Foot Fault!

Calling all the lines of professional tennis

How To Fend Off Anti-Grunters - By Maria Sharapova

After her quarterfinal loss to Victoria Azarenka yesterday, Agnieszka Radwanska took aim at Maria Sharapova, calling her grunt “annoying” and “too loud” despite having no problems with her friend Azarenka’s grunt. Needless to say, the Russian didn’t take too kindly to her comments when informed of them a day later and bit back in true Sharapovian style.

Q. A lot of players this week have made comments talking about how they think the noise that you and Azarenka in particular make is excessive.

Q. Radwanska was one player that said she thinks the noise you and Azarenka make is excessive and she’d like to see the WTA change the rules to prohibit that.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Isn’t she back in Poland already?

Q. Yes.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: When did she get a chance to say that?

Q. After she lost her quarterfinal.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: She lost the match?

Q. Yes.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You’ve sure obviously asked me this question before. I’ve heard it a few times over my career. You’ve watched me grow up, you’ve watched me play tennis. I’ve been the same over the course of my career. No one important enough has told me to change or do something different.
I’ve answered it many times before. I’m sure I’ll answer it many more times ahead. I’m okay with that.

As always, brilliant stuff from Maria “More Effortless Shade Than A Willow Tree” Sharapova. It’s no secret that she and Radwanska aren’t particularly fond of each other, and that coupled with Radwanska’s comments a couple of days ago having more to do with her liking Azarenka and disliking Sharapova, make it even more comical. A figurative knockout uppercut from the 24 year old.

Speaking more generally, the recent obsession about grunting has been absolutely astounding to watch. Usually, the tabloids at Wimbledon are the ones who make a massive deal over the grunting for two weeks, and aside from that, nobody cares.

But this year, there are suddenly commentators openly broadcasting their disgust during matches, writers are dedicating an obscene amount of space to it, and press conferences are being bombarded and hijacked on that one subject. Meanwhile, Nadal is getting away with receiving some of the most blatant illegal coaching in the history of tennis (even Carlos Rodriguez and Justine Henin would never!), while Nadal and countless other men are bending the rules to the limit in the amount of time they spend between. Double standards and hypocrisy are fun!

Tomas Berdych Feels The Wrath Of A Drunk Australian Crowd

Late in their titanic four-set battle, Tomas Berdych and Nicolas Almagro found themselves in an entertaining exchange which finished with Almagro drilling a ball so hard at his opponent that the seventh-seed ended up in a heap on the ground. The incident was not quickly forgotten by Berdych, and after clinching the match he made his thoughts on Almagro’s body-blow clear by refusing to shake the Spaniard’s hand at the net.

To say the crowd didn’t take kindly to Berdych’s actions would be the understatement of the century.

This whole incident was the epitome of overreacting. Did Almagro need to smash the ball straight at Berdych? Probably not. Should Berdych have shaken Almagro’s hand? Of course. The biggest overreaction, however, came from the clearly intoxicated crowd who put Roland Garros to shame as they booed mercilessly during Berdych’s on-court interview. Even worse still, as he attempted to carry out his Eurosport interview, a man nearby interrupted the interview, repeatedly shouting at Berdych and calling him a “prick”. An appalling overreaction for what was still a relatively minor incident.

Bernard Tomic pays tribute to Justine Henin in Melbourne

Only four days after happily admitting to the press that he had used gamesmanship as a main tactic to come back from two sets to love down against Fernando Verdasco, Tomic decided to take things even further while fighting for his life in a fifth set against Dolgopolov.

This time, he decided to channel Justine Henin by stopping mid-point and putting his hand up to issue out a challenge. When Ramos appeared to have not seen Tomic’s gesture and Dolgopolov hit an error after assuming that the point had been stopped, Tomic made the decision to act like nothing happened, before flat-out lying when asked on-court.

After clinching the fifth set and match, his take on the incident afterwards was very telling;

Q. What happened at the end of the first game in the fifth set.

BERNARD TOMIC: Yeah, it was a long rally, a slice rally. Four, five slices and he hit the ball long. I knew the ball was long called, but I looked to the umpire’s chair because I sort of had my head down. I knew where the shot was. So even though I liked to the ref to see what his reaction was, because I didn’t hear him, I didn’t say a thing.

I knew I got the slice back. It was on my frame. I was looking at him whether he was going to say “out,” but I continued to play. He thought I was going to challenge it. Got lucky I didn’t say anything.

Q. So in your mind you didn’t challenge?

BERNARD TOMIC: No, I didn’t challenge but I looked ‑‑ sometimes before the ref says “out” and overrules, he lifts his arm.

At that time when he didn’t say “out,” I continued to play. So I went like that. Alex thought I was challenging, and I didn’t focus on that shot.

After Henin’s ‘Hand’ incident, Serena Williams later described her actions as “lying and fabricating”. If this isn’t the very Oxford dictionary definition of lying and fabricating, I don’t know what is.

Umpire Sergio Ramos has to shoulder sine of the blame after completely missing Tomic’s gesture, but Tomic’s actions both on and off-court were abhorrent at best. The Australian came into this event as one of the most polarizing players in tennis, but at this point it is fairly clear that he is going to leave it simply as one of the most hated. And for good reason.

Marion Bartoli Discusses Her Exclusion From London Olympics

After spending the last couple of months appealing to the powers-that-be for a reprieve to the FFT’s ruiling that Bartoli would not be participating in the Olympics, it appears that Marion Bartoli finally all but admitted defeat while addressing the issue after yesterdays victory over Jelena Dokic.

“It’s really heartbreaking for me. Honestly I really do feel I have a chance to make a medal over there and especially at Wimbledon, on grass, where I had so much success in the past, and can’t go there just for some stupid reason [...]”

The “stupid reason” Marion is referring to, is one that requires teammates to train together as a (*gasp*) team during the week of the tie. Rather than training with the team, Bartoli has always requested for the rules to be changed in order to allow her father coach her during Fed Cup weeks.

This issue is also one that has actually been previously visited. Back in 2002, then-Fed Cup Captain Billie Jean King made the decision to exclude Jennifer Capriati - her number one player - after she was caught receiving illegal coaching from her notorious father on the evening before the first match.

Capriati learnt her lesson however, and she didn’t ever attempt to challenge the rules afterwards. On the other hand, four years after facing her first Olympic snub in Beijing, Marion is still complaining and refusing to comply with the rules. If she really wanted to represent her country at the Olympic games, then she only has herself to blame.

Bernard Tomic Shoots Down Verdasco’s Chances Ahead Of Clash

It’s easy to hate on Bernard Tomic; He’s young, he’s talented, he carries with him an air of quiet (and sometimes very loud) arrogance, he stupidly drives a car so ridiculously flashy and OTT that the law only permits him to use it to and from practice, and as of today we can see that he also appears to already be reaping the rewards of fame romantically.

We were all given yet another reason to do so yesterday when the confident teenager belittled Fernando Verdasco - his first round performance - during his press run.

“It’s a winnable match for me. It’s not one of those big names, like a big seed [...] He beat me once in Brisbane I think when I was 16 up there. That was when he was on his run, playing well. I think, you know, the last six months he hasn’t really done much. I think it’s a good time to play him.”

As harsh and overconfident his comments appear, Tomic is only regurgitating what most knowledgeable tennis fans have been saying for a long time now. And in an era where players are so willing to play the tired ‘PR game’ in order to stay on the right side of the media, Tomic’s comments are quite refreshing.

Whether or not he can actually back up this talk by upsetting the former Australian Open semifinalist is another question however; one we’ll soon know the answer to and be able to jurge accordingly.

Shock Of The Century; Serena “Loves” Tennis Again…

Barely over a week after she already infamously announced her dislike for tennis, Serena Williams took the most unsurprising U-Turn in the history of the world, yesterday proclaiming her “love” for the sport once again;

“I just love the sport so much; I love trophies and I love hanging them up, and I love the competition. This is what I love. This is my job and you get to do something that.. you travel the world, and you don’t get to do that often so it’s pretty cool.”

The hoopla over Serena’s comments in Brisbane were beyond comical. Not only were they not even remotely bad or shocking, but after spending the last thirteen years watching Williams use press conferences as anything from venting/therapy sessions to simply letting her crazy out and having a hoard of people listen to speak absolute gibberish, you would think they would know to take most of what the champion says with a pinch of salt.

Needless to say, I’m sure Serena had quite the chuckle over this whole episode.

Quotable Quotes: Nadal Calls For Less Hardcourt Tournaments

Right off the back of the calendar, rankings and Davis Cup drama that we spent so much time on in the fall of 2011, Rafael Nadal has opened up yet a new can of worms by suggesting that the amount of hardcourt events should be cut due to the effects the courts have on tennis players’ bodies;

“The only negative thing about tennis, if I have to say one, is that the competition is too much”

*he says after spending the last three months complaining about every aspect of professional tennis he could possibly complain about*

“The calendar makes the sport too hard; the hardcourts are too aggressive on the body. I really believe that can change. Without health, (performance) is impossible… I am not saying that we don’t have to play in this type of courts, but thinking about health, I don’t see footballers on the hard like this. I don’t see the basketballers playing on the hard like this. All the sports that have aggressive movements are playing on softer surfaces. This surface, in my opinion, is very bad for the lower back, for the knees, for all of this. It makes me scared for my body for the future.”

On one hand Nadal actually has a point; with every passing year, tennis is taking more and more of a toll on the body. At this point, it feels like the sport is screaming out for just a slight return to simpler times when the Grass season was actually a season, rather than there being just two tournaments squashed between two slams. After all, a more prominent grass season would have great benefits from an entertainment point of view as well as the good it would do to players’ bodies.

However, hardcourts are hardcourts and will always play a pivotal and the most important role on the tour. What makes them so dangerous on the body isn’t their mere existence, but rather the (selfish) decision from the tennis governing bodies to slow practically every single hard court in the world over the last decade.

The solution of speeding up the courts is an simple one, but would Nadal really ever agree to a move that - though it would benefit him physically - would likely have less favourable consequences for his game and results? Yeah… no. And so once again it appears, probably not even intentionally, that Rafa wants to have his cake and eat it too.

All that said, it has been quite refreshing to see Nadal so candid and open about his issues with the tour, rather than sitting back and hiding behind the language barrier and his whole ‘quiet and humble’ persona. Despite common sense sometimes evading him and personal bias clouding his judgement at times, he has brought up some important points and his heart is certainly in the right place.

Video Vault: No Pressure?

Ahead of the start of the first slam of the year, the Australian Open has been churning out a series of promo adverts. One such promo advert is solely on their young prospect Bernard Tomic, using footage from him as a young child. To say the advert is interesting is quite the understatement:

Incredible. From the echo, to the repetition, the epic melodramatic voiceover and the eerie “All of Australia will be watching” closing sentence.

People constantly talk about the British and the pressure they place on Murray and the rest of the Brits every Wimbledon fortnight, but this arguably goes above and beyond anything that even they have done. Let’s just hope that Tomic is ready for the figurative excrement that will inevitably hit the fan in only two days.

From The Vault: THAT 2003 Australian Open Quarterfinal

Long before the words “Isner” and “Mahut” were ever uttered in the same sentence, the tennis world looked to a different match as the marathon match of the generation; the 2003 Australian Open quarterfinal between Andy Roddick and Younes El Aynaoui.

Roddick came into the 2003 Australian Open with plenty to prove. Despite already sitting as a top ten player and a household name, the then 20 year-old had yet to fully break through and establish himself as one of the premier players. In complete contrast, El Aynaoui came into the 2003 Australian Open at 31 and in the twilight of his career, and though he peaked and enjoyed some of his greatest results in 2003, injuries and health problems were only around the corner for the Moroccan.

So many other great marathons are celebrated for the mere statistical triumphs, but what set this contest apart from the rest was the shining quality from first game to last. Both players engaged in lengthy, gruelling rallies while flitting through a whole arsenal of different strokes – slicing, net rushing, dropshots, blasting serves and groundstrokes alike. Playing at at a high level for a straight sets best-of-three match is impressive enough, but neither ever faltered.

As the stunning shotmaking raged on and the match edged slowly into a classic, it was that vast gap in age that became a focal point in the battle. Roddick, with his relative lack of big match experience, was forced to find a never-before-used resolve and mental strength against a seasoned veteran to who it came natural after so long. Meanwhile, El Aynaoui had no choice but to push his body its very it limit as he attempted to outlast a fresher and younger player in Roddick. Even more notably was the spirit the match was played in; in a sport that has seen so many rivalries and clashes between the younger upstarts and the older, established players, the clear mutual respect and admiration illustrated both during and after the match only added to its legendary status, a sentiment that was echoed by the American after the match.

“My levels of respect for him just grew and grew throughout the match and I’m pretty sure it’s vice-versa. “He’s 31-years-old, he’s out there five hours, and he’s still standing at the end. It’s very impressive. I don’t think I’ll be able to do that when I’m 31,” he said.
“This has proven that even the old guys can still play some ball.”

Roddick went on to win this match 4-6 7-6 4-6 6-4 21-19, and though he fell at the very next hurdle, it was his first outing into the final realms of a major and arguably a defining moment in his career. By the end of 2003, he was a US Open Champion and finished the year number one. This certainly wasn’t a bad start.

Venus Still On Track For Melbourne

Despite having not made any confirmation of her participation at this year’s Australian Open, it appears that Venus Williams has been putting in the hard yards back in Florida. And according to French Coach Didier Lanne, who had a one-off practice session with the legend yesterday, it’s going pretty well.

Ballou had a great workout this morning with Venus Williams! And thanks to Charly (former player Charles Eduardo Maria), who is coaching the champion during her preparation for the Australian Open, they asked us to do the morning practice with them!

Under the watchful eye of Olivier Patience, who also lives with Charlie during his tour of tournaments, but also the idol of all “RV” and Harold, the dog from Venus! We spent a beautiful morning hit in sunny Florida!

Here are some pictures which the great atmosphere but also the seriousness of the training this morning.

At this point it’s impossible to tell whether or not Venus will be making the trip to Melbourne. According to the Australians, she hasn’t made any indication about whether or not she will be participating, but this tells a more reassuring story. Needless to say, she’ll have to make a decision soon.

(source: Dider Lanne)


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