Monthly Archives: May 17, 2021

Join us for the men’s U.S. Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, September 9th at 4pm EST

Nadal Knees

After his first round win over Alun Jones, Rafael Nadal thanked his medical staff including one Dr. Parra. Dr. Parra is Pier Francesco Parra, an Italian surgeon who treats professional tennis players for muscle and connective tissue problems using laser technology. This is how he describes his technique:

It’s like doing arthroscopic surgery, but without cutting the skin. And it takes 23 seconds.

I seriously doubt it’s like arthroscopic surgery because a laser is not going to correct an anatomical problem. It could help tendonitis, which Nadal has in both knees. Tendonitis causes scar tissue to form and ultrasound is often used to heat the tissue so that the fibers can be realigned using frictional massage. A laser could do the same thing I suppose.

Whatever the hell Parra does, it worked for Nadal. Nadal was positively hopping around the court in his second round match against Janko Tipsarevic tonight at the US Open. Tipsarevic wore a matching piece of tape around a knee for his very own patella tendonitis. Maybe he visited Mr. Parra too. If he didn’t, he should have.

Tipsarevic, who has a quote from Dostoevsky tattooed on his left arm and a design inspired by German philosopher Schopenhauer tattooed on his back, called for a trainer early in the third set after losing the first two sets. He must have needed a rest because he could have recited Crime and Punishment in the time it took him to describe a rib problem to the trainer.

It didn’t help. Tipsarevic struggled on for a few more games then retired. Here we were wondering whether Nadal could make it through the next round and it was his opponent who gave out.

Novak Djokovic also got a gift today. After struggling to a brilliant 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(2), victory over Radek Stepanek – is this kid golden in the big events or what? – he no longer has to worry about facing Lleyton Hewitt. Austin Calleri got rid of him in four sets.

This is an extremely surprising result. Calleri had won five hard court matches all year and Hewitt has been on a roll. I picked Djokovic over Hewitt if they met because they’re headed in opposite directions, but I’d never have guessed Hewitt would go out this early.

James Blake Takes the Fifth

James Blake will always tell you that he doesn’t set goals. His only goal is to get better. I’ve always considered this a bit of a cop-out as if setting a goal might put too much pressure on him. What’s your problem guy, can’t deal with the pressure?

Truthfully, no, he doesn’t deal with pressure all that well but he just got better at it. Last night he won his first ever five set match after losing the first nine of his career by beating the annoying Fabrice Santoro.

Whenever you change a bad habit you’ve had for a long time, it’s a huge struggle and this was no exception.

Santoro is annoying but he’s no novelty act. After losing the first set, he won the second set with a fantastic shot. He hit a towering lob and Blake let it bounce before hitting a hard overhead. Santoro not only got to the overhead but he hit a ball that dipped just over the net and landed at Blake’s feet. Blake put it into the net and they were even at one set all.

In the fourth set, Blake had break point to get back on serve. Santoro hit a slice approach and Blake blasted the ball once, twice, and then a third time before Santoro finally put up a lob volley. Santoro lost the point but managed to get another break to win the set and now Blake had no choice. He had to win a fifth set or go home yet again.

Santoro made it as difficult as possible. He started to cramp and he got quick massages from the trainer twice on changeovers. Serving at 2-3, he sat down in the middle of the game and got a third massage during a medical timeout.

Somehow he’d managed to completely subvert the rules by getting three treatments for the same ailment with only one medical timeout and by this time, Blake was a bit of a mess. Luckily Santoro’s cramps got worse. After fighting off three break points to get to 5-4, Blake broke Santoro and the long wait was finally over.

And what did Blake do? He got to the net and gave Santoro this little speech:

…It’s incredible that you’re still playing this way. You do it every single Slam. You’ve been doing it for so long, and that you can still fight this hard. You’re a credit to the game.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Blake will be an ambassador or leader of some sort in his tennis afterlife and I’ll be still be here sniping about some player’s dirty tricks.


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Read more US Open coverage here:
The Death of Gonzo and Gasquet Pulls Out
Is the US Open Faster Than Wimbledon?
Early Rounds at the Us Open

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Join us for the men’s U.S. Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, September 9th at 4pm EST

We answer the question: Is the US Open faster than Wimbledon? And we make a few booty calls.

Wanna know why I love the US Open? That is besides the drama of opening night, the grueling five set matches and performances such as Justin Gimelstob’s stand up comedy act in the last singles match of his career against his good friend Andy Roddick.

I love it because the US Open is the only time US sports media pays any attention to tennis.

Yesterday, for instance, I listened to Patrick McEnroe on the Jim Rome sports talk radio show. In conversation with Rome, McEnroe said that the US Open is now the fastest slam, even faster than Wimbledon. On the USA network, Patrick’s brother John McEnroe said the same thing.

Must be true then, right? Let’s look and see if it is.

When I want statistical information, I head over to gambling sites because that’s where information equals money. Gambling sites gage court speed by looking at the number of games played per set because the faster the court, the easier it is to hold serve and the more games will be played.

In 2006, Tennisinsight.com has Wimbledon in the top 10% of all tournaments ranked by speed. In that same year, it puts the US Open in the top 30%. Twenty percent slower. Tennisinsight.com doesn’t have US Open numbers for this year yet, but it puts this year’s Wimbledon in the top 2% of all tournaments. Blazing fast.

Tennisform.com ranks the tournaments by the average number of games played per set going back to 1997.

Wimbledon ranks number 9 out of 86 tournaments. The US Open comes in at number 47. Six clay court tournaments rank higher than the US Open though some of those are at altitude. The thinner air makes the ball fly faster. Keep in mind that this is an average over the last ten years so the Open might be faster now than it was ten years ago.

The US Open is not faster than Wimbledon, not even close. So what’s going on?

In both cases, the McEnroes were talking about Rafael Nadal’s chances of winning the US Open. How could Rafa get to the Wimbledon final two years in a row when clay is his best surface by far. And why hasn’t he gone past the quarterfinals at the US Open? One explanation is to blame the slowdown at Wimbledon.

I’ve done it myself. Wimbledon has switched to a bigger ball and a slower, bouncier court which suits Rafa’s game because he’s all about topspin, I said. That may be true but if it is, then all of the other courts have slowed down significantly too because Wimbledon is still faster than 90% of all tournaments.

Rafa doesn’t do well at the US Open because he can’t play extended matches on hard courts. Grass is easier on the body. It’s softer and the weather is usually cooler. Rafa said as much after his four set victory over Alun Jones today:

Well, the hard surface always is tougher, and the tennis is going to have more and more hard surfaces tournament. And in my opinion is a little bit mistake because for the players and for have a longer career is better play in other surfaces. But the tennis is going like this.

In other words, the ATP just got rid of one of the Masters Series clay events and replaced it with a hard court event over my strenuous objections.

Rafa’s hard grinding style of play doesn’t help either. He retired at Cincinnati with a forearm problem and he already had knee tendonitis from Wimbledon. While practicing for the US Open, he developed tendonitis in his other knee. If he wasn’t playing in a slam this week, he’d have already gone home:

Well, maybe if I am in another tournament, I never go to the court today. But is the US Open, so is very important tournament for me.

Rafa was lucky to win today. He looked terrible. He couldn’t cover the court and he had trouble stopping and starting. He pulled himself together to win the fourth set easily but Jones was a wild card. Rafa won’t get past higher ranked players if his knee doesn’t improve.

Serena’s Booty and Larry Craig’s Booty Call

By the way, I missed this video when I was covering the French Open. Watch Serena shake her booty good. Love it! Thanks to the Magic Jewball for bringing this to my attention.

Speaking of videos, in support of my community – all the queers out there – here is a re-enactment of the arrest of the Republican Senator from Idaho, Larry Craig, for soliciting sex in an airport bathroom. Ah, the wonders of modern video. Wide stance indeed!


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Follow the early rounds at the Open, read about opening night, and see our picks.

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Offshore internet gambling is illegal in the US but it may not be for long.

I spent last week in Mexico City walking through ancient Aztec ruins and eating squash bottom quesadillas, though not at the same time of course. I didn’t appreciate waiting in line for more than an hour to get through immigration at the Mexico City airport but the US and Mexico haven’t gone borderless yet. They’re both members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) though and that brings us back to the subject of internet gambling.

We started that subject by looking at irregular betting patterns on the August 2nd match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo-Arguello in Sopot, Poland. The bets were laid on Betfair.com, an internet betting exchange based in England. We don’t know whether the match was fixed or not, though no one has come up with a plausible alternative explanation, but we do know that no US based citizens were betting on the match because offshore internet gambling is illegal in the US

It may not be for long. The small Caribbean island of Antigua has lodged a successful complaint with the WTO that could spell the end of the ban on offshore internet gambling.

If a US citizen wants to play fantasy football or bet on horses on a US based internet site, no problem. If a US citizen wants to gamble using an internet site based in Antigua, that’s illegal. In fact, Jay Cohen was sentenced to 21 months in jail for taking bets from US citizens on his Antiguan based site.

The whole point of trade laws is to give trade partners free access to each other’s markets. If the US has a service, then it has to allow its trade partners to offer the same service. The US doesn’t agree in the case of internet gambling but according to this excellent article in the New York Times, the US has run out of appeals in the case. The only thing left is to award damages to Antigua.

And herein lies the problem because Antigua has requested the following damages: it wants the right to ignore US intellectual property laws which means the right to reproduce US movies, books, music and other copyrighted material without having to pay royalties.

Not such a big deal, you say. Antigua’s population is what, about 70, 000? True, but what if England did the same thing?

Several British citizens are currently in US custody after being indicted for taking bets from US citizens. They were executives of Betonsports.com, an internet gambling site based in England. If England took a complaint to the WTO and received the right to reproduce US movies and books without paying a dime, that would be a big deal.

Don’t hold your breath. England has been the US’s greatest ally in Iraq – at great political cost to former Prime Minister Tony Blair I might add. And though the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, might like to show his independence, he probably won’t go that far.

The potential is there though and lame objections from the US will not hold up. According to the Times article, the US claimed that it shouldn’t be required to allow internet gambling on moral grounds and offered up the example of Muslim countries that ban alcoholic beverages from their trade agreements. That’s pretty laughable considering that gambling is legal in many states in the US and a number of states depend on income from lotteries to help balance their budget.

It might not even take action by another country. US based entertainment conglomerates who want to protect their copyrights might pressure the government to end its ban. And it should end.

On the plane back from Mexico City I talked with a guy who races trucks on the Bonneville Salt Flats. He used to know a guy who had a racing team in NASCAR a number of years ago and race fixing was common back then too.

It’s possible to lay bets on who will be the leader at the end of each lap. The NASCAR guy had two racers who’d qualified in the first row but each driver had taken money from different gamblers to insure that he didn’t finish the first lap in front. Both of them tried to get behind the other driver to make sure they didn’t win the first lap. One of them eventually got on the other guy’s bumper and pushed him to the first lap lead.

Gambling has been around forever and will be around forever. Better to legislate it and reap the financial benefits than to pretend otherwise.

That goes for prostitution too but I might be pushing my luck on that one.


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Read more about gambling and the ATP and the Davydenko vs. Vassallo-Arguello match.

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Join us for the men’s U.S. Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, September 9th at 4pm EST

I was lying in bed this morning reading a Sports Illustrated article about New Orleans two years after Hurricane Katrina. While many residents of the city have returned, most of the homes in the Lower Ninth Ward are gone and the poor, mostly black people who used to live there have not been able to return to New Orleans because the area still doesn’t have basic services such as power and running water.

When I was investigating the Duke rape case, a former Duke tennis player told me that the divide between Duke and the surrounding black community has gotten worse because the black community is struggling. Garment industry jobs have gone overseas and they’ve been replaced by biotechnology jobs which many people are not qualified for. The local Hispanic community is also prospering at a faster rate than the black community.

Today, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick entered a plea agreement for Federal charges stemming from his involvement with a dogfighting operation then gave an apology to the commissioner of the NFL, his team’s owner, his teammates, and the young kids that look up to him as a role model. This is not a racial issue but surely the black community is hurting for Vick, a superstar who signed the largest contract in NFL history.

It’s not the best of times for the black community in the U.S. but tonight at the U.S. Open there was a celebration of one of its pioneers: Althea Gibson, the Jackie Robinson of tennis and the first black tennis player to win a slam.

Fifty years ago she won the U.S. Open. She’d already won the French Open and Wimbledon and though Arthur Ashe came along a decade later and won his last slam in 1975, it would be another 25 years before a black player won a slam.

Venus Williams won Wimbledon in 2000 and it was only appropriate that Venus and her sister Serena played their opening round matches after Aretha Franklin belted out R-E-S-P-E-C-T in front of a gathering of pioneering black women that included tennis player Zina Garrison, astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, and performer Roberta Flack.

During the ceremony, Gibson was posthumously inducted into the U.S. Open Court of Champions. Took ‘em long enough.

Venus and Serena won their matches in straight sets and Donald Young and Ahsha Rolle also won their matches. Venus and Serena have fourteen slam wins between them, James Blake is on a roll and Donald Young is starting to look promising again.

Things are looking good, it won’t take another 25 years before a black player wins a slam. Venus and Serena each have one themselves this year. Let’s hope they get their plaques before they pass away.


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Join us for the men’s U.S. Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, September 9th at 4pm EST

The U.S. Open celebrated the pioneer Althea Gibson at opening ceremonies in New York.

I was lying in bed this morning reading a Sports Illustrated article about New Orleans two years after Hurricane Katrina. While many residents of the city have returned, most of the homes in the Lower Ninth Ward are gone and the poor, mostly black people who used to live there have not been able to return to New Orleans because the area still doesn’t have basic services such as power and running water.

When I was investigating the Duke rape case, a former Duke tennis player told me that the divide between Duke and the surrounding black community has gotten worse because the black community is struggling. Garment industry jobs have gone overseas and they’ve been replaced by biotechnology jobs which many people are not qualified for. The local Hispanic community is also prospering at a faster rate than the black community.

Today, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick entered a plea agreement for Federal charges stemming from his involvement with a dogfighting operation then gave an apology to the commissioner of the NFL, his team’s owner, his teammates, and the young kids that look up to him as a role model. This is not a racial issue but surely the black community is hurting for Vick, a superstar who signed the largest contract in NFL history.

It’s not the best of times for the black community in the U.S. but tonight at the U.S. Open there was a celebration of one of its pioneers: Althea Gibson, the Jackie Robinson of tennis and the first black tennis player to win a slam.

Fifty years ago Gibson won the U.S. Open. Arthur Ashe came along a decade later and won his last slam in 1975 and Yannick Noah won the French Open in 1983, but it would be another 17 years before a black player won a slam.

Venus Williams won Wimbledon in 2000 and it was only appropriate that Venus and her sister Serena played their opening round matches after Aretha Franklin belted out R-E-S-P-E-C-T in front of a gathering of pioneering black women that included tennis player Zina Garrison, astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, and performer Roberta Flack.

During the ceremony, Gibson was posthumously inducted into the U.S. Open Court of Champions. Took ‘em long enough.

Venus and Serena won their matches in straight sets and Donald Young and Ahsha Rolle also won their matches. Venus and Serena have fourteen slam wins between them, James Blake is on a roll and Donald Young is starting to look promising again.

Things are looking good, it won’t take another 17 years before a black player wins a slam. Venus and Serena each have one themselves this year. Let’s hope they get their plaques before they pass away.


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Look at our picks for the US Open

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