sports stars

Pittsburgh Penguins Crosby Surprises Federer With Birthday Cake

Sidney Crosby greets Roger Federer with a cake on his 29th birthday Sunday.

Roger Federer and Sidney Crosby have missed out on their chance to play tennis together but can still share a birthday cake.The two sports stars met for the first time at the Rogers Cup on Sunday. They were set to play together on a practice court at the Rexall Centre, but rain scuttled their plans.

A birthday cake was brought out for the occasion as Federer turned 29 on Sunday, a day after Crosby turned 23.

Crosby says the two talked about watching each other play. The Pittsburgh Penguins star forward scored the overtime winner against the United States to give Canada the gold medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Federer is a two-time winner at the Rogers Cup. The 16-time Grand Slam champion is currently ranked No. 3 in the world.

WIMBLEDON UPON US AGAIN

Wow, doesn’t the year go quickly. Wimbledon is now upon us again

Around this time of the year popularity in tennis increases in Britain about ten-fold before it falls in to obscurity again in three weeks time until next year’s Championships. For years the country ground together all its emotional resources to back golden boy Tim Henman before shedding a tear or two at another close call in the semis.

Henman Hill (or Rusedski Ridge to some) has now become Murray Mound and last year in particular it was a similar story. I guess the patriots in this country just want a Brit to do well.

Of course the media will do their best. They will build him up to make him sound like he is the Fed Express itself and if (when) he tastes defeat he will be destroyed by those same pen-pushers. There will be accusations about his private life, he didn’t try hard enough, and he’s just another British failure. Nobody is more scathing of British sports stars than the British press.

This year we have some great stories before we even enter the courtside action. Federer has lost his No. 1 ranking to Rafa Nadal and will want that back. He will also, I’m sure, have one eye on a possible ten titles before he retires or at least surpassing Pete Sampras’ dominating seven.

We also have a few welcome returns too. Richard Gasquet is set to compete and try to get his career moving in the right direction again following the doping scandal and his recent play suggests he is ready to do so. Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis will compete in the legends doubles tournament too this year. It will be Hingis’ first appearance at SW19 since her own cocaine scandal a few years back.

With the Australian and French Opens throwing us a few surprises this year here’s hoping Wimby can continue the trend and give us something special. Sam Querrey to win his first Grand Slam?

As a build-up to the greatest grass tournament of them all, we have compiled a list of great Wimby facts you may or may not already know. Enjoy:

* The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club was founded in 1868.

* In 1875 it began hosting lawn tennis, a game recently developed by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield.

* In 1877 a men’s singles Championship was held which culminated in Spencer Gore winning a final watched by over 200 spectators paying one shilling each for the pleasure.

* 1884 saw the women’s singles incorporated with Maud Watson victorious.

* From 1897 the legendary Doherty brothers, Laurie and Reggie; began a ten-year dominance of the grass courts which helped reignite a waning public interest in tennis.

* In 1905, May Sutton of the USA became the first foreign player to win at Wimbledon in the ladies singles.

* The current site opened for business in 1922 after the Championships outgrew its former Worple Road base. King George V opened the festivities and the new home saw the abolition of the Challenge Round in favour of the holder participating in the whole tournament.

* Every year during the 1920s the French produced at least one singles champion.

* 1934-37 was a Golden Era for the Brits at Wimbledon as 11 titles were captured. This included three consecutive singles titles for Fred Perry, two for Dorothy Round and three successful Davis Cup defenses on Centre Court.

* During the Second World War, the facility was used for a host of activities including a variety of civil defense and military functions, Home Guard and a decontamination unit. A small farmyard including pigs and chickens was stationed on-site and in 1940, Centre Court was bombed with a loss of 1,200 seats.

* From 1956 to 1970 Wimbledon became a home away from home for Australian players as Lew Hoad, Neale Fraser, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe dominated the Championships.

* 1973 was the famous ‘Boycott Year’ as 81 members of the Association of Tennis Professionals refused to play after the suspension of Nikki Pilic by the Yugoslavian Lawn Tennis Association. Despite this, attendances still topped 300,000 as Jan Kodes won the men’s singles title.

* The tournament celebrated its centenary in 1977.

* Following recent work on Centre Court it can now hold 15,000 fans and has a retractable roof to counter the often-long rain delays.

* The USA are the most successful country at Wimbledon. They have won 33 of the 123 men’s singles championships and 53 of the 116 women’s championships.

* Pete Sampras and W.C. Renshaw are tied with the most Championships wins with seven each. Martina Navratilova leads the ladies’ field with nine.

* Laurie Doherty is the most successful overall male competitor at Wimbledon with five singles titles and eight doubles between 1897 and 1906. Martina Navratilova is tied on 20 (nine singles, seven doubles, four mixed 1976-2003) with Billie Jean King (six singles, 10 doubles, four mixed 1961-1979).

* Boris Becker became the youngest men’s champion in 1985 at 17 years, 227 days old. Miss C. Dod has been the youngest female champion since 1887 when she won just 15 years, 285 days old.

* In 1990, Jennifer Capriati became the youngest ever competitor at Wimbledon at the tender age of 14 years, 90 days old.

* The record daily attendance was achieved on the Wednesday of week one at the 2002 Championships when 42,457 attended the All England Club.

* The total prize money handed out this year will be £13,725,000, a 9.4% increase on 2009.

*The two singles champions will receive a cool £1,000,000 each, a 17.6% increase on 2009. This compares to £2000 being given to the male champion at the beginning of the Open Era in 1968 and £750 handed to the women’s champion.

DOES YOUR IMAGE ON COURT AFFECT SUCCESS ON COURT?

By Melina Harris

Hey guys, we’re suffering from yet another bitingly cold snap in London and I thought to myself as I sat down to write my column today; what topic in tennis could serve to warm me up? I couldn’t help but be magnetically drawn for some strange reason to Feliciano Lopez discussing his first ATP tour victory in 2004 in Vienna on YouTube while researching for inspiration and it lead me to thinking about the inextricable link between sex appeal, attractiveness and success on court. I began to ponder, being an individual sport, how much does your image affect your success on court? Does it give you a psychological advantage over your opponent? Is image everything, as the Nike slogan once suggested?

Andre Agassi recently admitted in his autobiography ‘Open’ to wearing a hair piece during matches as ‘every morning (he) would wake up to find another piece of (his) identity on the pillow.  He revealed that the thought of losing his hair piece, which had mysteriously gone walkies off his infamous head during a shower on the morning of the 1989 French Open final and had to thus be pinned to his head, was of more importance than losing the actual match, which he did. The world pondered the technical reasons for his loss, when really it was the psychological fear of losing his sex appeal that caused his failure. Indeed, Agassi’s hair was part of his whole identity on and off court; he admitted with hindsight that the hair piece was a ‘chain’ holding him back and it wasn’t until Brooke Shields suggested he shave his head that he began to feel differently. Agassi’s hairpiece is undoubtedly symbolic of the huge impact of sex appeal on a player’s performance and earning potential.

Although Lopez dispelled the ‘looker’s curse’ by winning his first ATP tournament last week, scorcher, Anna Kournikova (one of the most searched for sports stars on the internet) was unable to prove her critics wrong by failing to ever win a WTA singles title, but she sure as hell helped raise the profile of women’s tennis and her earnings through endorsements must have softened the blow a little. In an interview for the Times of London in 2002, she seemed jaded by the constant questions regarding her super model looks. After a first-round loss at Wimbledon (when all the press was concerned with was her outfit) she was famously rattled by a journalist asking ‘how hurtful is the perception that you are all style and no substance?’ and whether she should consider playing at a lower level. Reflecting on that experience she commented to the nervous journalist, ‘Hey, there is nothing I can do to change people’s minds. If they want to see me that way, they will. Sometimes, when I do great, it’s, ‘Oh, after all she can play’. Or ‘Finally she shows more than her looks’. I mean, please! I really don’t pay much attention to that. I have a million other things to worry about.’ Could that pressure and constant focus on her looks have hampered her career? Or was she simply not good enough? But more importantly, did the WTA care as millions of men tuned in and paid for tickets to watch the blonde bombshell bend over?

What particularly annoys me is how I doubt Lopez has ever been asked after yet another disappointing loss; do you think it’s due to your six pack and beautiful eyes? Does looking in the mirror put you off your game so much, that like Narcissus you are so entranced by your own beauty that without realizing your opponent has passed you down the line?

I doubt it very much and let’s be honest; I’d be researching until next winter to find such a quote! I found it intriguing how the WTA seemed to be more proud about three of their stars, Maria Kirilenko, Daniela Hantuchova and Tatiana Golovin appearing in swimsuits in Sports Illustrated last year than say the successes of the Williams sisters on court. Although the WTA didn’t actually organize the shoot, the day the issue was released, the tour sent e-mails to the media about their appearance and posted the release on their website along with a scantily clad photo of the three players. CEO and Chairman Larry Scott commented, ‘We were proud of what happened with Sports Illustrated and our girls being in there…over time that has become a sought-after opportunity by a lot of celebrities and a lot of athletes. Making it into the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is sort of a litmus test of your popularity.’ He even went so far as to say, ‘we had three players in there, not necessarily three of our biggest current stars, and it made an important statement about women’s tennis, and the popularity and the attractiveness of our athletes. From that perspective, we were proud of that and promoted it.’ Perhaps the girls’ charity work could have featured more highly Mr. Scott?

What kind of image are the WTA promoting to aspiring young female players? Don’t worry; as long as you’re hot enough to appear in Sports Illustrated then we’ll be proud? It’s interesting that the players they chose to appear in the magazine have had nowhere near the success of say Venus Williams or Justine Henin on court. Perhaps they’d allow them to feature in the proposed tennis world cup but only on the condition that they play in their bikinis?

However, I doubt we’d all be upset if say Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Feliciano Lopez were to strip for Men’s Health magazine but I’d be very surprised if the ATP posted this on their website as the proudest moment of the men’s game.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach from London. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter. She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.