Monthly Archives: July 2007

Monte Carlo, Madrid and Musical Chairs

Madrid will replace Hamburg, Shanghai will replace Madrid, and Monte Carlo will be left out.

I assume everyone here knows the game musical chairs. If not, just think of it like this: someone starts up the music and a bunch of people walk around a collection of chairs. As soon as the music stops, everyone has to find a chair to sit on. Problem is, there’s one less chair than there are people so someone ends up on the floor.

In the musical chairs game that comprises the 2009 ATP schedule, Monte Carlo found a chair but could still end up on their butt.

When the ATP settled its suit with Monte Carlo last week, they allowed it to keep its Masters Series designation – Masters 1000 as it will be called – but removed it as a required tournament.

Madrid will move from the fall indoor season to the spring clay court season. This is important because the sneak-peek 2009 calendar I’ve seen puts Madrid into Hamburg’s slot and since Monte Carlo is no longer a required event, people like Roger Federer will probably play Rome, skip a week then play Madrid, then rest one week before playing Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal usually plays Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome before resting up for Roland Garros. This year he played Hamburg too and lost because he was tired. Nadal will surely play Barcelona and Madrid as he is a Spanish player and that means he will likely skip Monte Carlo because that will be one tournament too many.

A lot of other Spanish players will do the same thing and clearly the hard court players won’t waste their time in Monte Carlo if they don’t have too. No one cares about the hard court players but the Kings of Clay come from Spain so Monte Carlo will be left with a bunch of second tier players trying to make Masters Series money.

By they way, completing our game of musical chairs, Shanghai will get a new Masters 1000 event and take over for Madrid. That means we now have eight required Masters 1000 events instead of nine and that was the point.

Here they are: Indian Wells, Miami, Rome, Madrid, Canada, Cincinnati, Shanghai, Paris.

Check out our new myspace page and add us to your friends network!

ATP Fantasy Tennis Picks: Sopot and Washington

We’re deep into the ATP Fantasy Tennis Season so check out my Fantasy Tennis Guide. You’ll find Fast Facts, Strategies, and Statistics to help you play the game.

Sign up and join our subleague! It’s called We send weekly email updates to all subleague members before the submission deadline.

The deadline for submission changed from Monday to Sunday this week because Washington starts on Sunday. Be sure to get your teams in by 11am EST and 5pm CET on Sunday.

Ask any U.S. tourist who went to Europe this summer, an expresso costs a whole lot more in U.S. dollars this year. Why should a tennis fantasy player care about this? Earlier this year, the ATP fantasy game stated all prize money as if the U.S. dollar and the Euro were equivalent. Now they’ve changed that and the European tournaments are worth a whole lot more. Go to my list of tournaments ranked by prize money. Notice that the cheapest European tournaments have now jumped over the U.S., Indian and Asian tournaments and the Masters Series events in Madrid and Paris jumped over $120,000 in first prize money!

Rear View Mirror – a look at last week’s picks

Juan Monaco is in the final at Kitzbuhel and that’s big money. Andy Roddick is in the semifinals at Indianapolis and my other pick, Dmitry Tursunov, is in the other semifinal against Sam Querrey who beat James Blake to get there. I got nothing left at Umag but there isn’t much left. How could I have known that Viktor Troicki and Andrei Pavel would get to the semifinals?

There are only two tournaments this week and the prize money is similar so let’s see if we can pick the four semifinalists from each tournament since we need eight players for our fantasy team.

SOPOT (clay, $81,637)

Gaston Gaudio hasn’t given up playing tennis yet. He actually entered the qualifying here. Steve Darcis is lurking in the qualies too. He’s the guy who took the title at Amersfoort last week despite a ranking of 297.

Even though Nikolay Davydenko has lost in the first round three weeks in a row and he’ll meet the aforementioned Pavel in the second round and he lost his only previous match to Nicolas Almagro – his probable quarterfinal opponent, I’m picking Davydenko because I think he’s due to break out. He won this tournament last year and I think he can get to the semifinals.

Florian Mayer got to the final here last year and he’s beaten Juan Ignacio Chela the last two times they’ve met so I’m going with him.

Igor Andreev should beat Potito Starace if they get to the quarterfinals but we can’t pick Andreev because his ranking was below 100 when the fantasy season started.

Tommy Robredo isn’t much better than Davydenko, he lost in the first round two of the last three weeks. But he got to the quarterfinals this week and his probable quarterfinal opponent, Agustin Calleri, has been too inconsistent so I’m getting as much out of Robredo as I can.

Sopot draw

WASHINGTON (hard court, $74,250)

Roddick will win his quarter of the draw but you need to save him for the hard court Masters and the U.S. Open. I would go with Hyung-Taik Lee and see if Radek Stepanek can pick off Roddick. Could happen, he beat James Blake last week.

I’m picking Arnaud Clement over Ivo Karlovic in their quarter because Karlovic is up and down and Clement won this tournament last year.

I have no idea who to pick in Marat Safin and Mardy Fish’s draw except that it won’t be Fish. He doesn’t appear to be fully recovered from his knee injury and he hurt his other knee last week. Safin is confounding and inconsistent but he reached the quarterfinals last week and the semifinals here last year so I’ll go with him. I’d love to pick Gael Monfils but he’s even more confounding.

Tommy Haas is back and he’s the question of the week: do you pick him here or save him for the remaining slams and Masters events? He’s done well in Canada and Cincinnati but not since 2004. He got to the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open and semifinals in Paris last year, so save him for the Open and a few fall indoor tournaments but feel free to use him here and hope that he doesn’t pull another muscle. Also be aware that he lost his only match against probable second round opponent Alejandro Falla.

Washington draw


Here’s my team: Davydenko, Starace, Mayer, Robredo, Lee, Clement, Safin and Haas.

Happy fantasies!

Check out our new myspace page and add us to your friends network!

ET Makes a Deal with Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo is still a Masters Series event and the tennis calendar is still too long.

Etienne de Villiers (known here as ET) is the CEO of the ATP. ET has been given the job of reducing the tennis calendar but not enough power to do it, in fact, everyone is working against him.

Tournament directors don’t want their tournaments reduced in stature or removed from the calendar.

The organizers of the tournament in Monte Carlo had filed an anti-trust suit against the ATP in the U.S. state of Delaware. Yesterday, Monte Carlo and the ATP announced that they have settled the suit. ET made a deal with the organizers of Monte Carlo. They can keep their Masters Series designation but their tournament is no longer a required event.

Right now that may not make much difference because the top clay courts players will still play Monte Carlo and many hard court players found a reason not to go already. James Blake and Andy Roddick skipped it this year. But if Monte Carlo was a target for demotion now, nothing about the tournament has changed so it could be a target for demotion in the future.

Clay court players don’t want to lose clay events, especially Masters Series events which hand out lots of points and big prize money.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal screamed when ET announced that Monte Carlo and Hamburg would be demoted from their Masters Series status in 2009. ET flew to Monte Carlo this year to explain his decision to Roger and Rafa. He took 24 lbs. of documents with him – as he said in a recent Tennis Magazine article: “I weighed the fricking thing” – to show the market research which led him to choose Monte Carlo and Hamburg for demotion.

It probably wouldn’t take 24 lbs. of documents to figure out that Hamburg is cold and gray and neither Hamburg not Monte Carlo can compete with other Masters Series events that have higher attendance and make a lot more money.

They also can’t compete with a city like Shanghai which gets the newest Masters Series event starting in 2009. China is an emerging tennis market whereas Monte Carlo is tapped out.

It’s not as bad as watching the Tour de France disintegrate in front of our eyes – the race leader, Michael Rasmussen was sent home because he skipped out of competition drug tests. But the Tour de France is making progress because the anti-drug forces in cycling are finally winning the war, the player’s just haven’t gotten the message yet.

There is no progress on the ATP calendar. In the proposed 2009 calendar, the year-end championship will start on November 23rd. This year, the championship will start on November 11th.

That’s not progress, it’s regression.

Radek Stepanek Rediscovers His Right Hand

The world of sports is a mess at the moment but tennis player Radek Stepanek has a story worth hearing.

This is how it is in U.S. sports at the moment. An NFL player has been indicted for running a dog fighting operation whose members slammed dogs to the sidewalk, hung them and electrocuted them if they didn’t perform up to expectations. An NBA referee has been indicted for influencing the outcome of games to pay off his gambling debts. A grand jury has been extended for six months to get an indictment for perjury and tax evasion against Barry Bonds who is about to break the most famous record in U.S. sports.

It doesn’t look good out there but if you dig a little bit, you can find inspiration. One of the great joys of sitting in media sessions with athletes is the chance to hear their personal stories. James Blake’s story can be found in his new book, Breaking Back, which just debuted at number 22 on the New York Times bestseller list.

There was another compelling story at the Los Angeles ATP event last week and it belonged to the final victor, Radek Stepanek.

It was early August last year and Stepanek had just reached his first slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon and made his first appearance in the top ten. He was in Toronto for the Masters Series tournament that would start in two days when suddenly he felt “like somebody put a knife to my neck”. He was standing still at the time and he had no idea what was happening to him.

He had a dislocated disk in his neck. The disk was pressing on a nerve and after a few weeks, he’d lost all feeling from his right elbow to his hand.

He couldn’t hold a key to unlock his door or clean his teeth. He could have hit his hand against a wall for two hours and never felt a thing. A devastating turn of events for any right-handed tennis player but even worse for one who is old-school and depends on touch more than power

“That moment was the worst feeling so far in my career because I was not able to control part of my body which is the most important to play tennis. In twelve days I lost everything,” he said. “I felt like, the hand is not mine.” One day he’s close to making the top five in the world and the next morning he can’t feel his hand.

And if that’s not unfair enough, this is: Stepanek knows players who have a disk that is dislocated almost twice as far as his and yet they play at 100%. There’s no way to fix a nerve. All you can do is wait. The nerve has to regenerate itself and it does it at its own speed. The best he could do was refuse surgery and see if there was “small improvement” – as his doctor put it – in two or three months.

It wasn’t until the nerve started to improve that his doctor told him how lucky he was to have avoided surgery. The disk he dislocated was one of the most difficult to operate on. The doctor also told him he should forget about tennis for a year. As he sat there and listened, Stepanek felt like he was watching a bad movie.

His motivation changed from wanting to be a top ten player to just wanting to wake up in the morning and feel his hand. Whatever he did, it worked. On December 3rd, five months after the knife stab of pain, he started practicing for the new tennis season.

When the universe rises up and snatches everything away from you, at first you’re shocked and then you’re mightily pissed off. After enough time passes, though, you sit back and see what possible good you can get out of the situation because any other approach is self-destructive.

I was sick on the day of the final in Los Angeles so I didn’t go to the media session after Stepanek beat Blake for the title. If I had, I’d have asked him this question:

Many times when we face loss and trauma, we reevaluate our lives and place more importance on family and friends. Did those months of inactivity influence your decision to ask Martina Hingis to marry you?

Stepanek proposed to Hingis in November just before he started playing tennis again.

When Stepanek returned to the tour, the best he could do was win two games in a row twice. Not that he was complaining, he was just happy to be there. But after a first round loss at Wimbledon, he’d had enough being happy, he wanted to win.

The last step in healing is to switch your goals from your body to external results. If your goal is to play pain-free, that’s abstract and short-sighted. If you’re goal is to win the next tournament you enter, you’re not thinking about your body, you’re thinking about your next opponent and the next shot you have to make.

Stepanek entered the tournament in Gstaad and got to the semifinals and this week he got his second career title in Los Angeles.

The rehabilitation was frightening and grueling but it did have some humorous moments. One of Stepanek’s rehabilitation exercises is called pen spinning: rotating a pen between the fingers on one hand. Val Kilmer’s character Iceman does it the movie Top Gun. A few weeks ago Stepanek was working with a physiotherapist and his doctor came in to check his progress. Stepanek started spinning his pen and said, proudly, “Doc, look!” But as the pen got to his third finger it flew off his hand and hit the doctor dead center in the forehead prompting Stepanek to say, “You see how good I am!”

Yes he is. And he may get much better.

Check out our new myspace page and add us to your friends network!

Read about Stepanek’s victory over Blake in Los Angeles

The WTA Tour: Bank of the West

The women do Stanford in this Tier II event, but the field is strong with some compelling match-ups

Okay, so Anna Chakvetadze won Cincinnati last week, and according to betting form she therefore won’t win the Bank of the West this week. Inevitably she will have a falling off in attitude; the psyche’s natural desire for relaxation after a taxing week of getting to a WTA final.

Anna became the top seed here in Stanford after the pull-outs of Serena Williams (still the thumb problem post Wimbledon) and Ana Ivanovic, who is ranked a few places higher then “Chaky,” as she is nicknamed.

So one of the mini dramas already under way here at the Bank of the West Classic is whether or not Chaky can win two in a row. We wouldn’t recommend you bet against her though. She’s been to five finals so far in her young career, and she’s won all five of them. No need for stops in the Nerve Dept. to get herself refitted for combat, she gotta da nerve already.

Speaking of Ivanovic in fact, we wonder if this Anna, spelled with two “n’s” mind you, would have endured the same sort of nerves the Serbian beauty did in the final of Roland Garros. Ana Ivanovic suffered from major nerves, big time, and it lost her the final nearly from the get-go against Justine Henin. A painful thing no doubt, but often the young need to go through that. Or so we tell ourselves.

Chaky seems to have latched onto the keys to successful tennis from the start. She plays a good game under pressure and isn’t that the key for all the young players coming up? Their games at this level are pretty much all comparable. It comes down to the nerves, and how well they hold it together. If her nerve holds, there is no reason why she could not at least get to the final. But whether Chakvetadze wins a potential final or not depends in good part on how well the opposition plays, and in this event her Number 2 rival is surprise Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli.

The other mini-drama under way this week is whether Bartoli can transfer her fantastic early season run into the hard court season. I don’t see why not. And I’m not really sure why I feel that way. Bartoli still seems like an unknown ingredient. That’s what makes her fun to watch, she is strange, we haven’t seen this before. I had to make myself watch her at first, she was that jolting to the eye. Her style, and then her weight. But she moves well on the court. And she did pretty well earlier on clay, and then her success on grass. So why not hard courts?

I was not a Bartoli fan at the start. When I first saw her this spring, I could not believe my eyes. How could this overweight girl play tennis? Especially given her strokes. Those strokes. My God. Two hands off both sides. And that serving motion that looks like the loop in my bent silver earring.

What is with the French? On the one hand they produce atrocious styles such as Bartoli’s and Fabrice Santoro‘s. God knows we all love you Fabrice, but I would never teach your style to my child. If I had a child. On the other hand they give us players with a beautiful, classic style based around the strength of their one-handed backhands, like Richard Gasquet and Nicholas Mahut. Only in France, we suppose.

I would think losing to Santoro would be one of the more exquisitely horrible experiences in one’s tennis life. Akin to undergoing death by Chinese water torture. He’ll just dink you to death on the court. I’d probably succumb to my own frustration first. Vince Spadea is the souped up American version of Fabrice. And if he doesn’t get you on court, then he’ll rap you to death. Choose your poison.

But to return to Bartoli. I have become a fan, mostly because of the way she played her final against Williams at Wimbledon. Williams at Wimbledon, that has a peculiarly dynastic ring, doesn’t it? Bartoli was a heavy underdog, but she showed some fire and heat as the match went along, even though by then we all knew the outcome. But can she seriously hope to keep winning with her style of game and her weight issues. I would suppose that getting to the final of something like Wimbledon changes your life, like, a little at least. You may start doing things differently to accommodate just in the course of things. Maybe the weight will take care of itself. Her game may be set though.

It’s nice to catch a new face on the rise, especially after the enchanting run she enjoyed at Wimbledon. The quaintness of her upbringing is compelling, and reassures me that individuality is alive and thriving at least in one corner of the world. Unfortunately it’s not ours. Sad will be the day when the French surpass us, not only in wines, but tennis players. Her father led her through a strange and imaginative tennis upbringing, encouraging her early tendencies to hit the ball with two hands off both sides, and training her with methods that truly give new meaning to the term “home-grown.” I look at him and Salvador Dali pops into my mind; maybe he had an imaginary daughter like Marion. Both of them seem like creatures from a Dali painting in their fantastical strangeness, for want of a better word.

The camera showed him in the stands at Wimbledon, in the ludicrously named “Friends’ Box,” which is something like putting a handful of cats into a box, sealing it and hoping for the best. Rival families sit together. It’s great. Whoever gets the honor of creating that deserves to go into the Tennis Hall of Fame. We really need to know this guy’s name. As Rafa would say, we need more humor of the blackness, no?

At Wimbledon Richard Williams sat in front of Pere Bartoli, a long-faced, bespectacled man with thinning hair. A doctor. Of what I know not. Let’s hope it’s not gynecology or something equally strange. At the end, after Williams had seen his daughter handle Bartoli’s kid pretty good, he turned to the Frenchman and said something that caused him to wipe tears away. I always wondered what Williams said to him. For once the Friends’ Box caught a glimmer of its name.

Well, let’s see how our week unfolds here at Stanford. This may be a smaller women’s event in that it is a Tier II instead of a I. But I like the field. Daniela Hantuchova is the Number 3 seed and having an excellent year; Patty Schnyder and Tatiana Golovin are in the draw along with Sania Mirza who is likely to get much support from the Indian community in the area. Also Shahar Peer from Israel, and Sybille Bammer, our Mom of Moms. Good competition is shaping up here. Stay tuned!