Category Archives: AMS Miami

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I made a mistake last week. Well, I made a few, but one in particular stood out. I picked Carlos Moya for my team without noticing that he’d gone out in the first round the past three years. Pay attention to such information even if I forget. Of course, who’d a thunk that Sam Querrey would beat Moya and I find it interesting that James Blake took a wild card to Barcelona this week. Querrey reached the quarterfinals, for heaven’s sake, and that should embarrass both Blake and Andy Roddick enough to get their butts over to Europe immediately.

Keep slogging along here with your complete season strategy because, remember, there are seven Masters Series events and three slams in the season. For instance, you should probably use Rafael Nadal for the three clay Masters events, Roland Garros, and Wimbledon because you can only use him five times.

There are two tournaments this week. Barcelona is on clay and pays $209, 692 for a first prize. Munich is also on clay and pays $90, 923 to its winner. Given the disparity in the first prize money, let’s pick five of our eight players from Barcelona and three from Munich.

I keep waiting for Nicolas Almagro to step up at required events and it hasn’t happened yet except for a quarterfinal here and there, so pick him for Barcelona because it’s one of the highest paying optional events. Almagro won’t get past Nadal but he’s a good candidate for the semifinals over Andy Murray who has an 8-13 career record on clay.

I suppose it’s time to start thinking about how to use David Nalbandian and David Ferrer this year. Nalbandian is up and down at Roland Garros and the U.S. Open and hasn’t done well at Hamburg. He’s golden at Madrid – in last four years he’s never done worse than semis – but his win in Paris last year was an anomaly. And forget about the summer hard court Masters events. That means I have to try and get three tournaments out of him in the clay court season and since I didn’t pick him last week – one of those mistakes – I have to use him this week. I just hope Stanislaw Wawrinka doesn’t take him out.

Ferrer is having a good year and he got to the semifinals at the U.S. Open last year so I’d save him for that. The question is whether to save him for the remaining Masters events or not. He hasn’t done well and Rome or Madrid the past few years and he’s never done well in Canada but he has a legitimate shot at the remaining three Masters events. However, I think he’ll make the final in Barcelona because he’s 4-0 over Nalbandian on clay and Barcelona pays more than a quarterfinal in Cincinnati (the dollar ain’t worth much today) so I’m picking him this week and then saving him for Hamburg and Paris.

I’m going with Juan-Carlos Ferrero over Carlos Moya even though Moya is 3-0 over Ferrero in their last three clay matches because, for some reason, Moya cannot seem to play well in Barcelona. Guillermo Canas has been sinking so I’m taking Tommy Robredo over him in their quarter.

Barcelona draw

Let’s go from the Spanish tournament with all those Spanish clay court players to the German tournament with all those German not-so-good-at-clay court players. I’m hesitant to pick Igor Andreev because he lost to Steve Darcis, who is in his quarter, last year and he’s in Fernando Gonzalez’ quarter. And Fernando is 6-0 on clay this year, but Andreev is on a roll and he beat Fernando the last two times they played on clay.

From the top half I’m going with two players. Paul-Henri Mathieu lost early in Monte Carlo but he’s never gone past the first round in Monte Carlo and he had a big clay court season last year in optional events. Philipp Kohlschreiber is my second pick here because he has good results here and his quarter is weak.

Munich draw

My Pick
Almagro, Ferrer, Nalbandian, Ferrero, Robredo, Andreev, Mathieu, Kohlschreiber

Happy fantasies!

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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 fannation.com, 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 si.com and the hugely popular espn.com. 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.

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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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For a while now we have been saying that men’s tennis needs more rivalries. We need to see more people in finals besides Roger Federer all the time. Last Sunday we got our wish. If someone had told me that the Miami final would be contested between Djokovic and Canas, I would have said you need another drink. But Djokovic and Canas was what we got, and now that we’ve got it, was it all it cracked up to be? No, probably not. At least judging by some of the comments heard during the match. I sense a hankering going on.

ESPN commentator Mary Carillo was gushing over Novak Djokovic as being “a young Federer.” Now Mary, you are one of my favorite people in all the sport. But there is no way in hell that Novak, lovely lad that he is, can rate yet as a young Federer. His game at this point bears little resemblance to Roger’s. This kid is firmly planted on the baseline with his game. He ventures forward on occasion and can volley crisply but it is not his first choice. His shot selection isn’t on the same level as Roger‘s. Besides, I don’t see him being in line to capture a Grand Slam anytime soon. If you are making a serious comparison, Mary, you have to talk Grand Slams. My co-writer Nina Rota finds Djokovic rather “generic“. That sounds just about right to me. Not to say the kid won’t evolve his game, but right now it is not even close to being a roadshow version of Federer’s.

Novak caught a lucky draw this week and so did Canas. What Mary’s comments suggest to me is that she, like a lot of us, is reacting to the absence of Federer from the tennis equation. When he’s not here, we say we’re sort of glad but then we continue to talk as if he were here. As if we want him to be here, which of course we do. We project his qualities onto the guys who survived.

Novak dominated Canas pretty well in the match but that’s not to suggest his game is really similar to Federer‘s. What we are experiencing is how Roger’s presence has upped the ante for the other players. They still want to hug the baseline until hell freezes over, but the arrival of Federer requires all of them to mix it up a bit if they hope to have any success against him at all. So we may get more guys capable of playing all-court games. Unless you are like a Canas or a Nadal and you can retrieve everything. But that gets kind of boring, unless you have a player on the other side who is attacking you a lot. Then it becomes interesting. But when Canas gets up against another baseliner, it’s a bit of a snooze. So calm down, Mary. I know in your heart of hearts you feel like I do, and my co-writer Nina Rota also. We miss Roger, and the game needs him.

Sadly, the real finals took place the evening Federer lost to Canas, or Djokovic busted Nadal. If you think anyone will remember this match in about three weeks, well you’ve got a better memory than I do by far. What we saw on Sunday was a “B” match. A good match at times, but a B match overall. Not the Federer-Nadal battle we had hoped for going into Miami.

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Well, it wasn’t exactly a pretty match that Serena Williams won today against Justine Henin. In fact it was a rather lugubrious match. I love using that word. And today it fit. It was not a match featuring lots of snappy play and crispness. More like the two women were heaving balls at each other. As the score would indicate (0-6, 7-5, 6-3), these women wandered all over God’s creation before they got on track. Serena must have set her alarm and then forgotten to get up anyway. Much like Andy Murray did yesterday. She had a cup of coffee and then munched on the bagel Justine served her up in the first set. (Question: When did Serena Williams last get bageled by Henin? ) Whew, I was so tempted to turn off the telly at that point. I was still rankled over how poorly the men’s semis turned out yesterday, so when Serena didn’t bother to show up in the first set, my teeth were on edge.

Justine broke in the opening game. She looked sharper, fitter, swifter. Serena had all sorts of problems, mostly due to her poor movement. She seemed rooted in cement and her shots, as a consequence, went flying. She had no rhythm on her serve. Serena had a break point on Justine’s first service game but Henin beat her off. At 3-0, Serena had already made eight unforced errors. Her backhand was in sorry shape. It seemed like only fifteen minutes had passed and the match was already at 4-0. Serena made a stand at the end of the set, forcing Justine into four set points before the Belgian closed the deal. Serena had a total of 18 errors to Justine’s 8. I concluded at this point that it was just going to be one of those days for Serena.

Apparently Richard Williams was all set to come down on court during the between set break and coach her, but Serena declined the offer. She probably didn’t want to hear it because she knew already what she needed to do. But her problems continued as she lost her opening service game at love in the second set. Ouch, we thought, but then Serena dug in and started making Henin uncomfortable in her game. She had Henin down 0-40 on her own serve but Justine fought back. This second game defined the second set as Justine took Serena to four break points before Serena finally capitalized. Mary

Carillo was grumbling that this was not a pretty match. Hang on, Mary, we’re getting there! A moment later Justine had the chance at 5-4 to serve the match out but troubles ensued. Justine rolled her ankle and took a tumble, scraping her knee. A minor booby but just enough to throw her off stride. She double faulted then knocked a backhand feebly into the net and Serena was back even at 5-5.

Now Serena is getting herself in gear, now she starts serving well. She opens her game with an ace, then follows with a great backhand pick up volley crosscourt for 40-0, and holds a moment later at love for 6-5. Justine gets an early lead but Serena starts nailing her shots, keeping the ball deeper and forcing errors from the Belgian. Justine was setting the points up wonderfully, she just couldn’t take care of the kill shot up the line. Serena breaks her for the second set, 7-5.

You’d think Serena would blitz her now in the final set, just for the sake of punishment. Serena held the opening game at love. She has now won four straight games, and Justine is getting rattled and impatient. At 30-40, the Belgian double faults giving Serena a 2-0 lead. Justine fought to break her in the third game but Serena holds for a 3-0 lead. As if Henin didn’t have enough problems, she took another fall in Game 4. Her feet just went out from under her. Twice in one match is pretty astonishing when you think about it, because Justine Henin is one of the best movers in all of women’s tennis. But again she seems OK, the trainer visits briefly but there are going to be no excuses out here today. Justine fights off one break point before holding at a key point for 3-1.

Are we having fun now? Not really. It feels like Chinese water torture. Serena is definitely playing better, but we’re still kind of holding our breath. Henin isn’t done yet. Serena seems a bit deflated she couldn’t beat up on Henin for a 4-0 lead, and now you can sense another momentum shift back to the Belgian. Suddenly Serena’s movement does not look that good and her serve is going off again. Another long game, wherein both players hit good shots followed by awful looking ones. At the fourth deuce, Serena double faults, and Henin breaks with a great inside out forehand up the line. We are back on serve at 3-2. To accentuate her return, Henin closes the score at 3-3 with an ace.

Undaunted, Serena fights back and holds serve at love for 4-3. Then Serena puts pressure on Henin’s service game, getting her down 0-30, then Justine double faults for 15-40. Serena puts in a good service return and Justine’s backhand sprays wide for the break, 5-3. Is Henin ready for the glue factory yet? Well, not quite.

Serving for the championship, Serena knocks a backhand long for 0-15, then hits a nervous looking forehand into the net for 0-30. Justine uncorks a beautiful backhand up the line for 0-40. No sign of the Fat Lady yet. Then Serena squiggles in a little backhand up the line for 15-40. A good first service winner takes her to 30-40. Then she gets down under the concrete it seems to scoop a backhand up the line for a winner and a deuce point. A great serve out wide gives her the first match point. She misses her first serve in the ad court, but then nails a second serve ace out wide. It looked close enough for a challenge, but Henin doesn’t bother, she’s already heading to the net. The replay shows why she did not challenge: smack on the line, said she.

Nice handshake, women. A moment spent there talking, smiling. I hope Henin said, “So where have you been, woman?” Three and a half years since their last meeting. Definitely this is a rivalry we’d like to see more of. This may be our only consistent rivalry for a while given that Mauresmo is experiencing miasma once again, Clijsters is nearly gone from the game, and Maria is wondering where she parked that serve of hers.

Go Serena!
(Answer: Serena has never been bageled before by Henin. In fact, she bageled Henin in their very first meeting back in ‘01 at the U.S.Open).

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