Breaking: Scientific Proof That Maria Sharapova Is Better Than Novak Djokovic

Last week, Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova each posted pictures of themselves while filming their new Head commercial. As per yushe, when these two join forces the result is usually a copious amount of laughs, sarcasm, banter and even a bit of flirting. Though Djokovic jokingly stated that Sharapova didn’t “take it easy” on him during their training, he didn’t quite elaborate on the complete emasculation that took place on the lawns of Stoke Park. Sadly for Djokovic, sovsport (check out the fully translated great write-up here.) was there to expose the Serb for the world to see.

- What is this Serbian guy doing here? – I ask Maria.
Ha, he just lost his number 1 spot after Wimbledon and wants to train with me to increase his level of play, – Maria laughs but adds seriously: – We will have a photoshoot together and Novak came earlier to train a bit.

- When was last time you played on grass? – Maria laughs after Novak’s first bad shot.
Haven’t played since Wimbledon – Novak shouts from the other side of the court.
It’s very, very obvious – answers Maria while embarrassing Novak with her killer forehand cross.
And Novak begins to play with all passion and training quickly transforms into a real match with heav,y raging shots. There is absolute silence around, because the entire Russian team stopped training to watch the breathtaking match.
I know you girls like all these slicesjokes Novak while running up to the ball. – But we deal with it just like this!
Novak hits ball heavily to the other side but Maria answers with lightning shot. Novak artistically falls down, showing all his disappointment.
OMG, that was cool… – Maria’s hitting partner Vladimir Volthckov seems still shocked.
Ha! – laughs Maria as she walks to her bench.

Ouch. No one tell Gilles Simon.

Believe It Or Not, Nadal’s Withdrawal Doesn’t Signal The End Of The World

So, let’s have some facts, eh? Today, Rafael Nadal dropped a nuclear bombshell on the Olympics build-up as he announcing his withdrawal from the event. His infamous chronic knees are to blame. The signs were there – not only have rumors and talk about his knee injury been swirling around long before Wimbledon even concluded, but it has always been fairly evident that aside from his knees, Nadal’s biggest enemy has been the ticking clock as the Olympics draw ever closer. But even so, considering just a couple of days ago Benito he was posting pictures of himself doing rehab in the gym with an insanely gleeful smile plastered on his face, the alarm and shock at this turn of events is more than warranted.

Discussions on whether or not Tennis deserves its place in the Olympics have raged on for years now, but regardless of whether tennis as a sport is suited to the competition, there’s no doubt that Nadal himself is. He stands as one of the players (also look towards Venus Williams) who genuinely cherishes and truly understands the significance and honour of being an Olympian. For him, the Olympics is clearly more than the pursuit of nice, shiny medals. He gets it, and in a sport like tennis, not every player does. He called the withdrawal one of the toughest decisions he has ever made and one of the worst days of his tennis career, and it’s not difficult to see why.

But aside from disappointment and sympathy towards Nadal, I’m struggling to understand the point of speculating about much else. People are already collapsing into hysterical wrecks and proclaiming Nadal’s career over, or else pointedly suggesting that the knees must *clearly* be in awful condition for him to withdraw. Perhaps the doomsaying and worrying has some merit, but one thing we do know is that we saw this all before in 2009 and a year later he went on to have the best year of his career. He isn’t the first player to suffer from tendinitis and he won’t be the last. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s something he has managed and will continue to do so.

And finally there’s the case of Mr Federer and people subsequently expecting him to waltz to his first singles Olympic Gold. Despite Nadal standing as the sole (ahem) relevant active player to defeat Federer on grass, the Spaniard’s fairly appalling 21-11 record in three-setters off grass over the past year pull him straight back down to earth. Massive opposition remains in the form of Djokovic and Murray, the Brit holding an exemplary 8-5 record over three sets against Federer over three and Djokovic who will undoubtedly be hungry for revenge after Federer wrote a new chapter into ther rivalry at Wimbledon. I would even venture to suggest that Nadal’s withdrawal is far from being a pivotal or draw-altering.

But while I close my eyes, place fingers in my ears and hum away the blind speculation, others are… not. Namely Uncle Toni who stated that London was the last Nadal’s Olympic opportunity, implying that he will be retired within four years. Not only is writing Nadal off for the next Olympic games as premature as Novak Djokovic when retreating into the shade on a hot day, it’s just, well – to quote Federer – I mean, puh-lease. Are you kidding me?

Hot Shot: Ana Ivanovic’s (alleged) New Man

According to Serbian press, this is Ana Ivanovic’s new boyfriend. His name is Vanja Udovicic and – get this – he’s an Olympic (duh) Water Polo player.

According to well informed sources, Ana and Vanya were seen daily for two months and published in two well-known Belgrade shops, and only recently has their friendship grew into something more. The two knew each other before, but intense friendship began in April when Ana is the second time hung up with Adam Scott

All that matters is, if this is true, Ana and Jelena are now both dating Water Polo players. Consequently, they have no excuse to not to start going out together on double dates. I want pics.

Quotable Quotes: So, Janko Tipsarevic still has a big mouth, eh?

At this point, it’s an undeniable fact of nature that Janko Tipsarevic has the biggest mouth on Earth and all surrounding planets. In the past he has criticized the WTA, branded Amelie Mauresmo a “pervert” for her sexuality, criticized the WTA, compared his “friend” Ana Ivanovic to “a truck on steroids” (I still don’t understand…what does that even MEAN??!!), criticized the WTA, claimed that he stays well away from all gay ATP players, oh, and he criticized the WTA too.

Today, after Gilles Simon and the rest of his crew idiotically kicked the door wide open at Wimbledon, the Serb has once again stepped in and decided to put his Grand Canyon-sized mouth where it isn’t wanted, tackling his favourite topic once more.

(via @svenja_sportch)

‘It’s ridiculous that women get the same prize money at Slams. They should at least play Best of Five […] I don’t underestimate Azarenka’s achievements, but the best time (for women) is over. It was when the Williams sisters and Clijsters, Henin and Mauresmo played at the top of their game’

Let’s get one thing straight, the Best of 5 vs Best of 3 argument is perhaps the most laughable, desperate and tired argument in history. It has beeen battered to death yet keeps on coming back. The fact remains that if those poor, unfairly treated and persecuted men really have a problem with women playing less sets for the same prize money, then they should be campaigning for best of 3 sets at slams. If not, then they should shut up. Full stop.

The rest of Tipsarevic’s quote is not unlike Simon and co.’s comments at Wimbledon. The thing is, Tipsarevic obviously isn’t actually wrong in stating that the WTA was better a few years back. It certainly was. But this entire argument is completely perplexing. How is this remotely relevant? What does that have to do with anything? Prize money isn’t calculated based on subjective preferences, nor is it based on the revenue each tournament makes each year. It’s a fixed sum and equal because men and women play alongside each other as equals. Plus, every TV deal, sponsor and other major revenue source pays for the men and women as a joint package regardless of whether men or women are on top.

But, hey, let’s just consider Tiparevic and Simon’s argument for the hell of it. Tennis is all about phases and eras. There are countless stats to support the fact that previous WTA era was far more popular and famous than the then-weaker and volatile ATP (yet the WTA players were being paid less prize money) and the tables have turned over the past few years. When the big 3 cease to be, well, the big 3, it’s fairly obvious that – if they even make it to the top – the current ATP youngsters won’t be nearly as popular or dominant as the current top players. So, the only resolution to the argument the ATP players have wasted so much of our time on would be to give equal prize money, then take it back, give it again, take it back again, give it again and so on based on the revenue and interest each era of each tour creates. That would, of course, mean the male players would likely be paid less than the women at times. In what world is any of this remotely realistic or plausible?

The entire “debate” just seems like an excuse for most ATP players (and it isn’t just Simon and Tipsarevic) to flex the muscles of their offensively humongous and extraordinarily obese egos and assert that they’re far more superior to the women. The good news is that regardless of how much Simon, Tipsarevic, Tsonga and co. bitch and moan, nothing is ever going to change. And that’s how it should be.

Quotable Quotes: Grigor Dimitrov Still Ain’t Got Time For Federer comparisons.

When asked last week in Bastad to discuss the similarities between himself and Federer for at least the nine thousand six hundred and seventy-second time, Grigor Dimitrov immediately cut off the line of questioning with interesting retort.

“I am sick and tired of comparisons between my game and Roger Federer’s,” he sighed. “I have not won a single ATP event and I have reached only number 69 in the world ranking,”

Grigor’s handling of these Federer questions over the years have always been bordering on impressive. It could have been easy for Dimitrov to find himself completely carried away and sucked in his own hype, just as it could conversely have badly affected his career, but he always appears grounded and completely realistic when discussing his career. The same can’t be said for those so-called experts (including former coach Peter Lundgren) who look at his service motion, see his strokes and immediately lose their heads and run around proclaiming him as a future 97-time slam champion.

Really, you’d think people would’ve gotten over the Federer-Dimitrov comparisons after our years, but as evidenced by that interview, they’re going strong.

Let’s Talk About: Bernard Tomic

The tennis tour we enduringly follow is often, ironically, so little about the actual tennis. The gruelling, demanding and overly pressured nature of professional tennis demands character, reveals character and builds character. Only a select few come innately equipped with a hybrid of the required mental, physical and tennis qualities needed to ease their way to the summit of professional tennis. For the rest, the tour itself moulds them – soul-destroying losses come before gleeful wins, humbling lessons are received before the tables are turned. It’s all a process, a vital one.

Why the hell am I babbling on about nothing in particular, I hear you ask? Well, earlier this week the tour’s resident “wundakid” Bernard Tomic was destroyed by Benoit Paire in the lowly Gstaad ATP 250, receiving a bagel and managing only four games in total. A week earlier he was brushed aside in straights by an out of sorts Thomaz Bellucci and the tournament before saw him bounced out of Wimbledon – the scene of last year’s heroics – by grass novice David Goffin in four sets.

It was the Wimbledon loss that most interested me, or, rather, his reaction to the loss. Unlike the vast majority of players who offer the usual generic answers after a bad loss, Tomic was conversely candid when exploring the reasons for his defeat, blaming his lack of effort for his poor form, evidently assuming his talent would be enough. I was shocked. Not shocked at the mere omission of him not trying hard enough (in the timeless and eloquent words of Maria Sharapova; duhhhh), rather the combined knowledge that Tomic is notorious for his amusingly lofty ambitions, that he’s falling so painfully short of those amusingly lofty ambitions and that he evidently has a crystal clear understanding of exactly why he’s falling so short of those amusingly lofty ambitions yet hasn’t made any attempt to rectify it? I shouldn’t be, but again, I was shocked.

It all comes back to my original point. Relative to practically every other player, Tomic has barely had to lift a finger during his short career. He achieved immense success in juniors solely down to his natural talents – slicing, dicing and reading opponents like a book without bothering to properly construct points. The success in juniors brought hype and self-hype which prompted tournament directors to toss a never-ending stream of wildcards in his direction (he received 10 wildcards in his first 15 tournaments of 2011) which were treated with arrogant indifference by Tomic as he only put his full efforts into the main events.

Finally, it’s all coming back to haunt him. His talent has fallen in place only a handful of times over the past eighteen months, while for the most part the ATP tour has been quite the culture shock. His weaknesses are being effortlessly exposed at all levels and the tactics he utilized so much in juniors are unsurprisingly ineffective against professional tennis players. He has crashed straight into a glass ceiling and, at least for now, hasn’t armed himself with the knowledge of how to break through it.

The good news for Tomic is that he’s certainly talented and, of course, still extremely young with plenty of time to learn and appreciate the art of hard work and improve both the mental and physical aspects of his tennis that are clearly lacking. But looking just thirteen spots below him at the sorry state of Donald Young’s tennis career, he would be well-advised to hurry.

From The Vault: Jennifer Capriati

Jennifer Capriati. What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about this woman? She stands as one of the greatest, most talented and divisive players in a generation bursting at the seams with greatness, talent and controversy. In her wildly scattered 14 years on tour, the American amassed a total of three Grand Slam titles, an Olympic Gold Singles medal, 17 weeks at number one and countless classic victories (and losses) against the greatest players over two separate generations.

It’s tough, however, to pinpoint her single her most memorable moment. Was it her supernova rise up the rankings while barely a teenager? She made her tour debut on the WTA tour in 1990 aged 13 and immediately stormed to the final of two of the first three events before reaching the semis of her first Grand Slam in Paris. A year later she broke into the top ten, and in the following year dispatched of Sanchez-Vicario and Graf – the top two players in the world – to take the Olympic Gold in Barcelona aged 16. Not too shabby.

Of course, there’s also that small issue of the “c” word. We’ve all heard about her famed comeback – the burnout, the shoplifting arrest, the marijuana possession, that mug shot, her resulting lengthy break and the desperate struggle (and initial failure) to regain anything resembling previous form, the reporters who smugly wrote her off. She could have easily allowed herself to swept away into the tsunami-sized wave of burnt out young prodigies. But she didn’t. She persevered, slowly building her way back to the top. After completely falling out of the rankings in 1994 and failing in her initial comeback a year later, she picked up her first Grand Slam win in 5 years at the 1998 Wimbledon. A lowly title and #23 finish followed a year later. A slam semifinal and top 15 finish in 2000. And finally, the fairy tale was completed in 2001 as she eased past second-ranked Davenport and top-ranked Hingis in succession to capture her first slam title in Australia. But you already new that all.

Two of Capriati’s single most memorable moments were her famed epic slam finals. The first at Roland Garros in 2001 when a young Aussie Kim burst into relevance by reaching her first slam final. Despite the young Belgian matching both Capriati’s supreme athleticism and power with ease, there was no panicking to be seen from the reigning Australian Open champion as she was swiftly delivered a shock first set breadstick. Instead, she embraced the challenge, putting her head down and finding her range to level up the match. By the third, both women were in full-slugfest mode with their lightning-fast movement, intricate footwork and spectacular shotmaking simultaneously cancelling each other out and enhancing the other. The third set wore on well into overtime, with Capriati twice serving for the title while a resilient Clijsters pegged the American back each time. But eventually the champion‘s extra grit and mental strength proved the difference between the two and she edged out the title..

Capriati’s third and final slam title would come in Australia the very next year in conditions so difficult that the heat practically radiated through the television set and left Capriati even pissier and more vexated than her, well, usual pissy and vexated self. Hingis raced up a set and break, looking ripe for her sixth slam title. In response, Capriati dug deeper than ever before, first hunting back the break before fighting off multiple match points. Her effort was painfully visible as she collapsed into the linesman chairs between most points, but she refused to succumb, saving yet another match point and spectacularly surviving the second set tiebreak. Before long, the script was flipped on its head as Hingis ditched her trademark overly self-confident and carefree demeanour and retreated back into the shade, panting, exhausted and defeated. The 2002 Australian Open may have proved to be Capriati’s last great victory, but she saved the best til last.

None of this answers the original question, however. Probably because she herself is far more interesting than the titles she collected. She’ll always be remembered as the complex figure she cut – the tennis player whose game was not defined simply by defence or offence, the person who paradoxically stood as the ultimate role model in the art of never giving up, yet was notorious for her vulgar attitude and behaviour. In other words, Jen-Cap will be remembered as Jen-Cap.

Hello. Oh. Grunting. Bye.

I wanted my comeback post to be about sunshine and butterflies, but instead – sigh – we’re back to that age-old grunting debate. I try to bite my tongue and stay away from the most ridiculous “issue” in tennis, but it just keeps on pullin’ me back in. Today the culprit is, amazingly, the WTA itself. After months and even years of (rightfully) placing fingers in ears and humming the grunting criticism away, the tour has finally caved in and is the advanced stages of bringing in new sanctions which will arm WTA umpires with an official ‘grunt-o-meter’ and the ability to sanction and penalize the noisiest players.

“It’s time for us to drive excessive grunting out of the game for future generations,” WTA chairman and chief executive Stacey Allaster said.

The umbrella scenario, unanimously green-lighted this month at Roland Garros in Paris by representatives of the four majors, the International Tennis Federation and the WTA players’ council, would include:

• The development of a handheld device — a kind of Hawk-Eye for noise — for umpires to objectively measure on-court grunting levels.

• A new rule setting acceptable and non-acceptable noise levels based on acoustical data gathering and analysis.

• Education at large tennis academies, national development programs and at all levels of junior and lower-tier professional events.

Honestly, I don’t blame them. What has, on some level, always been a topic of interest and satire in the (mainly British) media, over the past few years has transformed into an unequivocal PR dis-ah-stuh. Seemingly every day a new article is erected, damning the prominent grunters to eternal hell. Meanwhile, comment sections are filled with truly heartwrenching stories by people “forced” to change the channel and/or put their televisions on mute (whatever happened to just turning the volume down a few bars, eh?) due to those evil, godforsaken grunters. So sad.

Even so, I am and continue to be amazed by this entire situation. Just a few weeks ago, we were watching the mens Roland Garros final as Nadal and Djokovic produced noises similar to that of a male getting continually smashed by a baseball bat, you know, down there… Did anyone speak out against them? Nuh-uh. Just a few days earlier, Andy Murray and David Ferrer were doing exactly the same. Did anyone complain there? Err, no. Thus, should this project go ahead, in a few years we will be watching as female players are restricted and penalized for the noise they make, while some of the most prominent male players continue to soar well over those restrictions without so much as a batted eyelid. To me, that is maybe just a little bit problematic. Just a tiny bit.

Of course, many identify pitch (you know, like, different genetics) as the distinction between male and female grunting. That’s fair enough from a subjective preference, but noise is noise and if Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka are supposedly cheating as has been so vehemently accused, then in reality Rafael Nadal is a cheat, Novak Djokovic is a cheat, Andy Murray is a cheat, David Ferrer is a cheat and so are the hundreds of other ATP players (and, believe me, there are hundreds) who routinely shout their heads off when making contact with the ball. But hey, don’t let facts get in the way of anything.

Quotable Quotes: Billie Jean Who?! Caroline fights for Tennis’ rights.

Despite losing in straight sets to Angelique Kerber the final of her own home tournament, Caroline Wozniacki still managed to leave the Kopenhagen Open with people talking about her as The Telegraph yesterday published an interesting interview on finance with the former world number one. One of her answers has caused quite the stir.

DO YOU THINK PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYERS GET PAID TOO MUCH COMPARED WITH OTHER ATHLETES?
Ha ha, no. I think tennis players are actually underpaid, but I might be a little biased. I like to think we are rewarded for the hard work we put in.

From her point of view, I can actually see the logic in her answer. Certainly compared to other athletes, tennis players are certainly “underpaid”. I mean, after watching the Superbowl for the first time this year, I felt personally offended when I learnt just how much those “athletes” were paid considering how little they actually play, how aesthetically unpleasing the sport is and the fact that American “Football” is nothing but glorified throw and catch. And that’s not to mention her boyfriend being another overpaid athlete in that McIlroy dude. But still, having earnt $13m prize money and probably double that in endorsements, it’s quite a funny thing for the Pole Dane to say. So we’ll just laugh.

Karolina also took to twitter to hush the talk surrounding this quote, attempting to rubbish it with the good ol’ “I was mis-quoted” excuse. But, that only really works when the publication reporting it is an awful, trashy tabloid and not a fully transcribed interview with The Telegraph. Bless her. That said, the quote isn’t nearly as bad as many are making out.

Talkin’ About The World Number One

Caroline Wozniacki, Caroline Wozniacki. This woman forever perplexes me. On one hand there’s just so much about her that makes me dislike her, and then on the other hand, like a smelly fungal infection, she’s really, really growing on me.

After Wozniacki’s second round victory over Kucova, the Stuttgart PR person came into the press room and asked us (in German, so I couldn’t reply) all if we wanted a presser from her. That in itself I thought was funny because most of the other prominent winners had pressers arranged with no questions asked, yet here he was asking us all if we wanted a press conference from the top-ranked tennis player. Even more shocking still is that the response was a resounding ‘no’. And when I say “resounding”, I mean that every single person in the press room said no. Every. Single. One.

And so I asked a couple of people around me why they said no. Again, they replied as one with comments to the effect of “she’s boring”, “she always says the same thing” and even “it would be a waste of my time”. Ow.

After the reporters at the Australian Open called her boring, she responded by criticizing their questions as being boring and repetitive and leaving her with no choice but to rehash the same answers over and over again. And so I decided to put this theory to test in her press conference after the Petkovic match. After yet another boring question followed by a similarly bored and dry answer from Wozniacki, I finally had enough and chipped in;

Me: You obviously joined the player council last year. Why did you want to join it?
Woz: First of all I think that as a top player I think we have some possibilities to change a few things on the tour. And just make it better with the players. I felt that if me, Serena and Venus are on there we can make a few decisions. Serena and Venus asked me a few times if I wanted to join so I decided I wanted to do it, I think it’s a good way to get involved and really make it better for everybody. Not only the top players, but everybody.

Me: What specifically did you want to change?
Woz: Well, there are a few issues. Obviously next year with the Olympics coming up, we have a few questions about the scheduling of tournaments. And then a few things with the roadmap that, you know, could be changed to be better for the players

Me: You also tweeted that you came here on a private jet. How did that come about?
Woz: Yeah, I did. I have good friends[laughing]. You know, my friend he was in monaco. He asked where I was going and I said I was going here, and he said “ok, I can drop you off on my way.”

Me: You think maybe you should get Turkish Airlines to get you your own one?
Woz: Yeah, I actually asked them… I saw that Barcelona has their own plane with their colours on it…
Me: Yeah, you can get one with your face on it
Woz: [laughter] yeah, I made that joke – that I should get a plane with my face on it [laughing].

She’s no Petko, Serena, Jelena, Venus, Martina and even Maria etc. who can create interesting or hilarious answers out of seemingly nowhere, but if you put just a little effort in, then she can, at the very least, deliver answers worth quoting. Maybe the problem is that people don’t try hard enough.

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