26 August, 2013

James Blake Will Retire After The 2013 US Open

The following article was written by Vito Ellison (@vblacklabel) for Blacklabel Tennis and Josh Meiseles (@TheSixthSet) for The Sixth Set, it appears on both sites.

It is a rite of passage; a somber yet appropriate custom that those who have carried the mantle of American tennis have partaken. Saying farewell to the game you love is never easy, but having the opportunity to do so surrounded by 22,000 people chanting your name provides a poetic sense of closure.

Cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium never feels so united, so intimate as it does when an American standard-bearer takes his final on-court wave nestled in the loving embrace of his home crowd.  Over the past decade, that scene has been replayed repeatedly. Rather than abruptly end their runs mid-season, or play out the string of European indoor events, most of the top American men have chosen Flushing Meadows as the last stop in their journey as ATP pros. Pete Sampras started the trend in legendary fashion, turning back Andre Agassi for the 2002 US Open crown, in what would be Sampras’ final match (though he didn’t officially retire until a year later on that same court). Michael Chang, Todd Martin and Agassi continued the tradition in 2003, ‘04 and ‘06, respectively. Last year it was Andy Roddick’s turn to say goodbye to the Ashe faithful.   In the footsteps of his predecessors, Roddick showed flashes of his vintage form in his last outing.  He ultimately he suffered a valiant defeat, this time at the hands of Juan Martin del Potro, before an appreciative crowd.

25 August, 2013

Blacklabel Tennis 2013 Guide To The US Open

When we launched BLT, one of our first posts was a Fan's Guide to the US Open.  We decided there were some updates in order to help you maximize your 2013 Open.  Without further ado, here's the Blacklabel Tennis Guide to the 2013 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 didn'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 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.

Janko, Looking Up

Given the volume of press ink and keystrokes they generate, writing a post about tennis without the names Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, Murray, Sharapova, Azarenka or either Williams seems almost as valuable a modern day skill for tennis writers as quill pen mastery.  That said, if we're taking the shot, why not turn our attention to one of the sport's other most compelling characters, Janko Tipsarevic.  The bespectacled, Dostoevsky-tatted, sometime EDM DJ who was ranked a career high 8th in the world a year ago talked to myself and Josh Meiseles of the Sixth Set in the run up to the year's final major.  Despite a tough go of it on court lately, the Serb found plenty of reasons for optimism.

20 August, 2013

5 Minutes With Maria

Rather unexpectedly yesterday, I found out that I'd have five minutes to talk with Maria Sharapova on behalf of Tennis Panorama.  I have to say if I was planning to have five minutes with Maria, I wouldn't have necessarily have selected a chic Fifth Avenue boutique as a venue.  Nor would I have invited in about 30 cameras, ten other reporters (and/or bloggers), various handlers, a couple hundred adoring fans or the WTA superstar's ATP pro boyfriend, who loomed about thirty feet away, largely unnoticed.  Still, no complaints here.

While it's been a tumultuous summer filled with injuries, coaching intrigue and uncharacteristic losses on court for Sharapova, we found her to be quite calm in the center of the media frenzy that frankly, she must be used to by now as arguably the most famous female athlete in the world.   The four-time major champion was amiable and not at all intimidating despite looking runway ready and matching my 6'3" height in her heels.  Maria was in New York, obviously for the US Open which commences on Monday, but also to launch Sugarpova's second set, an accessory collection, in association with Henri Bendel New York.  So, how did we spend our time together?  Maria and I discussed working with brands (ed. note: my own day job), building Sugarpova, connecting with her fans and of course, her tennis summer leading up to the US Open. I'm done rambling, here's my interview with Maria Sharapova.

19 August, 2013

5 For The Open: Rafa Playing For History

5 for the Open is a look at five storylines that will be major plot points going into 2013's final major, the US Open.

What are the odds of Rafael Nadal winning the 2013 US Open?  Well, they're infinitely better than they were back in February when we weren't sure if his balky knees would even let him play the tournament, let alone be marked as a prohibitive favorite.  Since those nervous first steps back onto the battlefield in Chile, the Spaniard has won his 8th title at Roland Garros, a record tying five Masters 1000 titles this season (Indian Wells, Rome, Madrid, Montreal and Cincinnati) and a season high 55 matches in 58 starts, including 15 consecutive wins on the North American hardcourts.  This is clearly the most steam the Rafa Express has ever had buggy-whipping its way into Flushing Meadows.  On the other hand, his biggest rivals Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are all searching for answers after uneven hardcourt runs.  As always, the draw will have its say, but all things being equal, it's hard not to consider Nadal the US Open favorite at this moment.