Love it when the tennis stars are aligned

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What a great run of finals this weekend: Rafa wins #6 in Barcelona, Julia G makes Germany sing, Sam and smiley Sabine take the doubles in Stuttgart and, oh yeah, golden oldie Alberta Brianti won Fes. 

The Barcelona final wasn't that scintillating - am astonished at the number of service breaks in the ATP clay season thus far (at least in the matches I've watched) - but the photos of Rafa trying to lift and hold that gigantic trophy made the day.

Who's designing these trophies?

Meanwhile, in Stuttgart, Julia Goerges upset Caroline in the final. She not only didn't drop serve, but from highlights it looked like she played the big points really well.

Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images
Julia played in Auckland this year and I actually thought she had the game to win, but she played very flat against Greta Arn in the semis. After her near upset of Masha in Melbourne she didn't have a great US hardcourt season so it's great to see her playing well again - I think the girl has effortlessly smooth groundstrokes and is fab to watch.

It's also great to see how excited the crowd was in Stuttgart - did you see the footage of her excited dad? Super cute.

Well done Julia!

Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images

And I gotta give props to Caroline - what a huge smile at the net - you'd have thought she'd won the match with a grin like that.


Prove YOUR tennis addiction

This morning, I had a flashback to a time before live streaming and smartphones, before the Internet was such a massive part of our lives and I had to rely on Sportcenter or CNN Headline News (or the newspaper - what a concept) to let me know who won matches.

We're so spoiled these days, and this morning that was confirmed as I woke up to my recorded Barcelona coverage and my ATP/WTA phone app to check scores from overnight.

It made me think back to the good old days before such luxuries, and the time I have spent watching/obsessing about tennis while I was on holiday, or while I was working. So here are my top 5 addiction stories (there may be some I'm too embarrassed to admit so they are buried deep in my brain):

1) During a holiday in Scotland in the mid 1990s, I was forced to use a calling card repeatedly to call a US sports hotline that had prerecorded tennis scores (so slow to update results!).

2) On my way to the 2000 Aussie Open, I had to spent a night in Bangkok, and as soon as I checked into my hotel, I raced to the business centre and sat for hours following the live scores.

3) During the 2007 US Open, I was out of the office to write a story about a tourism product, and I had to keep ringing my mother in the US to find out the progress of Venus vs Henin (clearly am a dedicated employee).

4) Ringing my mother several times (at $3 per minute no less) during my friend's wedding reception to check the progress of Serena/Henin Aussie Open final in 2010. I was so distracted as I was just a few hours' drive from the final but had to ring my mother in the US for the scores!

5) I was on holiday in Puerto Rico in 2002, just minutes from beautiful water, and I sat in my hotel room watching Serena/Capriati Miami final.

Bottom line, clearly no matter what country I'm in or how much it costs to ring my mother for scores, my tennis addiction knows no boundaries!

So, I'd like to know how addicted you are? What's your best story about the lengths you've gone to to either watch a match or check scores?

Seven years of Rafa in Monte Carlo

I've been trying to think of another tennis accomplishment equal to what Rafael Nadal just did in Monte Carlo. 
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
He's won the tournament seven years in a row. He first played there in 2003 as a 17 year old and every year since he's conquered the field. Federer, Djokovic, Verdasco, Ferrer, Coria - they've all fallen to Rafa during this streak.

So how to compare what Rafa has done in Monte Carlo? Clearly it's nothing like what Sampras did by ending #1 six years in a row, but the beauty of Rafa's accomplishment is that he had to be physically and mentally fit at the same time of the season for seven straight years. No injuries, no illnesses, no lapse in focus. He needed luck, he needed belief, he needed to care. It's an unbelievable achievement and hard to imagine another player tying or beating this record anytime soon.

Don't tell me nobody cares about Fed Cup...

What a celebration by Serbia, who came back from a set and 5-1 down to win their tie-clinching doubles match and defeat Slovakia.

Fed Cup dramas for US

If Melanie Oudin does not win her Federation Cup match versus Andrea Petkovic tomorrow, the once mighty US team will fall into the Fed Cup abyss.

The US will drop out of the World Group for the first time in Fed Cup history if Melanie loses - it's a sobering situation for a team that has made 26 finals since the competition began in 1963 and won 17 times.

The Fed Cup situation definitely highlights the overall dire straits American tennis finds itself in. After Venus and Serena the next highest ranked player is Bethanie Mattek-Sands at #41, and Melanie is next at #81. You could argue that Melanie Oudin was not the right choice to play any singles as she's been in pretty bad form, but she was the saviour for the 2010 team who made the final. Blame the Williams sisters? They're used to that.

I'm still hoping for a small miracle tomorrow tho realistically I cannot imagine Melanie beating Petko.

Post Nadal Murray ire

I stayed up til 3am last night to watch Rafa vs Murray and at that hour it was only 1-1 in the second set. I have just finished watching the Monte Carlo semifinal and I am really peeved - could be sleep deprivation.

First, Rafa, what the hell? Where was his forehand? He looked a step slow at times and just did not have his usual magic when it came to his passing shots. And broken six times? And a horrible break point conversion of 7 from 18? I can't even talk about that second set. Ugh.

And Mr Murray - I have tried to like you but I am most upset at you. First, someone explain to me why a seasoned professional doesn't know if he can play his match mere minutes before it's meant to start? I can't ever recall seeing an instance in which a match was delayed because a player wasn't sure if he/she could play. Can anyone else remember anything like this happening?

Apparently Andy had a cortisone shot so they were waiting for that to kick in and clearly it worked as there were zero signs in the match that he was injured. He was caning his shots and though he was broken a few times in the first set (as was Rafa) he served pretty well. It was only when he got broken in the third set that he called a trainer out to massage the elbow. Perhaps the cortisone and Andy's adrenalin kicked in when he was on the court, but the whole situation just doesn't quite make sense to me especially when commentators said he woke up with the pain - so why wouldn't he have had treatment earlier in the day?

And Andy, your profane mouth and constant bitching are as ugly as your hairdo at the moment. Let's work on these eh?

Rafa is really going to have to step it up tomorrow - Ferrer is having a fab 2011 and he'll be raring to keep climbing and win his first Masters Series.

Photos: AP and Getty

40 days!!!

In brighter news....

The French Open starts in just 40 days!!

I really feel like the Aussie Open just ended. Maybe it's because I spent over 100 hours at Melbourne Park over two weeks this year and I don't want to let go (or delete all the tennis coverage from my DVR).

But it has been months, and in a mere six+ weeks we will be staring at the face of the French Open.

My brother's tennis coach mate is hooking us up for tickets and I'm aiming for fourth round or quarterfinal tickets. I won't really believe I'm going until I see those magic tickets!

Allez! Ugh - thanks Justine for ruining that for me FOREVER.

Tennis depression

Following a sport like ours is an emotional roller coaster and I am starting to feel like 2011 kinda sucks.

Missing in action are two of my all time faves - Venus and Serena - and I think I still have a tennis hangover from watching Rafa lose in Melbourne - that really hurt worse than I thought it would and as much as I really like Nole I'm superly bummed Rafa didn't at least win Miami (since he hadn't won that title before).

I really can't believe we haven't seen Serena on a tennis court since Wimbledon and who the hell knows if we'll see her play again. I watched some of my fave Serena videos on Youtube the other day - if you haven't seen the 'comeback' series one great fan has put together I suggest you have a gander (there are four all up):

Watching these videos only made me more depressed and I think I must be mourning the state of women's tennis in general. I miss the old days of Lindsay, Hingis, Seles, Capriati and Serena/Venus and I am starting to agree that women's tennis is a bloody mess. I have always enjoyed watching women's tennis more than men's but the current situation of the WTA is bad and I'm trying hard to find the positives.

Li Na was a bright spot in Melbourne, but she has lost six straight matches since then and appears to be more interested in being a Chinese star than winning matches.

Svetlana Kuznetsova is one of the most talented people on tour (and one of my faves) and after her amazing match with Franny in Melbourne (and her great win over Henin) I really expected more.

I'm trying to be happy for the Caros and Vikas of the world really going to have to dig deeper to get there. The last few months has been bad enough, but today's news that Kim might be out of the French Open is awful. If she's already got a bum shoulder and has wrecked her ankle (dancing, really?) even if she tries in play in Paris she'll be totally gimpy.


Queens Club here I come!

Grounds pass tickets went on sale today for the Queens Club event in London. I now possess an email stating I have one for Tuesday 7 June!
The lineup in crazy good at Queens this year: Rafa, Nole, Muzz, Roddick and Delpo!!

I have no idea what one can see on a grounds pass there but hopefully will be able to see some practices and decent early round matches. I haven't been to a smaller tourney outside New Zealand ever so will be a whole different world.
Goofy Sam won it last year, and I remember Feli beat Rafa there...

Anyone been before? Any tips? There seem to be a decent amount of tickets left so tempted to buy more...

Flashback - 2002 Fed Cup US vs Austria

On Twitter this morning Matt Cronin (Tennis Reporters), Lindsay Davenport and Lisa Raymond were chatting about the infamous 2002 Federation Cup tie in Charlotte NC which saw Jennifer Capriati kicked off the team.

I actually went to this tie and remember getting to my hotel and seeing the news on TV about Billie Jean King kicking Jennifer from the team. I had flown to NC to see Monica Seles and Capriati, the two female players who helped kickstart my tennis obsession back in 1990. I think I blocked out the disappointment that ensued that weekend. Not only did Capriati (who to this day I never got to see play live) get kicked off the team (and they had to forfeit her first match for a quick 0-1 deficit), but the US lost to Austria. Check out the BBC story: Capriati kicked off US team

It's funny that Twitter allowed us some insight into what happened that weekend nine years ago. It all started by Cronin chatting about Liesel Huber's 'combustibility' in relation to what sounds like another doubles bust up involving Huber- this time with Nadia Petrova.

Anyway, Cronin tweeted the following:

@ @ I've experienced LH's "combustability" but not Lisa's though I do recall her being irritable at 2002 Fed Cup... 

@ @.. when BJK booted Jennifer off team vs Austria & kept players up almost all night yelling for support

@ Forgot to say I pulled an allnighter 2 back in Charlotte Fed Cup after Jen was kicked off team as news came very late at night


@ @ I was blissfully at home recovering from knee surgery that Fed Cup tie, but I remember hearing those stories

@ They "blissfully" could have used u as Schwartz beat both Monica (who was in a post BJK screaming funk) & Shaughnessy to win

Nothing hugely revealing here, but it's a nice blast from the past. I can't imagine what the Fed Cup team's thought were when Jen got the boot (for wanting to have an extra practice with her own team after official team practices, but there's gotta be more of course) but amusing to think about BJK trying to rally the forces late into the night. No wonder they lost!

Love you Twitter.

Rafa n Fed

Well, I hoped Rafa would win today but I, as a tennis fan above all else, ended that match feeling worse for Fed than I felt stoked for Rafa.

I'm a huge Rafa fan and I've been over Fed for a long time, but I always want the big guys to really compete well against each other when they do play. As much as the media is just killing the buzz so to speak about 'Fedal' (can barely type that without wanting to vomit) we really should appreciate this rivalry before it's over.

There's really nothing fun about watching a top player in decline, or even a former top 10er on free fall - it's actually kinda heartbreaking.

I do hope Rafa ends Nole's run on Sunday but my feeling is that it will be about these two until Roger finds a way to mentally stop selling himself short against Rafa and Nole I don't know how he'll turn those matchups around.

On a happy note, how well did this guy look today? Fierce play Rafa!

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)