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.

02 July, 2011

Wimbledon Day Twelve (3 Thoughts)

What a performance today by Petra Kvitova!  I mean. yes, we predicted she would win before the start of the fortnight, but she truly impressed us in her 6-3, 6-4, 85 minute romp to the Wimbledon title over 5th seed Maria Sharapova.  We expected Kvitova to survive a quarter holding Vera Zvonareva, a reeling Jelena Jankovic and a rusty Venus Williams, but we weren't expecting Sharapova to be across the net in the final.

The Siberian siren cuts an intimidating figure, and not just for tongue-tied guys.  Her booming serve and never-say-die attitude have scorched many an opponent far more accomplished than the 21 year old she would face this morning. Still, we were convinced Kvitova would win and so was she.

Showdown At SW19 - 2011 Wimbledon Finals Preview & Predictions

This weekend, the eyes of the sports world will be trained on suburban London, SW19 to be exact, home of the Championships, Wimbledon.  Even American sports fans have the opportunity to get into the act here. While the Australian Open goes head-to-head with NFL playoffs, Roland Garros falls in the midst of NBA and NHL playoffs and the US Open final is played on the first Sunday of NFL season, Wimbledon owns the July 4th weekend, only splitting mindshare with midseason baseball.  That might even be a tagline for next year's coverage: Wimbledon, there's nothing else on!

In any event, the news coming out of the venerable All England Club is a major plus for broadcasters; even NBC, whose typically strong coverage has been overshadowed by their inexplicable, archaic reliance on tape delay.  (Note: As usual, NBC will air the finals live under the "Breakfast at Wimbledon" moniker.)

So who's going to win this thing...?  Read on for my 2011 Wimbledon Finals Predictions