a legitimate chance. I don't mean that against him, it's just that the competition is so good. Then, you know, Andy Murray, really depends on the nerves, how he reacts. Every year that he doesn't win it, there's more and more pressure on him. Nadal, I mean, he could come out of the gate and just surprise us all. I think you kind of wonder after winning the French, I know he's always hungry, but I think this court doesn't suit him as well as it does the other players.

"It's just totally up in the air. That's the wonderful thing about it. That's the wonderful thing about having the top four men playing so closely and evenly."

In the last 33 Grand Slams, only once--Juan Martin del Potro won the 2009 U.S. Open--has a player other than Djokovic, Nadal, Federer or Murray won a singles title at a Grand Slam.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Murray Pelts Lendl, For a Good Cause, and Everybody Laughs



(June 17, 2013)--As the saying goes, it is not a coach's job to get his understudy to like him. And when Andy Murray is concerned, Ivan Lendl's only job is to get the Brit to win Grand Slams. He's already done that, and evidently he's pushed a few buttons in Murray while doing so. How else could you explain the joy of Murray after he took his coach down while playing the Queen's Rally Against Cancer charity match? Murray, normally reserved and somewhat inhibited, expressed about 20 million times more joy from pegging his coach than he did when he won his first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open last year.

Credit to Lendl for taking the pelting in stride. "It just proves that everybody can hit a lucky shot," he said in an on-court interview after the match.

Lendl's used to dishing it out (see videos below), so it's nice to see that he can take it like a champion.





The event, organized by British doubles player Ross Hutchins, raised 65,000 Euros for the Royal Marsden Hospital in Kensington, England. Hutchins, one of Murray's closest friends, finished his last chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma last week.

Thanks to Beyond the Baseline for the video tip.

Bryan Brothers Head into Wimbledon on 18-Match Streak



(June 17, 2017)--The best doubles team in the history of the sport could he headed for their best season ever. Mike and Bob Bryan have already won 14 Grand Slams and yesterday they won their 90th career title as a team at Queen's Club (both are all-time records), but with their current scorching level of play, one can't help wonder: Are they going to win the calendar-year Grand Slam?

It hasn't happened in the Open Era in Men's Doubles, but Mike and Bob have already become the first pair of players to win the Australian Open and French Open back-to-back in more than 40 years.

The Bryans have put together an 18-match winning streak, won eight titles, and own a 44-6 record as they round the bend for Wimbledon. They've won the last three Grand Slams and the Olympic gold, too.

The twins are 35 years of age, but clearly they are playing with a pair of chips on their shoulders this year after losing back-to-back Davis Cup rubbers for the first time in their careers.

Whether they admit it or not, those two Davis Cup losses, both on home soil, didn't sit right with the Bryans. And just because they have rewritten the record books consistently over the last few years doesn't mean they are done chasing history. They have never won the calendar-year Grand Slam, and with 14 titles apiece, Bob and Mike are still three Slams behind John Newcombe on the all-time men's doubles Grand Slam titles list.

It could be a very interesting Wimbledon on the doubles court...

After Double-Bagel Thrashing, Zverev Downs Sock at Wimbledon Qualifying



(June 17, 2013)--Apparently a double-bagel thrashing at the hands of Roger Federer was exactly what Mischa Zverev needed to get motivated for Wimbledon. The World No. 156 defeated American Jack Sock, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of the qualifying draw today. Zverev, a classic serve and volley player, is bidding to reach his fifth main draw at Wimbledon. He reached the third round of the Championships in 2008.

"I was of course sad or whatever (after Halle)," Zverev told Wimbledon.com, "but an hour or so later I was like, 'so what, I've played quarters in Halle, I have Wimbledon qualifying waiting for me and there's no need to be down and too disappointed. Anything positive that you can take, you just take it with you and go to London."

Sock, still only 20, has yet to play in the Wimbledon main draw. The Nebraska native did qualify for Roland Garros last month and reached the second round before losing to Tommy Haas. Though his big serve seems tailor-made for Wimbledon's fast grass, he's only played two tour-level matches on the surface.

Second-seeded Sock wasn't the only high seed to bow out of Wimbledon qualifying today. Israel's Dudi Sela, seeded first, lost to France's Stephane Robert in three sets.

Americans Denis Kudla, Wayne Odesnik, Tim Smyczek, Bobby Reynolds, Alex Kuznetsov and Rhyne Williams each advanced, while Donald Young, Michael Yani and Bradley Klahn joined Sock in the loss column.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Americans Sock, Kudla Set to Begin Wimbledon Qualies on Monday

(June 16, 2013)-- Just a mere three miles from the Wimbledon grounds at SW 19, sits a cluster of grass courts in Roehampton ready to be put to task by men's singles and doubles qualifiers tomorrow. Among those men will be Jack Sock and Denis Kudla, two highly touted American men considered by many to be on the cusp of much bigger things.

Sock, who qualified for the French Open last month en route to a second-round appearance, will open with veteran German Mischa Zverev on Monday, while Kudla, who reached the quarterfinals at Queen's Club last week (his second career quarterfinal on grass), will open against Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France.

Sock is seeded second in the qualifying draw and Kudla is seeded 6th. A total of eleven Americans are hoping to qualify.

The Americans have had recent success in the qualies, and they've also made history in the past. Last year four Americans qualified, including Brian Baker, who reached the fourth-round. John McEnroe made history as a qualifier in 1977 when he reached the semifinals at the age of 18 in his first appearance at the tournament.

It's hard to imagine anybody coming out of the qualies and pulling a McEnroe at this year's Wimbledon. Given the extreme talent and depth in the men's singles field in 2013, and the changes to the grass surface that have led to experience trumping raw talent in the men's game, it's getting harder and harder to do. But with the increases in prize money at the Slams this year, even making the main draw nets a player 23,5000 Euros.

That's nothing to scoff at. Neither is John McEnroe's unruly mop top and tight Fila shirt, circa 1977. We'll leave you one from the vault from Superbrat's, circa 1977.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Federer Will Attempt to Tie John McEnroe with 77th Title on Sunday in Halle

(June 15, 2013)--Much has been made of Roger Federer's lack of a title in 2013, but that talk could die down if the Swiss maestro gets his 77th career title in Halle when he faces Mikhail Youzhny in the final of the Gerry Weber Open on Sunday.

The odds are certainly in favor of Federer, given that he's compiled a 14-0 career record against Youzhny since the pair first met in Stockholm in 2000.

Federer, into his 8th consecutive Halle final, will bid for his 6th title at the event. More importantly, the man they call the GOAT will be bidding to tie John McEnroe for third on the ATP's all-time title list with 77.

Here's a look at the ATP's top five, all-time:

1. Jimmy Connors, 109
2. Ivan Lendl, 94
3. John McEnroe, 77
4. Roger Federer, 76
5. Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras, 64.

Is the record on Federer's mind right now? He was asked that earlier in the week. Here's what he had to say:

Q: You have won 76 titles. Is it an additional motivation to break McEnroe’s record?

FEDERER: And then I will have to win another 70 doubles titles (laughs). Of course it’s a motivation but I cannot think of McEnroe’s record before I’ve even played my first point here. That would be wrong. McEnroe has done a lot for the sports on and off the court and as commentator. I hope that I will break his record one day. It could be sooner or later.

Odds are that it will happen sooner, but with Lendl at 94 titles and Connors at 109, Federer may have climbed as far as he can on this list...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Haas on Monfils: "Sometimes I think He Can Do a Little Too Much With the Crowd"

(June 14, 2013)--Tommy Haas won a spirited battle with Gael Monfils at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany in Friday, but the match was overshadowed by a strange, brilliant-yet-brainless trick shot (see below) that Monfils attempted--and yes, pulled off (sort of)--in the ninth game of the second set.

Monfils was broken to lose the set later in the game, and lost the match, 6-7(4), 3-6, 3-6.



Monfils was called "king of the ill-advised trick shot" by SI.com's Courtney Nguyen on Friday, and it's impossible to deny that. I guess, for Monfils, it's good to be the king of something. But when the sad truth is revealed and it becomes obvious just how committed to winning Monfils is, the whole charade seems a bit like a cop out.

Monfils enthusiasts have been waiting for years for this wildly talented boy to become a man and own up to his talents, but with each new fancy trick shot it becomes more and more apparent that Monfils just simply doesn't want to find out how good he can be. Hence the escapism, and with Monfils, the supply is abundant. The trick shot well never seems to run dry.

In his defense, Monfils is clearly interested in ensuring that fans get their money's worth when they see him play. When you look at it from that perspective, his actions don't seem nearly as egregious. 

Anyhow, Haas was asked about it by reporters after the match. Here's his response. 

Q: I had just had a verbal fight with Monfils about the weird ball in the match and I told him it’s kind of a lack of respect for the opponent and he totally disagreed. He said the practiced that shot during the training time and it was for him the best way to win the point. What’s your opinion?

HAAS: I mean that’s a way of looking at it. He’s an entertainer as well when he goes out there a lot of the times. He doesn’t need to hit the shot that way. But I think he thought he can win it anyway. It’s his call. I mean it’s strange I haven’t seen it that many times. At the same time I don’t remember how important the score was just of the top of the head, if it’s 40:0 and you do something like this, maybe it’s a good thing but it’s his decision in the end. That’s Gael.

Q: My question is it a lack of respect for the opponent or not?

HAAS: I don’t know if that’s lack of respect. I think he’s more of an entertainer in that sense and he wanted to do something entertaining for the crowd as well and maybe see if he can win that point that way. If he hit the smash well he still could have won the point, especially on grass he’s in control of the point. I don’t think necessarily it’s lack of respect. You saw the crowd sort of really enjoyed it.  

Q: And you?

HAAS: To me it was okay. You always try and think of something. Sometimes I think he can do a little bit too much with the crowd or he commentates after many points. That sometimes can be a little bit too much in my eyes. But overall he’s a funny guy, he’s a good entertainer. As long as he can stay focussed that’s the most important thing. I try to stay focussed and not pay too much attention but sometimes that’s not easy. But I don’t think he shows disrespect to the opponent.

Federer Notches Second Career Double Bagel Vs. Zverev in Halle



(June 14, 2013)--If you blinked, you might have missed it. But no worries, because the above highlight package, at 3:53, is nearly as long as Roger Federer's 6-0, 6-0 victory over Mischa Zverev lasted during Friday's quarterfinal at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany.

The lopsided victory for Federer marks only the second time in his career that he has completely blanked an opponent. In 2005, Federer defeated Gaston Gaudio in the Masters Cup on an indoor hard court. What is remarkable about that win is that Gaudio was ranked No. 9 in the world at the time.

Zverev entered today's tilt at 156 in the World. He had reached the quarterfinals as a wild card, but was overwhelmed by the five-time Halle champion. Federer won 54 of 76 total points in the match, including 29 of 43 against the left-hander's serve. Federer broke serve six times on ten opportunities and will face Tommy Haas in one of tomorrow's semifinals at the Wimbledon grass-court tuneup.

“I feel sorry for Mischa," said Federer afterwards. "Actually, I don’t want to win my matches like it. It’s kind of uncomfortable.”

Zverev, who defeated David Goffin in the first round and Mirza Basic in the second, didn't take the loss too hard. "I'd rather lose 6-0, 6-0 to Roger in a quarterfinal than to a qualifier in the second round," Zverev said. "At least there is something to talk about later."

Federer Bagel Notes:

Federer is 75-0 in matches that he has recorded a bagel.
Federer's first bagel came in the third set of a match with Romania's Andrei Pavel in Rotterdam in 2001.
Federer has recorded 23 bagels against the top ten.
Federer has bageled his rival Rafael Nadal three times.
Federer has been bageled four times in his career, including once by Rafael Nadal.
The other three players to bagel Federer? Vincent Spadea, Patrick Rafter and Byron Black.

ESPN to Debut Venus Williams film on July 2

(June 14, 2013)--ESPN announced that it will debut a new film about Venus Williams and her struggle to aid women's tennis in the pursuit of equal prize money. Entitled "Venus Vs," the film will air on Tuesday July 2 on ESPN.

Here's the press clip, via ESPN Media:


"Earlier this year, ESPN Films and espnW announced the film slate for Nine for IX, a documentary series focused on captivating stories of women in sports told through the lens of female filmmakers. Nine for IX film topics include an intimate look at Pat Summitt, college sports’ most successful coach ever; the largely unknown history of Katarina Witt and her link with East Germany’s secret police; and the focus of sex in the marketing of female athletes."

The series – from the producers of the critically acclaimed “30 for 30” film series – will premiere on Tuesday, July 2, on ESPN with Venus Vs and the films will air over consecutive Tuesday evenings at 8pm ET.

For those unfamiliar, Venus Williams led the charge for equal prize money, during the mid-2000s, and her efforts helped lead to equal prize money at Roland Garros in 2006, and finally Wimbledon in 2007.

On the eve of her 2005 Wimbledon final with Lindsay Davenport, Williams accompanied then-WTA commissioner Larry Scott, making her case before the Grand Slam Committee.

“Venus made her point in very articulate fashion,” Scott said in a telephone interview with the New York Times. “It had to leave a very meaningful impression on anyone there. You couldn’t just write it off as suits arguing on the players’ behalf. There was no doubt that it was a heartfelt position."

The film blends together a plethora of archived video, news reports, and interviews with such luminaries as John McEnroe and Billie Jean King, both of which lent creative support to the director.

Fittingly, Williams won the first Wimbledon that offered equal prize money, defeating Marion Bartoli in the final. The director meshes a clip of Billie Jean King speaking into highlights of Williams' milestone victory, bringing the film to an emotional crescendo. "Venus was the only one since probably my generation that's had this drive to want to change this equal prize money," King says. "I think it was really a blessing, believe me. I'm really thrilled that she stepped up."

Would Roger Rasheed Approve?

(June 14, 2013)--Somewhere in London, Roger Rasheed is clenching his coffee cup with an iron grip, saying "Now Jo, if you EVER try anything like that on my watch, mate..."



Haas ended up coming back to win the match (he'll face Roger Federer in the semis), but LaMonf will definitely generate more hits on YouTube, so maybe he wins in the end?

Thanks to The Changeover for the clip.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Federer not Fussing over Nadal's Wimbledon Seed















(June 13, 2013)--Roger Federer told reporters that it's not worth it to get worried about where Rafael Nadal is going to end up when the Wimbledon draw gets made next week. "Whether he’s four or five some might get lucky in the draw," Federer said after his victory over Cedrik-Marcel Stebe on Wednesday. "The problem is if you say 'he’s the No. 5 seed and that’s a joke' then this is completely disrespectful towards Ferrer and I don’t like that. Nadal will shortly be back in the Top 3, that’s for sure. So, it’s not worth making a big fuss about it now. It’s just a question of time."

Federer, the defending and seven-time Wimbledon champion, has not won a title since last August, when he defeated Novak Djokovic in the Cincinnati final. Federer won six titles in 2012r, and reached a total of ten finals. He was asked on Wednesday in Halle if he was feeling a sense of urgency about winning a title in 2013, after going o for the season thus far.

"This year, yes. Right now, no," he said.

Federer will face German wild card Mischa Zverev in tomorrow's quarterfinal. If he wins he'll get the winner of tomorrow's tilt between Gael Monfils and Tommy Haas.

Wednesday's win over Stebe pushed Federer's record at the Gerry Weber open to 40-5. The 31-year-old owns five titles and has reached another two finals at Halle.

Alla Kudryavtseva's Sweet Tweener in Birmingham

(June 13, 2013)--Qualifier Alla Kudryavtseva was eliminated from the Aegon Classic by Alison Riske today, 6-1, 6-2. But the World No. 173 didn't leave the grass-court event without pulling off one of the best tweeners of the WTA season.

Yesterday, during her 6-4, 6-3 victory over Great Britain's Heather Watson she had this stroke of genius early in the second set.



And what a great reaction from the Russian, with a huge "Did I just do that?" smile sprouting from ear-to-ear after she hits the winner. She was still smiling after the match, when she tweeted the following:

Musing on the 5th-Set Breaker

(June 13, 2013)--With the Blackhawks defeating the Bruins in triple overtime in Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight, I couldn't help thinking about 5th-set tiebreakers in tennis. It's a logical cognitive jump to take; debated hotly ever since John Isner tussled with Nicolas Mahut for eleven hours and five minutes at Wimbledon in 2010, the 5th-set tiebreaker has become a de facto discussion in tennis. These days, whenever a match goes beyond 6-all, commentators on TV all tighten their debate caps and begin espousing.

What exactly is Roger Federer wearing here? 
For the record we will state that we are talking about Grand Slams, the last vestige of five-set-ness in professional tennis. Wimbledon, Roland Garros and the Australian Open all rule that a tiebreaker cannot end a match. The U.S. Open switched to the fifth-set tiebreaker in 1970 but the other three Slams never followed suit.

What did the U.S. Open know that the other three don't, or vice-versa?

Is the 5th-set breaker good for tennis or bad for tennis?

What does the athlete want, what do the sponsors want, what to the fans want?

If you look at it from a fan's perspective, the issue is murky. Who wants to see some 9-foot-tall guy rain down aces and then fumble around on return like he's Herman Munster? Still, when we hand over the player's fates to a tiebreaker we limit the amount of possible drama. Suspense builds over time in a match that goes to 16-14 or 12-10, and when we institute the tiebreaker we essentially give up on the match and all others like it, saying, "Oh well, let's get it over with so the network can run a sitcom."

That sucks, but there are other angles to consider. The health of the players is of major consideration in this debate. Wimbledon, Roland Garros and the Australian Open could have their cake and eat it if they opted to play a 5th-set tiebreakers at 10-10 (could be 12-12, you get the point). That way they could give fans the "extra innings" effect while not demanding an athlete to rip his body to shreds in the name of victory.

They'd also appease their sponsors, an overlooked but vitally important part of the equation.

Ending matches in a tiebreaker also makes sense from a player perspective. A guy like John Isner goes to 70-68 in the fifth set and his shoulder needs a 20-week ice-bath after the match? Not good for the player. We've seen it time and time again: Players on their last leg, fighting fatigue, keeling over, looking like they could use an IV. In a game that is ever more physical these days, is it smart to play these marathon matches when there is a clear cut and widely acceptable (see, soccer, the world's most popular sport) alternative?

Should Roger Federer and Andy Roddick have gone ahead and played a tiebreaker at 6-6 in the 2009 Wimbledon final? Opinions vary. They ended up playing 30 games, and while nobody really remembers many of the last 18 games of the final set, we all remember how the drama grew and the energy was frenzied. Partially due to that drama, it is one of the most memorable Grand Slam finals in recent memory.

You could say the same thing about Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka in Australia earlier this year. It was the consensus best match of the year until Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal played their epic semifinal at Roland Garros, which needed extra games in the fifth set as well.

As the Blackhawks and Bruins skated through a grueling 112-plus minutes of hockey-affirming goodness on Wednesday night, tension mounted as well. It made for a great game--an unforgettable game. But it also wreaked havoc on TV and probably caused a few injuries that will end up keeping a few players on pain medications for the next 44 years.

There is drama and there is consequence, and they are both weighing on the scale that will eventually settle this debate.

Which brings me to my next question: We love to live vicariously through the exploits of our athletes, but in the end, are we asking too much from them?

On one hand we love the bloodsport/warrior aspect of a scrum that simply won't end because neither player will budge. On the other hand, we hate to see a  guy's shoulder get fried or his abdomen torn, or whatever, as his whole season goes up in smoke.

What is our mission here as a tennis community? Are we looking out for the players or are we looking out for bloodlust?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Winning in Halle, Skipping Wimbledon, Monfils Nonplussed by Life

Photo: AP

(June 12, 2013)--Gael Monfils upset Milos Raonic in straight sets on Tuesday at Halle and today he whooped up on Jan Hernych to reach the quarterfinals of the Gerry Webber Open. But something isn't quite right with LaMonf, as the Frenchman told reporters today that he was withdrawing his wild card request at Wimbledon, citing personal reasons.

According to Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times, Monfils elected not to elaborate on what those personal problems were. Rothenberg also added that Monfils seemed to be in good spirits in Halle.

Read more about Monfils' decision here and here.

Or, just spend the rest of the day trying to decipher what he meant when he tweeted the following:

Things are never boring when it comes to the magical, mystical Gael Monfils...

Monfils will play the winner of tomorrow evening's blockbuster night session tilt in Halle between Ernests Gulbis and Tommy Haas.

***Editor's Note: Twitter user informs me that the tweet is a line from a Lil Wayne song, so... mystery solved.

Del Potro Easing Back into Tennis at Queen's Club

(June 12, 2013)--Ravhi Ubha of the New York Times writes that Juan Martin del Potro considered pulling out of this week's Aegon Championships, but after feeling better last week he decided to make the trip.

Photo: Clive Brunskill
According to Ubha, the 2009 U.S. Open champion said he was close to pulling out of Queens, saying that he only started to feel better recently, and that he decided to come to London because he missed the game, and the tour's camaraderie.

“Last year I played really well, sometimes better than in 2009, and I started this season really well," Del Potro told reporters. "Now other bad things have come to me. I need to be strong to manage these bad things and to keep trying and working, and be positive all the time.”

Del Potro, who skipped the Portugal Open and the Mutua Madrid Open due to the lingering effects of a virus, has only played two matches since mid-April. Though he's 19-7 for the year, and 2-2 against the top ten, including wins over Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, Del Potro has lost nearly all the momentum he built up over the course of his thrilling run to the Indian Wells final, where he was barely edged out by Rafael Nadal.

He did fly back to Europe to play Rome (he lost in the round of 16 to Benoit Paire) but he then pulled out of the French Open due to the same virus.

Del Potro will face British qualifier Daniel Evans in the round of 16, and could face either Sam Querrey or Lleyton Hewitt in the quarterfinals.

He's also entered in the doubles draw with Marin Cilic. The pair have already reached the second round, taking out Pablo Andujar and Feliciano Lopez of Spain in straight sets.

Berdych Hitting Winner after Winner on Twitter

(June 12, 2013)--Tomas Berdych is on Twitter and I don't need to tell you that because he is making it easy for you to find him. Hell, reach out to him, and the 6'5" World No. 6 will probably tap you back.

But he will not exchange naked pics with you. He tweeted the following just to clarify that for his 10,000-plus followers:


As SI Beyond the Baseline's Courtney Nguyen points out in this thorough analysis of Berdych's burgeoning Twitter career, the former Wimbledon finalist is far outperforming another popular male tennis player who also recently joined Twitter. "In just six days, Berdych has sent a whopping 200 tweets, including many responses to fans," Nguyen wrote. "By comparison, Roger Federer joined Twitter almost three weeks ago and he’s sent 21 tweets. Maria Sharapova signed up in January and she’s fired off only 234. Jamie Hampton opened an account a few days before Berdych and she has tweeted six times,.."
As far as Berdych's prodigious tweeting goes, fans of the Czech might want to get in on the action while they can. Berdych doesn't know if he has the energy to keep it up. "I know it’s going to be tough to keep it up, but you never know,” he told reporters in London, where he is playing the aegon Championships this week. . “You never know.”

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

With Father Temporarily out of Picture, Tomic Names New Coaches

(June 11, 2013)-- It's been a rough road for Bernard Tomic since his father was arrested in Madrid on the eve of the Mutua Madrid Open for allegedly head-butting Bernard's hitting partner, Thomas Drouet.

Photo: Clive Brunskill
Today, at the Aegon Classic in London, the 20-year-old lost his fourth consecutive match, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-7(4), to Benjamin Becker of Germany.

Tomic, who was forced to retire from the first round at Roland Garros due to a hamstring injury, said he had only begun practicing late last week after resting the injury for a while.

But Tomic's injury--and his losing streak--are the least of his problems right now. The Aussie's father and longtime coach, who was also accused of hitting his son in Monte Carlo in April during an altercation at a training session, has been banned by the ATP and the French Open, and it appears that Wimbledon will be following suit when the Championships begin in less than two weeks. This is difficult in and of itself, but the residual tension that must exist between Mr. Tomic and his son can't be making things easier on the former Wimbledon quarterfinalist and junior Australian Open champion.

Despite the ban, Tomic's father was allowed to purchase a ticket in London today. He was spotted on the grounds by reporters during Tomic's match, sitting in the second row, then later seen heading for the exits after the match.

According to reports, Wimbledon will also ban Tomic from being credentialed, and rumor has it that they will deny him admittance as a spectator, too. Tomic, who claims he didn't know his father was at the match, told reporters, “Funny you spotted him and I didn’t." He did, however, eat breakfast with him at the hotel in the morning.

In light of the ATP's hard line against Tomic, reinforcements to the World No. 63's coaching staff are also being brought in. The 20-year-old said he'd brought in Eugenio Forchione, Ivan Dimitrijevic and Harry Skinner, but that his father would remain in charge.

Last week, Tomic spoke to the public about his father's arrest for the first time after his first-round loss at Roland Garros, telling reporters that he still loved his dad. “He’s still working with me, he’s still my dad, he’s still my coach, and I love him a lot," he said. "I grew up with him and he knows me better than everyone else.”

Tomic will partner with Lleyton Hewitt on the doubles court on Wednesday.

American Denis Kudla Gets Biggest Career Win vs. Paire in London

(June 11, 2013)--World No. 112 Denis Kudla notched his first career top 25 win at the Aegon Championships in London on Tuesday. He defeated Benoit Paire of France, 6-3, 6-4. He tweeted the following:
The 20-year-old Virginia resident is into the third round at the prestigious grass-court tournament. Kudla's previous career-best win came on the grass at Newport in 2011, when he upset then World No. 60 to reach the Newport quarterfinals. To date, that is Kudla's only ATP quarterfinal appearance.

Rafa's Interview with Johnny Mac on You Tube

(June 11, 2013)--Just found a link to this interview over at Nadalnews.com. For those who haven't seen it (French Open coverage is very scarce on You Tube), it's a good one. Particularly when McEnroe says "tell me about the crazy guy on the court," and Rafa says "Usain?"

Classic. 


16-Year-Old Donna Vekic Gets First Top 40 Win

(June 11, 2013)--16-year-old Croatian Donna Vekic notched her first career top 40 win in Birmingham at the Aegon Classic on Tuesday, taking out Urszula Radwanska, 6-3, 6-2 in one hour.

Photo: Donna Vekic Facebook

Vekic, who became the youngest WTA finalist in six years when she reached the Tashkent final in her first main draw appearance last September, has now won her first two career grass court matches. She defeated Italy's Camila Giorgi in the first round. "My best career win against (WTA 38.) Urszula Radwanska," the World No. 89 wrote on her Facebook page. "Hope you can understand how happy I am. Enjoyed playing on centre court in Birmingham."

Veteran tennis journalist Stuart Fraser took note of the occasion, tweeting:
Others in attendance echoed his enthusiasm for the youngster:
Visit Vekic's Facebook page here 

Visit Vekic's WTA profile here