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!


State of the Nation: Tennis

March 22, 2011

For those of you who aren’t perpetually linked in to the world of tennis via a plethora of fancy tools that your parents call “hi-tech” and you call “my life, dammit”, you may not have had the same last several weeks as the rest of us, watching a little piece of yellow fuzz being hit back and forth by exceptional characters clad in various fashions showcasing specific examples of the amazing strength of the human body. Such shenanigans were going on in the state of California, in a little-known place just off Palm Springs, called Indian Wells.

Indian Wells is supposedly an oldies resort, where tennis courts and golf courses stretch on for mile after green mile, overlooked by the oh-so-purdy snow-capped mountains in the background. As players converge on this little spot of the California desert in the beginning of March for the first Masters Tournament of the season, it’s all about seeing just who’s held up since the last time the boys and girls got together in Melbourne: Will the up-and-comers (hi, Dolgy, Bernie, Milos, yeah you) live up to the hype? Is Novak Djokovic really on fire? Can Roger Federer cash in his superannuation yet? Does Caro really DESERVE the Number One ranking? (Yawn.) And, more importantly: How fat is Fernando Verdasco? Does Jada need a haircut for those cute blonde curls? Are all Serbian fans really that awesome? Will John Isner EVER get the girl?

The questions of tennis fans never cease, and we tend to have the important stuff covered: Food, fashions, children, celebrity friends, rumoured relationships, bromances with other sports, how men look with their shirts off. Tennis journalists, on the other hand, and dabblers in the sport we like to call “casual fans”, all have just one question, constantly, and damn it does get boring:

OMG, So, Like, Do you think, like, Roger Federer, isn’t he, just the BEST EVER? *gush* Followed by: How about that Nadal dude? What’s wrong with Andy Murray?

And lately, if you get just the right sort of tennis fan: “What’s up with Djokovic? He won the Australian Open, hey?”

And the zinger: “So are Federer and Nadal over?”

I love reading responses to this question because everyone pretends to know and no-one really knows and the fun part is, we’ll never know, until it happens, and THAT’S WHY WE LOVE THIS SPORT SO MUCH.

We love sport BECAUSE it’s unpredictable. Because there is no way of knowing what’s going to happen next. Because tennis, of all glorious wonderful sports, is so wondrous precisely because you can be staring three match points in the face at 5-4 in the 2nd set only to have it turned around to face ANOTHER match point in the tie-break to TURN IT ALL AROUND and win the goddamn match in the third set and then WIN THE TOURNAMENT. Because when your friend texts you to find out what time you’ll be done watching the tennis and you say “I don’t know” it’s because, You really don’t bloody know.

And that’s why it’s awesome.

We don’t know if Nole will end the year number one, or Rafa, or even (please not) Roger. We don’t know if Nole’s luck will snap, or he’ll finish Miami with the hard-court-major-trifecta (Melbourne, Indian Wells, Miami) and get the longest streak ever, or take over Number One by riding through clay season.

Or if Rafa will join a soccer team tomorrow and Roger opens a day-care center and leave the rankings open slather for the rest of the top 10. Andy Murray could win the next fourteen slams after this, and everyone will laugh hysterically at the hiccup of the first few slam finals he was in.

I’m happy to say that the Indian Wells results were true to life, in my humble, stream-watching-incessantly-tweeting opinion. I *do* think Caroline Wozniacki deserves the Number One spot, and I’m glad she proved it. I *do* believe Novak Djokovic is on an unbelievable hot streak and the better player of the big three – as he so proved to us this weekend. Having those two as our champions this weekend says something about the state of the nation in sport – and having two kids who are both pretty awesome, as far as kind, generous, funny (ok, only Nole, but Caro does give good tweet when Jisner is around), good-looking ambassadors to a sport that needs a bit of marketing help – is a total plus. As for what happens next? Who the hell knows. But I sure as hell can’t wait to find out.

THIS SPORT IS THE BESTEST, YOU GUYS.

Because no matter what happens tomorrow, I know I’ll be sitting somewhere in the world – whether in a hot and sweaty bar in Thailand, on a laptop in my apartment in Brooklyn, in an Irish pub in Spain, or courtside at a Grand Slam – and waiting with bated breath to see what happens next.


Doubles Heaven

March 14, 2011

Rafa’s given us the lowdown on why Indian Wells is such a doubles treat, aka Olympic Practice Ground:

Q. What do you think about the fact that you’ve won this tournament in doubles and the Bryans have not?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am better than them. (Laughter.)
That’s not the case, no? So the thing is probably I have the best partner of the world, yeah. I have a fantastic partner. Marc, he has amazing talent, and when we play together, we have a lot of fun.
You know, I would love to play more tournaments doubles, but for me is impossible for the calendar and everything. Is too much.
But when I have the chance, I play. I played this year in Doha. I normally do in this tournament because is a long tournament and I have a few days in a row that there is a lot of – with the super-tiebreak helps a little bit to the players, but can have more chances to keep helping the players to play more and more doubles.
Because I think if the best players of the world play doubles, is a very good fun for the crowd, and for us, too, because we play a little bit more relaxed. At the same time, we practice, you know. If we have more facilities, is easier to practice playing doubles and is better practice playing doubles than practice only on the practice courts.


Practice Porn: Rafa. Aka the Best Photograph I have Ever Taken

January 28, 2011

He’s gone, and we’re sad about it. I never wrote the appropriate ode, I couldn’t find the right way to say goodbye.

I was cold, I was numb when it happened, but it did. And I kinda have to get over it, because the Slam’s moved on, even if my blog posts clearly haven’t.

But as a consolation prize, that ominous night, Australia Day 2011, when we know Rafa has all the stars and fireworks lined up against him – I was meritorious of one truly stunning privilege.

An hour of glorious practice sessions, complete with some of the best pictures I have ever taken.

Eat your fill, my lovelies. Partake of this visual feast, because lawd knows that’s all the candy you’re getting for a while now.

Miss you already.


I’ll Think About It Tomorrow

January 27, 2011

To quote an extremely wise woman

I’ll think about it tomorrow…

After all… tomorrow’s another day.


Practice Porn: Kimmy, Nole & Rafa

January 25, 2011

Being a grown up has its side effects, one of which being that unlike my teenage fantasy, I can’t spend every day drinking beer surrounding by sparkling sunny blue courts. Instead I have fancy grown up things to attend to, like, oh yeah, being a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding, and earning a living by actually doing my job.

That being said, even when I was out of commission, L didn’t disappoint. She headed down to Melbourne Park on Sunday for a vamos and an ajde, a stroll and a squizz, and took me lots of gorgeous, lovely, blurry pics. She also has the low-down on Day 7 at the Open.

Here’s what Leah saw:

Kimmy

The story, in her words:

“Nice to see her up close, she’s tall but i was shocked and heard people around me saying the same thing that it was strange that she went straight in without signing and it was her day off, peeps unimpressed but we must not make unfair judgements and instead assume that Jada was actiing up and throwing a tanti that only Mummy could give her brekky…”

Next up… Nole

“We found nole warming up for his match watched closely by Papa Djoe.
Was pretty quiet until ch 7 film crew rocked up, so he started hamming it up for the cameras as he does. He and Marjion were playing a practice set or something and he suddenly got very vocal when the cameras arrived. Didn’t sign as it was match day.” Naturally.
And the piece de resistance….
Rafa
“Because he’s awesome he practices with different Australian juniors.” In this case, the lovely Ben Mitchell was the lucky guy. “He literally was starry eyed and you can see how excited he was about practicing with Rafa, he must be a homeboy bec the guy behind me called his friend and was like “mate where are you, I’m watching your brother have a hit.”
“Rafa’s full entourage was there, Papa, Tio Toni, hot spanish guys
He treated the crowd to two shirt changes, reapplied his sunscreen because he’s a good boy who was raised well,

he and his team did some weird kicking tennis balls game that they all got very into but the crowd just tried to understand.
He then signed for everyone bec he’s rafa and he’s the best..”

 


Rally for Relief: Pro Version

January 18, 2011


Contrary to popular opinion, some bright spark actually thought that we’d want to see some real tennis at Rally for Relief – rather than, you know, our favourite people in the universe show us their personalities for a change.

So after the kids went off court, it was time for the grownups to turn up, bringing their A-Games with them. I find it hilarious that Numbers 1 & 2 in the world Vera and Caro weren’t invited, instead leaving us clear Aussie hometown favourites Sammy and Kimmy. Or, you know, it could’ve been part of the “keep-Kim-as-far-away-as-possible-from-Lleyton” plot – though Brian and Bec appeared to be sitting none too far from one another at a certain point. PS: If you know me, you know I don’t bash Caro. I don’t! But damn, did anyone else find her extraordinarily irritating at R4R? Actually, I know what you’re going to say – it wasn’t extraordinary. But oh dear, it was for me. I defend that girl all year round. Then she goes and wiggles her bum and catwalks for Nole? Sad. But I digress.

Are you there, Gd? It’s me, Sammy.

Rafa playing tennis. It’s why they pay him the big bucks.

Rafael Nadal and Kim Clijsters

Rafa and Kim trying out the dynamics of male-female relationships. Apparently they’re both really good at it.

Rafael Nadal

Rafa still not grasping the concept of photography from the other side of the lense.

Roger FedererFed sitting around looking suave, which is why they pay HIM the big bucks.

Rafa on top. (If that comment were reversed and uttered by a Fed lover, I’d be pissed. So apologies.)

Very Freudian, I’m sure.

Awesome, Awesomer, Awesomest.

 

Pics: @rishegee. Please link me and notify me when reposting. Thanks.


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