20 June, 2014

Dr. 30 Love (Or How I learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Wimbledon Queue)

First and foremost, I am a tennis fan and nothing if not an extremely lucky one, having been fortunate enough to complete the Career Spectator Slam. Yes, I've swigged a brew in the raucous (by tennis standards) stands in Melbourne, I've quietly munched a baguette alongside the almost Martian red clay of Paris and for years I took week-long staycations, trekking out the 7 Line to the US Open, my hometown major, but it was only a year ago that I could finally cross Wimbledon off my tennis bucket list. What follows is a little bit on why it took so long, how I finally got it done and why you should embrace the queue.
A little clarity, the Big W, if we're parsing technicalities, was actually the very first major I visited. As a college student, I was in London in March and dragged a few buddies to SW19 on an appropriately rainy day to take a tour of the Wimbledon Museum and eat strawberries and cream. It was the only time I'd see Centre Court pre-Roof and the day as a whole remains a cherished memory. That said, attending the actual Wimbledon tournament thoroughly intimidated me, despite being a tennis fanatic and seasoned traveler, before I finally took the plunge last summer.

29 May, 2014

Thoughts On Tennis (Channel)

My nascent return to the blogsphere commences with my wading into the conversation that's been running over the last couple of days on Twitter about Tennis Channel.  During my self-imposed hiatus, I started and ultimately aborted a post about the network that the recent conversations implored me to dust off and update.

Let's start here: for all its faults, the mere existence of a network devoted to tennis is a major win for American fans. As any fan who can tell his 250s from his 500s knows, the tennis season is a 24/7/365 global carnival stretching from Auckland to Stockholm and seemingly every point on the globe in between.  The old-school "take what we deign to show you" network TV model simply doesn't fit in a sport where six tournaments, across multiple continents and time zones can be going on in any given week.  I mean, hypothetically, how can network affiliates schedule cash-cow infomercials if Aga Radwanska goes into a third set in the Seoul final at 3AM Eastern?  Theoretically, how many CBS affiliates will pre-empt the US Open men's final again if a matchup between, say, the two best players in the world would otherwise encroach on their lucrative prime access bloc and The Insider's wall-to-wall coverage on the next disposable reality TV stars' divorce?  Tennis Channel doesn't have these issues and for that alone, the channel's a positive presence.

That said, the network has its challenges; the largest of which is that it's hard to get.  While I have no direct knowledge of Tennis Channel's strategies, until recently they seem to have been working on a three angles to graduate to the upper tier of sports networks.

28 May, 2014

Where I've Been

That deep blue on beneath the horizon is the Sea of Cortez

First off, it's immensely flattering that I've had a few people ask me where I've (or more to the point, Blackabel Tennis) been has over the past year or so.  To quote Serena Williams, it all comes down to this thing called "life."

12 January, 2014

2014 Australian Open Men's Preview

Didn't we just see the confetti falling around a trophy-kissing Novak Djokovic in an indoor arena in London?  This is how it always feels when the tennis world pivots to the azure blue courts in Melbourne, but it never ceases to make you shake your head. The fleeting offseason has flown, the cash grab hit-and-giggles in far-flung outposts of the tennis world are a distant memory and all of the world's best (fit) tennis players have again converged in the stifling heat of Melbourne for one of their four annual chances at tennis immortality.

As the new season truly gets underway, we take a look at the men's singles draw of the Australian Open. We do so in a bit of a different fashion than before, but with the same end game: to prep you for two weeks of big, big tennis in the land down under.

06 December, 2013

Blake Serves For A Cure At Armory in New York

The James Blake Foundation brought tennis to New York’s 69th Regiment Armory last night for the 2013 edition of Serving for a Cure.  The event, first held in 2005, raises money for the Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Research Fund, supporting early detection cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. 

04 September, 2013

Survivor: Jill Craybas On The Eve Of Her Retirement

Jill Craybas on the Madrid blue clay in 2012
*Josh Meiseles of The Sixth Set contributed to this article:
(August 30, 2013) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – For nearly 18 years, Jill Craybas represented the United States on the WTA Tour. Her famous work ethic, charisma and longevity made her an instant fan favorite. At the age of 39, the Rhode Island-native revealed she will be hanging up her racquet following the US Open.
Craybas peaked at a career-high singles ranking of 39, in 2006, and will be best remembered for reaching the Round of 16 at the 2005 Wimbledon Championships after stunning Serena Williams 6-3, 7-6 in the third round.

26 August, 2013

James Blake Will Retire After The 2013 US Open

The following article was written by Vito Ellison (@vblacklabel) for Blacklabel Tennis and Josh Meiseles (@TheSixthSet) for The Sixth Set, it appears on both sites.

It is a rite of passage; a somber yet appropriate custom that those who have carried the mantle of American tennis have partaken. Saying farewell to the game you love is never easy, but having the opportunity to do so surrounded by 22,000 people chanting your name provides a poetic sense of closure.

Cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium never feels so united, so intimate as it does when an American standard-bearer takes his final on-court wave nestled in the loving embrace of his home crowd.  Over the past decade, that scene has been replayed repeatedly. Rather than abruptly end their runs mid-season, or play out the string of European indoor events, most of the top American men have chosen Flushing Meadows as the last stop in their journey as ATP pros. Pete Sampras started the trend in legendary fashion, turning back Andre Agassi for the 2002 US Open crown, in what would be Sampras’ final match (though he didn’t officially retire until a year later on that same court). Michael Chang, Todd Martin and Agassi continued the tradition in 2003, ‘04 and ‘06, respectively. Last year it was Andy Roddick’s turn to say goodbye to the Ashe faithful.   In the footsteps of his predecessors, Roddick showed flashes of his vintage form in his last outing.  He ultimately he suffered a valiant defeat, this time at the hands of Juan Martin del Potro, before an appreciative crowd.

25 August, 2013

Blacklabel Tennis 2013 Guide To The US Open

When we launched BLT, one of our first posts was a Fan's Guide to the US Open.  We decided there were some updates in order to help you maximize your 2013 Open.  Without further ado, here's the Blacklabel Tennis Guide to the 2013 US Open.

USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center

Who needs the big, overblown, traditional holidays?  You can keep your thanksgiving turkeys, your 4th of July fireworks, your Santa Claus.  For this guy, the most wonderful time of the year is the start of another US Open tennis tournament.  Oh, it's not absolutely perfect; the weather always seems to veer from sweltering when the first ball is struck, to sweatshirt weather by the end; the food prices always make me wonder why the USTA didn't hire Kanye West's jeweler to build a platinum and diamond encrusted roof over Arthur Ashe stadium and frankly, there's always a point where I get tennis fatigue and have to leave a bit early for the day, but there's no time of the year I look forward to more than the US Open.

So, why am I writing this unofficial guide to the US Open when there are so many official sources out there?  Well, to be frank, because I'm me.  Living in New York, the US Open is my hometown major, one of the biggest events of the year and the tournament I know the best.  Unlike the professional beat writers who generally spend the tourney shuttling off to the press conferences and have cordoned off seats at the show courts, I've only ever experienced the Open like you, as a fan.  I boil in the summer heat like every other fan, I get no closer to the players than anybody else with an oversized tennis ball, I pay $4.75 for my Evian just like the rest of the hoi polloi.  In other words, for the last decade, I've experienced the Open in the exact same way you will and have learned a few tips and tricks that I think will help you (whoever you are) maximize your trip to the US Open.