Watch out, FIFA Scouts

March 22, 2011

When you watch as many post-match pressers and read as many tennis profiles as I do, it’s easy to start assuming that tennis is kinda the uncool little-brother sport to it’s cool-big-brother sport of football slash soccer. Many players admit to wanting to play football when they were younger, some dropped out in order to make room for tennis, and there are still a few who readily acknowledge they would’ve preferred to be better at their bigger, glitzier, shall we say more-universally-renowned big-bro sport. As a hardcore tennis fan, this is when it’s apt to grin smugly that “we” got that dude who looks rather dashing with an unclad torso in “our” camp, even though he clearly wants to be bromancing it up on a muddy field with twelve of his equally dashing European-or-South-American-but-either-way-from-a-hot-looking-country mates.

Luckily, some tournaments let our boys release that inner energy, and that’s why last week at Indian Wells the grassy turf killed about seventeen birds with one stone, giving the boys a chance to get kickity and the girls a chance to watch. (Credit to C Note for doing an amazing job stalking – I mean, blogging – and keeping us posted with the soccerhotness.

Now we’ve moved on beyond a few minutes of boys kicking around a tennis ball at the end of practice, Melbourne-style, or some serious grassy matches, a la Indian Wells. In Florida, the childhood fantasies get indulged and your favourite specimens of men-with-unclad-upper-torsos will be showing off their goods – for a good cause.

I know I’ve made this sound trivial, but it’s not, so let me go on: This is really all about Japan, and the ATP guys have gotten together to raise money for the victims of the disastrous earthquakes and tsunami of the last week. This is not the first time this sporting organisation has gotten together to raise funds for relief to those hit by natural disasters (see: Haiti; Chile; Queensland) and it’s a very special thing to see. This week in Coconut Grove, Florida, an ATP all-star team of tennis players will be bringing their soccer skillz to the stadium so you can all throw your cash at them and make sure it goes to help the people of Japan. Who need it. Really bad.

According to Nole, who, let’s face it, is teacher’s pet of the ATP at the moment:

“I am very concerned for the people of Japan and think it is only right that we do whatever we can to help those in need,” Djokovic said.

“I would love to see all of Miami support both events by showing up Wednesday, March 23rd at the Ransom Everglades High School soccer field at 7:00 pm to cheer on your favorite team and attending the dinner afterward.”

More facts:

The match against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers will take place at Ransom Everglades High School (3575 Main Highway), a couple miles south of the tournament in Coconut Grove at 7:00 pm. A dinner and auction will follow the soccer match at an undisclosed Miami location. Info at http://www.GR8Miami.com.

Confirmed ATP Players
Novak Djokovic (Team Captain, obvs)
Kei Nishikori (Japanese rep, vital)
Rafael Nadal (Little boy’s dream, couldn’t be left out)
Andy Murray (Nole doesn’t leave out his besties)
Fernando Verdasco (Too cool for the tennis court. Also, looks good shirtless)
Feliciano Lopez (See above).

Also included are other fine graduates of the European summer outdoor training scheme and unclad torso specimens:

Richard Gasquet; Viktor Troicki; Marcos Baghdatis; David Ferrer; Jurgen Melzer

Kick away, lovely gentlemen!

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What Ajde Looks Like

January 31, 2011

Buzzed is the only way to describe the feeling of a Grand Slam final and its aftermath. You spend all week, roaming the outer courts, watching two random people from countries you can’t point out on a map, with last names you can’t pronounce, hitting a piece of yellow fuzz with a wooden implement strung with netting, and somehow it’s all significant. When that same scene gets played out in an arena watched by thousands of people, with millions of others watching on TV, commenting via social networks and writing about it in newspapers, all of a sudden it’s elevated to the next level. That tiny match you watched on an outer court, with only a few stray family members, a coach, and some off-duty ballkids watching? That was all part of it, all spinning that huge intricate web that somehow led to this time, this place. Now.

That’s how we headed into RLA tonight, feeling like the antics of Rally for Relief and the incessant court-hopping of Rounds One and Two were more than just a few weeks ago, but knowing they all somehow knitted themselves together to get us here, to watch these two champions take each other on.

Suddenly it all made sense – let’s be honest, the Hiisense debacle that insisted on slaughtering every Serbian that came in its path? It was a sacrifice, an offering to the tennis lords who dared deem Serbia worthy of a grand slam. The cool breezes, the rainy patches, the lack of the typical Australian heat? It was a nice reprieve for two men who spent their leadup to this tournament gearing up for precisely that type of weather, and then sailed through the final day, when the mercury hit over 40 (that’s over 100 for you northern folk). Suddenly it all came together, and we found ourselves in Rod Laver Arena, watching Novak Djokovic take the Championship over Andy Murray in three gorgeously played sets of brilliant tennis.

Not that, of course, that’s all we did. Being the girls that we are, far more comfortable on the outer courts than we are in Centre Court, we found it disconcertingly awesome and straight out of our tennis fantasies to find ourselves on the outside of Team Djokovic’s box, in an area dotted with celebrities, while our two favourites battled it out. So we did lots of papping along with educating our neighbours (Jake Garner: Correctiontheballwasgood; Neighbour: What did he say? Me: Correction.. The ball was good… I watch too much tennis, don’t I?) and then we cried when Nole won.

True story.

Pictures, you want? Okay, here’s what Ajde Looks like.

We arrived, and Jake was there. Jake was standing in his blazer, waiting around.

Then Jake stood in his blazer, waiting around, with a child. The child was a Tennis Australia prodigy. I think. I wasn’t really listening. There was awesomeness to be absorbed.

Then Jake stood in his blazer, waiting around, with Muzza at his side. They were waiting for Nole, who was doing this:

Yeah, I know my pics are grainy and you can get prettier ones from Getty and whatnot. But this is my story and I’m sticking to it. Wanna read on?

We were really busy trying to get a glimpse of this lady here. Ain’t she pretty? And ooh she had such lovely bling on.

Nole was playing too. Even with the neverending ball toss.

He played bee-yoo-tifully. Like, the best tennis I’ve ever seen. Which doesn’t speak much for my quality tennis journalism, but let me say this. He was on fire, from the top of his recently-grown-back-spikey-shaven-head to his Sergio-Tachini-clad-Nole-emblazoned-tushy to his super-duper-extra-traction-Serbia-coloured-Adidas shoes.

He was on fire.

Not that Andy wasn’t either. All rumours of a choke are hereby dismissed by yours truly, because i was close enough I would’ve smelled the bile. This was no choke – this was awesome meets awesomer, and Andy was out-awesomed.

The Ajde Army may have helped:

Particularly this handsome young man:

Or maybe this fine lady:

Though Muzza wasn’t completely alone in his corner. Aside from having a fabulous Mum, he had such gentlemen as these, one of whom consistently had to remind him: “It’s your Slam, Andy, this is your tournament!” Um, okay.

Aside from Team Serbia singing from one group to another throughout every change of ends, there was lots of papping to be seen, with Eric Bana and Vince Colosimo having chats down the bottom, Molly Meldrum watching riveted from the top, Dave Hughes looking antsy to our right, and Alicia Molik and Renae Stubbs holding animated conversations mid-point to our left. That doesn’t include the riveting people watching enabled by an excited Serbian army located immediately next to Novak’s box, begging Ana for autographs, shaking hands with Djoko family members, and somewhere, somehow, involving an Orthodox Priest. Not quite sure how he scored the invite.

And then this happened, and we all lived happily ever after.


Where It All Started

January 29, 2011

The US Open was appropriate in its finish. We had Rafole Doubles starting us off in Toronto, and it finished accordingly.

The Oz Open has gone one better, as it is wont to do.

Remember this?

Q. Now is it hard to balance the friendship and the professional rivalry or do you achieve that?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I sent him a message yesterday after his semifinal saying like, Perth final, because we practiced in Perth a couple times this year. We had fun. We played football there. He won, unfortunately.

It’s fun. It’s been a fun couple of weeks. I think we, as well, reconnected a little bit with the friendship in the last 12 months.

Well, we have to forget about all that when we step on the court. It’s all business. I’m sure he’s going to be very eager to win a first Grand Slam title.

 

See you tomorrow night, lads. Bring on the bromance.


Your job is easier

January 18, 2011

Like any good exho featuring the hilarious antics of Andy Roddick (I’m actually being serious), there comes the predictable umpire/linesman ribbing, and today was no exception. Andy was insistent on proving that the linesman’s job is easier, and even had him come up and serve for us.

Between tennis players posing as catwalk models (Caro), in the photographer’s pit (Nole and Rafa), calling lines (Vika and Andy), playing soccer (Nole and Muzza), being a proud father (oh wait… that’s Lleyton), and even baseball (Andy), the guys tried to prove to us again and again that they’re good for anything but playing tennis.

But we know the truth, sez we. You kids are tennis players, and here’s the Class of 2011 picture. Stop giggling.

Rally for Relief Stars

Like any good wedding photographer, I did the bit where you zoom in bit by bit.

 

Courier, Lleyton, Rafter, Murray, Ivanovic

Courier’s sad because he’s not with his best mate “Rog”. Why does he call him that?

Vera, Caro, Rafa, Andy Roddick, Kim

Ah, the racquet clutch. Perfect defensive position without looking too “arms-crossed” in an awkward situation. Like when you and your numerous “classmates” are forced to lineup for a cheesy pic. Why clasp each other’s stomachs and kiss on cheek politely if you can’t even put an arm around for a photo op?

Roddick, Clijsters, Henin, Federer, Stosur

Obviously, Roger has the friendly arm-wrap down. Dammit. He’s touching Sam. HE’S TOUCHING MY GIRL!

Tennis stars at Rally for Relief

the family all together

Looking gorgeous and playing gorgeous tennis vs looking at gorgeous pictures? My job is easiest.


Rally for Relief: Part 2

January 17, 2011

You can’t have too much of a good thing… So here’s the second lot of pictures and storytales from today’s epically awesome piece of tennis joy.

Let’s start with the favourite snap of the day, of which I may or may not have several more in the arsenal:

Analysis from US Weekly’s Body Language Experts….

Moments before the shot of the tournament, pretty much:

Let’s just say shutter speed is not my strong suit.

 

I believe the boys just hugged. Wooooooooot. Wait, you mean you haven’t seen that pic? Gasp.

The two Andys, being awesome. Muzz, being kinda funny. Everyone, playing tweeners. Because they can.

Ana: “Okay, so can we discuss the tactics in Serbian?” About to pull another muscle, not in her abs…

As expected, the Andy footfault reference.

Vera being funny. Who woulda thunk it?

Run, child, run ,far far away.

Paty recreating ancient days of school sunhats in the playground.

Lleyton being a dad.

Justine getting all clucky. Like a real person.

Caro making kids cry. Mirka unimpressed.

Nole in the photographer’s pit…

Andy manipulating the net. I can’t get past the hat and sunglasses.

Nole doing the polite thing and kissing the umpire. Um, Jim Courier, the umpire.

 

 

You will now be charged two bucks for the above picture of Hewitt children.

Pictures: @rishegee (that’s me). I know they’re fuzzy, but do me a favour and link me/ask me. Gracias.

 


Tennis is the best, chuck out the rest.

January 17, 2011

Rally for Relief was basically a portrayal of all that is awesome in our sport.

Par example:

It started with Johanna Griggs, who waited patiently for all the kids to be quiet. The announcement for each tennis player came with plenty of cheers, but we were sad to see the Rafa and Roger announcement in one breath. Did that mean that the cheers for Rafa really went to Roger? A conundrum.

The kids made their entrances, and we kept our eyes peeled for awkward exchanges. None of the same standard as Lleyton/Kim last year, sadly.

Ana strolled on in her purple ensemble, complete with sexy capelet.

 

Ana and her capelet, ready for her ride to the ball.

“You! What are you  doing here?”

To be joined by Nole, who clearly had sympathy of those of us who missed Hopman and treated us to a peek of the mixed doubles awesomeness.

Nole

A man among boys… ahem… girls. Watch me strut.

Then a mini Justin Bieber that none of us had heard of sang the Aussie anthem, we blinked back tears, and Ms JG gave us a speech. Anna Bligh probably had the biggest cheer out of everyone to be announced – Rafa and Roger included.

Spotted: The Andys having chats. Vika and Vera pretending to be very engrossed in Julia Gillard’s speech.

 

NoleCamera

The camera followed Nole around, who as per last year, was dumped with the ladies. Jim Courier, attempting to explain the scoring system, had everyone stumped. “Okay, you call the score,” was Novak’s compromise.

And in some weird alignment of the tennis gods, Nole and Justine were paired up. Strange is not even the word. “Justine, make a winner,” was Nole’s tactical suggestion.

Apparently Pat was ringing in for some extra help.

Classic moment of the day. Nole playing drink in hand, lying on the floor.

Not sure what’s going on there. Do you?

Nole’s specially-procured towel, courtesy of the camera.

Wardrobe malfunction, Ana Ivanovic.

Get girlie with Caro, then.

Andy Roddick. Serving. Because that’s what he does.

Nole and Lleyton. This was NOT one of the epic chest bumps of the day.

Justine feeling like the uncool kid at school. I could’ve sworn she missed a shot and Nole looked at her and mimicked the way she should’ve swung. Coach Novak? Methinks so.

And the classic line of the day: “Novak, get behind me.”

Part 2 to come.

Photos: @rishegee. Please don’t reproduce without asking/linking me like nice people that you are. 🙂


Practice Porn

January 16, 2011

Friday dawned fine and sunny… oh no wait, that’s a lovely start to a story but I can’t take my poetic license *that* far. Friday dawned in that fine way Melbourne does, with rain and clouds and a helluva lot of showers, basically waving the wet in the face of all the tennis-watching and tennis-playing hopefuls at Melbourne Park and snickering as they donned boots and jackets and brought umbrellas to the site… and waited for the clouds to clear.

That’s what happened on Thursday, and in a very un-Melbourne-like fashion, the clouds never cleared. Friday however, Lady M was back to herself, and showed us her favourite trick. At 12.36pm precisely, the clouds parted and – hola – what on earth is that? Oh yes. Blue skies. And LP’s carefully selected outfit of black tights, boots and a lovely cardigan over her dress was deemed obsolete as it was suddenly tennis weather again.

I love my city, and I adore the concept of Four Seasons in a Day. If anything, it’s great for scaring tourists. I was kinda prepared this time, not even getting dressed until the sunshine arrived.

And it was Melbourne Park time again.

First stop for qualies, we visited Miss Sabine Lisicki. A Twitter favourite of mine and sadly missed during 2010.

Sabine Lisicki

Highlight of the match was all the orange-clad people sitting next to me, who I proudly told LP next to me “Ooh look, Dutch people. Wearing orange” only to realise that we were, ahem, at a Dutch girl’s match. Brain scientist, I tell you. Sabine was also lovely and sweet and won her match and smiled at us and said hi when we congratulated her. All sweetness.

While the qualies had all been carefully scheduled for Courts 1 – 14, on the main side of Melbourne Park, closer to Garden Square and Rod Laver, Courts 16 – 22, namely the famed Court Sixteen and Court Seventeen, were being used as practice courts for the hallowed faces of our sport. They were accessible to media only.

That is, until a full day’s backlog – thank you, Mother Natch! – had the schedule filled to the brim, and including Courts 18-22 on the schedule. Which meant? What’s that? Oh yes, why wouldn’t we stake out Court 16 and see who might grace us with their presence?

As we did. Practice porn for y’all, namely in the form of one Deliciano (we passed Judy, heading in the other direction. Clearly she’d already her fill.)

Check the calves.

Question: Will I ever have too much Feli on this blog?

Actually not enough. Though aside from the multiple female complaints regarded his shirted state, LP and I were riveted by the hairstyle. A little half bun, secured by a headband? Cleo should help us recreate that look.

On the other side of the court, we were riveted to see none other than the Evil One himself, Mr Robin Soderling, performing an exercise that I am only familiar with due to a particularly slave-driving personal trainer who coined them “knee highs”.

But you can call them whatever you want. Because tee hee hee, he looked really funny.

We sauntered over to another court, checked out Simone Bolleli, the famous Grigor Dimitrov, and were about to head over to another side of town – when we dropped past Court 17 (home of our favourite concrete potplant, perfect for climbing to catch a glimpse of a crowded Rafa practice) to find none other than this lad:

The argyle has totally grown on me. To quote the girl next to me, “It’s growing on me as we speak.” It kinda suits his little Scottish personality, and it’s weird to imagine that it’s all athletic and dri-fit – it looks like it belongs on a sweater alongside the crackling woodfire hearth in ye olde highlands of Scotland. So I like.

Let me just say, for lovers of all things Muzza. I haven’t seen the boy up close – really, ever – and I liked what I saw. A few little new sideburns, a little bit of ranga coming through, and some bee-yoo-tee-ful tennis. I’m not going to pretend I understood what he was trying to work on, but he looks well and ready to get over that hump he faced last year. And it was hot, and his vampire skin held up real well. Which is always important.

And then he drank some water. Or maybe Powerade.

Gatorade, perhaps?


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