Category Archives: Roger Federer

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.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 164 user reviews.

I was watching Allen Iverson drop 51 points on the Los Angeles Lakers last week and I wondered what Iverson could have done as a player if he’d been more willing to play a team game. When Iverson played for the Philadelphia 76ers, the team switched its practices to the afternoon because Iverson slept in late. Not that it helped much.

When his coach at the time, Larry Brown, criticized him for missing practices, Iverson went on a two and a half minute rant about the insignificance of practice in which he mentioned the word practice 19 times in some variation of the following sentence:

We talking about practice, man. How silly is that?

The best NBA player in history was Michael Jordan and he was the first NBA player who was promoted as a global individual star. The players around Jordan were role players, Jordan most certainly was not.

Bill Russell was the second best player in NBA history in my book. He won nine championships as a player and two more as a player-coach. But he was a role player, believe it or not. He rebounded and played defense.

There was no free agency in Russell’s time, the players did whatever management told them to do and the league marketed teams rather than players. Today it’s the opposite: players dictate team moves, individual stars are marketed globally, and it’s the stars who determine what time practice starts.

Is tennis developing the same star syndrome? Tennis is obviously an individual sport but are its young stars dictating their own careers to their detriment?

I’m thinking, in particular, of Andy Murray. He recently fired his coach Brad Gilbert and announced that he has assembled a team of advisors instead of hiring a new coach. Murray is essentially decentralizing the power a coach would have and placing himself in charge:

I wanted to take the opportunity to be in control of what I was doing. I feel much more relaxed about my tennis now, as I feel like I’m in charge of the decisions. The responsibility is on me to sort things out, and that’s the way I wanted it to be.

Is this a good thing? Can Murray continue to improve if his coach has little effective power?

Roger Federer manages without a coach just fine but he is the very, very rare exception and he had already won slams by the time he jettisoned his first coach, Peter Lundgren, and hired Tony Roche to work with him part-time.

Murray is 20 years old and somewhat immature. His tennis isn’t immature, his mind is. He rants and raves at himself and generally gets in his own way. Twice this year he bageled an opponent but lost the match. I’d wonder what goes through his mind but I don’t have to, he spits it out for everyone to hear.

Gilbert’s method of dealing with Murray’s raving was to tell Murray to direct it at him. Part of what the British Lawn Tennis Association got when it was paying Gilbert $1 million was a conduit for Murray’s frustration. As Murray walked off the court after injuring his wrist in Hamburg, you could hear him swearing at Gilbert.

Murray is a pretty smart tennis player and he might make this work. But my guess is that he could use stronger direction than he’s going to get on two fronts. First, he needs strong direction to prod him into maturing mentally. Second, he not only needs to improve his conditioning to play longer matches better but to avoid injuries.

I’ve gotten to the point that I roll my eyes when he tweaks yet another body part on the court but manages to win the match anyway.

What do you think? Is Murray ready to be the master of his own ship at 20 years old?

Player of the Year

Okay, nominations are in. Please go to the poll on the right side of the page and vote away for the first Teddy awards category.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 164 user reviews.

If Sports Illustrated won’t give the Sportsman of the Year award to tennis players, we’ll hand out our own awards, thank you very much.

National Football League player Brett Favre has been chosen as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year. At this rate, Roger Federer will have to win the grand salami – all four slams in one year – to get the award and that’s if Tom Brady doesn’t lead the Patriots to the Super Bowl in January.

Roger should be sure to throw in the Olympic gold medal and get himself a golden slam while he’s at it. Let’s see if SI would be dumb enough to ignore that too. They probably would be. SI has given out the award for 53 years and it’s gone to exactly three tennis players: Billie Jean King, Chris Evert and Arthur Ashe.

Oh well, let’s just hand out our own awards shall we? Let’s call them the Tennis Diary Awards –Teddys – and let’s do this all together.

Pat and I will lay out the categories and we’ll all nominate the best players for each category. Leave a comment with your choices and your reasons for those choices. The better the reason, the better your nominee will do. Then we’ll put a poll up for each category and we can choose the winners.

Pat and I will, of course, join in. Prediction market theory suggests that the best predictions come from a group of independent people who range from experts to idiots. I’m not exactly sure where I fit in there but I’m sure that between all of us, we can cover that spectrum.

Oh, and if you have a category you think we’ve missed, suggest that too. These are coed awards. Men and women will be competing in the same categories except in the centerfold category. It’s probably unfair to make Ana Ivanovic duke it out with Feliciano Lopez in the looks department. Besides, our sexual preferences differ.

Okay, here we go. Here are the categories for the 2007 Teddys.

Player of the Year
Most Improved Player
Most Disappointing Player
Most Surprising Player
Male Centerfold of the Year
Female Centerfold of the Year
Player in Most Need of a New Coach
Player Most Likely to Succeed in 2008
Player Who Should Really Think About Retiring

One last comment. The Sportsman of the Year SI has exactly one page of Davis Cup coverage. That’s two pages less than the high school sports section. Pretty amazing considering that Davis Cup is an international title. That tells you where tennis ranks in the U.S.: below high school sports.

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 278 user reviews.

Davis Cup hard courts will be just right from now on, not too fast and not too slow. Boring!

After the U.S. won the Davis Cup title in smashing fashion by winning the first three rubbers in the final, I asked the following question: Can the U.S. win the Davis Cup again next year? I gave it a less than 50/50 shot at it because U.S. players are terrible on clay court surfaces.

I forgot that Davis Cup organizers at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) are adding rules to regulate hard court speeds. Now it’ll be even harder for the U.S. to repeat.

This year’s final was a home court event for the U.S. so they got to choose the playing surface. You can be sure they chose the fastest hard court they could get their hands on. If an ice skating rink had been available, they’d have used that.

In the future, Davis Cup rules will prevent countries from choosing a hard court surface that is too fast or too slow.

This hurts the U.S. because they specialize in hard servers and big hitters and they’ll be forced to choose a slower court next time. No word yet on what range of speeds is acceptable but it makes a difference. Roger Federer complained about the slowness of the court in Paris after he lost to David Nalbandian there.

I notice that the ITF hasn’t mentioned regulating the speed of clay courts. The indoor clay court Belgium used against the U.S. last year looked like a bunch of kids had thrown some loose clay on a gym floor so they could wallow around in it. At this point, the ruling change appears to benefit South America and Spain which have the largest number of clay court lovers.

If Spain met Argentina at home in Davis Cup next year, I wonder if they’d choose grass courts so Nadal could beat up on Argentina since he almost beat Federer at Wimbledon? Even better, why not just use that half-grass half-clay concoction Federer and Rafael Nadal played on last year?

Remember that the ITF will not allow countries to choose hard courts that are too slow either. I’m not sure I see the point of this. If a country wants a slow court, all they have to do is choose a clay court.

I’m also not sure I like the changes. Tennis is becoming too regimented. Grass courts are slowing down. Davis Cup has unlimited challenges making linespeople secondary. How long will it be before all lines are called electronically? Round robin tennis was booted out before it even got started.

It’s no fun anymore. You can’t watch someone hit ace after ace on a fast grass court. You can’t even argue a call or cheat at Davis Cup.

I guess that’s the point.


Here are my previous last thoughts about the Davis Cup final.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 273 user reviews.

Twenty-five game winning streak, 63-4 record, 14 out of the 16 tournament wins, two slams and a year end championship title. This is not the ATP, this is not Roger Federer, this is Justine Henin and it could have been three slams if she hadn’t skipped the Australian Open to deal with her divorce.

I spent a fair amount of time looking up comparable records on the women’s side this morning. As far as I can tell, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova are the only women players with a better won loss record. Graf’s record was 86-2 in 1989 and Navratilova was 86-1 in 1983. Notice how many more matches women played in that era, by the way, and yet they didn’t appear to break down anywhere near as much as today’s players do.

We’ll see if Justine goes on to surpass, say, the Williams sisters in slams – go to the sidebar and cast your vote on the question – but it’s more interesting to look at Justine’s emotional arc than her numbers.

The Williams sisters have their own compelling story: hardscrabble childhood, crazy like a fox tennis coach father, competing careers in fashion and entertainment. But Justine has somehow managed to play out her emotional life in front of us as she’s made her way to the top, and unlike Serena and Venus, she’s done it by revealing as little as possible about herself. No reality show for Justine just yet.

These days Justine is a veritable fountain of sharing relative to the early part of her career. At that time we knew her mother had died when she was 12 years old, and we knew she was estranged from her father and siblings, but that’s about it, and she wasn’t going to tell us much more than necessary. If you saw her in the players’ cafeteria, there she was with her coach, Carlos Rodriguez, the two of them a little island in a sea of players. Even now she’s one of those people who close her eyes when she talks to you as if to be sure she doesn’t give away too much.

Many players fall apart when life intervenes in their career. Nikolay Davydenko is buckling under the pressure of an ongoing gambling investigation as we speak. Henin, though, just appears to be getting stronger.

This year she divorced her husband and created a bit more independence from Rodriguez and his family – which was her substitute family after all. At the same time she welcomed her father and siblings back into her life. In the process of opening her heart a bit more to herself and to the public, she seems to have learned that the stoicism that carried her through the early part of her career was a brittle strength. It didn’t allow her to stand on her own.

For most players on the tour, though not all, tennis is an all-consuming passion. For Justine I think it goes one step farther and it’s the key to why she’s been able to keep rising up the ranks despite an emotionally wrenching journey.

Tennis has been the substitute for some of Justine’s life outside of tennis and now that the outside world is creeping back into her life, her tennis is secure enough that it enhances her game. Most people need their personal lives in order to perform well in their career. Some people do it the other way around. Success in their career gives them the confidence to open their hearts to those in their personal lives.

Justine doesn’t need a reality TV show, we’ve been watching it all along.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 178 user reviews.