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Owning It: Vandeweghe Versus Putintseva

Yulia Putintseva is quickly developing a reputation for being one of the most outspoken players on Tour.

During many a Real Housewives reunion special, a middle-aged, mildly affluent woman sits in a tight, off-the-shoulder cocktail dress (I’ve watched a couple in my day), and tells another similarly dressed woman to take responsibility for her actions. In other words, “own it.”

With this sort of cartoonishly glamorous set up unfortunately missing from the tennis world, it can be difficult to keep track of the daily drama, on both a macro (the game’s elite) and micro level (everyone else). Like those sage Bravo producers, we can often bow to clips conclusively showing Juan Martin del Potro dissing Andy Murray’s mother, or Jelena Jankovic imitating compatriot Ana Ivanovic’s signature fist pump.

But just like those bastions of reality television, it is almost always what happens “off-camera” that stirs up the most controversy. As a New Jersey housewife would probably say, “the fewer witnesses, the better.”

In tennis, nothing breeds isolation quite like a rain delay. With troubling forecasts predicting rain through early next week in Europe, qualifying matches in last minute warm-up tournaments like Brussels were driven indoors to ensure the event reaches completion. One such match was ripe for drama, rain or shine.

In one corner was 21-year-old CoCo Vandeweghe. A former US Open girls’ champion, the young American made a dream run to the Stanford finals last summer. Since then, however, she has struggled to reign in her high-octane game, and coming into Brussels had yet to win back-to-back matches this year. Granddaughter to a former Miss America, Vandeweghe’s senior career has been largely played under the radar, but she has had a “princess” moment or two, as evidenced by her twitter account.

Her opponent likely needs no introduction: the “delightfully offensive” Yulia Putintseva. After pushing Serena Williams to a tiebreak in Madrid, the teenaged Kazakh suffered a potentially soul-crushing loss in Rome, failing to convert a 5-1 final set lead to Madrid quarterfinalist Anabel Medina Garrigues. But whether you’re throwing drinks on someone at a party or playing a tennis match, it helps to be a little bit delusional. Shrugging off her fourth three-set loss (three of them from a set up) of the year, Putintseva crushed her first two opponents, including an equally offensive (though arguably less delightful) Michelle Larcher de Brito.

Playing on a surface that mitigates her weapons and exposes her suspicious movement, Vandeweghe had been surprisingly comfortable in Brussels, and took a tight first set from Putintseva with only one break separating the two. From there, Putintseva went on a tear, winning 12 of the next 14 games, and broke the big-serving American five times for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory.

But it was after the match where the drama (allegedly) reignited.

With no one reporting more than the score of “Brussels QR3 Vandeweghe/Putintseva,” Vandeweghe took to Twitter to enlighten the public to that which many already consider to be obvious:

https://twitter.com/CoCoVandey/status/336491458251091968

From there, CoCo outlined an exchange following the match’s conclusion where the victorious Putintseva allegedly told her, “You are a terrible player only serve. I win all the rallies.” The American went on to accuse Putintseva’s father/coach, Anton, of not only condoning, but also “clapping” as his daughter made these biting observations.

Hours later, Putintseva popped up on Twitter herself, at first to nonchalantly express her satisfaction at qualifying for the main draw, then to give us a “No comment,” re: CoCo. Elaborating for a fan, she said,

https://twitter.com/Yulka1995P/status/336576876623577088

which appears to imply whatever occurred was a two-way street. But why many flocked to Putintseva’s support in the immediate aftermath of this bizarre incident was the same reason why reality TV fans love Nene Leakes and Caroline Manzo: Putintseva appeared to take ownership of what many would consider a gauche act of gamesmanship. In its own way, that was breath of fresh air in a sporting world that can often feel stilted and devoid of cadence. It keeps us from our own delusion that everyone on the Tours is there to make friends. Because they’re not, they’re here to win.

And thus would have ended this episode of The Real Tennis Players of Brussels, until Putintseva took to Twitter again early this morning. After tacitly accepting Vandeweghe’s version of events, she made a complete about face when asked about the incident directly:

https://twitter.com/Yulka1995P/status/336721573585223682

In barely 140 characters, the teenager took her ownership, and sold it back to the American, who has already rallied support from the American media.

Is Putintseva a cult hero for telling it like it is, or a spoiled brat deflecting blame? Is Vandeweghe a victim of needless trash talk, or a bully for inciting an angry mob on an 18-year-old? For a Tour that peaked in the late 90s because of exchanges like these, it might behoove us all not to ask too many questions, sit back, and “watch what happens.”

10 Ways to Make the Professional Tennis Tour Cooler

tennis in the sky

by James A. Crabtree

Okay, this article will likely get some of you upset and I am sure I may even be accused of being a halfwit. However, they are just ideas, not set in stone, where imagination has gotten the better of me and will probably never happen.

Of course if any of them do happen, I do want a cut of the action and full praise for being a genius.

Cool Idea 1

Get rid of the 32 seed format in grand slams, which has been in place since Wimbledon 2001. Why should we get rid of it? It is far too much protection to the high seeds. The knock on effect is too many of the same matchups from tournament to tournament, less chance for the draw to open up for a no name and thus less variety. Boring. Go back to the 16 seed format, which could right now pair 17th ranked Gilles Simon in a first round match up with Djokovic or 24th ranked Jerzy Janowicz with Andy Murray. Now that would be good.

Cool Idea 2

Shuffle up the events (sorry Chris Skelton). Now for those of you who like uniformity and probably have a tidy bedroom you will likely prefer all the clay court tournaments bunched together, all the grass courts back to back and then a season of hard court events. Like neatly folded bed linen all this is rather…BORING! Why not see which players can mould their games quickly from surface to surface?

In fact this fantastic idea hinders the specialist from racking up points at certain times of year.

Cool Idea 3

Have an indoor event in Australia in October, mainly because I live in Australia and it is a long time between Aussie Opens. Another tournament is needed in this far off distant land to keep the tennis heart pumping throughout the course of year. Twelve months between Aussie Opens is just far too long. Also it would be great to have tour events in some tiny countries. Monaco is taken care of but how about Liechtenstein, San Marino and Vatican City!

Cool Idea 4

There is no ATP 1000 event on grass. Thus the tour needs one and needs to extend the grass court calendar a little longer. Actually, imagine having a top class grass court event in South America or somewhere that is typically only played on clay.

That being said it would be great to mix up the court surfaces across the globe. A clay event in England would be great addition.

Cool Idea 5

More of an exhibition, a “blast from the past” event. This would involve two of today’s top players slugging it out with old school wooden racquets. In fact let’s go full 1970’s; short shorts tight shirts, moustaches and the winner must hurdle the net.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZA5kPOXNUw

Cool Idea 6

Coaching Court – this court could be inside the main ground or enclosed in a glass box outside (cooler option) at any big tournament. Throughout the first few days coaches of respective players would offer instructional analysis and drill summaries for onlookers for free. A brief question and answer service would conclude each session.

Cool Idea 7

Another exhibition match – but the catch? No topspin allowed. I want to see Rafael Nadal chopping at the ball for an hour. If topspin is inadvertently used a side-court judge will determine if a player is to lose a point.

Cool Idea 8

Local area wildcard recipient.  Don’t worry, they won’t just be gifted the entry but an open tournament, where anyone can enter, will be played out. The beneficiary will go straight into the main draw and a possible Vince Papale moment will be born.

Cool Idea 9

Live in match tweeting!! At every changeover a player must tweet what is going through their minds. If they choose to follow or retweet Justin Bieber they will be punished with immediate deduction of a game.

Cool Idea 10

Remember back when we thought of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi as friends? When they did stuff like this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o8bLajJfnU

Well the impromptu match needs to be brought back. Not necessarily Manhattan but how about the smallest little tennis club here and there that nobody in their right mind would have expected.

The Tennis and Twitter Connection

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Rebecca Marino announced on Wednesday that she was stepping away from her tennis career, perhaps for good. The Canadian’s ranking had slipped to outside the top 400 after returning from a seven-month absence, but she appeared to be approaching 2013 with a fresh mentality. A few days earlier, the former World No. 38 spoke candidly to The New York Times about the effect that online abuse had on her decision to take a break from tennis. Following her second announcement, Marino held a conference call where she also spoke openly about her struggles with depression.

While Marino made it clear that she had been suffering from depression for the better part of six years and sought help during her sabbatical last year, her story is one of many in the shark tank that is a tennis player’s relationship with social media as a whole.

Tennis has a large online following which far outweighs its characterization as a ‘niche sport.’ The rise of social media over the better part of the past five years has allowed fans access to a player’s inner circle. First, players posted exclusive content on their websites and next came personal pictures and stories on their official Facebook pages. Both of these could be monitored by a third party, but Twitter added another dimension; it allowed fans to theoretically interact directly with players. As tennis players travel the world week in and week out, their fans get a chance to see the world as they do.

Teen sensations Laura Robson and Eugenie Bouchard, who are both avid tweeters, took the social networking site by storm in October when they released their version of the popular ‘Gangnam Style’ dance craze featuring cameos by Heather Watson, Maria Sharapova, Samantha Stosur, Fernando Verdasco, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the WTA physio team. It may have never crossed their minds to create this gem of the Internet, nor may it have been available for fans if it weren’t for sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gGfIwM38xI

With all the good, however, comes the bad.

As one would imagine, not all of this fan interaction is positive. There is perhaps an unwritten rule in the tennis-tweeting community to ‘never @ the player you’re speaking negatively of,’ but if players really wanted to find negative comments written about them, Twitter makes it all too easy for them to do so. Not only can players scroll through their mentions to read tweets directly composed to them, they can search their surname to find all tweets of which they are the subject.

Following Robson’s three-set loss to Yulia Putintseva in Dubai on Monday, she received her fair share of the abuse that has unfortunately become infamous on the social networking site. Some of the negative comments may have led to the Brit briefly deactivating her account; however, she reinstated it less than a day later. As Marino confirmed to The New York Times, much of the abuse comes from disgruntled bettors who lost money betting on a match. The majority of these comments are not even constructive in nature; they are hateful, personal attacks laced with profanity.

To avoid all of this, some players don’t even manage their own accounts, or merely hook it up to tweet links from their Facebook pages; setups like this provide little or no fan interaction. Other players who enjoy interacting with their fans, such as Paul-Henri Mathieu, have tried their best to take a stand.

https://twitter.com/Paulomathieu/status/300989236008583170

While there is much more to Rebecca Marino’s story than just online abuse, it shows that at the end of the day, no one really knows much about the majority of the people he or she is interacting with online. The power of anonymity on the Internet is an incredible thing; no one really knows how overly abusive or negative comments, coupled with whatever else a player is dealing with, can affect them.

https://twitter.com/arodionova/status/304541281344966656

Just because an athlete is in the public eye doesn’t mean he or she should be treated with any less respect; many smartphones have the capability to sync with Twitter, so the vitriol and abuse, along with the praise and support, is as close as a player’s back pocket. Repeated encounters with this would no doubt have an effect on just about everyone.

American tennis players Mardy Fish and John Isner fire back at Ivan Ljubicic Twitter comment

mardy fish

By Romana Cvitkovic

The tennis world went into overdrive Saturday afternoon as Ivan Ljubicic tweeted a comment targeted at American tennis players supposedly skipping the European tournaments. Americans John Isner and Mardy Fish quickly fought back on Twitter with Fish almost immediately deleting his tweet after he sent it.

Of all the tennis players looking to cause controversy, newly-retired Croat Ivan Ljubicic would not be high on my list that includes the likes of Daniel Koellerer, Yannick Noah, John McEnroe and Marat Safin.  Hell, even Marat Safin has cleaned up his act and holds a seat in the Russian Parliament!

But I digress. In light of Mardy Fish pulling out of the Mutua Madrid Open due to fatigue and Andy Roddick skipping both Madrid and Rome due to a hamstring injury, the presence of American ATP players at the European clay tournaments has dwindled. But Ljubicic’s tweet may have gone a little too far to point the finger.


Three hours later, American John Isner (who was ousted in the second round of Madrid by another Croat, Marin Cilic, and is scheduled to play Rome this week) defended his friend’s absence from the tournaments in Madrid and Rome:

Not even an hour later, Fish fired back heavily at Ljubicic before almost immediately deleting the following tweet.

Unfortunately, the internet is not forgiving once you put something out there. Perhaps this conversation should have occurred through direct messaging, email, or BBM. It’s one thing to put a “generalized comment” on your personal Twitter but it’s also another nobler thing to privately respond. Not sure if there is history here between Fish and Ljubicic, but hopefully the 140 character limitation framed responses insufficiently. However, the fans were drinking it up …


 

 

 

 

 


 

 

“What makes you run better?” Enter to win Roddick and Raonic signed merchandise

milos raonic sap sponsors

Want free merchandise signed by SAP Ambassadors Milos Raonic and Andy Roddick? Well, you’re in luck! SAP Sponsors is currently running a fun competition where people can submit a photo of something that helps them “run better” for a chance to win some signed merchandise by the ATP pros.

In answer to the question “What makes you run better?” it seems that Raonic admits it’s maple syrup. He’s Canadian, remember? But I wonder what Roddick’s answer would be …

Submissions can be made through the SAP Sponsors Facebook Page. Contest open now until April 1, so make sure to enter at the link above!

Thank you to SAP Sponsors for sharing the contest!

Please follow SAP Sponsors on Twitter

Like SAP Sponsors on Facebook.

Visit the SAP Sponsorships website.

We Miss You Robin Soderling

Robin Soderling of Sweden celebrates defeating Lleyton Hewitt of Australia at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London

Robin Soderling used to be one of the most misunderstood players on the the ATP World Tour.  Nowadays, however, he’s just one of the most missed.

Earlier this week Soderling, who has been off of the tour since July fighting mononucleosis, withdrew from the Australian Open.  He tweeted that he was hoping to be able to return to the tour in February.  It was heartbreaking news for myself and the rest of the tennis community.  Though we haven’t always fully embraced and appreciated the shy but unyielding Swede, the thought of a Soderling-less January just seems completely wrong. Something’s missing, and it hurts.

How did we get here? Did absence make our hearts grow fonder?  Did we not know what we had until it was gone? Are we just feeling sympathy for an ailing athlete, or is this group heartache a symptom of something else? Is it possible that, without even realizing it, we all fell a bit in love with Robin Bo Carl Soderling?

 

The Early Years

What did we know about Robin Soderling the morning of May 31, 2009?  Dedicated tennis fans knew him primarily as an indoor-tennis-specialist, a rare breed of player who’s only significant results came when the stadium was closed off from the outside world.  He had been in nine finals and won three titles, all indoors on either hard-court or carpet. Unfortunately outside where the rest of the tennis players lived he was seen as an underachiever, another in the endless parade of players who seem destined to never live up to their potential.

He also had a reputation as a, well, to put it nicely- a brat.  In a 2007 Wimbledon five-set match against Rafael Nadal he made waves by mocking the French Open Champion and playing mind games (seen in the video below).  This ruffled the Spaniard so much that in his post-match interview Nadal made some uncharacteristically harsh comments about his opponent, calling Soderling “strange”, and saying that he had a hard time finding anyone in the locker room with nice things to say about him.  Those comments would follow him around for years to come.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUuVU03lY1c

 

The Breakthrough

I’m not sure that “breakthrough” is a strong enough word for Soderling’s 6–2, 6–7(2), 6–4, 7–6(2) defeat over Rafael Nadal on May 31, 2009 in the fourth round of the French Open.  In fact, I’m quite certain it’s not .  That match is the tennis world’s “Where were you when…” moment.  I’ll never forget the surreal, uncomfortable, queasy feeling I had sitting on my couch that morning watching the upset unfold.  Some things in life were certain- death, taxes, and Rafael Nadal winning the French Open.  Robin Soderling and his monster forehand knocked the entire tennis world off it’s axis that day.  It was as exhilarating as it was terrifying.

As we all tried to gather our breath and find our footing again in this strange new world, Soderling steamrolled through Nikolay Davydenko in the quarterfinals and survived an epic five-setter against Fernando Gonzales in the semifinals to make it all the way to the French Open final.  The man who had never been past the Third Round of a Major and who had never made a Final outdoors on any surface was now facing Roger Federer in the French Open Finals.

Though Soderling lost rather meekly to Federer that day, he shocked the tennis world again during the trophy presentation.  His speech was one of the most memorable runner-up speeches ever- sincere, funny, and incredibly endearing.  He “yoked” his way into our hearts that afternoon, and showed that his personality was just as complex and surprising as his game had become.  (His speech starts at 7:20 in the clip, everything before that is crying Federer.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Iob14Vp-_8

 

The Aftermath

So many players are defined by their breakthroughs that the word has become rather transparent.  Not Robin Soderling.  After the 2009 French Open he was not intimidated by his new-found fame or astronomically increased expectations.  He finished 2009 ranked number eight in the world, his first Top Ten finish ever, and powered his way to the Top Five in 2010.  He showed no fear going into the 2010 French Open where he had the bulk of his points to defend.  He made it all the way back to the final and he did it in style, defeating a guy named Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.  Rafael Nadal got the best of him in the final that year, but one thing was for sure- Robin Soderling 2.0 was not a fluke.  He was here to stay, and it was time for the rest of us to get used to it.

Things came full circle in he fall of 2010 when he went back to his beloved indoor courts to win the biggest title of his career, the Paris Masters, by defeating hometown favorite Gael Monfils in the Final.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFqjwYzZRK4

Despite only playing for seven months and battling nagging injuries and illness for most of the spring, Soderling still managed to win four titles this year.  Four!

Tennis is a scarier place when Robin Soderling is around.  He has the potential to beat any player on any surface at any time, and he’s proven that he’s not too scared or intimated to do it.  Tennis needs that.  We as fans need that.  This sport is at it’s best when it’s knocked off balance, when it feels like anything is possible, when there are dynamites in the draw.

Let’s face it, we didn’t fall in love with tennis because of the security it provided.  That’s not who tennis fans are.  We love the heart-attacks, the unpredictability, the nauseating knowledge that nothing is a given.  We love the underachievers, the floaters, and especially the villains.

Get well soon, Robin.  We can’t wait to have you back.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gWXXSEvg30
(Thanks to my twitter followers for sharing their favorite Soderling moments with me this week, especially @A_Gallivant and @ptenisnet for the links to the videos above.)

Roger Federer is a happy man, Serena Williams faces stalker, Kim Clijsters’ French Open still in doubt

Roger-Federer-01

Roger Federer is a happy man

Roger Federer happy with just one title? Say it ain’t so…but unfortunately it is. Federer says in an interview that he is quite happy with his form in  2011 . I am sorry…one title, happy with form and it is May 2011 now? That’s very un-Federer-like. It’s too little for the man who has won everything there is to win, except the Olympic Gold medal for singles. But he is motivated and trained hard for Madrid and getting ready for a long stretch at Wimbledon. So he isn’t even aiming for the French Open? Is that what it means? I do hope the man can add at least one other major to his name.

In other news Federer has already committed to continue playing after the Olympics in 2012 and I hope he will continue to play for a long time.  “Serve grandpa, before you fall down!” is what comes to mind but to be honest; I don’t think anyone will break his record of 16 majors anytime soon and he has had a great career up until now.

Roger Federer is the escape artist of the week so far avoiding defeat at the hands of Feliciano Lopez with the set scores 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 in a match that lasted almost three hours.

“It felt like a really quick court out there and as the match wore on the more difficult it got to return Feliciano’s serve,” said Federer. “Obviously I don’t have too much rhythm going into tomorrow’s match with Malisse, a steady baseliner.”

Serena Williams stalker

Serena Williams is going to have to rethink her social media strategy after a stalker followed her through Twitter and showed up at her gated subdivision in Florida.  The man, 40-year-old Patenema Ouedraogo, has been following Serena Williams around the country. First in LA where Williams was meeting with her agent, he pretended to be her assistant in Tampa while she was at the Home Shopping Network and now her subdivision in FLA.   Ouedraogo has been slapped with a restrainment order but that didn’t keep him away.  Ouedraogo is said to have told officers that he loved Serena and that “he knows the feelings are reciprocal.”

Now I don’t what to think. Especially after seeing the South beach photos. Is that out of line? If so then get a grip.  But having someone following you and showing up at the exact places you are just because you tweeted it makes me more careful with my Twitter or at least turn off the GPS that determines where I am at the time of tweeting and it also makes me avoid Tweeting about where I am now. But ofcourse, you can’t just blame it on Twitter and Ouedraogo  sounds like confused man.

Kim Clijsters back in training

Yes, you read that well. Kim Clijsters is back in training after her injury woes.  On her website Kim Clijsters wrote: “I held a tennis racket in my hands for the first time in about five weeks. It felt good.”  She also ruled out playing any of the warm up tournaments before the French Open later this month.

The big question however is: Can she play the French Open?

“It depends on a great many factors: What is the reaction to the first days of training? What if we increase the training intensity?” she said.

I do hope we will see her play but I don’t want her to play unless she is 100% fit.

 

Novak Djokovic amazing streak continues

And he has hit the big 30. He is unbeaten for 30 matches in a row and on a crash course to meet Rafael Nadal, the King of Clay.  Will he maintain his winning streak or will Rafael Nadal end it abruptly and show him who’s boss?

“It’s a fact that I am playing the best tennis of my life and I’m definitely happy about it,” said Djokovic, who attributed his good form to a “strong mental ability to handle the pressure and play the right shots at the right time.”

 

Weekly links

Our good friend Justin Cohen talked with Jim Courier and Andre Agassi about the re-formatted 12 city Champions Series. (World Tennis Magazine)

While Real Madrid lost to FC Barcelona Tuesday for a spot in the finale of the prestigious Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo can still enjoy some good tennis at the Mutua Madrid Open. (On The Go Tennis)

Fans of Racquet Required, check Jennifer’s new supercalifragilisticexpialidocious website http://www.racquetrequired.com/

Interesting interview with Ana Ivanovic who admits the three must have qualities of a man. (Ana Ivanovic Official site)

Our photographer Ralf Reinecke has been in Madrid all week and shot a lot of photos. I love them all and so should you!!

Novak Djokovic’ secret diet and Serena Williams’ new career as a rapper – The Friday Five

Serena Williams

By Maud Watson

“Tip of the Iceberg”

That was the phrase that Patrick McEnroe used when he reacted to the expletive-laden rant that Donald Young posted on Twitter earlier this week as Young attacked the USTA after not receiving their wildcard into the French Open. Going into the USTA’s wildcard playoff (which he tried to avoid in the first place as his team appealed for a wildcard outright), Young was coming off a win in Tallahassee that saw his ranking fall within the Top 100, and earlier in the season had what may go down as the biggest win in his career with a victory over Andy Murray. Perhaps his emotions were running high after losing in the final of the wildcard playoff, but no matter how you slice it, Young was 100% in the wrong on this one. Had his ranking been in the Top 100 a week earlier, he would have automatically made the main draw, but he’s not the first player to just miss direct entry or even a seed at a big event. And as for the victory over Andy Murray, pretty much all are in agreement that while Young certainly could have used such a victory as a springboard to find further positives and motivation for his own career, it was still more about Murray being in a funk than Young doing anything spectacular. Taking all of this into consideration, McEnroe and the rest of his USTA team are saints for giving Young yet another chance after the apology he issued later in the week. The USTA has already given him numerous handouts in coaching, housing, and funding and owes him nothing further. And even if Young really is sorry for his rant, given his history with the USTA, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be further bumps in the road. Both parties might be well-served if the USTA pulled its support from Young for a probationary period. Let Young learn to do it all on his own. He might actually find more motivation this way.

 

You are What You Eat

Or in the case of Novak Djokovic, you’re only as goo d as what you eat. The hottest player of 2011 revealed earlier this week the “secret” of his success, and he credits much of it to changes in his diet. He revealed that he brought nutritionist Igor Cetojevic onto his team, and it was he who discovered Djokovic’s allergies to certain food ingredients, such as gluten. While the discovery means new limits to his diet and a loss of weight, Djokovic is all too happy to make the changes. He credits the weight loss for making his movement sharper (not that it was anything to sneeze at in the past), and it has meant an overall improvement to his fitness and ability to stay in matches. It’s nice to see all of the pieces falling into place for the young Serb and contribute to what should hopefully be an interesting clay court season.

One Last Go

It’s been fourteen months, but German/American Tommy Haas has made his much anticipated return to tennis, competing in the doubles competition of Munich by partnering close friend Radek Stepanek. Results-wise, it wasn’t a triumphant return, as the pair fell just shy of defeating the experienced doubles pairing of Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley 10-8 in a tiebreak, but after sitting on the sidelines for over a year, just to be back out on the court is a victory in and of itself. A talented player whose entire career has been plagued by injuries, it would be nice to see Haas have one last good run before he hangs it up permanently.

Two for Two

No surprise last weekend as Rafael Nadal resumed where he left off in 2009, collecting his sixth Barcelona crown for his second consecutive clay court tournament victory in the lead up to Roland Garros. Once again, he defeated David Ferrer in the final, and he was even more ruthless than he’d been against his compatriot when he defeated him in Monte Carlo. Nadal definitely had the look of a player who owns the turf, and it should be interesting to see what happens when he faces the heaviest hitters, especially should he ever meet up with Djokovic in one of the most anticipated potential matchups of the season.

That’s a Rap

Earlier this week, TMZ announced that Serena Williams was possibly looking into a new career as a rapper. She’s working with DJ Clue, who reported that Serena Williams had skill with the microphone. This news come just a week after Serena was spotted frolicking on the beach (in an appallingly inappropriate bikini), so this must mean that she is no longer so far down in the doldrums as she reported a month or so ago. Hopefully her recovery is going well, and perhaps the next time we see her name in the news, it will actually be for something tennis-related (and a tournament pull-out doesn’t count either!).

Cibulkova mobilizes angry Twitter mob and Germany sweeps USA in Fed Cup Play Offs

AP-10

Did anyone follow Dominika Cibulkova on Twitter a little? The tiny Slovak caused a stir among fans when she cheered when Ana Ivanovic had to pull out. Many fans were not amused and kindly dropped a message on Twitter to let Cibulkova know that  “Ajdee Serbia” was their new slogan. Even Ana Ivanovic haters turned on Cibulkova. Now that says something, doesn’t it?

And if you don’t believe me then you can find a screenshot here of a simple Twitter search for her last name:

And it has already inspired some fan art around the web as well:

In other Fed Cup news  Germany beat the USA with 5-0 and that means that for the first time in the history of 48 years of the Fed Cup the USA relegates from the World Group. A big blow for the country that has won the Fed Cup no less than 17 times, a record. It has to be noted that the USA were without their three strongest players. Venus Williams and Bethanie Mattek-Sands are sidelined with hip injuries, Serena Williams is still recovering from her blood cloth surgery earlier this year.

Captain Mary Joe Fernandez was disappointed but praised the fighting spirit of her team and credited Germany for their strong performance.

“It’s tough to be out of the World Group for the first time, but we just came up against a better team,” U.S. captain Mary Joe Fernandez said. “We did the best we could, we fought for every point and that’s all you can do, do your best on the court.”

“It was a tough weekend but you have to give credit to whole German team,” she added. “They played great. There were moments, small chances, but there weren’t that many opportunities for us.”

Our photographer, Ralf Reinecke, was present at the meeting between the USA and Germany. Find the photos below.

World Group

Semifinals

Russia beat Italy 5-0 at Moscow, Russia
Czech Republic beat Belgium 3-2 at Charleroi, Belgium

World Group Playoffs

Germany beat United States 5-0 at Stuttgart, Germany
Spain beat France 4-1 at Lleida, Spain
Serbia beat Slovak Republic 3-2 at Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Ukraine beat Australia 3-2 at Melbourne, Australia

World Group II Playoffs

Belarus beat Estonia 5-0 at Minsk, Belarus; Slovenia beat Canada 3-2 at Koper, Slovenia; Switzerland beat Sweden 4-1 at Lugano, Switzerland

 

The Sony Ericsson Open draw is a true festivity

Samantha Stosur at the Sony Ericsson Open

The Sony Ericsson Open draw was a real festivity as it is every year. This year last year’s French Open finalist Sam Stosur was in the spotlights being present at the draw and also answering questions of fans on Twitter. You can follow the Sony Ericsson Open @SEOpen by the way. Make sure you are up to date of the latest news from the tournament. Find more info here:

WOMEN’S DRAW

No. 4-seeded Samantha Stosur was on hand as the 2011 Sony Ericsson Open women’s field was announced. Joining Stosur on her half of the draw, defending Sony Ericsson Open and four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters, three-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova and 2006 Sony Ericsson Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova.  On the opposite side of the draw World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki attempts her first Sony Ericsson Open title along with 2008 Sony Ericsson Open finalist Jelena Jankovic and Vera Zvonareva.

MEN’S DRAW

Jurgen Melzer assisted with the men’s draw. Melzer, receiving the No. 10 seed is joined by World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the top half of the draw along with defending Sony Ericsson Open champion Andy Roddick and 16-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer. 2007 Sony Ericsson Open champ Novak DjokovicAndy Murray and Robin Soderling find themselves on the other half of the draw.

TWITTER

Samantha Stosur conducted the first Sony Ericsson Open TwitterView – taking questions from fans. Tennis enthusiast had the chance to ask Stosur questions ranging from what her most memorable match has been to what her favorite country is. Sony Ericsson Open fans with get the chance to ask the favorite tennis players questions throughout the tournament via Twitter. Fans can follow Sony Ericsson Open @SEOpen.

 

ATTENDANCE: 8,323

 

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