Monthly Archives: July 2010

E-boks Danish Open report — Day One!

I’m Andreas and since I’ll be at the Wozniacki Invitational e-boks Danish Open all week I will write a short daily report from the tournament.

I originally went to Court 1 at 10am, only to find out that Court 1 and Court 2 were at COMPLETELY different venues about three kilometres apart. The match on Court 1 was Pavlovic vs Lykina but I chose to go to Center Court and watch this match instead. I was sitting right behind Glatch’s coach and another woman in her camp. The rallies were dominated by Tsurenko’s forehand and Glatch was mostly slicing the ball back. It went Glatch’s way in the first set but Tsurenko began to cruise through the second set and Glatch had no choice to be aggressive. She did and by the third set, the rallies were really intense and Glatch’s added aggression and superior serve was the difference between the two.

The second match was Karen Barbat vs Andreja Klepac and the match was just as up-and-down as the score indicates. Barbat has a stunning backhand and she produced some great winners in the first set while Klepac hit error after error. The Slovenian cleaned her game up in the second set but another dip at the beginning of the third set gave Barbat a chance and she took it impressively. She was the only Danish girl to win today.

The next match was  Marta Domachowska vs Tatiana Poutchek. The match was definitely closer than the  suggests but Domachowska was too solid and produced some great winners on the important moments. As you can imagine, Poutchek would throwing her racquet after every single point and screaming novels of Russian swear words. She was also yelling at all the ball girls and boys and laughing at the umpire’s calls.

Stephanie Foretz vs Celestie Melsted was next and at 15 it was clear that Melsted had never played anyone at this level before. She lacked power and weapons but she fought well and deserved the two games she got. Foretz didn’t have to play too well and this was probably like a practice session for her.

Ellen Allgurin vs Karolina Kosinska was next on. Allgurin started well and was moving Kosinska around the court expertly. However it was obvious that at Allgurin, 16, was extremely inexperienced and as her game became too predictable and she struggled for a plan B, Kosinka was able to come away with a quite straightforward win.

I (somehow) managed to get onto the players transport and went all the way to Court 1 to see Heather Watson’s match but the organisers had moved it and forgot to tell anyone. Elena Bovina vs Mona Barthel was on court and so I watched. Bovina looked so motivated, even angry. She had a lot of problems with her ball toss but she served great overall. Barthel on the other hand was so inconsistent and alternated between an hitting amazing winner and dumping the ball in the bottom of the net. The umpire made a horrible call against Bovina in set two which made things much more complicated than it should have been but t he was never really in doubt.

Other remarks:

-  Alexa Glatch’s coach asked me if he could borrow my draw sheet. Of course I let him!

-  Tsurenko was quiet all match but when Glatch hit a smash that was at least 1 meter out and it got called in, she spent a lot of time explaining the line judge that “it was really big”.

-  When Barbat was reaching for an overhead, the theme from Rocky started playing over the speakers and she responded saying: “What the fuck is happening?”

-   Barbat’s coach has to be younger than her. She is 18…

-  At the Poutchek vs Domachowska match, the lady in front of me said about Poutchek: “What a bitch, I hope she gets bageled.” And she did.

-  Karolina Kosinska asked for her coach after she won the 1st set and on court came Marta Domachowska.

-  When Bovina was about to serve, the seated ball kids started walking out and as she looked at them they stopped, but she said: “No, no, just go. Now is the time to leave the court.”

-  I was sitting next to Heather and her mother. Johanna Konta was hanging out with Heather and she came over to hug and give Heather’s mother a kiss. Heather’s mum seems really nice and was smiling at me.

-  Most of the main draw players checked by Center Court to watch some bits of the matches.

- I saw Polona Hercog and she hasn’t cut her hair yet!

- Mai Grage, a young Danish wildcard, was talking with her friends about sluts. Laura Robson has some competition…

Posted in Laura Robson, Tournament Blogs | 1 Comment

Stanford and Los Angeles Semi-Final picks.

Los Angeles OOP:

Today sees Murray face off against Lopez as Querrey meets Tipsarevic. Murray has to be seen as the favourite in his match but Lopez is always dangerous and has the capacity to cause a lot of problems. However the head to head is 2-0 to Murray and 4-0 in sets so he starts as the firm favourite. Lopez could easily take a set but Murray loves players who give him a target at the net so Murray in 2.

The other semi-final is likely to be much tighter. Querrey defeated Tipsarevic 2-1 four years ago in Indianapolis. Tipsarevic has been playing some great tennis this week but Querrey is in the top 20 for a reason - Querrey in 3.

Stanford OOP:

The first semifinal sees top seed Stosur tee off against Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka leads the H2H 3-0 and 6-0 in sets and her outstanding return of serve should neutralise the serve of Stosur. It will be interesting and most likely much closer than their previous matches but the edge has to go to Azarenka due to the surface and matchup. Azarenka in 3.

The night match will be Sharapova vs Radwanska. Though Radwanska has pushed Sharapova in almost every match they have played (including that famous win at the US Open in 2007), Radwanska’s weight of shot is just not good enough. Radwanska was so aggressive in their US Open 2007 match; hugging the baseline, taking the ball early and redirecting pace so well. The Hingis comparisons were actually passable after that match but since then she has moved further and further behind the baseline as she has become more settled and comfortable in the top 10. It will be fascinating to see what she does attempt to do in the match against Sharapova but ultimately it won’t be enough, much like in her matches with Wozniacki. A bad matchup is a bad matchup and so Sharapova in 2 tight sets.

Posted in Agnieszka Radwanska, Andy Murray, Feliciano Lopez, Janko Tipsarevic, Maria Sharapova, Sam Querrey, Sam Stosur, Victoria Azarenka | Leave a comment

Semifinals Set In Los Angeles and Stanford

ATP Farmers Classic:

[1] [WC] A Murray (GBR) d A Falla (COL) 76(3) 61
[2] S Querrey (USA) d R Schuettler (GER) 62 36 76(4)
[6] J Tipsarevic (SRB) d [3] M Baghdatis (CYP) 63 75
[4] F Lopez (ESP) d [WC] J Blake (USA) 36 76(6) 64

Friday saw the the completion of all quarterfinal matches in Los Angeles as seeded players all advanced to the semifinals. The only upset on paper was Tipsarevic taking out Baghdatis in straight sets. This was not a massive surprise however, as Baghdatis has largely struggled since the French Open. Top seed Andy Murray won through in two sets against Alejandro Falla, but he was far from impressive and clearly struggling with a knee injury. Falla himself had a load of chances, but some really erratic and nervy play on the big points really cost him.

The remaining quarterfinals were much more hard fought as both Feliciano Lopez and and Sam Querrey dug in deep to see off James Blake and Rainer Schuettler respectively. Querrey’s serve really deserted him against Schuettler but he dug in deep and reeled of a couple of stunning clutch forehands to take the third set tiebreak.

WTA Bank Of The West Classic:

(1) Samantha Stosur (AUS) d. (7) Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) 75 36 63
(5) Maria Sharapova (RUS) d. (2) Elena Dementieva (RUS) 64 26 63
(3) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) d. Maria Kirilenko (RUS) 75 60
(8/WC) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d. (4) Marion Bartoli (FRA) 36 63 63

Stanford was just as fascinating as Los Angeles as 7/8 of the quarterfinalists were top 20 players. The exception was Maria Kirilenko. Picked by Foot Fault to defeat Radwanska, she showed exactly why she isn’t a top 20 player as, after looking impressive at the beginning, she put in an error-strewn performance as Radwanska stayed steady to win the match 7-5 6-0. As always, Radwanska’s shot selection was on point and as Kirilenko fell apart in the second set, she kept her nerve and stayed consistent to move on to the semis. If Kirilenko really wants to make that push back into the top 20 and stay there, she is going to have to get herself off the baseline and volley much more frequently, because her volleys are by far the best part of her game.

The rest of the matches were all decided in three sets. On the day before her 21st birthday, Victoria Azarenka dug in deep to come back from 3-6 1-3 down and see off defending champ Marion Bartoli. Bartoli came out looking mightily impressive but Azarenka stuck in the match and as soon as she had a chance to even the second set, she took it and there was a dramatic momentum shift. The Belarussian really showed why she has the 6th best hardcourt record on tour as she worked Marion off the court with spectacular backhands and really looked to step forward and take whatever she could out of the air. An impressive victory.

In what was widely considered the marquee match, Maria Sharapova defeated Elena Dementieva in three sets. It was scrappy and error strewn of course, but  at the same time it was absorbing and interesting as the thrilling ‘big babe’ rallies raged and the two Russians went pace for pace and blow for blow. The only difference between the two was the way Sharapova played the big points and the 23 year old clinched the match fter 2 hours and 47 minutes on court.

Posted in Agnieszka Radwanska, Andy Murray, Elena Dementieva, Feliciano Lopez, Janko Tipsarevic, Marcos Baghdatis, Maria Kirilenko, Maria Sharapova, Marion Bartoli, Sam Querrey | Leave a comment

This is a Picture Post

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Watching the Farmers classic - they’re famous or something

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Posted in Picture post, Sorana Cirstea, Steffi Graf | Leave a comment

Stanford and Los Angeles Quarterfinals Set

WTA Bank Of The West Classic:

(4) Marion Bartoli (FRA) d. (WC) Ana Ivanovic (SRB) 63 64
(5) Maria Sharapova (RUS) d. Olga Govortsova (BLR) 63 63
Maria Kirilenko (RUS) d. (6) Shahar Peer (ISR) 64 63
(8/WC) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d. Melanie Oudin (USA) 63 61

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Thursday saw the second round of both the Bank of the West Classic and the Farmers Classic come to an end. There weren’t too many surprises in Stanford with Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova cruising through to the quarters. Ana Ivanovic failed to build on her first round victory against Kleybanova earlier on in the tournament and lost out against defending champion Marion Bartoli. Many have expressed their dissatisfaction at this result but Marion Bartoli is so underrated and she has quite a good chance of defending he title this week.

The only shock of the day was Maria Kirilenko’s straight sets victory over Shahar Peer. Peer has had a great season this year and has won the most hardcourt matches on the tour in 2010. Kirilenko however has been enjoying a great year herself and the Russian powered to victory without too many problems. What was really surprising was the fact that Kirilenko was able close out the match without any trouble whatsoever. Shahar Peer is usually so good at coming back from the brink of defeat against players with questionable mental strength.

In the doubles, Lindsay Davenport continued her successful comeback with partner Liezel Huber by cruising past Govortsova and Kudryavtseva, Borwell and Kops-Jones built on their huge victory over Raymond/Stubbs by advancing to the semifinals and Vikkiri were also winners.

The Stanford Facebook Page has been uploading videos of all the pressers so check them out.

ATP Farmers Classic:

[1] [WC] A Murray (GBR) d [Q] T Smyczek (USA) 61 46 62
[4] F Lopez (ESP) d D Sela (ISR) 76(2) 64
A Falla (COL) d [5] E Gulbis (LAT) 46 63 76(8)
[WC] J Blake (USA) d B Becker (GER) 75 76(5)

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Over in Los Angeles, top seed and wildcard Andy Murray played his first match at the Farmers Classic. He was given a tough match by the talented Smyczek but the result was never really in doubt as he sweeped up the third set 6-2. Feliciano Lopez and James Blake also won through to the quarterfinals. Blake is pretty much at the last-chance-saloon by now and this win against Becker is certainly a morale booster as he attempts to rejuvenate his career.

The biggest shock on day 4 of the Farmers Classic is Falla’s victory over Gulbis in three sets. Gulbis was up 3-0 in the third set, but a number of poor decisions and bad shot selection brought Falla back into the match. Gulbis was visibly struggling with a hamstring injury but he fought on and Falla played extremely well to see off Latvian.

Today promises to be a great day of tennis with exciting lineups at both the Bank Of The West Classic and the Farmers Classic. Streaming begins in Stanford today and continues as usual over in Los Angeles. Livescorehunter will have streams as usual.

ATP Gstaad Draw

ATP Umag Draw

WTA Istanbul Draw

Posted in Ana Ivanovic, Andy Murray, Ernests Gulbis, Lindsay Davenport, Maria Kirilenko, Maria Sharapova, Marion Bartoli | Leave a comment

Andreev Wins Through To Gstaad QFs in Comeback Tournament

Igor Andreev advanced to the quarterfinals of Gstaad in a match that was stopped at 6-6 due to bad light last night.

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Check out the men in the second picture drooling over Igor. Hold him tighty, Maria.

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Breaking: Elena Baltacha Defeats French Open Champion Schiavone

British number one Elena Baltacha put on a clinical performance to en route to defeating the French Open Champion and world number eight Francesca Schiavone 6-4 6-2 for her third top ten win of the year. Which puts her tally above that of ATP world number four and British number one Andy Murray.

Posted in Andy Murray, Elena Baltacha, Francesca Schiavone | Tagged | Leave a comment

Blast From The Past: Lindsay Davenport and Jelena Dokic both win.

Lindsay Davenport teamed up with world number three doubles player, Liezel Huber, to defeat Melanie ‘Believe’ Oudin and Michaella Krajicek 6-4 6-2 in her first WTA match in two years. She will be playing with Huber up until the US Open but there has no confirmation on her plans after the US Open. Rumour has it that she is possibly considering teaming up with Martina Hingis which would be incredible news for all WTA fans.

Elsewhere, the Comeback Queen Jelena Dokic continued her 57th comeback by reaching the quarterfinals of the $75k event in Bucharest. Two weeks ago she won the $50k event in Contrexville, France and her resilience has to be admired. It’s incredible how many times she has had to pick herself off the ground after yet another setback and she continues to fight.

Posted in Jelena Dokic, Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis | Leave a comment

WTA Stanford and ATP Los Angeles: Wednesday roundup

WTA Bank Of The West Classic:


(1) Samantha Stosur (AUS) d. (Q) Christina McHale (USA) 61 75
(2) Elena Dementieva (RUS) d. Kimiko Date Krumm (JPN) 36 63 64
(3) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) d. (Q) Olga Savchuk (UKR) 76(4) 62
(7) Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) d. Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) 61 64

The seeds continued to impress on Wednesday as all four won through to the quarterfinals. The only player really pushed was Elena Dementieva in her first match since retiring from the French Open semi-finals. She was forced to dig in deep and came back from a set and a break down against the incredible Kimiko Date Krumm, who at 39 is still pushing, and beating, the top players of today.

ATP Farmers Classic, Los Angeles:


[2] S Querrey (USA) d K Anderson (RSA) 76(8) 46 60
[3] M Baghdatis (CYP) d [WC] R Sweeting (USA) 36 62 63
[6] J Tipsarevic (SRB) d [Q] S Devvarman (IND) 76(9) 62
R Schuettler (GER) d R Ginepri (USA) 63 36 64

Wednesday was much the same over in Los Angeles as the seeds dug deep to scrape through to the quarter finals. Wildcard Ryan Sweeting gave Baghdatis a run for his money before the Cypriot finally found his form and eased to victory. He has been desperately lacking matchplay so a three-setter like that may actually be beneficial to him as he moves towards the latter rounds of the tournament.

ATP Umag Draw
ATP Gstaad Draw
WTA Istanbul Draw

Posted in Elena Dementieva, Marcos Baghdatis, Sam Stosur | Leave a comment

Tennis: A Flashback to Greater Times

This was an article written by Time magazine just before the beginning of the 2001 US Open. It discusses the popularity of the WTA back in a time when it was even more popular than the ATP and though it is extremely long, it is definitely a great read for anyone who was fortunate enough to be a fan of tennis at that time. One of the greatest WTA eras in history. Will it ever reach those heights again?


The Power Game

Monday, Sep. 03, 2001

Player haters. Maybe that’s the deal. Jealous people are always player-hating the Williams sisters, calling them arrogant or aloof or unfocused on tennis. Maybe it’s sexism, the resentment of a dominant pro athlete’s braggadocio, seen as unseemly in a woman. Maybe it’s simple racism. Or maybe it’s just that the Williams sisters, as good as they are, are kind of arrogant and aloof and unfocused on tennis. “People criticize me as being arrogant,” Venus said last Monday during a tournament in New Haven, Conn., her toy Yorkshire popping out of her Kate Spade bag. “Maybe because I’m a little smarter than the others. Maybe it’s because when they ask me a silly question, I refuse to answer it and make myself look foolish.” There is a lot of silence at Williams sisters’ press conferences.

The Williams sisters make up their own rules-that’s both the appeal and the repellent. They pulled out of junior tennis when Venus was 11, reappearing out of nowhere in 1994 and 1995, respectively. They rarely compliment or congratulate an opponent, and they turned down many endorsements until the stakes got higher-they raked in $17.5 million last year between them-and often ignore the media. When Venus won the U.S. Open last September and President Clinton made his congratulatory phone call, she asked for a tax cut, complained that his motorcade had held up New York City traffic for her and scolded him for leaving before her match. Imagine what the sisters will do to Bush.

This is normal behavior on the women’s tennis tour, where all the top players have a potent combination of talent, glamour and tennis-kid brattiness. Instead of keeping their rifts in the background, like most egomaniacal athletes, these women air their gripes and grievances on center court. It makes for great TV, which is one reason why, when the women’s tour arrives in New York City this week for the U.S. Open, it will be the women’s final, not the men’s, that CBS airs in prime time.

In case the play isn’t enough to captivate viewers-although with their mix of power and finesse, it should be-there’s plenty of drama to go around. Besides the marked Williams sisters, there’s No. 1-ranked Martina Hingis, who has morphed from the adorable Swiss miss into the tour’s trash-talking queen; Jennifer Capriati, the seemingly washed-up teen prodigy turned fitness monster and this year’s dominant player; Lindsay Davenport, a California redwood, who squeezed her high school prom in around the tour and now fires shots at the other players from the safety of her elder-stateswomanship; Monica Seles, the once champion, who was knifed in the back by a lunatic eight years ago and is now playing with a desperate intensity. These women could make ice hockey popular.

The Williams sisters draw most of the unfriendly fire because they are the kids in class who never let anyone see them study but show everyone their straight A’s. They are huge women (Venus, 21, at 6 ft. 1 in.; Serena, 19, an even more muscled 5 ft. 10 in.) who learned the game at home in inner-city Compton, Calif., under an amateur coach, their father-not at the boot camp of coach Nick Bolletieri, where most promising kids are sent. They dominate through their athleticism. Venus, who can serve a ball at 127 m.p.h., is actually less powerful than her sister. But she’s faster, comes to the net more and chokes the court off from opponents, forcing them into more difficult shots. Serena’s game is still raw; she tends to blast away from the baseline. When she’s on, she’s unbeatable. When she’s not, the ball boys wear cups.

Between them they’ve won 28 tournaments and four majors, even though they choose to enter significantly fewer tournaments than most other players. They are up front about the fact that tennis is merely one aspect of their lives. They take the autumn off, for example, to attend a fashion design school located next to a strip mall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Because the ranking system of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) adds up the best 17 events over the previous 52 weeks, neither sister has a realistic shot at a No. 1 ranking. Still, Venus, who won Wimbledon in July, is ranked fourth, while Serena, who has played even less, is 10th. They are part-time players with a full-time presence.

Other players have chided them for not playing more, the suggestion being that they’re not doing their fair share for the sport and that the grind might get to them. The players should be careful what they wish for. Both sisters say next year they will play a full season. “I want to play tournaments and get my ranking better,” says Serena, sitting with her pit bull Bambi in the home she shares with Venus in West Palm Beach, Fla. “I want to be the No. 1 player. So I decided not to go to school this fall.” Then she immediately starts to hedge. “Maybe I’ll be able to take one or two classes instead of six. It’s going to take me forever to finish.” And two days later, Venus, still vowing to sit out school next year, says the day she gets her diploma “is going to be the most exciting day of my life.” She is going to be disappointed by anyone the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale scares up for a graduation speaker.

Along with Anna Kournikova, 20, who may be the most photographed woman in the world, the Williams sisters are celebrities as much as they are tennis players. “We’re two sisters. That’s new and exciting,” says Serena, sounding very much like a younger sister. And they act like sisters. Really close sisters. Besides living together, they usually share hotel rooms at tournaments. They sit next to each other in their classes. They want to start a clothing business together. When Venus loses her wallet, which is surprisingly often, Serena often finds it. Venus even sticks her nose in Serena’s mouth to find out what she ate. They make the Jolie siblings look estranged.

So it makes good drama when they face each other, which in the U.S. Open, owing to the draw, could happen only in the finals. Fifteenth-ranked Magdalena Maleeva, 26, who lost to one of her two older sisters at four separate majors, says, “To play tennis you need the killer instinct. It’s hard to have the killer instinct with your sister.”

Apparently it’s not so hard for Serena. “She’s too competitive. That could be her weakness. She takes it to an extreme,” says Venus. Isha Williams, a law student at Georgetown University and one of the five Williams sisters, nods her head. “Wow, Serena is really competitive. We used to think it was funny because she was too emotional. But I guess it’s not funny anymore.” Even Serena admits it’s a problem off the court. “It’s not fun because no one wants to golf with me,” she says.

Like the equally driven Jackson and Wayans families, the Williams sisters are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Despite their arrogance about tennis, once they are off the court and off the subject, they are polite, well rounded and better educated than most of their competitors. They never curse. Serena, in fact, buys her rap albums at Wal-Mart because the bad words have been excised. For women known for their brashness, they are sensitive to coarseness. They lecture the kids in their fashion class about the negative influence of foul-mouthed cable-TV shows like South Park.

Besides their outer toughness and the sister stuff, their appeal lies in the fact that they’re the newly admitted blacks in the country club-much like Tiger Woods in golf-and they’re handily beating the white folks. Their presence has expanded the tennis fan base. Blacks are now more than twice as likely to identify themselves as avid tennis fans as whites.

Adding some color to the mix hasn’t been smooth. Just ask the Williams sisters’ father Richard. Actually, don’t bother asking. Just stand within shouting distance of him, or listen to the outgoing message on his cell phone, on which he is always angry about something, usually race. Serena says their only friends on the tour are Chanda Rubin and Alexandra Stevenson, the only other black women near the top 100. The other players, who admittedly don’t like one another’s white butts either, find the Williamses off-putting. And many think they play the race card when it suits them. “Being black only helps them,” says the Czechoslovakia-born Hingis. “Many times they get sponsors because they are black. And they have had a lot of advantages because they can always say, ‘It’s racism.’ They can always come back and say, ‘Because we are this color, things happen.’”

Martina Navratilova, a lesbian who has fought her own discrimination battles, agrees. “I think they’ve been treated with kid gloves,” she says, citing a display by Richard Williams after Venus beat Davenport at last year’s U.S. Open final. “If Mr. Williams had been white and done that victory dance in front of Lindsay Davenport, he would have been reprimanded much more. People have been afraid to criticize them because they don’t want to be called racist.”

Not Navratilova. “They have made excuses and not given credit to their opponents. They’re afraid to show any kind of humility. Humble doesn’t mean you’re weak.” Given that Navratilova, about to turn 45, is sitting outside a private court after running drills as self-flagellation for losing a doubles match at the French Open, it’s understandable she’s disappointed in their refusal to devote themselves fully to the game. “You can be a clothing designer later, but you have only so many years to be a tennis player at the top level.”

The World Wrestling Federation has to script this kind of bad-mouthing. On the women’s tour, it’s as common as a backhand down the line. Part of the fun of women’s tennis, besides the fact that players are better than ever before, is the fact that it’s a soap opera in which everyone gets to play Alexis Carrington.

“These players for the most part don’t get along. That’s what makes it so interesting,” says third-ranked Davenport, 25, the 1998 Open winner. And she’s right. Try to get the women to pose for a magazine cover en masse and you wonder how VH1 pulls off that diva show every year. “Serena is a lot more friendly than Venus, but Martina [Hingis] is not talking to either of them,” said Davenport in May, before Hingis and the Williamses reached a detente. “Anna and Martina were both going for the same market, and that didn’t work. They got in a huge fight in Chile. They were throwing flowers at each other and screaming at each other. They were best friends and doubles partners,” Davenport said as she sat with her boyfriend and her Rottweiler on the deck of her huge Laguna Beach, Calif., house overlooking the Pacific.

What seems like catfighting, though, is just a sexist take on what happens in big-time sports-though you can be forgiven for thinking catfight after the flower-throwing incident. But, really, didn’t Shaq and Kobe say some pretty awful things about each other? And didn’t manager Lou Piniella wrestle one of his players in the locker room? Didn’t the Portland Trailblazers self-destruct arguing over playing time? And these were all teammates.

In most women’s sports, including, until recently, tennis, the women are all huggy and super supportive and special to one another because they are struggling to gain legitimacy. But when a women’s sport starts to make serious money, poison darts start looking for targets. “In the Billie Jean King era, they were missionaries,” says WTA COO Josh Ripple. “Now the players are more difficult to deal with.”

That is a sign of the women’s power and popularity. A recent USA Today poll showed that 75% of tennis fans prefer the women’s game. Its TV ratings are routinely higher than the men’s. Forbes Celebrity 100 list, which tabulates fame in America, includes five women’s tennis players: Kournikova, No. 54; Venus, 57; Hingis, 65; Serena, 71; Davenport, 72. No other sport, male or female, has as many on the list. Non-tennis fans know Hingis, Kournikova, the Williamses, Capriati, Seles and maybe Davenport. The No. 1-rated male player is named Gustavo Kuerten. Seriously.

The men’s game has great players, but it has suffered from a lack of interesting personalities and gripping rivalries. The Top 20 list is clogged with Spanish clay-court matadors and nondescript Europeans. Goran Ivanisevic, who won Wimbledon with a thrilling five-setter, was ranked 125th, but who wants to memorize 125 names? Names like Gustavo Kuerten.

While the men serve ace after numbing ace, the women have a powerful game that still allows for some volley. CBS commentator and former player Mary Carillo says of a recent tournament, “They were playing a brand of tennis that I was totally unfamiliar with. The pounding was so concussive and the running back and forth so athletic-everything about that match was so much more ballistic than I could have scared up. I played another sport.”

When it comes to business matters, the sport is still very much the same. Some women have been disappointed by the WTA, which cedes most of its power to the individual tournaments and hasn’t run a very sharp operation. Even as the women’s game was flourishing, the WTA was unable for two years to find a lead sponsor for the tour. After losing Virginia Slims, it rejected Tampax for being “too feminine,” instead teaming up with a Canadian software company named Corel. For U.S. tournaments, it went with which has folded. After another sponsorless year, the WTA finally signed with Sanex, which is some kind of European soap. “Places were selling out, and they still couldn’t get a sponsor,” Davenport says. “Players were getting fed up. As far as a leader of women’s tennis, they’ve totally failed us. Nobody has helped us get there except the players. The success is pure luck for the WTA.

Furthermore, Davenport feels the WTA hasn’t used the women’s success to build the sport. “Tennis isn’t fun for teens to go to,” she complains. “There’s no music, no excitement. At halftime in the NBA, they throw out T shirts and play rock music. The WTA should be doing more to bring in young people.”

And the tour hasn’t been able to persuade Wimbledon or the French Open to give the women prize money equal to the men’s. While some of the women, like Davenport, make an issue of it, many don’t. Of the discrepancy, Kournikova says, “Women get better ratings, but men play five sets, and it’s tougher for them. Men work really hard and play five sets and everything.” But John McEnroe, who spent decades dissing the women’s game, now thinks they deserve the cash. “It’s irrelevant if they play best of five or best of three,” he says. “If the women entertain people just as much, and you’re playing at the same time, we should forget about that issue, get it over with, have equal prize money and start trying to improve the sport even more.”

Even though the women players have better Q ratings than the guys, they still aren’t getting the same kind of sponsorship deals. And, according to Forbes, none of the women-not even Kournikova-gets as much in endorsement cash as Andre Agassi. “Who’s running the game? Men,” says Navratilova. “How many men are going to step up to the plate for women? Not very many. It’s Madison Avenue. The money will first go to the men, and if money is left over, it goes to us.” It’s more complicated than that. “There’s not too many women who really sell product,” says Claus Marten, an Adidas marketing executive. “Men move more merchandise. Men have a different buying attitude. If four men go on a tennis court and they all have the same thing on, they laugh. It’s not like that with women. Women want to be different.”

The women are getting closer, and they have been given a gift that every sport is trying desperately to create: drama. This week the back story will be whether Capriati can use her booming serve and aggressive baselining to peel away the top ranking from Hingis, the last of the chess-playing, smaller players, who hasn’t won a Slam since early 1999.

Hingis has kept her title by being consistent and avoiding injury. Capriati, a prodigy who made the French Open semifinals at 14, dropped out of tennis, gained weight, got a nose ring and then was arrested for shoplifting and pot possession. But, like a Lifetime movie producer’s dream, she came back with a chiseled bod and became the dominant woman on the tour, storming through the Australian Open and winning the French before losing in the Wimbledon semis. “I think she’s the greatest story in sports in the last 20 years,” says McEnroe, who believes she’ll do very well at Flushing Meadows. “This court is good for her; she’s going to have a lot of support from the fans. I think she’ll meet Venus in the semis. It will be a hell of a match.”

The Slam wins have given Capriati plenty of confidence, which she needs, since her game is based on not holding back on her second serve and aiming right at the lines. “I wanted to show the world that I’m not this has-been or this burnout or this total, like, rebellious teenager,” she says. When she talks about her past, she still tenses up. “I had to learn to like myself, to love my family. Now I enjoy playing, and it’s shown up in my results.”

This being the WTA tour, she’s also learned to enjoy sparring with the Williamses. After Serena blamed her quarterfinal Wimbledon loss to Capriati on yet another ailment, Capriati could barely contain herself. “Every time I play her, I’m pretty much used to something going on there. I think I know the truth inside. I think most people do,” she said.

Every one of these tabloid-TV press conferences is good for the sport. And despite the fact that some lessons in sportsmanship may go absent, these are great role models for young women. This is the first women’s sport in the U.S. to become more popular than its male counterpart that doesn’t involve doing pretty leaps on a mat or an ice rink. It’s far better to be filled with arrogance and aloofness and tension than to flash a saccharine Dorothy Hamill smile. If people turn to sports for real-time Aristotelian catharsis, then perhaps the women’s tour-with its grudges and crying and accusations of racism, sexism and homophobia-is the most interesting drama of all. We’ve had decades of hypotheticals about whether, if women ran the world, there would be no war. Now it’s cool to see that women make the most interesting wars of all. Wars in which women hit cross-court bullets and then throw flowers at each other.,9171,1000673,00.html

Posted in Anna Kournikova, Drama, Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, WTA Off court | 2 Comments