Category Archives: AMS Indian Wells

2007 Tennis Wayback Machine

In no particular order, here is the first installment of notable events from the year 2007.

Bad Tennis Predictions

I went on the Sports Talk Cleveland radio show early in the year and participated in a serpentine draft for their tennis fantasy league. In a serpentine draft, whoever picks first in one round picks last in the next round. After I won the right to take the first pick in the draft and learned that I’d get the last pick in the second round, I blurted out, “Does that mean I have to take Serena?” Silly me. Serena Williams dropped in to the Australian Open and rolled into the final where she gobsmacked Sharapova 6-1, 6-2. Roger Federer won the men’s title but, then, you knew that.

Megamerger Multimedia Disease Attacks Tennis

IMG bought Tennis Week, the venerable tennis publication started by the late, great Gene Scott 32 years ago. Not such a big deal until you realize that IMG also represents Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer (and Nick Bolletieri’s tennis academy). Is this yet another nail in the coffin of independent media? There is hope I suppose. The New York Times owns part of the Boston Red Sox and they still trash the Sox regularly. But it does make you wonder if Tennis Week would get interference from the head IMG guy if they trashed Sharapova for pulling out of Toronto because she stubbed her toe.

The Interview That Wasn’t

The P.R. firm for a wine that Jim Courier endorses offered me an interview with Courier. It started off as a telephone interview, then it was demoted to an email interview, and then it turned into nothing because Courier never answered my email. And that was after I spoke to my friend Bob Blumer, star of the Food Network show Glutton for Punishment, so I could get up to speed on old world wine versus new world wine. That was also after I picked Courier to be Richard Gasquet’s new coach because I thought Gasquet needed one. Gasquet didn’t need a new coach. He made it to the year end championships just fine thank you.

Pregnancy, Cocaine, and the Comeback Mommy of the Year

Anastasia Myskina and Kim Clijsters are both pregnant. That’s a better way to leave the tour than testing positive for cocaine. I’m sure Martina Hingis might have been happier if her engagement to Radek Stepanek had ended in marriage and she was taking a pregnancy test instead of a hair test to prove that she never touched the white stuff. Lindsay Davenport gave birth in June and returned to the tour three months later. So much for retirement. She went 13-1 in her comeback and plans to play in three slams in 2008.

The Media Wars

At the same time that Sports Illustrated laid off 298 employees, it paid $20 million for, sports information and fan blogger site. The timing of these transactions made it look like S.I. was exchanging paid writers for unpaid fan bloggers, but the reality is a bit more complex. S.I. was trying to beef up its online presence and narrow the gap between and the hugely popular S.I. even poached ESPN radio personality Dan Patrick, but that must have pissed off ESPN because they turned around and stole S.I.’s back page columnist, Rick Reilly, with an unbelievable $3 million per year offer. Hey guys, I’m available and I’d take a lot less than $3 mil.

Back to Back to Back to Back

By the time I reached Indian Wells on Sunday afternoon in early March, Guillermo Canas had already beaten Federer for his biggest win since coming off a 15 month suspension for using a banned substance. He beat Federer again two weeks later in Miami and if that wasn’t bad enough, David Nalbandian raised himself from the dead, or at least from his lethargy, and beat Federer in consecutive meetings at the last two Masters Series events of the year, Madrid and Paris. And Nalbandian had never won a Masters Series event before! Not only that, but because I didn’t pick Nalbandian for my fantasy team in Paris, I dropped out of the top 100 in the ATP Fantasy Tennis Season for the first time all year and lost my subleague title. Serves me right for not believing in the guy.

To be continued…

Teddy Awards

Please go over to the poll on the right side of the page and vote for the player who is in most need of a new coach. I skipped Female Centerfold of the Year because Ana Ivanovic was the only player nominated.

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.

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The B*tch And Sing Dept: After The Desert

We’re moving across the country from the dry heat of Southern California to the sticky stuff in Miami where both tours begin a nearly two-week event called the Sony Ericsson Open. Somehow the mugginess of Florida doesn’t promise much respite after the desert furnaces of Indian Wells, but it’s good to get out of town. I can think of a handful of players who probably think the same way.

Having received a surprising comeuppance in the desert, it would be wise to bet the entire house on Roger Federer this week. I expect him to come out with blood in his eye and smoke pouring from his ears emitting both “fire and music” as the inestimable Margo Channing once said. Appropriately we suppose, his opener occurs this coming Saturday night. It features entertainment ripped from the pages of Super Bowls past, replete with fire and music, sound and light, and a rendition of our national anthem from some secret superstar singer. If Roger is not laughing hysterically at the thought of all this hyper inflation, as I am now, then he should go out and win, convincingly, with style and panache, just to show who’s in charge. You’ve bought pizzas for all the ball kids, Roger, and you hung around like a really good guy and schmoozed the world in Indian Wells after your loss. But now we want to see you on your feet and swinging. Entrails scattered around the court would be nice too. Andreev’s or Querrey’s. One of them you’ll meet in your opener.

It would be nice to see him face Nadal again in a final. They have not met since the semi-finals of the year-end ATP championship in Shanghai. Roger won in two sets on the indoor carpet surface. I hope you guys meet again so I don’t have to keep watching my Shanghai tape to remind myself of how great it is when Federer meets Nadal. That match featured some serious heavy ground strokes from both players in long rallies. Nadal played a wonderful match but Federer was just sublime. Fans and inspectors need more of that intensity. If we are to experiment further with the round robin format, let’s use it to get Federer facing Nadal in more finals. Why fool around with anyone else, let’s just cut to the chase.

It’s good to see Nadal with a big win under his belt. He was having a long hiccup there. I am not a diehard Rafa fan, but it’s important for the game that he runs into Roger more often. Now that he’s finally gotten into a final, maybe he’ll get a taste for staying in them. The match on Sunday was a lot more vital for Nadal to win that Djokovic but the fact that he won and Federer lost doesn’t really import any dramatic changes anytime soon in the shape of the men’s game. Federer is far ahead of the pack, even far ahead of Nadal, yet Nadal is also far ahead of the pack.

Hopefully the pack can generate a few more rivalries of its own since they really can’t touch the top two players. Murray and Djokovic would be a good rivalry since they are the same age and are already familiar with each other’s play. It may be more of a rivalry now rather than later as I see Murray rapidly developing an all-court game. He has hands in the great tradition of Ilie Nastase and John McEnroe.

Djokovic has the drive to succeed but can he add more to his game? He can serve big but from what I saw of him against Nadal, his serve may not be big enough. Nor consistent enough. His forehand is his weapon de jour but that’s about all that’s in his bag. I don’t feel particularly drawn to his personality or his style of play. I have seen it all before. Federer has spoiled me rotten. I want to see every new player showing his particular gift; something unique. Djokovic is more of the same. I am happy to see my co-writer agrees with me in this regard. He will make the top ten after last week but I hope Murray follows closely on his heels because he has the more interesting game. Too bad Novak wasn’t playing a five-setter because he might have been able to get his teeth into it a bit more.

Blake-Roddick should be more of a rivalry too. Both guys of late appear so fragile at times against those foreigners that maybe they just need to play each other for a change. Maybe then they can channel their aggressive styles better. Speaking of Roddick, some photos of him on a crotch-grabbing spree between points at the Aussie Open this year are circulating around the internet. Not current, but timely anyway. The way Nadal took it to Roddick on Saturday, I wouldn’t be surprised if Andy repeated that gesture on occasion. Just to make sure they’re all there. Wouldn’t you? Nadal will leave a trail of manly men clutching their balls this spring.

Kudos this week also to Tommy Haas who is showing great stuff this year. He should have beaten Murray and he knows it but both guys emerged as winners from that dust-up. We kind of neglected the women last week so congrats also to Li Na for livening up the women’s draw, and how about that Daniela Hantuchova’s win over Kuznetsova? Five years is a long time between titles. Better late than never we suppose. She showed a lot of composure and strength in winning only her second tour title.

It’s good to see, if not exactly new faces, then new winners in the winner’s circle. Sometimes it’s revealing when the top seeds go out of a tournament. Good things emerge in their wake.

2007 Indian Wells: the tripleheader that wasn’t

All credit to Roddick for climbing back to number three after a horrible start last year but how does he move forward now?

My gracious hosts Here at Indian Wells wanted to know what time I would be home for dinner. I told them not to hold dinner for me, there were two men’s semifinals and a women’s final to be played this afternoon and I expected to be at the stadium for a good seven or eight hours.

I was wrong. I could have been home for dinner by six and that is not a good thing.

Earlier this week, Bill Simons of Inside Tennis asked Rafael Nadal an interesting question. He wondered if Nadal was getting too comfortable with his number two ranking. Did he still have a burning desire to be number one? It took a few people to successfully translate the question into Spanish but Nadal finally answered that he was comfortable with number two because he didn’t see an opportunity to be number one but his goal, of course, is to be number one.

Andy Roddick will now have to decide how comfortable he is at number three because he lost badly to Nadal in the first semifinal today, 6-4, 6-3. Roddick is more than a thousand points behind Nadal in the ATP rankings and less than one hundred in front of Nikolay Davydenko so Simon’s question is important because this is competitive sports, if you’re not moving forward then you’re probably slipping backwards.

All credit to Roddick for climbing back to number three after a horrible start last year but how does he move forward now? Some of his problems today were temporary. During the three games he lost his serve, he got a total of three first serves into the court. And some problems need fixing.

I said Roddick would have problems later in the week if he tried to serve and volley because those higher ranked guys hit very good passing shots. But he also had trouble getting to the net because Nadal’s topspin kicked up and kept him behind the baseline. Roddick realizes he has to do something. After the match he said:

I mean, we were talking about it, Jimmy (Connors) and I just now, and we said, you know, we’re going to have to go back and look at this match and really kind of think about what we would try to do a little bit differently.

Nadal said he had his best match of the year today and clearly Roddick did not so the gap isn’t as wide as it looked, but this is the era of the supercoach and I’m looking forward to seeing what Connors comes up with next. After Andy Murray dismantled Tommy Haas in the quarterfinals last night you have to appreciate Murray and his coach Brad Gilbert. We know Gilbert can coach a player to number one, he did it with Andre Agassi, and it’ll be fun to see how Connors deals with the challenge.

Both women’s finalists, Daniela Hantuchova and Svetlana Kuznetsova, suffered from early success. Hantuchova won the title here in 2002 and hadn’t won a tournament since. Kuznetsova won the 2004 US Open and reached a career high number four then had a terrible 2005 before winning Miami and getting to the French Open final last year. She is now back at number four.

This tournament has been a bit of a letdown because Justine Henin and Amelie Mauresmo are not here and Maria Sharapova went out early. Kuznetsova explained it like this: “…Justine, Amelie, they were not here this week. And then, afterwards, other top players that lose early. And, for me, not to make the final would feel very low. At least I made it, you know.” And maybe that was the problem, being satisfied with the final, because she had trouble keeping the ball in the court and she let Hantuchova dictate the match with aggressive play.

And maybe Kuznetsova is too comfortable at number four. Look at this exchange:

Q. Svetlans, does this sort of take …a little bit of pressure off you going into the next week where you’ve got all winners points to defend? [remember, Kuznetsova won the title at Miami last year]Kuznetsova: Yeah, definitely, definitely it’s easier. I mean, you know, otherwise, I always defend all the points, you know. So it’s much easier to me next week.When you win a tournament on the professional tennis tour, you have to come back and win it again next year else your ranking is likely to drop. The pressure only increases, it never really decreases. That’s why very few people are well equipped for this job. Hantuchova got the second title of her career today winning it 6-3, 6-4. Five years after her first title she’s much better prepared for the job.The last match of the day featured the two best young players on the ATP tour: Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. Murray is ranked number fourteen and Djokovic thirteen. Their games and their temperaments are very different and it should have been fun to see them slug it out on the hard court but it wasn’t.

Murray hurt his ankle and his hip during his win over Tommy Haas in the quarterfinals last night but he played today because he was told he couldn’t hurt himself further. He had second thoughts about it after the match:

I had a bit of an unprofessional decision on my part to have gone on. You know, I guess the older you get, the more you learn that it’s not always about just going.

Murray couldn’t move and that’s the biggest part of his game. Djokovic won the match easily, 6-2, 6-3, and moved himself into the top ten for the first time in his career.

The cafeteria closes during the last game of the last match. After Djokovic won his fourth game in the last set I knew it would be over pretty quickly so I took off to get my dinner much earlier than I thought I would.

Nadal finds his forehand and wins Indian Wells

Every tournament has its own personality and often it has a revelation or two along the way. While Novak Djokovic was losing to Rafael Nadal in the final at Indian Wells today, I thought back to Friday night’s match between Andy Murray and Tommy Haas.

Andy Murray was the revelation this week for me and watching Djokovic brought it to mind. Djokovic is a typical young and upcoming tennis player. He hits the ball very hard from the baseline and will approach the net if the situation calls for it. He has a favorite shot and it’s the favorite shot of most professional tennis players today: the inside out forehand.

Jim Courier is the first player I remember watching who hit that shot so it’s not particularly new but now it has become ubiquitous. Serving wide to the deuce court then hitting an inside out forehand to the opposite side of the court is part of most players’ repertoires. The problem is that most players’ repertoires are not as large as they could be.

And that’s where Murray comes in. He puts the ball wherever he wants it to go at any speed and any altitude. Inside out forehand, drop shot, moonball, defensive lob, short shot to draw his opponent to the net, top class first serve, he has it all. Along with the shots he has the intelligence to use them well enough to dissect his opponent’s game. He’s not alone, Roger Federer is pretty good at it too. And he’s also not ranked as high as Djokovic who moved into the top ten with his appearance in the final today. But I would have chosen him to beat Djokovic and get to the final if he hadn’t fallen and hurt himself in the Haas match.

Take this for instance. I don’t think it would have taken Murray more than a set to realize that running around your backhand to hit an inside out forehand leaves an open court for Nadal to hit a forehand down the line. More than a few players have beaten Nadal this year by attacking his forehand but if Djokovic had seen Nadal take Andy Roddick apart in the semifinals, he would have realized that Nadal seems to have found his forehand once again.

A few games into the second set Djokovic starting hitting to Nadal’s backhand and we finally had a tennis match to watch. With Nadal serving at 2-1, Djokovic managed to get three break points but couldn’t convert them. Serving at 5-5, he faced his own break point and got himself in position to hit a good volley. Unfortunately the ball limped off his racket and landed right in Nadal’s wheelhouse. Nadal got his break and served out for a 6-2, 7-5, victory and his first title since the French Open last year.

Djokovic didn’t play the important points well but he’s only nineteen years old and this is his first Masters Series final and he did well to get here. Next time, I’ll be waiting to see what happens when both Murray and Djokovic are healthy. Oh, and if Federer can stick around long enough in Miami next week, maybe we’ll even get to to see Federer and Nadal go at it again.