Friday Links: Hall of Fame Edition

This weekend, down in Newport RI, Jennifer Capriati & Gustavo Kuerten will headline the group being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In honor of these two amazing tennis players, we’ll lead off this week with a couple of their highlights!

Old School SI Cover!

There were few who expected a 16 year old to win the Gold Medal against Stefi Graf, but Capriati did just that at the 1992 Olympics!

Everyone’s favorite Guga moment!

Terrific Bonnie Ford piece on Serena and her Gold Medal goal.

The US Open raises early round prize money (just like Roland Garros & Wimbledon), on the advice of the Big 4. As if we needed more reasons to praise them.

Rick Reilly compares Federer & Tiger.

Jon Wertheim tackles Serena & other topics in his first post-Wimbledon mailbag.

CNN/SI report card for Wimbledon.

Some awesome Wimbledon photos from the past 40 years.

Interview with Milos Raonic – who has not quite broken through yet, but is certainly on the verge…

I want Peter Bodo to write my autobiography one day…here is his piece on a “career defining” win from Federer.

And finally, one more slideshow. This one of all Wimbledon 2012 from Tennis.com.

 

2012 Wimbledon Review

I haven't jumped that high in...ever.

Let’s start with my age – 30. At the age of 30 I feel old in countless ways: I can no longer play tennis for any more than an hour without feeling it the next morning, no matter what time I go to bed I don’t sleep past 8am, I actually want to mow a lawn (that is, if I had one), I can’t have more than 3 alcoholic beverages without feeling their effects the next morning, etc, etc, etc. Meanwhile, in some parallel world (or, more simply, another country), Serena Williams & Roger Federer are winning Grand Slam tournaments at the same age! I don’t know whether to rejoice in the fact that, as I’ve been told countless times, life does indeed not end at 30; or get even more depressed at the gap in talent/stamina/athleticism/fill in the blank between myself and my fellow thirtysomethings. But enough about me…

Say what you want about Serena William’s attitude, her negative actions both on and off the court, whatever. For a few minutes, simply focus on her tennis game. To come all the way back from a serious medical condition and win Wimbledon for a 5th time (not to mention her 5th doubles title with her sister) is astounding. You will hear lots of people say that her winning is more evidence that the WTA is in dire straits right now, because if a seemingly out of shape Serena can take the Wimbledon Championships than no one at the top really deserves to be there. This is not the case. Azarenka played like a champion against Serena, Radwanska (save for the opening few games) would’ve beaten almost anyone else in Women’s tennis that day. The bottom line is when Serena is on, and when she is serving like Pete Sampras, I’m not sure that anyone in the history of the WTA could beat her. She might not be your favorite, she might actually be the exact opposite, but no matter what – she is the best. Kudos on your amazing fortnight, Serena.

I want to give Roger his own space here, so a quick word about the runner up. Andy Murray did not lose the finals, he simply got beat. He played like a top 4 player in the world, and lost to the guy who is now #1 in the world, and the greatest champion of this generation. Add on top of that he has the pressure of an entire nation on his shoulders (that is not an overstatement, if you believe it is then I urge you to go to London during Wimbledon next year), and I’d say he comprised himself in amazing fashion. And if your eyes didn’t get misty during his post match interview, you don’t have a soul.

As for Mr. Federer, the man just tied Pete Sampras for most Wimbledon Men’s Singles Championships (7) of all time, and in a week’s time will pass Pistol Pete for most weeks ranked #1. Does anything more need to be said? Probably not, but I’ll say it anyway. For me, Federer’s greatness is not measured in a single statistic – though the number of Grand Slam titles, or consecutive quarterfinal streak, or weeks at #1, etc. – but rather the body of work as a whole. Yes, I know he has a terrible win-loss record against Nadal…but consider that for Nadal to equal Federer’s quarterfinal streak (which now stands at 33), Nadal would have to make it that far in every Grand Slam he plays from now until the 2020 US Open. That is, of course, assuming Federer loses before the QF at this year’s US Open. Ha. Or how about that Federer is assured 287 weeks at #1, almost 6x as much as Djokovic and almost triple Nadal’s total. That gap will most likely tighten over the next couple of years, but it’s still staggering. And while there is a solid chance the likes of Djokovic, Nadal, or even Murray might challenge for the odd slam in 2017 (when they are all approximately Federer’s age now), I’ll let Milos Raonic have a free serve at my butt if any of them are consistently playing the final weekends of Grand Slams like Federer is now. At the age of 30, Federer is now ranked higher than other dominant players in his era who are in their primes…while there is no telling the future, I would be shocked of the same will be said of Nadal & Djokovic in five year’s time. Hell, for all we know, Federer will still be ranked #1 in 2017!

In summation, Serena and Roger and pretty damned good at tennis, and I feel privileged to be able to still watch them…even if my eyes are starting to go in my old age.

 

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2012 Wimbledon Preview

Though still fresh off some Parisian jet lag, we are super excited to be in London for Wimbledon with over 150 happy GSTT Patrons! On top of dinner parties, tennis academies, and an exclusive hospitality house, they are sure to see some amazing tennis as well. Over here in Wimbledon Village, there is obviously lots of talk about Andy Murray. Will he finally break through and capture a Grand Slam? Methinks that on top of the “Big 3” being in his way, the pressure for him to win at Wimbledon is simply too great. Now that Djokovic & Nadal have met in four consecutive Slam finals, it’s nearly impossible to pick against the same thing from happening again. That being said, Federer is still an obvious threat, and if it stays dry & quick big hitters like Berdych, Tsonga, Raonic, and Del Potro all have the potential to make waves. Also, look for the following players to create a headline or two, even if they fall short of the final 8 – Isner, Seppi, Cilic & Tomic.

Who will hoist this after the fortnight?

As for the Women, there are definitely quite a few names in the mix…but they’ll all have to get through Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova. Despite Serena’s awful result at Roland Garros, she is a four-time champion at the All England Club and won back to back titles just a couple of years ago. And while Sharapova faces the daunting task of winning Roland Garros & Wimbledon in the same year, if anyone is equipped to do it, she is. She has always been a stronger grass court player and with other top women playing so inconsistent lately, it would not surprise anyone to see her hoisting a 2nd straight slam trophy. The other women ranked in the top 5 (Azarenka, Kvitova, Radwanska & Stosur) all have a solid shot of making it to the final weekend as well. A bit deeper into the rankings, look out for Kerber, Lisicki, and someone whose last name ends in ‘Ova’ to also make a splash!

Here are what some others have to say!

ESPN Picks

Greg Garber

Sports Illustrated Picks

Peter Bodo

Steve Tignor

 

 

Friday Links: Jet Lagged Edition

So I finally have a minute to breathe between the end of Roland Garros and getting ready for Wimbledon, and I thought I’d stop by here since it’s been awhile. The French Open was certainly a blast, and full of amazing tennis – even though the two people holding the Championship Trophies at the end were anything but surprises. Nadal won a Grand Slam in just about as domination fashion as one could imagine, and Sharapova cemented her comeback into the top echelon of the sport with her win. Going into Wimbledon, it would not surprise me in the least if both prevailed again. What did surprise me in Paris? Let’s see: Isner exiting early (although Mathieu winning was definitely a feel good story), Serena losing in the 1st Round, other American women going 10-0 in the first round, Andy Roddick not making a deeper run (kidding, obviously), Federer not taking at least a set from Djokovic, and I think my two favorite stories were two guys on the opposite ends of their careers (Tommy Haas & David Goffin) winning multiple matches. What do other people have to say about Roland Garros & more? Read below.

Thumbs Up for these two!

Peter Bodo gives some Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down for Paris.

The mighty trio have won 28 of the past 29 Grand Slams…one will probably win the next as well.

Sharapova is all jazzed up about being #1 again. The question is, will it last?

Djokovic coming so close to holding all 4 Slam Titles at once begs this question to be asked.

Greg Garber offers some advice to Serena.

Not one, not two, not three…FIFTY thoughts on Roland Garros from Jon Wertheim. Definitely worth the read…

French Open Grades.

How will Novak recover? That’s just one question Bruce Jenkins answers.

Wertheim also gives us a mailbag this week!

A little break from analysis…here is some Lob instruction.

Finally, an early Wimbledon Video Preview!

Friday Links: Stressed Edition

Ok, so my tennis team has 4 matches in the next 5 days, and on Day 6 I leave for Paris. I’ll do my best to get a Roland Garros preview up before the start of the tournament, but for now deal with people who write better than

Adriano Panatta had some game back in the day...read the story below.

me anyway.

Peter Bodo comparing Madrid & Rome…Note: if you are tired of the blue clay thing avoid this link.

Ivan Ljubicic stirring up some needless controversy.

And more controversy amongst the top 3 women. Fun times.

The math on how Federer can climb back up to #1.

Wertheim thinks Nadal needs to can it every now and then.

Courtney Nguyen’s Madrid Report Card.

Good chance to learn a few quick things about Sloane Stephens.

An interesting look back at Adriano Panatta.

Which tennis stars made the Forbes ‘Most Powerful’ Celebs list?

Peter Bodo on the politics of the ATP.

 

 

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Friday Links: Blue Clay Edition

I love all the hype around the blue clay. This story is making everyone look bad in my opinion. On one side you’ve got tournament organizers, who many are claiming are simply doing to blue clay to stand out (is that such a bad thing?) and make more money. On the other hand are players that win millions of dollars a year for playing a sport complaining that they aren’t used to it. Come on, play. Everyone be quiet. And I’ll watch because I can finally see the ball!

It's so pretty...or is it?

Great piece from ESPN’s Kamakshi Tandon on the fall out for Madrid & Paris losing out on the Olympics.

Some of the aforementioned criticism.

This is one of the more inspiring tennis stories you will read this year. Wertheim weighs in on Brian Baker’s comeback as well.

I am not surprised that Jon Wertheim tackles the blue clay subject in his weekly mailbag.

Serena tackles subjects well outside of tennis on Piers Morgan.

A fun breakdown of which tennis stars could host Saturday Night Live.

Peter Bodo on the current WTA vs. ITF debate.

Can Melanie Oudin still make it all work?

Tennis Connected Podcast featuring…me!

And finally, blue clay is one thing…fluorescent balls though?

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Facebook Q&A, Part I

Tried something new out this week -  letting Facebook fans pose some questions on our page, and answering them here. Only a few people took advantage, but they asked some great questions so I’ll do my best to answer them below.

There are many Spanish & French players in the top 100, & yet only one Brit. Why?

Unfortunately I am not quite tapped into the tennis world enough to answer this question with any certainty, however, my initial thought is lack of resources. Whether or not the UK has the money and is not using it on tennis development, or they don’t have the money to spend in the first place is not something I know. That being said, the countries that put the money in develop more top talent- like France & Spain. Take the US, for example. Lots of us complain that we don’t have the likes of Agassi, Sampras, Connors, etc. anymore. While that is obviously true, that is more due to the fact with how global the game has become. There are still 7 male players from the USA ranked in the top 100, 6 more than the UK…and my guess is there is a pretty strong correlation between money spent on tennis development and top ranked players.

Most of the players I like are ranked 5-20. What tournament in the US would be the best to see them and what round? I’ve thought about Cincinnati or Toronto. (Men btw….)

I can’t answer this question honestly without saying the US Open. Even if you didn’t want to pony up for one of our travel packages, and just get some grounds passes or nosebleed seats, simply attending the US Open is something that should be on every fan’s bucket list. I’d recommend going during the earlier rounds, not only is it a bit cheaper but besides the Big 4, there is no guarantee your favorite is likely to survive the first week. Lots of people see Arthur Ashe Stadium on TV and that’s all they know about the US Open. However, the most fun I’ve had is patrolling the outer courts for some good matches where I can sit a few feet from the action. And yes, players inside the top 20 will play on outer courts, especially during the first few rounds.

When will the WTA put an end to all the “noise”? I’ve been able to watch very little women’s tennis this year (and I’ve been a fan for decades) b/c the grunting is unbearable.

I bet she was grunting...

In a word, never. I’m 30, and have been watching tennis pretty much for the past two decades, which means I started when Monica Seles was lighting up both the courts, and my ears. While fans constantly complain about it, and justifiably so, I might add, and some players voice their annoyance, the bottom line is until a large contingency of players takes a stand I doubt anything will get done. I also think this is a case where we are making just a tad too much of it; often times I find myself watching a women’s match featuring to grunters and it’s barely noticeable, until someone says something about it. If we collectively just start to ignore them, it might become more tolerable. As it stands, it might be our only option.

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Vacation Links

Between still playing catch up from my vacation week, and the depression that has yet to recede after last night’s Bruins early playoff exit, the below links are all I can muster up.

Nadal won Monte Carlo? Weird.

Was anyone else aware that the ATP event in San Jose is 123 years old? Sadly, it won’t reach 124.

Does this loss signify more in the land of US Tennis?

Wertheim weighs in on the global reach of tennis & more in his weekly mailbag.

Latest ESPN Power Rankings.

Will Nadal’s dominating victory over Djokovic in Monte Carlo be enough to turn things around in their rivalry?

Despite not competing for the actual Fed Cup Title, Team USA had a fun weekend in the Ukraine.

Christine Nguyen of CNNSI gives her grades for last week.

Yes, I know Fish is tired and sick, but must he really cross of the Olympics already?

Peter Bodo on the selfless actions of the top 4 names in ATP Tennis.

Whoa, someone actually praising the tennis calendar!

 

Friday Links: Clay Court Preview Edition

I’ll be the first to admit, with the Red Sox starting off their season (poorly, I might add), the Celtics looking poised to make a deep run in the playoffs, and the Bruins starting the defense of their Stanley Cup title, tennis news has not exactly been on the forefront of my mind recently. Luckily for you, I can scour the net for good articles better than any other. Here are the fruits of my labor:

Clearly, Mardy Fish is not close to 100%.

Need to see more of this from Mardy!

On the other hand, John Isner most certainly is. However, he has withdrawn from Monte Carlo to get in better shape for the remainder of the clay-court season.

Richard Pagliaro even warns the Roland Garros field of Big John.

Peter Bodo claims that Serena has found ‘religion’ in the Fed Cup.

Informative, succinct interview with Juan Monaco.

Clay-court preview courtesy of Ravi Ubha of ESPN.

Tignor’s Clay preview, parts one, two AND three.

1st quarter reports are in: 10 Great Performances, 5 Surprise Performances.

Finally, another stellar edition of Wertheim’s mailbag.

 

2012 Davis Cup Quarterfinal Review

Ok, as always, I think it’s important to go back and review how I did with my Davis Cup picks. For those that don’t trust me to divulge the truth about my original picks last week, either scroll down a few posts or click here.

USA vs. France – I picked France to win 3-2, and fortunately, I was wrong. I don’t think I was selling Isner short by predicting a close loss to Tsonga, but at the same time I don’t think I accounted for just how far Isner has come over the past few months. The bottom line is this – he should be mentioned with the other top guys (outside of the “Big 4″) as players capable of doing significant damage, on a regular basis, at the big events…much like Tsonga. Win or lose against Spain in September, what Big John has accomplished to date in the 2012 Davis Cup Tournament should go down in history as one of the most memorable runs in recent history for Team USA. One last note, lets give 1st timer Ryan Harrison a bit of credit as well for battling a bit in the opening rubber and taking a set off Tsonga. And oh yeah, the Bryans win again…and my taxes are due next week.

Big John gets it done again!

Austria vs. Spain – I picked Spain to win 4-1, and that’s exactly what they did. Honestly, Austria never had a chance in this tie. Spain just rolls way too deep, as exemplified by Team Austria’s failure to win a single set in any of the four singles rubbers. It’s impossible to tell who will play for Spain (or USA, for that matter) in the semifinals all the way in September, but with all their depth, and home court advantage, Team USA will certainly have their hands full.

Czech Republic vs. Serbia – I was close on this one, as I expected the Czech Team to win, I just figured it would be 3-2 as opposed to 4-1. You really have to give the MVP of this Tie to Tomas Berdych, who absolutely dismantled Troicki in the opening rubber to get the ball rolling for CR. Then, with the Tie knotted up at 1-1 after a thrilling five-set battle that saw Tipsarevic edging out Stepanek, Berdych carried his exhausted teammate to a doubles victory Saturday, before taking three straight tiebreakers in the opening rubber Sunday over Tipsarevic to seal the win. The combination of Stepanek and Berdych might not excite you the way a couple of Spanish players might, but these guys give the Czechs a solid chance going forward.

Croatia vs. Argentina – Ok, let’s get one thing straight first – I nailed this match, picked Argentina 4-1 and that was the exact result. Instead of lauding myself for being really, really smart, I’m going to focus for a couple of sentences on the 5+ hour battle between Nalbandian & Cilic that opened this Tie up. Yes, it was dramatic; yes, it was exciting; BUT, it was also awful. I don’t care that this match was played on slow, red clay…for two guys as accomplished and talented as they are, to hit a combined 241 unforced errors is mind-boggling. I mean, read that number again, it’s STAGGERING. Couple that with a total of 83 winners (3:1 ratio) and I am quite happy I only followed that match online, and was not actually subjected to watching it.