Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy holidays!

Hey everyone! I just wanted to say what the headline up there says! I hope you're having a great time this season! -- Van

Friday, December 11, 2009

A year in review/preview

So how about that 2009 season, huh?

Roger Federer completed a career Slam and broke the singles titles in Majors record. Rafael Nadal won the Australian. Serena Williams won two Slams. Andy Murray got to 2 in the world. Andy Roddick lost an all-time match to Fed in the finals of Wimbledon. Spain won the Davis Cup and Italy the Fed Cup. Svetlana Kuznetsova finally won another Slam and Juan Martin del Potro picked up his first. Marat Safin and Amelie Mauresmo retired. Maria Sharapova made a comeback, and the king (or queen?) of comebacks was made by Kim Clijsters, who won her second career Major after being away from the game for a spell.

That's my "review" part!

I wanted to switch it up from last year when I looked back on all the calls I made over the season— the good, the bad and the ugly—and offer a brief look back on '09, as well as give some predictions for 2010. Will they happen? I don't know, I'm not Nostradamus! But what would TTA? be without some calls, however outlandish, being made? Here's a few things that I think will happen in 2010:

• Roger Federer wins Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic wins the Australian, Rafael Nadal the French and Andy Murray, the U.S. Open.

• Justine Henin wins the French and finishes in the top 5 in the rankings.

• Kim Clijsters plays the barest minimum of tournaments and steps away again at the end of the year.

• France wins the Davis Cup.

• Maria Sharapova will win a Major.

• Ana Ivanovic will be back solidly in the top 10, if not top 5.

• Serena should grab a Slam or two as well: So I have her, Sharapova and Henin possibly accounting for all four Majors. If anyone else sneaks in and grabs one, I'm going to say Dinara Safina.

• On the men's side, watch for big moves from Marin Cilic, Jeremy Chardy and Horacio Zeballos.

• For the women, look out for Aravene Rezai, Alize Cornet and Sania Mirza.

• And your number ones at the end of 2010? Andy Murray and Serena Williams.

Bookmark this post to check back through the year to see how I make out!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Something you probably thought you'd never read at TTA?

The Davis Cup final this weekend just didn't do it for me.

I imagine that must be pretty shocking for the people who've read TTA? over the past couple of years because I usually say it loud and proud how much of a Davis Cup fan I am. We're talking about setting alarm clocks early to catch rubber matches in far-off lands, calling out players who don't commit to playing for their team, the whole nine.

But for some reason, this finals weekend didn't hold as great appeal. Was it the fact that Spain was such an overwhelming favorite, despite its singles players being beat up? Was it the fact that the Czech team had a couple of flakes on it and watching them not step up wasn't going to make for must-see TV? I don't know. I have to acknowledge the David Ferrer-Radek Stepanek match was impressive, but should Ferrer have even been in that position where he had to rally? He's definitely the stronger clay-courter.

And I know Lukas Dlouhy had never played Davis Cup, but why do you hold a French Open doubles champ out of a tie when you have nothing to lose playing on clay?

I'm not going to be one calling for change to the format like everyone else does because it still is my favorite sporting event, and congrats to the Spanish team for going back-to-back with titles. It just wasn't a Davis Cup fave for me this weekend — and I really hope that's just an aberration.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Davydenko beats Goliath

I don't think that headline has been used anywhere, has it? Just trying to stake my claim to something original, I hope!

Anyway, what a win by Nikolay Davydenko over the big man, Juan Martin del Potro: Well, actually what a tournament by him! He beat all of this year's Slam champs, which isn't too shabby a result. Congrats to him!

I'm going to take you back to a post I put up after he won Shanghai, "How will history judge Nikolay Davydenko?" I'd say with results like this, probably pretty favorably!

(Photo: AP)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks a lot!

You know, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I think a special shout-out should go to the players competing in London this week for the World Tour Finals on behalf of tennis fans everywhere.

The majority of the matches have gone the distance, and even the ones that haven't have had a touch of drama to them (such as Rafael Nadal's opening loss to Robin Soderling).

And how about Juan Martin del Potro squeaking into the semis? But if you beat the number-one player in the world, there has to be a place for you in there somewhere! Tough break for Andy Murray, though, who lost out by one game and actually beat del Potro early on.

Something else to be thankful for while watching the tennis is seeing fans actually in the stands, even for the doubles matches. I don't know why it's become such a rarity to see people in attendance at year-end championships, but I'm glad that hasn't been the case here.

So tennis fans out there, if you observe the day, hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving! And if not, set aside some thanks anyway for what's going on in London!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Groups dynamic

First, sorry it's been a few days: A lot of baby action has been happening around the house!

Now that that's out of the way, I'm ready to ride out the rest of the season and beyond!

The ATP World Tour Finals are a matter of days away and the round-robin groups have been set up. I think it's hard to find a favorite in either group, except maybe Roger Federer in Group A. He should be able to handle Juan Martin del Potro and Fernado Verdasco (recent loss to Julian Benneteau notwithstanding). I'm going to call his match with Andy Murray a toss-up.

In Group B, the hottest player on the planet (or any other one, for that matter), Novak Djokovic, is in the same side of the draw with Rafael Nadal, Nikolay Davydenko and Robin Soderling. I'm wondering if Djoko's good run of form can continue: He's played a LOT of matches the past few weeks. Nadal and Davydenko don't know the meaning of "quick points" and could give his legs a test.

It should be a bunch of great matches, even in the round-robin phase.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Italian open — and shut?

This weekend's the Fed Cup finals and we all know the story of how WTA Championships winner Serena Williams decided to pull out of the tie. But you know what? I don't think it really would've made a difference because, man, that Italian team is tough!

Francesca Schiavone has been one of the hottest players on tour the past couple of months and Flavia Pennetta has been having a career year. Plus, the tie is being played on a slow red clay court. Plus, plus, it's being played in Italy. Plus, plus, PLUS … naw, I'm just kidding, those are enough factors!

This U.S. team has been amazing this year with youngsters such as Melanie Oudin and Alexa Glatch coming up big in Fed Cup play, and those two are tapped to play the Italian stars this weekend. Of course, I'm going to be pulling for Team USA this weekend because their accomplishments this season had me observing Fed Cup like never before. But what a tough row to hoe they have now. Who knows? But I'm going to have to pick Team Italia to win this one.

(Photo: AP)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Oh, Andre ...

I can't believe the news:

Andre Agassi wore a hairpiece in the early 1990s! What a bombshell he dropped in his new book! (I promise I'm not being sarcastic; I really was shocked to hear that.)

And speaking of that autobiography of his, how about the other big news that came out a few days ago? You know, the whole crystal meth thing? All I have to say is I don't know what to say about that.

I guess I do want to say this: Agassi is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite athlete of all time. Tennis has been as close to a dominant force as anything in my life and 'Dre has been there through most of it. From 1989 until the end, I followed his career every step of the way. And if I saw his name in a tournament draw, you can better believe that I expected him to win it and it didn't matter against who: I always thought he would be able to beat Pete Sampras regardless of the surface. It was just a blind faith I had, I guess.

Here's a funny thing, too: When I tried to model my game after pre-Brad Gilbert Agassi, looking back, it definitely hampered my results. I just wanted to hit all-out on the ball. That was way flashier than the play-it-safe (but winning more) Mats Wilander style I tried to emulate. But you know what? I didn't really care as I adopted that Agassi line, "It's all about the journey" for my game and life.

Anyway, I never figured Agassi to be a saint or anything: Everyone has faults. I never would've thought, though, that he would get busted in a drug test and blatantly lie about it. I mean, wow. And the ATP letting it go with a note? Double-wow. A shame, really.

Agassi's done amazing things both on and off the court, and I don't know if this really taints his legacy or not. I wish it wouldn't have been revealed at this point in the season (if at all, really) when players are still out there battling to better their place in the game and this is the hot tennis story going around.

Unless I come up with some other thoughts about it, I'm just going to keep my own disappointed counsel, and not post anything else on the matter.

And that picture? That's from one of the biggest moments in my life, getting to meet Agassi at a trade-show event in Las Vegas after, like I said, nearly following every single step of his career.

Man, this news still really sucks.

Round (and around and around) robin

The semifinals are now set at the WTA Year-End Championships in Doha with Serena Williams set to play Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams slated to go against Jelena Jankovic.

But honestly, aside from Serena going undefeated, the way everyone else advanced has my head spinning! Venus got there on sets won, Jankovic benefited from Dinara Safina's retirement and Wozniacki got help when Victoria Azarenka had to retire against alternate Agnieszka Radwanska, a real tough break for the Ukrainian.

It's been an interesting tournament, to say the least, just by the sheer unpredictability of the results. And you want to know what's really been shocking to me, though? The performance of Serena. Of course, she has the ability to run through any event she enters, but doesn't do that nearly as much as she did in her earlier years. She's gonna end the year at number one, regardless if she wins the whole shebang here or not. But going undefeated here and taking home the hardware, I think, would be a sign that she really wants to show that she's the best.

(Photo: AP)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Smile and the whole world smiles with you

The winners' lists at last week's tournaments brought a show of pearly whites to this old blogger's face. Maybe not as much as Marcos Baghdatis', but a pretty decent-sized one! A lot of players showed signs of rounding into form after dropping from their earlier highs. Why not take a quick trip back? OK, I will!

• In Stockholm, Baghdatis won his first ATP title since 2007 by beating Olivier Rochus in the final. Now about Baghdatis: Waay back when this season first kicked off, I made a mention that I thought he was due for a big comeback year. He really didn't do too much to prove me right, but he did pick up three Challenger titles and now the Stockholm crown. Can I get a rollover plan for 2010? And a doubles shout-out: Kevin Ullyett won his fifth title at the tournament, all with different partners.

• In Moscow, Mikhail Youzhny beat a player I thought was more known for being a character than a good player, Janko Tipsarevic, and Francesca Schiavone took the women's title. Both of those winners finish runner-up a LOT more than winning titles, so that was good to see them come through.

• Young Swiss miss Timea Bacsinszky won her first career title beating young German miss Sabine Lisicki in the finals. It's always great to see the youngsters duke it out!

And while all that main-draw action was happening, three Challenger results also gave me a good reason to grin as TTA? faves Xavier Malisse, Donald Young and Eduardo Schwank won in France, California and Chile, respectively.

Good show by all and a nice way to start wrapping up the season!

(Photo: AP)

Monday, October 19, 2009

How will history judge Nikolay Davydenko?

Maybe you expected it, but if you didn't, no worries: I'll bet you're like about 95 percent of the tennis fans out there!

I'm referring to Nikolay Davydenko winning one of the ATP Tour's biggest stops, the Shanghai Masters. He followed up his near-classic semifinal win over Novak Djokovic with a straight-set defeat of Rafael Nadal, the top seed. This is Davydenko's fourth title of the season, all coming post-Wimbledon. I wonder if his legs are a little fresher after being sidelined in the early part of the year? (I still vote "no" on a shorter season!) But there I go again, making excuses for a Davydenko win.

You see, he regularly slips under my radar (and I don't think I'm the only one: Check out this posting at Tennis From Beyond the Baseline on that). But the fact of the matter is this: The dude can ball. Great strokes and excellent footspeed help him seriously grind down his opponents. I think he can open up a point in the middle of a rally almost as good as anyone out there.

Here's the thing, though: Why hasn't he won a Slam, or even made a Slam final.

It seems luck, mainly bad for him, has a lot to do with it. Aside from the loss to Mariano Puerta in 2005 at the French, his other pre-final runs at Majors have been ended by someone named Roger Federer. I thought this year at the French after Nadal lost that he was going to be the guy to make it to the finals from that side, but Robin Soderling blasted him.

Also, I used to have the idea that Tommy Haas was the best player in the Open era to never make a Slam final, mainly because of his career-high number-two ranking. Now I'm not so sure. Davydenko's gotten as high as number three and could realistically end his career with 30 titiles (more than two probable Hall of Famers, countrymen Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin). If there's nary a Slam final on his resume, where does that leave him and his legacy in the game?

I guess as just a footnote, if that.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Season of discontent

The quarters are set in Shanghai, but it seems like all the talk this week has been about injuries leading to match retirements and the big issue on players' minds: a longer offseason.

Scratch that: I meant on "some" players' minds. It's not everybody, but two of the game's big dawgs on the ATP Tour, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick, have made their thoughts known on the subject. But here's something I thought of that should be brought up: Why hasn't Novak Djokovic come out and said anything? That guy plays almost more than anyone and I can't recall him missing major time with an injury. Is it a matter of training better and more efficiently?

Or what about Robin Soderling? He's been out there chasing points like crazy and has been getting pretty deep in draws. I haven't heard him say anything.

But I'll take it out of the top 10: What about young up-and-comer Marin Cilic? He just had the biggest win of his career last week with beating Nadal. I've heard nary a peep from that camp.

And how about the journeyman? Take Robert Kendrick, for instance: He bounces between Challengers and main tour events all through the year. Guy probably can't get enough opportunities to play!

Now I'm not trying to make light of some players' concerns. I just don't see the need to reduce the season, and I don't know if this (possibly injury-prone?) contingent should be doing all this talking for its peers, especially when it seems a vast majority is doing OK with things as is.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Remember Australia '08?

You know what? Maybe there does need to be a longer offseason for the pros (and as Freakyfrites of GoToTennis once said) for the bloggers, too!

Last night, I was trying to remember when Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga played in the finals of the Australian Open. To me, for some reason, it felt like it was years and years ago, not just January '08. The days are really starting to blur together! This came to my mind upon hearing that they both made finals in China and Tokyo, respectively, and each were going for their third titles of the year.

From that Aussie Open on, the Slam results have been mixed, to say the least, especially as I thought they would have made multiple Major finals since then. But as I mentioned, the two have still been picking up titles and did so today. Djokovic knocked off Marin Cilic in straights and Jo-Willy did the same to Mikhail Youzhny.

Djoko and Tsonga play a great style of tennis, one that'll see them facing off in more Slam finals in the future, I'm sure.

(Photos: Djokovic, AP; Tsonga, Getty Images)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pole in position

With all the losses piling up among the top players on the WTA tour the past few weeks, I'm a little surprised to see a name in the semifinals of this week's China Open, and that's Agnieszka Radwanska. She had a great win yesterday against Elena Dementieva in the quarters, and has a better-than-average shot against her next opponent, Marion Bartoli.

My only question is where has the good form shown these past two weeks been this year?

She's long been a "one-to-watch" as far as TTA? goes. I feel like I've picked her every Grand Slam quarterfinal that's come down the pike the past couple of years. But until last week in Japan, she hadn't even made a semifinal run at a regular tour stop this year.

In a way, I've thought of her as a poor woman's Kim Clijsters: great groundstrokes and really good hustle. With so many young players really establishing themselves this year, like Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki, I thought Radwanska was really going to break through like them. Maybe this little run is her showing that she's ready to make her move.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The bull in China

There's a blockbuster quarterfinal set up on the men's side with Fernando Verdasco set to take on Novak Djokovic. Both have gotten to this point in the draw with not too much difficulty and have been playing solidly all year. I thought there U.S. Open quarterfinal weeks ago was shaping up to be a classic, but it looked like injuries contributed a big part to Fernando's fall in the end.

I know this match doesn't have all the glitz and glamour of a Major showdown, but it's still important, particularly to Verdasco, who's trying to qualify for the year-end championships. That's why I'm going with him to pull off the upset.

And I wouldn't mind seeing him win the whole event, either. Anything that gets him to the Big Dance at the end is fine by me! I really like the improvement he's shown over the past year and a half, and if entertainment value was part of the criteria for making it among the top eight, his semifinal match against Rafael Nadal at the Aussie Open this year should vault him in. To me, that was one of the top three matches of the year. It was great to see a player leave it all on the court like that, and it made me a fan. Here's hoping he keeps it going.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Back in the old days …

Throughout the history of the WTA tour, there have always been one or two players that have separated themselves from the pack. To me, it just seems out of the place that that's not the case any more. I just want some player to really hold it down on a consistent basis

I know I posted something similar last week after the destruction of seeds last week in Tokyo, but it looks like a bad trend is continuing again this week. Two of the top three players in the world, Dinara Safina and Venus Williams, have lost early in China. Serena Williams has a shot to take over the top spot if she wins her next match.

But here's the crazy thing that's going through my mind: Sure, she's won two Slams this year and made the semis and quarters in the other two. And granted, she's done better than Safina at the big events, but let me ask you, the reader: Do you feel like she's playing like a true number one? Do you get the hint of an air of dominance, like the ones created in the past by Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Venus, Justine Henin or even the old Serena?

I hate to sound like one of those old curmudgeons, you know the ones that say, "I miss the Martina-Chrissy matches: Now that was a rivalry!" But wouldn't it be nice to see a player walk out on the court and by name alone, was going to be spotted a few games because her opponent was so scared to play her? I like to see that happen across all sports and wish it was going on now.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, October 2, 2009

It all worked out in the long run

You know, looking back, I think the Pan Pacific Open organizers will be all right with what happens after all. They got a final as good as good can get with Maria Sharapova taking on Jelena Jankovic. Not many names in the sport get bigger than Sharapova's, and Jankovic is no slouch!

Both of these players have gone through a lot over the past year or so, and it's great to see them get ready to battle it out in a pretty major WTA event. It's kind of wild to think that just last year, they both spent time holding down the top spot! Part of me gets nervous watching Sharapova play since she's come back because I get nervous about that shoulder of hers giving out on her again. I'm a big fan of hers and I think the sport as a whole needs her to be out there at her best. I like Jankovic, too, and I'm hoping she ends the year on a real good note as well.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The best of the rest

Meanwhile, over on the ATP tour …

The two tournaments going on this week, one in Thailand and the other in Kuala Lumpur (which HCFoo has been covering religiously!) feature pretty strong fields, and I just noticed something interesting—at least to me, tennis dork that I am: Between the two, none of the top six players are competing.

Usually, I'm all like, "The big guns should be out there," but with each event having a couple of top 10 players apiece—for ATP 250 tournaments, no less—I really can't complain. The seventh- through 13th-ranked players are out there getting at it, which is good to see.

I think the Asian swing is off to a great start from a fan's perspective with the star power out there. Here's my take on a few of the matches that should be pretty high-quality today:

In Bangkok:

• Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Ernests Gulbis: Jo-Willy should be OK here, but Gulbis is ultra-talented. I think Tsonga will get him, though.

• Andreas Beck vs. Donald Young: I can't tell you how happy I am to even see Young in a foreign country playing! He got into the main draw as a lucky loser after Sam Querrey's freak accident, but he could win this match. Beck blasts the ball, so it'll be good to see if he can handle that type of heat. I'm going with Young here.

In Kuala Lumpur:

• Joachim Johansson vs. Richard Gasquet: You know, once upon a time, if you said these two would be playing for Slams, you wouldn't have been thought of as crazy. Glad to see Johansson back, but I think Gasquet might be in too good of form for him.

• Martin Damm/Robert Lindstedt vs. Marcelo Melo/Andre Sa: What's this? A doubles mention on TTA?? I know, I should mention dubs more—I'm starting now! Damm has been out there a looonng time, but he's still playing at a high level, and his partner Lindstedt—a past U.S. Open champ—is solid. Melo and Sa have been one of the best the past few years, but I think the veterans will take them out.

This is just a little bit of what's going on. With this, who needs a top six? (Just kidding, top six! We're waiting for you!)

(Photo: Getty Images)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tokyo drifting

"I don't know about the other players, but I feel like I didn't have enough time to recover after the U.S. Open. It's hard to get ready for such a big event like this and I just wish we had more time." — Elena Dementieva, after falling in the second round of this week's Pan Pacific Open.

Dementieva, if you recall, lost in the second round at the Open to Melanie Oudin.

If you've been following the results of this Tier I event featuring nine of the world's top 10 players, then you also know that only two of those players have made it to the third round. What's the story here? Is the whole top 10 in a slump? Has the depth on the tour improved that much?

Now, I'm all for an early-round upset or two, but this has been a little too much. Personally, I don't think that argument by Dementieva holds any weight as the Open ended weeks ago—and especially early for her! A spin can be put on what's happening in Tokyo, but I would assume the WTA powers that be and tournament organizers can't be too happy about this.

There's already all kinds of controversy with the rankings going on (number-one Dinara Safina was also an early Tokyo victim). And I think after what has happened here this week, there will probably be more questions—and deservedly so. Is there really a need for a longer offseason? Should there be fewer events? I guess this is all for the WTA to examine because you can't have your star players going out like that at any tournament, much less a showcase event.

(Photo: AP)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Back (AT LAST) in the winner's circle

Funny thing about the week that just passed:

When I was scouring the ATP and WTA sites at the beginning of it, two tournaments really intrigued me: the ATP stop in France and the WTA event in Korea. Despite the lack of top tenners in either draw, I thought they both had interesting potential, particularly in regard to the top seeds.

First, let me talk about the men's event in Metz, where the top seed was Gael Monfils. Now, I don't know how you feel about his game but it drives me crazy! I think he's so capable of being a dominant player out there, with his power, touch and athleticism, but more often than not, he ends up five feet behind the baseline having to run down shots. Whenever I see him play, I always think "Go forward!" or "Take a crack at the ball! Please!" How someone with his ability could only have one title was a mystery to me. I looked at the draw and figured if he didn't win here, then something was seriously wrong. He ended up taking home the hardware, beating Philipp Kohlschreiber, and I hope something clicked in him that he can do it again—and go forward and take cracks at the ball! (Sorry, that all slipped out!)

In Korea, the top seed was Daniela Hantuchova, the former world number four, who's been a model of inconsistency for years now. I thought she could add to her mantelpiece with a win here, but one of the most impressive comeback tennis players ever, Kimiko Date Krumm, had other ideas! Krumm took Hantuchova out in the quarters, then beat Maria Kirilenko in the semis and Annabel Medina Garrigues in the final. Not bad for a woman turning 39 and away from the tour for more than a decade! I don't know how much she plans on playing, but I think Krumm can give these players today fits because she hits the ball so flat. It may not be a Slam that she won, but I'm sure it's just as important to her!

(Photos: AP)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Belgian waffling?

I FINALLY got to use that!!!

I'm a little confused on my New York to Europe time differential, but we're supposed to be mere hours away from Justine Henin announcing her comeback to the WTA tour.

I got the scoop from reading the Twitter updates of GoToTennis, HCFoo's Tennis Blog and On the Baseline. And Down the Line! has a couple of late-breaking updates.

Now that I've done the promotional thing for some of my favorite blogs and Web sites, I'd like to direct you to an old TTA? post that saw this coming. And where the "Belgian waffling?" phrase was first coined! Just click here.

And welcome back, Justine!

(Photo: Getty Images)

OK, Venus, I think I'm ready to move on

First, I'd like to apologize for not posting something about the whole Serena Williams foot-fault debacle, which only happened eons ago, any sooner.

Truth be told, my mind was quite blown by the whole situation, and it's taken me a while to get it back. But, like Venus Williams told Patrick McEnroe when he asked Serena three times for an apology, "It's time to move on." So, I'm going to, but here's a few thoughts of mine on the matter. I'll keep them brief.:

• We all know it wasn't a foot fault.

• If a foot fault was called, though, it's best to move on rather than blow up, but I don't think you can blame Serena for losing her cool. It was a tense situation, but she's enough of a champion to know that you have to put that behind you and focus. You come at a judge like that, you're going to be penalized, which is the right thing.

• Personally, I don't even think you call foot faults at that point in a match if you haven't been calling them already. I know that rules are rules, but I prefer to follow the "let the players play" creed that basketball uses in the final minute and a half or so of games.

• I really, really had a problem with Patrick McEnroe at the doubles trophy presentation. She said what she had to say. Who is he to badger someone like that? He's not a journalist because if he was, he wouldn't even be at the U.S. Open calling matches seeing as how he works for the USTA and all; it's a conflict of interest.

• I had a problem with ESPN's phone interview with P-Mac the next day and how they showed a clip of him asking Serena for the apology, but they only showed him asking the final time before Venus answered. Then he said there's no comparison between Serena and Roger Federer's cursing because he's "all-class" or a "class act" or something to that effect. If Serena has no class, then what would he say about his brother?

That's it. Venus, I'm moving on!

(Photo: AP)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Dent in the rankings?

It's funny that we're less than a week removed from that extra final day of the U.S. Open and the tours have definitely moved on, with no time for anyone to catch their breath, much less harried bloggers! The guys wrapped up the Davis Cup semis with Spain and the Czech Republic making the finals. And the WTA Tour say tournaments won by Shahar Peer and Melinda Czink.

But lurking below the glitz and glamour of the main tour stops are the lower-rung events: For the guys, it's the Challenger circuit. And one result really stood out to me—that being Taylor Dent winning in Tulsa, Okla., without dropping a set over the week!

It's so wild to think that he had pretty much moved on with his life after being forced out of the game with a back injury, only to start making a comeback this year. He's had really good results this year considering where he's coming from. If the back holds up, he can definitely make a complete comeback. And it's great to see another serve-and-volleyer on tour: if anything, just to witness a different playing style.

So hats off to Dent, and I hope the comeback continues!

(Photo: AP)

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Slam for the ages

The comebacks!

The calls!

The controversies!

The clothes!

The champions!

In all my years of Slam watching, I don't think I've seen as much drama and surprises and what-have-you packed into a two-week span as what we saw at this year's U.S. Open. I know it's too much to ask, but if this particular Open didn't elevate pro tennis more into the mainstream then I don't think anything will.

Look at today's match: Everybody figures Roger Federer's going to win going away. However a 6'6" kid from Argentina had other ideas about that and only stopped one of the greatest players of all time from winning his 16th Major! Congratulations, Juan Martin del Potro! Very well-played.

I mean, every day there was something big happening that was leaping off sports pages across the country, which was great to see: I imagine from the casual fan's perspective, too.

It was an amazing fortnight (am I only allowed to say "fortnight" during Wimbledon?) and one I think will be pretty hard to top!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mother's day

If you would've asked me two weeks ago if I thought Kim Clijsters would end up a two-time U.S. Open champion, I would have said that's as likely as a foot fault being called on a player deep in a second set and that player losing the match after being docked a point for verbally abusing an official. I mean, it just couldn't happen, right?

Oh, wait: that did happen! So I guess it's within the realm of possibility that Clijsters could win after all!

Not to sound like I'm spouting too much hyperbole, but this, in my opinion, is one of the most impressive tennis feats I've seen in my lifetime. I'm very, very happy for Clijsters and I wish her further success in her comeback! (And if you've read this, then you should know that wasn't the easiest thing for me to write, but I'm more than coming around!)

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The U(npredictable) S(lam) Open

Heading into this U.S. Open, did you think?:

• Kim Clijsters would be in the semis?

• Melanie Oudin would be playing in the quarters?

• No U.S. male would make the quarterfinals for the first time EVER?

• Andy Murray would lose so early, seeing as how it seemed he was destined to get to the finals?

• Roger Federer would almost be under the radar with all the other stuff surrounding the fields on both sides?

• Rafa Nadal would be in shape to make a quarterfinal run? And possibly go further?

• Novak Djokovic would reclaim some love from the fans?

• That besides Clijsters and Oudin, Ni La and Yanina Wickmayer would make it to the quarters and Dinara Safina or Venus Williams wouldn't?

• That Andy Roddick would fall so early considering how great his year had been?

• That both the men and women's tournaments are guaranteed to have a first-time U.S. Open finalist?

If you said yes to any or all of these things, let's start calling you Nostradamus! I sure didn't see this coming!

(Photo: AP)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mission Kim-Possible?

What do you think, folks? Can she do it?

Kim Clijsters is in the quarterfinals at the Open after her three-set win over Venus Williams today. Next up for her is Na Li, which is as good a bet as one could make for her to possibly come through. That puts her in the semifinals, and the way this tournament has gone, if you make it that far, anything's possible as far as winning goes!

There's all kinds of documentation out there on the Googles detailing my concerns about Clijsters' comeback, mainly talking about how I thought she should just stay away from the game if the family life is what she wanted. But now I'll say that if she were to win, I wouldn't be mad at her!

(Photo: Getty Images)

The tall and the short of it

John Isner: Wow! Melanie Oudin: WOW!

Those were some performances by a couple of young Americans out on Arthur Ashe yesterday, huh? I have to tell you, I do have mixed feelings about their wins, seeing as how they both took out a couple of my personal favorites, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova, which leaves me kind of down. But as a fan of U.S. tennis, you can't help but be excited about their wins, too!

I mean, Oudin is hands down the real deal and when was the last time that could be said about an American woman player? When Serena Williams had her first wins over top players back in 1998? Oudin's draw is so wide open now, it's ridiculous. I don't know if she can keep it going, but it sure is fun to watch!

As for Isner and his prospects here, I like how he's saying in no way is he satisfied, and is looking forward to the prospects of doing some more damage. If he can hold his nerve like he did yesterday in a fifth-set tiebreak against a top-five veteran, who knows what could happen? His next match against Fernando Verdasco will be a tough one, but he's got a really good shot against the Spaniard.

Anyway, week two at the Open is kicking off, and who would've thunk Isner and Oudin would still be standing tall (and short!)?

(Photo: Oudin, Getty Images; Isner, AP)

Friday, September 4, 2009

New York stories

So, this has been some first week so far at the Open, huh? Among all the different storylines and results, to me there are a few that just really stood out. And me being the sharing type, I'll let you in on them!

• Agony in defeat: Man, my heart really goes out to the Serbian sledgehammers, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic. Jankovic played today's match with a heavy heart as her grandmother just died last night. Talk about rough circumstances to compete in! But I don't want to take away from Yaroslava Shvedova, who was playing high-quality tennis. Still, Jankovic had multiple chances to possibly win but didn't come through. Tough loss.

Then there's Ivanovic: I don't know what's going on there. I do know it's a sad sight to see. During her match, I was flipping back and forth to "Andre Agassi: Between the Lines" on The Tennis Channel. After her loss, I thought of what I had just watched in the show, the legendary story of Agassi going back and playing those Challengers at the end of 1997 to gain confidence. I'm not saying she should hit the ITF circuit, but there has to be some smaller tournaments she could play in and work on her game.

• Could he care any less?: Marat Safin, playing the last Major of his career, lost in the first round to Jurgen Melzer. Now, I actually gave up on Safin last year just because of his disregard for the game and his place in it. And in a way, I think he disses his fans by not putting forth more of an effort. Would it have killed him to maybe stick around the court for a second or two to soak in the applause the New York fans gave him? And I know this may sound harsh, but I hope he just decides to go ahead and call it a day. What's the fun in watching a supreme talent lose to journeymen? He doesn't care, so why should I?

• Sweet 17: What can you say about Melanie Oudin that hasn't been already? Wow! To knock off Elena Dementieva like she did was impressive. I can't remember the last time a young American came out with these types of results she's had the past few months.

Like I said, there's been tons of other things going on, these just caught my eye the most. I'm sure there'll be plenty more tales in the days ahead!

(Photo: AP)

Live from New York...

It's me Tweeting from the U.S. Open!

I'm heading out to the main event to catch the action on Friday. And while I'm out there, I figured, "Why not do some Twittering?" So that's what I'm going to do!

If you haven't signed up to follow TTA? on Twitter, please do so and follow me on my day around the grounds of the National Tennis Center!

Monday, August 31, 2009

The winners and still champions … (U.S. Open men and women's predictions)

With the start of the Open mere minutes away, I guess I better hurry up and get my predictions up on the site! Basically, what I'm saying in the headline is that I expect last year's champs, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, to repeat. It's not that other players haven't been doing well this season. No, it's more of the fact that those two just know how to get it done come Slam-time. Their peers will really start putting chinks in their armor soon, but until then, I think they'll be able to continue their winning streaks in Slams.

But I don't want to just pick them and run! I like to make my predictions from the quarterfinals on, so here it goes. First up, the men:

Roger Federer (1) vs. Sam Querrey (22)
Novak Djokovic (4) vs. Andy Roddick (5)
Tomas Berdych (17) vs. David Ferrer (18)
Juan Martin del Potro (6) vs. Andy Murray (2)

Federer vs. Roddick; Berdych vs. Murray

Federer over Murray

And for the ladies:

Dinara Safina (1) vs. Jelena Jankovic (5)
Maria Sharapova (29) vs. Caroline Wozniacki (9)
Victoria Azarenka (8) vs. Venus Williams (3)
Flavia Pennetta (10) vs. Serena Williams (2)

Jankovic vs. Sharapova; Williams vs. Williams

Serena Williams over Jankovic

Now, let me get ready to go camp out in front of the TV. Enjoy the first-day action!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The start (again?) of something big

The start of the U.S. Open is mere hours away, but before I give my quarterfinal breakdowns for each draw, I just wanted to give a shout-out to the players that had to earn their way into the big dance by playing the qualifying tournaments.

There are two players, in particular, who I think deserve an extra mention, and that's Donald Young of the U.S. and Giovanni Lapentti of Ecuador. Great things were touted for these two, but they haven't come through yet.

Lapentti is the younger brother of ATP veteran Nicolas, who managed to crack the top 10 in the rankings. Their cousin is former Ecuadorean great Andres Gomez, who once referred to Giovanni as the more talented of the two. The younger Lapentti's ranking has topped out so far at 110, a far cry from the top, and it's hard to believe that he's getting as up there in age as he is, 26. Here's hoping the U.S. Open is a good tournament for him!

And the young Mr. Young: We all know the story on him, but I'm really hoping coming through the qualies here will help him at least get back to that top 100 territory he was in last year.

I've managed to catch both of them at the Open in years past: I saw Lapentti play a young Scotsman by the name of Andy Murray in the final round of qualifying, and I saw Young go up against none other than Novak Djokovic in the first round. Their accomplishments more than likely won't be as big as what their former opponents have achieved, but maybe this Open will offer a stepping-stone to some bigger things.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The curious case of Xavier Malisse

So, this week over on VANtage Point for Down the Line!, I decided to do a profile of the U.S. Open qualifying tournament. I was looking at the draws and both the men and women's sections are riddled with names any tennis fan would know: Vince Spadea, Nicole Vaidisova, Guillermo Canas, Kimiko Date Krumm … it goes on and on. And since I have his name up there in the headline, I'm sure you must know, Xavier Malisse was among the names, too!

Malisse has been playing qualies and Challengers all year, with some pretty tough results until his last two outings in Canada the past few weeks: winning in Granby and making the finals in Vancouver. It was back in the beginning of 2007 that he had the best stretch of his career, taking both the singles and doubles at two of his first three tournaments. Then he suffered a major wrist injury and only played a couple more events. In 2008, he only played a handful of events as well, but it looks like this year, he's giving it a full go and is starting to find some success.

What I'm kind of wondering about him, though, is why didn't he ever really break through? I remember waaay back in 1998 when he was 18 and had none other than Pete Sampras on the ropes in a match in Philadelphia. Usually, when you see a kid do something like that, they're destined for great things, but that didn't happen with the X-Man, who floundered for a few years and struggled with maturity issues until deciding to get serious in 2002. Back then, he made the semis at Wimbledon before losing to David Nalbandian in the famous "breathing problem" match. I figured he was destined for the top 10 at that point, but it just didn't happen. I wonder if 2007 would've been the year if not for the wrist? Still, '02 to '07 is a big gap for something not to have happened.

I've managed to catch Malisse out at the Open a couple of times, and he's one of those players that makes the game look really easy. He actually reminds me a little of Andy Murray with his ball-striking ability, but doesn't play defense as well as Murray. Talk about two careers going differently! For some reason, though, I don't think that had to be the case.

UPDATE: After writing this, I checked for the qualifying scores and saw he lost his first match to 78th-ranked Horacio Zeballos. Not a great finish to the Slam season, but I guess we'll see how the rest of the year goes.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

Monday, August 24, 2009

What a difference a year makes

Congratulations to Roger Federer for winning in Cincy this past weekend. Knocking off two of his top three rivals pretty easily should bode well for the Open, I'd say!

It's so wild to me, though, to think about where his game was last year. Remember, it was in Cincinnati that he lost to Ivo Karlovic in the third round. And that was after rallying against Robby Ginepri in the prior round. And that was after losing to Gilles Simon in Canada in his first match there the week before!

The way things have gone for Federer since winning the U.S. Open last year, if we were to see something like that from him again, I would be shocked beyond belief. I think he'll win the Open again this year (I've been thinking that way for a couple of months now), and I can't wait to see what the next 12 months hold for him. We've been a witness to some pretty amazing things from him, but I think 2010 will be a sight to see!

Anyway, hat's off to him again for taking Cincinnati!

(Photo: AP)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

If only every week were like this one...

... Then I would officially never leave the house!

I have to give major, MAJOR props to The Tennis Channel. The coverage of the Cincinnati stop has been topnotch. Hour upon hour of watching the top guys play has been great. This is what I thought was going to be the case with TTC every day when I signed up for it way back when. I've since learned that's not the case! I mean there's only so much "Destination Tennis" a guy can take!

But if I can get to see Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal all in one day on occasion, I guess I can handle a "No Strings: Whips" every now and then!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Getting off Scot free?

OK, so I've been pretty vocal about the women's rankings situation over the past few months with players who have never won a Major taking over the top spot. But while I've had some complaints about that, I've also recognized that the system awards the players who are posting the most consistent results as they are out there competing more. This has been one of the most dominant issues in the women's game lately. And it looks like the ATP is heading for a similar debate, too.

As we all know, Andy Murray broke the vice grip Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have had on the top two spots last week by getting deep and eventually winning the Montreal tournament. Murray has been constantly racking up ATP 1000 titles like it's nobody's business. That's all fine and dandy as those are some of the biggest events on tour. But what about the true big daddies, the Slams? Not a Major has been won by Murray yet.

I know Nadal missed defending a lot of points this year, but shouldn't he have been far enough ahead still in the standings where he shouldn't have been overtaken at this time? After all, he did win a Slam this year, as well as some ATP 1000 titles.

This flipflop in the standings between Nadal and Murray kind of takes me back a little to 1993. Jim Courier won the Australian, then made the finals of the French and Wimbledon, plus won a couple of Super 9 titles (as they were called back then). Despite that, though, he finished at number three behind Pete Sampras and Michael Stich, who won six tournaments but didn't do anything of note Slam-wise that year.

I don't want it to sound like I'm belittling Murray's accomplishment because he has been very impressive. I just figured if there's going to be debate about the women's rankings (even if it's within myself), then this situation deserves it, too. And if the Majors are where success is most defined, it should be reflected even more in the standings.

(Photo: AP)

There's a 'Point' to this

Hey everyone. I'm back from vacay, relaxed and recharged for more tennis talking. So recharged, in fact, that I'm even back to writing VANtage Point over at Down the Line!, so check out this week's edition!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Maine event

No, there aren't any tournament stops there in the week ahead!

The family and I are heading to Maine for the week for vacation and my Internet access might be kind of sporadic. While I'm gone, be sure to check out the sites and blogs I have links to on the left of the screen, and enjoy the tournament action!

Talk tennis with you soon!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

L.A. women

California has been quite the hotbed of activity on the WTA tour the past couple of weeks with super-strong draws at the first two stops in the U.S. Open Series.

Stanford last week had both Williams sisters and Elena Dementieva among the top talent going for the title (which was won by Marion Bartoli), while this week's L.A. event has five top 10 players competing, led by world number-one Dinara Safina. Vera Zvonareva's there, with Nadia Petrova and Victoria Azarenka among the players, too.

The round of 16 is nearly full, and I think there are a few interesting storylines going on out there:

• Is Zvonareva healthy?

• Can Ana Ivanovic show some kind of return to form?

• How will young guns Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki make out?

GoToTennis is giving blow-by-blow accounts of the action there on its Twitter page if you want more of the scoop. I'm just going along for the ride!

(Photo: AP)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Just thinking …

There's been a ton of tournament action going on and all of it has gotten my old mind mind churning. Here's some of what's been running through my head about this old sport of ours called tennis:

• Marat Safin actually rallied to win a match for the first time in what seems forever over in the L.A. tournament! It's so crazy to think that if he wanted to, he could easily be a top 10 player instead of retiring.

• I know he's just a kid and has plenty of years ahead of him, but I'm just not that high on Ernests Gulbis.

• Speaking of L.A., Tommy Haas, ranked 20th, is the top seed there. Remember when L.A. used to have top 10 players galore competing there? And speaking of Haas, I wonder if he'll go down as the best player, male or female, to never make a Slam final? I have him locked in that spot so far.

• In my previous post, I talked about Dinara Safina playing Slovenia. She ended up winning, but wouldn't it be great if she were in California this week facing real competition?

• And while I'm taking a quick glance at last week, how about Robby Ginepri winning in Indy over Sam Querrey? By my calculations, Ginepri has now joined the ranks of active U.S. men with three titles or more, bringing that list up to five. That's a far cry from the Agassi, Sampras, etc., days!

• I'm glad Maria Sharapova is out there winning some matches. I'm not sure about the rest of this year for her, but I really think 2010 will be good for her.

• Nikolay Davydenko always surprises me. He can go the whole summer season without playing a hard-court event then make the semis at the U.S. Open. I wonder if winning Hamburg last week will set him on a roll. I guess we'll see after Umag!

• Where's Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro? I know Djoko made a cameo doubles appearance in Umag, but why isn't he and those other guys playing? Wimbledon was a long time ago.

• Glad to see the Williams sisters out in Cali. But why are they playing doubles? That's more time than they're usually on the court. Hope they hold steady.

• I don't know why I'm still thinking about Marat Safin, but did you know he's only won one tournament in the U.S.?

• The tall boys, John Isner and Sam Querrey, have been playing pretty well this summer season.

• The ATP's new Web site kind of confuses me!

• Nic Kiefer is over in Europe playing one of the clay-court events. I wonder why is he there instead of L.A. on a surface he's competed best on in his career.

• Speaking of guys named "Nic," I see Massu has made it to the quarters of Umag. Why did he fall off a cliff rankings-wise, I wonder?

Anyway, I could go on, but I think I'll stop there. Just wanted to share some random thoughts!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

I need some help figuring this one out:

Why is world number one Dinara Safina playing this week's tournament in Slovenia? And is it a good or bad thing?

I saw that she won through to the semis today, which is good. That prompted me to look at the draw, and after examining it, the event looked like it should be played on the ITF circuit! Top 10 players nowadays don't go to events like this. And I almost feel bad about bringing up this old nugget because I'm sure Safina hears it enough: number-one players WITHOUT a Slam under their belt definitely don't play these type of tournaments!

The summer hard-court season really gets under way in California in a matter of days. Shouldn't she have waited until then? That way, she'd be fresher to face the stiffer competition that will be out there the next few weeks. Also, say she wins this tournament. Granted, it's not the toughest of opponents Safina will face, but it's still going up against women that will be fighting tooth and nail for this small title, so the intensity will be higher than in a practice match. There's no need to deal with that now. No one else in the top 10 is bothering with that, so why is the number one?

If Safina happens to lose, by some miracle, then what does that do the confidence? And heaven forbid, if a hamstring is tweaked here.

But on the other hand, it can be perceived as a good thing that she's playing. Maybe Safina wants to go all out this week and practice was getting dull. It's also great for the fans that attend the tournament, to have the opportunity to see one of the world's best take center stage.

I know I'm probably being naive, but I hope it's not just an appearance fee situation. Because there's plenty of money to be made at the big events, which could also be a better warm-up for winning that first big one.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Impossible Germany

This is something that I've been thinking about the past few days:

The situation for some of the ATP tournaments in Germany have definitely taken a turn for the worse the past few years.

Take, for instance, last week's stop in Stuttgart, which was won by Jeremy Chardy. Three top 20 players showed up, which isn't bad for an ATP 250 tournament. But did you know this used to be the fifth-biggest clay-court event on tour, after the French and the three Masters stops? Rafael Nadal, Thomas Muster and Gustavo Kuerten, three of the greatest clay-courters ever, all have titles there, as do Andre Agassi and Alex Corretja. Now it looks like the tournament will no longer be able to attract players of that caliber, to say the least.

And how about this week's event in Hamburg? What was once the fourth-largest clay stop and one of the game's oldest tournaments lost its elite status. You're two-most recent champions there happen to be only a couple of guys named Nadal and Roger Federer. Top seed there this week? Gilles Simon, who promptly lost today. It's actually such a bad thing going on at this tournament that at least from the stories I've read, event director and 1991 Wimbledon champ Michael Stich is playing doubles to help ticket sales. Talk about an event falling on hard times!

I don't know if it's just the overall state of the economy around the world or the German tennis foundation not getting behind the tournaments enough promotion-wise or what. All I do know is that it's an extremely sad sight to see events with such a rich history be reduced nearly to insignificance.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Smells like team spirit

This is kind of surprising to me, but it seems like the most interesting things in tennis happening this week are going down in World Team Tennis!

Earlier this week was the shock heard 'round the world when teenager Madison Keys beat Serena Williams in a singles match. When Serena loses to anyone, it's usually considered an upset. But to a kid? Wow.

Then just tonight, the Washington Kastles and MY Sporttimes got into it pretty hot and heavy, which resulted in Sporttimes coach Chuck Adams getting suspended after charging his players were hit by balls. And from the story I read, John McEnroe had to get in there and play peacemaker. What is the world coming to?

Maybe something like that will happen while I'm watching!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Feeling (red, white and) blue

You know, going back to last Sunday, it's been kind of a rough stretch for the big U.S. guys out there. I mean, thank God, for Rajeev Ram and his win in Newport, right?

From Andy Roddick's tough loss to the Davis Cup devastation of Mardy Fish and James Blake, the five-setters have not been those guys' friends.

I was out of town most of last week with limited Internet access, but was following the Davis Cup news on my cell phone. I couldn't believe what I read Friday evening that Blake and Fish both lost in five to Ivo Karlovic and Marin Cilic, respectively. The scorelines show the matches were exciting, I guess, with Blake getting rallied on and Fish coming close against young gun Cilic.

But (and excuse my venting going forward) geez! How come if Roddick's not playing and you throw out two top-15-talent-level players, the squad immediately becomes an underdog? Why aren't Blake and Fish capable of coming through in clutch performances? I'm always rough on those guys, I know, (and you do, too, if you read this blog) but I just wish they would step it up when the heat is on. I consider myself fans of theirs, but it's pretty tough being one at times. I would say my belief that Blake would have a chance against Cilic in that fourth rubber was at 5 percent or less, which shouldn't be the case if you were to go by ability.

You all also know I'm a big Davis Cup fan and I just wish my home team was in a little better shape. Or was capable of pulling it together like Israel (ISRAEL!) did against Russia. Look at what Dudi Sela, Harel Levy, Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram did: Wow! It's all about how much you want it, I guess, and I wish that could've been on display in Croatia.

(Photo: AP)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

An Ode to Wimbledon

That was some tournament, huh? (in what can be classified as the understatement of the year!) Epic matches, history being made, amazing performances, just inspiring.

It's so inspiring, in fact, I decided to write a little poem about it that I like to call "An Ode to Wimbledon." And it goes a little something like this:

Congratulations, Roger
On making more history.
How you got that break in the end
To some, is a mystery!

But break you did,
In quite stunning fashion.
To fulfill your life's goal,
with such heart and passion!

Congratulations, Serena,
On returning to Wimbledon glory.
But will you get the top spot again?
I guess that's a different story!

I mean, come on WTA!
Get with the program!
Shouldn't she be rewarded
For winning Slam after Slam after Slam?

Congratulations, Andy.
For making quite the run.
And showing the world out there
That you're far from done.

Congratulations, Venus.
Even though you fell short at the end.
But if you had to lose,
At least it was to your sis and best friend!

Congrats to the old guys.
You know, Haas, Ferrero and Hewitt.
Who, like Andy Roddick,
Showed they can still do it.

Congratulations, Elena
For putting up quite the fight.
With your semifinal match
Indicative of the fortnight!

Congratulations, Andy Murray
For handling the pressure well.
A Major's in your future, for sure.
That's not so hard to tell!

Congratulations, doubles winners.
For pulling off a great feat.
There's not much better in sport,
Than pulling off a repeat!

There were many other great examples.
So I'm sorry if In this poem I missed one.
I'm just glad I got to witness,
This year's Wimbledon!

(Photos: Getty Images)

Friday, July 3, 2009

(Re)born on the third of July

I don't think I've been happier to be wrong as far as making predictions go!

That was an awesome win by Andy Roddick today against almost everyone's tourney finalist fave (including TTA?'s) Andy Murray. I was hoping Roddick would be able to pull it off, but I just thought Murray had his number and wouldn't have had any trouble with those bombs Roddick's been bringing to his matches.

Roddick played a very solid match, probably the best all-around one I've seen since that U.S. Open title run in '03. And I was particularly impressed with his demeanor in this match and the other day against Lleyton Hewitt. There was none of that over-the-top getting fired up that's been on display the past couple of years, which didn't even seem authentic to me: It just looked like it was an unnecessary energy drainer.

But as much as Roddick has shown this tournament, a lot of credit has to go to his team. Getting Larry Stefanki as his coach was a great move that has really paid off this year, and I guess the marriage thing is working for him, too!

Anyway, it's a great win for him and I bet Breakfast at Wimbledon will be a good one!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Don't say it, Van, don't … don't …

Ahhh! I can't hold back! Here it goes:

For some reason, I have some serious doubt about an all-Williams final happening!

There, I said it.

It's not like they're playing bad or anything—far from it, in fact. But Elena Dementieva's also been playing incredibly well and looks to have shaken whatever funk she was in. And while Dinara Safina hasn't exactly looked like the second coming of Venus, she's been fighting through, which is always good.

I wouldn't mind seeing an all-Williams final, and it is the call I made at the beginning of the tournament. But I just can't seem to shake those nagging thoughts.

I guess we'll see what happens by the end of the day!

UPDATE: So much for those doubts!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

And then there were four

Sorry for the lack of postings—I've been celebrating the TTA? birthday! : )

But seriously, I, like millions of others, have been totally engrossed in the Big W, and today offered up some great results. How about that Tommy Haas? He's actually had a dominant grass-court season this year after having never really done too much on it in his career. I thought Marin Cilic was going to come through in that quarter, but Haas got him early on in one of the matches of the tournament.

It doesn't get any easier for Tommy Boy, seeing as he only has to play THE man, Roger Federer next in the semis. Fed got through Ivo Karlovic, who had been blasting dudes off the court, easily enough. He and Haas should have a decent match next.

But the match I've been waiting for all tournament should overshadow theirs when Andys Murray and Roddick go at it. They've both gone through some battles to get to this point: Murray in that classic against Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round and Roddick's five-setter against Lleyton Hewitt today. Anyway, I'm pulling for Andy to win! Seriously, though, whichever one did come through would make for a great story and I'm just hoping for an entertaining match (but if Roddick were to win, I wouldn't think it was the worst thing in the world)!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

You ever seen "Sixteen Candles"?

Well, just like that Molly Ringwald classic, where her family forgot her birthday, Tennis Talk, Anyone?'s second birthday passed and I completely forgot it!

Happy belated birthday, dear blog of mine, and thanks to anyone and everyone who's come by and checked this site out!

— Van

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Three is the magic number

So how do you like Wimbledon so far now that we're at the third round? Why, it was just yesterday we were in the second!

I know I'm digging it, and it's pretty wild to think that the round of 32 is upon us. I guess the biggest names to go so far in the tournament have been James Blake, Maria Sharapova, Juan Martin del Potro and Marat Safin. The Sharapova loss is shocking, and I thought Blake would've done better.

The matches have been of a pretty high quality, and there are a few on tap tomorrow that should continue that. Here's a few that I'll be keeping close tabs on:

* Mardy Fish vs. Novak Djokovic: I said earlier in the week that I thought Fish would get Djoko and I'm sticking by it! This could be a career-defining moment for Fish.

* Roger Federer vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber: Federer's going to be OK in this one. I just think it could be entertaining from a high-level-of-shotmaking perspective.

* Ivo Karlovic vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: INSANE firepower in this one!

* Francesca Schiavone vs. Marion Bartolis: Yes, I really will care about the outcome of this match, mainly because I like Frannie's game, but I think Bartoli will pull it off.

* Gisela Dulko vs. Nadia Petrova: Can Dulko follow up her upset over Sharapova tomorrow? I guess it's something we'll all see!

(Photo: AP)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Long live the queen (Wimbledon quarterfinal predictions, women's edition)

Oops, the start of the tournament got away from me before I got this up! Sorry about that, but a little thing called day-to-day life got in the way. Looking at the draw—and what has happened in recent years—I think the cream of the crop is Venus Williams, and I don't think she's ready to give up the crown anytime soon.

None of my intended picks lost on the first day of action at the tournament, so I figured it was safe to share my thoughts with everyone! : ) So here it goes:

Dinara Safina (1) vs. Caroline Wozniacki (9): If you hadn't seen it, check out Naf's QF breakdown at Tennis With Attitude. She's going with Amelie Mauresmo to make the quarters out of Safina's section. I think it's a good call, and one I was real tempted to make myself. Mauresmo's definitely the most accomplished grass-court player in that bracket, but I'm going with intangibles on picking Safina, such as her realizing she has a lot to prove to justify her ranking. I think she can at least get to the quarters. Wozniacki just won a tournament on grass over the weekend and looks to have a pretty good draw. She's definitely capable of beating Svetlana Kuznetsova if they meet in the fourth round. Catch her first-round match with Kimiko Date Krumm for some old-school entertainment.

Venus Williams (3) vs. Agnieska Radwanska (11): If by chance Venus doesn't at least make it this far, you'll have either Sam Stosur or Bethanie Mattek-Sands to blame. See, Venus can come up with unpredictable losses at times. I don't think that will be the case this go-around, but just to hedge my bets... Radwanska's been playing solidly, but she'll have to watch out for Na Li in the third round. Jelena Jankovic is a non-factor, as is Ana Ivanovic up in Williams' bracket, I feel.

Marion Bartoli (12) vs. Elena Dementieva (4): They both won their first-round matches easily, but they've had some spotty results lately. However, they have better Wimbledon results than anyone else in their sections. I think Bartoli's biggest threat will come from countrywoman Virginie Razzano, while Dementieva will have to be wary of Alisa Kleybanova, Maria Sharapova's conqueror last year.

Maria Sharapova (24) vs. Serena Williams (2): On Wimbledon Primetime, Martina Navratilova made a point about Sharapova that I thought was pretty interesting: She said she didn't think Maria, with her shoulder problems, would be able to serve hard enough to win. I think that could be the case, but there's no reason she shouldn't be able to get to the quarters. As for Williams, her early-rounders could give he a little workout, but not too much.

For the semis:
Williams over Wozniacki, Williams over Bartoli.

For the final:
Venus over Serena: This is really Venus' home now and I like her to keep adding to her title haul. Most players barely have the opportunity to win six regular titles, much less Wimbledons. But add to it she shall!

The return of the King (Wimbledon quarterfinal predictions, men's edition)

As the saying goes, the show must go on!

Our Rafael Nadal-less Wimbledon kicks off in a matter of hours. It's a shame because I really thought he was going to make a go of it. The draw's been reshuffled to accommodate his absence, but even if he were there, I was still going with Roger Federer to pick up his sixth title. Andys Murray and Roddick might have other things to say about it, but that's my call!

Anyway, I have to do a little bit of bouncing back after my disastrous French Open quarterfinal predictions, so here's my lineup:

Radek Stepanek (23) vs. Andy Roddick (6): Juan Martin del Potro got shuffled up to Rafa's spot in the draw, but I don't think he's ready to make a mark on the grass yet. Someone has to come out of that part of the draw, so I'm going with Stepanek. Lleyton Hewitt's a threat up there, but I'm just not feeling it with him here. I think Roddick should be in pretty good shape for his quarter, but he has to be wary of Ordina Open champ Ben Becker and always-dangerous Tomas Berdych.

Andy Murray (3) vs. Fernando Gonzalez (10): Murray's supposed to have clear sailing to the finals, according to a lot of folks, and I agree with that. I don't think anyone in his section is particularly worrisome. I'm going with Gonzo as his QF opponent just because I see that section as so weak and unpredictable. Gilles Simon is a nonfactor as far as I'm concerned. Nicolas Kiefer could make a run, especially with being the most accomplished grass-court player in that section, but you never know with him. The whole section's a crapshoot, so I'm putting my stake on Gonzalez.

Marin Cilic (11) vs. Mardy Fish (28): I picked Cilic to go far at the French a few weeks ago (and we see how that turned out!) and I'm going to do it here at Wimbledon, too. Halle champion Tommy Haas, who's really been playing well lately, is around in his section, but I'm going with the rising star in their potential third-round match. I like James Blake to finally make the fourth round here, but he'll also fall to Cilic, I feel. As for Fish, you might be asking yourself, "Dude, what about Novak Djokovic?" I think he's ripe to be upset here and I believe Fish is the one to take advantage of that in the third round. Janko Tipsarevic is lurking in that quarter, but he's someone you never really know what is going to happen.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (9) vs. Roger Federer (2): You know who should be dominating on grass? Ivo Karlovic. However, I just don't think he has the mentality to do well in Slam tennis. That's really why I like Jo-Willy to come out of that section. Federer's Federer. 'Nuff said on that.

For the semis:
Murray over Roddick; Federer over Cilic

For the finals:
Federer over Murray: I know Murray's really eager to win a Slam, but this is Roger's time. Sampras, book your ticket to London and get ready to watch Fed take the Major title record.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Representing the Andy Roddick Complaint Department

I don't know if Andy Roddick's people are making a complaint about this or not, but if not, I got their back!

Why won't the seeding committee at Wimbledon make him the fourth seed? I wrote about this last year after he was behind Nikolay Davydenko and David Ferrer, who had meager, at best, grass-court credentials between them. This year, my contention is that he's behind Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro in the just-released-today seedings at the six spot.

Djokovic does have a Wimbledon semi on his resume, but del Potro has nothing near that with only two second-round trips to show for his time playing over the past couple of years. Roddick, on the other hand, is a two-time runner-up and a four-time Queen's Club champion. The committee's always made a big deal over past performances and grass-court ability: Why does Roddick get snubbed?

If you were to really look at the credentials being weighed on the placement, then you could make the argument that he should be above Andy Murray as well. But I guess that would be taking it too far!

My major beef with the whole thing is that grass is such a specialized surface and there are only a handful of players that do well on it, such as Roddick. What if he's now drawn to play one of the top three in the quarters? Doesn't that hurt a tournament to have what could be a potential final early on?

But I know that the mind-set Roddick has to take is that it doesn't matter where he was put in the draw, it's still up to him to get it done. I just wish that if the rules were to recognize past success, then the committee would stand by the tradition it's created. If Maria Sharapova was moved up thirty-something spots, couldn't Roddick gone up two?

(Photo: Getty Images)