Saturday, October 31, 2009

Did anyone predict a Sister-Sister final in Doha?

If they did, I sure as heck missed it. I too did not predict it. Of course I’ve admitted before that I can’t prognosticate for crap, so no where in my thinking did I figure that Venus had a chance in heck of making it to the finals.

Serena I took entirely for granted. I have always believed that she would close out the year as the # 1 player in the world. She has been saying this for months and I have never for a moment doubted her.

But Venus? I have to admit that I totally discounted her. For a start, she was initially the second lowest ranking woman coming to Doha. In the world of professional tennis, at age 29, Venus is not ancient exactly but she is certainly not a spring chicken. I did not for a second even think of contemplating the possibility that she might be a force to be reckoned with in Doha. As far as I was concerned, she was lucky to even qualify.

This is because thus far in 2009, Venus has only won two relatively minor singles tournaments. In February, she won the  Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships against Virginia Razzano.  One week later, she beat Flavia Pennetta in the finals of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel. Since then, she has done relatively squat in singles.

In fact, here are the players who have beaten Venus Williams since February 2009:
Sabine Lisicki

Dinara Safina

Alisa Kleybanova

Agnes Szavay

Elena Dementieva

Kateryna Bondarenko

Kim Clijsters

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

I have no idea who the latter player is but she has had the honor of beating Venus twice this year. Only Serena has beaten Venus more times than Pavlyuchenkova.

So I did not anticipate Venus making it to the finals, not with those dodgy knees. Then again, is there any player in this draw who isn’t injured? Safina quit first because of her back. Serena’s left thigh has been strapped throughout the tournament. Wozniacki suffered massive cramps in her match against Zvonareva, and has also complained of an abdomen injury. Azarenka was up 6-4, 5-2 when she retired against Radwanska because of a damaged right thigh plus a back injury. Zvonareva has a messed up ankle. Really, we should just rename this tournament The Banged up Women Finals.

So it was no surprise that Wozniacki retired against Serena today. A healthy Wozniacki would have challenged Serena. A banged-up Wozniacki, playing under the horrifically humid conditions of Qatar, had neither a chance nor a prayer. Yet I have been very impressed with this young woman. I love her fighting spirit, her self-confidence and her positivity. Wozniacki may be our new Smiling Assassin. I can think of no other player who is more deserving of being in the Championship finals.

But Venus clawed her way there after beating Jankovic in three sets. When Venus’ forehand return clipped the net and dropped onto Jankovic’s side of the court, I concluded that the fates were simply aligning themselves for the most befitting finals match. Sister versus Sister. Venus vs. Serena. Singles opponents and doubles partners, time after time.

They lost today in doubles. In singles, I favor a Serena win. But regardless of the outcome, Serena’s position as the # 1 player in 2009 has already been codified. And that is absolutely fine with me.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

So Safina bailed on her beat down

Well, I can’t say that I was entirely surprised. Were you? You knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. Serena has made it perfectly clear that she was out for blood. If Safina had somehow made it to the finals in Doha, the beat down was not going to be pretty. In fact, it was going to be downright ugly. All blood and gore.

But no more. Safina has bailed on the entire event. She flew to Doha, posed for pictures (wearing some of the most garish makeup and the most god-awful black dress I have ever seen), went out on court, posed with Jankovic, warmed up, played two games, and then bailed. She said that her back was hurting. To quote her, “My body just gave up, and I couldn't handle the pain anymore”. To quote me, no sweetie, you just bailed on your ass-whopping.

Part of me is struggling to remain sympathetic towards Safina. She would not be one of the women in the banner above my blog if I did not truly appreciate her. I think that she has worked very hard to get to the top. Forget about the fact that she has not won any Slams; she has been a finalist more than once, and has won her share of top tier tournaments. I truly believe in her talent.

But I can’t help but wonder if at least a part of her motive for bailing on Doha was possibly to avoid further damage to her psyche. Had Safina submitted to the beat-down by Serena (assuming of course that she even made it past Wozniacki, Azarenka, or Jankovic), that experience may have done more harm to her already fragile psyche.

Because we all know that Serena would have made a point of crushing her. Of course Serena herself would have had to get past a much more difficult draw consisting of her arch rival Dementieva, the very talented Kuznetsova, and her own sister Venus. Had she survived her half of the round-robin tournament and ended up facing Safina in the finals, Serena would have risen to the challenge of destroying her opponent. And to be honest, that would have been fine with me. After all, as I’ve said before, professional tennis is not a garden party. If you don’t have the stomach for it, get off the court.

And apparently Safina has. She played two games, grabbed her back, packed her bags, and fled. Can women’s tennis get any more shameful?

But is it possible that Safina may have done more damage to herself psychologically by quitting? Could she have benefited from toughing it out, by believing herself to be bold, brave, and not afraid of anyone?

Understand that this argument is premised on the assumption that there is a whole lot of emotion tied up in that complaint of back pain. Pain that suddenly appeared on a tennis court in Doha, and that was evidently so unbearable that she could not even complete one set. I am fascinated by the psychology of pain. I am intrigued by the growing body of evidence indicating that pain may be far more of a psychological experience than a physiological one. Treat the emotions behind the pain and quite often the pain subsides.

Of course Safina needs to consult with orthopedists, physiotherapists, neurologists, chiropractors, and any or all of the host of medical specialists who can assist her with addressing the physiological aspects of her back pain. But perhaps she may also want to consider attending to the mix of emotions that may be tied up in her physical pain. Emotions such as fear, and anxiety, and (ouch) cowardice. I don’t mean to be harsh. I’ve argued before that I believe that PST can help her. I believe this even more now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Well at least Andre didn’t sleep with his mother

Mackenzie Phillips has probably forever raised the bar on celebrity-penned autobiographies with her disclosure of a ten-year long sexual affair with her father. Any celebrity hoping to get a book published is going to have to go one further. Except that the bar is now just too high. What possible other means of self-abasement can any celebrity ever come up with as a means of earning money?

I wasn’t surprised that Serena Williams tried her hand at a memoir. If a Williams sister was going to go there, it was going to be Serena. After all, she has already posed nude on more than one occasion. And she has been fighting down the Hollywood scene ever since her first Slam victory.

Can you remember the horrific Williams Sisters “For Real” reality show? Will anyone ever get over the bizarre scene in which Serena seemed to have broken up with Brett Ratner in the season finale? Did you too get the sense that he seemed to just be playing along, in the manner of a man who has already moved on but who is willing to give a persistent famewhore her dramatic moment in front of the cameras? Ouch.

I have not read Serena’s memoir. I would be willing to review it in exchange for a free copy, but I am decidedly uninterested in buying it. My reason? The Williams sisters have never been big on self-disclosure. Of the two, Serena has always been the more forthcoming. But what on earth could she have been up to that we don’t already know? Once you take your clothes off and put on a reality show, unless you’re going to admit something utterly far-fetched and unexpected -- like that you seduced Venus’ boyfriend and bore his secret lovechild who now lives in Germany -- well, the rest is just tame stuff.

Because this is how it works in the world of the celebrity memoir. You have to be willing to go there. You have to expose yourself naked and then some. Oprah’s disclosures of a teenage pregnancy went a long way towards making her a household name. Her admission of cocaine use pushed her over the edge into ultimate celebrity-hood.

I don’t care how many times Serena takes her clothes off, one gets the sense that the fundamental Williams reticence will always prevail. Of course I may be wrong and she may leave us jaw-dropped with some revelation in her follow up part deux. She can feel free to use my idea above, no charge.

Now comes word that Andre Agassi is about to share his deepest darkest with us all. In keeping with the way celebrity memoirs are peddled, Andre has admitted to using crystal meth during the period in 1997 when his career sank in the toilet.

Note to Serena: This is how you sell a memoir, Hollywood style. Andre clearly did not spend years promoting the notion that appearance is everything, for nothing.

Andre’s memoir is titled “Open”, a brilliant play-on-words, at once capturing his tennis past as well as a decision to share his secrets. And as an aperitif intended to leave us salivating for more, he has revealed that he used crystal meth during the period he was married to Brooke Shields.

Well it could be worse. At least he did not claim to have had sex with his mother.

When asked if he was concerned about how his fans would feel about him being a meth-head at one point in the 90s, Andre responded, “I was worried for a moment, but not for long...I wore my heart on my sleeve and my emotions were always written on my face. I was actually excited about telling the world the whole story.” 

Given their prolonged rivalry, I wonder what Pete Sampras will come up with to top Andre? I actually have a few ideas, all involving Pete Fischer. Remember him?

Monday, October 26, 2009

While the cats are away, the mice will play

It’s been kind of interesting to look at which small fry have emerged to positions of success over the past two weeks while the big guns have been preparing for the year-end tournaments. Mainly, this has turned out to be an exercise in confirmation of why the best players are the best, and why the remainder are the also-ran.

In true international fashion, the ATP championship tour has changed as many names as it has locations. This year it has been re-named the ATP World Tour Finals, and will be held in London under the sponsorship of Barclays. Davydenko and Verdasco are still battling to qualify. Robin Soderling still has an outside chance. The solid qualifiers (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Del Potro and Roddick) have either stopped playing tennis altogether, or miraculously seem to be losing in the early rounds. After all, one has to have time to prepare.

To give you a sense of the depth of the men’s tour, the following players probably don’t have a chance in heck of qualifying for the Barclays: Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Marin Cilic, Fernando Gonzalez, and Gilles Simon. And these are players who can take out any of the top players in any tournament on any given day.

In the meantime, for anyone who dares to complain about the dominance of any group of players, I refer you to the pathetic spectacle of the Stockholm Finals. While playing his third Challenger event of the year (in Tashkent), Marcos Baghdatis received news that he had been granted a wildcard into the Stockholm event. The other finalist was Ollie Rochus, a short dude with a big heart and who is no threat to anyone on the tour.

To say that the match between Baghdatis and Rochus was dull would be kind. It was one of the worst finals I have ever wasted my time watching. Both players traded slow, mind-numbing backhands as if they were in no hurry to get off the court. I’ve seen Challenger finals that were more scintillating. Then again the big cats were away so we had to settle for mice.

Over on the women’s side, Jelena Jankovic has barely just squeaked under the wire to qualify for the Sony Ericsson Championships. It’s hard to believe that this is the same Jankovic who ascended to # 1 after Henin departed. I think that becoming # 1 was the worst thing to happen to Jankovic. I will never forget an interview in which she talked about how proud she was of being able to tell her future grandchildren that their grandmother was once the # 1 player in the world. Having arrived at this pinnacle, she promptly lost the hunger and could think only of babies. At heart she seems to be a cowardly mouse, not a feral cat of the breed required for survival.

The big drama going into Doha seems to be between Serena and Dinara over who is the real # 1. For this, the powers-that-be in women’s tennis seem to have been temporarily required to forget that they are seriously pissed with one of these women. Dinara is going into Doha as the # 1 seed. But only 155 points separate her from Serena, which means that either woman can close out the year as the # 1 player in the world. I wonder if winning will attract Serena any forgiveness points from the tennis establishment?

The remaining qualifiers are Kuznetsova, Wozniacki, Dementieva, Azarenka, and Venus Williams. Wozniacki is also under an investigative cloud at this time. I hope she has the mental maturity to not let this interfere with her game.

In the meantime, the small fry also came out to play in Moscow. We were treated to a finals match between Francesca Schiavone and Olga Govortsova. The audience seemed embarrassingly sparse. But the tennis was much better than the crap delivered by Rochus and Baghdatis. Both women played solid tennis. There was nothing to be ashamed of in this match. I never yawned once. But it was no Dementieva vs. Serena Williams. Or Venus Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka. Honestly, I can’t wait for Doha.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Can we finally get rid of courtside coaching?

I’ve always maintained that courtside coaching in tennis was a spectacularly bad idea. It has offended me at a lot of levels. For a start, I do not believe that all sports are created equal. An idea that may work well in one sport (such as mid-game coaching during a basketball match), simply may not translate well into another. Can you imagine a pair of figure skaters interrupting their routine to ask the coach if they should do a triple flip? Can a diver pause mid-dive to ask his coach if his feet are perfectly aligned?

So when women’s tennis grabbed hold of the lame-brained idea of allowing courtside coaching, I honestly hoped that it was just a matter of time before it blew up in Billy Jean King’s face. Apparently courtside coaching was her brain fart, intended to lend excitement to tennis coverage on TV.

I dislike courtside coaching because it disrespects the ability of most tennis players to figure things out for themselves. The Williams sisters have never resorted to courtside coaching. I've never seen Amelie Mauresmo ask anyone how to hit her awesome backhand. And I can only hope that the newly resurgent Kim Clijsters never ever resorts to this foolishness.

But players like Maria Sharapova continue to reach out to their coaches for mid-match guidance. I suspect that this is because her only strategy is to hit the ball really really hard while screaming as if Godzilla was on the other side of the court. Thus far, the only people who have benefited from this retarded idea was not the TV audience as intended, but a select group of mentally-challenged tennis players. No offense to Sharapova.

Now comes word that Caroline Wozniacki has been caught up in an allegation of unfair coaching and is currently facing an investigation by the Tennis Integrity Unit after she was overheard being instructed by her father/coach, Piotr Wozniacki, to retire in her first round match against Anne Kremer at the Luxembourg Open. At the time, Wozniacki was up 3-0 up in the second set. She had already won the first at 7-5.

Ms. Wozniacki eventually retired when the score was 5-0 in the second set. She claimed a hamstring injury, the same injury her father had apparently predicted would prevent her from playing in the next round. Unfortunately for him, his comments (spoken in Polish) were not only picked up by microphones but were also translated by viewers, and resulted in a financial windfall for gamblers who suddenly decided to bet on Kremer.

And just like that his daughter is in trouble with the Tennis Integrity Unit. This organization was established in 2007 following allegations of match-fixing by Davydenko. Although he was eventually cleared, the recommendation was that tennis needed a regulatory body that would investigate charges of “integrity violations”, such as drug use, match fixing, and illegal coaching.

Ms. Wozniacki has since attempted to put an interesting spin on her motives for retiring early. She is now claiming a form of altruism, saying, “I could possibly have finished the match, but felt there was no way I could get ready for the second round on Thursday, so I chose the sporting way and let her go through.” Wozniacki claimed further selflessness when she pointed out that Kremer was playing on her home turf.

I must admit that the cynical side of me wondered if that addendum should be credited to her father or her attorneys. After all, the US open finalist suddenly needs to salvage her career.

In the meantime, I remain hopeful that this incident once and for all results in the banning of courtside coaching (which only belongs in Davis or Fed Cup). There is, in my opinion, a huge chasm between a player looking towards her coach for non-verbal support, and a player literally being told what to do to win a match. Tennis is a mental sport. It requires psychological courage. To resort to literal spoon-feeding misses the whole point of sports intelligence. And the saddest part is that Caroline Wozniacki, the 2009 US open finalist, is not at all lacking in this quality.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Davydenko was smarter than Nadal

I had mixed feelings when I read recent news reports quoting Andre Agassi as saying that both Federer and Nadal are on the decline. Of course I gave Agassi the benefit of the doubt by assuming that he was only responding to questions asked by the media. But still I found his statement to be in slightly poor taste.

Probably because he was a member of the previous generation of dominant tennis players, I felt that Agassi should have had the sensitivity to remember his own hurtle down the rankings, as well as his subsequent re-ascent in 1998, at the ripe old age of 28. And I felt that these memories should have sealed his lips against commenting on the perceived decline of any current tennis player who is the same age now (or younger, in the case of Nadal) that Andre was when he clawed his way back into relevance.

So when Nadal made it to the finals of Shanghai, I wanted so much for him to prove Agassi wrong. (And I say this with much love because any man who could convince the goddess Steffi Graf to marry him, is aces in my book). And when I noted that Nadal’s opponent was going to be none other than Nicolay Davydenko, I admit that I became smug. El Matador was going to show the skinny one just who was boss. After all, on a good day Davydenko looks like he could be blown away by a strong puff of breeze.

So on Saturday, sticking to my routine when it comes to tennis, I popped a bag of organic popcorn, and planted myself in front of the Tennis Channel. Davydenko won the toss and confidently expressed his desire to receive serve. I wasn’t worried. I was too busy mentally criticizing his wife for dressing like a cast member from “Mad Men”. [Yes, I had to tune in to see what all the fuss was about. And yes it is an awesome show. But no male philanderer could possibly be better than Usain Bolt or Roger Federer. But clearly I digress].

Each player held in their first game. The level of tennis was high from the start. And then Davydenko broke Nadal in the third game. His strategy was fascinating. He kept playing balls to the Nadal forehand, and then suddenly, unexpectedly, he would blast a ball down the line to the Nadal backhand. Or he kept playing angled balls to the Nadal backhand, aiming not for the depth with which Nadal is comfortable, but for the kind of short angles mastered beautifully by Murray, but with far more pace, aggression, and dare I say, lethality.

Nadal seemed stunned. Worse, he did not seem to know what to do. It pains me to admit this, but Nadal did not ever seem to have an effective strategy to deploy against Davydenko. He played the same old same old. In fact, he started playing the kind of defensive moon balls that would have made Conchita Martinez proud. And always, he played from behind. Even after he broke back to equalize in the first set, it took so much effort that you knew that the Russian still had the upper hand.

There was no stopping Davydenko in the second set. I didn’t think it was possible but he actually raised his game. And I don’t want to give the impression that Nadal did not fight. After all, he is El Matador; he does not go down without a fight. But it’s hard to fight when your game has been thoroughly deconstructed by a more intelligent player and you don’t seem to have the wherewithal to push through the shock.

What impressed me most about Davydenko was that he had a specific game plan about how he was going to beat Nadal. And then he proceeded to execute exactly what his prepared blueprint dictated. It was an execution for which Nadal had no answer.

When was the last time you saw Nadal give up on a ball instead of chasing it down? Honestly, I was shocked to see how many times this occurred in this match. And when was the last time you saw Nadal challenging match point? Truly, I felt sad for him. I found myself thinking for a moment that maybe, possibly, Agassi was right. I’ve always known that Nadal’s grinding style of play would come at a cost. I just didn’t expect to see him paying the price so soon.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Marge Simpson is hotter than Serena

When ESPN decided to run a bunch of nude covers including one of Serena Williams, I really thought that this would become the immediate topic of rampant conversation. After all, it’s not everyday that you see Serena strategically positioned to hide all her female parts while wearing not a stitch of clothing.

But to my surprise, as a topic of conversation, the 'Body Issue' seems to have sunk like a heavy stone to the bottom of a river. Nobody gives a crap.

Part of the problem may be the timing. It is kind of unfortunate to tell the truth. Right about now, people are at best, a tad ambivalent about Serena Williams. The WTA is still pondering what additional punishment she should face for her outburst in New York. Some fans are debating whether she deserves their support. Her publishers are probably fretting over whether her ill-timed book will sell.

In the middle of this messy debacle, Serena once again became the number one tennis player in the world. Except nobody seems to care. I don’t see anyone partying anywhere. I haven’t seen any pictures of her being invited to ring the bell for NASDAQ. She hasn’t been seen sitting on Letterman’s couch or chatting with Regis and Kelly. A number one who seems to be a persona non grata. Ouch.

But this is because the incident in New York was just too ugly, her loss of control too unforgivable for most fans. So Serena poses nude and becomes the number one player in the world, back to back, and it’s like ho hum, whatever, next.

And then came word that Marge Simpson will be appearing nude on the cover of Playboy. And everyone goes berserk. It’s the lead story on all network channels. Entertainment Tonight gives this more coverage than the Gosselins. Huffington Post runs Marge’s coy Playboy cover as a feature story. Even Reuters gives the story primary attention. Not to be outdone, runs links to a website that has porny cartoons of Marge doing the nasty with several of the townsmen and one woman, including Moe the barman and Ned Flanders who amusingly prays while getting off.

You’d swear Marge was real.

I don’t get it. In the same week I’ve already had to digest the ascendance of a fictional male character to the top tier of masculine influence, apparently deemed even more noteworthy than Roger Federer and Usain Bolt. Now I have to wrap my mind around the idea that a cartoon figure who should logically be in her 50’s (given that she was already thirty-something when she was created in 1987), is apparently perceived as more sexually appealing than Serena Williams.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Simpsons. I love every character and cannot think of a single episode that I did not enjoy. But Marge as a sexpot? Hello?

In the meantime, copies of the ESPN magazine with a nude Serena on the cover will probably end up lining bird cages. Sigh.

Or maybe they won’t. Maybe the pictures will be thoroughly enjoyed by those men who fantasize about what Serena looks like in the buff. And by those women who appreciate having a role model who doesn’t look like she survives on lettuce and black coffee. But apparently neither group will bother to admit it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 says Usain is better than Federer

Actually seven men plus one fictional TV character came in ahead of Federer on’s poll of the most influential men of 2009. And the fictional character was deemed the most influential of all!

I still can’t wrap my mind around the idea that a pretend character on a TV show is considered more influential than all of the living breathing men on this list. How insulting is that to men? If I had a penis I would be cussing a blue streak right about now.

Don’t get me wrong, I get the appeal of John Hamm. For a short guy, he is actually kinda cute. But he didn’t win the damn poll, his character, Don Draper, did. Having never actually watched a single episode of Mad Men (my TV is permanently glued to the Tennis Channel, sorry), I have to take people’s word for it that something that this character represents is apparently far more appealing than any living breathing man, including Federer. And so the line between TV fantasy and reality continues to blur…

The seven men ranked ahead of Federer were: Steve Jobs (of Apple fame), Michael Jackson (currently experiencing a resurgence of fame that he would have probably killed for while living), Simon Cowell (of American Idol fame and the most honest critic I have ever seen), Mark Zuckerberg (who invented Facebook), Barack Obama (currently enjoying a spectacular series of failures if SNL is to be believed), and Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world.

I have no quarrel with this list, especially as my darling Usain is at the top (I choose to ignore the stupidness about the TV character). Usain very much deserves all commendation. I don’t even mind that he beat Barack Obama. No offence to Barackians but I’m still pissed off that he involved himself in that Olympics nonsense. Yes I think he has more important things to focus on at this time. Let Oprah and his wife plead Chicago’s case, my President should have been otherwise occupied. But I digress.

So back to Federer and his position in the rankings of influence. He was ranked in the Top Ten of the most influential men in the world in 2009. I can live with that. Here’s the excerpt from the poll justifying why:

“Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer set a number of records in 2009, further cementing his reputation as the greatest tennis player in the history of the sport. He reached his record seventh consecutive Wimbledon final in July, defeating Andy Roddick to rack up his sixth Wimbledon victory. Roger Federer also broke the record for most Grand Slam final appearances, which now stands at 20, and set the record for most Grand Slam men's titles with 15, surpassing Pete Sampras. His victory at Wimbledon helped him regain the No. 1 spot in the Association of Tennis Professionals' ranking of top-seeded players, knocking Rafael Nadal out of pole position after 11 months. Roger Federer captured his first French Open title in 2009, and became the first male player to appear in at least two Grand Slam finals a year for six years running. Some of the honors he's received over the past months include the ESPY Best Male Tennis Player and Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Awards, and he was voted's Fan's Favorite for 2009. To top it all off, the Swiss Maestro has earned over $50 million in prize money during his career, making him the top-earning tennis player of all time.”

Below Federer, the also-rans included his good pal Tiger Woods at position # 30, Kobe Bryant at # 33, and LeBron James at # 42. Lance Armstrong came in dead last at 49. (I have a friend who will be thrilled with this result).

The only other tennis player to appear on the list was Andy Roddick. He was ranked the 35th most influential man in 2009. And guess which was the only match mentioned in the synopsis about Roddick, explaining his appearance on the poll? You guessed it -- his finals against Federer at Wimbledon.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Early musings: Family Circle Cup 2010

Regular readers of this blog know by now that I get off on obsessing. I love mental planning. Already I can see myself at the 2010 US Open despite all of my complaints about feeling scammed this year. This is because when it comes to tennis, I have the short term emotional memory of a gnat. Once I express my feelings on an issue, I find that I can completely let it go and often end up going back for more.

I also hope to make it to Roland Garros 2010 although that tournament may end up losing out to my sudden desire to own a condo. Who woulda thunk it. This after years of telling everyone who would listen that I was far more interested in owning a yacht than a house. I must finally be growing up. Again, who woulda thunk it.

I think it was the rats that did me in. I have a German friend who lived on a house-boat near Easter Island for a year. Afterward she told me about how the rats would swim the ocean and climb the ropes to her boat to forage for food. For a whole year, she was tormented by giant sea rats. New ones would appear overnight to replace the ones she managed to trap and kill. Which of course killed my boat obsession faster than you could sing “Ben, the two of us need look no more”. So now I am interested in condo ownership. Already I can see myself taking on the members of the condo board and holding forth like Frasier.

But the reason I have the Family Circle Cup on my mind is because I read recently that Melanie Oudin has already committed to enter. That and the fact the Family Circle folks called this week to ask me if I wanted to renew my seats. I have to admit that I am kind of torn.

On the one hand you know how committed I am to supporting tennis. And I was thrilled to read that Oudin is the first player to throw her name into the 2010 Family Circle Cup ring. I am happy that as a Georgian she has decided to support a tournament in neighboring South Carolina. There is no question that her early commitment will help fuel ticket sales.

I am especially happy that Oudin has decided to give this tournament another try. By the time I got to the Family Circle Cup this year, she was already out of this tournament. I read that she had made it through qualifying and even upset ninth seed Aleksandra Wozniak in the second round. Oudin was eventually tossed out of the 2009 Family Circle Cup by Marion Bartoli. Now that is a match I would have liked to see.

If Oudin faces Bartoli again next year, I don’t know which way my heart will turn. As you know, I love me some Marion. But if Oudin manages to spank defending champion Sabine Lisicki in the finals, I promise not to hold it against her. In fact, that would make for a very interesting finals. A Power Babe vs. The Neutralizer.

On the other hand, I find myself hesitating to make a financial commitment to any tennis tournament at this time. I don’t mean to send out any negative vibes but it’s hard not to worry about how some of these smaller events may be affected by the downturn in the economy. In fact, I don’t at all blame the Family Circle folks for trying to gain my financial commitment a good seven months in advance. If I were a tournament organizer, I would indeed be coming up with all kinds of inducements to get tennis fans to commit their dollars in support of my tournament.

Come to think of it, I’m kind of annoyed that the Family Circle people didn’t even offer me a discount. In fact I was offered no inducements whatever. I asked if I could get better seats if I locked in my commitment in advance and was told that I would be put on the waiting list for folks who wanted to move forward. Come to think of it, this is no different from those cell phone companies that offer the bulk of their inducements to new subscribers and take preexisting customers entirely for granted. So annoying.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Belated girlfriend advice for Chris Evert

When I first heard that Chris Evert was marrying Greg Norman, I found myself wishing that she and I were best girlfriends. Every woman needs a girlfriend. And not just any girlfriend, but the kind who will tell you straight up that she thinks that you’re probably about to make a spectacular mistake. Or at least who has the guts to tell you that this is what she thinks, even when you are certain that she is completely wrong.

And I may indeed be wrong on this. It may be that Greg Norman was completely ready to make Chris Evert his second wife, a fact that he announced mere months after separating from his first wife of 25 years. Apparently he was really into Chris.

But if I were Chrissy’s girlfriend, I would have asked her if she had lost her damn mind. I would have told her that I don’t believe that a few months is enough time to clear your psyche of a 25-year marriage. To get over such a lengthy marriage, even if you were desperately unhappy, in fact especially if you were desperately unhappy, you’d probably need a few years. And some psychotherapy to help clear your head. Some time out for self-reflection before jumping into another legally binding contract.

And if were Chris Evert’s best girlfriend, I would have reminded her that her own marital history was already so checkered that she herself could probably benefit from some time on the couch before jumping into such a life-altering decision. And yes that does sound kind of judgy, but all good girlfriends have the courage to be judgy, and not behind your back either, but to your face.

Greg “The Shark” Norman announced his separation from first wife, Laura Andrassy, in May 2006. Evert divorced her husband, Andy Hill, in December 2006. By September 2007, Norman had announced that he was going to marry Evert. Somewhere within that short window, he had found time to go through a bitter and costly divorce while also dating and proposing to Evert. And If I were Chris’ best girlfriend, I would have asked her if she wasn’t concerned that they might both be on the rebound.

One account I read claimed that Evert and her ex-husband had been best friends for years with Norman and Andrassy, their families often taking trips together. Another insinuated that Evert and Norman may have been doing the nasty well before they even left their respective spouses. Chrissy as the other woman? !Escándalo!

If I were Chrissy’s best girlfriend, I would have told her to consider slowing it down until her own and her new beau’s heads were completely clear. Over a triple espresso no fat no foam latte, I would have cautioned her that it is probably not a good idea to get involved with a man who is transitioning from a woman with whom he has shared so many meaningful years. And I would have advised her that for herself too, the risk she was taking was that she may not so much have been going towards Norman, as moving away from her ex. And that rarely ever works out, for anyone.

And I may have been right, because after a mere 15 months of marital bliss, Chris Evert and Greg Norman have announced their separation, issuing a statement that they "will remain friends and supportive of one another's family”. As yet there has been no talk of divorce.

One of the things that always struck me about the Norman-Evert coupling was the frankness of their PDAs. I would have expected such juvenile behavior from lovers in their 20s. Even 30s. I can understand secret ass-grabbing from lovers in their 40s. But Evert and Norman sometimes behaved as if they were teenagers. They seemed barely able to keep their hands off each other. Only teenagers jump into pools at a wedding!

So if I were Evert’s best girlfriend, I would have told her to sit her ass down and start thinking with her head and not her punany. I would have reminded her that the whole American Sweetheart deal that she enjoyed during the Jimmy Connors phase was long over and that she is now a grown-ass 55-year-old woman with three children. And as a good girlfriend I would have told her to come to her damn senses, stat.