Category Archives: Davis Cup

Celebrity Tennis: Gambling, Blow, and Poison

Join us for the WTA Championships final! We’ll be blogging live this Sunday, November 11th, 2:00pm Los Angeles/5pm New York.

Gambling, cocaine and poison provide more than enough content for a celebrity tennis show.

If Jim Rome is talking about tennis, then tennis is definitely cool again. Rome is the spoken word king of daily sports radio in the U.S. and he talks about tennis about as often as he talks about the ballet.

Why was he talking about tennis? How about this: Tommy Haas believes he may have been poisoned during Germany’s Davis Cup semifinal against Russia in Moscow earlier this year. German Davis Cup player Alexander Waske reported that a Russian man casually told him that Haas had been poisoned.

Haas became sick after losing his first match in the event and had to withdraw. He plans to get medical tests to see if there is any evidence of poison in his system: “I want to find out if any poison can be traced or confirmed,” he said. The International Tennis Federations (ITF) – which runs Davis Cup, is investigating the charge.

There’s a reason that gets a gazillion hits every day. If you want to know everything about O.J. Simpson’s latest legal problem or read Big Daddy Drew’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo, that’s the place to go. Controversy sells. Sex sells.

The top online celebrity site,, is so popular that it now has its own television show. If breaking news means cutting to Britney Spears making an illegal left turn from Coldwater Canyon onto Mulholland Drive – an actual feature on TMZ this week, be sure to tune in.

Celebrity, controversy, and sex are now making they’re way to the tiny screen – your cellphone. CBS’s mobile entertainment division introduced a show focusing on fashion and gadgets but they scrapped that idea when they noticed that viewer numbers went up when celebrities were on screen. They now have a twice daily show focusing on celebrity gossip.

Don’t think tennis isn’t affected by the world of cellphone entertainment. I can now watch Wimbledon on my tiny screen. All I have to do is hook up a Slingbox, record Wimbledon on my DVR, and the Slingbox will beam Andy Roddick to my cellphone screen. It doesn’t matter if I’m lying in my backyard or cruising the back roads of Baja.

If original tennis programming makes it to cellphones, it’ll probably focus on players such as Martina Hingis who recently retired after testing positive for cocaine – known on the street as “blow” – and retired. Check out this hilarious cartoon. It shows Martina snorting the sideline of a tennis court.

Dour, camera shy Nikolay Davydenko would be a regular on our Celebrity Tennis show. Suspicious betting patterns on Davydenko’s match with Martin Vassallo-Arguello in August of this year kicked off the current controversy over gambling on the professional tennis tour.

This week’s Davydenko episode would focus on the ATP’s demand that Davydenko turn over records for all of the phones he owns or uses. Davydenko’s lawyers have refused to comply.

The next episode would feature an interview with Davydenko’s lawyer, Professor Frank Immenga, who blasted the ATP this week for conducting a witch hunt against Davydenko by fining him $2,000 for “not trying” in one match and warning him about the same infraction in another. I have to agree with the professor on this one. The betting pattern in the August match clearly showed the fingerprint of a fixed match, but if the ATP can’t prove that the match was fixed and Davydenko was involved, don’t hound the guy to death.

Since Andy Roddick actually is a celebrity, he’d turn up on Celebrity Tennis because he complained in his blog this week that he was fined $20,000 for skipping Paris while Davydenko was only fined $2,000 for not trying. Roddick said he was recovering from a “tweaked” ankle and wanted to be sure he was prepared for next week’s year end championships in Shanghai. As you can see, Roddick didn’t accuse Davydenko of not trying but he did have a problem with the ATP:

…in essence they [the ATP] are setting the precedent that preparing and getting healthy for their year end event is worth a 20 grand fine, but tanking (again I have no opinion on guilt or innocence here) only warrants 2 grand….

Alessio di Mauro would be the star in today’s episode of Celebrity Tennis. The Italian tennis pro was suspended from the tour for nine months and fined $60,000 by the ATP for betting on tennis matches from November 2006 to June of this year. Di Mauro never bet on his own matches and reportedly his bets were small.

Wow, maybe I should produce Celebrity Tennis. I’ve already got a week of programming in the can.

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And Roddick Brings the Davis Cup Final Home

The U.S. won its Davis Cup tie over Sweden and will now play the final against Russia on its home court. That’s what I’m talking about.

I am a happy camper. I’m going to the Davis Cup final because it’s right here in the U.S. Andy Roddick finished off Jonas Bjorkman as the U.S. won the tie, 3-1, despite a virus that seems to have made its way around the world.

Everyone on the U.S. team was affected by a flu bug so maybe I was too hard on James Blake for losing to Thomas Johansson on Friday. Maybe he wasn’t feeling too good but how was I supposed to know? The U.S. team did everything they could to keep it quiet. Besides, Johansson got the bug too and that’s why Bjorkman got a call Sunday morning telling him to get ready to play Roddick.

About a thousand miles south by south east in a hotel room in Moscow, Tommy Haas was dealing with his own viral infection and couldn’t play his reverse singles match. Instead, number 206 ranked Philipp Petzschner had to play the fourth rubber for Germany against Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny.

Germany was up 2-1 after they won the doubles match on Saturday and they only needed one more victory to win the tie and play the final in Germany. But they couldn’t do it. Petzschner lost to Youzhny and Philipp Kohlschreiber lost to Igor Andreev. Fine by me.

The only way Bjorkman could have beaten Roddick was to return serve exceptionally well and attack relentlessly. Not only is that Bjorkman’s game, but he’s never going to win a baseline match. Bjorkman attacked the net and tried to finish points as quickly as possible if he was at the baseline. He managed to do both things but he never managed to do them at the same time.

In the first set Bjorkman hit balls out of the court because he was going for too much. Errors accounted for both service breaks he suffered in the first set. In the second set he hit 27 winners but his first serve percentage plummeted so he couldn’t serve and volley. He did get to the tiebreaker in the second set but he was down 5-0 before he got a first serve in and Roddick is not likely to lose many service points in a tiebreaker.

In the third set Roddick broke Bjorkman’s serve by hitting, believe it or not, four good returns of serve. One of them was an accident but it worked. Roddick won the match, 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-4.

It’s unfortunate for Germany and Sweden that their best players weren’t available. If the U.S. were to lose Andy Roddick, they’d be in deep, deep trouble themselves. As for now, though, Roddick has a good chance of adding a Davis Cup trophy to his other accomplishments.

Today’s win was the ninth straight time Roddick has won the deciding rubber in a Davis Cup tie and even if Roddick doesn’t get that Wimbledon title he’d really love to have, that’s a record he can be proud of.

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U.S. Up 2-1 Over Sweden in Davis Cup

If the U.S. beats Sweden and Russia beats Germany, I get a trip home. So far, the odds look about 50/50.

Here’s the plan: the U.S. wins its Davis Cup semifinal over Sweden and Russia wins its Davis Cup semifinal over Germany. The Davis Cup final will then take place in the U.S., probably in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and I’ll have an excuse to fly to the east coast and visit my sister in North Carolina.

Problem is, Russia is not cooperating and neither is U.S. player James Blake. Russia is down 2-1 to Germany after the doubles and Blake looked awful in his four set loss to Sweden’s Thomas Johansson. Luckily, Andy Roddick and the Bryan brothers are coming through for me.

Roddick dusted off Joachim “PimPim” Johansson in Gothenburg, Sweden, to win the first rubber and the Bryan Brothers played what they called “our best Davis Cup match by far” to beat doubles specialists Jonas Bjorkman and Simon Aspelin easily after struggling through a 24 point first set tiebreaker.

Was Blake awful or was Thomas Johansson just too good? Let’s look at the first set. Blake had a double fault on his second serve of the match and five double faults in his first five service games. If Blake was serving badly then we can say that he played poorly. But Johansson was also punishing Blake’s second serve.

When someone is punishing your second serve you try one of two things: hit a safe first serve or go for more on your second serve. Judging by Blake’s first serve percentage he didn’t try the first option and the second option probably led to all of those double faults.

Return of serve is one of Blake’s strengths too but he wasn’t doing well with that either. He had four winners off service return for the entire match, not nearly enough when your opponent is getting 70% of his first serves in.

Blake had a great summer hard court season because he played aggressively. I’ve never seen him go to the net as much as he did at the U.S. Open where he reached the quarterfinals. In this match, though, he had exactly zero winners at the net.

After going up two sets to none, Johansson faltered a bit in the third set, and, ever the aggressor, took a huge swing at a volley and dumped it into the net to lose his serve and the set. It’s not like Blake had the momentum, though. He hit two double faults before he finally managed to serve out the third set and then hit two more double faults to lose his serve in the fourth set.

Johansson won the match, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Johansson may not have been too good but he was definitely much better. Roddick will play Johansson on Sunday. If Roddick wins it, the U.S. will be in the final and Blake’s next rubber will be meaningless.

Joachim “PimPim” Johansson was a surprise guest at this party. He hasn’t played a match in eight months due to a second surgery on his right shoulder. But he shares the record for the most aces in one match – 51 – and he had a chance against Roddick because the surface here in Gothenburg is Taraflex, a very fast indoor carpet.

At the risk of being impolite, I’m going to call Joachim Johansson “PimPim” to distinguish him from Thomas Johansson.

PimPim played exceptionally well considering the layoff. He faced three break points serving at 2-3 in the first set then reeled off four aces and a service winner to win the game. Wow. If this guy could stay healthy, he’d be scary.

When you have a long layoff, you lose two things: conditioning and focus. When you lose focus, you play the big points poorly and that’s why PimPim lost the first two sets.

In the first and second set tiebreakers it was Roddick who raised his game. As Roddick put it after the match, “…the most important stat was I didn’t lose a point on serve in either one of the breakers which is not easy to do. If you do that you’re not going to lose the tiebreakers.”

By the third set, conditioning joined focus as a problem. Serving at 3-4, PimPim got a ball at the net that was too high to volley and too low for an overhead. He put it into the net and gave Roddick three break points. On the next point, Roddick hit a short return and instead of putting it away, PimPim put it into the net. All Roddick had to do was serve out the set to win the rubber. Not a difficult task on this surface. Roddick won the match, 7-6(4), 7-6(3), 6-3.

If the U.S. does win and Germany ends up beating Russia, the final will be in Germany. I love Davis Cup but not enough to fly to Germany.

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Davis Cup Picks

There’s no ATP fantasy tennis this week because it’s time for Davis Cup. So let’s pick that instead. First, let’s recap last week.

Rear View Mirror – A look at last week’s picks.

Miserable. Just miserable. Gael Monfils forgot to enter the Bucharest Open so he qualified and took out my guy Filippo Volandri in the first round. Nicolas Almagro retired in his first match and only one ranked player got to the semifinals. My only remaining player was Tommy Robredo. He got to the final in Beijing and lost to Fernando Gonzalez who decided it was time to win his first matches on hard court since March.

Davis Cup

The US is one match away from getting to the Davis Cup final. So is Sweden. The two countries will meet on a super fast indoor carpet surface in Gothenburg, Sweden, to see which one gets there.

The US is lucky because Sweden’s Robin Soderling will miss the tie. That leaves Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson to battle with Andy Roddick and James Blake in singles. It looks like the US would have to work hard to lose this tie.

Bjorkman got to the quarterfinal at Marseille on indoor hard court earlier this year, but he beat two clay court players to get there and that was the last time he’s done well at an indoor event since 2005. He’s 2-4 against Roddick and 0-2 against Blake.

Thomas Johansson got to the final at St. Petersburg on carpet last year but he’s 0-5 against Roddick and 0-2 against Blake.

There are a few problems however. Strange things happen when players get patriotic in front of their home crowd. Blake is 11-7 in Davis Cup which is not overwhelming. His record in five set matches is 1-10. And then there’s that second Johansson.

Joachim Johansson has been out since the Australian Open and he missed much of last year with shoulder surgery. But if he’s slightly healthy, that could be enough to team up with Jonas Bjorkman – or Simon Aspelin – to steal the doubles rubber because Joachim’s serve is monstrous.

Even though Aspelin teamed up with Julian Knowle to win the US Open doubles title this year, it’s not likely to happen because the US has the Bryan brother and they’re 11-1 in Davis Cup doubles.

I would be very surprised if I was not booking my ticket to the Davis Cup final in some US city come late November. And that also means that Russia will beat Germany in the other semifinal because if Germany wins, the final will be played in Germany.

Marat Safin won’t be in Moscow for the tie against Germany. He’s climbing the sixth highest mountain in the world, Cho-Oyu, which is on the Nepal-Tibet border. Makes sense to me. What else would he be doing in the middle the tennis season besides climbing a tall mountain?

Maybe Safin will get to the 27,000 foot (8201 meter) high peak and find a guru freezing his butt off in a cave. Maybe the guru will give Safin Shaktipat and his days of being a tortured soul will come to a glorious end. Nah, never happen.

Russia wisely chose clay for the surface because Russian players Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev love clay. Germany’s Tommy Haas avoids it like the plague and he’s 1-3 against Davydenko including a loss at the US Open

Andreev is 4-0 against Germany’s other singles player, Philipp Kohlschreiber. That may mean that 37th ranked Andreev will play singles instead of 17th ranked Youznhy. Youzhny, instead, will team up with Dmitry Tursunov to play doubles against Alexander Waske and Philipp Petzschner.

Looks to me like it’s a US-Russia Davis Cup final.

Lindsay Davenport’s Quick Turnaround

Over on the WTA side of the tennis world, Russia dominated Italy to win the Fed Cup. More interesting to me was the result in Bali.

Lindsay Davenport retired after playing Bali last year and gave birth to son Jagger three months ago. Then she unretired and returned to Bali for her first tournament back and won the damn thing. Not only that but she beat Jelena Jankovic along the way.

Admittedly, many players use Bali as a vacation to decompress from the US Open and shop for pearls, but Lindsay was 21-8 in 2006 before she retired and she got to the quarterfinals at the Australian and the US Open so she can do some damage.

Winning a tournament three months after giving birth, by the way, is unbelievable. First of all you have to recover from the birth itself, then suffer through a few months of sleeplessness adjusting to the baby’s feeding patterns, and then there’s the physical preparation for a professional tennis match. I am impressed.

I’ll be back with ATP fantasy picks for Bangkok and Mumbai next week.

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