Category Archives: French Open

I’m in Love with Steffi Graf

Steffi Graf or Pete Sampras, who’s slam record is most impressive?

You might know the actor Hugh Laurie as Dr. Greg House from the U.S. television show House. Or you might remember him as Bertie Wooster, the hapless employer of Jeeves in the British television show Jeeves and Wooster. Maybe you watched him in Black Adder, a British television show that starred Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr. Bean.

Laurie is another one of those ridiculously talented British actors. He’s a successful novelist and he’s also a singer/songwriter. If you go to the right side of this page and tune in to Tennis Diary TV you can see Laurie perform the song, “I’m in love with Steffi Graf.” (Click on Channel Guide if it’s not the current video.)

Laurie’s Steffi is an angel who “folds her wings and walks like you and me.” And it doesn’t matter whether it’s clay or grass, “she’ll flay your ass.”

For some reason I had forgotten that Margaret Court holds the record for most slam wins with 24. Graf is second with 22. I consider Graf the better tennis player because her era was more competitive. Graf beat Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Monica Seles and Martina Hingis to win slams.

Of course it would have been much more competitive if a crazed fan of Steffi’s hadn’t stabbed Seles in the back but here’s the question: Is Steffi Graf’s record of 22 slams a bigger accomplishment that Pete Sampras’ 14 slams? Go over to the right side of the page and cast your vote.

On the face of it, you might think it’s a no-brainer. Steffi won all four slams at least four times including the golden slam in 1988 (all four slams and the gold medal at the Olympics). Sampras won the gold medal at the 1987 Olympics but he never won more than two slams in one year and he never won the French Open.

But the top women won a lot more slams than the top men. The number five woman on the list, Chris Evert, has four more slams than Sampras. And the women won a whole lot more career titles. Martina Navratilova has 58 more titles than the men’s leader in that category: Jimmy Connors. That’s pretty ridiculous.

Clearly the men’s tour is more competitive. The slams even more so. Steffi won her 1988 French Open final by the score of 6-0, 6-0. Has that ever happened on the men’s tour? Then there is that little matter of five set matches. All of the men’s matches in slams are best of five sets while the women play best of three sets.

Whaddya think?

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Grass and Steroids

The grass court season is here, so is ATP fantasy tennis, and Guillermo Coria is suing someone about those steroids.

Fantasies and Grass

The grass court season started this week with London/Queen’s Club and Halle. I was exhausted from getting up at 6am on Sunday morning to watch Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal play the French Open final so I didn’t have time to do picks this week. I’d better get on it though because the ATP Fantasy Tennis Season is finally here. My fantasy tennis obsession can begin!

The first tournament in the fantasy season will be Wimbledon and I’ll be posting an ATP Fantasy Tennis Guide next week to help you out but first, do as I say. Go to the ATP fantasy site, sign up, pick a team – it doesn’t matter who you pick because you can change your picks up to the beginning of Wimbledon, then click on Sub-leagues. Click on the letter T in the alphabet and find our subleague – – and click on Join This Sub-league. I send out weekly emails to sub-league members and we give a prize to our sub-league winner.

Rear View Mirror

This is where we look at my picks for the last week’s tournament. I picked four of the eight quarterfinalists at the French Open and that ain’t bad considering that half the seeds were gone by the third round. There are two bits of disturbing news left over. The first is that Tommy Haas is out until after Wimbledon. He re-injured his surgically repaired shoulder. I was beginning to really appreciate Tommy, I hope it’s not a career-ending injury.

Disturbed might describe Federer. He pulled out of Halle and that might indicate his state of mind. Losing the French Open final was a huge disappointment for him and now he has to either play the week before Wimbledon or play Wimbledon without any grass court match play. In either case, it’s not his usual preparation and that’s not a good start to his grass court season.

Speaking of Halle, Richard Gasquet lost in the first round to a qualifier named Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, a journeyman out of Pakistan with a ranking of 304. Out of the three grass court tournaments Gasquet played last year, he lost to Federer in two of them and won the other one, so this is a shocking result.

Over in London, Lleyton Hewitt is already gone and he won this tournament last year. He was beaten by Jo-Wilfriend Tsonga who’s been tearing up the minor leagues. He won three of the last four challengers he entered and beat Ivo Karlovic on grass last week in Surbiton. I saw him at the French Open in 2005 and dismissed him because he lumbered about the court but I’d better take another look.

The big matchup here is a possible semifinal meeting between Nadal and Novak Djokovic. That would be their fifth meeting this year and the season isn’t even half over. That has to be a record of some sort. Nadal won three of those previous four meetings but you know what, I’m taking Djokovic. By the way, mosey on over to the sidebar and take a vote in our poll: Can Rafael Nadal reach the finals of Wimbledon again this year? I have him at 50/50 because Andy Roddick wasn’t himself last year and Djokovic is an excellent grass court player.

If Roddick doesn’t win this thing, I’ll be disappointed. For him, not me.


Guillermo Coria is suing Universal Nutrition of New Brunswick, New Jersey, for over $10 million dollars for putting the steroid nandrolone in one of its multivitamins. According to an AP report, Coria was taking the multivitamin in 2001 when he tested positive for the steroid. After his family had the multivitamin tested by a lab, Coria’s two year suspension was reduced to the seven months he’d already served.

In 2003, the ATP published a report titled Strengthens Practices to Combat Threat of Supplement Contamination. The paper explained that players were testing positive for nandrolone from an electrolyte replacement tablet being handed out by ATP trainers. As a result, players who tested positive avoided suspensions.

I can understand why Coria’s fellow Argentinean Guillermo Canas received a suspension. He took a prescription drug, the contents were clearly marked on the bottle, and there was a drug control officer available to him at the tournament. But I don’t see the difference between Coria’s case and the players who took the electrolyte replacement tablets. How was Coria supposed to know that nandrolone was in the multivitamin? Also, in 2001, when Coria initially tested positive, supplement companies had not yet started verifying that their products were free of banned substances.

Coria should have had his entire suspension rescinded.


Little Jaggers

Lindsay Davenport retired from tennis so she could start a family. On Sunday she gave birth to a baby boy and named him Jagger Jonathan Leach. Okay now, you cannot name your child Jagger without knowing full well that it brings to mind one thing and only one thing: Mick Jagger. What else could it possibly mean?

Someone who watches the defunct television show JAG? Unlikely, it wasn’t that good. Someone who goes off on a jag – a drunken spree? I’m sure Lindsay didn’t mean that. Of course you can also go off on a shopping jag. If so, the little guy is well-prepared for our consumer society.

Nah, it has to be Mick and I like that. A little rocker in the family.

What the Hell is the Difference Between the ATP Race and the ATP Rankings?

If you look on the ATP rankings page, you’ll see that there are two sets of rankings: ATP Rankings and the ATP 2007 Race. After much confusion and years of wondering why anyone would care about the ATP Race, I’ve decided that no one should care about the ATP Race.

With the help of Hank Moravec, the organizer of that 6am French Open gathering and a former pro himself, I finally figured out that what ATP Race is: an opportunity to sell naming rights.

The ATP Race tracks ranking points for the current year only while the ATP Rankings track the last 12 months. By the end of the year, though, it doesn’t matter because the ATP Race points are exactly 1/5 of the ATP Rankings points so what’s the difference? One is just a multiple of the other. But it does make one more set of rankings and that’s one more opportunity to sell naming rights.

Pretty soon we’ll see one baseline sold to Nike and the other to Puma. There’ll be a big Nike swoosh at one end of the court and a big cat at the other. Kind of like the idea actually, reminds me of football fields and basketball courts.

B**tch and Sing Dept: Memories of Paris

Of the City, Not the Girl

Was Roland Garros good for you too? I hope so, but then I’m just happy I survived the two weeks. Covering a Grand Slam often feels to me like covering the circus, and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. The critters blow into town and set up the tents, do their thing for two weeks, then move on. The day after I look back and wonder how it all began; it seems like a million years since we got under way.

Overall this year’s French Open had a certain lugubrious quality about it. Like a meal you’ve eaten that doesn’t quite get digested, it kind of sits there causing a vague feeling of heartburn. We started off with a few good surprises and lots of rising expectations, but the further we got the less exciting it became.

Marcos Baghdatis put together a modest run. Filippo Volandri picked up where he left off after Rome and had a big win early over Ivan Ljubicic. In fact Roger Federer could have faced Volandri, then Guillermo Canas and finally Rafael Nadal. This was an early prospect I was salivating over but then other people had other ideas. Fernando Gonzalez got bumped in his opening round by the crafty Radek Stepanek, an upset on paper but not in actuality. Gonzo has been erratic this year and Stepanek is now injury-free and ready to play. Carlos Moya reminded everyone he’s nearly the oldest guy now out there, but he can still kick ass. A fine run into the quarters here for Moya.

We ended up with the four best male players in the game playing in the semi-finals: Federer, Nadal, Nikolay Davydenko and Novak Djokovic. What more could we ask for? Well, sorry to say, it didn’t feel like even that was enough. Nadal completely dominated Djokovic in three sets and while Davydenko had his moments of opportunity against Federer, he could not take them. The gap between Number One and Two and Everybody Else was painfully evident so both semis felt rather lackluster. Even the quarters felt that way although they promised plenty of action. Davydenko and Canas was a disappointment, Igor Andreev and Djokovic could have been a blast but Andreev finally ran out of steam. No one expected much of Tommy Robredo v. Federer or Moya v. Nadal.

As for the women, they disappointed as well. The hot air generated around the Williams sisters could have warmed us all up during that cold first week of weather. They came and went rather swiftly. The supposedly big show between Serena and Justine was hyped out of existence. The other quarterfinal matchups were big letdowns too. The most riveting women’s match was probably Maria Sharapova and Patty Schnyder, but not so much for the quality of play as for the drama surrounding it. In fact in the cosmic sense I would say this match had everything going on that I hate right now about women’s tennis. One player was not playing that well but she was still dominating, and the other one played a really good match up until she lost her nerve and and lost the match. I hate being associated with females when I see a match like that. Grrrrr.

So, what else was not right about this tournament since we’re obviously segueing into major complaint mode now? One of the most unpleasant memories of this year’s French was seeing those large sections of empty seats in the later rounds. Much was made of the President’s box looking quite empty other than the presence of Guillermo Vilas, who seems to need very little sleep during these events. This doesn’t happen at Wimbledon with the royals’ box so are we to assume that the British aristocracy has more free time on its hands than the French and they say to each other, “So let‘s go down and watch the lads and lassies smack balls around today?” You can bet those empty seats are going to be filled next year, by hook or by crook. This was a rather large embarrassment.

The Americans weren’t right at this event either, the men all died in their opening rounds. Once they were gone no one seemed to care anyway. We’ve sunk that low into the red clay. As luck would have it, though, the advertising world marched on, oblivious to the scores. So we got to see Andy Roddick lose his shirt over and over again in the Lacoste commercials. The French were lapping at their heels. Richard Gasquet went down in a rather surprising display of ineptitude. Amelie Mauresmo went into fragility mode nearly immediately although Lucie Safarova played a good tough match against her.

We could care less though, we had the Serbian Contingent and they took up the slack just fine. For such a small country to crank out two women and one guy into the semi-finals and then Ana Ivanovic into the women’s final, is quite an achievement. Djokovic said later that he expects one of them to win a Grand Slam within the next eighteen months. That timetable is definitely doable. I just know Novak thinks it’s going to be him first but for my money I think it will be Jelena Jankovic. The Serbs have much to crow about and crow they did. The trio arrived in Belgrade to a tumultuous welcome.

One big winner out of this event was Andreev, who climbed over Roddick, Massu, Mathieu and Baghdatis to hammer his way into the quarterfinals. He got to take home Maria Kirilenko as well, so we can see he’s a greedy bastard and this will probably psyche him up like crazy and he’ll pull the rest of his year together in hopefully artful fashion. The other big winner was, of course, Nadal, who went about his business in straightforward fashion, not dropping a set until the final.

As for the state of Federer, I keep reminding myself that he’s only the second best clay court player in the world. And that’s still nothing to sneeze at. There’s no doubt the pressure may have gotten to him in the end and it is sad that we started to talk about him as the greatest ever. He may be starting to believe it himself. Is it entirely fair of us? Maybe not, and yet we’ll keep on doing that because he is the best player around. Dammit, I WANT to see him hold up that trophy, just because it seems so difficult for him to win this one. If anyone out there could appreciate what Paris really means, it’s Roger. You will have Paris someday Roger. Just not this year.

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Breakfast in Paris: Nadal Wins the French Open Again

Not Paris exactly. More like Jerry’s Famous Deli in West Hollywood which is adjacent to Beverly Hills, both of which are surrounded by the city of Los Angeles. A group of tennis fanatics who frequent Peter Bodo’s Tennis World, a popular blog, got up before sunrise on a Sunday morning and drove to Jerry’s Deli for the 6am broadcast of the French Open men’s final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Except for European soccer crazies and Formula One fanatics, who else does that?

Among us we had a former journalist who’d seen McEnroe play Becker in Davis Cup, a sixteen-year-old (here with her mother) who had her picture taken with Nadal, and a resident pro: our organizer Hank Moravec. Hank played qualifying at the U.S. Open when it was on clay at Forest Hills. Now we know why his online handle is Dunlop Maxply.

A woman named Gloria settled in and immediately requested a three set victory by Nadal so she could celebrate and be on her way. She had things to do. Early on it looked like she’d be disappointed. Federer had three break points on Nadal in the fourth game of the match and an incredible five more in the sixth game but came away empty. Even the mighty Federer couldn’t get over that disappointment. He lost his next service game at love, squandered two more breakpoints, and Nadal had the first set.

Federer improved his first serve and imposed his forehand on Nadal in the second set and it allowed him to get to the net. He broke Nadal in the middle of the set and that was all he needed to even the match at one set all. Gloria would have to wait.

But not too long. In the third set, Nadal lifted his game to the point where Federer lost his serve and the set despite an 88% first serve percentage. Nadal’s strategy was clear: send 90% of the balls to Federer’s backhand and that included the serve. Nadal did not hit one first serve down the middle to the ad court.

Federer’s strategy? He wanted to attack but that was difficult. The ball kicks up higher here in Nadal’s private corner of the red dirt world than it does at Hamburg, the site of Federer’s only victory over Nadal. It’s tough to attack when you’re swatting at flies with your backhand.

And then there was Hank’s theory and we were off on a live version of the anonymous thread that pops up daily on the Tennis World website. These people know their tennis! According to Hank, Nadal and Guillermo Canas are unique on the tour because they are so defensive that they don’t give Federer anything to work with. Hank started tracking points. When he saw a rare point where Nadal was aggressive and tried to hit corners and angles, he pointed out that those angles gave Federer opportunities to hit offensive shots. It’s much harder to hit winners from the middle of the court after all.

I wondered how Nadal held serve so effectively with that softy serve and Hank had a good theory for that too. Nadal’s first serve averaged only two miles per hour more than Justine Henin’s serve when she beat Ana Ivanovic in the women’s final on Saturday. Nadal uses spin and location to confuse his opponent but Hank thought that Federer was also being stubborn. Federer mishit so many returns because he was going for too much instead of just getting the ball in play.

Nadal’s exceptional play continued into the fourth set and he broke Federer one more time. With Nadal serving for the match, the former journalist playfully leaned over and asked whether I thought Nadal’s serve would go to Federer’s backhand. It did, of course, and then the match was over and Nadal had his third straight French Open title. Like many people in the tennis world (except for Gloria), we were sad for Federer but not surprised.

After a multilingual award ceremony featuring three-time French champion Gustavo Kuerten, we stood around in the middle of Jerry’s Deli trying to figure out if Nadal gets the number one ranking at the end of the year if he wins the ATP Race. Anyone know the answer to that?

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See all of our French Open coverage:
From Roland Garros: The Women’s Final
B**tch and Singe Dept: Henin Tops Williams at the French
How Far Will Maria Sharapova Go?
B**tch And Sing Dept: At the French Open
Suicide Pools and Richard Gasquet
B**tch and Sing Dept: Springtime in Paris
Serena, Roger and Posh Spice
Familiar Final at the French Open (French Open preview)

Ana Ivanovic: Big, Dark, and Beautiful

Ana Ivanovic can beat Maria Sharapova on the court but can she compete with her in the land of endorsements?

When I opened my email box this morning, I found this curious bit of information courtesy of Bob Larson’s Tennis News: Ana Ivanovic will try to beat Justine Henin and win the French Open title on Saturday without the services of her temporary coach, Sven Groeneveld. Groeneveld has been working with her at the French Open as part of an agreement with apparel maker adidas but therein likes the problem: Groeneveld’s contract forbids him from helping Ivanovic in the title match because Henin also wears adidas.

Essentially, adidas loaned a coach to one of their players for a slam event but only as long it didn’t threaten another adidas player. I have tried but I cannot think of any reason why this should be. Can you? Since when do apparel companies choose coaches for their clients? Aren’t managers supposed to do that?

I find Ana Ivanovic every bit as beautiful as Maria Sharapova so I was wondering: can Ivanovic become the endorsement magnet that Sharapova is? Can you be big and dark or do you have to be blond and skinny?

Anna Kournikova was the endorsement queen before Sharapova and she was a different story. She was all about sex. Sharapova is more like the imperious fashion model and less the alluring sex kitten. Ivanovic is the wide eyed girl who grew up amidst the bombs in Serbia and now lives in Basel, Switzerland.

Because Ivanovic does not reside in the U.S., she may have to take the same path to endorsement riches as her fellow Basel resident, Roger Federer. He didn’t get a GQ spread with photos by Annie Leibovitz until after he’d won ten slams.

Kournikova never won a singles title in her career but that didn’t stop her from getting a television commercial featuring Mary Jo Fernandez advising us that players were jealous of Kournikova’s, ahem, “portfolio”. That’s just how it is when you’re one of the sexiest people in the universe. You could be a bricklayer and you’d still get endorsements. Ivanovic comes across more as the friendly fashion model type with a bit of wide eyed wholesomeness thrown in. She may have to win a few slams before we see her beautiful face plastered all over our television sets.

I, for one, will be happy to see that.

Pollster – here’s the new poll (go to the sidebar to cast your vote)

Ana Ivanovic can beat Maria Sharapova on the court but can she compete with Maria Sharapova for endorsements off the court? Yes or no?

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