Most enjoyable media moments in Miami: revered tennis journalist Richard Evans bitching to Bud Collins about finishing third in one of the categories of the U.S. Tennis Writers’ Association Contest behind Paul Fein, who he complains rarely goes to tournaments and performs “copywriting” duties. Evans also refused to participate in the USTWA awards presentation on the stadium court. Or how about Tennis.com’s Pete Bodo, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Charlie Bricker, and Collins arguing the merit of surprising opponents with an underhand serve — a question Bodo posed to Roddick in his post-match conference before receiving an incredulous blank stare from the top-ranked American? The underhand serve, Bud noted, sure worked for Michael Chang in his French Open win over Ivan Lendl. Hard to argue with that.
Is Andy Roddick suffering a power outage? Roddick went into a long explanation following his loss to David Ferrer in Miami on how the balls are slower on tour, the courts are slower, etc. But the “slowing of the tour” apparently hasn’t hindered Ivan Ljubicic, who through his first three matches had more aces than Roddick, even though the American had played four matches to the Croat’s three. Roddick was unusually upbeat after his loss to David Ferrer Thursday, rambling on about potential word-count spellings in scrabble and mockingly telling a reporter criticizing him for playing 10 feet behind the baseline by saying ‘Yeah, I looked at the tapes of when I was ranked No. 1, and I was PLAYING 15 FEET BEHIND THE BASELINE.” Roddick is admittedly suffering from a lack of confidence, and don’t look for that to improve once the European claycourt season starts.
The stadium is an estimated 5 percent full at 12:30am Friday for the opening doubles match, with top seeds Lisa Raymond and Sam Stosur tied with the unseeded powerhouse pair of Amelie Mauresmo and Svetlana Kuznetsova. What a shame, but that’s part and parcel of receiving the opening-morning slot on any day — and a good effort by Kuznetsova a day after blitzing her partner Mauresmo in straight sets to reach the final. Other players might hesitate to pull from the doubles to rest for the final, but Kuznetsova is a grinder, and has apparently ground away enough that her confidence is back since her disappointing stretch after her 2004 US Open win. The Russian this week compared herself to compatriot Marat Safin who also said he wasn’t mentally prepared to maintain his level after winning his first slam, and that it came “too early.”
That was a rough appearance on ESPN by Jennifer Capriati, who at the “young” age of 30 (not young in tennis terms) looks like an overweight haus-frau. Like Serena Williams, Jenny has always liked to eat, and that’s fine when you’re a top athlete putting yourself through the rigor of pro tennis training and competition, but not so great when you’re sitting around watching TV. Serena has been sidelined off and on now for over a year with knee and ankle problems, and her lack (or slack) of training was apparent when she showed up on the hefty side at the Australian Open. A Jennifer return would be a boon for women’s tennis, as would a Serena return with speculation now that her career could be over. But Capriati was never one for grinding workouts or maintaining peak fitness even as she ranked in the world’s Top 3. “Look at Lance Armstrong and Andre (Agassi),” Capriati said. “They made comebacks. I’m still young and I won’t give up.” Against all odds, good luck.
Through the first seven days in Miami with the video replay challenge and 116 challenged line calls, the players were correct 29 percent of the time. Ouch. I’d say let’s hear it for the linespeople, but they’re blowing it too if you consider that if the players are right 29 percent of the time, that means that on big calls the linespeople are wrong roughly 30 percent of the time.
Ouch, NASDAQ-100 officials go to all the trouble to set up the Bryan brothers with a live Friday morning shot on CNBC, then they get bumped by a cut-in broadcast from President Bush.
Watch out for David Nalbandian, No. 3 on the ATP Rankings, recovered from the abdominal injury that kept him out for much of the beginning of the year, and now in the MS-Miami semis against the self-professed world No. 2 (on the ATP Race standings) Ivan Ljubicic.
Even though Roger Federer is dominating all comers on tour, don’t think he doesn’t realize the advantage of the psychological. Federer said earlier this year he learned from Pete Sampras the advantage of keeping a certain distance in the player’s locker room and doing the little things to maintain an aura on tour. After beating the fast-rising James Blake Thursday night, Federer added “You don’t want to beat him in a final (in their previous event at Indian Wells) then lose in the quarters, because then everybody might think that James played horrible in that final last week. So if I back it up…show I can beat him back-to-back weeks, you sort of really send out a message.” For Blake after the match it was message received: “Today was another learning experience. Maybe I’m a slow learner…Maybe one of these days, he’ll get a bad night’s sleep or have a fight with his girlfriend or something.”
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