Aside from being able to drool over Juan Monaco up close (I didn’t think he could look better in person…), one of the good things I took away from last month’s ATP Calendar launch was the discovery that Juan gets dressed by Argentine label Etiqueta Negra.
Thankfully, a friend of mine recently spent some time in Buenos Aires and filled me in on the brand. Etiqueta produces some well-constructed pieces in classic cuts and silhouettes, using raw materials of higher quality than other Argentinian brands.
Even better, Etiqueta’s SoHo store, which’ll eventually open on Prince and Lafayette, will fit right into the current trend of “concept” shops — i.e., displaying clothes alongside installations of brand-inspiring items (in their case: antique Jaguars and vintage BMW motorbikes).
And in case you weren’t quite sold on their upscale feel, founder Federico Alvarez Castillo chose a greyhound — think racing dog, not mass transit — as the brand’s logo, and is the official outfitter of a polo team.
FYI: Unlike Monaco, David Nalbandian had an official endorsement contract with EN that ended at this year’s Open.
Browse: See Etiqueta Negra’s latest collection.
In honor of the 18 medals that were awarded to tennis players over the weekend in Beijing, I offer 18 quick- and final- thoughts on the Games that exceeded expectations.
1) Both the men’s and women’s doubles gold medal teams were comprised entirely of “singles specialists.” Go figure. There is an old argument that great doubles players or teams would handle great singles players who paired together occasionally. I am not so sure about that. Roger Federer looked mighty formidable out there. There was little that doubles specialists did to disrupt him, and his skill level was obviously superior.
2) If Fernando Gonzalez sincerely did not hear or feel James Blake’s passing shot click off his racquet during their tense third set, then… we should all give him a break. If he has lied about this, then I wish on him six months of severe insomnia where he can grapple with his guilt.
3) Elena Dementieva is the best mover in women’s tennis. Her gold medal in women’s singles confirms her position as the best player to have yet won a major title.
4) The Russian women earned the gold, silver, and bronze medals in singles. There are eight teams that compete in the Fed Cup’s world group each year, and- if they were allowed- Russia has a deep enough talent pool for four completely different teams in this event. Remarkable.
5) Roger Federer’s delight at having won the doubles gold medal was wonderful to behold. He demonstrated more energy and positive emotion during his last three Olympic doubles matches than he has all season in singles.
6) Was the tennis stadium really filled to capacity at 3:30 AM on Friday while the Chinese pair of Yan and Zheng eked out a win over Russian team of Kuznetsova and Safina? If so, this is beyond incredible.
7) Dinara Safina looks like she could become #1 in the world, especially given the uncertainty of the position atop the women’s rankings. Her brother Marat Safin spent nine weeks at #1 on the ATP Tour. If she makes a big run in Flushing Meadows, then she could actually break this Safin family record.
8 ) While the humidity was reportedly thick in Beijing, the air quality and smog became a big non-story for tennis players. Thank goodness.
9) Can you imagine Rafael Nadal living in the Olympic Village? By all accounts, he has had a blast. I have visions of him waking up at dawn to take on all comers in table tennis, grabbing an enormous breakfast, going on a warm-up run with the Spanish track team, racing over to take part in the basketball shoot-around with Pau Gasol, challenging a few wrestlers to a bench pressing contest, trying his luck in archery, followed by an enormous lunch, some beach volleyball practice, a quick tennis match, some ice/treatment/media, an enormous dinner, a quick trip to the Ice Cube for an Individual Medley race against all member of the Spanish contingent, and then eight hours of video games against… all-comers.
10) The despair and sadness etched on Novak Djokovic’s face after losing the semi-final combined with his elation after winning the bronze medal match over Blake were proof positive of how he deeply these players cared about the Olympics.
11) I got a big kick out of the fact that all the players were forced to cover the logos on their racquet and gear bags. If I were representing HEAD, Wilson, Babolat, Prince, Dunlop, then this would have infuriated me. The IOC definitely has a sense of humor!
12) The Williams Sisters will defend their gold medal at the London Games of 2012. They employ tactics – or non-tactics- that distinguish them among the best teams of all-time: See the ball, hit the ball really hard, giggle afterwards.
13) It says here that Mama Lindsay Davenport will compete in the 2012 London Olympics (in doubles).
14) Jimmy Arias did a magnificent job broadcasting the Olympic matches from NYC’s Rockefeller Center building. He is insightful, funny, acutely aware of tactical nuances, and measures his words prudently. Those characteristics differentiate him from the vast majority of announcers. As he has reached the top of the class, he ought to get a chance to work more of the bigger events.
15) I would expect that there were some Olympic medalists (or at least coaches) who were relieved that Juan Martin del Potro was not in Beijing. He is playing like a beast this summer.
16) Chris “Mad Dog” Russo abruptly resigned his post- after 19 years- on the popular “Mike and the Mad Dog” sports talk radio show on WFAN. The Dog was a big tennis fan, an avid player, and he relished discussing big matches on the program that was typically devoted to baseball, football, and basketball. It was always amusing to hear Russo try to pronounce words like “Djokovic” or “Wimbledon” or “statistics.” He will inevitably be back soon, and our sport will be the better for that.
17) I heard Michael Phelps’ being referred to as “the Rafael Nadal of swimming” and it made me laugh. Things change quickly at the top-level of sport.
18) The US Open qualifying event begins Tuesday. The year’s final major will be interesting, as players battle fatigue from a brutal schedule, jet-lag for those returning from Beijing, a wide-open women’s event, and- apparently- the passing of the torch at the top of the men’s game.
Prince plans to release new lines of racquet bags in conjunction with this year’s U.S. Open.
Inspired by Maria Sharapova herself, the new Sharapova Collection will showcase the Russian’s classic elegance through a striking, clean, all-white bag with black Prince logo and accents. Available in a triple and six-pack, both bags in the collection will also feature the iconic Sharapova seal embroidered into the side of the bag.
“The U.S Open is tennis’ biggest stage. The City comes even more alive for those two weeks, with all eyes fixated on Flushing Meadows so it is the perfect place for us to introduce the world to the new collection,” said Maria. “It is always fun to sit with the expert team at Prince and put our heads together to plan, develop and execute new products.”
“Of course my new racquet bag is coordinated with what I will wear on court at the Open, but because of its classic color scheme and clean, simple lines, it looks amazing with nearly every tennis outfit — giving female players a chic looking bag with incredible function.”
The rest of the Prince stable also gets some attention with a new Pro Team 100 line being produced for the Open. Each bag in the line will be made available in two distinct color options — black and green and black and white. While both will have a sleek, classic black base color, one version will feature — for the first time ever — the Prince logo in its updated green colorway accented by silver paneling.
The other version will feature a classic white Prince logo with white accents on the straps and underside. The Pro Team 100 collection comes in a triple, six, and twelve-pack racquet bag; plus a locker bag, wheeled duffle, and a backpack. Both the six and twelve-pack contain a thermal foil lining crucial for increased protection and temperature control.
Who gets what: The racquet each Prince player uses will dictate which version of the bag he or she carries. Those playing the O3 Speedport Black, O3 Speedport White, O3 Speedport Pro White or O3 White will carry the black/white version, while those playing the Ozone Tour, Ozone Pro Tour, O3 Hybrid Tour, and all other O3 models will carry the green/black version.
Players like Nikolay Davydenko, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Sam Querrey, Mike and Bob Bryan, and Jelena Jankovic will all carry their Pro Team 100 bags in events prior to New York.
Jankovic, who plays with the O3 Speedport Pro White, and currently sits at the doorstep of the world’s #1 ranking, will be the first woman on tour to sport the black/white bag.
“My life is pretty much packed into my racquet bag — it is my most valuable piece of luggage,” said Jankovic. “Whether in my hotel room, heading to an early morning workout or in the middle of a night match at the U.S Open, wherever I am, my racquet bag is usually with me so it has to be able to withstand what tennis players put it through, but also look great on court. I love the look and design of this bag line — and am proud and excited to be one of the first to carry the black/white version on tour.”
Buy: Pro Team 100 line and the new Sharapova Collection bags will be in stores starting September 15, 2008; black and white Pro Team version will drop on November 15, 2008. More info about pricing here.
Kids and Coaches Head to Rome, Italy for Once In a Lifetime Opportunity
Bordentown, NJ – April 29, 2008 — The stage is set. Country champions have been crowned and now, for the first time ever, top junior tennis academies from six nations are on their way to Rome, Italy to determine which academy is the best of the best.
In four years, the ground-breaking Prince Plugged In (PPI) program has revolutionized junior competition, training and education and online interaction, by connecting nearly fifty of the world’s most elite high-performance tennis academies.
Coaches and players who have been accepted into the PPI program share revolutionary training tips, equipment insights, match-play strategies, and engage in a year-long series of team competitions called Challenge Cups -– designed to help players reach their full potential. It is at these Challenge Cup events where academies battle one another to accrue points which ultimately determine the top academy in each country.
According to legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri, whose IMG/Bollettieri Academy plugged into the PPI network, “The format is incredible. These coaches are more than just teaching their students how to hit the ball — they are teaching them crucial on-court strategies, the importance of sportsmanship and how to compete and win. A program and format like PPI is one of the most powerful tools we have to reach out to tennis coaches and students worldwide. By connecting academy students and coaches around the world, we are promoting the sport, facilitating the abilities of potentially great players and cultivating the next great champion in the process.”
The PPI World Championships will take place May 2 through 6 bringing together national winners from five countries for an opportunity and experience like nothing else in junior tennis. Aside from the team competition, Prince has arranged for special guest speakers and training sessions for the kids, trips to Rome’s historic sites and tickets to the Italian Open where the academies will sit courtside and get to meet players. Overall, Prince is bringing more than 60 kids and coaches to Italy for the event.
Academies competing for the PPI World Title are:
- United States winner: T Bar M Academy, Dallas, Texas
- Spain winner: Tenis Val, Valencia, Spain
- Italian winner: Club Sant’ Agnese, Rome, Italy
- United Kingdom winner: Totally Tennis, Basingstroke, England
- Russian winner: Club Sochi, Sochi, Russia
- United States Runner Up: IMG/Bollettieri Academy, Bradenton, Florida
“It is amazing to think about how fast and far this program has grown in four years,” said Ken Merritt, Director of Teaching Programs at Prince. “We have some of the best junior players in the world competing on behalf of their academy and their country. In a few days, kids from across the globe will converge on the red clay of Rome for a true, once-in-a-lifetime tennis experience. While they come from different places and speak different languages, their experience with PPI has been the same and this is a chance for the players and the academies to measure themselves against players from other parts of the world.”
In fact, the opportunity is so unique that one academy, IMG/Bollettieri, decided to make the trip to Rome, even though they were not champions in their respective country, and would need to pay their own way. Once on site, all transportation, meals, tickets and other logistics is handled by Prince and the team of volunteers at the host academy – Sant’ Agnese. For many, if not all, of the kids (especially those from the United States) this will be their first trip to Italy and to add to the overall experience, all of the kids will stay with Italian host families.
Unlike anything else available to top junior players, the PPI format is built on a team concept (something most kids do not experience in top-level junior tennis). Like all PPI Challenge Cup events, the World Championships will be a round-robin format allowing each academy and every age group, the chance to play against every other academy in a series of dual matches. Each dual match will consist of four age groups (18U, 16U, 14U, 12U), boys and girls, competing in singles. In addition, boys and girls doubles matches will consist of a 12U player teaming up with a 14U teammate and a 16U playing with an 18U teammate. This allows the younger players the chance to play up an age level which, in turn, contributes to their growth as a player. If a match is tied 3-3 after singles and doubles, a mixed-doubles super tiebreaker is be played – with the team that reached 3 first choosing which age groups will play. On-court coaching is allowed. Each dual match will begin with an introduction ceremony, a small gift exchange between the academies, and a team cheer. In the end, the team that accrues the most points in the dual matches will be crowned PPI World Champion.
“We are extremely proud of this program and want to thank the coaches and academy directors around the world who have embraced it and made it a success. The goal of PPI is to bring together like-minded academies, focused on improving their players’ game and providing them the format and tools to do so,” said George Napier, Chairman and CEO of Prince Sports, Inc. “This inaugural World Championship is the culmination of four years of hard work, and Prince’s continued commitment to junior players and we look forward to watching academy names get added to the PPI World Championship trophy for years to come.”
If the shoes and the racquet fit… In case you missed it, Nikolay Davydenko made a racquet switch between Indian Wells and Miami. Prior to the Sony Ericsson Open, he had been using the Prince Ozone Tour.
Racquet switches are usually done during the off-season to give the player a chance to acclimate to the difference. (Remember James Blake‘s unsuccessful affair with Prince?) At the beginning of last week’s tournament, Davydenko switched to the Ozone Pro Tour, a racquet with the same frame (“cosmetically”) but with a denser string pattern. Instead of 16 rows of strings, it has 18. This means more control.
During the trophy ceremony, in an interview with Mary Joe Fernandez, Kolya talked about his stick. “I have only one [racquet]. Surprising I didn’t break a string. Warm up and play match, warm up and play match, every match, and I finish with the racket… I’m going to keep forever this racket.”
My question is: how come he only had one? Can someone from Prince answer this question?
It should also be noted that this is the first tournament that Kolya’s worn the Prince OV1 shoes. He’s very particular about his shoes (but really, what top ATP player isn’t?), and has played extremely well in his new kicks.
I don’t know what’s in the desalinated water this week, but there are waaaaaaaaaay more than the usual number of crotch shots coming out of the wires from last week’s tourney in Doha. First, there was the unfortunate flesh-colored underwear worn by Li Na.
And now here’s Japanese veteran Ai Sugiyama, layering in Prince.
Flip through it: The company’s spring/summer lookbook might not be anything to look at, but it’s at least fun to look through. There are even realistic sound effects for when you flip the pages! Check it out.
(photos by Getty Images)