20 December 2015

2015 Tweets and GIFs of the year

Twitter is a true gift, and thanks to amazing GIF-makers like WTA Reactions following tennis has never been such fun.

Here are some of the tennis tweets and GIFs that made me laugh, month by month, and others that made me proud. There just might be a few recurring themes....but what a fun year it was!


January 2015:







February 2015:



March 2015:










April 2015:



May 2015:



June 2015: 



July 2015:




August 2015:


September 2015:




October 2015:

November 2015:



December 2015: 



13 December 2015

Celebrating my 25th year as a tennis fan

1990 was the year I fell in love with professional tennis. I've written about my first tennis faves Monica Seles and Andre Agassi often enough and I still thank them (and Jennifer Capriati) for getting me into this game. The first slam I ever watched was the 1990 French Open...my how time flies.

The year, I revisited chunks of the past 25 years of tennis fandom by going through old news clippings, tennis tourney programs and memorabilia. Because I didn't live in the US for ages, I really hadn't gone through all my tennis stuff, well, ever. I had no idea how much I'd accumulated.

A year ago, I converted all my VHS tapes of tennis matches and interviews and have shared many matches and tidbits on my Youtube channel. I've continued to try and upload some items I didn't already see on Youtube, such as Andre Agassi's last match at Wimbledon vs Rafael Nadal from 2006, or the the full, uninterrupted 1998 French Open semifinal win by Monica Seles over Martina Hingis.


This year, I continued to organize the many, many tennis items I've accumulated through the last 25 years.  I've pared down a bit, donated some items to fellow tennis fans and now have a full on tennis wall and tennis bookshelf housing all my tennis books, magazines and tennis tournament programs. I have had such fun going through them all and have tweeted so many classic magazine covers, photos, etc. And I uncovered the two tennis scrapbooks I used to keep in the early 90s. What a blast!

One item I found this year that was incredible was a newsletter published by Venus and Serena back in 1999. My discovery led my friend Ben Rothenberg to write an article on it for Slate.

So 2015 was a great year for this tennis nerd. I attended two new tournaments, started doing a live tennis radio show and in all spent 27 days watching live matches in Indian Wells, Madrid and Cincinnati. This in addition to my continued tennis memorabilia organization project and I think I celebrated my 25th year as a tennis nerd/addict pretty well!

Here's my breakdown of what my 2015 entailed:

Completing 32 live radio shows on the Pro Tenn Radio Network - we were all-WTA which was great and so much fun but I had no idea how much work would go into 1-2 hours of a live tennis show. It's a challenge to think on your feet in terms of stats, results, rankings and more so each show took a lot of pre-planning looking up all sorts of facts and figures. But it was really great to be able to talk tennis, especially women's tennis, so in-depth.

Thanks to my co-host Pete for a fun year and thanks to everyone who listened, called in and engaged with us on Twitter!

Watching Serena make her Indian Wells comeback - it took me awhile to try and put into words how amazing it all was. I tried here. Being there that first night was so emotional and nerve wracking.

How nervous would Serena be? How supportive would the crowd be? Because I wasn't exactly sitting court side, other than being well aware at how much cheering there was, I couldn't see the emotion on Serena's face when she came on court. But being part of the crowd that night, and hearing the support throughout is by far one of my best tennis memories, ever. The standing ovation was everything.





Making my debut at Indian Wells - the morning I woke up to the news that Serena was returning to IW was the day I booked my flight there and overall it was wonderful. Here are my tips for attending. I'm sure I'll be back. I had a glorious 9 days onsite and although the heat was rough all in all I can see why players and fans love the BNP Paribas Open.

First visit to the Madrid Open - Madrid itself is so, so amazing (see my travel blog here) and overall I enjoyed the tournament. I was onsite for the entire tournament and it was memorable in so many ways. Some thoughts here.

Return to Cincinnati - As much as I love attending slams, I felt so satisfied with my time in Cincy that I didn't bother with the US Open this year. Cincy is one of the best combined events, in fact I rate it higher than both IW and Miami for overall fan experience. My thoughts here.

Meeting up with many old and new tennis fans I've met through Twitter. I usually attend tournaments alone and that's just fine because I can do what I like. But at every tournament I went to this year, I was able to meet up with so many friends I've met through Tennis Twitter. You're all fab.

And here are some of my favorite matches I saw live this year:

Yulia Putintseva vs Anastasia Rodionova, Indian Wells. This qualifying match embodied SO much of what I love about the WTA. There was so much drama, a small but very captive audience and many WTA/ATP chair umpires around watching the drama unfold. My friends over at The Tennis Island nicely documented the match and I'm so happy our Twitter coverage of this non-streamed qualifying match is preserved for all time. A MUST read.

  

Serena vs Vika, Madrid - I hadn't seen these two play live since the 2013 US Open final. And this was the first match with Sascha Bajin attending a Serena match in another player box (sniff). So much intrigue and this match was full of drama, especially Vika being up triple match point and Serena winning 7-6 in the third for her 26th straight win.






Chan Sisters vs Flavia Pennetta and Sara Errani, Cincinnati. This was one of the craziest doubles matches I've ever seen live. In the end, the Chan sisters won 6-7 (4) 7-6 (1), 19-17. The Italians had five match points in the supertiebreak. It lasted two hours and 18 minutes. I got in right before the first set tiebreaker and saw the match from there, and oh my goodness it was crazy. I was courtside in the media seats so I got to see all the player expressions and it was the best. The atmosphere was incredible. Such fun!




Vika vs Maria, Indian Wells - even though this match was a bit of a fizzer,  I still loved seeing these two amazing players face off for the first time live. I hope they play more often in 2016. And that we get a more improved Vika in 2016....






Indian Wells 2015 3rd round Highlights Maria... by cruxsquall

Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Lucie Safarova, Madrid - this was one of those crazy tennis matches that had so many twists and turns. Sveta served for the first set at 5-4 and then lost three straight games to loser the set. Lucie led 5-2 in the second set TB, and Sveta somehow won the set. Then Lucie was up 5-3 in the second set, had a few match points but in the end Sveta won 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3).  The crowd improved in size as the contest progressed and I loved it all! I would have never picked Sveta to go all the way to the final after she got through this one, and who would have expected Lucie to make the French Open final mere weeks later? 


 




As always, thanks to everyone for reading this blog, for following and chatting with me on Twitter and in general just being part of this incredible sport! Here's hoping for another incredible year in 2016.

12 December 2015

UPDATE: Ranking Serena's 21 slam-winning dresses

After Serena won the 2014 US Open, I ranked her 18 slam winning outfits. A year later, she's up to #21 which means that post was woefully out of date. 

I LOVED Serena's bright pink and yellow at this year's Australian Open so that got high marks from me, the peach at the French Open was okay but I really did not like the Wimbledon kit at all. In general, Serena straps have to improve next year, and no more cheetah prints! You hear me Nike?

I still miss Serena in Puma. I think Nike has let her down in recent years and I hope they do better in 2016 as she attempts to tie (and pass!) Steffi Graf.

So here's my update at ranking all of Serena's slam winning outfits. Do you agree? Add in your comments below!


#21 - 2005 Australian Open (Slam #7)



  

I do like Serena in yellow, but this Nike kit was weird and I did not love Serena's reddish hair. What was that neck adornment meant to be? It looks like a jockstrap. And is that an apron in the front? What in the world Nike.


#20 - 2009 Wimbledon (Slam #11)






This was just a boring dress. And the big blazer she wore over it did nothing for her. Dislike.


#19: 2015 Wimbledon (Slam #21)



The straps are killing me softly. The sheer piece at Serena's waist wasn't that flattering at times and no to the cheetah in white. No more.

#18 - 2002 Wimbledon (Slam #3)




Puma merely changed Serena's black French Open dress to white and I liked it less in white. Also think her roots were a bit overdue so a headband of some kind might have made the outfit less drab.


#17 - 2007 Australian Open (Slam #8)




I know this is one of Serena's best slams but I always hated the lime dress and those huge earrings. The lines on the dress were unnecessary to me.


#16 - 2013 US Open (Slam #17)




Serena's hair and makeup were top-notch at the 2013 US Open, and I love the shade of pink for the top half of Serena's dress but this awful skirt was just...awful. It was so short and flimsy so in the windy Ashe Stadium we saw more of her grey shorts than we did the skirt.


#15 - 2009 Australian Open (Slam #10)




The blue really popped and I liked the yellow accents. I like Serena so much better with longer hair so looking at this look overall I can't really get into the shorter curls, but loved the heart necklace.


#14 - 2010 Australian Open (Slam #12)




It's funny to look back to this pic, which is less than 5 years ago, and notice that Serena is so much fitter than she was before her health scares. I liked the gold color of this dress tho and thought it simple but nice. It helps that she wore this dress while ending the comeback hopes of Henin. Good times.


#13 - French Open 2003 (Slam #2)



    

We just don't see Serena in black enough but I always loved this black and gold Puma dress. Still didn't care for her hair but this dress was fantastic.

#12 - French Open 2015 (Slam #20)



Loved the colors, but that cheetah pattern has got to go. I really like the brightness tho and thought it looked great against the orange clay.


#11 - 2003 Wimbledon (Slam #6)



Puma didn't mix things up much for Serena for Wimbledon, as this outfit wasn't far off from her 2003 Australian Open attire. But that color combo still worked great and I loved the belt. The hoop earrings were big but complemented the outfit well.



#10 - 2014 US Open (Slam #18)





This leopard print dress grew on me, but definitely liked it better in the white she won her 18th slam in. The pink accessories were perfect (need to find me some of those wristbands). I'd be happy if she changed her hair as the frizzy blonde is the only thing I didn't like about her most recent slam look.


#9 - 2008 US Open (Slam #9)





Serena in red. This shade of red just popped and just seeing it reminds me of the sheer joy when Serena beat Jankovic to win this title. I wish the headband wasn't quite so thick but otherwise this was a winner.


#8 - 1999 US Open (Slam #1)




The only Serena slam with beads. I loved this Puma dress - the light yellow, the length of the dress was gre
at. I thought the big gold necklace was a bit much but overall this was a great look for the 17-year old.


#7 - Australian Open 2015 (Slam #19)



The colors here are amazing. Love the brightness and her hair looked fantastic. The straps were still a bit of an issue, but overall this was a win.


#6 - Wimbledon 2012 (Slam #14)






I loved the purple accessories and thought this was her second-best Wimbledon look. The v-neck cut was cute and again just loved the 2012 summer hair Serena was rocking.

#5 - 2013 US Open (Slam #15)




This was great dress, and she wore a pink version for the day matches but I liked this better. The dark blue and yellow went great together and I loved the big hair she was rocking in 2012.


#4- 2002 US Open (Slam #4)




The Catsuit. Puma you are so missed. This was actually my first live Serena - and wow.  What can you say about this outfit? It was AMAZING. Loved the light link headband which is in this pic is hiding Serena's long blonde locks.


#3 - 2003 Australian Open (Slam #5)




I loved the bright orange and white Puma had for Serena in Melbourne when she achieved the Serena Slam. Her jewelry was simple and I thought her hair with the white headband kept the whole look very clean. The glittery strap was a great touch and loved the orange belt.


#2 - 2013 French Open (Slam #16)




Who would have thought navy blue and a tangerine orange would look so good? This was such a great "Sweet 16" dress for Serena. And the hair was rocking!


#1 - 2010 Wimbledon (Slam #13)



  

My top dress is Serena's best Wimbledon look ever for me, and she coined this outfit "strawberries and cream." I loved the cute ruffles around the skirt and her hair looked great with the tiny headband keeping her naturally darker hair in place. Just loved this and even didn't hate the little warm-up jacket she wore over it. She even rocked red shorts under the dress. Perfection.


So what's your vote? What is Serena's best and worst Grand Slam winning outfits?


23 September 2015

WTA Passing Shots: Episode 25

I needed a few weeks to recover from the shocking end of the US Open on the women's side, but we resumed our WTA Passing Shots on Pro Tenn Radio Network tonight.

From Serena's post-USO activities and Stacey Allastar's big news to all the action all over Asia, we delved into it at on Passing Shots.


Listen to this week's WTA Passing Shots show here: 
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/protenn/2015/09/24/steph-pete-review-the-us-open-semis-and-final-plus-3-events-this-week

Join us each week on the Pro Tenn Radio Network at 8.30pm CT.  The shows are posted each week here and the call-in number is 347-637-1197. We love callers, so feel free to ring in and ask questions or add comments, or tweet me your thoughts.

28 August 2015

WTA Passing Shots: Episode 23

After 9 fantastic days at the Western and Southern Open (see my blog post here), my co-host Pete and I discussed all the things we like about Cincy on our WTA Passing Shots radio show in addition to reviewing the final few rounds of play. We also discussed action from New Haven and the main event - the US Open draw! 

Listen to this week's WTA Passing Shots show here: 
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/protenn/2015/08/28/steph-pete-review-cincinnati-including-serenas-run-to-the-title

Join us each week on the Pro Tenn Radio Network at 8.30pm CT.  The shows are posted each week here and the call-in number is 347-637-1197. We love callers, so feel free to ring in and ask questions or add comments, or tweet me your thoughts.

26 August 2015

Thoughts from the 2015 Western and Southern Open

After my second visit to the Western & Southern Open last week, my opinion is reaffirmed that Cincy is my personal favorite of all the combined WTA/ATP events (in the US anyway).

Packed stadium on finals day 2015

I first headed to Mason, Ohio in 2012 and at the time I hadn't been to quite as many tennis tournaments as I have now. Since then I've attended joint events in Indian Wells, Miami and Madrid and I definitely feel that Cincy trumps them all for the tennis fan experience.
Madison Keys

So why is Mason, Ohio of all places home to one of the best tennis tourneys to me? For starters, you essentially get a US Open summer hard court experience much cheaper, with better player access and a lot less hassles getting in and out of the site.

Obviously attending a live tennis tournament provides many experiences: the chance to witness great tennis being played live, chat with other tennis fans, watch players practice and get player autographs. And I believe that Cincy provides one of the best venues for doing all that without paying a fortune to stay near Indian Wells or NYC.

Here's a few notes on why Cincy is so fantastic:

Tickets:
Packages to Cincy are well priced even if you won't be at the event every day. Back in 2012 we paid about $700 per person for the front row of the upper section of Center Court and in speaking with a few friends who went this year that's still a good estimate for mid-level seats. For 9 days of tennis that is a very good deal considering you can access all courts with a package. (I recommend selling any tickets you can't use on Stubhub). I don't think there's a bad seat in the main stadium in Cincy so you won't have to watch on the big screen to see who won points.

Courts:
I don't think there's a bad court onsite in Cincy. My personal favorite is Court 9, and that's the consensus of most fans I spoke with who've attended the event. I also like Grandstand although the speaker noises from the main stadium were really loud this year (many players complained actually). The grounds aren't overwhelmingly big so it doesn't take too long to get from one end to the other. I love that there are two main stadiums plus Courts 3 and 9 that can handle a decent-size crowd.

Court 9, I love thee
Player practices:
Practice courts at Cincy are fantastic. There's really only one court (#14) where you can't see as well  due to a fence but it's not like it's blocked off or anything (Serena only practiced here, and Sharapova here too before she w/d). In general, there's plenty of seating at all the practice courts and the tournaments has a schedule on both the app and website, as well as along the grounds. I am not much of a practice fan in general just because they can be boring and I'd rather watch matches, but I usually do a loop around the grounds to take a few pics and see which players hit with each other. But for fans who don't attend many tourneys, it's a great way to really see players up close. I went to one of Serena's practices and enjoyed hearing fans' excitement as she was driven up to the court. If you want to see the big names practice, you'll want to get to their assigned court early (and be warned practice schedules can and do change).

Serena practice in Cincy
Venue access:
I'll admit I've had very good parking passes both years I've attended Cincy (media this year, and I travelled w/my mom in 2012 and she has a handicap sticker) but having driven by all the parking areas I believe it's much easier to get to the site versus many other tournaments. But not only is parking easier, you're driving in Mason, Ohio, not a big city so traffic to/from the site is pretty tame (of course like any big event if you leave right when a big match is over you'll be stuck leaving). I stayed about 15 minutes' drive from the site and it was so easy to get to the media parking every day. It's so much nicer to arrive at a tennis tournament w/o the hassles of public transport of traffic jams (I see you Key Biscayne) to put you in a mood.

Rafael Nadal
Player entrance:
I can't think of another tournament that makes it so easy for fans to see their fave players coming and going onsite. The player entrance at Cincy is fantastic - a fence separates fans from the pathway (though you can walk through it unless they block it off for the big names). Every day fans wait to get photos, autographs and selfies with the players. It's SUCH a great set-up for fans.

Highlights:
For me this year, a few things stood out that helped make my 9 days in Cincy such a great experience:
  • Meeting Tennis Twitter family members - it's always fun to reconnect w/friends I've made via Twitter and this year was no different. I also got a chance to meet many new fans and tennis writers I hadn't met before. Whether it was watching matches together or hanging out at Applebees I really enjoyed spending time with Tennis Twitter. So thanks to all you fun tweeps I got to chat with this year!
  • Doing my live radio show with co-cost Pete in person together onsite in Cincy. Pete and I started our WTA Passing Shots show earlier this year and we've never been in the same room together doing the show. So this was great - we nicely got to use one of the smaller interview rooms and it was great to share our insights on the first few days of the event. Check us out here.
  • Speaking of live podcasts, I loved being part of the "NCR Live" event with No Challenges Remaining team. Courtney and Ben did a great job securing a spot and special guest Victoria Azarenka and it was fun to be part of their live podcast. I've listened to NCR since its beginnings and think Courtney and Ben do a great job so that was a fun experience.
Vika arriving to NCRLive!

My favorite matches:
Besides the finals, which were both compelling for different reasons, here are some of the matches I most enjoyed this year in Cincy:
  • Simona Halep vs Andrea Petkovic - I had a feeling this match would be good and it was. Great all-court tennis between two fantastic athletes. The rallies were fantastic and left me breathless! Petko's blister issues in the third set led to her to be broken at love and she never recovered. What a battle.
  • Serena Willliams vs Ana Ivanovic - these two find ways to play great, close matches and this one wasn't always the best quality but it had all the drama and a very lively crowd. FUN.
  • Hao-Ching Chan/Yung-Jan Chan vs Flavia Pennetta/Sara Errani - I got into this match after the first set and it was just a normal, entertaining doubles match until things got crazy in the match tiebreak. The match ended with the Chan sisters winning 19-17 after both teams had many match points. The Stadium 3 atmosphere was electric! Loved it!
Buzzkill matches:
Jelena Jankovic
  • Simona Halep/Jelena Jankovic - the repeat of the Indian Wells final was bad. I was really expecting a close match but it was so one-sided. JJ looked gassed and Halep just seemed to be flying around the court. Bummer.
  • Victoria Azarenka/Caroline Wozniacki - these two should just not meet. For the fourth time in 2015, Vika handed Woz a straight-set win and this one included a bagel set. Woz looked nothing like the top 5 player who made the US Open final last year. Yikes.
  • Venus Williams/Ana Ivanovic - well, of course this match didn't happen due to Venus w/d due to a viral illness. What a shame because their match ups always make me remember Venus' headsnap:


So thanks to all of you who followed my tweets from Cincy, and if you have any questions on attending the Western and Southern Open just ask!

21 August 2015

Passing Shots: Episode 22


This week's episode of Passing Shots is brought to you live from Cincinnati at the Western and Southern Open!

I arrived in Mason, Ohio in time for the main draw and have been  onsite day and night from the first day of qualifying. On this week's show, Pete and I both share our insights from Cincy and make our picks for the rest of the tournament.

Listen to this WTA Passing Shots show here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/protenn/2015/08/21/steph-pete-live-from-cincinnati-on-quarterfinals-day

Join us each week on the Pro Tenn Radio Network at 8.30pm CT.  The shows are posted each week here and the call-in number is 347-637-1197. We love callers, so feel free to ring in and ask questions or add comments, or tweet me your thoughts.

13 August 2015

Passing Shots: Episode 21


We're 21! Our 21st episode tonight was all about the week's action at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Who soared? Who fell flat in the first major hard-court event of the US summer season? We delve into it all - Wozniacki's poor start to the summer, Halep's return and more.


Listen to this WTA Passing Shots show here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/protenn/2015/08/14/steph-pete-review-this-weeks-action-in-toronto-and-last-week-in-stanforddc

We will be doing the show live from Cincinnati next week (August 20) as Pete and I will both be in Ohio for the Western and Southern Open. Stay tuned for details about the show, hosted weekly on the Pro Tenn Radio Network The shows are posted each week here and the call-in number is 347-637-1197.

07 August 2015

Passing Shots: Episode 20

The US Open Series kicked off in Stanford this week and the field was strong in DC despite some big names pulling out. We chatted all about the good and the bad from both tournaments on our 20th episode of Passing Shots

We also talked about the breaking news that Genie Bouchard had split with her coach, and discussed the controversial on-court coaching incident with Alison Riske.

Listen to this week's show here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/protenn/2015/08/07/steph-pete-review-and-discuss-stanford-washington

Join us LIVE each week at 8.30pm CT on Thursday nights on the Pro Tenn Radio Network where we discuss all things WTA. You can listen live to our show each week and call in to debate, share your thoughts or ask questions. The shows are posted each week here and the call-in number is 347-637-1197.

31 July 2015

Passing Shots: Episode 19

After a week off Pete and I jumped in to review what's been happening on the WTA since Wimbledon. We touched on new winners on the tour, coaching changes and who's in action next week as the US Open Series kicks off!

Listen to this week's show here: http://t.co/hXlEFYdYFV

Join us LIVE each week at 8.30pm CT on Thursday nights on the Pro Tenn Radio Network where we discuss anything and everything related to the women's game. You can listen live to our show each week and call in to debate, share your thoughts or ask questions. The shows are posted each week here and the call-in number is 347-637-1197.

30 July 2015

Blast from the past: GIRL POWER

This Tennis magazine cover from November 1999 is by far one of my favorites ever. I mean, look at these ladies - Seles, Davenport and Hingis. Plus Stevenson (who was a thing back then after her run to the 1999 Wimbledon semifinals). The clothes, the poses, the headline.

GIRL POWER.



The late 90s and early 2000s on the WTA are amongst my favorite tennis years ever. The article itself is pretty amazing too so I scanned it in to share. Enjoy!