The Buzz – September Edition


OMEN OF THE MONTH: While in New York, Roger Federer, who is gunning for his 16th Slam at the U.S. Open, stays on the 16th floor of the Carlyle Hotel.

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR: The three big sports events of the European summer featured three appealing tales of American champs flirting with victory before faltering: heartbreaking Wimbledon finalist Roddick, British Open runner-up Tom Watson and Lance Armstrong, who finished third in the Tour de France.

Andy, Tom and Lance fell short.
Andy, Tom and Lance fell short.

HOW QUICK THE TIDE TURNS: On June 6, Nadal was the holder of three of the last four majors (French, Aussie and Wimby). Since July 5, Fed has been the holder of three of the four last titles (Wimby, French and U.S.). And going into the U.S. Open, Rafa could be No. 3 behind Andy Murray.

TIPPING POINT: What was more of a turning point this year — Fed finally beating his nemesis Nadal on his foe’s favorite surface in his homeland in Madrid, Spain, or Robin Soderling clearing the way for Fed at the French, by beating Rafa at Roland Garros?

REFLECTIONS ON THE VARIETIES OF ATHLETIC POSSIBILITIES: Cynthia Gorney noted that “[Nadal] thrills people. Federer thrills people, too, but the Nadal thrill is so different from the Federer thrill that studying the two of them is like a gorgeous immersion course in the varieties of athletic possibility.”

THE MAILMAN NEVER KNOCKS TWICE: Roddick said his mailman informed him “that the reason I lost the Wimby final was cause I sweat a lot and didn’t change my shirt enough during the course of a match and it weighs me down…If I had only known.”

ONE HIT WONDERS: Pat McEnroe gave us the best take on the Wimby final, saying that Roddick’s loss will do more for him than all his other wins combined. Still, truth be told, Andy remains a one-hit wonder — his only win in a major remains his ‘03 U.S. Open triumph. Other notable one-hit wonders: Michael Chang, Thomas Muster, Petr Korda, Thomas Johansson, Pat Cash, Albert Costa, Vitas Gerulaitis, Andres Gomez, Goran Ivanisevic, Richard Krajicek, Yannick Noah, Manuel Orantes, Adriano Panatta, Michael Stich, Roscoe Tanner, Kim Clijsters, Sue Barker, Francois Durr, Mima Jausovec, Barbara Jordan, Iva Majoli, Conchita Martinez, Kerry Melville-Reid, Anastasia Myskina, Jana Novotna, Chris O’Neil, Virginia Ruzici and Gabriela Sabatini.

WHAT’S IN YOUR RACKET?: The Seattle Weekly noted that former No. 11 player Jeff Borowiak is in the midst of writing an autobiography that will feature stories of “his youth in tennis, of teammates smuggling hash in their racket handles across international borders and showing off photos of their sexual exploits,” as well as “accounts of worldwide travel and musings on geopolitical conflict, the genius of Charlie Parker, and the insights of Tibetan Buddhism.” Borowiak is fond of telling the story of how he first met his mentor — Dane Torben Ulrich (the father of Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich) — when the two played at 1:00 A.M. in the old Spectrum in Philadelphia in front of just six spectators including Wilt Chamberlain. One of the great free spirits in sports, Borowiak, lives in a boarding house and has a daily routine which often includes meditation, chanting, playing Chopin preludes, swimming Lake Washington and performing innovative home-made tennis drills. All of this prompted the Weekly to ask that immortal question: “Has this lanky, erudite, loquacious 58-year-old figured out something the rest of us haven’t?”

THAT SIMPLY CANNOT BE TRUE: Sam Querrey claimed, “Everybody gets nervous — even Roger Federer.”

CHOKE CITY: The Tennis Channel’s top five chokes of all time were: 5). John McEnroe’s impactful failure to win a French Open when he dropped the ‘84 final to Ivan Lendl, after he had a snit over a noisy cameraman. 4). Despite being up 6-1, 5-1, Argentine Gabriela Sabatini lost in the ‘93 French Open quarters, to Mary Joe Fernandez. 3). Up 5-1 in the fifth, Todd Martin was on the cusp of the finals at the (Sampras-less) end of ‘96 Wimbledon, but froze and lost to Mal Washington. 2). Up two sets and 4-3 in the third, Guillermo Coria was cruising over journeyman Gaston Gaudio, when he suffered assorted mental and physical meltdowns. His career quickly vaporized. 1). Naturally Jana Novotna’s teary royal collapse is tops. Gliding along with her classic game, the icy Czech was up 6-7, 6-1, 4-1, 40-30 in the ‘93 Wimby final when she suffered a horrendous double fault in a championship that was just too big for her. Afraid to lose, she endured a slow, brutally painful collapse before sobbing on the Duchess of Kent’s shoulder. Jim Courier said, “It was like having that nightmare of running down the street naked when you’re not ready for a test you have to take.”

RUSSIAN CHIC: What’s cooler, that Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from her bedroom or that Sharapova said her grandmother in Russia could hear the imposing baby who cried during her L.A. match against Victoria Azarenko.

TORONTO TRAUMAS: Canada’s biggest city is an urban wonder with a most benign reputation. Still, it might be noted that while in Toronto, Federer learned of the tragic death of his beloved coach Peter Carter, and Serena found out about the passing of her sister, Yetunde.

GRAND ‘SAM’ BATTLE: Who had a better summer — Aussie Sam Stosur, who reached the French Open semis and then beat former No. 1’s Serena and Anna Ivanovic before collapsing in the L.A. final; Sam Querrey, who reached the Newport and Indy finals and then won L.A. or Sam Adams beer which got a PR boon when Professor Henry Louis Gates chose it as his brew of choice at Obama’s racial healing beer summit.

Grand Sams: What do Querrey, Stosur and a Boston brew have in common?
Grand Sams: What do Querrey, Stosur and a Boston brew have in common?

‘PUH-LEEZ’ DON’T TELL MAMA ‘N DADDY: After revealing that her ruinous ‘04 knee injury didn’t happen in practice, (as she previously contended,) but rather while out partying in heels, Serena told IT, “Sometimes a rash or stupid act can derail your plans big-time. I went into this little spin move and could feel something go in my knee and thought, ‘Oh, no, Serena. This can’t be good.’I just didn’t want my parents to know. I don’t think they know yet. I’m still nervous about that. It is embarrassing. It’s ridiculous. [Now] whenever I go out, I always bring a pair of flats.”

HEY, A GAL HAS GOTTA PAY HER MORTGAGE: Serena said the U.S. Open is her fave because the check is the biggest and she likes playing the U.S. Open Series because she needs to pay off her mortgage.

LEGAL DEBATE OF THE YEAR: After Richard Gasquet was suspended for two years for traces of a tiny amount of cocaine in his system, he was re-instated after claiming he tested positive as a result of kissing a mysterious lady named Pamela while clubbing in Miami. Pamela would later claim she never used cocaine and has sued Gasquet, while cynical armchair lawyers argued whether the Gasquet’s defense was a kind of phantom “Twinky Defense” and whether the lifting of his suspension was somehow tennis’answer to the O.J. verdict. The ITF is appealing the decision.

FOX TOLD HE CAN’T GUARD HEN HOUSE: Even though the ATP was supposedly campaigning against gambling in tennis, their Hamburg tournament inexplicably signed up as a sponsor. But now a court has ruled against the tournament taking on the controversial sponsor.

ONE DUDE WHO KNOWS HIS LIMITATIONS: Nikolay Davydenko confided, “I will never win a major.”

UNFAIR TO BEVERLY HILLS TENNIS BRATS: As part of a critique of Tiger Woods’ tantrums, Rick Reilly wrote, “Golf is a gentlemen’s game. Stomping and swearing and carrying on like a Beverly Hills tennis brat might fly in the NBA, in baseball or football…but golf demands manners.”

BEST POTENTIAL FODDER FOR HEADLINE WRITERS SINCE MARDY FISH: Newport Beach’s Carsten Ball, as in “Take Me Out to the ….game,” “It’s a Whole New ….game,” “Keep Your Eye on the…,” “He’s Having a…,” etc.

WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE STARBIZZLE: In a recent Tweet Vince Spadea issued this plea for help: “[I’m] off to Starbizzle. Oatmeal, O.J., yogurt, tea. I’m on a coffee diet. Somebody help the Spadeaddict.”

TIP OF THE MONTH: Andy Murray, who just got his license, warned humanity, “Stay off the roads, guys.”

MICRO-ANALYSIS OF THE SUMMER: Darren Cahill contended that Roddick’s two-handed backhand didn’t have as much pop as some others like Agassi and Juan Martin del Potro, because A-Rod lets go with his right hand just before impact.

Usually conservative dresser Pete Sampras showed off his guns in L.A.
Usually conservative dresser Pete Sampras showed off his guns in L.A.

YOU’D THINK L.A. COULD TAKE IT TO CINCY, BUT…: Longtime L.A. tournament director, the candid Bob Kramer, admitted that Cincy’s dominant summer circuit tournament has “a lot more money and more connections [than L.A.]. That’s why that tournament is there. There’s a lot of politics in tennis as well as everything else.” So L.A. struggles. It’s in a cramped, yet fabulous site — leafy UCLA on L.A.’s affluent, tennis-happy west side. It’s been around since 1927 and has a budget of over $1 million to round-up talent. Still the storied event, which for the first time in eons didn’t have a title sponsor, couldn’t attract a single top 20 player and had to go to Plan B — bringing in the likes of Sampras, Edberg and Courier to enliven matters. As for the future, Kramer, who has tennis in his blood, is cautionary. He told Reuters, “hopefully 2010 will provide a recovery. If not, we’re prepared to probably go one more cycle to be back in a position where we can be continuing to generate revenues…If we aren’t able to figure this out or if the economy doesn’t turn around, we will probably have two more bites at the apple to right the ship.”

A SLIGHTLY MORE ‘GRACE-FULL’ VERSION THAN MCENROE’S: High above Monte Carlo in the classic film “To Catch A Thief,” Grace Kelly turns to Cary Grant and says “You can’t be serious.”

• Our three favorite parenting headlines this summer: Two For One (On Fed having twins); Kim Clijsters: Ready For the Mother of All Comebacks and
Boris Becker’s Bohemian Beauty Shows Off Baby Bump

By all indications, Roger is a caring, involved papa, who yes, does change diapers.
By all indications, Roger is a caring, involved papa, who yes, does change diapers.

• “It’s not really our goal right now to make them tennis machines.” – Roger Federer on his twins
• Noting a recent baby boom in her adopted hometown of Manhattan Beach, Maria Sharapova said, “I hope it’s not contagious.”
Serena said, “I plan on playing a long time.  If that means I have to pop one out and keep going, I guess I will.”
• Former touring pro Linda Gates, who is now a tennis mom, said, “It was a lot easier to win a sportsmanship award as a player than it will be as a parent.”
• After the birth of his identical twin daughters Charlene Riva and Myla Rose on July 23, Fed said, “This is the greatest day of our lives.”
The Federers got over 4,000 congratulatory messages on their website.
Pete Sampras said, “I don’t see Roger changing diapers at four in the morning. I don’t think it will affect his career. It’s a life-changer for him, but he is focused on his tennis and he’s got help.”
Lindsay Davenport, a mother of two, said Clijsters will be the first mother since Evonne Goolagong to win a major.
• A Justin Gimelstob tweet alerted us: “FYI, Sam Querrey’s mom is hot.”

FROM ONE CELL TO ANOTHER: A Bank of the West Classic emcee warned the Stanford crowd: “If your cell phone goes off during the match, you will be taken to San Quentin.”

SOUND CHECK: In addition to cell phones and grunts, summer tourneys had plenty of noise pollution. There was a crying baby in Carson, drag racing cars in L.A. and helicopters in D.C…Mary Joe Fernandez contended that Monica Seles’ grunt “would be considered more of a whisper compared to some of the noises we’re hearing these days”…Some of the sounds Serena liked were practicing in the early morning because it was so quiet and the whoosh of new balls being opened. She was less fond of the sound of gunshots when she was practicing as a kid.

THE GREAT ‘WHAT IF’: Monica Seles’ induction into the Hall of Fame begs the question how great would she have been had she not been stabbed. Donald Dell contended, “Believe me — she would have won another nine,” while Jon Wertheim asked “was Seles on pace to become the best ever? Absolutely. But how do we put her in that Graf-Evert-Navratilova division when — though caused by a horrible act  — she won fewer than half as many Slams?”

A TALL TALE: In D.C., “little” Andy Roddick (6-foot-2), beat Sam Querrey (6-foot-6), Ivo Karlovic (6-foot-10) and John Isner (6-foot-9) before losing to Juan Martin del Potro (6-foot-6).

COUCH POTATO OF THE MONTH: A rehabbing Nadal confided, “I have spent more time on the couch than ever…to stay still in order to spare my knees.”

WHAT THIS SPORT NEEDS: Paul Newman said, “Women’s tennis needs Sharapova like a racket needs strings” … Marat Safin said tennis needs more characters, “somebody not a little bit not crazy, but just a little bit ‘untender.’”

SISTER SAFINA?: Despite Dinara Safina’s recent humiliations, Peter Bodo credits the Russian for having “endured those terrible whippings without spiraling off into deep depression or chucking her rackets into the Thames and entering a nunnery.”…Speaking of nuns, the cancer refuge for kids headed by former No. 2 Andrea Jaeger, is in financial trouble.

SAY IT ISN’T SO: Officials flew in a cadre of Sam Querrey’s Samurai fans to enliven the Indy tournament…The next week in L.A. the Samurais (tennis’ answer to the Stanford band?) spelled out the word “A-M-A-T-E-U-R-I-S-H” — to take a dig aimed at Querrey’s foe, Ryan Sweeting. Some were critical of their in-your-face taunts, but just like Blake defends his ‘J-Block’ zealots, Sam backed his boys…Speaking of Blake, when is good-guy James (who was injured in Davis Cup, is now ranked No. 21) going to kick it into gear…In L.A. just before Sam Stosur lost her fifth straight final, Pam Shriver noted that “there is a reason a player is 0-4 in finals.”

DON’T TRY AND JUST DROP IN ON ‘JJ’: The home Jelena Jankovic is building in Rancho Santa Fe, CA has three security checks.

POISON PENS: Marion Bartoli said “It’s very difficult for French players to play in France because, in addition to the (high-expectation/zero tolerance) crowds, “the press…can one day put you up and the next day put you below the earth …It’s poison working like this.”

COOLEST SOUNDING HOMETOWN NAME IN TENNIS?: Le Puy En Velay, France (birthplace of Marion Bartoli)

WRONG: After Marion Bartoli said she was looking forward to playing Jelena Jankovic in the Stanford quarters because “I always beat Jelena,” the Serb bristled: “She talks like she is Serena Williams… Bartoli’s going to get it tomorrow.” Wrong: Bartoli won…After Fed won Wimbledon, Tiger Woods sent him a congratulatory telegram saying, “Great job, now it’s my turn.” But Tiger didn’t even make the cut at the British Open…BTW: Nadal reported that when he lost his top spot in the rankings, Portugeese soccer god Cristiano Ronaldo “said that for him I am still No. 1.”

Fun loving exhibitionist Nestor pulled “a Lyndon.”
Fun loving exhibitionist Nestor pulled “a Lyndon.”

A GUT WRENCHING WASHINGTON TRADITION: In Washington in ‘65 then President Lyndon Johnson lifted his shirt for the media to show off a surgical scar on his abdomen. This year Daniel Nestor lifted his shirt for Justin Gimelstob to show a welt on his chest from a Fernando Gonzalez forehand.

ARE YOU NOW OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN A MEMBER OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY?: Former Davis Cup captain David Lloyd liked Britain’s dysfunctional LTA to “a communist state in a capitalist world.” Added Lloyd, “Not one player who has made anything of himself in the past 20 years has come through the LTA system — not Tim Henman, not Greg Rusedski and not Andy Murray. So what is it that makes them so sure they know everything?”

PRESIDENTIAL PRIZE: Billie Jean King received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, on Aug. 12 at the White House. “Her athletic acumen is matched only by her unwavering defense of equal rights,” said President Obama.  “With Billie Jean King pushing us, the road ahead will be smoother for women, the future will be brighter for LGBT Americans, and our nation’s commitment to equality will be stronger for all…We honor what she did to broaden the reach of the game, to change how women athletes and women everywhere view themselves, and give everyone — including my two daughters — a chance to compete on the court and in life.” Among the 15 others honored were: Stephen Hawking, the late Jack Kemp, Sen. Edward Kennedy, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Joe Medicine Crow, Harvey Milk, Sandra Day O’Connor, Sidney Poitier, Chita Rivera and Desmond Tutu.  Arthur Ashe received the medal in ‘93.

EAT YOUR HEART OUT, DONALD RUMSFELD AND ROBERT GATES: Condoleezza Rice was introduced to the Stanford crowd as the “former defense secretary.”

MONO-MISERY: Mononucleosis has taken its toll in tennis. Aside from Federer, others who we believe have been slowed by the energy-sapper include John Isner, Mario Ancic, Marion Bartoli, Jelena Dokic, Ranier Schuttler, Nicole Vaidisova and Martin Verkerk.

ROGER’S SQUIRREL STRATEGY: Federer reflected on his dreary slump early in the year when he suffered big losses from Melbourne to Miami.  He told the Toronto Globe that he played well,  but at crunch time his game was off. And that  “99 percent was getting the subconscious to work in my favor again.” His coach, Seberin Luthi told him that “We had to make you run around the court like a squirrel and you have to reach every ball because that’s your strength – getting miraculous balls back.”

YOU CAN KEEP ‘EM DOWN ON ‘THE FARM’: Fears that the Bank of the West Classic had outgrown its venue and was on the move were extinguished when IMG announced the event will remain on the Stanford campus at least through ‘12.

When IT asked if she’s seen a notable change in attitudes toward race since Obama entered the White House, Serena said, “A lot of white people voted for Obama, so I can only hope it does change the outlook a lot. Not only him — a lot of positive Africans Americans we have in society right now is amazing — the Colin Powells, the Michelle Obamas, the Condoleezza Rices — very positive role models.” Serena was clearly wowed by First Lady Michelle Obama during her July 14 visit to the White House. “What a great personality she had. I had no idea she had such an amazing sense of humor… I was shocked. She reminded me a lot of me. I thought,’Wow. She’s really cool.’ She didn’t seem to take herself too seriously. And that’s kind of how you have to perceive life because it throws so many curveballs… [The Obamas] are such a real family. I got to meet the kids. They were so young and small. They all play tennis. I said I would move in and be their coach… I wouldn’t have to pay for my lodging. It would be perfect…[But] my girls [her dogs Jackie and Bambi] would have to move in with me, or that’s a deal-killer.” BTW: Serena, who may be the only pro athlete to have met both Obama and Nelson Mandella, said “There was so much honor and grace and class with Mr. Mandella, as well as President Obama. There was no pretense — just niceness. Very genuine.”

JUST WONDERING: Was the backhand volley to an open court that Roddick muffed on set point to take a two set lead over Fed in the Wimby final, the most significant single blown shot in tennis history … Is there any question that the “08 Wimby final (Rafa over Fed in the dusk) was better that the ‘09 final (Fed survives A-Rod in a classic serve-a-thon?)….. We know a fit and relaxed A-Rod beat Ivo Karlovic in straight sets on hardcourts in Washington in August. So if Andy in mid-July — hurting and exhausted — had soldiered on to play Davis Cup in Croatia, would he have been able to lead America to victory on clay past the Croatians led by Karlovic?…If Fed is so intensely anti-Hawk-Eye why has he made more than 100 more Hawk-Eye challenges than Nadal…Who will we miss most, ‘the magician’ Fabrice Santoro or ‘the character’or Marat Safin…Which is a more common misspelling, “Wimbleton”, “Jimmy Conners” or “Marty Fish”? … Who would you rather be, Nadal or Federer?

1: Number of men who have managed to win more than one major after becoming a dad (Jimmy Connors)
500: Matches won by Roddick after he beat Sam Querrey in D.C. to become only the fourth active player (the 36th in the Open Era) in the 500 club, joining Federer (657), Carlos Moya (573) and Lleyton Hewitt (511).
3: Number of “Gates” mentioned in this month’s buzz (Defense Dept. boss Robert, now famous ‘prof’ Henry Louis and former touring pro Linda)
3: Serve-and-volleyers — Sampras, Taylor Dent and Frank Dancevic — playing at the L.A. Tennis Open. (All lost their opening matches.)

• Serena Likes Pancakes
• [Carsten] Ball Bounces Into Semis
• Roddick Finds His ‘Tweet’ Spot
• Anne [Keothavong] Puts Brave Face On Annus Horribilis (i.e. “horrible year”)
• It’s Still the No. 1 Question for Safina
• Nadal: Beware the Wounded Bull

•  “You lost a message, but you won a nation.” — Donald Dell to Wimbledon finalist Roddick
•  “He’s re-tooled, re-juvenated and re-commited.” — Pat McEnroe on Roddick

“I still have an opportunity  to achieve a lot more ... I’ve had championships and money, but I want more.”  — Maria Sharapova
“I still have an opportunity to achieve a lot more ... I’ve had championships and money, but I want more.” — Maria Sharapova

•  “Imagine an NFL player packing a 10-month suitcase, navigating 10 different countries…Imagine him turning pro as a sophomore in high school, knowing his career depended on playing and training non-stop for the next two decades.  No wonder the women’s pro landscape is pocked with kids made strange and/or burned out. Jen Capriati, come on down. You, too, Andrea Jaeger, Tracy Austin, Mary Pierce…” — Paul Daugherty
•  “There are more question marks than exclamation points in the women’s game now.” — Pam Shriver
•  “The way the song goes, one is the loneliest number.” — Baxter Holmes on tennis’ struggling No. 1, Dinara Safina
• “Last year, I said, ‘Oh my God, I hope this was the worst year ever.’ And this year has been even worse.” — Anna Chakvetadze, whose career has tumbled since her family suffered a brutal Moscow robbery
•  “When I saw the Swiss area code come up on my phone, my heart stopped.” — Montreal tournament director Eugene Lapierre after receiving a call from new dad Federer, confirming he’d play his tournament
•  “It looked like he had been dragged through the bush backwards.” — Darren Cahill on Frenando Gonzalez after he had been drubbed by Juan del Martin Potro in D.C.
•  “Aren’t they a little high for your career? Be careful.” — President Obama on the heels Serena wore to the White House
•  “If he turns to the side, he looks like a putter.” — Leif Shiras on Marin Cilic
•  “Male athletes aren’t going to come out because they’re going to get ridiculed and they’ll be embarrassed. Men aren’t supposed to be gay if they’re playing sports. It’s just the way it is.” — The openly gay Rennae Stubbs
•  “[Arthur Ashe’s teacher] Dr. Johnson used his influence, personal funds and determination to fight for equal rights and to advance the sport in a way that would make the world proud.” — Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe on Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Robert Johnson

“I started looking for answers in all the wrong places.” — Ana Ivanovic on her fall from No. 1
“I started looking for answers in all the wrong places.” — Ana Ivanovic on her fall from No. 1

GO FIGURE: Never mind that Serena, Sharapova, Jankovic and Dementieva all played the Bank of the West Classic, a S.F. Chronicle headline read “Women’s Game Needs a Boost”…In World TeamTennis 14-year old Madison Keys upset Serena and Venus lost to Sloane Stephens…In D.C. John Isner wore a cut off sock on his right arm and it was 129 degrees courtside for the finals…Mike Bryan said he and his brother, Bob were “one complete player, one complete person” and were so close as young boys that they developed what Mike called “an alien twin language.”…After noting that Wimby champ Serena Williams got to meet the first family at the White House, while runner-up Roddick only got to meet the family dog, Tom Tebbutt noted: “Serena got Barack and Andy got Bo”…Within hours in Cincinnati, Serena and Venus lost and Kim Clijsters won…After her Cincy loss, Serena offered this Tweet: “I am the worst player. And I suck big time.”… On ‘Stewbop’, claimed one of the reasons Kim Clijsters came back was because her “clothing sponsor made her a fancy new jacket with a gold “2” on the back.”

EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER — 1921 to 2009: The late Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a dynamic achiever who some said might have been Prez, had she not been a woman.  She created the Special Olympics, played on the Stanford varsity in ’43, loved to hit on her backyard court, often went to the U.S. Open and attracted the likes of Sampras and Federer to be spokesman for the Special Olympics.