07 September, 2014

The Unlikely Lass


Vegas wouldn't take this bet, Judge Judy would've interrupted and asked the plaintiffs to cut the baloney, Disney wouldn't option this screenplay.

It's too much to believe that tennis was blessed with Serena Williams.

Chris Evert, the sun-kissed, ponytailed, ice maiden, golden girl daughter of a longtime tennis coach, we'd buy that one.

Martina Navratilova, the workhorse who defected from behind the iron curtain and was as responsible as anyone for upping the game's physical ante, we can buy that one too.

For as incredible as both those champions were, there stories somehow seem to fit within the acceptable (read: believable) narrative for tennis stars.

Serena Williams though, the woman who just matched the two aforementioned American legends with her 18th major singles title today...well, I guess her truth is stranger than any fiction we'd deem credible.

Imagine pitching this script...

38 Special


Sporting dominance, though acknowledged as it happens, is usually only truly appreciated through the lens of history. Once fans are freed from the throes of week-in, week-out competition; once the hysterical tweets have long faded from the timeline; once the cries of “Not him again!” have long since drifted on the wind.

For the last decade, since February 2005 to be exact, every single final played at a major tennis tournament featured either Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal. Let me put this in perspective, for 38 consecutive majors 128 men were in the draw, the best tennis players on the planet right now. Every single time, either Federer, Djokovic or Nadal's name was on the scoreboard during the final. There are third graders who have never in their lives witnessed a major where one of these men didn't at least play in the final. Moreover, of the 38 consecutive times the sport's ruling triumvirate took a place in the final, 34 times flashbulbs popped as one of the those three men kissed (or bit) the champion's trophy. Often there wasn't even an alternative, on a solid number of those occasions, 16 to be exact, two of them faced each other for the most coveted prizes on offer.

That unprecedented run ends Monday.


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.