LEANDER PAES SAYS DON’T GET FAT: The U.S. holds the distinction as having the most fat kids in the world, but India is catching up, so doubles whiz Leander Paes in leaping into action — as a super hero. Paes, who has rock star status in India, will feature in an animated series where he plays a super hero who promotes active lifestyles for children in “The Magic Racquet.” Not to be outdone, ESPN has announced it will debut an animated series featuring Andy Roddick, where the American travels the world screaming at chair umpires to promote them actively making line calls rather than relying on the Hawk-Eye replay player challenge, to be called “Feel Free to #&@*!$% Help Me out Here, Man.”
ATP, WTA DRAINING PRO TENNIS IN THE U.S.?: Last week, San Diego Union-Tribune tennis writer Jerry Magee noted that when the WTA Tour San Diego event went up for sale last year, and Indian Wells organizers attempted to buy it, they were told there would be no bidding process as the WTA was going to buy it and move the tournament to Beijing. Now the ATP’s intentions have been announced where they want to move the Tennis Channel Open in Las Vegas to South Africa? If you thought American pro players were struggling now to reach the upper echelon (currently there are only four American men, and three American women (the 30+ Lindsay Davenport and the Williams sisters) in the Top 50 rankings), then just wait until all the smaller tournament opportunities have been exported to Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
A COMEBACK DATE: According to Japanese media, former No. 4-ranked player Kimiko Date will this week announce her return to competitive tennis at the age of 37. Date reached the No. 4 rank in 1995 before retiring the following year. Date was inspired to return to the tour after a recent Asian exhibition where she beat retired former No. 1s Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova.
U.S. DAVIS CUP LINE-UP RECORD: When the U.S. Davis Cup team hosts France in April it will be the 10th consecutive time that captain Patrick McEnroe goes with Andy Roddick and James Blake in singles, and the Bryan brothers in doubles. Mardy Fish will be the reserve player/practice partner for the U.S. during the tie.
MEMPHIS SOLD: The owner of the combined ATP/WTA event in Memphis is selling to local buyers, according to the SportBusiness Journal, ending 30 years as the face of tennis in that city. The deal includes the Racquet Club of Memphis as well as an additional 12 acres around the club. In 2009 the ATP plans to discard the “Masters Series” designation for its top level of events, naming its three levels of events 1000, 500 and 250. It’s yet another confusing change for casual tennis fans, and the media that cover tennis, exemplified by this erroneous excerpt from a story from the Memphis Business Journal: “It was announced last year that the men’s side of the Memphis tennis tournaments will be designated as an ATP 500, which raises the profile of the events. The ATP 500 tour is one level below the majors such as the U.S. Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open.”
RODDICK, BLAKE LINE UP FOR FISH: Andy Roddick and James Blake will be groomsmen when Mardy Fish marries Stacey Gardner, who holds the No. 2 briefcase on NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” game show, in September in Los Angeles.
RODDICK GETTING HITCHED: It was revealed last Monday at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami that Andy Roddick has been engaged to girlfriend and model Brooklyn Decker. Roddick wasn’t forthcoming in the details of how he popped the question after winning his match Monday night in Miami. “Just little details I’ll probably keep to myself,” Roddick said. “It’s our business. It was nice. I got down on a knee, but I think the details we’ll keep close to our family and friends…I think it’s a life choice, so it is a bit different. I think I lost half my fan base today.” Roddick’s official website also posted an announcement. “The couple wanted to tell their family and close friends first, but good news travels fast. With their hectic travel schedules, Andy and Brooklyn plan to enjoy their engagement and will wait to set a wedding date.”
ATP CEO DE VILLIERS ON THE FIRING LINE?: From South Florida Sun-Sentinel writer Charlie Bricker: “With fewer than nine months to go on his three-year contract, ATP CEO Etienne de Villiers is facing intensified heat from some of the tour’s top players, who want him terminated. According to one of my best sources, and someone very well connected to ATP politics, several top-20 players have organized a petition that demands that the six-man board of directors not begin negotiations to extend de Villiers’ contract past December until they’ve examined other candidates for the CEO’s job. Obviously, you don’t examine other candidates if you’re happy with the man who’s doing the job and, while the board of directors appears to be solidly behind de Villiers, there are players who are not.”
ATP PARTNERS WITH ITS OWN ENEL-GIZER BUNNY: Enel, Italy’s largest power company and Europe’s second-largest “utility for installed capacity,” has become an official ATP sponsor. Their three-year agreement with make Enel prominent at eight ATP events. Enel serves approximately 50 million power and gas customers in 21 countries.
TENNIS PUTTING GAMBLING CLAMP-DOWN ON JOURNALISTS: The tennis tours let the top players skip out on major events without fines and accept ‘doctor’s notes’ whenever a players wants to feign injury to take a rest — but watch out gamblers! Tennis will flex it’s muscles when it comes to fining low-ranked Italian players and kicking out fans talking on mobile phones at tournaments. Or making Nikolay Davydenko’s life a living hell without producing any results. In the latest installment of ‘Pro Tennis: Tough on Gambling!’, rumor has it that the ATP, WTA, tournaments, or all of the above will require journalists to sign a waver saying they won’t engage in gambling activities on-site or during events. And if the journalist won’t sign the waver? Then no access to the players. Stay tuned.
TEACH ME THAT MOONBALL FOREHAND: Alex Corretja will reportedly coach Andy Murray through the claycourt season.
GET ME OUT OF THIS COUNTRY: Rafael Nadal and other European players are complaining that the four-week stretch it takes to play the Indian Wells and Miami tournament is too long, especially compared to the claycourt season where players have to compete in three Masters Series events in a span of four weeks: “I’m very comfortable in United States, but not for this [amount of] time,” Nadal said during the Miami event. “It’s not fair have one month, two tournaments, and after go back to Europe and we have to play three Masters Series on clay. We only have three Masters Series on clay during all the season, and we have three Masters Series in four weeks. So for us it’s terrible, that. And three Masters Series in the middle of the biggest tournament on clay in the world: Barcelona. So if you see the calendar, that is unbelievable…It’s because these two tournaments [Indian Wells and Miami] are one week later, because you have university or something like this, college basketball. I respect 100% the college basketball. I think it’s very important. I know here it’s very important, the college basketball, because I saw always the American players and the men in the locker room watching always this. But, well, we can’t have the calendar thinking about the college basketball, no? So we are 100% disappointed about this decision of the ATP.”
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