Sunday, December 30, 2007

Free Naffi!

So, I'm going through the topics on the forums at Tennis Warehouse, and I see one about Monica Seles. The question: "Is she gay?" Nice. And completely relevant. I'm about to respond that she looked to be in good shape for a possible comeback, and log in. This is what I saw:

You have been banned for the following reason:
advertising. 2 week ban. further violation will result in permanent ban

Date the ban will be lifted: 01-11-2008, 10:00 AM

What? I mean, WHAT?! Specifically, WHAT THE *&^$^@&^#)!(&$&@^$!!!!
Advertising? Don't you have to selling something to be advertising? Did someone sneak a freakin' ad on my blog without me knowing about it? I make no money with Tennis With Attitude. I started it because I actually enjoy this. No money involved. I do it anyway.
I suppose signing all 200 of my posts with the name of my blog is advertising. Is it?
There's a forum thread at Talk Tennis called "Post your blog here!" Hmmm. What about that thread with two people with their link to their YouTube video about tennis? Double Hmmm.
So, yeah, I'm a little pissed. I actually enjoy mixing it up with other tennis addicts, and I won't lie: It's nice to get my blog out there. The forums have given me great ideas for my blog and some readership from all over, too. This ban raises some more questions for me, since the fine moderators at Talk Tennis won't answer me at all.

First question:
What is advertising?
Second question:
What if I link a picture of my favorite player, or a column from my favorite writer? Advertising?
Third question:
What if I posted comments with the name ""?
Fourth question:
What if my blog name is in my profile and someone clicks on it? (which it is)

You know what, Talk Tennis? There aren't a lot of tennis fans out there. We should be sticking together. Let's not fight. Just admit that I'm right, lift the effin' ban, and we'll forget all about this. Why? Because I'm not on steroids or cocaine. Because I'm not a gambler. Because I don't cheat on line calls. Look, guys, we can make a deal. I can give you a piece of my non-action, if you want.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Newest TWA feature: What Would Roger Do?

Players have to do something with the 15 minutes that they like to call the off-season. I am honored to report that Roger Federer wants to spend his with the great fan of TWA. He's agreed to pen an advice column for tennis players and fans who have questions. Kind of like a Dear Abby, except without the "go to counseling" canned answer.

First question:

"Hi, Roger. I'm a big fan. I'm pretty much the best woman player where I live. But I struggle with many injuries. I have to pull out of hella tournaments, which sucks, because I'd win all of them if it weren't for this knee/butt/arm/toenail/eyeball injury bug. But my main concern is my reputation. I don't understand why people hate on me. Is it because I'm great?
S. Williams, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Possibly. I understand league tennis can be very competitive, particularly among women. The important thing is to always be polite, even when players try to give you bad line calls, or when people don't acknowledge how good you are after a match. It's tough sometimes, but jealousy is something you have to deal with when you're talented. The best you can do is that even when others don't do it, you should always give your opponent credit when they hit good shots. Being a courteous player is very important.

From Amelie:
"Roger, I am very mentally weak, I think. I have trouble with self-confidence, although technically, I'm a very good player. Maybe I'm not very good. I have won some tournaments away from home, but I was very fortunate, I think. When I play in my home court, though, I play very bad. Do you have any advice for me? You don't have to answer if you don't want to. I don't want you to waste your time on me. I know you're busy."

WWRD: Amelie, right now, you're a wreck. You have to learn to deal with pressure. I'll tell you my secret for coping with a tough match situation. Just imagine your opponent in their underwear. If they're out of shape, imagine them naked. You can fake yourself into thinking that they can't be very comfortable playing that way. And then, you can play your best. Good luck to you.

From a M. Bryan:
"Roger, I've been playing with my doubles partner for a few years. Early on, we started this running chest-bump thing. It was cool -- back then. Now, I'd like to stop doing it, but I think he really likes it. I don't know how to tell him how I feel. Any ideas?"

WWRD: You need a partner who's always on the same wavelength as you, someone who's as close to you as, say, a twin. When you have disagreements, you must deal with them right away. Plus, for all you know, your partner doesn't want to do the chest bump anymore either. Just talk to him. If it's more comfortable for you, you can use hand signals. And not those hand signals, either. Be nice.

"My coach and I just had a nasty break-up. I'm planning to travel to a tournament soon and as a young talent, I'm up to my ears in resumes. What should I look for in a coach?"
Andy M., dentist's office, London

Coaches are overrated. Having a coach is fine -- when you have only eight majors. The answers are within yourself, Andy. You're like a Rubik's Cube, and only you can solve you. But if your parents really want to throw away some of their money, I would suggest a coach who employs a hands-off approach. I think you really want a coach who lives in another country, or even another continent. Remember, the last thing you want is a coach who tells you what to do. Good luck, man. I hope you're not getting braces.

Forging ahead ...
"I have a friend who's losing his hair. What do you think about combovers?
Niko D., nearby OTB location

I'm a realist, Niko. If you are trying to redistribute hair on your head, tell your "friend" that he is BALD. I'm sorry for your loss, but you have to deal with it head-on, as it were. As I see it, you have two options. You can get a wig, and if you wear a headband, you can hold it in place while you play. I'd support another approach, though. Just shave your head, man. It's better than a combover, which is a look that says, "You may think I'm going bald, but look! Strands of hair!" Bald says, "You know it, and I know it. I'm bald, and I save thousands by not having to buy shampoo."

From a B. Bryan:
"Roger, I have a really great doubles partner, and we started celebrating wins with chest bumps. Lately, though, I've noticed that he doesn't seem jacked about doing them anymore. I really like the chest bump and I think it sets us apart. What do you think I should do?"
WWRD:Get a new partner.

Last one:
"Dearest Roger: I have this boyfriend who I've been with for seven years. He's an amazing athlete, and he's charming, and he's got great hair. I'll call him "Dodger." I gave up my wildly unsuccessful tennis career to mold his. He actually reminds me a lot of you. The problem is that he's hasn't gone to Jared yet. That's right, no ring! I wonder if he's capable of commitment. The last time I asked him about marriage, he said he had to win the French Open first, whatever that means. So what should I do? Should I wait for him? Maybe I should propose. I don't know. I'm waiting for your question ... er, answer.
Signed, um, Kirka

I'm going to need more time for this one. Give me until the end of June.

Roger's taking questions at TWA until the middle of January. Send him any thoughts and comments and he'll try to get back to you.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Winter roundup, Vol. I

Since it's too damn cold to go out and shop, like I should be doing ...

Congratulations to Venus Williams, who earned her associates degree after 8 long years. It's a good thing, too. Someone like her, who already has an interior decorating company, a discount clothing line, and also happens to be Venus Williams, definitely needs a degree. I can just see her applying for a job at Vogue before now: Anna Wintour looking at her resume under her nose, "Ms. Williams, dahling, I don't know. No degree, no job." Yeah.

The drama continues with Anna-Lena Groenefeld and her ex-coach, whom she alleges has given her opponents advice on how to beat her. Groenefeld used to be number 14 in the world until she dumped Mr. (and I use the term loosely) Rafael Font de Mora. The ensuing chaos, including a lawsuit, caused her to gain some unwanted poundage, which helped settle her to number 204 in the world, where she now sits. Anyway, de Mora offers up a priceless gem regarding Groenefeld's accusation: "If people come to me, I’ll tell them how to play her. But I’m not going after players to tell them how to play her. Besides, she’s so fat it’s not difficult to beat her. With all those kilos, she cannot play." Very nice. I thought there was some kind of rule requiring people in litigation to keep their mouths shut. He's like the coach version of "Fatal Attraction." Well, Meghann Shaughnessy, I'd hide my bunnies if I were you, just in case.

"Andy and I have been married fifteen years, and I said to him just the other day that I feel closer to him now than ever. I mean, it's different. It's not the goose bumps-passion-fireworks kind of thing. It's more like knowing he's a keeper. And I just know that I'm going to grow old with him." That's Chris Evert on her now ex-husband, Andy Mill. You know, it's easy to say you're going to grow old with someone, but what do you do when hair starts growing out of his ears? Anyway, Evert's now preparing to grow old(er?) with Greg Norman. Mill, though, is probably a bit miffed by this announcement, since he says he once considered Norman his best friend. Well, Andy, best friends are supposed to share everything.

Apparently, there's still tennis going on. David Nalbandian, who ended the regular season on a tear, won the Copa Argentina. Big news for him, no doubt. The bigger item: Who would have thought that Buenos Aires had a Lawn Tennis Club?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The 2007 wrap

So, what have we learned in 2007?
We learned that Pete Sampras can beat Roger Federer -- if Federer lets him. We learned that the Williams sisters can still win a major -- if they don't have to deal with Justine Henin. We learned why Martina Hingis was always smiling -- and perhaps why she always got such good doubles partners. Nikolay Davydenko taught us why that guy might have lost to that guy. We've also learned that there's a place for mothers on tour, and it's not always on the sidelines. (Let's hope Kim realizes that, too.)
Here we go: A look at the season that was:

Best of
Hmm. The best player of the year. No one's coming to me. Although there is this guy named Roger Federer. He apparently isn't bad. Federer won the Aussie Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He's really good, but he didn't win the French. And he lost to Fernando Gonzalez and David Nalbandian (x2) at the end of the year. So clearly, he's not as good as any of us thought he was.
Seriously, what is up with the worry over Federer when he loses a match? He's the best player of our generation, hands down. He might become the best ever, if Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf don't have a mutant tennis baby. Federer's still head and shoulders above the rest of the class, and by reputation alone, he certainly wins himself at leat one set per match.
However, there's still something to be seen, I think, in the losses to Gonzalez, Nalbandian and, oh yeah, Novak Djokovic. The competition is getting better, and it's about time. Most of his losses came at the end of a long year for Fed, yes, but I think the shock of his talent is finally starting to wear off. It's hard to see Gonzalez being consistently good enough to beat him regularly, but Nalbandian's done it before. Djokovic is still getting better, too. The road's going to be tougher for Federer, but it's hard not to see him still standing at the end.

Unfortunately, it's also clear who the best female player has been this season. Even I have to admit that Justine Henin has done pretty well, considering the rest of the field had a head start. Henin didn't play the Australian Open because she was having man problems. After washing that man right out of her hair, she got to business. She won the French Open (again) and the U.S. Open (again). The only blip in her season was losing to Marion Bartoli (?) in the Wimbledon semis. Looking forward to Venus in the final? No idea. But she did lay the 6-0, 6-0 beatdown on her at the year-end championships.
As far as her competition, though, there aren't too many who can present a long-standing challenge to Henin. The natural thought this year was that Serena Williams, who did win the Australian Open, would resume her rivalry with Henin and make things interesting. And it was interesting -- interesting just how far Serena is from Henin right now. It's not just the fitness. Henin's got a job. She is a professional tennis player. She, in all likelihood, practices every day, exercises every day, thinks about tennis every stinkin' day. Serena is Serena. That's who she is. She does everything. I'm going with a liberal estimate -- I'll bet Serena practices about three times a week. It's her prerogative, but I won't be expecting anything new in their rivalry next year. I think Venus Williams, though, is a bit more serious about her game. Laugh if you will, but when a female athlete dates a male athlete, have you noticed what it does to her game? I really think Venus seems a bit more focused with her new golfer man Hank Kuehne. She also played Henin pretty close at the Open. But these dizzy spells of hers can't be good. If she's healthy next year (not a given with the Williamses) she could do some damage.
As for my offseason, I'm going to try to appreciate Henin for her pocket-rocket game and I'm going to try to believe her new press about her being a kinder, happier ass-kicker. I might say something nice about her next year.

Another plus for tennis this year has been The Tennis Channel. It's nice to see tennis tournaments you normally wouldn't catch on ESPN. It's also nice to see some doubles (but more on that later). Not to say the The Tennis Channel couldn't use some ... polishing. For example, the player compilation commercials should feature players who are still active, not Anastasia Myskina. Multiple shots of her in one commercial? Kidding?
For another thing, perhaps the channel could invest in commentator school for its beginners. It's amazing how many players I enjoyed watching who I also cannot listen to ever again: Chanda Rubin, Rennae Stubbs, Corina Morariu. Just get Justin Gimelstob to do every event until you guys are big enough to land John McEnroe. Please.
For yet another thing, is it possible to edit matches that are repeated? I think it is, actually. Editing can come in handy, especially when you have an injury timeout in a match that's 8 months old. Did you know, Tennis Channel, that you can cut that out of later airings? I'll do it for you.
I really do like The Tennis Channel. I do. It's got good things, like that Roger Federer special. In fact, I'm going to watch it again tonight, for the hundredth time. Ooh, and squash. Man, I love squash.

Worst of
The ITF, ATP, WTA, the USTA -- all the tennis acronyms responsible for the following:
I'm so glad the U.S. brought home the Davis Cup again. Really. But the format for Davis Cup is ridiculous. I'm trying to think of something equivalent to its stupidity in sports -- and I can't. There is no other sport that would take an international event and play it in pieces whenever they can fit it into the schedule. Why? Because no one could be so stupid to organize an event so half-assed. Except, that is, the acronyms. Ever hear fans getting all geeked up for Davis Cup? No. Do you know why, conversely, football fans get geeked up for Monday night? Because if it's football season, there's a damn game on Monday night. It's something fans can look forward to. Pop quiz: When does Davis Cup start next year? Who the hell knows? Are you getting it yet, ITF? I can't talk about this any more. I'm getting a freakin' ulcer. You'll just have to read my previous posts (yes, plural) on this subject.

Phew. Now, onto something else that's really pissing me off. Why are powers-that-be shortening tennis? At the year-end championships, the doubles players are playing something called a stupid-tiebreak. Oh, check that. That's a super-tiebreak. In case you don't know, when teams split sets, you're really supposed to play a final set. But in a stroke of supergenius, now they play to best of ten, and that determines who wins. I'm sorry. Is tennis now considered boring? Are professionals not trained to play entire matches? Is that big-ass tennis stadium booked out at 8 p.m. for a polka dance? Listen, ITF, ATP and WTA: you will not attract anyone to tennis by altering the game. If that worked, you could just play baseball on a tennis court, and then you'd have more tennis fans, right? If you'd like to increase the popularity of tennis, then market Maria Sharapova as a tennis player, just like Canon markets her as a photographer with a pooch. Don't get me wrong. Sometimes a sport needs a change. I think player challenges is a great example. (If there's anything good to come from Davis Cup, it's that unlimited challenges actually work. It doesn't drag the match along, and players don't abuse it.) Playing super-tiebreaks is like saying, "All righty. This has gone on long enough. Hey, it's been fun, but would you kids wrap it up? Five more minutes in the pool ...)
I can't do anything about Davis Cup, but be on the lookout from me regarding these travesties. It's time for tennis hacks to unite.

A bit disappointing ...
Rafael Nadal. I've been on the edge of my seat now for two years, waiting for more. Not that winning the French isn't a huge undertaking and that taking Federer to the edge of defeat at Wimbledon isn't a big deal. But why does Nadal always peter out by the end of the season? It's strange, because he has been able to have success on other surfaces than clay, but hard courts seem to be insurmountable to him. Then there are the constant injuries. For all his talent, the fact remains that endurance also counts as a player. If his body can't take the beating, you have to really question his status as the true No. 2 player in the world. Although right below him at No. 3 is Novak Djokovic, who himself could take up two seasons of "House."

While I'm bashing Serbians, how about Jelena Jankovic? She's evidence that there's another sort of weakness that can handcuff success in tennis. I swear, a leaf blows on the court and she's lost all concentration. A bad call, and she's ready to pack it in. (Here's a question: Why do players insist on arguing with a ref over a call for any longer than a minute? I have never seen one of these five-minute whine-fests produce anything but the umpire calmly repeating the score into the mike.) Jankovic has a very solid all-court game, but a weak serve. Even if she continues to improve technically, she will have to do something about that mental game.

I've gotta put Hingis testing positive for cocaine above Davydenko (but I'm getting to him). Hingis was the dominant player of the 1990s, and will go down as one of the best strategists on the court. Now, if that's me, and I take a blood test that comes up positive for an illegal substance, and I face the humiliation of being known as a drug user, I'd try to protect my career and my reputation. Why would you prefer to retire, and besmirch your name instead of fighting this charge? There's one reason I can think of (sniff, sniff).
Even so, Hingis gave her comeback the old university try, and she acquitted herself pretty well. There's not a lot she could have done about the fact that the game got stronger and faster while she was gone. She did the best she could with what she had, and it took her far. There are people -- never mind tennis players -- who can't say that about themselves. Fare thee well, Chuckie.

It was probably a bit naive to think there's no dark underbelly to tennis, that everyone who plays is on the up-and-up and does it for love of the game. So thanks, Nikolay Davydenko, for killing that illusion. It's been a tough year for Davydenko, and the buzz never really died down, because of a couple of really dumb officials. One, Cedric Mourier, should have given himself a coaching violation for trying to tell Davydenko how to serve. "Just get it in," he says. That would be why he's a ref and not someone's coach. The other, Jean-Philippe Dercq, was probably a little trigger-happy in warning Davydenko for not trying hard enough. Come on. How many times have you watched a match, and wondered why a player stopped going for a ball that appeared in his reach?
The verdict's still out on Davydenko. I also find it hard to believe that a guy who plays almost every week on tour would resort to gambling. That said, what is taking officials so long to get to the bottom of this? If there's a indication that a player's dirty, they need to solve the problem, not leave the elephant in the room. In the absence of these resolutions, you have officials trying to hand down some for of vigilante justice from the chair. Really, do they think he'd throw a match now, that all eyes are on him? And do they think that if they encourage him to get his serves in, he might say, "Ref, you're right. Screw that million bucks I was going to get for throwing this match. I'm going to win!"
Unfortunately, with all the investigation into this case, it doesn't seem likely that there'll be a resolution one way or another. No Matlock moments, when a witness or a piece of evidence clinches it one way or another at the end. That's too bad, especially if it turns out Davydenko's clean, because it'll dog him for the rest of his career.

That was a downer. So, how about that Lindsay Davenport? I've said it before: Women's tennis needs some depth, and even with a newborn hanging off her hip, Davenport's helping to deliver. It'd be really nice to see a dark horse come into the Australian Open and knock out some pretenders and even some contenders. She looked all right in her tournaments back, managing a win against Jankovic. I just wonder how long she'll really hang around. She certainly didn't seem too excited about the tour when she took her maternity leave. It's nice to see her back, but I can just see her not staying for long.

Packing it in
Tim Henman: Finally. Nothing against Their Tim, but watching him for the last couple of years was like watching Rocky II through infinity. Sometimes, it's just time to stop. Henman's a fine example of being graceful in defeat. Unlike his "countryman" Greg Rude-eski, Henman let his racquet do the talking. Although he never conquered All-England, he managed to pull his Davis Cup team into the World Group on the same court. Nice way to go out.

Kim Clijsters, on the other hand, didn't go out very nicely. Her career gave in to a long line of injuries so that even her retirement tour was derailed. Given that she's now married with a child on the way, I don't imagine she's missing tennis much. Hopefully, she's find a way back, like Davenport, and fill out that Grand Slam collection. She was way too good for just one major win.

Pete Sampras: Yes, he retired some time ago. And, yes, beating Federer in a meaningless exhibition is somewhat respectable. But Pete's found his place in tennis. It's on the Old Man's Outback Tour, hamming it up with the Jim Couriers, John McEnroes and the Todd Martins of the world. There's definitely no shame in that, and if there was ever a format for someone in need of a personality transplant, it'd be the Outback Tour. They joke around with each other and do interviews between sets, for crikey's sake. I think I saw Sampras smile in one of his matches. Nah. It was probably a grimace.