Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bring it, mama!

Aren’t babies cute?
They’re so small, and they make the strangest faces. Watching them try to put their fist in their mouths is just priceless.
Another fun thing about babies is the constant crying, and trying to figure out why.
Just six weeks after having her first child (whose name is Jagger -- why do parents insist on doing that to their children? I speak from pity.), Lindsay Davenport seems to have discovered that chasing down a drop shot might be a welcome respite to changing a droopy diaper. The 31-year-old American announced her return to tennis – in baby steps.
Back in December, when she announced she was pregnant, Davenport told, "I hate the word 'retirement' but this season was such a struggle physically for me and I can't imagine playing again." A little context: Last year, she had experienced two quarterfinal major losses to Justine Henin, and couldn't even play the French Open and Wimbledon becauses of a back injury. This is a player who holds three Grand Slam titles, and has been to the top of the tennis mountain. No doubt, the frustrations of being unable to beat younger, hungrier competitors must have been hard to stomach.
But Davenport had a winning return on Saturday, winning a women's doubles and mixed doubles match in World Team Tennis, an exhibition tour. She'll compete again on the women’s tour will be in August, partnering with Lisa Raymond to play doubles. Long term, Davenport would like to be eligible for the Beijing Olympics.
Davenport's comeback will be an encouragement for mothers everywhere, especially if she finds herself heading to China next summer. Can she still do damage on the tour, especially in singles? She's always had one of the best serves in the game, and still possesses her heavy, penetrating ground strokes. However, her fitness was always the question mark throughout her career, and it will likely dog her comeback effort. Having said that, anything can happen in women's tennis. This is a time where the Williams sisters can roll out of bed and win a major, a time when scale-tipping Marion Bartoli can make the Wimbledon final, a time when half of the women's top 10 can't legally drink alcohol. Maybe this is the time for a kid-toting Davenport.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Well, that didn't take long

Less than 24 hours after Lindsay Davenport mentions she's interested in a return to the women's tour, she has a doubles partner and a comeback date. Davenport and Lisa Raymond will team up at the New Haven tournament, a warmup to the U.S. Open. Hmm. Surely, that's just a coincidence.

When Balls Attack, Vol. 1

From the wires:
Anastasia Rodionova became the second player on the WTA Tour to be disqualified from a match when she smacked a ball Tuesday night toward fans rooting for her opponent at the Cincinnati Women's Open.
Angelique Kerber was handed a 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 victory when Rodionova hit a ball in the direction of three fans at one end of the court in a display of frustration after she lost the first game of the third set. The ball hit halfway up the wall in front of the stands where the fans were sitting and caroomed back onto the court.
Earlier, she had complained about fans applauding for Kerber during points.
While the players were changing sides, the umpire called for tournament referee William Coffey. After a brief discussion, Coffey defaulted Rodionova for "unsportsmanlike conduct," he said.
"I'm shocked," Rodionova said. "I still don't understand why they defaulted me. I'm really upset. I've never seen in my life anyone defaulted in this situation. I had no warning. I didn't hit the ball at anybody. I didn't swear at anybody. I didn't throw my racket."
In the 36-year history of the tour, it is believed that there has been only one other default in the main draw of a tournament, a WTA Tour spokesman said. Irina Spirlea was disqualified in 1996 at Palermo for directing abusive language at an official.

That's some fine company to be historically linked to, Anastasia. Irina "The Bump" Spirlea? Got the feeling tournament directors are going to have to answer some questions here. Such as: Have you ever defaulted someone for tossing their racquet? Or illegal coaching? It's not cool that Rodionova's trying to play "Whack-a-fan," but considering that she didn't hit anyone, and was most likely venting, a disqualification is probably a bit much.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

That's it. I'm going pro

Lindsay Davenport says she's thinking about a comeback, just a month and change after having her first baby. It must have been the hormones when she said last year that it was hard to see her making a comeback.
"So since about two and a half weeks, I've been pretty active, been able to practice now the last week at a very high percentage. Glad there were no complications," she says.
Davenport says she's motivated by the idea of playing in the Olympics again. She's going to test the waters on Saturday by playing some World Team Tennis doubles matches. (Boy, these retired pros love themselves some WTT. One year, and Pete Sampras, Martina Hingis, and now Davenport are talking about comebacks. Look for an announcement from founder Billie Jean King soon.)
The first instinct here might be to raise an eyebrow at Davenport's musings, but with the current state of women's tennis, Davenport could win a major, even if she were pregnant again.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

One more guest for Kim's wedding

Word is Kim Clijsters is pregnant, thereby making it necessary to alter the size of that wedding dress for Sunday. Congrats to her, although I really thought there was a chance of her coming back at some point. Still a chance of that, I suppose, after she realizes that chasing a kid with a dirty diaper is a bit tougher that chasing down tennis balls.

Filthy Americans

From the wires:

Russia on Wednesday complained that Russian tennis captain Shamil Tarpishchev had not been able to get a U.S. visa ahead of this weekend's Fed Cup semifinals against United States. Tarpishchev on Tuesday accused the United States of deliberately trying to disrupt the Russians' pre-match training and said the Russian team's coaching "has practically been wrecked."

So that's how the Americans are going to do it. Hell, the Williams sisters have nothin' on Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Sharapova. Oh, right, about Sharapova: She's out because of a swollen shoulder. The conspiracy never ends, does it, Shamil?

Someone has worked HARD for the money ...

Winning Wimbledon is obviously an event that still arouses Roger Federer ...

Monday, July 09, 2007

It's a Wimbledon wrap!

I have what I think is a fair question: Why does women's tennis use rankings?
The top seed at Wimbledon, and the highest ranked player in the world, is Justine Henin. She won the French Open, but lost in the semifinals of Wimbledon to someone named Marion Bartoli.
#2: Maria Sharapova -- Out in the fourth round to a certain eventual champion who could barely keep a rally going in her previous round.
#3: Jelena Jankovic -- Fourth round loss to Bartoli. You know, when I first saw Bartoli play and noticed how, um, big-boned she is, it sort of reminds me of golf's John Daly, without the chain-smoking, but with the power and the build that doesn't quite yell "athlete."
#4: Svetlana Kuznetsova -- Williams victim #5. Sad.
Seriously, is women's tennis (gasp!) developing depth? Seems possible. Out goes Clijsters and Davenport, in come Vaidisova, Jankovic and Ivanovic. (Speaking of the -ics, whatever happened to Jelena Dokic?) They're good, young players with definite potential for Grand Slams. Bartoli? Maybe? If she'd cut back on the candy (her words, folks, her words) she might be able to run with the fitter players on tour.
As for the Williams sisters, obviously they've shown this year that they can strike at any time, even when the iron is cold. I still don't believe Venus went from playing so badly in the third round to playing her best match in recent memory against Sharapova the next day. If these two could play injury-free for a while, who knows what could happen. (This said after Venus gets her leg wrapped during her final.)
Unfortunately, the real equalizer on the tour has been the injuries. Sharapova's shoulder, Serena's knee, cramps, thumb, etc, Mauresmo's appendix. That's what the rankings are reflecting right now. It's not a true depiction of the best players, but of the ones left standing.
As for the fellas? Well, who needs the other two thousand players in the world (with the exception of Tommy 'Cheeky' Robredo) when you have Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal? Their Wimbledon final was more than I expected, and made up for the boring women's final. Hats off to Nadal, who managed to look increasingly sharp with every win during the tournament. It's too bad he had to have his knee wrapped while he was in firm grip of the momentum in the fourth set. It's a rarity to see Federer flustered, and it would have been really interesting to find out if he could have snapped out of it. This could shape up to be Nadal's best season yet, especially if he can finally have a breakthrough at the U.S. Open.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

Bye bye, Bud ...

From the news wires:
WIMBLEDON, England -- Bud Collins, the 78-year-old icon of American tennis, has been fired by NBC after 35 years of hosting interviews, doing play-by-play and forging a bond with millions of fans.

Collins confirmed his firing Monday at Wimbledon, where he is completing his final assignment for NBC, but declined extensive comment, saying only that "I've had 35 wonderful years and I hope to remain in tennis."

Those close to Collins said he was hurt by his termination.

He received his firing notice June 22 and was told it had nothing to do with his age. "It was just a management decision to save money," according to a Collins friend, who relayed NBC's stated reason for the firing.

Collins will continue to work for The Boston Globe, his employer for 44 years. "I've walked these hallowed grounds for 35 years," he said. "I love Wimbledon. I love tennis."

OK, color me mean, but it might have been time for Bud to get the walking papers. Yes, he's got irrepressible enthusiasm, and a knowledge of tennis that is bottomless, along with his wit. The other thing about that's bottomless is his vocabulary. He can wax poetic for days and days, until you forgot what he was trying to say. I can't say I'll miss his post-Wimbledon interviews with the champs. "Roger, in the third set, a bird flew overhead, tipping his wing ever so slightly down toward the action on Centre Court. What do you think the view of your brilliance was from up there?"

Wimbledon: That's not a cloud, is it?!??

The saying goes, "Tune in tomorrow."
If you tried to do that for Wimbledon, there wouldn't be much tennis. What you would see are lot of spectators scattering like rats, dodging raindrops like it's acid. Like they would have never thought there'd be rain, RAIN!, at Wimbledon. Like those umbrellas they're carrying appeared magically in their hands. Like it's not in the forecast for the next four months, solid.
Ah, the forecast. What we didn't see coming at all (sarcastic eye roll):
1. Tim Henman losing in the second round to Feliciano Lopez. OMG! Everyone has the right to chase the dream. And chase. And chase. And then roll (as in, in a wheelchair). But the first thing Henman should do if he insists on chasing the dream is realizing that, dawg, you can't serve-and-volley on every point. The game, and racquet technology, is just going to continue to rip him to pieces, especially since he's not coming in on a big weapon of a serve. The other thing Henman should just deal with is the fact that "Henman Hill" would have been closed for construction if Andy Murray had shown up. Truth hurts.
2. Drama with the Williams sisters: I've seen so much of this cramping soap opera within the space of an hour that I don't even want to go there right now, although it was a nice effort from Serena. Instead, let's discuss the eldest Williams. Venus has played three rounds in this tournament so far. She's needed three sets in two of them. It's not like she's playing Alicia Molik over here. It's nice that's she's been able to come back from that, but Akiko Morigami isn't Maria Sharapova.
3. The Serbs representing: They're rolling deep these days, those Serbs, with Jelena Jankovic, Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic still alive, along with another tagalong. Janko Tipsarevic, 23, has been plugging away on the pro tour since 2002, and slowly improving, until BAM! He beats Fernando Gonzalez in the fourth round of Wimbledon, showing off a big game, multiple tatts and a hell of a personality. When a reporter asked him about the seeming sudden boom in Serbian tennis, he had an explanation: "People keep asking me, `How is this possible?' What is happening in the country? Maybe some radiation from the bombing or stuff."
Quote of the week.
4. Martina Hingis losing early: Laura Granville was plugging away here in Pittsburgh last November, playing in an ITF-level tournament, trying to get her ranking up. It would probably be the dream life to travel the world as a tennis player, but maybe not so much if you actually have to pay for it. It's gotta be all worth it when Granville realizes that she beat Martina Hingis at Wimbledon. Maybe she did get lucky because Hingis isn't 100 percent back from injury, but that British qualifier Naomi Cavaday couldn't finish the job in the first round. Anyway, it's back to the drawing board for Hingis, and the question, raised quietly last year at the U.S. Open, when she caught a beatdown from Virginie Razzano, comes up again: "Can she get back to the top?" What she's done already has been spectacular, competing in her first few majors back, and threatening, sometimes beating top players. But for someone like Hingis, who used to dominate women's tennis, is that enough? To plateau at around tenth in the world, without the firepower to compete for Slams? Stay tuned.