Saturday, October 30, 2010

Best of luck, Elena!

As the whole tennis world knows, Elena Dementieva retired yesterday. I know I was definitely shocked because I thought for sure she wasn't going to stop until she got that elusive Slam title. She didn't, which is a shame, but her career and impact on the game should definitely be noted. I was always impressed by her, mainly by how she was able to perform at a high level for so many years. The fact that she was able to overcome some shortcomings in her game (that serve, whew!) and make it to the top three shows just how amazing an athlete she was.

Anyway, best wishes to Elena Dementieva! The game will definitely miss her.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Can someone PLEASE tell me why pro tennis doesn't get more respect? Or tennis, in general?

So probably the greatest thing in the world to me besides my family and friends is tennis. It's been that way ever since I started playing seriously as a teen more than 20 years ago. I mean, really, I can find absolutely no fault (pun not intended) with it. From going out to hit with a buddy, playing a USTA tournament or watching a Wimbledon final, there's almost nothing like it.

If I'm obsessed with it and hundreds of thousands of people around the world are, too, then why, why, WHY doesn't it get any respect in regard to mainstream coverage or appreciation for what's necessary to play, both from the amateur standpoint or at the professional level?

This is probably an example of "preaching to the choir" because if you're reading this blog, then you obviously care about tennis. I just felt the urge to post something here because today, a pretty decent bit of sports news happened--Caroline Wozniacki clinched the year-end number-one ranking. However, as of this posting, three of the main sports, or Yahoo sports--don't have a mention of this on their front page. Granted, Wozniacki's not American, but that shouldn't matter: She's the best in the world as far as the rankings go, playing a singular sport.

And yet, on all three of those websites I mentioned, there is a story about the merging of two mixed martial arts leagues. Mixed martial arts is a bigger sport than professional tennis. Does that even begin to make sense to you?

I don't think this is strictly a U.S. problem, either: How many times have you seen stories about Stefan Edberg or Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal ranking behind skiers or handball players or footballers in popularity, despite the heights of worldwide success they've reached?

And in case you didn't know this about me, aside from blogging and being an all-around bon vivant, I've worked in journalism my entire professional career, and I just had an experience with a New York-based newspaper this summer where I was essentially told they didn't care about the U.S. Open. Can you imagine that? I had a similar experience in college, too, when the sports editor for the local paper spoke to one of my journalism classes. It's a longstanding problem.

I'm not expecting any answers to this issue; I guess I just had to vent. Like I said, I think tennis is amazing and shouldn't only be noticed by the people that care about it. It's part of me, it's part of you and should be out there for everyone to see.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jim Courier as Captain America

Jim Courier is among my top-three tennis players of all time.

Davis Cup is my favorite sporting event of all time.

So Courier being named captain of the U.S. squad is a pretty big deal for me! And I think it's a great choice by the USTA. He's a Hall of Famer that's won some big Davis Cup matches over the years and he knows how to find success on every surface, having made the finals at all four Slams in his career.

I also like the squad he's taking over from Patrick McEnroe with John Isner, Sam Querrey, Mardy Fish and the Bryan brothers leading the way. Isner and Querrey are perfectly poised to be brought along in Davis Cup just like Andy Roddick and James Blake were. Plus, who's to say what a youngster like Ryan Harrison will do in the next couple of years? He could be at a point where he's an entrenched top-tenner by then.

All in all, a good move by the USTA. And I'm happy for Davis Cup, too. It's been exciting to see such recent former players--like Patrick Rafter--take the helm for their home teams.

(Photo: AP)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Elena Dementieva and Jelena Jankovic, what are you doing there?

The WTA's year-end championships kicked off today with Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva and Samantha Stosur beating Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic and Francesca Schiavone, respectively.

Schiavone's loss wasn't so bad, but man, Dementieva and Jankovic got dusted! Wozniacki and Zvonareva have been playing great--after all, they are one and two in the world--but their opponents have had some serious injury problems this year. I wonder if they'll even make it through the round-robin stage. Actually, I wonder if they should've even gone to Doha.

Part of me hopes they can hang in there, while the other thinks maybe they should concentrate on getting better for the next season. The new season's only a few weeks away, might as well try to get ready for it.

(Photo: AP)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

How does Serbia do it?

Is it too early to start thinking about Davis Cup? Because I'm wondering with Viktor Troicki kind of ballin' as of late, will Serbia blow through France--a thought I never would have entertained even a couple of years ago.

I guess I can come back to any Davis Cup thoughts as we get closer to the finale, but for now, I want to give a shout-out to Troicki for picking up his first career title at the Kremlin Cup this past weekend. Great result for him, and well-deserved because he wasn't playing a slouch in Marcos Baghdatis.

I know I shouldn't be surprised such a tiny nation produces tournament-winning players anymore, but I can't help it. There are so many larger countries out there with bigger tennis federations that aren't producing half the champs Serbia is, a list Troicki can now add his name to.

(Photo: AP)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Is it Maria Kirilenko's time?

There were a lot of Russians in the quarters on the women's side of their "hometown" tournament, the Kremlin Cup. Two advanced to the semis: Maria Kirilenko and Vera Dushevina. Since I have Kirilenko's name in the headline and a picture of her, I think it's pretty clear I'm going to be talking about her this post!

I've always had a certain train of thought about her: It seemed like she was poised to add her name to the list of top Russian players, but for some reason or another, it never happened. Maybe it's the fact that she plays all those minor tournaments, which I've mentioned in the past don't exactly do her a world of good. She has won titles on tour, but not going up against the best in them doesn't really help her game develop. This year, though, she did make her first Slam quarterfinal and here she is, in the semis of a Premier event.

Kirilenko's still really young even though she's been out there forever. I can almost see her pulling off a Vera Zvonareva 2010 kind of run in the future. Doing well in big tournaments is definitely a start.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Stockholm Open: How 'Swede' it is once again

Year before last, I wrote a post lamenting the lack of luster around the Stockholm Open. This is one of the oldest tournaments on the calendar and it lost its elite status more than a decade ago. Sad, but things change: I mean, you have an outdoor tournament (Shanghai) as one of your premier fall events now. Why, back in my day, you never would've seen such a thing.

Anyway, let me get away from my old fogeyness and back to what I was saying: The Stockholm Open isn't what it used to be, but this year, things seem to be picking up as far as status goes.

It's amazing what a Roger Federer appearance in the draw can do for an event!

But it's been more than that: You have two-time champ James Blake showing some fight; Jarkko Nieminen continuing his run of good form, knocking off one of three top-10 players in the draw; and a quarterfinal between that Federer guy (who just played and won his 900th career match) and tough countryman Stanislas Wawrinka. All in all, not a bad week.

And while Stockholm's "Super 9" days may be behind it, here's hoping more good weeks are in store for the future.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

So much for a tall order for Roger Federer!

OK, so maybe I was a little off on wondering if Roger Federer could possibly struggle this week! Dropping the hammer on Robin Soderling like he did was pretty sick. That match with Novak Djokovic in the semis should be a good one and I'm hard-pressed to make a call on it.

Awww, what the heck: Fed in straights! I mean, I already blew it with a supposition of sorts earlier in the week, why not post blog entries throwing caution to the wind?

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A tall order for Roger Federer?

What do you think will happen in a mere matter of hours?

Roger Federer plays his first match in Shanghai against John Isner in the second round. This marks Fed's return to tournament play after his semi loss against Novak Djokovic. Now odds are Federer will win against a decent-in-form Isner, but like it was mentioned on Adjusting the Net the other day, he could be in for a bit of a surprise this tournament. And that brings up something I've been thinking about Federer the whole year.

To me, it seems like he's been in a perpetual state of rustiness. He loses a tournament then takes four to six weeks off. I know he's Roger Federer, one of the greatest athletes of all time, but I think getting out there and mixing it up more with these guys would help him maintain a little bit more sharpness. That way, he doesn't get cold-cocked when he returns to the court. Admit it: With all of his game and seemingly magical powers, would you be surprised if he lost to Isner first match out? Of course as an athlete gets older with more outside things going on, it gets harder to return to the grind. But the only way I see him getting 20 Slams is to get out there and play more. No one is going to hand him those extra Majors; he's gonna have to go out and take them, and re-establishing a semblance of that aura of invincibility is going to have to be done at the Tokyo's and L.A.'s of the world.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Taking a bite out of Tokyo

Wait, I thought Nikolay Davydenko was going to be the big winner at a tournament this past weekend! : )

Seriously, though, congrats to Rafael Nadal for being one of the title takers this weekend at the Japan Open. It would have been kind of weird if he had lost that semifinal match to Viktor Troicki: Weird would be the best word to describe it, right? I don't think you could have classified at as "bad" despite it possibly being his second semi loss in a row. With the year he's having you can't really say a loss is bad, just weird or unusual!

Anyway, it doesn't matter since he got through it and defeated a game Gael Monfils in the final. It was a little troubling to hear him say he's feeling tired from the long season afterward because there's still a few big events for him in '10.

TopSpin over at Tennis Is Served ... had an interesting post recently asking why Rafa was even playing in Thailand. I stuck up for the decision in the comments, saying at least he was honoring the commitment (or maybe commitment fee), but now I'm not so sure. I would love to see him cap off the year with a year-end championship; I just hope all the extra tennis doesn't catch up with him. Still, Tokyo's a nice place to win and congrats again to him!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oh, Nikolay, why do we doubt you so?

Nikolay Davydenko tagged Marin Cilic in straights in the China Open to advance to the quarterfinals. That's a pretty solid result for anyone to pull off (what's going on with Cilic anyway?), but one that shouldn't be totally unexpected from Davydenko.

However, if I were to say I wasn't shocked, I'd be lying to you.

Davydenko has been getting dusted on a regular basis for a few months now, ever since his return from injury. But for some reason, I just get this feeling he's really on the way back as opposed to that dreaded other direction you tend to think of with 29-year-old pro tennis players. After all, this is a guy who was taking out Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal less than a year ago. I guess he still has some play left in him.

We'll see how this week ends up, but if he was the last man standing, I wouldn't be surprised. Funny how a quarterfinal appearance in a tournament will change your mind!

(Photo: AP)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The comeback conundrum, starring Tsonga, del Potro and Sharapova

So a lot of our favorite players have lost in the past couple of days, huh, tennis fans?

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Maria Sharapova and Juan Martin del Potro have all been early-round casualties the past couple of days in Asia. For Tsonga, it's his first event in months, while del Potro is playing his second, both returning after injury-driven breaks. Sharapova's shoulder woes almost seem like an eon ago as she's been out there regularly competing. I'm lumping all three of them together, though, because while I'm a huge fan of all three, I just don't know why they made their comebacks when they did.

I've stated before how I didn't get Sharapova's return to action last year on clay, the toughest surface for her to play on. I think she's been a shell of herself ever since her return, even though I'm always hoping otherwise. With del Potro and Tsonga, why not wait until next year to get back out there? If Tsonga's trying to build up points to make the year-end championships, that wouldn't be a great move, playing in frantic mode and entering every tournament, increasing the odds of injury for an already very-injury-prone player.

As for del Potro, the end of the year event is light years away. Getting in (maybe) six matches before the season shuts down seems like a big gamble to me coming off a major injury.

I know there's a lot of thought otherwise out there on players' returning from injury, and it's good that these athletes want to get back out there. But tennis' offseason is so brief, why not use every opportunity to recover? And these three players that I mentioned are all young and successful, and have their whole careers ahead of them. I'm just asking for a little scheduling consideration to rest my nerves!

(Photo: AP)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Caroline Wozniacki, Serena Williams and the number-one issue

Man, this Asia swing moves quickly, huh?

Caroline Wozniacki just won the tournament in Tokyo (her fifth title of the year) and now she's in China, where she's only a couple of match wins away from taking over the number-one spot from Serena Williams. Serena's had that position on lock for the year with her wins in Australia and at Wimbledon, and it's pretty hard to argue against her as the leader of the pack with two Slams won. But wow, she's only played six events this year!

Wozniacki's almost won that many tournaments, but none of them equal the two taken by Williams. She has played a lot, though, and has had decent runs at the Majors, but nary a Slam final was made by Wozniacki this season.

It's hard to say who really deserves the top spot more, but I'm going to do it anyway and give Wozniacki some props, albeit with a bit of reluctance. She's hitting the court on a regular basis and taking home the hardware, so it's difficult to argue against where she is. It's kind of funny, though, that the WTA could have four women over history that have become the top-ranked player without winning a Major: Amelie Mauresmo, Jelena Jankovic, Dinara Safina and potentially Wozniacki. But it's also kind of funny someone could be on top who's only played a total of nine weeks all year.

So if Wozniacki pulls off the feat this week and climbs atop the rankings mountain, then I guess she deserves it. I bet she'd trade it for one of those Slams Williams has, though.

(Photo: AP)