Atlanta Buzz – Year in Review


JUST TO GET WARMED UP: Our favorite seminar at the USTA Teachers Conference was “Dude, Your Warm-Up Activities Are Lame, Try These,” presented by Mike Carter.

IN SEARCH OF ONE DECENT SNARL: The L.A. Daily News complained that tennis’ “robotic period was in full swing. Can’t we get a little edge back? Some controlled rage? Some spark of individuality? One decent snarl?”

GOOD QUESTION: Rennae Stubbs asked, “What is the girls’ version of mano a mano?”

YOU CAN’T TAPER OFF TO A CLIMAX: Wimbledon broadcaster Eleanor Preston noted that a match was “tapering into a climax, [but] you can’t really taper into a climax, which is really why I should be unemployed.”

‘TIS A MENTAL GAME: For entertainment, Vania King says she talks to herself and random objects…Mark Oakley, the first person on the Wimbledon queue, admitted he was “clinically insane.”

QUICK, CALL THE LAUNDROMAT POLICE: British gold-medal cyclist Jamie Staff, who spotted Rafa Nadal in the Olympic Village, shared this cautionary tale: “I was in the laundry and realized I was standing right next to Nadal. I didn’t bother him, but he was shoving all his colors and whites in together. I really wanted to say, ‘Dude, you’re going to have a nightmare with that. You can’t just put the whole bag in — there are reds in with whites.’ But what can you do?”

WE ARE ALL ICELANDERS: At the USTA semi-annual meeting, an official proclaimed, “You would have to have been a ward of the country of Iceland if you haven’t heard of our slogan: ‘Future Ready.’ ”

SPINMEISTER OF THE YEAR: Bulgarian Sesil Karantancheva put an incredibly brazen spin on her recently-ended two year suspension for steroid use, claiming, “I was actually the one that had the longest penalty in women’s tennis. Martina [Hingis] also had two years, but I was the first one. I hold the record.”

WHAT MOSES AND RODDICK HAVE IN COMMON: While Moses (that would be Charlton Heston, the late actor/tennis enthusiast) said, “I’ve played more good players in my life than any other lousy player in history,” Andy Roddick claimed he was “the best bad tennis player of all time.”

WHAT  MAC AND OBAMA DON’T HAVE IN COMMON: In July, John McEnroe humbly insisted that the Nadal vs. Federer Wimbledon five-setter was the best match he’d ever seen. A month later, he was escorted from the grounds of the International Tennis Hall of Fame for abusive words and gestures during an exo against Mal Washington. Later, he belittled Mal’s sister, Mashona, during a World TeamTennis match (said Mashona, “He was dropping F-bombs…I know he’s gone after umps and fans, but to go after a fellow player…”). Then, in December, he yelled at a chair ump, “Your are a pathetic, ugly, fat loser. How low a life do you have?” Said McEnroe later, “Do I wish I had said it in a better way? Did I overreact? Yes. But I was frustrated that he reported me for a four letter swear word that I said to myself. I’d have preferred an Obama-like calm and to have chosen my words more carefully, but I guess that’s why I’ll never be a politician.” All the while, Mac was a seemingly ubiquitous pitchman for cereal, rental cars and tennis tournaments.

TO EACH HIS OWN [PARENTAL DIVISION]: While the British parents of Laura Robson, 14, didn’t allow her to give a press conference after one of her Wimbledon victories because it was past her bedtime, the parents of New Zealand’s Anastasiya Korzh, 8, hooked their daughter up with a radio earpiece in order to get mid-match instructions from her dad. The kid was ejected.

DON’T MESS WITH MUM: After Argentine Juan del Potro dissed his mom in Rome, Andy Murray bristled: “You want to speak about my mum again? Huh?”

GET ME TO THE COURT ON TIME: An Illinois man flew his plane onto a golf course in suburban Chicago so his son wouldn’t be late for a tennis lesson.

TENNIS PARENTS CAN BE A PAIN: Reflecting on her rather intense father, Sharapova said, “My dad’s a character. I mean, he by himself would make a really good reality show”…Judy Murray says her son Jamie wanted to get her out of his face because she is bad for his street cred.

GO FIGURE: Five different women — Henin, Sharapova, Ivanovic, Janovic and Serena — were ranked No. 1 in ‘08…A leading French pundit said, “The woman’s top 10 is the weakest of the post-Chris Evert era”…The Williamses, who were recently reamed for their lack of commitment, are crafting lengthy careers…Marat Safin, possibly the most volatile player on tour, claimed that his sister Dinara needed to get a hold of her emotions…Serbia has no grass courts or outdoor hard courts…China — which has three women ranked in the top 40 — doesn’t have any male players ranked in the top 500?

TOILET TALK: Multi-millionaire Anna Kournikova said, “Without tennis I would probably be cleaning toilets somewhere in Russia”…Asked whether he had been in touch with his parents after a big win, Sam Querrey said, “I wanted to call them, but I just dropped my cell phone in the toilet.”

• “If you were a betting man, who would you back to win Wimbledon?” — to Nikolay Davydenko, who was at the epicenter of the game’s gambling scandal.
• When Murphy Jensen asked Sharapova if she knew who the WWI French flyer Roland Garros was, Maria quipped, “Is that just a dumb blonde question?”
• When a reporter asked Sampras, “Do you still appreciate what you can do out there, do you appreciate yourself?” Pete replied, “I’m not that deep.” “Is there something about Wimbledon that gets to you, because your record is obviously consistent?” — to Brit Alex Bogdanovic, who is 0-7 at the AELTC.
• After losing in Rome, a reporter said to Federer, “Greetings from Greece. So, is this the beginning of the end for you?”
• Federer was asked: “How do you explain, if you have a child, [and] have to tell them that there is a No. 1 in the world that makes 17 double faults…I mean, how do you explain it?”

HUMILIATION OF THE YEAR: The once mighty, sublime and oh-so-wonderful Roger Federer, the untouchable champ, was brought to earth by clay king Rafael Nadal in the French Open final. The Spaniard won in just an hour and 48 minutes, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. It was the first time Fed had lost a set 6-0 since ‘99.

JUST SHUT UP AND PLAY: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga complained he lost in Shanghai because the ballboys didn’t bring him his towel and he “lost a bit of energy” because he had to walk and get it…Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic complained when Serbia’s government issued stamps with their images on them that weren’t as valuable as the one featuring Novak Djokovic…Brit Jamie Baker called for the outer courts at the Aussie Open to be supplied with port-o-potties, which prompted Mary Carillo to reminisce, “Remember when the players did not have to go to the bathroom during a match?”…After playing her fourth round match on a distant Wimbledon court, Jankovic joked, “I was almost playing in the parking lot. I almost needed a helicopter to go to my court.”…Commentator Corina Morariu said, “In women’s tennis today it’s hard to tell if it’s a true injury or if the player is just tired.”

SAY IT AIN’T SO: Billie Jean King still wakes up in a sweat due to a recurring nightmare that she still hasn’t played her pivotal ‘73 ‘Battle of the Sexes’ match against Bobby Riggs… Serena said she was too tired to attend the Olympic opening ceremonies because she gets sleepy at 7 p.m…The week after Serena withdrew from a Moscow tournament, citing a bad knee, she was surfing in Hawaii with her boyfriend, the rapper Common… Recalling her loss to Serena in the ‘03 Aussie Open final, Venus said, “I came close, then this girl Williams took my dream away.”…Once again Nadal, the most dominant clay court player in the history of the universe, was seeded No. 2 at the French Open, despite that he had never lost there…Now that a few thin-skinned folks complained about Novak Djokovic’s hilarious imitations, the Serb has informed us that he won’t be doing his side-splitting imitations which brought so many laughs to so many…Las Vegas’ Tennis Channel Open is moving to South Africa…Pat Mac asserted that, “Tennis is a very easy game to manipulate. I can throw a match and you’d never know.”…Bemoaning the fact that tennis was less popular than NASCAR, Roddick quipped “it’s a little disappointing that we’re behind a sport that you turn left for four hours”…The USA Network will no longer be broadcasting the U.S. Open…There are six ATP tournaments without title sponsors…Due to budget constraints, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Diego Union Tribune and Orange County Register are no longer regularly sending reporters to cover big tournaments.

GLAMOR IN THE AGE OF THE CREME CARDIGAN: Despite shiny raincoats and faux tuxedos, in many ways it was a dismal year for glitz ‘n glamor in tennis. For starters, an Aussie reporter claimed Sharapova was “a glamazon” (whatever that is) and then when Maria lost early at Wimbledon British broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan claimed that “the great tragedy [of Wimbledon] was the exit of Sharapova. The glamor has left. Then again, I’m a leg man.” Plus there was the exit of Dee Dutta, tennis’ pied piper of glamor. (He’s the Sony Ericsson exec who launched the Tennis Glamification Project and claimed the sport is “all about being hip and cool” and that “somewhere along the way, tennis became more about backhands and forehands.”) Okay, the Slams were won by four of the games most charismatic divas — Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Venus and Serena. (The year before Justine Henin and Venus collected the four big trophies.) Plus, Jelena Jankovic, who loves to preen and pose, became No. 1. The sizzling Serb admitted “I’m a big spender. I like to swipe my card. I like just doing it, you know, that motion.” Still, almost by definition, it can’t be a great fashion year when Federer enters Centre Court in a retro cardigan, which Roddick dissed as “Mr. Rogers” and Serena’s strongest effort was a white raincoat she herself quickly abandoned at Wimbledon. Then there was Sharapova’s tuxedo offering, which sparked a (who needs the vanity of high fashion) counter-insurgency when the unafraid Russian Alla Kudryavtseva said “It was very pleasant to beat Maria. I don’t like her outfit…It was one of the motivations to beat her. It’s a little too much of everything.”

‘TUDE CHECK: Nadal has swagger. Federer has an air.

JUST WONDERING: Doesn’t the fact that the now-retired Sampras won one of his four exos against Fed and got within two points of beating him in New York, significantly upgrade Pete’s standing in tennis’ ongoing — who’s the greatest of all time — debate?


• After a 13-month ATP inquiry, the charges of match-fixing against Nikolay Davydenko were dismissed. The Russian is considering a lawsuit to recover legal costs.
• The Hamburg Masters filed an antitrust lawsuit against the ATP for its decision to downgrade the tournament. The ATP prevailed, but not before more than $7 million was spent in legal fees.
• Agassi’s former manager, Perry Rogers, filed a lawsuit seeking $50,000 against Steffi Graf, claiming breach of contract. Agassi, said, “I’m both saddened and disappointed to learn that Perry has filed a lawsuit, and sadder still that he has sued my wife, Stefanie.”
• Jimmy Connors, 56, was arrested outside a UC-Santa Barbara basketball game. Jimbo reportedly was involved in a scuffle with another fan when police asked him to vacate the premises.
• Lleyton Hewitt continued his legal struggle for exclusive rights for the ‘Vicht’ victory gesture first trademarked by the Swedes.
• After six years of marriage, Pam Shriver filed for divorce from former James Bond actor George Lazenby.

NOT EXACTLY SCRATCHING HIS THINGS ON THE SOFA: Marat Safin reflected on his sketchy results, saying, “I had so many injuries. So it’s not because I was scratching my things on the sofa and I didn’t want to play tennis.”

l Just before the fabulous Wimbledon final, ESPN The Magazine columnist Bill Simmons (who’s not to be confused with IT’s Bill Simons) wrote a piece trashing tennis where he asked the dubious rhetorical question: “When was the last time you watched a big match from start to finish?…I don’t have a single friend who’d watch four hours of tennis.” After Wimby, Simmons admitted his ‘gotcha’ piece was “maybe the dumbest column I’ve ever written.”

• During the Aussie Open final, Sharapova “out-grunted” Ana Ivanovic: 209 to 151.
• Aussie Lauryn Edwards, 9, was banned from her club for grunting too loudly.
• Greg Cote suggested that Sharapova’s fatigue might have been “brought on by excessive grunting.”
• Boris Becker said, “I’m amazed whenever I watch Serena and Sharapova. I can’t help thinking [their grunting] is bad for their vocal chords. It can’t be healthy and it can’t go on. Grunting serves no athletic purpose and should be banned. It’s symptomatic of all that’s gone wrong with tennis.”

‘I’VE HAD IT AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE’: Sharapova — who was disgruntled that the WTA was forcing her and other top players to do a four-hour commercial photo shoot prior to the Italian Open — said, “I’ve had it and I’m not going to take it anymore.” She added that WTA officials “do whatever they want and tell us what to do and how to do it. And on top of that walk around like they’re the stars.”

THE SUITE LIFE OF JET-SETTING TENNIS STARS: After Sharapova pulled out of Miami, Linda Robertson wrote, “The suite life of jet-setting tennis stars is more grueling than you can imagine, what with the physical demands, the corporate obligations and the multiple time zones. Why, Sharapova once had to fly to Dubai on a private jet three hours after a match to promote the launch of Dubai Lifestyle City…It’s tough being a pro who has earned almost $12 million in prize money and at least that much in endorsements.”

DON’T LISTEN TO MEN?: Jim Courier claimed that what’s wrong with women’s tennis is “too much ball machine tennis with girls hitting hard but without a purpose.” But Russian Alla Kudryavtseva asserted, “Guys always say the women’s game is predictable. They always say you women can’t serve, you don’t go to the net, you can’t slice. No, we can do it all. We’re strong. Don’t listen to them!”

I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR: Ashley Harkleroad defended posing for Playboy, explaining, “I’m proud of my body. I was representing a female athlete and her body. That can be sexy too. It’s no big deal.”

GONZOGATE: Trailing 9-8 in the final set of their Olympic semi, James Blake hit a passing shot that replays indicate might have grazed Fernando Gonzalez’s racket before sailing long. Despite Blake’s protest, Gonzalez won the point and went on to win the match. Blake said it was “a disappointing way to exit…when you not only lose the match, but you lose a little faith in your fellow competitor.” But Gonzo insisted he had nothing to apologize for. “There are 200 points in a match and they are only talking about one,” he told IT. “He’s the one with the problem.”

• A fan told reporter Tom Perrotta that going out and watching the Wimbledon final was “the best seven hours of her life.”
• To liven up tennis, Sam Querrey suggested tennis “let fans yell during points and try to distract players”…Fred Stolle said promoters should “Put a cap on prize money and lower the cost of tickets, which are way too expensive for the average family.”
• The fan of the year was Aussie Casey Dellacqua’s endearing over-the-top granny, who madly cheered and cried at the Aussie Open while wearing her nation’s flag in her hair.
• As the Wimbledon final reached crunch time, IT noted, “Suddenly, all 15,000 fans — stately gents in subtle tweeds and handsome ladies beneath their generous shawls, gray-haired Cornwall grannies and misty-cheeked teens — melded together as one, a congregation united. Every back nook, every cranny was jammed; the ancient arena a delicious showcase, each point a mini-epic revealing its own destiny…Now even the Royal Box shivers, the elder Indian fan with the gray beard and blue turban is transfixed and more-than-cynical reporters exchange glances, knowing ‘this is the place,’ a transformative moment.”

A CHANGE IS GONNA COME?: Martina Navratilova predicts tennis will enact a new rule that limits the number of times a player can bounce the ball before serving. Tom Perrotta wrote that “Ideally, I’d like to see three rounds of Davis Cup — quarters, semis, and final — played over three or four successive weeks, with no other tournaments in session anywhere else. The travel and home surface would remain, but the Cup would build momentum over those weeks, more so since the players would concentrate on it and nothing else.” Tom Tebbutt said that if a player interrupts a match for an injury timeout, his opponent should be able to visit his coach or hit with someone to stay in rhythm during the delay…Beleaguered ATP boss Etienne de Villiers contended that he was hired to introduce change. “In every other industry in the world, you test things, you experiment. Unless you are prepared to fail, you never get to the next level. [But] this is a very conservative sport.” He added, “You have to understand where the players are coming from and what they need…but they don’t necessarily have the perspective that a governing body has…Can’t there be an automatic rule that Serena and Venus are put into opposite halves of the draw?

• When France came to Carolina to play a Davis Cup match, commentator Leif Shiras noted, “Imagine all the French people who arrived in Winston-Salem only to discover it’s the home of Krispy Kreme donuts. I’m not sure the donut has been able to penetrate the croissant market in France.”
• Steve Bierley explained Elena Dementieva’s esoteric serve was, “like the struggle one has to scrape the skin off one’s rice pudding”
• Noting how many times Djokovic bounces the ball before he serves, Roddick said he “could make eight phone calls and order a pizza before
he’s ready.”
• The Independent asked fans waiting on Wimbledon’s storied queue, “If the All England Club served a pigeon that has been slaughtered at The Championships, would you eat it, if it was prepared nicely, perhaps in a tasty risotto?”
• After her short lived appearance on Dancing With The Stars, Monica Seles quipped “I am a tennis player. I don’t know a tango from a mango.”

ADVANTAGE BRYANS: To make his point that the Bryan Bros. gained from nine months of closeness in the womb, Justin Gimelstob contended that even if the Bryan Bros.’ opponents “had played doubles together every day of their lives, Bob and Mike would still have nine months of communication on them.”

THE GIMELSTOB THAT ROARED: An appealing, generous bon vivant, player-turned-broadcaster Justin Gimelstob seemed well on his way to getting some Media Rookie of the Year Award. Then, on a Washington D.C. radio show, the popular tour fixture melted down. He called Marcelo Rios a “scumbag,” said Alize Cornet was a “sexpot” and was disparaging of lesbians. Then he went off on Anna Kournikova. After calling her a bitch, a douche and an a—, he said he wanted to blast a 128 mph serve into her body and that if he didn’t get her to cry he wasn’t doing his job. He added, “I wouldn’t mind having my younger brother, who’s kind of a stud, nail her and then reap the benefits.” Tennis was slow to react, but eventually Gimelstob lost his Sports Illustrated online column and the pricey USTA ads that featured him were pulled. Justin offered extensive apologies and now most observers hope one of the game’s more insightful livewires finally “gets it” and his career again takes off. After all, tennis needs all the fresh voices it can get.

• Cliff Drysdale quipped,”It’s so un-Federer-like to look vulnerable.”
• After his record streak of reaching 10 straight Slam finals was snapped at the Aussie Open, Federer said: “I’ve created a monster, I know I need to win every tournament.”
• After Fed lost to Djokovic in the Aussie Open, the Serb’s mom said, “The king is dead. Long live the king.”
• After a dicey call in Monte Carlo, Fed told Djokovic’s family to “BE QUIET!”
• After falling behind in Monte Carlo against little-known Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, Fed explained:”My opponent played so bad…he sort of faked me out.”
• Johnette Howard suggested that “Federer’s ‘08 conquerors now number so many, they almost deserve a T-shirt of their own. Maybe, ‘Honk If You’ve Beaten Roger, Too.’”
• After Fed collected the first 11 points he played at Wimbledon, some wondered whether he would become the first to win an entire tournament without losing a point.
• After he lost the Wimbledon final, Roger confided, “This really hurts…Losing Paris for me was nothing, losing here is a disaster.”
• When asked what he likes best about his celebrity status, Fed replied, “Being the center of attention and getting to meet famous people.”
• Fed confided, “When they [court announcers] say, ‘This is the world No. 2,’ it just doesn’t sound right to me because either I’m No. 1 or I’m a grand slam champion. I’m not world No. 2.”
• Before the U.S. Open, Federer said “I’ve already won 12 Grand Slams — another Grand Slam here or there doesn’t make that much of a difference. It’s nice to get Slams, but the Olympic Games is something I have never been able to get.” After the U.S. Open (which put him just a notch below Sampras’ record of 14 majors), the Swiss said “I’m not going to stay at 13 [majors won.] That would be terrible.”
• James Blake said of Federer, “You go out there, he beats the crap out of you, you come back in the locker room and he’s one of the guys.”
• Fed surpassed Sampras to become tennis’ biggest all-time money earner with $43,288,519 in on-court earnings.
• Fed explainded how he’s dealing with the economic crisis, claiming “I’ve got a big mattress.”
• “I was never away.” Fed on his seeming absence.

• Radio Wimbledon suggested, “In order for players to overhear what their doubles opponents are whispering during their hushed discussions, you’d have to have the eyesight of a hawk and the hearing of a bat, which would make for a very strange creature indeed.”
• Dismissing the possibility that he and his brother Mike could equal the lofty dubs records of Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge, Bob Bryan claimed the Woodies were “the greatest of all-time. We’re just squirrels trying to get a nut.”
• Sharapova spoke of her Pomeranian pet and her love life, saying: “If I loved a guy as much as I love my dog, the guy would be in serious trouble because I’m all over my dog, all of the time.”
• Dissing the oft-injured Novak Djokovic, Roddick said “I’ve got to feel good, he’s got 16 injuries right now…back and hip…bird flu, anthrax, SARS.”
• Journalist Gianni Clerici wrote the World Wildlife Foundation, claiming that the one-handed backhand was a dying species.
• After noting that a bee was bothering her at Wimbledon, Venus asked if they sting. A reporter responded: “Only once.”

YOU GOT THAT ONE RIGHT: Reflecting on Gimelstob, the London Times said, “So long as there are women around, there will be men making titanic bloody fools of themselves.”

NOT  EXACTLY CELEBRATING WOMANHOOD: Writer Sarah Sands argued that each year at Wimbledon there is a “bizarre response toward female tennis players is a heightened form of the quiet misogyny of public life. Women are applauded for being ‘hot’ in a slightly menacing way, and derided for being serious.”

RISERS: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Juan Martin Del Potro, Andy Murray, Gilles Simon, Stan Wawrinka, Gael Monfils, Marin Cilic, Ernests Gulbis, Kei Nishikori, Dinara Safina, Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki, Alize Corent, Flavia Pennett, Victoria Azarenka, Dominca Cibulkova.

FALLERS: Richard Gasquet, Marat Safin, Mikhail Youzhny, Nicolas Kiefer, Carlos Moya, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Ivan Ljubicic, Amelie Mauresmo, Daniela Hantuchova, Nicole Vaidisova, Shahar Peer, Li Na, Francesca Shiavone, Lucie Safarova,
Natalie Dechy.

‘STICKS AND STONES CAN BREAK YOUR BONES (BUT WE WON THE DAVIS CUP)’: Spanish captain Emilio Sanchez Vicario expressed his displeasure at rowdy Argentinean fans during the Davis Cup final, saying, “We’re playing our best, giving it all, but when so many people are saying so many bad words…it hurts.”

SPEAKING OF STONES: Roddick put his career arc (win big early, then hover in Federer’s wake) into context by comparing it to someone who had first seen the Rolling Stones from the front row, but at his next Stones concert was relegated to the eighth row with a tall guy in front of him screaming and blocking the view. “It’s not going to be as good as the other show,” said Roddick.

GUNS AND ROSES: Reflecting on the marriage of his ex-wife Chris Evert to Greg Norman, Andy Mill said his onetime pal “at one time was my best friend. A year and a half ago I would have taken a bullet for this guy. I didn’t realize he was the one who was going to pull the trigger.”

• So Ana Ivanovic is not only a gorgeous and smart 21-year-old who’s already been No. 1, but then when she went fishing for the first time, she broke the Florida state record for the heaviest weakfish ever caught.
• When word came out that Mardy Fish was dating model Stacey Gardner, who is Suitcase No. 2 on Deal or No Deal, we asked the immortal question, “What’s the difference between United Airlines and Mardy Fish? (Answer: With United Airlines, suitcase No. 2 costs you just 20 bucks. We speculated that Fish’s “Suitcase No. 2” cost him a tad more.)
• Tennis’ foremost fish out of water in ‘08 was a slightly stiff and apprehensive Monica Seles, who, in a puffy-pink, bridesmaid-on-steroids dress, appeared on “Dancing With the Stars” where she soon found herself asking “what am I doing, where’s the exit.”
• Along with Paris Hilton, Bristol Palin, J.K. Rowling, Dennis Kucinich, Sarah Vowell, Colin Powell and numerous others, Mardy Fish was included in Roger Angell’s much-celebrated year-end who’s-who poem in The New Yorker.
• The two stupidest fish jokes we encountered last year: What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fish. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says, “Dam!”

POP-PSYCHE THEORIES OF THE YEAR: Some claimed that now that a recession has struck, America’s affluent youth may just toughen up and get some more fire in their belly, which will help propel a whole new generation of Americans to the top of the game…According to Sports Illustrated, when Chris Evert becomes romantically involved with an athlete, the guy goes on a streak — Jimmy Connors, John Lloyd, Andy Mill and Greg Norman, who right after his marriage to Chris, 53, nearly won the British Open. [BTW: Just the opposite seemed to happen to Martina Hingis’ boyfriends. Sergio Garcia, Magnus Norman and Ivo Heuberger, all seemed to falter once they became linked with the Swiss miss).

• Before he finally beat Federer, Roddick said Roger “hadn’t missed a ball at a crucial moment for six years against me.”
• After upping his record against Federer to 2-15, an elated Roddick said, “That’s what you wake up for…those 10, 15 seconds after a big win make up for a lot of bad days…I’m not going to sit here and act like all of a sudden I’ve fixed the problem. I’m batting 2-for-17. Still pretty crappy, [but] it’s a little less crappy.”
• Roddick told an ump, “I’m going to speak very slowly so you can understand.”
• Roddick-critic Jon Wertheim claimed that “The dirty secret in men’s tennis is that the guy has been fairly insufferable lately. This isn’t just from the grumps in the media. This has been noticed by everyone from ATP personnel to former Grand Slam champs to current players. And this diminishing reputation has nothing to do with match results or a stagnating game. It’s all about disposition.” However, Sandra Harwitt countered by asking, “Why does Roddick get a bum rap when he has proved to be a hard-working, dedicated player who readily accepts challenges?… If Roddick didn’t give his best effort every time he stepped on the court, he would deserve to be criticized. Yet he is always seeking to improve; it would not be inaccurate to say he’s the classic overachiever.”
• After losing in the second round to Janko Tipsarivic at Wimbledon, Andy confided: “I pretty much choked it. You want something so bad, you squeeze too tight.”
• Reflecting on Roddick, Sampras said: “You almost need to be like a running back/wide receiver, and Andy’s like a tight end.”

BIKE & BULL: America’s first Davis Cup match of ‘08 was in a Viennese velodrome. Our last was in a Madrid bullring.

THE FRENCH CONNECTION: You’d think that, given his problematic performances at Roland Garros, Andy Roddick wouldn’t have much of an allegiance to France. But Roddick was once coached by Frenchman Tarik Benhabiles, has racket/shoe/apparel deals are with Babolat and Lacoste, and is now being pursued by the French management firm Lagardiere.

TIP OF THE YEAR: After it was said that all Federer had to do to beat Rafa was hit all of his shots on the lines, Mary Carillo quipped, “That’s quite a strategy — don’t hit the clay.”

NUMBERS, STATS AND STUFF: Federer’s record in Grand Slam finals in which he does not play Nadal is 11-0…A bitter Carlos Moya wrote his foe Pedro Munoz, who heads the Spanish federation: “My ranking of 13 may not be my best of all time, but it’s noting compared to your world ranking of No. 1 in lying and swindling”…Dinara Safina became the first woman to beat three reigning No. 1s in one year…The Lleyton Hewitt-Marcos Baghdatis Aussie Open match started just before midnight and finished at 4:34 a.m.…6-foot-3 Andy Murray says the best height for a male tennis player is 6 feet to 6-foot-2 because “agility is so important”…While Buick canned its $7 million contract with Tiger, Nike will pay Fed $130 million over 10 years…A racket company who’s stock is worth less than a nickel apiece paid $3.5 million to sign a rising ATP star…Venus and Serena are the only non-Europeans in the WTA’s top 20…41 of the ATP’s top 50 players are Europeans…All 32 players who reached the French Open’s men’s and women’s round of 16 were Europeans…The last 18 men’s Slam titles have been won by Europeans…The estimated cost of a roof the USTA might erect over Ashe Stadium is $100 million. (Note: In 20 years, the Open has had to cancel only nine sessions)…Novak Djokovic says his record for bouncing a ball before serving is 36…Only eight women in the top 100 use one-handed backhands.

A DESPERATE CALL IN THE WILDERNESS: During a tough Davis Cup match against Spain, Roddick called out to dirt-meister Rafa Nadal, “Can you teach me how to slide?”

HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY DAVIS CUP BROTHER: After failing to carry a triumphant Nadal around a Madrid bullring, Feliciano Lopez admitted his teammate was “a lot heavier than I thought.”

BROTHERLY LOVE: Marat Safin said that if his younger sister Dinara Safina does “everything opposite of what I’ve been doing throughout the years she will be No. 1 for a long time.” Dinara seemed to concur, saying, “When he plays his best, I would take everything he has…When he plays his worst game, then I don’t need anything.”

• Novak Djokovic captivated U.S. Open fans in ‘07 with his hilarious post-match imitations.
• After Australia evened up their Davis Cup tie in Serbia, Djokovic grabbed the P.A. microphone and implored the crowd, “If you come out tomorrow, you better come back and support the team,” and then threw
down the mic.
• Serbian Djokovic and Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic, whose countries were at war during their boyhoods, took off their shirts and exchanged them after their match in Monte Carlo.
• After Djokovic beat Roddick at the U.S. Open, he told the crowd, “Andy was saying I have 16 injuries in last match. Obviously I don’t.” That elicited a round of boos that Djokovic acknowledged by saying: “Yeah, right. Like it or not, it’s like that. I know they’re [the crowd] already against me because they think I’m faking everything. That’s not nice, anyhow, to say I have 16 injuries and I’m faking it.”

CHARMING AND WONDERFULLY EARNEST: The Guardian said Boris Becker was “Charming and wonderfully earnest, [but has] a habit of saying, ‘Dat voss a luffly liddle chip’ while flicking his blond bouffant.”

WHAT-A-WAY-TO-LOSE: The entire season-ending playoff between the New York Buzz and the Kansas City Explorers came down to one sudden-death point, which the Explorers seemingly won when a lunging Dusan Vemic stroked a clear volley winner. But that the ump immediately noted that before the ball hit the ground for a second time, the Serbian’s foot touched the net. By rule, the point, the match and the season’s championship was won by the Buzz.

WE KNEW NADAL WAS OUT OF THIS WORLD BUT…: Asteroid 128036 has been renamed Rafael Nadal.

FED-NADAL ANALYSIS OF THE YEAR: During the U.S. Open Harvey Araton noted that, “Nadal methodically wore out Federer in the spring and in the summer sapped his belief in strokes that were magical for four and a half years. Nadal would spot Federer a break of serve, sometimes two, and still win the set. He had an attitude of defiance, an air of indefatigability, and that is why the most startling tennis sight of all in 2008 came Sunday [in the semis], when Nadal bent over after a long rally that ended with a Murray volley into the open court, setting up a match point. How strange and, yes, sad it was to see Nadal so spent.”

• During the U.S. vs. France Davis Cup tie, commentator Leif Shiras said, “The fate of nations rests on moments like this.”
• Reflecting on the intense spring schedule created by the ATP, Rafael Nadal claimed, “These people are destroying Europe.” As for former ATP boss Etienne de Villiers, Nadal quipped “I don’t have nothing to speak with this man.”
• Tony Parsons offered a mean-spirited swipe at Andy Murray, claiming: “If the English can survive the attentions of the Luftwaffe, the IRA and Al-Qaeda, then I quite fancy our chances against Murray.”
• Novak Djokovic denounced Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia, insisting that Kosovo should remain Serbian forever.
• While playing in Doha and becoming the first Israeli tennis player to perform in the Gulf States, Shahar Peer asserted, “If my playing here helps peace, I will be happy. We are human. Whether we are Jewish, Muslim or Christian doesn’t matter.”
• South African-born Liezel Huber, who recently acquired U.S. citizenship, confided, “From the first day that I came to the States, I wanted to become an American. I was in awe of people who had an American passport…Here you can just go buy a house or create a job for yourself. You can vote. You can speak out if you don’t like something. There is so much to admire about America.”

• “It’s a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if.’” — Arlen Kantarian on the construction of a retractable roof on the U.S. Open’s Ashe Stadium.
• “It’s a stupid rule that someone made in 1850.” — Marat Safin on the foot-fault rule
• “One moment I will never forget is the tears of joy of Federer winning the gold medal for the doubles. Here you have the man who is arguably…the best-ever tennis player…and he was crying.” — International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge on his favorite moment in Beijing.
• “Oui, c’est moi.” [“Yes, it’s me.”] — Roger Federer, reassuring spectators at the lopsided Roland Garros final that the Federer they just witnessed with an abysmal, un-Federer-like performance was actually he.
• “The young guys [on the tour] they always think they can rip trees” — Federer
• After Djokovic hit a brilliant shot, Carillo quipped, “Who does he think he is, Tsonga?”
• “Anything Tiger Woods can do with a broken leg, Nenad Zimonjic can do with a broken wrist.” — The BBC on the injured Serbain who won the Wimby dubs with Daniel Nestor
• “They have outlasted everyone in every way.” — Eleanor Preston on the surprising longevity of the Williamses.
• “Because of her, I am somebody.” — Carlos Rodriguez, who coached the now retired Justine Henin since she was 14.
• “She likes watching TV, especially when she’s on it.”
— Mary Carillo on Jankovic’s propensity to watch herself on the Open’s big screen
• “Mum said today [just before she played the Wimbledon Junior final] that I still have to undo the dishwasher.”
— Wimbledon junior champ Laura Robson who has a penchant of playing the Simpsons theme song on her sax.

CAN YOU BELIEVE — A SUPPORTIVE WORD FOR THE MEDIA: Veteran coach Peter Burwash contended that “To treat the reporters the way our players treat them is totally unacceptable. The most uncomfortable times of the year for me are press conferences. I’m just totally embarrassed that our sport is allowing this sarcasm and flippancy, and the players get away with that. There’s no respect. I have to walk out.”

TAKE THE CRYSTAL BALL AND SHOVE IT: After beating Justine Henin in Berlin, Dinara Safina said the Belgian would only “take a little breather. I don’t think it will affect Justine’s tennis. Maybe she’ll take a little break, but then she’ll be even more eager.” Henin would not play another match and abruptly quit the game just three days later on May 14.

HARVARD RULES: The WTA has long been headed by Harvard grad, Larry Scott. The ATP is now headed by Harvard grad, Adam Helfant and the United States of America is headed by Harvard grad, Barack Obama.

GOOD NEWS AMIDST THE GLOOM: Despite the economic downturn, the TIA reported that tennis participation numbers again were on the rise (up some 26 million players) and ball sales (an important barometer) were up 15 percent over the last five years.

THAT’S USING YOUR HEAD?: After dumping a standard shot into the net in Key Biscayne Mikhail Youzhny brutally bashed himself in the head three times (with his Head racket). The Tennis Channel suggested, “It’s almost Van Gogh-like. He looks like a bit like Van Gogh with his shaven head. Don’t let him cut his ear off.”

THE MORAL EQUIVALENT OF GETTING A NOTE FROM YOUR MOTHER: This year the WTA will have a requirement that in order not to be suspended, players who skip a big tournament [think Venus and Serena bypassing Indian Wells] will have to make a promotional effort in the “market area” [think L.A.] where the tournament is held.

WHERE HAVE WE HEARD THIS BEFORE: Over on the men’s side of the game, John McEnroe’s father, John Sr., who was campaigning to become the ATP chief argued that “No player should be made to play any tournament he doesn’t want to play. Players should call the shots.”

COACHING CAROUSEL: Andy Murray parted ways with Brad Gilbert and replaced him with a committee…Roddick worked with four coaches in ‘08 — Jimmy Connors, his brother John, Pat McEnroe and Larry Stefanki…Federer was briefly aligned with Jose Higueras during the clay-court campaign.

PEACE TRAIN: The doubles tandem of Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and India’s Rohan Bopanna, who reached the Newport final, were tennis’ latest feel-good (this really is an international sport) symbol of reconciliation and cooperation.

UP AND COMING: Tickets for the 34th annual Indian Wells tournament, March 9-22, can be had be calling 800-999-1585 or 760-200-8000…The foursome of Venus, Serena, Ivanovic and Jankovic will face off at the USTA-backed BNP Paribas Showdown on March 2 at Madison Square Garden. Tickets for the fundraiser are available at (866) 448-7849…Roger Federer is scheduled to lead a strong Swiss Davis Cup team into Birmingham Ala.

• Serena helped open a school in Kenya
• Kelly Bruno, who has a prosthetic leg, became the first amputee ball-person in U.S. Open history.
• Hours after hearing that his mom had died, Pepperdine’s Andre Begemann scored a victory at the NCAA Championships on the day before Mother’s Day. He said, “I spoke with her Saturday morning and she asked that I stay and play.”
• Thai twins Sonchat and Sanchai Ratiwatana saved the hysterical wife and child of fellow pro Lucas Arnold from a hotel fire in Bordeaux.

GIANT KILLERS: Mardy Fish, ranked No. 98, defeated five seeds (including Roger Federer) en route to the Indian Wells final…German Sabine Lisicki, 18, stunned Lindsay Davenport 6-1, 7-5 in Fed Cup play…French qualifier Julie Coin shocked No. 1 Ana Ivanovic at
the U.S. Open…Jie Zheng, No. 133, upended Ana Ivanovic in the third round at Wimbledon…Alla Kudryavtseva, No. 154, dumped Maria Sharapova in the second round at Wimbledon.

• After a broadcaster suggested that the knuckle-heavy fist pump or “dap” that Michelle and Barack Obama exchanged might be called a terrorist fist jab, the New York Times noted that “in ‘06, former President George Bush did it with Anna Kournikova at a celebrity tennis event and he was 82 at the time.”
• One of the first things the Spanish Davis Cup team did upon arriving in Argentina for the Davis Cup final was to hang a sign in their locker room that read: “Yes we can.”
• Reflecting on the Presidential election, Venus Williams said “America is a wonderful place. I love my country, I love living there and I love my passport. But also it’s a country that since its beginning — especially as it is supposed to be a place where people were escaping intolerance, it became a country which was intolerant of different minorities and skin colors. So it’s amazing that America has an opportunity to have someone [as President] who is from a minority or mixed race.”
• When asked if anyone in public life conveyed the spirit of her late husband Arthur Ashe, Jeanne Moutoussamy-
Ashe said, Barack Obama “has just the tolerance and patience and peace that we need.”


TRANSITIONS: Super volunteer Lucy Garvin of Greenville, S.C. began her term as USTA President in January…After much speculation, in which John McEnroe Sr., Larry Scott and Arlen Kantarian’s names were bantered about, and many noted the growing power of Europe in the game, American Adam Helfant, 44, an MIT and Harvard Law grad who spent a dozen years as a senior exec with Nike, takes over for Etienne de Villiers….The historic John Gardiner Tennis Ranch, which opened in ’51, shut its doors at the start of ‘09. The developer hopes to reopen the Carmel Valley resort in the next couple of years…USTA CEO Arlen Kantarian and ATP President Ettiene de Villiers stepped down…Both Kim Clijsters and her mom had children in ‘08…Ivan Ljubicic and Daniel Nestor each became first-time fathers…Lleyton Hewitt and Bec Cartwright welcomed their second child..Ashley Harkleroad and Lindsay Davenport are pregnant…

RETIRED: It was not tennis’ equivalent of Roberto Duran’s ‘no mas’, still in the biggest tennis retirement since Borg in ‘82, Justine Henin, 25, announced she was hanging up her adidas…Billie Jean King asserted the Belgian who won seven majors, was “Pound for pound, the greatest player of her generation.” Henin, who left both a legacy and a vacuum, confided, “This is the end of a child’s dream.”…Nine-time Slam champ Monica Seles…Brazil’s three-time French Open champ Guga Kuerten confided that he played for a last time in Paris just to indulge himself the luxury of “one more little pleasure”… Swede Jonas Bjorkman…Aussie Alicia Molik, who ranked No. 8…Paul Goldstein, who not only went to high school with Chelsea Clinton, but scored a near record 98.7 on IT’s imaginary “nice and smart” index.

SOCIAL REGISTER: After announcing his engagement to SI swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker, Andy Roddick insisted he got the ring “in a gumball machine. You know those machines with the big claws?”…When Bryant Gumbel asked Venus Williams if longtime boyfriend Hank Kuehne was in love with her, she shot back, “He’d better.”…Federer and longtime girlfriend/advisor Mirka Vavrinec were spotted shopping for a diamond ring in Dubai…Reflect-ing on her newfound focus on tennis, Serena said, “Right now, I’m dating my tennis racket”…Maria Sharapova is dating Charlie Ebersol — son of NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol…Ana Ivanovic and Fernando Verdasco began seeing each other at the U.S. Open…Bjorn Borg launch-ed a dating website called Love For All.

JUST MARRIED: Newly inducted Hall of Famer Michael Chang and his pupil, Amber Liu, a two-time NCAA singles champ at Stanford… Mardy Fish and actress and suitcase model Stacey Gardner… Chris Evert and golfer Greg Norman.

IN MEMORIAM: Former USTA Presidents Bob Cookson and Harry Marmion… Tennis businesswoman and Fed Cup official Carol Graebner, who was No. 4 in ‘64…Hamilton Jordan, President Carter’s Chief of Staff who also headed the ATP and said politics in tennis was tougher than politics in Washington D.C.…The widely-celebrated writer Barry Lorge and author/journalist David Foster Wallace, who wrote about the game in his novel Infinite Jest…Sven Davidson, the first Swede to win a Grand Slam and Bjorn Borg’s father, Rune, as well as his former coach Lennart Bergelin, who guided the Swede to 11 Slam titles…Lei Clijsters, the father of Kim and a former Belgium soccer star.