24 March, 2012

What Makes The GOAT?

Tennis Channel may have a tough time getting into as many homes as it wants, but it has had zero trouble stirring debate of late.  The American tennis-devoted network bridged (and brilliantly, I might add) the divide between the Indian Wells and Miami Masters with their five night countdown of the 100 "Greatest" Players of All Time.  While it may have been a blip on the radar of the greater sports universe, embroiled in the NFL's Peyton/Tebow/Sanchez saga and watching Ohio bust their March Madness brackets, the special certainly set tennis' chattering classes a-twitter, especially on Twitter, with a number of the rankings.  While we've stated previously in this space that it's impossible to answer the question of the greatest of all time definitively, we thought it would be worth sharing what we consider inviolable criteria for setting about the task.

18 March, 2012

The Sunday Line - BNP Paribas Open Finals


The year's second big tournament, the BNP Paribas Open, comes to a close with two unexpected finals. The WTA are fielding their first final between the top two ranked players in the world in the last four years, with World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka taking on a former No. 1 in Maria Sharapova.  On the other side, Rafael Nadal came into Saturday looking for another shot at Novak Djokovic in a Masters final...neither will hoist the trophy.  Newly minted top ten American John Isner will instead face longtime World No. 1 Roger Federer in what's likely to be a crowd-pleasing men's final in the California desert.  

But you knew that already.

How will Sunday's Indian Wells finals play out?  Well, we've got a pretty good idea about that one.

17 March, 2012

Yankee Rising

With the cannonball serve, 3-6 record on clay in 2011 and frequent tweets about pro wrestling, it's rather obvious that Big John Isner is an American.  What's less obvious, in a tennis world dominated by the near otherworldly exploits of the Big Four, is that this American is in the midst of a breakout season that could see him joining the Top 10 before he sets foot on the European clay.

Andy Murray's New Head Commercial

The good folks over at Head sent us Andy Murray's new spot for the racquet brand...which Blacklabel Tennis currently hits with as well, though to far less spectacular effect.  Check out Andy Murray's Radical Job Switch.

09 March, 2012

Life In The Desert

Every fall there's a fair bit of hand-wringing about the tennis offseason, or lack thereof.  That mythical period between early December and New Year's Eve where the sport presumably disappears.  Given the fact that most of the Western World is engrossed in (not to mention engorged during) the winter holidays, I guess the question is "If the world is too busy to notice that a tournament isn't happening, was there an offseason after all?"

Short answer: No.

To the players, those few weeks are largely an extended weekend or so of relaxation and then a few weeks of training to prep for the Australian summer circuit.  I would counter that the offseason, perhaps more accurately penned as "off-season," kicks off the day after the players leave Melbourne.  Yes, there are Davis and Fed Cup ties, the appearance fee-rich tournaments on the Arabian peninsula, the remnants (ruins?) of the Euro winter indoor circuit, Latin America's "Golden Swing" and even a bit of home cooking for the Americans; but in a sport that's truly a 24/7/365 enterprise, the post-Australian swing is more of a swoon.  Then there's Indian Wells.

06 March, 2012

How I Learned To Stop Thinking And Love The Exo

I'm a natural born cynic.  My parents may claim that my first word was "dada," but knowing me, I'm pretty sure it was "really?" said with all the petulant disdain a 1-year old (or a disinterested Serena Williams) could muster.  Such has always been my feeling on exhibition tennis, or "hit-and-giggles" as they're often known.  A little bit of disdain, a fair bit of disbelief and ultimately expecting to leave feeling as if I'd wasted my time.  I've always been the guy who would prefer to watch Jack Sock play Marc Gicquel on Court 17 at the US Open than two stars in a whistle-stop somewhere the tours fear to tread.

It was with this attitude that I walked into Madison Square Garden for the fifth BNP Paribas Showdown pitting Maria Sharapova versus Caroline Wozniacki and Andy Roddick against Roger Federer.  It's hard not to feel a bit put off by the idea of exhibitions.   Some fans (and sportswriters) rail against non-charity exos as thinly veiled cash grabs in a time when many of the tours' stars feel the actual sanctioned seasons are too long.  People supposedly "in the know" estimate and publicize that a player like Federer is supposed to have made a $1 million appearance fee just for showing up, doing a bit of press and feigning interest.  All while, the fact that the exos never affect a player's ranking nor have the prestige of a major or even a mid-level tournament, the sense of narrative, of import, that gives "real" tournaments an element of gravitas is sorely missing.

So why bother?