30 June, 2011

But This Is Wimbledon

While Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga continue to march their way toward Breakfast at Wimbledon, some may find it distasteful to instead reflect upon the fallen, upon a man who didn't measure up at his time of asking.  The fact remains though, this is Roger Federer; this is Wimbledon. Like it or not, this is the story of the round. Ultimately, on this, the biggest stage in the sport, for the second year running, Federer would be defeated in the quarterfinals, this time bowing out to Tsonga 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4

29 June, 2011

Wimbledon Day Eight (3 Thoughts)

It seems that with every major, a storyline emerges that defines not only the fortnight, but the immediate landscape of the game.  The women's game of late, has been dominated by an absence of dominance.  Where Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray provide a level of stability and star power to the men's game, the women have been searching for a champion in more ways than one.

27 June, 2011

Wimbledon Day Seven (3 Thoughts)

No tennis fan worth his or her salt expected Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro to play this match in a drama-free, light-hearted manner.  A beatdown was never in the cards, what ensued, however, was far more drama than we bargained for.  Nadal pulled out the victory over the 6'6" Argentine 7-6 (6), 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4.  Everyone knew this was the most titanic of matchups, two adversaries with massive artillery ready to lay waste to the lawns of ever genteel Wimbledon.  The only thing dampening the potential of a blockbuster rivalry between the Spanish speaking titans has been injury which has been less a subtext and more the headline of their history.

26 June, 2011

Revisionist Predicting (Wimbledon's Sweet 16 - WTA)

I consider myself a pretty savvy tennis fan.  I watch tournaments, go to tournaments, read the press and generally keep up with the sport on a daily basis.  By the time I get to a major there's usually a player or two whom I've heard of, but need to see play.  I can't remember the last time we made it to the fourth round of a Wimbledon and two players are in the mix who I not only couldn't pick out of a lineup, but have frankly never heard of before.

I'm also a pretty honest guy, after the men's preview, I'm tired, so forgive me Billie Jean King and Stacey Allaster, here's a slightly truncated (but no less accurate) Wimbledon women's round of 16 preview.

Revisionist Predicting (Wimbledon's Sweet 16 - ATP)

To translate for my brethren who are general sports fans, Monday is Wimbledon's Sweet 16 round.  All of the remaining players in the draw will take the court (British weather permitting) for a shot at the quarterfinals.  The 128 men who showed up a week ago with aspirations, however faint, of hoisting the Wimbledon trophy are down to 16 and there are only a few unexpected contenders among them.  In short, expect some early 4th of July fireworks at the All England Club.

Here's your Wimbledon men's round of 16 preview:

25 June, 2011

Wimbledon Day Six (3 Thoughts)

As soon as we dub the youth movement in women's tennis dead, we know it will rear its head once more.  Consider this, the youngest women's major champion in the past year was a then 27-year old ex-retiree named Kim Clijsters.  Today, another member of the "old guard" 31 year-old Francesca Schiavone faced a woman more than a decade her junior, Austrian Tamira Paszek, for a spot in the 4th round of Wimbledon.

When we first saw Paszek at the US Open playing the junior final in 2006, she was a 15-year old can't miss prospect.  A year later, she had briefly cracked the Top 40 in the world, won her first WTA title and had reached the fourth round at both Wimbledon and the US Open.  Well, then...not a lot until today.

Wimbledon Day Five (3 Thoughts)

Imagine we're having a drink and talking tennis.  Somewhere in the conversation, I say player X has been in the year end Top 10 nine consecutive times, won 30 career titles, made 5 major finals, led his team to the Davis Cup and that he sucks, you'd look at me like I had three heads.  If I said Andy Roddick sucks, I bet half of you would nod in agreement.  By the way, that was his resume I was quoting above.

24 June, 2011

Wimbledon Day Four (3 Thoughts)

When you've won the US Open and Wimbledon, not to mention, been a year end No. 1 twice, you're obviously a player who takes a lot of pride in your tennis.  To channel Lleyton Hewitt, amplify that pride a few fold and you might approximate how Hewitt feels about the sport.  When that's how you feel, a second round loss at Wimbledon isn't on the agenda.  Sometimes though, you don't set your own agenda.

23 June, 2011

Wimbledon Day Three (3 Thoughts)

The story of an athlete is not only written by his or her talent,work ethic or determination, they can inform only half of the story  The other half is written by their bodies.  An athlete's body may be many things, but it is undeniably their meal ticket.  Without a healthy, fit body, all the will and talent in the world are for naught, just ask Tommy Haas.

21 June, 2011

Wimbledon Day Two (3 Thoughts)

Today reminded me not only of why I love tennis, but why I love sports.  In an earlier piece, I discussed dominance and the difficulty of appreciating dominant champions.  Whether we're talking about Roger Federer, Jimmie Johnson or Manchester United there's a simple, common and unquestionable truth.  The price of winning is often being vilified.

20 June, 2011

Wimbledon Day One (3 Thoughts)

Rafael Nadal looked more comfortable opening his title defense today at Wimbledon than he did throughout the whole of Roland Garros as he knocked off American Michael "Iron Mike" Russell 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.  Why?  Well, yes, the Djokovic losses likely dented his psyche, but here's a theory, maybe playing on clay feels less natural now to Nadal than it did years ago.

Blogging Advisory: Wimbledon (Twitter Watchers)

Every night during the majors and we plan to post a few thoughts from that day's action.

First, just a heads up.  The best and most immediate way to get my thoughts on the tennis is to follow me on Twitter @vblacklabel

Second, my posts and tweets will often be interrupted by my real life which consists of going to meetings and writing presentations that having nothing to do with tennis.  This means that on weekdays my posts, tweets, etc. will be sporadic.  If you have a serious tennis jones and my momentary check-ins via ESPN3 just aren't enough for you,  I'd highly suggest following one of the esteemed pros.

There are a number of solid tennis writers and I'm sure you can find your own favorites, but I'm particularly fond of:

  • Montreal Gazette's Stephanie Myles ( @OpenCourt  ) 
  • Matt Cronin ( @TennisReporters )
  • Chris Oddo ( @TheFanChild ) 
  • Tennis.com's own Federer and Nadal, Steve Tignor ( @SteveTignor ) and Pete Bodo ( @PTBodo )

19 June, 2011

Wimbledon Bracket Breakdown 2011 - Women's

Let's be honest, for the women, the story going into this year's Wimbledon can be summed in one word: Williamses.  Having the Williams sisters will be back on the turf they've dominated, bidding for their tenth Wimbledon crown in the last 12 years has electrified the women's draw.  Why are they the story when they've played a total of 3 events since the last Wimbledon?  Because in the year since Serena sliced her tendon in Munich none of the other women have merited more than momentary plaudits.  The WTA house is in a state of post-kegger disarray and only the Sisters Sledgehammer seem to have the juice to set things right.

Will they win it?  That's another story and in the bigger picture an irrelevant one.  There is positive intrigue around the women's side of a major right now for the first time in a long, long time.

How do we expect things to shake out in the 2011 Wimbledon women's draw?  Read on...

18 June, 2011

Wimbledon Bracket Breakdown 2011 - Men's

It's been a decade since a 19 year old upstart named Roger Federer mowed down King of Grass Pete Sampras in the 4th round of Wimbedon.  In the ten years hence, Roger Federer has figured in seven finals at the All England Club, much like his idol Sampras.  Whether or not is year's event will feature a match we look back on as a changing of the guard remains to be seen.   As in 2001, we might not even know that definitively when the tournament's over.   Federer lost his next match that year to Tim Henman and then dropped his 2002 first rounder to the injury-crossed Mario Ancic.  Since then he's only missed the final once, last year, when he was upended by eventual finalist Tomas Berdych.

Another man who's spent a few Sundays at Wimbledon is two time defending champion Rafael Nadal.   The Mallorcan native has reached the final in four of the last five years, only missing the final weekend when he missed the whole tournament in 2009.

Federer and Nadal have defined this era accounting for the last eight Wimbedon titles, will another era start at this year's event or will the last decade's greatest champions extend their dominance into the '10s.  Every tournament delivers its share of fluky occurrences, take Novak Djokovic's momentum sapping four day mini vacation in Roland Garros, but an educated look at the draw is the closest thing we have to a crystal ball. Let's see what the 2011 Wimbledon men's singles draw reveals:

16 June, 2011

Bad Times Are Right Around The Corner

As a former resident of Boston, last night my Twitter feed and Facebook page erupted with messages congratulating the Bruins for their Stanley Cup victory.  I have to echo that it was well-deserved and the culmination of a hard-fought series that, dare I say, put hockey squarely back on the US sports radar.  Amidst all the "Go Bruins!" and accounts of Canadian rioting (which seems like an oxymoron) was a post from my buddy Aaron that got me thinking, he wrote:

     The Patriots officially have the longest championship drought of any major Boston sports team.  How the hell did that happen!?

13 June, 2011

Victory Lap

Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got til it's gone? - Joni Mitchell

Since Venus' professional debut in 1994, there has not been a more polarizing or dominant presence in the tennis world than the Sisters Sledgehammer, Venus and Serena Williams.

11 June, 2011

The Sunday Line (ATP) - 12 June 2011

Making the call on this week's ATP singles finals

AEGON Championships - London, UK
              Andy Murray                                                                                   Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
2nd seeded Andy Murray and 5th seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will square off in London at venerable Queen's Club for the 2011 Aegon Championships title. 

The Sunday Line (WTA) - 12 June 2011

Making the call on this week's WTA singles finals: 

e-Boks Sony Ericsson Open - Copenhagen, Denmark

       Caroline Wozniacki                                             Lucie Safarova

Why is there a hardcourt tournament scheduled in Denmark between Roland Garros and Wimbledon?  More importantly, why is that tournament the only tune up that WTA No. 1 and No.1 press punching bag Caroline Wozniacki is entering prior to Wimbledon?  Well, the event is in her home country and I'm sure there's an appearance fee that makes playing more than worth her time, but if winning a major is as much her priority as it is the press corps', then Caroline's got an odd sense of logic.  

First Serve

Hello, welcome to my new site, Blacklabel Tennis.  I've been writing about tennis over the last year for my buddy over at The Rally Cap and felt like it might be time to make more of a commitment.  It feels good to be writing again and hopefully you'll enjoy what I have to say.

For quick hits, follow me on Twitter @VBlacklabel.  Join our Facebook fan page and keep your eyes peeled.  We'll do some opinion pieces, some sparring (in a good way), some prognosticating, share some photos and if the powers that be comply, maybe even some interviews. There's a lot we want to accomplish with this blog, but it all starts here, today, with this post.

So you have an idea of what you're getting into and how I feel about the state of the current pro game, I've imported the posts I've written for the Rally Cap including my most recent entitled "Don't You Forget About Me" written in the immediate aftermath of this year's French Open.

That's it for now, but get involved, tell me what you think.  Let's talk some tennis.

05 June, 2011

Don't You Forget About Me

London may be the home of the world’s best known monarchy, but in the tennis world, Paris has seen its share of coronations.  Every May for the past five years, tennis fans, the international press and frankly the players, have trudged through the narrow paved pathways of Roland Garros, past the smaller dusty, red plots of Earth known as the outer courts expecting to see the familiar coronation.  The King of Clay, Rafa Nadal, wielding his Babolat sceptre in his left hand, was the man, until suddenly, he wasn’t.

Hey, winning the Australian Open and sweeping four of the year’s first five Masters events is a helluva way to siege the throne, no?  Walking into Paris holding seven titles this year, Novak Djokovic had suddenly relegated the King of Clay to second favorite, or bare minimum,1A.  Frankly, who couldn’t have forgiven the tennis world, even those who ought know better, for looking a bit past Nadal in their prognostications.