31 December, 2011

Bloggers Bar Volume II: 2012 Tennis Predictions

A few rounds deep, we're back at the Bloggers' Bar.  This is the second in a series of posts where some of my favorite tennis writers/bloggers and I will talk through some of the important tennis topics of the day.

At the (virtual) bar today are:
In Volume I we focused primarily on the top players and our outlooks for them going into 2012.  In this installment, we're looking at the tour and making our biggest, boldest predictions for 2012.

Once again, this isn't a private conversation, feel free to get involved in the comments, we would love to hear what you have to say; unless, we wouldn't, in which case, we'll politely ignore you.

29 December, 2011

Bloggers' Bar Volume I: 2012 Tennis Predictions

Even though the pro tours flit from Melbourne to London and virtually every spot in between over the course of a year; the tennis world remains a relatively small community.  When I started (officially) working on Blacklabel Tennis last summer, I also started reading a lot more tennis writing and interacting with some of the talented people behind it.  We might be spread out across the world, but when Sharapova's yips rear their unpretty head deep in the third set or Nadal hits a shot that seems a repudiation of the laws of physics, these are people with whom I'm virtually sharing that WTF moment.  While we tweet and e-mail, we never get the opportunity to really spend much time shooting the shit about tennis.

Thus, the Bloggers' Bar.

This is the first in a series of posts where some of my favorite tennis writers/bloggers and I will share our thoughts, ideas and delusions on what we deem to be the important tennis topics of the day.

28 December, 2011

Australian Open 2011 Flashback

Extra effort from Andy Roddick

In early 2011, I had the opportunity to attend my first (and hopefully not my last) Australian Open.  As we start to gear up for the 2012 tournament, and start seriously jones-ing for the beginning of next season, I thought it would be a good time to share some of my photos from last year's tournament.  Most of the big names crossed my camera in some way shape or form over the fortnight and since we're all fans, why not share the results.

23 December, 2011

2011 Predictions & Reality

Until this morning when they posted the winner, I'd completely forgotten that last year I participated in Tennis-X's 2011 Year End Top 10 poll.  Looking back at my picks (posted as VE), they all seemed so well thought out then.  I even went as far as explaining the logic.  I'm sure at the time, I thought I was dead on about my picks.  But hell, that's why the play the matches, isn't it?

I wound up being right about six of the players who finished in the top ten, but for every big hit; there was a big miss as well.  So, as we begin to look ahead to 2012, I thought it would be fun to share with you what I said then, how I was right an how I was wrong...oh, so wrong.

17 December, 2011

Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs Livestream

In need of a live tennis fix? You can watch the LiveStream of the Kia Motors Australian Open wildcard playoff on Blacklabel Tennis through the weekend.  Through this event one American man and woman will win a wild card berth into next month's Australian Open in Melbourne.

Players scheduled to appear include: Melanie Oudin, Jack Sock, Robby Ginepri, Coco Vandeweghe and more.  See the match schedule after the jump.

Watch live streaming video from aowp at livestream.com

11 December, 2011

If You Were Wondering...

What happened after Spain won the Davis Cup last weekend, I can assure you that they didn't shave their heads like the Serbian team did a year ago...I think Feliciano Lopez would beat the snot out of anyone who would even joke about shearing his coif.  In any event, there was celebration, presumably some liquid courage was imbibed and there was something that looked kind of like dancing from the Spanish contingent.

I wouldn't hold a candle to Rafa on a tennis court, but on the dancefloor, if this is any indication, 6-1, 6-0 Blacklabel Tennis, Vamos!

05 December, 2011

2011 Year End Power Rankings

Sometimes the hot cool down, sometimes the cool heat up.  Check out who makes Blacklabel Tennis' 2011 Year End Power Rankings.

1. Petra Kvitova (CZE) Last Month: (3)

Novak Djokovic certainly had the best year in 2011, but the hottest player going into 2012 has to be Petra Kvitova.  She began her march to the top of the WTA with an upset win over Kim Clijsters in the Paris final back in February (Clijsters was World No. 1; Kvitova, No. 18 at the time).  Then she simply outslugged Maria Sharapova, to become the unanimous pick as the most likely to succeed of this year's first time major winners.  She may have started the year ranked 34th, but after winning a major, the WTA Tour Championships and five other tour titles, the 20 year old Czech finished within a hair of the year end No. 1 ranking.  Then for good measure, she led the Czech Republic to the Fed Cup title.  There is simply no one we're more interested in watching start their 2012 campaign than Kvitova.

Bacardi Campaign Pits Fans Versus Virtual Rafa

Originally posted on Mashable:

Tennis legend Rafael Nadal has conquered an impressive list of opponents — Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt just to name a few. But could Rafa beat you if you had a 12-foot tennis-serving robot on your side?

That’s the premise of “Ace Rafa,” a new Bacardi campaign that allows fans to virtually compete with the 10-time Grand Slam winner using the RoboServ 3000...

03 December, 2011

Defining Rafael Nadal

Has there ever been a conversation, article or other examination of Rafael Nadal that didn't pivot on his rivalry with Roger Federer?  Well, I'll say, it's not exactly our fault, the Federer kid just stays in the picture.  I've been among the bloggers (dare i say, writers?) who've written in the past that they can't ever foresee such a conversation happening.  Nadal's own book Rafa centers on the story of Nadal's side of the Greatest Match of All Time (the GMAT?), his 2008 Wimbledon final versus you know who.

19 November, 2011

ATP World Tour Final Oddsmaking

The ATP World Tour Final (heretofore known as the ATP WTF) is a curious event.  The round robin, featuring only the eight highest ranked players in the world, played in London's O2 arena has a jagged history debuting in its present form only in 1999 (versus the legs of the Grand Slam, the youngest of which, the Australian Open, debuted in 1905).  Even though this event doesn't necessarily have the history or prestige of the majors, the Davis Cup or the Olympics, the ATP has done a good job of building the WTF into a showpiece for their biggest stars, especially since the event's fortuitous move to London in 2009.  How will the ATP WTF play out?  Well, we think we have a pretty solid idea.

15 November, 2011

Little Legends

Our friends over at tennis.com, just posted this funny, dare I say, cute video of tennis legends as kids produced by the group behind the Stockholm Open. Funny, they got Nole's ball bouncing dead on, but they decided to avoid Rafa's wedgie pull, too bad.

13 November, 2011

Still The Best (Of The Rest)

When Roger Federer claimed the first Paris Masters title of his career, in a 6-1, 7-6 (3) win over home favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga it certainly revised the rap on Federer's 2011 from dire to at minimum, acceptable.  Coming into this fall season, Federer had only captured the crown at Doha back in January.  In the intervening months, he lost the Roland Garros final to his irrepressible younger rival Rafael Nadal; then watched Nadal's mojo, No. 1 ranking and a raft of titles get hijacked by another still younger rival, Novak Djokovic. With the surge of younger players, Federer turned 30, usually the age where players start thinking about retirement communities of tax haven nations.  Then to add insult to injury, Andy Murray, the black sheep of the Big Four, also passed him in the rankings after a strong Asian swing, winning titles in Bangkok, Tokyo and Shanghai while Federer sat idle.

05 November, 2011

Citizen Player?

The top 100 or so players on the WTA and ATP tours all have pretty impressive collections of passport stamps.  Both tours field events in more than 30 countries annually bringing this global game to fans from Canada to Australia and everywhere in between.  The game's stars are, not surprisingly, a similarly international lot.  World No. 2 Rafael Nadal is a hometown kinda guy, born and bred in Manacor, Mallorca.  On the other hand, his longtime rival Roger Federer might draw a lot of fans waving Swiss flags to the stands, but he's equally at home in his other base in Dubai.  WTA world No. 4 Maria Sharapova lives down the road from my buddy in Manhattan Beach, CA (he goes to her Starbucks), although she plays under the Russian flag.  To be fair, it's not just the superstars, lesser known WTA player Varvara Lepchenko was born in Uzbekistan and now, a naturalized citizen, plays for the US and is based in Allentown, PA, maybe a thirty minute drive from where I grew up.
The borderless nature of tennis raises an intriguing question.  In this sport, what exactly is the value of national identity?

03 November, 2011

Blacklabel Tennis November 2011 Power Rankings

Who's as hot as they come this fall?  Who's in absolute freefall?  Here's our take after the last month of tennis.  We call it the Blacklabel Tennis Power Rankings, enjoy.

1. Novak Djokovic (SRB) Last Month: (1)

The man is still the man.  A back injury may have truncated his planned fall campaign, it may lessen his credentials in the "best season ever" discussion;  but yeah, ho hum, who cares?  The Serbian superstar, aka Robo-Nole, is still the man to beat whenever he takes the court.  In part, because he's got that locker room intimidation factor that's worth a nervous break even if his game isn't completely firing.  He doesn't even need to show up the rest of 2011 to be the favorite in Australia.  Then again, there's nowhere to go from here, but down.  Well, at least, Nadal, Murray, Federer and err, every other man playing ATP level tennis hope that's the case.  

25 October, 2011

WTA Championships Year-End Oddsmaking

Seriously, did Sasha Vujacic dress Maria for the photo shoot?
Eight women have flown into Istanbul with a chance to win the 2011 WTA Year-End Championships, the very last prize of this women's tennis season.  For the most part, the women have been quite a generous bunch, sharing this year's major tournaments with Kim Clijsters (who did not qualify for the YEC), Na Li/Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Samantha Stosur each taking home one major this year.  They also spread the wealth with regard to WTA tour titles, with World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki leading the tally with six, followed by Petra Kvitova (five) and Agnieszka Radwanska (three).  What's all this sharing mean?  You almost stop thinking about who is best suited to win this event (head-to-heads, surface, streaks, etc.) and start thinking whose turn is it to come good?  It's damn near impossible to handicap the field going into this event.  That won't stop us from trying though.

20 October, 2011

Erase the Wozsterisk

It might feel like we just left the sunny, bright blue rectangles and liquid heat of Melbourne, but in a little over two weeks the 2011 WTA season will be over.  The WTA Year End Championships will debut with the world's top eight players in Istanbul next week, followed by the Consolation Games, with much of the next 16 in Bali a week later.

We've seen surprises aplenty from the women this year, Na Li reaching two major finals and coming good at Roland Garros; Petra Kvitova solidifying her young gunnette status winning the Venus (aka the big plate) at Wimbledon; Serena Williams on the razor's edge of life and death this spring and then razor's edge of calm and rage just a few months later.  It surely hasn't been a dull ten months in women's tennis, even if there hasn't been a dominant force to galvanize fans...other than the Wozsterisk.

15 October, 2011

Leave It To Soccer Fans... (Rated R for Language)

Soccer fans are known for the chants they use to get under the skin of the opposing players and sometimes the opposing crowd.  Every now and again, they'll even take on...Roger Federer?!?

This moderately vulgar, if not particularly creative, chant was videotaped during Montenegro's 2-0 loss to Switzerland during a Euro 2012 qualifier.  At least we haven't heard this one broken out in the Upper Promenade of Arthur Ashe Stadium...yet.

(via Tennis-X)

02 October, 2011

Serena Update from Aussie Open Twitter

Seventeen hours after our original exchange, the Australian Open has clarified their earlier tweet saying that Serena Williams is due to play in Melbourne in January.  After a bit of excitement, we can put this Twitter-built rumor to rest.

01 October, 2011

Breaking: Serena Williams out of Australia?

Bad news, friends and fans of women's tennis, according to the Twitter exchange I just had with @AustralianOpen, the Australian major's official Twitter account, it appears that the health concerns that are keeping Serena Williams out of Asia this fall may, in fact, keep her from contending for a sixth Australian Open crown this coming January.

18 September, 2011

Look Back, Look Ahead

When we left the bright blue courts and sometimes otherworldly heat of Melbourne at the end of January, there were some things we knew about this 2011 tennis season and others we had no clue about.  Now with the year's final major, the US Open, a week in the rear-view mirror, let's take a look back to look ahead.

17 September, 2011

Visions from Flushing

Although the US Open is well in the rear view mirror by now.  I've just had a chance to go through the literally more than a thousand shots I took during the tournament.  If you haven't been frequenting our Facebook page, a selection of my best/favorite shots from the Fortnight are up in our Facebook page 

If you like what you're reading, follow for more on Twitter: @VBlacklabel or join us on Facebook  

12 September, 2011

Finals at Flushing - 2011 US Open Men's Final Preview & Prediction

One more match.  Two Mondays ago this 2011 US Open was full of possibility.  Now, it's all history with the exception of the men's final.  Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will contend for the US open championship on Monday afternoon.  Here's how we see things unfolding.

11 September, 2011

Finals At Flushing - US Open 2011 Women's Finals Previews & Predictions

After two long unpredictable weeks, the de facto end of the 2011 tennis season is upon us, US Open Finals "Weekend."  It's a pity that in the greater sports universe, the US Open finals are always overshadowed by the first weekend of NFL games, because as you saw yesterday, the tennis is often electric.  Nevertheless, hardcore tennis fans like myself don't care.  My Eagles are on at 1 and Serena/Stosur starts at 4 or so.  Looks good to me.  I just know better than to think I can watch the finals at my local watering hole.

Tennis may have some major competition on SportsCenter, but our sport couldn't have done much better than these two finals matchups.  What's going to happen between Serena and Stosur, Rafa and Robo-Nole?  Read on for our women's preview.

10 September, 2011

US Open Semifinals Day - 3 Thoughts

Steal This Design - It seems that the US Open was inspired by Melbourne Park's Margaret Court Arena when they built the similarly sunken, circular Court 17 at the USTABJKNTC.  Well, when they finally decide that Arthur Ashe Stadium must go, I suggest that they again look to their Antipodean colleague.

08 September, 2011

The Halfway Mark - US Open Revisionist Predicting Men

What naturally follows a week of perfectly good weather at the US Open?  Well, of course a semmingly interminable bout of rain.  For this blogger, the best thing about the rain is that I've been able to catch up on sleep and this long delayed post will still be relevant when I wrap it up.

While Mother Nature gave this writer a well-timed breather the players, especially those in the bottom half of the men's draw, may not feel as refreshed by this unscheduled break in the tournament.  At this point, we're straddling the Round of 16 and the quarterfinals, there are 12 men left in the tournament of the 128 who've entered.  With a week behind us and a week's worth of tennis in front of us (no matter how few days the remaining matches are crammed into), we re-look at the men's draw and do some revisionist predictions.

05 September, 2011

The Halfway Mark - US Open Revisionist Predicting (Women)

Monday marks the halfway point of the 2011 US Open.  It will have been seven days since the gates of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center opened to the world and it will be another seven (weather permitting) until they close.  The Open is a ruthlessly efficient affair, as I write this, 116 women and 112 men have been dismissed.  Some, like Conor Niland and Heather Watson are stories for merely having been here.  Others like Maria Sharapova and Juan Martin del Potro were serious title contenders whose quests for further grand slam glory were seemingly deferred, though perhaps ultimately denied, by the hands of fate and inspired opponents.

There will be time for reflection when the tournament's over, but now our gaze turns to those who remain, the 16 men and 12 women still competing for a US Open singles crown.  We'll pretend we've been right until now and help you fill out the remainder of your 2011 US Open Women's Bracket.

03 September, 2011

US Open Day 5 - 3 Thoughts

I took the day off actually attending the US Open today and experienced the tournament like the rest of the world, via TV.  Of course, the day I pretend that a major tennis tournament isn't happening seven miles from my couch turns out to be the day I've been waiting for all week.  Big upsets, barnburner matches and breakthroughs marked day five, here's Blacklabel Tennis' thoughts on the day.

02 September, 2011

US Open Day 4 - 3 Thoughts

Carlos Berlocq is a 28 year old veteran who's never been past the 2nd round of a major.  That said, he's a solid pro ranked No. 69 in the world.  Berlocq beat solid 70th ranked Spaniard Pere Riba in straight sets for a place in the 2nd round of this US Open and what happened after...?  Well, Novak Djokovic made him look like a rank amateur.

01 September, 2011

US Open Shots of the Day

Hey guys, in addition to tweeting and actually trying to watch a few matches, I'm going to be posting a few  pictures from the Open on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/BlacklabelTennis

Some of my favorites from days 2 and 3 are up, I'll go back and make some day 1 selections soon.  Here's a favorite from yesterday, a celebratory Jack Sock, moments before his first main draw US Open victory.

US Open Day 3 - 3 Thoughts

Today, lots of thoughts about American players and how they fared today.

First off, Big John Isner should send all sorts of autographed college football paraphernalia or other gifts to Robin Soderling.  The 6th ranked Swede's withdrawal today (with the same illness that derailed his summer), gave the American 28th seed a much friendlier path to the 4th round; one that now goes through Robby Ginepri and the winner between Alex Bogomolov Jr. and a Brazilian lucky loser, Rogerio Dutra da Silva who only played 3 ATP level matches this year coming into the US Open. 

31 August, 2011

US Open Day 2 - 3 Thoughts

Before the match started, I told my friend a little about Serena Williams' opponent, Bojana Jovanovski.  The basics, she's 19 year old Serb ranked 54th in the world who's had some solid results this year; a very good young player who could give Serena a test.  Hahahahaha, wrong; not about Jovanovski being a good player, but her being able to test Serena was laughable.  Not this Serena, not this night.  

30 August, 2011

US Open Day 1 - 3 Thoughts

As we watch this year's US Open we will begin each day with a brief recap of the prior day's action.

It's got to be tough to be Maria Sharapova.  No, I'm not talking about the annoyances that come with her good looks, fame or fortune, I'm talking about the ones that come with her game.  Before her match yesterday, I tweeted that win or lose, I hoped the yips wouldn't be a factor.  Of course, no sooner did that thought reach the ether did the Sharapova serve go completely and utterly off the rails.  You have to give credit where credit is due, for two sets, the 104th ranked young Brit, Heather Watson, gave Sharapova all she could handle, but there were two thoughts I couldn't shake.  

29 August, 2011

US Open Draw Breakdown 2011 - Men's

The US Open is the last chance.  With over four months until the entirety of the tennis world reconvenes in Australia, for better or for worse, how a player performs at the US Open tends to define their year.  Here's our 2011 US Open men's bracket breakdown.

23 August, 2011

Seeding Serena

How do you seed a player like Serena?  It seems the entirety of the tennis world is asking the USTA that question, and everyone has their own (detailed) opinion, including this guy.  So what's Blacklabel Tennis' take on the matter?

21 August, 2011

Return of the Djokester

I'm a couple of days late on this, but I had to share it with you.  Just as soon as I was ready to dub him  Robo-Nole, the Djokester re-emerges.  Obviously, bored with his domination of the men's tour, Novak Djokovic is back to imitating Maria Sharapova, this time in a commercial/viral video for their racquet maker, Head.

Maria responded on her Facebook page:

The Sunday Line, 8/21/11

Making the call on this weekend's Cincinnati Masters finals

Western & Southern Open
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA (Hard)

Andy Murray
Novak Djokovic

I believe, if I'm counting correctly, that the Cincinnati Masters marks the gazillion-and-first final this year for Djokovic (aka Robo-Nole).  The Serb has truly captured lightning in a bottle this season.  Even when he looks, to an outsider, as if he wants to pack up his racquet bag and check out of the Marriott (vs. Monfils - QF, vs. Berdych - SF), the universe seems to find ways to push him along to his destiny, which today is a 57-1 match record and a shot at a sixth Masters title this year.  The previous record was four.  Djokovic will face off against Dunblane native Andy Murray for the third time this year.  

14 August, 2011

The Sunday Line, 8/14/11

Making the call on this weekend's ATP and WTA finals.

Rogers Cup
Toronto, Canada (Hard)

Samantha Stosur
Serena Williams

As quickly as she's rounded her way into form it's easy to forget that Serena Williams is officially ranked 80th in the world and is only playing her fourth tournament of 2011.  As quickly as the wheels fell off after her upset loss to Francesca Schiavone in the Roland Garros final a year ago, it's easy to forget that this time last year Sam Stosur was a top five player who many tennis pundits were pegging as a future Grand Slam champion and potential World No. 1.  Such is tennis, the sport rewards those with the resilience and selective memories to put disappointment behind them consistently and bounce back to fight another day.

10 August, 2011

Blacklabel Tennis Guide To The 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 can'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 most of 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.

04 August, 2011

Blacklabel Tennis Power Rankings - August 2011

Yep, it's that time of the month again.  Welcome to the second edition of the Blacklabel Tennis Power Rankings.  The idea's pretty simple, we'll tell you who the top ten players are RIGHT NOW every month, why they're hot, why they're cold and why you need to pay attention going forward.  Agree? Disagree?  Leave it in the comments.

In all honesty, a lot of the top dogs have been silent since we released the July rankings after Wimbledon, but there has been a bit of movement, including a strong showing by you know who...

1. Novak Djokovic (SRB) Last Month: (1)
Novak Djokovic hasn't done a lot wrong since he took the top post last month.  Sure, he lost his doubles match in a Davis Cup tie that Serbia won anyway and there was that photo, but has he done anything to make us believe he's not the best tennis player on Planet Earth right now?  Nope, I'd say not.  It'll be interesting to see if the month-long break rejuvenates him or saps his mojo.  Every player reacts differently to the time off and the lack of matchplay could leave him vulnerable to an early round upset in Montreal.  Montreal, belle ville though it is, is not the goal, New York, the US Open is. He may not sweep the hardcourt Masters, but at the moment, Djokovic is still the best player on the surface, as such, he leads the Power Rankings.    

27 July, 2011

Is Del Potro Back?

When you write about tennis, you tend to read a lot about it too. The other day, I was checking out a post over at The Fan Child's blog on Juan Martin Del Potro, specifically whether or not the 6'6" Argentine was back.  What originally began as a comment on his blog got longer and longer and well, turned into the full post you see here.  My question isn't "Is Del Potro back" it's "What does 'back' mean?"

24 July, 2011

The Sunday Line, 7/24/11

Making the call on this week's ATP & WTA Singles Finals

Atlanta Tennis Championships
Atlanta, GA, USA (Hard)
John Isner
Mardy Fish

The US Open Series kicks off in Hotlanta with two Americans in a rematch of last year's final and my how things have changed since that meeting.  Fish, once a perennial also-ran is now a solid, if unspectacular, top ten player.  Isner, the 6'10" ex-golden boy, on the other hand, is here trying to arrest a slide in the rankings that has him on the verge of going into the US Open unseeded.  

23 July, 2011

Legends In Their Fall

Lleyton Hewitt at the Atlanta Tennis Championships

The beauty and brutality of tennis is that it's an exercise in solitude.  Unlike in team sports, there's simply nowhere to hide in tennis. We don't have baseball's rehab starts, football's injured reserve or basketball's veteran minimum salary.  Tennis fans don't even have the solace of rooting for the uniform.  We can't hope that someday the tennis equivalents of Red Sox or the Knicks make good, even if it's a couple decades after we first fell for the team.  That's right Richard Gasquet fans, your boy doesn't have forever. 

19 July, 2011

Get On The Puddlejumper

Quick multiple choice question


a.) A long few weeks for a corporate road warrior
b.) The route my lost luggage took to get home from Atlanta
c.) A great opportunity to rack up frequent flyer miles
d.) Mardy Fish's US Open Series summer schedule

If you answered D...well, at least you know what kind of website you're on.

15 July, 2011

Best Wishes to Alisa Kleybanova

This update comes late in the day, but the sentiments are no less sincere.  We want to join the chorus wishing the best to Russia's Alisa Kleybanova.

She announced today, on her 22nd birthday, that she has been diagnosed with 2nd stage Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  She is currently undergoing treatment in Italy.  In a statement released today on the WTA Tour website, Alisa said:

      "It's not an easy time for me right now. I have Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer. I'm having treatment in Italy and it's going well, but it takes lots of patience and time, and I need to be really strong and positive to go through this. I still have a few more months of treatment to go. But the good news is, if I feel well after I'm done with everything, there's a chance that I'll be able to play tennis again. There is nothing for sure, but the chance is a big hope for me and it helps me to stay positive and focus on my healing every single day! I really miss playing - I miss seeing fans and friends around the world, I miss hitting the ball, I miss everything. Tennis has been my life for the last 15 years."

Alisa's full statement can be read on WTATennis.com here 

Her phone interview with Tennis Channel's Cari Champion can be seen here

09 July, 2011

Photo Album: International Tennis Hall of Fame

With the eyes of the tennis world turned toward the International Tennis Hall of Fame today, I thought I'd take a second to share this shot from last year's Hall of  Fame Induction Ceremony in Newport, RI.

Always Andre

Growing up much more a brain than a jock in my hometown, my dad had an interesting theory on me and sports.  A former high school football player and mid-distance sprinter himself, he decided he wanted me to play a sport, but not one where head injuries were par for the course.  Given the recent scrutiny around football and concussions, dad might have been ahead of his time when he first put a racquet in my hand.

I'm not sure if it was my first racquet, but it was certainly my favorite.  It was a Wilson, laminated wood with an orange stripe on the throat, it bore the signature of some player I was too young to recognize at the time, and whose celebrity is too faded for me to remember now.  Secondhand, with a wooden racquet holder and black and white strings that I beat until they broke a year or two later.  I should point out it was the late 80s at this point.  There were metal frames on the market, but none that cost a dollar, so, it was decided, I would learn like the old masters.

I hated the game too.  Should I mention that?

07 July, 2011

Davis Cup Quarterfinals Preview

Just a week after the biggest event in tennis is the event Wimbledon and the other majors dethroned, the Davis Cup.  What commenced as a US vs. Britain challenge in 1900, now includes more than 130 countries in a relegation style system competing for the eponymous trophy and its comically oversized base.  Depending on who you ask, the Davis Cup is either one of the most revered events in tennis or an archaic sprawling mess that unnecessary clogs the calendar.  

Davis Cup is tennis' only true team competition, no one player can win it all himself.  There are five matches, four singles, one doubles and at most any one player can only play their two singles matches called "rubbers" and cover half the doubles court, meaning countries with two strong singles players generally have the best shot at the title.  This focus on team feels completely out of place in a sport that is overwhelmingly an individual pursuit and is met with mixed reactions from the players.  Roger Federer has famously been criticized in some quarters for his lack of commitment to the event.  Since 2004, when he won his two singles points and couldn't pull out the doubles against France, Federer has only played World Group playoffs to try to keep Switzerland from being relegated to lower level competition.  We can only guess he figured Yves Allegro, Marco Chiudinelli and Stanislas Wawrinka didn't need his help to get the title.  Andy Roddick, presumably thrilled to find a tennis court where Federer wasn't dominant, has made Davis Cup a career long commitment, helping the US to the 2007 title.  Federer, though, is more the exception to the rule, other top players largely have embraced the event, even while railing against its byzantine scheduling.  Novak Djokovic and Serbia won the 2010 title, apparently turning him nearly invincible, while the Spanish armada have won three times in recent years with Rafael Nadal figuring prominently.

05 July, 2011

Photo Album: Djokovic and Nadal, circa 2007

I know it's been a tough few days for the Rafaelites, but I figured both you and the Djoke-sters could get a chuckle out of the following photo.

Djokovic aiming for Nadal, Roland Garros, May 29, 2007

On my "about" page, I reference myself as being an amateur photographer.  I'd say rank amateur, but in all honesty, I think I have a decent eye and get a few good shots.  This was taken on a practice court at Roland Garros back in 2007, but it seemed particularly apropos this week.  I guess we could say that Novak Djokovic finally finished the shot on Rafael Nadal that he was lining up there.

04 July, 2011

Djokovic Returns Home to Belgrade

Just in case anyone thought I was exaggerating when I called Novak Djokovic a national hero in Serbia, here's video of his return to Belgrade last night.

Any Bruins fans want to compare to what they saw in Boston a couple of weeks ago?

First tweeted by James LaRosa of Tennis Channel

Blacklabel Tennis Power Rankings - July 2011

Welcome to the first edition of the Blacklabel Tennis Power Rankings.  The idea's pretty simple, we'll tell you who the top ten players are RIGHT NOW every month, why they're hot, why they're cold and why you need to pay attention going forward.  Agree? Disagree?  Leave it in the comments.

Anyone want to take a wild guess who's at the top?

1. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
What's left to say?  Australian Open champion, Wimbledon champion, World 
No. 1 ranking, long term lease in the head of one, Rafael Nadal.  The man who single-handedly destroyed the gluten industry.  Oh, and one more thing, he's going into his favorite part of the year, the American hardcourt swing.  Right now, only two things can derail Djokovic, injury or complacency.  I don't think the latter is a possibility.  There's still a lot he wants to win and his next order of business will be claiming that US Open trophy from a guy he's beaten five times in a row.

03 July, 2011

NBC Called Out at Wimbledon

Just moments after the last balls were struck at the All England Club came the news that change wasn't only coming to the roll of honour at the All England Club with new men's and women's champions crowned this year, but that going forward the Championships would have a new broadcast home in the United States as well.

Sports Business Journal's John Ourand is reporting that next year, NBC, which has carried Wimbledon for the last 43 years, will no longer air the tournament.  According to Ourand's tweets, a statement from the network read "We are proud of our 43-year partnership with the All England Club and while we would have liked to have continued our relationship, we were simply outbid."

All In The Head - Wimbledon 2011 Men's Final Recap

This year, I was lucky enough to attend the men's final at the Australian Open.  It was my first Aussie Open and only my second men's final at any major.  I'd built an itinerary that would let me travel through Eastern Australia after the early rounds (my favorite part of a tournament to attend) bringing me back to Melbourne for the finals.  I remember, I had just arrived in Sydney when I saw that Rafael Nadal had lost to David Ferrer in the quarterfinals.  I was bitterly disappointed.  Not only was the bid for the historic Rafa Slam was finished, but I would also be denied a chance to witness an almost mythical Nadal/Roger Federer matchup live.  When Federer fell in the next round to Novak Djokovic, I briefly wondered if I could dump the (not inexpensive) ticket.  Then I thought, well, Djokovic vs. Andy Murray could actually be a great matchup.

Djokovic and Murray were the Nos. 3 and 4 players in the world and without facing either Nadal or Federer or their respective auras, they would be free to show their best tennis.  Well, we all know how that ended.  Djokovic would throttle Murray, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.  Virtually everyone watching that match came away with one of two thoughts, either "Wow, this Murray kid might be No. 4, but he's been thoroughly outclassed tonight" or "Watch out world, Djokovic is much, much better than we thought."  In an early post that first ran on my buddy's blog, The Rally Cap, I wrote of Djokovic after that match, "He's a legitimate threat to win at 3 of the 4 majors and his Wimbledon results haven't exactly disappointed either."  My early prediction would prove prescient, but shaky on the details.  Your 2011 Wimbledon champion is Novak Djokovic.