Note: Posting will be spotty this week as I finish up a big non-tennis related project (What the heck am I doing wasting my time on non-tennis related projects, you ask? Good question.) But I wanted to play a little catch-up since there are so many interesting things going on during this supposedly sleepy part of the season.
News that Rio de Janeiro will be hosting the 2016 Olympics came as a disappointment to me (as a native Chicagoan) and Rafael Nadal, who supported Madrid’s bid for the games but was not able to attend the final vote in Copenhagen this week. USA Today reports that some Spaniards think Rafa’s presence might have made the difference:
King Juan Carlos and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero couldn’t quite match President Barack Obama or Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Real Madrid striker Raul Gonzalez also failed to pack the necessary punch, and had Spaniards asking why the delegation didn’t bring tennis star Rafael Nadal, NBA champion Pau Gasol or Liverpool striker Fernando Torres — three world-known athletes who also speak English.
Rafa, who arrived in Beijing on Thursday for the China Open (sporting a dreamy Federer-esque ‘do) posted this message of hope for his countrymen and women via his website:
“Keep your head up high, we were very close. We made it to the final round and now we have to stay close to each other and support the organizers of our campaign more than ever.”
“We knew there could only be one winner at the end and unfortunately it wasn’t us. Nevertheless, the key is to keep on fighting.”
“Personally, I couldn’t make it to Copenhagen to support Madrid’s bid because my profession didn’t allow me. But I was glued to the TV last night watching the live broadcast”.
“I know next time we will win because we deserve it. Madrid deserves it and as it has always been the case, I will be there to help as much as I possibly can for whatever you need”.
“Finally, as the good sportsmen that we are, we should also congratulate Rio de Janeiro and Brazilians. We wish them the best of luck with the organization of the Olympic Games.”
Seriously, Spaniards, we had the Obamas and Oprah and Chicago was still eliminated in the first round! I’m not saying Rafa wouldn’t have helped, but it seems like Rio was destined to win.
Rafa will play Marcos Baghdatis on Monday in Beijing. Novak Djokovic and defending champ Andy Roddick could await him in the finals.
Speaking of finals, Nikolay Davydenko will play Fernando Verdasco on Sunday in the finals of the Proton Malaysian Open. Victor Troicki upset defending Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals of the Thailand Open this weekend and will face Gilles Simon in the final.
Pop quiz: Which is cuter? Marat the Hippo (click here for the reference – thanks, Judy!)
Or Spencer the Golden Tennis Ball Retriever (via the LATimes):
And big thanks to the forum user who shared this helpful tidbit: “Marat’s surname in Chinese is 萨芬” So is the first character “Big ‘n’ Sexy” and the second one “Russian”?
Also in Beijing – a combined ATP/WTA event – Serena Williams joins Venus and Tokyo Champ Maria Sharapova on the same side of a loaded draw. Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva (who both won Olympic medals last year on these same courts) are on the other half. This tournament may decide who ends the year at No. 1 – if Serena Williams out performs Dinara Safina this week, it’s projected that the “Real No. 1” will take the top spot.
Serena told reporters that she’s looking forward to doing a little shopping while she’s in town (via AFP): “I’ve been a complete tourist (in the past), so this year, I’ve decided I want to do more of the markets and shopping — maybe get some jade and things like that.”
But she may want to pinch her pennies, at least until the ITF finally decides how it will punish her for her infamous US Open tirade. Neil Harman of the Times wrote this report of where things stand currently for Serena:
Her (Serena’s) penalty is being considered by the ITF, the world governing body, and the world No 2 and winner of 11 grand-slam singles titles has little more than two weeks to give her version of events. The authorities will then decide if what she said and the way she said it merit further action, whether she should be docked the money she earned at Flushing Meadows this year or, most grievous of all, be suspended from one or possibly two grand-slam tournaments. (Jeff Tarango is a cited example of a player who was banned from a Major due to misconduct on court.)
Really? The reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon Champion could be banned from playing a Major next year? That sounds like such a bad idea that I wouldn’t be surprised if the ITF decides to do it.
Tragic heroine Ana Ivanovic wrote a real tear-jerker on her website after withdrawing from this week’s Beijing Open due to an upper respiratory tract infection:
I guess having to withdraw from Beijing is an appropriate ending to a very disappointing season. This trip to Asia has been a big disappointment and I have struggled with my health pretty much since I arrived. I am sorry to my supporters who were hoping to see me play here in Beijing. It’s very disappointing for me as well, to come here, see the amazing facility they have and not have the energy to be able to step onto court. I can only look forward to coming back here next year.
It’s especially disappointing because I was hoping to be able to see some improvements before the season ended. I have gone through a lot of training and physical changes over the past few months, which have mostly remained private until now… My body is quite fragile at the moment, because I over-trained during the first part of the year. This was, I think, what caused me to have many small injuries this season.
Instead of being patient and accepting that my best form was almost impossible due to physical limitations, I was always over-thinking things, and I never dealt with it very well. The season was a continuation of going from one disappointment to another. If I had dealt better with these setbacks, I would have had a lot more success.
Click here to read the rest. So can we just say that she’s “retiring” for the season? Hopefully she’ll spend her “retirement” reading inspirational literature and gearing up for her big comeback in 2010.
In real retirement news, Ai Sugiyama played the last match of her career this weekend in the doubles final of the Japan Open. She and her loyal partner, Daniela Hantuchova, lost to Alisa Kleybanova and Francesca Schiavone in straights. Along with winning 6 singles and 38 doubles titles on the WTA tour – 3 of those dubs titles coming in slams – Ai also holds the all-time record (male or female) for consecutive Grand Slam events played – having shown up to 62 majors in a row.
Finally, in the karma’s a bitch department, Greg Norman and Chris Evert have announced their separation after only 15 months of marriage.