Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tennis tidbits

1. New blog!

Diane of The Dees Diversion (sadly she has decided to discontinue this blog) has created a new blog called Women Who Serve devoted entirely to women's tennis. Yea!
2. Ashley Harkleroad.

Ashley Harkleroad was supposed to be one of the U.S.'s next stars on the women's side. Alas after some good results she has kind of faded away. I always found her too cutesy in an "I'm so innocent and I carry the Bible to every tournament and my nickname is Pebbles, tee-hee" kind of way. This reputation was enhanced when she married, at a very young age (19), fellow American pro Alex Bogolomov. I figured it was the strict Christian thing--if they wanted to have sex and not feel too guilty about it they would have to do so within the confines of a marriage. Harkleroad says it is Georgia thing: "that's what they do in Georgia; get married at 19 and start having babies."

And then they get divorced, if it's economically feasible, that is. Luckily it was for Harkleroad who said it was fun while it lasted but they're both better off. Besides Harkleroad said it was tough being either alone or having to be there for Bogolomov while he was playing.

She now seems to have figured out how to have a boyfriend and travel the world playing tennis--make your boyfriend your coach, or your coach your boyfriend. Harkleroad's new coach/boyfriend is Chuck Adams. Not sure which came first, the boyfriend or the coach position. He was her World Team Tennis coach in 2004 when she (and Bogolomov) played for the NY Sportimes so probably coach first, boyfriend as a bonus.

3. Changing names

At least Harkleroad didn't change her name when she got married. If she had she would now be dealing with what Justine Henin is--commentators using her married name. As of yesterday morning I had seen about 10 minutes of coverage of the women's side of the French Open and heard commentators say Henin Hardenne three times. I realize the alliteration is alluring, but Henin has being playing on the professional tour for eight years. She was only married three of those. It shouldn't be too hard to make the switch.

Also, while I know commentators are not exactly skilled in pronouncing names, I would think that they would be able to differentiate between Emilie and Amelie. Cliff Drysdale kept calling Emilie Loit, Amelie throughout her second round match with Maria Sharapova.

4. Fashion Police

Maria Sharapova, Jelena Jankovic, and Ashley Harkleroad have all been spotted sporting capri length leggings during their matches. Sharapova's seemed to match her outfit a little better--though I don't think the flappers of the 20s, whose outfits Sharapova's seemed to be based on, would have worn leggings, more reminiscent of the 1980s. Harkleroad wore hers under her skirt which already had attached compression shorts. I can't imagine that that was comfortable. Now I know it's a little chilly and damp this week at Roland Garros but all these women played in sleeveless tops. Leggings should never have come back.

5. The crisis

All nine Americans lost in the first round at Roland Garros. So proclaimed the commentators as we watched the pitiful montage of all nine of them in their various losing moments. Frequently the fact that it's the American men's crisis got lost. American women are faring better.

So once again we get the questions: what is happening to American tennis? will American men ever succeed on clay? And the new one this year: will the Americans stop coming to Roland Garros? James Blake says, speaking only for himself, no. But I think it's a very real possibility in this age of specialization in sport. Six-year olds are picking their sport (or their parents are picking it for them) and playing it year round. So even though Roland Garros is still tennis, and their is a certain amount of prestige in winning all four slams, you have to believe that at some point Andy Roddick and Marty Fish are just going to cut their losses and focus on what they're good at--faster surfaces. It is not as if tennis has not experienced some degree of specialization already; though, to date, specialization in tennis is usually seen as less than. For example, there are the "doubles specialists"; the suggestion is there that these are the people who could not hack it mentally and/or physically as singles players. And, of course, at this time of the year we hear all about the clay court specialists who cruise up the rankings in the spring and then drop back down (usually) for the remainder of the season. The clay court specialist, as much as he is applauded for being a grinder, is generally seen as someone who does not have the power to remain competitive against big hitters on other surfaces. And sometimes they mysteriously disappear in the two weeks between the French and Wimbledon.

1 comment:

Diane said...

Thanks for the publicity for Women Who Serve!

I didn't know Harkleroad got divorced until I read this blog post. No surprise--she didn't sound too happy with her life.

Sharavpova is wearing that god-awful dress, I think, because she has put on some weight. She shouldn't even be there. The doctors said another 4 to 6 weeks off or a steroid shot. She took the shot, and it doesn's seem to be helping much.

The Evert Academy partnership with the USTA will eventually pay off, I think, but it will be a while. We used to have good American male clay players--Chang, Agassi, Courier.