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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-14-2006, 12:19 AM Thread Starter
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July 12, 2006

commentary: Ian O'Connor
Rankings on downward spiral for U.S. tennis stars

This was in the early '90s, when Barry Bonds was -- quite literally -- half the man he came to be. He was seated next to a stranger on a flight from Los Angeles to Tampa when he told a friend sitting behind him that he could have the pleasure of an upgrade into Barry's world "if this guy gets up."

Pete Sampras got up, graciously swapped first-class seats with the Bonds' buddy, and took no offense to the fact the All-Star outfielder had no idea he was a fellow athlete, and one who had already claimed three or four more majors than Bonds himself.

The sport's most successful young American male could get mistaken for an accountant back then, and yet today's tennis elders can look back on that time as something of a golden age. Here's why: a faceless U.S. champ beats no American champ eight days a week.

Through red, white and blue-colored glasses, tennis looked like the sport spitting out the most sobering international bulletin Monday, which was saying a ton.

Venus Williams, out of the top 20. Andy Roddick, out of the top 10.

No American had reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time in 95 years, and Andre Agassi sure couldn't be blamed for that. Agassi had done his time on grass, and every other surface, and will retire at the U.S. Open knowing that image isn't everything, not when reality bites.

We haven't forgotten how to produce tennis stars, or forgotten how to maintain tennis stardom: We've forgotten how to do both. Venus and Serena Williams grew more bored with their domination of the women's side than did the fans who endured their intramural finals, and so they cut their primes down to size, leaving a once punch-drunk field to see major championship openings it thought it would never see.

On the men's side, the U.S. invested too much hope in Roddick's speed-of-sound serves. Only three years back, Roddick had survived the kind of death-march matches that make a man of a boy. He outlasted Younes El Aynaoui, 21-19, in the fifth set of an Australian quarterfinal that stands among the greatest Grand Slam matches of all time, and he beat David Nalbandian in a sort of Jimmy Connors-over-Patrick McEnroe way in the U.S. Open semis.

Suddenly, Roddick had Mandy Moore on his arm, the Open trophy in his hands, and a gossip-mongering world at his feet. This was an MTV star in an MTV world. He had "it," whatever it was.

And then he didn't. As a child, Roddick had taped Sampras' poster to his bedroom wall the way Tiger Woods had taped Jack Nicklaus' records to his. If Roddick would begin an assault on Sampras' record of 14 major titles, he would only do so in his dreams.

Roger Federer has emerged as the tennis Tiger, as the man zeroing in on the tennis Bear, Sampras. Roddick? He doesn't even qualify as Federer's Agassi.

On the power of his comic-book arms, Rafael Nadal has muscled out a niche as rival-in-chief, leaving the biceps-challenged Roddick on the outer fringe of relevance, wondering if his Grand Slam legacy will amount to a one-and-done affair.

At least Roddick can find comfort inside this small truth: He's one A-Rod who doesn't have to bat in Yankee Stadium.

Truth is, American tennis needs a 500-foot home run when the Open starts next month, and the Federer-Nadal rivalry doesn't pack enough lumber. It's a ferocious pairing. But American sports fans are funny: They prefer Americans on at least one side of the draw.

Sampras and Agassi were good enough to double their pleasure. Before them, Connors and John McEnroe were there to assume the role of ugly Americans against Ivan Lendl and Bjorn Borg.

The latest rankings offer nothing in the way of hope for the U.S. James Blake is No. 6 on the ATP list, and he's allergic to five-set matches. Roddick just plunged from fifth to 11th after losing a third-rounder at Wimbledon.

On the WTA list, Lindsay Davenport (No. 10) and Venus Williams (No. 23) are the only Americans in the top 50. Serena Williams is the injury-riddled mess at No. 140.

It's a bi-gender crisis leaving the U.S. in need of a star.

Ian O'Connor writes for The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-14-2006, 12:24 AM Thread Starter
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Tennis: Is the slump in U.S. victories just temporary?

By Justin Coons
Special to the Tribune
July 13, 2006

Americans haven't quite had the hunger to win lately, local tennis players say.

Non-American players gobbled up the Americans at this year's Wimbledon, as nobody from the United States advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in nearly a century.

"It's not good," said Dave Pitts, head pro at Tanoan Country Club in Albuquerque. "I just think those other countries are a lot hungrier than us."

All of the Americans in the men's draw bowed out in the third round. American James Blake lost to Belarusian Max Mirnyi, Andy Roddick fell to England's Andy Murray, Mardy Fish lost to Georgian Irakli Labadze, and Andre Agassi ended his Wimbledon career with a loss to Spain's Rafael Nadal.

Shenay Perry was the last American alive in the women's draw. She was handily defeated by Russia's Elena Dementieva in the fourth round, 6-2, 6-0.

The meltdown of American athletes at one of tennis' premier tournaments has left local fans wondering what went wrong.

Here are two reactions from local coaches:

Loren Dils, University of New Mexico men's tennis assistant coach

"They're struggling a little right now. But everything that goes down comes up again.

"U.S. tennis lacks depth, and it puts pressure on the top. It used to be that you could have 70 Americans in the draw, and that was fine. But when you have no more than 10 in the draw, there's more pressure on the top players to go on.

"Andy Roddick is down because people are starting to study him. They are picking up on his game.

"With the women, they are in the middle of an outgoing class.

"With classes, they come in waves. You have (John) McEnroe and (Jimmy) Connors, and then nothing. People started talking about how tennis is dying, and then the best crop of players ever, (Pete) Sampras, (Andre) Agassi and (Michael) Chang comes.

"I do think the American tennis will take another wave of players. There's a big push in the grass roots to get youth interested in tennis.

"Just a little patience, and we'll see another Agassi, Sampras, (Lindsay) Davenport and Williams sisters generation coming up."

Dick Johnson, La Cueva High girls tennis coach

"It's hills and valleys, but we need to do a better job of identifying the talent in the country. If you look at France, Italy, Belgium, they do a much better job of that.

"There's some stagnation in the country's tennis. Andy Roddick himself has stagnated.

"If you look at the Williams sisters, it looks like they're into other things than tennis, and Lindsay Davenport's career is looking like it's over.

"We've got the National Tennis Center in New York, I don't think it's produced anyone notable since that thing was built.

"If you look at the draws for the majors tournaments, you see that every other name is Russian.

"We're in a slump. We and soccer, I guess."
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-19-2006, 12:30 AM Thread Starter
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Brooding? Loneliness? World Team format has none of that

July 18, 2006
By Joel Drucker

Special to CBS

July is a topsy-turvy tennis month. It starts with Wimbledon, the portal to the sport's past. Then comes the portal to the future -- located in a parking lot at the north end of a Sacramento shopping center.

I'm talking about that festive and friendly summer evening known as a World Team Tennis match. The Sacramento Capitals are one of 12 teams that compete over a rapid-fire season that commenced July 6 and concludes July 30.

Started by Billie Jean King in 1974, the WTT has tenaciously made itself part of the pro tennis calendar. The mix blends "marquee" players -- Pete Sampras is returning to the game for the first time since 2002, joining John McEnroe, Venus Williams, Martina Hingis and Martina Navratilova -- with lesser-known veterans and young prospects. World Team Tennis was one of the first places where Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick and Nicole Vaidisova made a big splash.

So what does this mélange of players, teams, funky scoring and multicolored courts have to do with the future of tennis? Very simple: much that is vital to getting Americans excited about watching and playing the sport.

Perhaps most important, what the WTT brings has profound implications for Americans who are concerned about where the next generation of great players will come from, that ethereal concept known more as "player development."

The biggest growth in recreational tennis in the United States over the past 20 years -- by far -- has been in the world of league tennis. Recreational players love the chance to share triumph and disaster in a collaborative environment that's simultaneously competitive and friendly. In other words, tennis players want to enjoy their sport the same way softball and basketball players do.

While adults have their own reasons for loving league play -- matches are pre-scheduled, half are at home, the emphasis is heavily on doubles -- it is high time that player-development experts turned their eyes to how WTT-type formats can draw more youngsters into tennis and then retain them.

As I see it, the American junior tennis scene -- heavily based on elimination tournaments -- is set up to push people away from the game, creating a form of Darwinism that weeds out aspiring tennis players with the same brutality that a freshman chemistry course imposes on wannabe doctors. Hang out at a junior tournament and you'll see how those who lose either quickly head home or wander the event like lepers.

"Half the people who enter a tournament lose in the first round," says King. "How does that help keep people in the game?"

Those good enough to win also often operate in solitude, akin to precious music prodigies, frequently cocooned by protective parents and paranoid coaches.

By dint of a tournament system that emphasizes singular competition so heavily over widespread participation, potential long-term players are ruthlessly dismissed before they have even begun to learn how to play. And off that child goes to soccer, where he or she is guaranteed playing time each week, a fun athletic experience and the chance to make friends with teammates. Tennis loses thousands of children each year, largely because its current competitive format makes it such a lonely sport.

Now don't get me wrong: I believe very much that competition is by far the best way to improve and get better. But I'd love to see American tennis inject more elements of the WTT format in junior events at all levels.

Hall of Famer Fred Stolle played with King in WTT in the '70s. As an Australian who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, he brings a sharp eye to his understanding of how people engage with tennis in this country -- and how it contrasts with his homeland.

"Did you ever think that maybe you Yanks are too competitive and individualistic for your own good?" he asks. "In Australia you grow up playing on teams. You hit with people at all levels, you become friends with people at all levels and you root and care about people at all levels. So you spend less time brooding by yourself and more time enjoying it, whether you win or lose."

One of my favorite people in tennis is Wayne Bryan, father of doubles stars Mike and Bob. Back in the days when Wayne was tennis director at the Cabrillo Racquet Club in Camarillo, Calif., the first thing he would do when a kid showed up at his club was assign him to a team. Over the years when Mike and Bob were rising juniors, Wayne and his boys would ride vans all over Southern California, schlepping kids to tournaments, having them all hit with each other and cheer each other on during matches.

Mike and Bob just won Wimbledon and have an ambitious summer ahead that will conclude in September with the U.S. Open and a trip to Moscow for a Davis Cup tie. But within days of that Wimbledon victory Mike and Bob were gearing up for a World Team Tennis match, while Wayne was getting started on his July gig as coach for the Capitals.

Granted, an ambitious father and a pair of twins pretty much guarantees not a minute of solitude. But as Wayne notes, "Of course tennis doesn't have to be lonely. If we try just a bit, we can make it a team sport and fun for way more people."

Joel Drucker has worked for a variety of print and broadcast media, including Tennis Magazine, USTA Magazine, Cigar Aficionado, Los Angeles Magazine and the Tennis Channel.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-05-2006, 01:50 PM Thread Starter
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Last Modified: 8/4/2006 9:23:15 PM

JPMorgan Chase Open Preview

By Peter Dopkin, Online Editor,

One of the toughest things about running a tournament is how top players sometimes pull out at the last minute. The Friday before the start of the Acura Classic, Lindsay Davenport and Venus and Serena Williams all withdrew citing various injuries. The Acura’s loss was the JPMorgan Chase Open’s gain.

The extra week of rest is apparently what Davenport and Serena needed. The two are all scheduled to play at the Home Depot Center in L.A. August 7–13, but whether or not they actually show is the million-dollar question. (Venus Williams withdrew from the tournament on Friday. More) And if they play, how will they perform? Davenport hasn’t played since March with a bad back, and Serena has played one tournament (Cincinnati) since January.

Defending champion Kim Clijsters has opted out this year, but “local girl” Maria Sharapova will be present and in search of her first JPMorgan Chase Open title. Last year the Russian was the top seed, but was forced to withdraw in the middle of the tournament with a strained chest muscle. She will once again be a one of the favorites in L.A.

Three other Russians who will be looking to carve their way through the draw are Nadia Petrova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Elena Dementieva. In her first match since the French Open, Petrova was upset at the Acura Classic. She certainly has the talent to win it all, but like Davenport, Serena, and Venus, on any given day you don’t know which version of Petrova will show up. Both Kuznetsova and Dementieva won Tier I tournaments in 2006 (in Indian Wells and Tokyo, respectively). When Kuznetsova is on, she’s as good as anyone in the world. Dementieva’s superb ground strokes have kept her in the Top 10 since 2003, and if it wasn’t for her unpredictable serve she would be a favorite to win any tournament she entered.

Despite having some of the biggest names in women’s tennis, Monday night’s exhibition between Pete Sampras and Jim Courier is just what the tournament needs to jump-start the week in the less-than-fan-friendly L.A. area.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-06-2006, 07:44 AM
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I think Jim courier will win, and very likely in straight sets.
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-07-2006, 11:03 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by the_natural
I think Jim courier will win, and very likely in straight sets.

Surprise them all Pete and hope you play a good match.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-08-2006, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by angiel
Surprise them all Pete and hope you play a good match.
And he did it angiel He won and played wonderful match
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-09-2006, 11:24 AM
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-11-2006, 03:21 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Greg-Pete fan
And he did it angiel He won and played wonderful match

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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-13-2006, 08:39 PM Thread Starter
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Federer is brilliant but still too wooden

By Bill Center, Times Online Special Correspondent

As 25-year-old Roger Federer was stroking his way to a third-straight US Open title to extend his Grand Slam count to nine, including four consecutive Wimbledon championships, tennis fans began wondering why he isn't mentioned in the same breath as Tiger Woods.

Tennis, after all, is far more physically demanding than golf - even though the current generation of players rush the net about as often as the seasons change.

Shouldn't Federer be rated among the world's greatest athletes? Shouldn't he be ranked right up there with Woods? Ahead even.

You're kidding me, right? Federer is not Woods. He isn't even Maria Sharapova. There's a lot more to this than the ability to hit a ball. Once, men's tennis was great drama. Borg. Becker. Connors. McEnroe. Sampras. Agassi.

And championship matches drew great television numbers. The players were personalities, the matches events. Each shot carried excitement... all the way down to a rocket Roscoe Tanner serve.

Plus, there was entertainment beyond the game. Admit it, you enjoyed those John McEnroe tantrums. You turned up the volume to make sure you didn't miss a barb directed at the umpire or some poor volunteer linesman.

Today, who cares? Federer is a fine Swiss movement. Nine Grand Slams is the sixth-highest in tennis history. Still young, Federer's only five shy of Sampras' record of 14.

No question, Federer, who routed Andy Roddick 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the US Open final, is the ranking player in the world today, and for the foreseeable future. But he's boring us stiff. And he's not the only high-ranking player out there who can make that dubious claim. Roddick. Rafael Nadal. Line 'em up.

Tennis, please give us another Connors or McEnroe. Someone, anyone with a little charisma and panache. Someone please rush the net.

Want to know what is wrong with men's tennis? Watch Tiger Woods. On any given Sunday, there is a smile on Tiger's face as he charges to his next win. The camera loves him. So does the microphone. Tiger is loveable. We walk the course with Tiger. We're there with his every shot. In victory, he is humble. In defeat, he is gracious.

Federer can't even be gracious in victory. When he wins, he embarks on strange journeys of self-admiration. When Muhammad Ali proclaimed "I am the greatest" we listened. When Federer heads in that direction, we reach for the remote.

Not that many of us were actually watching the last act of the US Open. The main storyline of this championship was the farewell appearance of Andre Agassi. And his farewell match drew a large television audience.

But the top draw, particularly for those target males aged 18-34, was the chance to see Sharapova, who defeated Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-4, 6-4 in the women's final.

Federer? Not that we really cared, but he was up against the first Sunday of the National Football League season. Even NASCAR raced on the Saturday night rather than go up against the NFL.

Is Federer a great player? Absolutely. Is he one of the all-time greats of tennis? Definitely. Is he Tiger Woods? Not even close.


- Tony Stewart, the defending and two-time NASCAR Nextel Cup champion, failed to make this year's ten-race Chase for the Championship playoffs. In fact, none of last season's top three finishers - Stewart, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards - made this season's Chase, which opens on Sunday.

- Dan Wheldon, the defending series champion, won the final race of the Indy Racing League season. But Sam Hornish Jr, the Indy 500 winner, claimed his third IRL championship and the first for Roger Penske, his car-owner. Wheldon tied for the points lead, but lost the title on a tiebreaker.

- In the first showdown of the college football season, Ohio State, the number one-ranked team, travelled to Texas and defeated Longhorns, the defending national champion and second in the rankings, by 24-7. Texas had won 21 straight games.
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