Top 10 Wishes for the 2010 Tennis Season

Well, another tennis season has come and gone, and it's time to look ahead and create my wish list for 2010. Looking back, some of my 2009 tennis wishes did, in fact, come true: Roger Federer ditched the girlie cardigan, Maria Sharapova became healthy, and Rafa switched to the shorter shorts, instead of sporting the "just below the knee" look. My Top 10 wish list for 2010 is a little bit more ambitious. We'll see if I can score better than 3 out of 10 wishes this year.

1) Flavia Pennetta scores a pasta sponsor.

2) Melanie Oudin puts more belief in her serve.

3) WADA and the ITF change a few of their whereabouts rules...if you know what I mean.

4) ESPN and CBS get their acts together and air live tennis matches that are crucial to the sport.

5) Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin shake up the top 10.

6) Juan Martin del Potro wins another Grand Slam. The guy was "en fuego" in '09.

7) Justine Henin wins Wimbledon (not just because she wants to, but because I can't take another year of a Williams sister winning).

8) Tournament directors make hot chocolate a staple at all tennis tournaments. Not everyone drinks coffee, you know. (A carry over from my 2009 wish list.)

9) Taylor Dent recaptures his tennis glory.

10) Rafa hires a fashion consultant.

Sony Ericsson Struggles to Make a Profit; Is WTA Sponsorship Doubtful?

Bob Larson's Tennis News
October 19, 2009

Sony Ericsson, one of the largest mobile phone companies in the world, and global title sponsor for the WTA Tour, hasn't made a profit since the second quarter of 2008.

With Sony Ericsson's sponsorship contract with the WTA set to expire on December 31, 2010, the WTA could face a huge revenue loss if business forces the company to drop its sponsorship. With challenging market conditions and ongoing competition from BlackBerry and Apple's iPhone, Sony Ericsson continues its struggle to get in the black.

Despite the grim numbers, the WTA maintains a positive outlook. “Sony Ericsson has been a tremendous partner for the Tour, and women's tennis has delivered very strong return on investment for Sony Ericsson,” says Andrew Walker, Senior Vice President for Global Marketing & Communications for the WTA Tour. “We are in discussions regarding a continuation of their sponsorship of the WTA Tour, and our focus is on renewal of Sony Ericsson.”

In January 2005, Sony Ericsson inked a six-year sponsorship deal with the WTA for an unprecedented $88 million dollars, to become the Tour’s global title sponsor. Since then, Sony Ericsson has also become an event sponsor for WTA Tour events, including the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, and the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, Qatar. In 2008, Maria Sharapova became the company’s global brand ambassador. Of course, all of this happened before the global economic downturn.

On the plus side, business at Sony Ericsson is beginning to show signs of recovery, after reporting its 2009 third quarter earnings last week. The company’s net loss was 164 million Euros, a significant improvement from the 213 million euro loss in the second quarter.

Since 2008, Sony Ericsson has continued to cut operating expenses, which has shown improvement in the company’s bottom line. It is worth noting that Sony Ericsson is also under new leadership. As of last week, Bert Nordberg became the new president of Sony Ericsson. “My principal aim is to turn around the company and to return to profitability as soon as possible,” says Nordberg. He also believes the recovery will come in the form of new products that are in the pipeline for the fourth quarter of 2009, which include the new multimedia smartphones, Aino and Satio.

Pseudoephedrine Back On Banned Substance List for 2010

Bob Larson's Daily Tennis News
October 8, 2009

Starting in January, tennis players looking for ways to treat a cold might be in for a surprise. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently announced that pseudoephedrine, a commonly used sinus/nasal decongestant, has been put back on the banned substance list for in-competition use during the 2010 season.

The ban on this stimulant was lifted in 2003, but since 2004, has been placed on the list of substances in the World Anti-Doping Agency's Monitoring Program. According to the WADA, "Results from the Monitoring Program over the past five years have shown a sustained increase in urinary concentrations of pseudoephedrine. There is clear evidence of abuse in some sports and some regions, which show clusters of samples with high pseudoephedrine concentrations many times in excess of concentrations normally found." As a result of these findings, the WADA has reintroduced pseudoephedrine in their 2010 Prohibited List.

Tennis players who use pseudoephedrine for valid therapeutic purposes during competition will qualify for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE), in which a doctor will determine if such stimulant use is necessary. Urinary concentrations of pseudoephedrine at 150 micrograms (or below) are currently deemed acceptable within the WADA's Monitoring Program.

What Makes a Great Backhand? Good Hair

On the Baseline Tennis News

Julien Farel and Jelena Jankovic
We’ve all had them: bad hair days. You’ve battled with the blow dryer, globbed on the styling cream, and spritzed hair spray, only to put it all up in a ponytail, throw on your sunglasses, and head out the door.

I had a few of those days myself during this year’s US Open. What made my bad hair days seem even worse was not being able to spot any WTA players who had less than perfect coifs, even after sweating for hours under the blazing sun. What was the secret to taming their tresses?

I had heard a rumor about a hair salon located somewhere in Arthur Ashe Stadium. But with all of the matches, player press conferences, and deadlines, I couldn’t find the time to explore the stadium as much as I would have liked. During the occasional bathroom breaks, I would catch a glimpse of my reflection, and I could see the controlled chaos that I sometimes refer to as my hair.

I then realized that I couldn’t leave the US Open without finding this hair salon. So, during the final weekend of the tournament, I spent an hour wandering around the hallowed halls of Arthur Ashe Stadium. I walked up to the entrance of the players lounge, up one flight of stairs, and found the ultra-chic Julien Farel Salon, located just to the left of the 3rd floor gym. I was quite impressed.

As the official on-site hair salon for the US Open, the Julien Farel Salon has been making players match-ready and camera-ready for the past three years. Owner and lead stylist, Julien Farel and his team of beauty experts offer the players haircuts, hair styling, and skin care, as well as manicures and pedicures, and even eye brow shaping. The Salon also extends its services to coaches, family members, VIPs and celebrity clients. During the two weeks of the US Open, over 450 people were coiffed, polished, and shaped at the Julien Farel Salon in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

I asked Julien about what makes the hair salon so popular with the players. “We’re located in the players’ area, so they usually see the salon and come in,” he said. “It’s a great place for them to take some time-out and relax.”
Julien Farel and Jelena JankovicOver the years, Jelena Jankovic has been one of the most frequent visitors during the US Open. Before one of her matches this year, Jelena requested the HairThread technique (hair tied into place without the need for clips or pins.) Jelena wanted red and white thread in her ponytail to match her outfit for that day.
Other top WTA players who stopped by include Daniela Hantuchova, Nadia Petrova, Na Li, and former players Billie Jean King, Mary Joe Fernandez, and Hana Mandlikova. ESPN commentator Hannah Storm even had her hair coiffed at the Salon.

What impressed me the most about the Salon is their focus on sun protection for both skin and hair. “Most of the female players get everything done because the products we use protect them from the sun,” says Julien. “We use Natura Bissé oil-free SPF 30 for sun protection, Yves Saint Laurent Poudre Sur Mesure [semi-loose powder], YSL waterproof mascara, and YSL Gloss Volupte with SPF. Most importantly, we use PhytoLaque Soie [hairspray] from PHYTO Hair Care. It has a firm hold, is made from plant extracts, and it protects the hair from sun damage.”

Given the long hours of play during the US Open, the Julien Farel Salon honored some late-night requests, and even some walk-ins. “We are happy to style the players when they need it,” says Julien. “We will always accommodate players. It does not matter what time. That is why we are there.”

Now you know how the players manage to avoid bad hair days, whether it’s day or night, on or off the court.

They leave it to the pros. Smart move.

A Star Studded Evening At the Legends Ball

On the Baseline Tennis News

Legend's Ball
FLUSHING MEADOWS, New York—There are many fancy parties and events during the two weeks of the US Open, but on Friday night, the Legends Ball was the hottest ticket in town.
The invitation read: Festive Attire/Black-Tie Optional. Which means, anything goes–as long as it’s fancy. I arrived early at Cipriani, wearing my fancy black dress and painful high heels, waiting patiently for the biggest names in tennis to walk through the door.
Just about an hour before The Legends Ball began, the US Open announced that it had to postpone all tennis matches for the day, due to rain. But the news didn’t put a damper on the Legends Ball festivities—cocktail hour, dinner, a live auction, and dancing.

Who Was There
The event honored the Tennis Hall of Fame’s Class of 2009 – Donald L. Dell, Andres Gimeno, the late Dr. Robert Johnson, and nine-time Grand Slam Champion Monica Seles. Other honorees were Arthur Ashe & Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, recipients of The Eugene L. Scott Award. The Tennis Channel was also honored with this year’s Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Award.
Robin Roberts at the Legends BallGood Morning America’s Robin Roberts was the Master of Ceremonies for the event. I was surprised to hear Robin say that she was awarded a tennis scholarship in college, even though she became a well-known college basketball star. “I’m a tennis nut at heart,” she says. I had a chance to chat with Robin on the red carpet about newcomer Melanie Oudin, and her run to the quarterfinals at the US Open. “I loved her innocence,” says Robin. “She just ran out of gas. You can tell she’s not satisfied.”
When I probed her to give predictions for the women’s final, she said that whoever won the Kim Clijsters/Serena Williams semifinal would win the tournament. While no one could have ever predicted the way in which that semifinal ended, it looks like Robin’s method of predicting the US Open champion was on the nose.

I was completely caught off guard when Real Housewives of New York cast members, Jill Zarin and Ramona Singer walked through the door. But then again, tennis has been warming up to reality TV lately. Former tennis stars such as Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Justine Henin, and Hall of Fame Inductee, Monica Seles have all jumped onto the reality TV bandwagon.

Another surprise guest at the Ball was Miss USA, Kristen Dalton. I would say she looks a little bit like Maria Sharapova, only about 40 pounds lighter, and no where near as tall.
Stacey Allaster, the Chairman and CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, was also in attendance. At first I didn’t recognize her, since I’ve only seen her in a photo. My immediate impression of her was how small in stature she is, as she stood next to Monica Seles for a photo. Yet, Allaster has become a big presence on the WTA Tour, since taking over for Larry Scott, former CEO of the WTA Tour.
Martina Navratilova, Pam Shriver, Monica SelesFormer tennis stars and US Open commentators Mary Joe Fernandez, Tracy Austin Martina Navratilova, and Pam Shriver were also at the event. Liezel Huber was the only current WTA player at the Ball, who took advantage of a break in the US Open doubles competition to support the Tennis Hall of Fame.

What Were They Wearing?
There were outfits of every variety on both men and women, but there was no lack of glamour. And, no, I didn’t see anyone who broke the “No White After Labor Day” rule.
In fact, black seemed to be the color of choice for most guests at the event. Tracy Austin was one of the few who resisted the temptation to wear black, showing up in a full length, light blue gown. Monica Seles wore a classic two-piece black suit, with gorgeous earrings, and fancy black patent leather pumps.

We’ll Start the Bidding At…
One of the most fun parts of the evening was the live auction, which benefited the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum. The auction featured dozens of unique items and experiences, and the competition to win the best auction items was fierce.
Some of the items that sold:

1) Wimbledon 2010. Two Centre Court tickets for the ladies’ final and the men’s final.
Sold: $15,000

2) Australian Open 2010. Two tickets to the men’s and women’s semifinals and finals in the President’s Lounge. Four nights accommodations at the Hilton on the Park Hotel in Melbourne, Australia, including transportation to and from the hotel.
Sold: $9,000

3) Roland Garros 2010. Two Centre Court tickets in Chatrier Stadium for the men’s and women’s finals.
Sold: $14,000

4) Monica Seles Hit Session (one hour). Learn to improve your game with Monica Seles, near her home in Florida. Monica will also give lessons on “grunting”.
Sold: $18,000

Top 10 Comments Overheard About Melanie Oudin at the US Open

On the Baseline Tennis News
Just another practice session for Melanie Oudin. on Twitpic

Melanie Oudin has been the talk of the town in New York City over the past week, but not everyone’s quite certain about the facts behind the seventeen year-old overnight celebrity.
On the Baseline’s Paula Vergara has compiled a humorous top 10 list of the comments most overheard at the US Open about Oudin. 

10. She’s French, right?
9. Twin sister? You mean there are two of them?
8. Her boyfriend is cuter than she is.
7. Is that Reese Witherspoon?
6. I say Justine Henin is taller.
5. It’s so weird. She looks American.
4. I heard she writes on her shoes.
3. Who’s that “giant killer?”
2. Oudin speaks English really well.
1. At least she doesn’t grunt.

Samantha Stosur: Putting Australian Tennis Back on the Map

On the Baseline Tennis News

FLUSHING MEADOWS, New York—Greetings from the US Open. It has been an amazing first week — record crowds, dramatic upsets, and incredible comebacks. And then there’s that pint-sized, 17-year-old American girl, who can beat just about anyone, simply by believing that she can.

Samantha StosurThere’s no doubt that American tennis is on the rise. But a few days ago, I found myself sitting over on the Grandstand, watching Australia’s No. 1 player, Samantha Stosur compete against American Vania King. When I saw (and heard) the rowdy Aussie fans, I was reminded of a time when Aussie fans were regulars at tennis tournaments, cheering on the likes of Patrick Rafter, Mark Philippoussis, and Pat Cash.

In recent years, Lleyton Hewitt has been the one to give Aussie fans something to cheer about. But since Evonne Goolagong dominated in the 70’s and 80’s, very few Australian women have been able to climb to the top of the tennis ranks. Until Samantha Stosur. I had the chance to catch up with Samantha on Sunday, just after she won her 3rd round US Open match with doubles partner Rennae Stubbs.

Samantha Stosur (who goes by her nickname Sam) is experiencing one of the best years of her career, getting to her first Grand Slam singles semifinal at the French Open, and the final of Los Angeles. She’s currently ranked No. 15 in singles, and No. 4 in doubles, and is possibly on her way to winning her second US Open doubles title.

Outside of competition here at the US Open, Sam says she’s really enjoying her time in New York, spending time with her parents and brothers, who are in town to watch her play. Samantha has been staying in more often than not, enjoying her mother’s homemade cooking. Sam and I had a chance to talk a little bit about her off-court hobbies (surfing and mountain biking), but our conversation quickly turned to her view on the state of Australian women’s tennis.

Sam admits that Australian tennis simply isn’t where it ought to be, or even where it could be. “For the last few years, we’ve struggled a little bit and haven’t had too many players in the top 100,” said Sam. “The men were always pretty strong, and now we’ve actually overtaken them. But on the whole, during the last 3-4 years, the women’s side has been pretty unlucky with injuries and illnesses.”

Alicia Molik, who retired in 2008 due to injuries, has recently made a comeback on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, playing doubles in New Haven as a wildcard. “It’s unfortunate the last couple of weeks,” said Sam. “Alicia didn’t get through the match in the doubles, but it’s one of those things that might take a while for her to find her feet again.” Casey Dellacqua, a former top-10 doubles player, needed to have left shoulder surgery in February 2009, and is taking time off to recover. Even though she has not set a date for her comeback, she could return to the Tour sometime after the U.S. Open. Jelena Dokic was diagnosed with mononucleosis just after Wimbledon this year, and just recently made her comeback at the US Open.

Sam herself was sidelined in 2007 with Lyme disease, just after the French Open. She was forced to take the rest of the year off to recover. “We’ve all had something that’s kept us out for quite a long time,” Sam said. “If it wasn’t for those few things, we could have had a really strong group of girls up there for quite a long time. But, that’s the way things go. I’m back now, and Casey is trying to get back as soon as she can. So hopefully, in the next six months, it will be where it could have been a little while ago.”

Sam also gives credit to Aussie players who came before her and set the standard for excellence. In particular, Evonne Goolagong Cawley. “Evonne was our Fed Cup captain about three years ago. I was lucky to play under her,” said Sam. “She’s an unbelievably genuine, nice person, and always tried to help wherever she could. Obviously, she’s a great role model for all the Australian girls, whether they’re playing tennis or not playing tennis. She’s a huge icon in Australia.”

I also had a chance to pick Sam’s brain about the serve and volley playing style. Is it too late for a comeback, I asked? “I don’t know if it will ever return the way it was,” said Sam. “Nowadays, returns in general are a lot stronger than what they were. With the technology, the racquets, and the balls, it’s pretty hard to come in off your serve. I don’t know if it will ever return to what it was back in the day.”

Sam Stosur and Rennae Stubbs will be playing their quarterfinal doubles match on Tuesday against Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Nadia Petrova. I fully expect to see (and hear) the Aussie fans having something to cheer about.

Top 10 T-shirts You Might See On Serena Williams

On the Baseline Tennis News

Serena Williams
FLUSHING MEADOWS, New York—Last week, Serena Williams made headlines for more than just her match wins. She showed up to one of her post-match press conferences wearing a t-shirt with the message, “You can’t spell dynasty without nasty.”
On the Baseline has come up with a top 10 list of possible messages that you might see on a Serena Williams t-shirt sometime soon.

10. I don’t just look good, I am good.
9. Diamonds are a diva’s best friend.
8. It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s whether you win a Grand Slam.
7. Instead of reading my t-shirt, read my book.
6. Daddy’s girl
5. Luck has nothing to do with it.
4. You’ve got to have the bling.
3. Tennis player, fashion designer, actress, global icon.
2. Even millionaires need a backup plan.
1. Serena is the real No. 1.

Kim Clijsters Takes On New York

On the Baseline Tennis News

September 4, 2009

Kim ClijstersFLUSHING MEADOWS, New York—Start spreading the news. Kim Clijsters isn’t leaving today…or tomorrow, for that matter. In fact, it is safe to say that the 2005 US Open champion might be staying here in New York for a while.
Kim Clijsters returned to the WTA Tour just a few weeks ago, after retiring in May, 2007 to start a family.

Even though Kim Clijsters hasn’t played in the US Open since 2006, it seems as though she hasn’t missed a step. The 26-year-old received a wildcard into this year’s US Open, and breezed through her first round match on Monday, beating world No. 79 Viktoriya Kutuzova, 6-1, 6-1.

But her first true test came in Wednesday’s second round, when she faced a three-set battle with 14th seed Marion Bartoli on Louis Armstrong Stadium. Clijsters dropped the first set, 5-7. “She [Bartoli] was really dominating all the points,” said Clijsters. “She was stepping in and taking the risks early on. “It was working. She was serving well.”

Clijsters changed her strategy in the second and third sets by mixing up her game, and hitting some high balls. She managed to throw off Bartoli’s rhythm, making 39 winners, compared to Bartoli’s 13. Clijsters went on to win the match 5-7, 6-1, 6-2. “ I stayed focused, I stayed aggressive, and really worked out a game plan that beat her today,” said Clijsters.

This evening, Clijsters played her third round match against fellow Belgian, Kirsten Flipkens. The first set was all Clijsters, who served up a bagel to Flipkens, 6-0. The second set proved to be more challenging. Clijsters had two double faults at the beginning of the set, giving Flipkens an early lead. Clijsters then came back at 2-1. She broke Flipkens’ serve 3 times, and went on to win the match in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2.

Clijsters is only one of five WTA players to have been ranked World No. 1 in both singles and doubles simultaneously. In 2003, she not only became the first Belgian—male or female—to be ranked world No. 1, but like Dinara Safina, she did so without winning a Grand Slam tournament. In her second round post match press conference, Clijsters weighed in on some of the pressures that Dinara Safina is now facing as the No. 1 player.

“The wind blows harder when you’re at the top,” Clijsters said. “I really hope she doesn’t let it influence her and just keeps working the way she has been for the last year or so. It’s obviously working. She’s No. 1. She’s won some big tournaments.”

The years have turned Clijsters into a wiser tennis player, who feels more in tune with match focus. “Because I’m older now, I can read that better. I can really pick up when I feel that my concentration is lacking a little bit. I can really adjust, and kind of get back into that groove. That’s a good feeling to have.”

Clijsters has noticed one major change since she’s been back on the WTA Tour. “A lot of Russian is being spoken in the locker room,” she said with a laugh. She credits her contemporaries, like Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova, and Svetlana Kuznetsova for helping to pave the way for the up-and-coming Russian players on the Tour.

Some other major changes for Clijsters include carrying around 18-month-old daughter, Jada, although she draws the line at carrying diapers in her tennis bag.
Clijsters will play her fourth round match against Venus Williams.

Jelena Dokic Determined to Make a Comeback

On the Baseline Tennis News
September 2, 2009

FLUSHING MEADOWS, New York—After being sidelined for two months, Jelena Dokic came to the US Open ready to prove to the world (and herself) that she was back and ready to win.
Jelena Dokic
Unfortunately, her first round match didn’t go her way. Dokic’s illness, combined with the lack of play and training, took its toll. The 26-year-old Australian and former top-10 player lost to Belgian Kirsten Flipkens 6-3, 6-4.
“I didn’t feel great on court today,” said Dokic. “My power is not there. But hopefully that’s not a side effect of mono, and hopefully just a lack of practice.”

Dokic started the year off well, making it to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. By the time she reached Miami, she had started feeling very fatigued. She played the French Open, only to retire from a back injury in the second round. Jelena missed the warm-up tournaments before Wimbledon as a result of her back injury.

Shortly after playing Wimbledon, she was diagnosed with mononucleosis. “It’s just so unlucky, says Dokic. “Some people just have it that way and get injured all the time, whereas some people get sick. I think it counts how many times you get up, not how many times you fall down, so hopefully I can try to do it one more time, and hopefully I won’t have to do it again.”

Looking back, Dokic realized that she had been playing with mono for quite a while, and didn’t even know she had it. The illness crept up slowly, until she just couldn’t play anymore. “It’s been a very tough couple of months,” said Dokic.

Too Much, Too Soon?
Once Dokic started feeling better, she became anxious to make her comeback on the WTA Tour as soon as possible. She even wanted to play the Bronx before the US Open, but she just hadn’t trained for it. Did she make the right choice to play the US Open, not knowing if she was ready? “It’s always hard to make that decision because it’s a Grand Slam,” says Dokic. When you’re directly into the main draw, you think that I’ll at least get a match, and I’ll practice. It’s hard to come out and play a Grand Slam straight away because everyone is so ready and there’s a lot at stake, and a lot of points.”

The Road to Recovery
Dokic expects to have a full recovery from her illness, but the question is when. “Mono is a hard thing,” says Dokic. “You have to go a couple of weeks at a time and see how you feel. But it’s tough to come out and play a competitive match. These girls have been playing week-in and week-out. I think I’m really behind as far as that goes. I have to just grind it out now, and hopefully I can still have a couple matches this year, and be healthy the whole next year.”

For now, Dokic’s goals are to stay positive, work hard, and play as many matches as physically possible. Starting next week, Dokic will be playing a few smaller events on clay.

Caroline Wozniacki Wins Her Second Pilot Pen Title

On the Baseline Tennis News
August 29, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut—On Saturday, August 29, Caroline Wozniacki defeated Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-4, to earn her second consecutive Pilot Pen title, and her sixth Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title.
Caroline Wozniacki
The women’s final match came very close to being a washout, thanks to a steady stream of rain that began on Friday.

The wind, rain, and cold continued through the 12pm start time on Saturday. Tournament organizers even took down the video monitors above Stadium Court, as a precaution. After a 3 1/2 hour rain delay, the clouds dried up just in time for Wozniacki and Vesnina to battle it out for the title on Stadium Court. But unfortunately for TV viewers, not in time for ESPN or CBS to air the match live.

Wozniacki took an early lead in the first set against Vesnina, and broke her serve to make it 4-1. Vesnina held her serve to win the second game in the 2nd set, taking it to 5-2, but Wozniacki held on to take the first set 6-2. Things turned slightly in Vesnina’s favor in the 2nd set, as Wozniacki dropped her serve, bringing it to 3-3. Maybe it was Vesnina’s loud “haayaa!” after hitting the ball that made the difference, or maybe she simply found her rhythm in the second set.

Whatever the case, it seemed as though Vesnina was taking control of the match, but it didn’t last. “I was not that upset that I lost my serve at 3-all,” says Vesnina. “She played really good that game. I was still hoping, you know, that I can turn everything back because I had a feeling that if I would be a little bit more consistent, you know, if I would be a little bit more just not doing a lot of errors, I can win the second set, I can win the match. It’s impossible to win a match if you’re doing so many unforced errors.”
Elena Vesnina and Caroline Wozniacki

Wozniacki hadn’t dropped a set during the entire tournament. When she won the second set and the Pilot Pen title, the audio system was blaring “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. “Now it’s my time,” said Wozniacki. “It’s my turn to win some tournaments. I just feel I’ve had a great year. I’m so happy that it’s my name coming up a lot of times now.”

Wozniacki reached her her 7th final this year. When the Pilot Pen began, Wozniacki faced Edina Gallovits in the 1st round. She handed Gallovits a double-bagel, in just 43 minutes — the shortest match of the tournament. Wozniacki also beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Virginie Razzano, and Flavia Pennetta on her way to the final. The last WTA player to win back-to-back Pilot Pen tournaments was Venus Williams, a four-time winner from 1999-2002.

No. 32 ranked Elena Vesnina is a rising Russian tennis star, who made her first appearance at the Pilot Pen this year. She defeated Gisela Dulko, Samantha Stosur, Anna Chakvetadze, and Amelie Mauresmo to reach the final. Her coach, former ATP player Andrei Chesnokov, said that he would shave his head if Vesnina made it to the final – and he kept his promise. Regardless of the outcome, Vesnina said “we were just happy we were able to play outdoors. So it looks like a real final.”

Football Fun at Yale
During the Pilot Pen, Caroline had a chance to watch the incoming students moving into the Yale dorms, and meet the entire Yale Football Team (all 105 of them). “Being the only girl, and 105 guys, that wasn’t bad,” said Caroline. That could happen a little bit more often,” she said with a laugh.

Caroline’s Thoughts on the U.S. Open
With the US Open starting on Monday, the Pilot Pen champion won’t have much time to regroup, but has already started to think about what she could face in the coming weeks. “I expect it to be very competitive. There are a lot of players in good shape right now. Dinara Safina has not won a Grand Slam yet, but she’s been in a lot of finals. She’s always dangerous. She’s No. 1 in the world, and won so many other good tournaments.” Wozniacki also commented on Serena and Venus Williams, and Flavia Pennetta as players who could be tough to beat.

Caroline Wozniacki Takes a Swing At Boxing

On the Baseline Tennis News
August 25, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Connnecticut—On Tuesday evening, 19-year-old Caroline Wozniacki defeated Edina Gallovits at the Pilot Pen tennis tournament, handing her a double bagel (6-0, 6-0). And Wozniacki didn’t waste any time. She finished the match in just 43 minutes.
Caroline Wozniacki
“I’ve been working hard,” says Caroline. “The last three tournaments I played, I’ve had some really tough matches, but I just needed the consistency that I’ve had earlier in the year, and I’m so happy that I could keep my level up for the whole match.”

It was just one year ago that the current world No. 8 burst onto the tennis scene, capturing her first ever Sony Ericsson WTA tour title in New Haven. Since then, she has earned five WTA career titles, and could potentially win her 6th by the end of this week.

Despite all the hard work, Caroline has admitted to being bored with her off-court training routine. Just after Wimbledon, a professional boxing friend (Michael Kessler), suggested that she give boxing a try. She took a chance, hired a boxing coach, and started swinging.
That decision has proven to be a good one. Caroline says that boxing has helped her to become a better tennis player. “It’s not only the boxing training,” she says. “You do at least 40 min. on the treadmill before, and you run a lot, and strengthen your stomach, your back, your shoulders, your arms…all the things that you also need in tennis.”

Caroline stresses that she’s “not the hitting kind of person” and laughed when someone asked if she tries to picture a particular player when she boxes. “It’s fun to get some aggression out sometimes,” she says, “but I prefer hitting the balls.”

US Open Series: Who Will Go The Distance?
August 18, 2009

We’re more than half way through the Olympus US Open Series (a.k.a., the summer hard court season). Even though the US Open is still a few weeks away, one thing is clear on the men’s side: Change is in the air.

U.S. Open Contenders

Andy Roddick - It’s official. Andy Roddick is back, and he means business. After heeding the advice of his new coach, Larry Stefanki, Andy shed 15 pounds, and has renewed confidence in his game. The No. 1 American is having one of the best years of his career, battling his way into the Wimbledon final, and in the process, bringing American tennis back into the fold. After recovering from a hip flexor injury, he reached the final at Washington. In the sweltering heat, Roddick fought a very close 3-set final, saving 3 match points against Juan Martin Del Potro. The match ended in dramatic fashion, with a challenge call on championship point, giving Del Potro his 2nd consecutive title in Washington. Less than a week later, Roddick advanced to the semifinal of the Roger’s Cup, but lost to Del Potro. It’s safe to say that Roddick has the look of a champion, and is ready to do some damage at the US Open.
Juan Martin Del Potro -The 6′6″ Argentinean and current world No. 6, has been dominating the summer hard court season. His big serve and powerful double-handed backhand make him a tough opponent to beat. Del Potro showed Andy Roddick twice in one week how to win in a tight match, and in the process, he successfully defended his title at the Legg Mason Classic. Del Potro then went on to the Rogers Cup, beating Rafa and Roddick along the way, only to run out of gas in the final, losing to Andy Murray. Del Potro is the current point leader in the Olympus US Open Series Bonus Challenge, and is poised to break into the ATP’s top 5. The Federer/Nadal rivalry may be taking a back seat to the brewing battle between Del Potro and Roddick.
Andy Murray - Before the Rogers Cup, Andy Murray hadn’t played a match since his semifinal loss to Andy Roddick at Wimbledon. But since pulling off a 3-set win against Del Potro in the Roger’s Cup final, the US Open buzz has begun. Looking ahead to September, Murray will be looking to avenge his 2008 US Open loss to Roger Federer. The newly minted No. 2 also has a chance to become the first British man since Fred Perry (in 1933) to take the US Open title. Murray, who has yet to win a Grand Slam title, has beaten Federer 6 times in their past 8 meetings.
Roger Federer - The reigning No. 1 took 5 weeks off after Wimbledon to focus on family, but joined the summer hard court season in Montreal, at the Rogers Cup. He suffered a surprising loss in his quarterfinal match against Tsonga, despite a 5-1 lead in the 3rd set. Even Federer admitted that Tsonga is a “dangerous player.” But with 5 consecutive titles at the US Open (2004-2008), it’s doubtful that any player can take him down in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Novak Djokovic - Like Murray and Federer, Djokovic hadn’t seen any match play since Wimbledon. Upon his return to competition, the current world No. 4 made it to the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup, only to be taken out by Andy Roddick. Moving forward, Djokovic is considering some changes off court. He is in talks with Todd Martin to possibly bring him on as a member of his coaching team.

The Rafa Comeback
Rafael Nadal’s long awaited comeback finally took place in Montreal, making his debut at the Roger’s Cup. A quarterfinal finish was a good test of his health and fitness, but the former No. 1 player is understandably taking a cautious approach. Looking back on this year, no one has experienced more change than Rafa. Within the span of just a few months, the 4-time French Open champion lost in the 4th Now at No. 3 (a ranking he hasn’t held since July 2005), Rafa isn’t setting any expectations for himself, or his knees. He knows that recovery is a process, which takes time. It may be too soon to tell if his knees will be ready to survive the hard-court pounding at the US Open. round in Paris, his knees began to fail him, he withdrew from Wimbledon, he was sidelined with tendonitis for 2 months, and lost his No.1 ranking.

The American Comeback
Not too long ago, there was a significant void in men’s tennis, caused by a lack of young American talent on the tour. With Andy Roddick now taking the lead, a new crop of American tennis players are following suit. Sam Querrey and John Isner, along with veterans Mardy Fish and Robby Ginepri, have the talent and commitment to put American tennis back on the map. It won’t be long before the American men start winning Grand Slams again.

Sam Querrey - The 6′6″ California native has top-10 potential written all over him, holding the No. 26 ranking spot. He reached the final of Newport and Indianapolis, and won the LA Tennis Open, in front of his hometown crowd. Querrey will have more than a few more aces up his sleeve as he heads into the US Open.
John Isner - Despite being sidelined for 2 months with mono, the 6′9″ rising star is back and stronger than he’s been in 2 years. He’s achieved his highest ranking -No. 55, and has proven that he can give the top 10 players a run for their money. Since the start of the summer hard court season, Isner reached the semifinals in Indianapolis, followed by a quarterfinal run in LA, and reached the semifinals at the Legg Mason Classic, where he lost a tight match to fellow American Andy Roddick. After the semifinal loss, he received a special exemption into the Roger’s Cup main draw. Isner has also been granted a wildcard for the Pilot Pen in New Haven.
Mardy Fish - The No. 2 American has lost the knee tape, gained a wedding ring, and has slowly crept back into the top 25. Despite an abdominal strain that has sidelined him during most of the US Open Series, the opportunity for him to rest and regroup could make him a dangerous opponent.
Robby Ginepri - One of the most unpredictable players on the tour, Ginepri managed to win the title in Indianapolis, beating Sam Querrey and John Isner along the way. With hard courts being his favorite surface, he will have some additional chances to prove himself during the US Open Series.

Darkhorse Picks for the US Open

Sam Querrey
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

The WTA Tour Ranking System Explained

On the Baseline Tennis News
August 11, 2009

There have been many heated debates lately about the WTA’s No. 1 ranking. Specifically, how can Dinara Safina be ranked No. 1 and Serena Williams No. 2, after Serena won 2 Grand Slams this year, and Dinara has yet to win any? On the other hand, how can Serena lose in the 1st round of 3 consecutive tournaments, not win any tournaments outside of this year’s Grand Slams, and still hold her No. 2 ranking position? These questions simply feed into the most heated debate of them all: Who is the best female tennis player in the world?

According to the WTA’s ranking system, the answer is all in the numbers.

How It Works

The WTA Tour ranking system is a rolling, 52-week, cumulative system. Ranking points are accrued based on results from the highest round a player reaches in a WTA or ITF tournament, or tournaments which have prize money of $10k or more. The WTA Tour caps a player’s best 16 singles tournament results and best 11 doubles tournament results for one season. The term “rolling” simply means that there are some ranking points that carry over from the previous season. For example, Serena Williams’ ranking points from the 2008 US Open have carried over to 2009. Once she completes the 2009 US Open, her 2008 ranking points will be replaced by the new ones.

WTA Ranking Point Distribution for Singles and Doubles

Grand Slams – 2,000 points
Premier Mandatory – 1,000 points
Premier 5 – 800 points
Premier 700 – 470 points
International – 280 points

The Top-10 Has a Ranking System All Its Own

When a new top-10 player participates in Premier 5 tournaments (Dubai, Rome, Cincinnati, Toronto, and Tokyo), those tournaments take on a whole new meaning. Once a top-10 player has 2 Premier 5 tournaments on her record, any other Premier 5 tournament results from the same season can replace her first 2 Premier 5 tournament results, as long as the results are better. Only a player’s 2 best Premier 5 tournament results are included in her ranking. When it comes to Dinara Safina’s record, she must count her ranking points for her 1st round loss in Dubai, unless her results from the upcoming Cincinnati or Toronto tournaments prove better than Dubai.

When Zero Counts

Any player who qualifies (by ranking) for acceptance into the Main Draw of Grand Slams, Premier Mandatory events or the Sony Ericsson Championships, has the benefit of Automatic Main Draw entry into those events. The down side? Any player who is automatically entered and then withdraws or fails to play, receives 0 ranking points for that tournament, which counts on her ranking as one of her best 16 tournament results. In addition, any top-10 player (or marquee player) who fails to play in a Premier $700 Commitment Tournament receives 0 ranking points for the tournament. For example, Serena Williams currently has 2 mandatory zero-point tournaments that count toward her 16 best tournament results. This rule does not apply to players who do not qualify for Automatic Main Draw entry.

Defending Points and Bonus Points

The idea of “defending points” works this way: If a player reaches the semifinal in the same tournament two years in a row, then she would be “defending her points.” A case in which this would not apply would be the 2008 Olympics.
Bonus points simply do not exist in the WTA ranking system. Bonus prize money, on the other hand, does exist. The Olympus US Open Series awards bonus points (not ranking points) based on player performance at each of the US Open Series tournaments. This puts the top male and female players in a position to win an extra $1 million in prize money at the US Open.

Breaking Down the Numbers

Dinara Safina No. 1
2009 tournaments played to date: 13
2009 Tournament Results and Ranking Points Accrued:
Sydney (Premier 700) – Final –Ranking Points: 320
Australian Open (Grand Slam) – Final – Ranking Points: 1,400
Dubai (Premier 5) – 1st Round – Ranking Points: 1
Indian Wells (Premier Mandatory) – QF – Ranking Points: 250
Miami (Premier Mandatory)- 3rd Round – Ranking Points: 80
Stuttgart (Premier 700) – Final – Ranking Points: 320
Rome (Premier 5) – Winner – Ranking Points: 800
Madrid (Premier Mandatory): Winner – Ranking Points: 1,000
Roland Garros (Grand Slam) – Final – Ranking Points: 1,400
‘s-Hertogenbosch (International) – SF – Ranking Points: (Not Counting)
Wimbledon (Grand Slam) – SF – Ranking Points: 900
Portoroz (International) – Winner – Ranking Points: 280
Los Angeles (Premier 700) – 3rd Round – Ranking Points: 60 (Not Counting)

2008 Roll-Over Ranking Points: (As of August 10)
Olympics - Beijing (Silver) Ranking Points: 490
US Open (Grand Slam) SF Ranking Points: 900
Tokyo (Premier 5) Winner – Ranking Points: 860
Stuttgart (Premier 700) QF - Ranking Points (Not Counting)
Moscow (Premier 700) SF – Ranking Points: 390
Tour Championships –Round Robin- Ranking Points: 210 

Total Ranking Points: 9,601 (As of August 10)
Points from Grand Slams: 4,600
Points from Tour Events: 5,001
Serena Williams No. 2
2009 tournaments played to date: 11

2009 Tournament Results and Ranking Points Accrued:
Sydney (Premier 700) – SF – Ranking Points: 200
Australian Open (Grand Slam) – Winner – Ranking Points: 2,000
Paris (indoors) – (Premier 700) SF – Ranking Points: 200
Dubai (Premier 5) – SF – Ranking Points: 350
Miami (Premier Mandatory) – Final - Ranking Points: 700
Marbella (Premier Mandatory) – 1st Round – Ranking Points: 1
Rome (Premier 5) – 2nd Round (1st Round bye) – Ranking Points: 1
Madrid (Premier Mandatory) – 1st Round – Ranking Points: 5
Roland Garros (Grand Slam) – QF – Ranking Points: 500
Wimbledon (Grand Slam) – Winner – Ranking Points: 2,000
Stanford (Premier 700) – QF– Ranking Points: 120

2008 Roll-Over Ranking Points: (As of August 10)
Olympics - Beijing - QF – Ranking Points: 180
US Open (Grand Slam) Winner – Ranking Points: 2,000
Stuttgart 2r (l. in 2r after 1r bye) – Ranking Points: 1
Tour Championships –Round Robin – Ranking Points: 370
Tournaments Not Played in 2009:
Indian Wells (Premier Mandatory) – Ranking Points: 0
Charleston (Premier 700) – Ranking Points: 0

Total Ranking Points: 8,628 (As of August 10)
Points from Grand Slams: 6,500
Points from Tour Events: 2,128
These questions are sure to fan the flames of the No. 1 ranking debate: Does the WTA’s ranking system have a winning formula? Is it appropriate to judge a top-ranked WTA player based exclusively on her success in Grand Slam tournaments?

Monica Seles: A Champion Among Champions

On the Baseline Tennis News
July 13, 2009

NEWPORT, RI—On Saturday, July 11, Monica Seles was surrounded by family, friends, and thousands of fans as she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
In a career that spanned 15 years, she grunted and grinded her way to the top of the tennis ranks to earn a spot among the greatest champions in the history of tennis. Despite the highs and lows of her career, she managed to get through it all with integrity, sportsmanship, and grace.
Monica Seles, Mary Joe Fernandez and Betsy McCormack. (© Paula Vergara)Monica Seles, Mary Joe Fernandez and Betsy McCormack. (© Paula Vergara)

Monica’s close friends, Betsy McCormack, wife of the late Mark McCormack of IMG, and Mary Joe Fernandez, served as the “tag team” of presenters during the induction ceremony. Each of them shared personal memories of their 20+ year friendship with Monica, both on and off the court.

Mary Joe had this to say about Monica as a competitor: “No matter how badly she would beat me in a match, she always had a kind word to say. It was usually something like, ‘Don’t worry Mary Joe, it was a great match. I got a little lucky today.’ “She got lucky about 15 times in a row!”

Mary Joe also reminisced about having Monica as her team-mate on the US Fed Cup team in 1999, along with Venus and Serena Williams (Monica became a US citizen in 1994). Nerves were running high before the matches, but after a few days of practice, Serena said to Mary Joe: “You know Monica is my favorite. She’s my idol. And wow! She is so nice!”
A young Monica Seles playing tennis. (Image courtesy of the International Tennis Hall of Fame)A young Monica Seles playing tennis. (Courtesy of the
International Tennis Hall of Fame)

Monica started on her tennis path as a 6-year-old in her hometown of Novi Sad, in the former Yugoslavia. “I never imagined where this magical sport called tennis would take me, and how much fun I would have.”

Monica and her family moved to the United States in 1987, when she was just 13. A meeting with Betsy McCormack led her to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. Monica turned pro one year later. “On the court, Monica was fearless,” said Betsy. “She was one of the first players to take a return of serve and turn it into a weapon.” One of Monica’s other weapons—a double-handed forehand AND backhand.

“When I joined the tour at age 14, that was my home,” said Monica. “I grew up on the WTA Tour. And what an amazing place to grow up. I had to grow up very fast, under the media spotlight.”

All seemed to be going very well for Monica during the early years of her career, until a tragic incident on-court changed her life. During a 1993 quarterfinal match in Hamburg, Germany, a fanatical fan made his way onto the court and stabbed Monica in the back. She was just 20 years old.

After her stabbing, Monica spent the next 27 months off the WTA Tour to recuperate. Upon her return to the game, she was granted a co-No. 1 ranking alongside Steffi Graf. Looking back, we all probably wonder how many titles Monica could have won if she hadn’t suffered the physical and emotional toll of being stabbed. “Monica is never one to dwell on what-ifs,” said Betsy McCormack. Monica credits Betsy for giving her great strength during a very difficult time of her life. “I probably wouldn’t have come back [to tennis] if I didn’t hang around Betsy and her joy for the game,” she said.

Monica came back and won her ninth Grand Slam title in 1996, but personal battles and injuries plagued her, and she eventually retired from the WTA Tour in 2008.

The list of Monica’s accomplishments is staggering. She won nine Grand Slam titles (eight before the age of 19). She is the youngest player in history to win Roland Garros (at age 16), and she held the No. 1 ranking for 178 weeks (non-consecutive). She also helped the US Fed Cup team capture the Cup in 1996, 1999, and 2000.

Monica Seles is one of the most beloved tennis players of the current generation. (© Paula Vergara)Monica Seles is one of the most beloved tennis players of this generation. (© Paula Vergara)

During Monica’s induction speech, she let out her infamous “grunt” for all of her fellow competitors, “just for ol’ time sake.” Mary Joe Fernandez commented earlier that Monica’s grunts were “more like a whisper compared to other grunts on the Tour.”

Monica saved her most personal thank you’s for her family. “My mom never played any tennis, but she was the best coach I could ever have,” she said. She also thanked her older brother, Zoltan. “He was the one who I always wanted to beat. I always felt if I could only beat my brother, I thought I could actually have a shot to be a professional one-day. It took a very long time to beat him, but that challenge kept me going.”

Lastly, Monica thanked her father, Karolj, who passed away in 1998. “I owe my tennis career to my father, who spent countless hours on a tennis court [with me], but most importantly, he always made sure I had fun. Without my Dad’s support and knowledge of the game, I would not have won all those titles, and would not have played such an aggressive game.”

An entire room at the Tennis Hall of Fame’s museum has been dedicated to Monica Seles and her illustrious tennis career.

It is an honor well deserved. Thanks for the memories, Monica.
Monica Seles' new book, Getting a Grip On My Body, My Mind, My Self, is available at or wherever books are sold.

Querrey Finds a Comfortable Fit With

Bob Larson's Tennis News
July 1, 2009

Sam Querrey, the 4th highest ranked US player on the ATP tour, has renewed his 1-year sponsorship deal with, the premiere online destination for shoes and apparel.

Sam doesn’t seem to mind being the athletic sponsorship test case. “It's nice being the only player to be sponsored by,” he says. It feels like the entire company is behind me, as if I'm the priority. It's sort of like I am Michael Jordan with Nike. Most people are sponsored strictly by tennis companies, so it is pretty cool to have a sponsor that doesn't fit that mold.”

Last year, Sam had the opportunity to visit the headquarters in Henderson, Nevada (just outside Las Vegas), and loved it. He recalls, “It was the most unique office I've ever visited. It reminded me of Google's atmosphere.”

Michelle Thomas, Marketing Manager for, says that advertising in tennis simply “makes sense,” considering the similar audiences and demographics. Why Sam Querrey? “Sam is an up and coming tennis player who has the potential to do great things both on the court and off,” says Michelle. “We feel that he is a great extension to our culture. He’s a player with a great sense of humor and a big heart!” also sponsored this year's Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, as well as the Tennis Channel’s Bag Check segment, featuring Sam Querrey, among others. doesn’t have any current plans to sponsor other tennis players, but hasn't ruled it out for the future.

Tennis Insider: Q&A with Coach Wayne Bryan

On the Baseline Tennis News
June 5, 2009

Wayne Bryan knows a little bit about coaching. In his seven seasons as head coach of the World Team Tennis Sacramento Capitals, his team took home the title in 2002 and 2007.

Wayne has also had the esteemed honor of being voted WTT Coach of the Year three years in a row (2004-2006). Few tennis coaches have had the opportunity to work with so many of the top players on the WTA and ATP tours.

Growing up in Southern California, Wayne has been the first to acknowledge that the influences on his coaching have come from the mentors of his youth. He took what he learned from them, and went on become a successful teaching pro, and even taught his own sons, Mike and Bob Bryan, to become champions in doubles, and in life. In fact, you won’t find a more ardent supporter of doubles. It’s a good thing he and his wife had twins.
Simply known as “Coach Bryan”, he works as an emcee for pro tournaments and exhibitions nationwide. He also teaches tennis clinics, and is a frequent speaker at coaches’ conventions. He’s on the road 180 days a year. Coach Bryan has many other titles, including lawyer, musician, husband, father, and author.

I recently caught up with Coach Bryan while he was at home in southern California, hoping to get a little insight into his world as a tennis coach.

OTB: Who were your mentors as a coach?

Coach Bryan:
So many teachers and coaches have influenced me through the years, and of course, both of my parents. My high school football coach, Hal Chauncey, was probably my biggest influence ever. He was a very creative coach, a great leader and so motivational and inspirational. He was very funny and I still hear from him to this day.
Other important mentors to me were famed USC coach Dick Leach. He gave me such good advice as Mike and Bob were coming along in the juniors. Watching Stanford legend Dick Gould from afar and up close was so educational. What a leader and winner he is.

OTB: When did you first realize that coaching could be your life’s work?
Coach Bryan: I had taught tennis at a local park even while I was still in high school, and I also taught at Laguna Blanca School in Hope Ranch –beautiful area — when I was at UCSB. Working with all those rich kids whose parents had forced them to take lessons, helped me understand the importance of the kids actually having fun during our time together.

OTB: What career path did you take to become a tennis coach?
Coach Bryan: I actually went to law school, but when I finished, I took a pro job at a new club that was forming—the Cabrillo Racquet Club in Camarillo, California. I said I’d stay on until I passed the bar exam after law school. I passed the bar and said I’d stay on another year. That turned out to be 26 years.

Sacramento CapitalsOTB: You’ll be coaching the WTT Sacramento Capitals again this year, making it your eighth season. Olga Puchkova and Rennae Stubbs will be on your squad. Any insights into their game?
Coach Bryan: Olga has played a match or two for us in the past as a substitute. She is likeable and has huge “groundies”. We need to work on her serve a little and also on her doubles play. “Stubbsie” [Rennae Stubbs] has played mixed doubles a few times with the Bryan bros. and we’ve known her a long time. Certainly one of the all-time great doubles players and has been No. 1 and won slams. She definitely knows her way around the doubles court and she is also very adept at mixed doubles, because she can play off the big pace. And she is smart and has been on the tour for many years. She will be a great asset to our team and will help Olga with her doubles. She and Mark Knowles should be the best mixed team in the league.

OTB: What other players from the WTA tour have you coached during your tenure with the Sacramento Capitals?
Coach Bryan: I’ve been blessed to have lots of wonderful and talented women on my WTT squads. The great thing about WTT is that it’s two men and two women on each team. For the Caps, I’ve had a great relationship with Elena Likhovtseva, former No. 4 in the world in doubles and No.16 in singles. I also coached Ashley Harkleroad, and she helped us win the WTT Championship in 2002. I’ve also coached Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic when she was in the 300’s and then, of course, she went up to the top 10. She was fun and is loaded with talent, guts and size. I’ve also had talented young juniors like Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is headed up the rankings and Michelle Larcher De Brito. I called her “the kid”. She was just 15.

OTB: How does women’s doubles differ from men’s doubles?
Coach Bryan: Not to be sexist, but in general, the women don’t serve as big as the men. Their second serves and kickers aren’t as nasty. Sad to say most women don’t volley as well. They are not taught to volley. It is not as important to them in singles so they don’t spend the time on it. I say when you are out there four or five hours a day with a young junior girl, take some time to work that volley in drills and games. Same with the second serve and first serve. And have all juniors play more doubles and mixed doubles!! So many life lessons are learned on the singles court, but there’s a whole ‘nother set of life lessons learned on the doubles court and mixed doubles court. It rounds out skills, and it gives them a second chance if they take a loss in their singles.

OTB: Who are some promising up-and-comers that you’ve seen on the WTA tour?
Coach Bryan: I like Caroline Wozniacki. Great girl and headed for the top. Same for Victoria Azarenka. In fact, Bob won the French Open mixed with her last May. We’ve got some young gals from the USA showing promise too: Melanie Oudin, Coco Vandeweghe, Alexa Glatch, and Christina McHale, just to name a few. Bethanie Mattek-Sands is having a great season and making great strides up the ranking…dynamic young lady and played a few WTT matches for us.

OTB: How can you tell if a player has top 10 potential?
Coach Bryan: Athletic ability, weapons, and guts. Most of all—a passion for the game. Players who are successful in tennis like to compete. And they have to love the lifestyle. It’s easy to predict as they get near the top 10, but tougher to pick out when they are just in the juniors and especially younger juniors.

OTB: What is your approach to coaching? Do you adjust your methods according to a player’s personality and age?
Coach Bryan: Each player is a unique individual and I do not treat each player the same. A great coach has his principles, but he has lots and lots of arrows in his quiver. Two huge keys for me are:

1) Making tennis and the tennis lifestyle fun for the player and making sure you attend lots and lots of motivational tennis events to create passion for the game.
2) Having my players practice with enthusiasm and keep them under pressure, with a small “p”. Lots of drills and games with points on ‘em.

I have written a book about it: Raising Your Child to Be a Champion in Athletics, Arts, and Academics. I also have my Coach Bryan’s Syllabus, and my Drills ‘n Games booklet.

For more information about the upcoming World Team Tennis season, visit the official website at

Tennis Players Take On Twitter

On the Baseline Tennis News
May 26, 2009

Tennis players may have experienced a loss of fan mail recently—and for good reason.
Twitter has become the next best thing, and web-savvy players are joining the twitterverse, posting real-time “tweets” (or short messages) about their lives, on and off the court.
Player tweets have run the gamut from pre and post-match commentary, to humorous quips about airport adventures, pet peeves, and favorite restaurants. This hot social networking site isn’t just giving players opportunities to communicate directly with fans, it’s become a secret (or not-so-secret) marketing and promotional tool.

Serena’s No. 1 (on Twitter)
Serena Williams (@serenajwilliams) may have fallen back to the No. 2 position on the WTA tour, but she has become one of the most popular tennis players on Twitter. Since typing her first tweet at the end of March, Serena has caused a flurry of excitement with her fans by personally responding to many comments and questions. Serena posted this non-tennis tweet after returning from the Andalucia Tennis Experience in Marbella, Spain: “Hey Guys!!! So, I am home watching Bridezilla…”

I recently asked Serena (via Twitter, of course) how she feels about this new mode of communication. “I am loving Twitter so far,” she says. “It is a cool way to do quick updates and say hello personally to my fans.” By the way, that’s 211,683 fans (and counting).

Tennis Bracelet, Anyone?
Serena’s tweets are usually more than just a quick hello to her flock of followers. Known for her passion for fashion, Serena has been using Twitter to market her new line of clothing and accessories, which recently debuted on the Home Shopping Network. Good business skills…or a good agent? You be the judge.

Serena may be No. 1 on Twitter, but she’s got some competition. Here’s a current list of tweeting tennis players:


Sabine Lisicki (GER) (@sabinelisicki)
Recent tweet: “Had a good time on the court. Getting back into the rhythm. Draw is out, playing against Safarova first round.”

Anne Keothavong (GBR) (@annekeothavong)
Recent tweet: “Match b4 me has had to stop coz a swarm of bees have settled on the net! Fire brigade have been called in to sort it out.”

Edina Gallovits (ROU) (@edinagallovits)
Recent tweet: “Had a good practice with Melanie Oudin! She is always fun to hit with.”

Casey Dellacqua
(AUS) (@caseydellacqua)
Recent tweet: “Just finished fitness session at the gym. Off to the hyperbaric chamber now for some recovery.”


Andy Roddick (@andyroddick)
Recent tweet: “Off to the courts!! Looking forward to playing again…”

Andy Murray (@andy_murray)
Recent tweet: “Thanks for all the messages! I hit with Rafa today. Should be good preparation.”

Bob and Mike Bryan (@bryanbros)
Recent tweet: “It sure would help to speak Italian in Italy. Just ate three dishes that I didn’t order. Delicious stuff though!”

Amer Delic (@amerdelic)
Recent tweet: “Serena is absolutely blowing up twitter!”

Travis Parrott (@TravisParrott)
Recent tweet: “first round of the French tomorrow…I’m the 5th match on after 11:00am (Paris time)”

Retired Players/Tennis Commentators:

Justin Gimelstob (@justingimelstob)
Recent tweet: “My life is a combination of Groundhog’s day and planes, trains, and automobiles.”

Jim Courier (@jimcourier)
Recent tweet: “Sharing locker room w/Mac. Will start intimidating him in 30 mins.”
Note: Jim Courier recently became the first ever to “tweet” (via Blackberry) during his own match on the Outback Champions Tour. Unfortunately, players on the WTA/ATP tours are not allowed to tweet during matches.

Players also use Twitter to post pictures of their tennis travels, giving fans/followers a better feel for their life on and off the road. Just log onto with your Twitter username/password to view their images and post comments.

Soon, more and more tennis players will be joining the twitterverse…and fans will be following.

On the Baseline (@TennisNews) will be on the lookout for any new tweeting tennis players, so check back here to see which of your favorite players have joined Twitter.

USTA and JPMorgan Chase End Credit Card Partnership

Bob Larson's Daily Tennis News

After just 11 months, The USTA has ended its Signature Visa partnership with Chase Card Services, the credit card division of JPMorgan Chase.

The partnership seemed to be a win-win situation, with Chase having an opportunity to increase its customer base, and the USTA adding much needed revenue to its bottom line. In a press release last June, Chase wrote “Every purchase made using the card will also contribute to the USTA’s mission to promote and develop the growth of tennis.”

This split is a blow for the USTA, and could be a sign of financial troubles that could impact the longstanding relationship between the USTA and JPMorgan Chase.

When asked to comment on the split, Mike Fusco, spokesperson for JPMorgan Chase, said “The U.S. Tennis Association Signature Visa is no longer being issued by Chase. JPMorgan Chase and the USTA have enjoyed a strong and valuable relationship for the past 25-plus years. Current USTA cardholders in good standing will be offered another Chase card product upon expiration of their current card. JPMorgan Chase will continue to serve as lead sponsor of the U.S. Open. Additionally, with the USTA, JPMorgan Chase provided more than 8,000 New York City youth with the opportunity to develop their tennis skills in free tennis camps in over 37 parks.” Representatives from the USTA headquarters declined to comment on the split.

Victoria Azarenka Beats Serena Williams to Win Her First Sony Ericsson Open Title

On the Baseline Tennis News
April 4, 2009

MIAMI, Florida—19-year-old Victoria Azarenka is now the pride of Belarus, claiming her first Sony Ericsson Open title after defeating an injured Serena Williams in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1.

Victoria AzarenkaNot only did Azarenka deny Serena the opportunity to claim her 6th victory here in Miami, she took away her chance to break Steffi Graf’s record for the most singles titles at this tournament (5).

“I gave the effort that I could give today. That’s all I could give,” says Serena. She played with a taped left thigh, and was visibly limping towards the middle of the 2nd set.

When asked about her injury, Serena would only say that she has an ankle strain, as well as something else on her thigh that was bothering her in the quarterfinal, and seemed to get worse as the tournament progressed.

The brutal heat and humidity also produced difficult playing conditions. Richard Williams was seen wiping sweat from his face as he watched his daughter struggle through the match.

Despite the exchange of grunts from both sides of the court, it was clear that Serena wasn’t able to get to the ball fast enough, which she later admitted. “It was a little difficult moving to the left and a little bit to the right. A little forward was also difficult,” she said with a laugh.
After hitting the winning point, Azarenka was bursting with excitement as she dropped her racquet and ran over to hug her coach, Antonio Van Grichen, and her fitness coach, Mark Willington.

“It was the biggest win of my career so far,” says Azarenka. “I was just so happy to finish the match, because I was getting a little bit nervous at the end.”

Her nerves were visible when she double faulted at match point, just when she realized that she could actually win the title. But her consistency and aggressive playing style prevented her from becoming overwhelmed by her impending win over the No. 1 player in the world.
As for Serena’s future, she says that she plans to take a few weeks off to recuperate.
Victoria Azarenka, now ranked No. 8, is the 2nd player from Belarus to be ranked in the top 10, next to Natasha Zvereva, who was ranked No. 5 in 1989, and retired in 2002.

Tennis Tensions: An Inside Look at the Racquets of the Stars

On the Baseline Tennis News
April 4, 2009

MIAMI, Florida—Greetings once again from the Sony Ericsson Open. Earlier this evening, I was lurking around the racquet stringers room at the tournament. (The invite to Star Jones’s party didn’t pan out, so I went for a walk.)

It’s just as well. I’ve been wanting to learn more about the racquets of the pros for a while now. Turns out, I was in luck. Scott Schneider, Goran Hofsteter, and Len Filatov, stringers for the Sony Ericsson Open, were kind enough to let me in to their work room and answer just about any racquet stringing question I had. They even gave me some good “dirt”.
These guys certainly know their stuff, having strung racquets for Serena and Venus Williams, Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, and Dinara Safina, among others.

Tennis Racquet Strings of the Pros — Fast Facts:
- Luxilon –most popular racquet string
- Normal string tension range: 54-60 pounds
- Doubles players play with lower tension – approx. 50 pounds
- Standard racquet head size: 95-100
- Racquet stringing based on weather: lower tension used if weather is more humid, tighter if more dry
- Length of time it takes to string one racquet: 20-25 min. (3 hours for 6 racquets)
- Racquets are sent directly from the stringing room to the court.
- Racquet tension can change as much as 6-7 pounds during the course of a match, if the player is hitting hard enough.

Power vs. Control
When you’re choosing racquet strings, it’s usually a tough choice between power and control. Hybrid strings–polyester and natural gut combined (two different strings), give players the best of both worlds.

Scott Schneider on hybrid strings: “You have a little bit of power from the natural gut that gives you the nice feel, and you’re still controlling the ball with the polyester. That way, you can kind of swing out at the ball, and it’s not too hard on the arms.”

Most of the top players are using the hybrid strings these days, including Maria Sharapova.
Below are some interesting details about specific racquets for some top players on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour:

Serena Williams
Racquet Type: Wilson KBlade Team
Head Size: 103 or 104 inches
Strings 6-8 racquets per match
String type - Wilson natural gut – 16 gauge
String tension: 65-67 pounds
Changes to a new racquet: 2-3 times/match, depending on match difficulty
Venus and Serena use the same racquet with same tension, but different over-grip
Scott Schneider: “Serena picks a couple of racquets at one tension and a couple at another tension, just in case the ball is flying or the weather’s changing. That way she can go to a tighter racquet, or if she starts with a tighter racquet and the balls aren’t flying deep enough, she’ll switch to a looser one.”

Ana Ivanovic
Racquet type: Yonex RQ iS 1 Tour XL 95
String type: natural gut and Yonex polyester string
Strings 2-4 racquets per match
Requests mixed tensions on racquets to be prepared for any weather changes

Dinara Safina
Racquet type: Babolat Aero Storm Tour
Luxilon polyester string – rough feel (to give her more spin)
String tension: 63-64 pounds

The Dirt
* Re-painting a racquet can affect the stiffness of a racquet, which can impact performance.
* Sometimes players don’t play with the racquet that you think they play with. They could be using a discontinued racquet from 2000, but is re-painted to look like the newest model (to please the sponsors). This is done when players don’t want to switch to a new racquet.
* Some players have varying tensions within the same racquet, for varying sweet spots. (Stringers wouldn’t spill the beans on who does this). 

What Players Are Picky About
- Where to put the stencil on the racquet (just above the 5th or 6th string)
- Where to tie the string knots
- Want the strings to be strung in one piece or two pieces
- Want the racquet to be bagged a certain way – logo facing up
- The sticker for the tension being in the same spot on all the racquets

Sounds Like a Good Racquet
Have you ever seen players bang racquets together and listen before switching racquets?
They’re listening for the right pitch. A high pitch sound means a tighter tension, while a low pitch sound is a lower tension.

Getting Personal
You’ve heard of personal trainers, but what about personal stringers. That’s right.
Some top-level players have personal stringers for big tournaments like Grand Slams.
Scott Schneider: “With so much money on the line, they don’t trust just anyone.”
Maybe if I buy Serena’s racquet with the exact same strings, tension and head size, I can have a good shot at being No. 1. Okay, I may be delusional, but I can still dream.

Would You Like a Ball, Ana?

On the Baseline Tennis News
March 14, 2009

Desirae Krawczyk

INDIAN WELLS, California—Greetings from the desert. It’s Friday the 13th. (Sorry, I had to bring it up.)

For better or for worse, second round action is heating up the courts today, and no one is more lucky to be on stadium court than Desirae Krawczyk. No, she’s not Amelie Mauresmo’s opponent, although she wishes she were.

Desirae is a player-in-training–otherwise known as a ball girl. She is one of six pint-sized players lucky enough to be on stadium court today at the BNP Paribas Open. Lucky, given that she was chosen from 200 other ball kids to work on the big stage. She must have quick feet.

Desirae, a high school freshman from Rancho Mirage, California is a veteran ball girl, who got her start at the BNP Paribas Open five years ago. Let’s just say, she’s learned a few things from being so close to the top 10 players in the world.

Desirae has been able to hone her tennis skills to become a top-level junior player. She is currently ranked No. 10 in California in the 16s and No. 29 nationally in the 16s.
Desirae got an early start in tennis, picking up her first racquet at the age of two. By age seven, she was playing competitively.

I caught up with Desirae at the tournament after a long day on the courts.

How often do you play tennis?
“I play tennis every day, and I play tournaments every week. To watch these pros is just really fun.”

Do you see yourself out there one day on stadium court as a pro?
“I have a lot of family and friends saying that it’s my turn to be here next year. I have the potential, and they believe in me, and I believe in myself.”

Do you think you will go onto college or are you still thinking about turning pro before you turn 18?
“I’m debating. I want to go pro, but want to go to college too.”

Do you ever get a chance to hit with the pros at all?
“Not really. On court you really can’t talk to them. Although just recently, there was a Desert Smash tournament. I had to hit one ball. Bob or Mike Bryan (not sure which—I can’t tell them apart!) gave me his racquet and asked if I wanted to play.”

Who’s your favorite female player?
“Definitely Ana Ivanovic. She started young. Watching her has inspired me to play more and get better.”

Desirae Krawczyk
What about your favorite male player?
“Novak Djokovic”, she says with a giggle. “He’s just really cute. His sense of humor makes him the best.”

What about autographs? You must have quite a collection.
“I have pictures and autographs of everyone in the top 10.”

Any advice on proper techniques for rolling a ball on court?
“Get low on your knees, and roll it like a bowling ball. You can’t chuck the ball. It could end up anywhere.”

What position do you play on court?
“I usually play any position as a ball girl. I’m pretty good at NET.”
FYI - ball kid positions are either “NETS” or “BACKS”. The NET position retrieves all balls that land in or around the net. The BACK position feeds balls to the player when he/she is ready to serve.

Has any player ever thrown a sweaty towel at you?
“Yes! David Nalbandian…last year. It was drenched in sweat. It was pretty gross. One really nice player I’ve seen is James Blake. He is always saying thank you. I got to meet his Mom and tell her ‘Your son is so nice. He’s so polite."

What have you learned from your experience as a ball girl?
“Being a ball kid is definitely good way to chase your dream of becoming a pro. You can see the techniques that they (the pros) have that you need to have to become pro. When I’m on the court, I just want to play for them, especially when they’re down on themselves.”
It won’t be too long before you see Desirae Krawczyk on stadium court at the BNP Paribas Open, swinging a racquet instead of rolling balls. If it happens, she promised to grant me an interview.

I guess we’re both pretty lucky.

Dispatches from the Desert: Week One at Indian Wells

On the Baseline Tennis News
March 16, 2009

INDIAN WELLS, California—Hello again from the hot, rain-deprived desert. It’s been an exciting first week at the BNP Paribas Open. Some surprising upsets have sent the likes of Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, and Amelie Mauresmo packing.

Could the dry desert air be the culprit? Maybe something in the water? Whatever the case, it seems to be giving the edge to players outside of the top 10. Here are some of the highlights (and lowlights) from Friday through Monday (afternoon).

There’s a New Brunette in Town
Dinara Safina (No. 1 seed)
She changed her hair color from blonde to brunette at the beginning of the year, and her luck changed along with it. Safina advanced to the fourth round here at IW, after defeating Tsvetana Pironkova on Friday, and Shuai Peng on Sunday.

On a side note, Safina has been seen wearing a bracelet with the No. 13 on it. Normally an unlucky number, Safina sees it a different way. “It’s funny,” she says. “When I started playing in Berlin, I was 13th seeded, and since then it started. At the French, I was seeded 13th too. Flying to Beijing, my gate was 13. And then suddenly, I was like, ok. 13 is my lucky number. In the plane I was flying in row 13. And I’m playing here on Friday the 13th.”

Less is More
Jelena Jankovic (No 2 seed)
The player infamous for cracking jokes when speaking to the media, Jankovic was teary-eyed at the end of her press conference on Saturday, after losing her opening match to a 17-year-old Russian, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. It’s clear that Jankovic is not satisfied with her game. And it’s no wonder. She’s carrying around 10 extra pounds. During the past few months, Jankovic decided to experiment with more endurance training, and it didn’t help her game. “I had problems moving,” she said. “My body responded in a bad way. I lost my speed on the court, and I lost my reaction. That was a first-time experience for me, especially with my returns.” She also says she lost her greatest weapon—her legs, and is slowly trying to get that back.

While playing her match against Pavlyuchenkova, she said “I felt like I had 100 kilos on top of my body. It’s very difficult to be out there feeling like that.” On the plus side, Jankovic had a chance to show off her new tennis attire, which she designed with her new clothing sponsor, ANTA. The company is shelling out a hefty $30 million dollars to promote Jelena’s new clothing line. Nice to know that at least one company is doing well in this recession.

Too Much, Too Fast
Elena Dementieva (No. 3 seed)
She was just plain tired when she lost her first round match to Petra Cetkovska. “I just feel like I probably shouldn’t come here because I played a lot of the matches in the beginning of the year and I just needed — you know, just to take some time off and get ready and recovery, ” she says. Let’s hope she gets some rest before Miami.

The Russian Revolution Continues
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Yes, a 17-year-old Russian (who still wears braces), managed to crush Jelena Jankovic on Saturday. But don’t be fooled into thinking that this was pure luck. The young Russian, ranked No. 42, has won multiple junior Grand Slam tournaments (AO and US Open), and will most likely step up her game on the WTA Tour. Now if someone can just figure out how to pronounce her name…

How Do You Play Doubles?
Maria Sharapova
The tennis world’s “it girl” was back in the spotlight at Indian Wells, after eight months of rehab on her right shoulder. Expectations for Sharapova’s much-anticipated comeback were high, but from Sharapova’s perspective, it wasn’t about winning. She played doubles with her compatriot, Elena Vesnina, which seemed to be more of a practice match than serious competition. She even admitted that she didn’t know all the rules for playing doubles before going into the match. I guess we’ll have to wait to see Sharapova make her “real” comeback in singles.

The French Are Sent Packing
Amelie Mauresmo – A veteran of the game, beat Anna-Lena Groenefeld in her opening match, but fell to Na Li on Sunday.

Marion Bartoli – Was upset early by Shahar Peer

Still In the Race

Ana Ivanovic – (No. 5 seed) - Last year’s winner advances on Monday afternoon. Maybe her inspiration comes from the book she’s reading: The Art of Happiness, by the Dalai Lama.

Daniela Hantuchova – Three times could be a charm for Hantuchova, a two-time winner of Indian Wells (2002, 2007).

Caroline Wozniaki – The great Dane proves to be a potential powerhouse as she cruises past Patty Schnyder, Kanepi, and Bacsinszky

Vera Zvonareva – (4th seed) - She beat Chan and Kvitova to advance to the fourth round.

Urszula Radwanska – Along with her older sister Agnieszka Radwanska, she advanced to the fourth round. Venus and Serena aren’t the only sisters who’ve got game.

Jill Craybas – Currently ranked at No 65, Craybas is the “underdog” carrying the American torch.

Victoria Azarenka – Beat Vesnina and Shvedova to advance to the fourth round.

Shahar Peer – Wouldn’t it be nice if Peer won this tournament? Who needs Dubai, anyway.

On the men’s side, Rafael Nadal was singing as he walked into his press conference on Sunday, after an easy win against Michael Berrer of Germany. Federer won easily against Marc Gicquel of France. Mardy Fish, another American hopeful who made it to the finals here last year, was ousted by Jeremy Chardy of France. Novak Djokovic advanced after beating Martin Vassallo-Arguello of Argentina. Andy Murray advanced on Monday, beating Paul-Henri Mathieu of France. James Blake fell to Fernando Gonzalez on Monday afternoon.