Former world #1 Caroline Wozniacki holds not only 18 WTA Tour titles but also a great sense of humor. During the Sony Ericsson Open, the 21-year-old Dane cheerfully chatted with me about her most memorable moments on court, the best part of being a tennis player, her aspirations to be an actress, her biggest fear, and the three tennis players she would most want to party with.
What is your most memorable moment on court?
I’ve had a lot. I think reaching the #1 ranking for the ranking and what happened in Beijing was definitely a big moment for me. Or lifting up my first trophy – or any trophy. Or walking into the opening ceremony of the Olympics was huge as well.
What is the best part of being a pro tennis player?
To travel the world and get to meet new people and get to experience things that others maybe never experience, which is great.
If you weren’t a tennis player, what would you be?
I would like to be an actress – I think that would be quite fun. Always, when we had plays in school, I wanted to be in there. I had the leading role quite a few times, which is cool.
How old were you when you did that?
I can’t remember. (Smiles) I think it was all from 9 to 14 years old. I remember I was Sandy in Grease as well, so I had to sing and I’m a terrible singer. I wasn’t shy I just sang. (Laughs)
If you could play against any player in history, who would it be any why?
That’s a tough one because I would Martina Hingis, but I’ve played her before. She was my role model growing up.
If you’re hosting a party, what three tennis players do you invite?
I would invite Serena [Williams] – she would have to bring her Karoake. (Laughs) I would bring Agnieszka Radwanska and maybe someone like … of the guys … maybe someone like Rafa [Nadal].
Which actress would you like to play you of a movie of yourself?
Maybe Cameron Diaz or Scarlett Johansson.
They have your likeness.
I don’t know, maybe. I would like to think that. (Smiles)
What are two things you couldn’t live without?
My mobile phone and … (Shyly) maybe some chocolate once in a while. (Smiles)
What is one thing that scares you?
Spiders. And I’m a bit afraid of the dark, especially if I have to walk outside when it’s dark, I don’t like it. (Laughs)
(Three watermarked photos courtesy of Neal Trousdale. To check out more photos from the Sony Ericsson Open, check out Neal’s Flickr page.)
Yonex decided to flex its design muscle by using “denim” — printed on a moisture-wicking syntehtic — for its fall ‘08 collection, which debuted in time for the fashion-forward U.S. Open. They even opted for orange thread as contrast stitching, giving the pieces a more authentic and rugged look.
Elena Dementieva played in the separates at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, where she lost to Katarina Srebotnik in the quarters. Notice the knot on th front lefft tank strap.
And this Russian wore the halter version during her semifinal run in New York. (She’s had a pretty good summer, following her semi @ Wimbledon with a gold medal from Beijing and the semi in NYC.)
Yonex’s Beijing kit for Elena.
And here’s the men’s denim line. As far as I can tell, none of the major tennis retail outlets are carrying this line in America.
After three days of play in the tennis competition at the 2008 Olympic tennis competition, it is the French men and the Russian women who leading in the team competition in Beijing. Both nations are seeking their nation’s first gold medal in the team competition in tennis….eerrr….uh…wait…a minute. Team competition? Is there one?
In my column posted last week (click HERE to read), I suggested that a team competition at the Olympics consist of each singles and doubles victory earning one point for a nation in a “team competition” and the nation with the most points at the end of the competition, be awarded team gold, silver and bronze. If this was indeed the case at the Games (there is only individual medals at stake in men’s and women’s singles and doubles), then after two rounds of singles and one round of doubles play, the men’s standings would be as follows
France – 8 points
Russia – 6 points
Switzerland – 4 points
Argentina – 4 points
Spain – 4 points
Czech Republic – 3 points
USA – 3 points
Germany – 3 points
Chile – 3 points
Belgium – 3 points
Serbia – 3 points
Austria – 3 points
France is paced by its depth as three players – Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon, Paul Henri Mathieu – all reaching the round of 16, and Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra reaching the round of 16 in doubles. Russia has two players in the round of 16 of singles – Michael Youzhny and Igor Andreev – and two doubles teams – Nikolay Davydenko and Andreev and Youzhny and Dmitry Tursunov into the round of 16 of doubles. Switzerland is, of course, paced by Roger Federer, who is the round of 16 of both singles and doubles (with Stan Wawrinka). David Nalbandian is the only Argentine still remaining in the men’s field as he is into the round of 16 of singles. For men’s singles and doubles draws at the Games, click here.
In women’s play, the team point standings would be as follows;
Russia – 8 points
China – 6 points
USA – 6 points
Belarus – 4 points
Ukraine – 3 points
Czech Republic – 3 points
Italy – 3 points
France – 3 points
Slovakia – 3 points
Russia has three women remaining in women’s singles – Dinara Safina (the U.S. Open Series women’s winner), Vera Zvonareva (who replaced the injured Maria Sharapova in the Olympic field) and 2000 Olympic silver medalist Elena Dementieva, who are all into the round of 16. In doubles, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Safina, the No. 1 seeded team, are into the round of 16 as are Zvonareva and Elena Vesnina. The Chinese women have Jie Zheng, the Wimbledon semifinalist earlier this year, and Li Na, the first-round conqueror of No. 3 seed Kuznetsova, into the round of 16 of singles, while Zheng and Zi Yan are into the round of 16 of doubles. The United States is, of course, paced by the Williams sisters – Venus and Serena – who are into the round of 16 of singles – and vying for all-sister Olympic gold medal match – and through to the round of 16 of doubles. Lindsay Davenport and Liezel Huber are through to the round of 16 of doubles as well for the Americans. For men’s singles and doubles draws at the Games, click here.
Let’s keep close tabs on how the rest of the tournament shapes up as far as our “mythic” team competition goes.
Some random thoughts from a fascinating Roland Garros and the first look forward to the grass…
Roger Federer’s performance in the Roland Garros final against Rafael Nadal was reminiscent of Muhammad Ali’s fight against Larry Holmes. A mismatch from the start, Ali pulled out his tricks but had no answers for the younger, stronger Holmes, and was battered mercilessly. Like Sunday’s final, this was simply a bad match-up, and- to use the age-old explanation- styles make fights. Nadal moves better, defends better, and can control points off the ground (on clay, anyway) better than Federer. Like seeing The Greatest get punched around the ring, it was still surprising to witness Federer looking so vulnerable.
Rafael Nadal did not hit a single ace in the semis or final. He hit only seven aces during the entire two weeks. This serving approach will change on the grass. He will need some free points at crucial moments.
Darren Cahill brought up an interesting point on ESPN about Nadal’s Wimbledon preparation. Instead of rushing across the channel to play the Artois Championships, he should rest for a few days and skip the Queens Club event. Recall that he was spent by the end of Wimbledon last summer, although admittedly he was forced to play five (rain-delayed) matches in the last seven days of The Championships. Had Nadal been fresher, then he would have likely taken the fifth set of last year’s final.
Of course the cynic can offer about one million reasons why Nadal will compete at Queens Club again this year. It is hard to pass up that kind of appearance fee loot no matter how wealthy he has become. To paraphrase Bob Dylan (from “It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry”), don’t say I never warned you if Nadal loses early this week.
It was great to see Bjorn Borg attending matches during the final weekend of Roland Garros. In an interesting on-court interview with his great rival John McEnroe, Borg agreed to play with Mighty Mac in the over-45 doubles next year.
Borg also told McEnroe that this was the first time he had returned to Roland Garros since winning the event in 1981 (beating Ivan Lendl in a five-set final). Evidently Borg forgot that he did television work for NBC Sports in 1983 (interviewing Yannick Noah and Mats Wilandner after their final) and presented the Coupe De Mosquetaires on-court to Gustavo Kuerten in 1997. Guga famously bowed to the great Borg, as though the Swede was royalty. Let’s just presume that Borg’s passing shots were better than his memory!
Ai Sugiyama is preparing to break the all-time record at the All England Club by competing in her 56th consecutive major tournament. She currently shares this record with Wayne Ferreira, who played 56 straight from 1991 to 2004. This is a remarkable strength of will and consistency.
In the For What It’s Worth category… After last year’s epic Wimbledon final, Roger Federer did an interview with a standout former player. Afterwards, this player, off-camera, of course, told his colleague that the Swiss would never win another Wimbledon title. He saw cracks in the armor last summer.
Fingers are crossed that Slazenger has produced livelier balls for this year’s grass court season. It has been disappointing to see men’s professional grass court tennis look like… hard court tennis. If that’s what people really want to see, then the grass should be paved for a more “fair” hard court surface. I would prefer that it retain the traditional allure for attacking players and reward players for net-rushing tactics.
In 1984, there were 64 American men in the singles main draw of Wimbledon. That will never be matched again. I do, however, expect to see several Yanks doing some damage at SW19.
Serena Williams would have been really annoyed with her result at Roland Garros. She will keep the Venus Rosewater Dish in the Williams family’s possession this year.
Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas and Peruvian Luis Horna completed a storybook run to the French men’s doubles title. In the quarterfinals they took out former champions and the top-ranked team in the world, Bob and Mike Bryan. This match received a lot of attention because afterwards the Bryans refused to shake hands with Cuevas, as they were offended by his show of exuberance in the third set tiebreak. As the South American pair raced to a 5-1 lead, Cuevas leaped the net to switch sides- instead of walking around the net post. While it might have been a bit much, hopping the net certainly appeared to be an act of spontaneity on Cuevas’ part. The Bryans have perfected the leaping chest bump, so their reaction seemed a bit harsh.
To offer some context, the Bryan brothers have saved men’s professional doubles. Without them, it might not even exist these days. They carry the weight and responsibility of, literally, preserving this form of the professional sport. Furthermore, they have each distinguished themselves as fierce competitors and gentlemen throughout their storied career. They get it. Therefore, the Bryans deserve some slack. I’ll bet that they wish they had not reacted so strongly during the heat of the moment. I’ll also bet that they are hoping for a rematch against Cuevas and Horna at the Big W.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have much to gain these next months, and Federer much to defend. Pete Sampras finished as the world’s top-ranked player for a remarkable six straight years (1993-98), and Federer’s assault on that record is looking bleaker. Roger will need a “turn back the clock” effort for the remainder of 2008 to avoid relegation to No. 3 in the year-end rankings.
Less than half of the world’s top-ten players will compete in the Beijing Olympics. Keep reading the agate type in your sports sections for listings of injuries, because most of the top players will find them before hopping on a plane for Asia in August. This is as sure as the sun rising in the East.
I always write about making a pilgrimage to beautiful Newport, RI for the Hall of Fame Championships each July. For any fan living or traveling in Europe, please visit Eastbourne. This is a charming coastal town in the south of England, and a wonderful warm-up tournament for The Championships. The honor roll of former champions stands as a “who’s-who” list of Hall of Famers. The grass courts are typically as good as any in the world, and the players love the relaxed environment. In fact, the accessibility to the players is virtually unprecedented in this day and age.
Four years ago, I won a steak dinner at NYC’s Smith & Wollensky from a gentlemen’s bet that I had with a tennis insider. My winning bet was that more than 50% of the world’s top ten players (the ten men and the ten women, per the rankings at the start of the event) would pull out of the Athens Olympics before the start of the Games. Sure enough, only nine of the possible 20 players who took part, and I enjoyed my steak cooked medium rare.
Will the same happen again in 2008? Probably. It will be even more difficult for players to justify a trip to Beijing with the US Open, the world’s richest prize money tournament (lest you forget), beginning shortly afterwards.
Andy Roddick’s withdrawal has gotten a lot of attention, but I admire his forthrightness. Most players will feign an injury at the last moment to appear as though they “really wanted to be there.” Kudos to Roddick for telling it like it is: the US Open is the priority for tennis players.
It is great that our sport is part of the Summer Olympic Games, but foolhardy to think that players who grow up watching Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and US Open finals will care as deeply for the once-every-four-years deal. A quick glance at the honor roll of medal winners supports this. Some all-time greats did receive medals at previous Olympics, but there are a lot of names that would be difficult for even hard-core tennis fans to recall. As the “ol’ perfessor” Casey Stengel used to say, you can look it up.
My family and I were having a holiday in the South of France two weeks ao, and I insisted that we make a pilgrimmage to the Monte Carlo Country Club, where Bjorn Borg spent so much time practicing. On one of the outside courts, the relentless Justine Henin was going through an on-court workout that would wear out any Olympic decathlete. She was also working on finishing points with her most potent weapon, her forehand. This stroke is more effective than, but often overshadowed by, her more aesthetically pleasing one-handed backhand. It is hard to envision her losing her crown at Roland Garros.
Of course, the tournament organizers in Indian Wells would have much rather seen the world’s #1 player in the Californian dessert than training on clay in Europe. Sadly, with the stubborn reluctance to modify the one-year-runs-into-the-next schedule of the international tour, players choose to make their own off-seasons. It seems that the time after the Australian Open ends in late January until March is becoming a “window” that more players will be using. It would be great to correct this one day.
After seeing Novak Djokovic winning in Indian Wells and reading more and more analysis of Roger Federer’s feelings toward the young Serb, I was reminded of a remarkable moment in boxing’s recent history. Roy Jones, Jr. was viewed as his generation’s pound-for-pound greatest, and one of the best boxers of all time. He won a disputed decision against Antonio Tarver, which led to their rematch. Jones had a few “explanations” for his sub-par performance leading into the second fight. When the boxers met in the middle of the ring for the pre-fight instructions, they were, as is customary, asked if they had any questions. “Yeah, I got one,” said Tarver, “You got any excuses tonight, Roy?” In an astonishing performance, Tarver knocked Jones cold in the second round.
To borrow from Antonio Tarver, we also “got” a few questions this week:
1) “What is your take on Roddick skipping the Olympics?”
~Arvind from India
See above. It is the right move for Roddick at this stage of his career. His decision will set a trend this summer. I’d expect Roddick to look to play in London 2012, which, again, would be the right move for him at that stage (unless he has a Barry Bonds-like second half of his career). Roddick will be just shy of his 30th birthday during the London 2012 Games, and will predictably get caught up in the “one more time” sentimentality. This year’s US Open will be among the last and best chances that Roddick has of enhancing his Hall of Fame career- and he is already a first ballot H-of-F’er.
2) I am an aggressive player, and I always tend to find a way to hit winners. I am a one-handed player for both forehand and backhand, I can do quite good on both sides, but sometimes I make many errors on my backhand, how do I improve that?
~Tony from Hong Kong
Despite your ability to always find a way to hit winners, I would urge you to play slightly more conservatively on your backhand and wait for the opportunity to use your forehand to full advantage. Think Fernando Gonzalez, who will roll, slice, and, of course sometimes, nail his backhand. When he gets a forehand, however, it is Katie Bar the Door.
Lastly, kudos to Rafael Nadal and David Nalbandian for playing in a friendly exhibition at the Palm Beach International Polo Club (on Har Tru!) on Tuesday evening. The event raised $50,000 for their respective charities, and Nalbandian was able to provide a favor for his buddy and fellow Argentine, Adolfo Combiaso, who is regarded as the world’s finest polo player.
By Agence France Presse
WASHINGTON (AFP) – US star Andy Roddick will skip the Beijing Olympics in August to defend his crown at the ATP Washington Classic two weeks before the US Open. Roddick will bring star power to the only event on the men’s tennis tour that conflicts with the high-profile showdown for Olympic gold in China.
Roddick has decided to remain in the United States to better preapre for the US Open, the year’s final Grand Slam tournament that starts in New York on August 25, the day after the Olympics conclude in Beijing.
“My goal every summer is to win the US Open,” said Roddick. “I have won the Legg Mason Tennis Classic three times and feel defending my title in Washington best prepares me for another Grand Slam title.”
Sixth-ranked Roddick captured the ATP title in Dubai last weekend with victories over Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic and reigning French Open champion Rafael Nadal in the run.
Roddick defeated big-serving US wild card John Isner in last year’s Washington final.
The Olympic tournament and Washington’s event are both set to be played on the week starting Monday, August 11.
With Roddick’s absence, ninth-ranked James Blake is the top-rated American in line to play for Beijing Olympic singles gold.