30 Days of Tennis Challenge: Least favourite women's player

Kim Clijsters

This is seriously hard. I've warmed up to so many of the WTA ladies who I used to not like (Maria) and appreciate them all in different ways even if they shriek crazy loud (Vika), are just odd (Marion) or are a human backboard (Woz).

But Kim Clijsters - yeah kinda over her. She was always my preferred Belgian back in her first career, but that's not saying much as Henin was such an anti-fave of mine. 

She chose to retire at 23 and of course didn't really mean it so took a two-year break and came back...to the most insane media frenzy about the comeback mom.

For crying out loud people. She retired at 23, not 43. Women have kids all the time and then go on to be normal healthy, fit people. They have kids then compete in marathons, etc. It's not that flipping unusual to be a fit mother!

And Kim is NOT Australian! Just because she was engaged to her look alike ex-bf Lleyton Hewitt in the early 2000s does not make her Aussie.

Rant over.

Runner up: Ana Ivanovic

30 Days of Tennis Challenge: Least favourite men’s player

 Roger Federer

Egad. Do I have to come clean regarding the players I really can't stand? Yep. Okay then. It's the mighty Fed. 
As a Nadal fan, many would probably assume I don't care for Fed because I love Nadal. That's not it. I cried tears of joy when Fed beat Pete at Wimbledon 2001. I was genuinely happy that he won (well, I didn't like Sampras either so that was sort of a win for me). I do enjoy his game - but he makes it look too easy sometimes and I like my players to show a bit more grit on court. Some tennis fans have told me I'm not a 'real' tennis fan if I don't like Federer. I disagree. He's an amazing player, of course he is. But I don't care for him, and cheer for him to win less than any other ATP player.

I think my irritation began when he just won too much. The domination really bored me - I lost interest in the ATP for awhile because of it. And when Fed's bawling took a lot of the spotlight during Rafa's victory speech at the Aussie Open in 2009, well, I really didn't like him. 

His fans (correction, some of his fans) and some of the wider tennis community don't help my feelings toward him. The constant 'perfect' comments. Oh Fed doesn't grunt. Oh Fed is such a gentleman. Oh Fed doesn't have any annoying habits on court. Oh Fed wouldn't dare be late onto court. It just all irritates me. So I do laugh when he loses to Ernie Gulbis. Or Bagdatis. Or Mardy Fish. Or Tomas Berdych. Or Nole after being up double match point. Or when he shanks an overhead. Or whiffs on match point.

I think most of all, I hate those RF logos everywhere. And that stupid white jacket. Pretentious much?

30 Days of Tennis Challenge: Favourite Doubles Team

 Venus and Serena Williams

These are hard - I've never thought about which doubles team I root for the most, to never lose. And given doubles players swap partners so often it's hard to keep cheering for teams and not individuals players.

But, when Venus and Serena play slams, I definitely want them to win. I really like the Bryan Brothers, but I'm not bummed when they lose. When the Williams sisters compete in Grand Slam tourneys, they expect to win the slam and I expect it as well. 

I've been lucky enough to watch Team Williams win a few matches at the Beijing Olympics and when they step on the court together they are fierce and so much fun to watch. The sisterly love and giggles between points followed by cracking serves and forehands is fab. It's during doubles that you can see how much these two love the game, and each other.

Two Olympic gold medals, 12 Grand Slams.

Runner up: Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez aka Team Cute

Big tennis day for little NZ

Having lived in New Zealand for more than seven years, I can say with certainty that tennis is not exactly a huge sport here. Yes, Kiwis love sports but there have been few Kiwis making many tennis headlines, even in their own country.

Despite that, Auckland has run fab ATP and WTA tourneys for years and in recent years Marina Erakovic has been the only real hope NZ has to be a top player.

Marina made a great run to the semis of the ASB Classic back in 2008, but she lost to Aravane Rezai. That was a jumpstart tho to a solid season where she would crack the top 50. Since her great 2008, she's battled injury - she was out with a hip injury for six months - and her ranking plummeted to the 300s.

But this year, she's had some pretty good runs. She reached the doubles final at the ASB Classic and made the semis at Wimbledon in doubles. Her net play is great, her serve is a weakness. During the ASB Classic this year, I heard people say she should just focus on doubles.

I was talking to a tennis mate the other day, and said I thought Victoria Azarenka was a great top player for Marina to play against because Vika can be so fragile, mentally and physically. I thought Marina had a chance.

Well, what do you know! The Kiwi did it, knocking out Vika in three sets. I didn't see the match, but read Vika said she played at 'one zillionth' of her abilities today. Who cares - Marina is into the quarters of a big hardcourt tourney in the US. And she'll be back in the top 100 after her first win ever over a top 20 player. Yeah!

What really pleased me today were comments from NZers on the news websites - really warmed my heart to read the support from Kiwis for Marina, who truly is the only player flying the NZ flag at tour level tennis events. She next takes on Dominika Cibulkova. GO KIWI!

30 Days of Tennis Challenge: Favourite women's player

Serena Williams

I'll never forget Serena Williams' win at the 1999 US Open. Big sister loses to Hingis in a tight semifinal and instead of sister vs sister in the final, it's little sis who will try and take out Hingis, world #1 and a former champ. The beads, the muscles, those shots. I, a younger sister, always had a soft spot for Serena who lived in the shadow of Venus, from whom so much was expected.

Serena's career has been amazing, the stuff of legends. Yes she could have won more, but who's to say she'd still be playing had she done what others wanted her to? I've always loved Serena's fight, her fun attitude, her toughness. And her serve is to be coveted by any tennis player. I like that Serena's proven time and again that she is the WTA's bigger fighter, the one who can never be counted against. 

Being a massive Serena fan can be difficult - yes she's said and done things I have cringed at. But she has transcended my sport and intrigue surrounds her every move. I bloody love this girl.

Runner up: Venus Williams

30 Days of tennis challenge: Favourite men's player

Rafael Nadal

When Andre Agassi retired in 2006, I had no idea which male player would fill the huge hole in my tennis heart. It would take some time before I would find out. 
I had some interest in Rafa when he was winning his first slams but during those years my tennis watching was pretty limited (flatsharing and crazy time differences will do that) so it wasn't really until 2008 that I really started to take notice. 
My mom actually loved Rafa before me - I wondered what was up with the scowl, the little habits, the three-quarter pants. Then I watched him play live, at the Aussie Open 2008 and I was hooked. The intensity, the movement, the amazing spin that creates jaw-dropping shots and angles. I became a full fledged fan and have never looked back. 

Runner up: Juan Martin del Potro

30 Days of Tennis Challenge

My Google Reader is, not surprisingly, full of tennis blogs. For all those hours I am not actually online (and there are some!) I'm glad there are other tennis addicts around the world finding endless tennis info, pics, videos etc to keep this tennis fan satiated.

So tonight I was catching up on my blog feed, and read about a cool tennis challenge that of course I will undertake: 30 Days of Tennis Challenge.

Seriously, how can I do not this?

I leave for the US Open in 29 days, so will get on this now. Here's the list. 

30 Days of Tennis Challenge

  1. Favourite men’s player
  2. Favourite women’s player
  3. Favourite doubles team
  4. Least favourite men’s player
  5. Least favourite women’s player
  6. Your most memorable match
  7. First player you became a fan of
  8. Earliest tennis memory
  9. Favourite retired men’s player
  10. Favourite retired women’s player
  11. A player that no one would expect you to love
  12. A player that you aren’t a fan of but you respect
  13. Favourite Grand Slam tournament
  14. Favourite Non Grand Slam tournament
  15. Most attractive women’s player
  16. Most attractive men’s player
  17. Favourite women’s tennis outfit
  18. Favourite men’s tennis outfit
  19. Which men’s and women’s player was world no. 1 on the day you were born
  20. Favourite men’s slam champion
  21. Favourite women’s slam champion
  22. Favourite umpire
  23. Favourite mixed doubles team
  24. Favourite tennis couple
  25. Favourite tennis wag
  26. A match that makes you happy
  27. A match that makes you sad
  28. The Grand Slam you would most like to go to
  29. What’s your favourite tennis surface
  30. Post your fave tennis related gif or picture
 Thanks to Daily Scores - The Blog for the head's up about Chocolate Cake vs. Tennis

2011 is year of the fan slam!

Well, it's official. 2011 is the year of tennis dreams - the fan slam. My suitcase and credit card have both had one hell of a workout, and it's not over yet as I've just booked my trip to NYC for the 2011 US Open!

Bring on Arthur Ashe Kids Day, hot dogs, airplanes overhead....can't wait. It's been 9 long years since my first and only visit to the US Open, so keen to be reminded how my country of birth hosts a grand slam.

Will be there the first 10 days, so stay tuned and follow my rambles/twitpics on @stephinnz.

Tribute to Andre Agassi

Young Andre ready for Davis Cup action.
Andre Agassi will be inducted into the Hall of Fame tomorrow. I have my tissues ready.
I blame/thank Andre for getting me into the game. I had played tennis for a few years when I saw a photo of Andre in People Magazine in 1988 when he had just finished an amazing year (ended it #3 in the world). Despite the mullet, I was interested, and started following pro tennis the next year.
There's never been a tennis player like Andre - what a roller coaster career he had and one never knew what would come next. The potty mouth comments, the wild outfits and hair, skipping slams. Huge success, then mighty falls followed by a transition into a dedicated, clean shaven adult with superb fitness and seemingly inner calm. Now a happily married man to Stefanie Graf (I still can't believe that happened) with two adorable kids. And a strong dedication to being a philanthropist and truly helping others.

My fave Andre moments:
1) Winning Wimbledon in a mullet and biking shorts in 1992

2) Becoming #1 again in 2003 at age 33
3) US Open match vs Bagdatis, 2006
4) US Open match vs Blake, 2005
5) The hot pink and lime green shirts/biking shorts
6) The 'bozo' incident with Philippe Chatrier
7) The Barbra Streisand phase
8) Winning the US Open in 1994 unseeded
9) Andre beating Pete in five sets, Aussie Open semis 2000. Was lucky enough to be in Melbourne for this one (alas no ticket) - watching this epic in a lively pub was one of my best tennis moments ever.
10) His farewell speech US Open 2006. Sob.

Yes, I had this poster on my wall as a teen
There aren't enough words to describe Andre's impact on tennis or how many people he brought to the game, particularly in the US. I can't wait to hear the tribute speeches in Newport tomorrow - it's hard to believe he's now 41 and retired five years ago. How you're missed Andre!

Jo is the man!

How lovely is this man? Tugging at my heart Jo Willy....

Thanks Wimbledon 2011

Well, we can't have them all, and today was not Rafa's day - props to Novak for continuing an amazing year.

Every year I think my post-Wimbledon hangover is the worst from any slam. It's so hard to believe it's all over for another year. This year it's particularly bittersweet given I attended two days of Wimbledon.

Here are my favourite moments from 2011 Wimbledon:

  • BEING THERE! The colours, the flowers, Radio Wimbledon, Pimms, strawberries and cream. Dreams, baby.
  • Serena's first round victory. Talk about emotional.
  • Five straight finals and 20 straight wins for Rafa. He's certainly proven he is not just a clay courter.
  • Sabine Lisicki's run. That smile, that serve. She is back and watch out top 10.
  • Bryan Bros win #11 -doubles is so underrated. Totally different game full of fun.
  • Petra's mental tough win. First final? No problem. What a statement win for the young Czech.