Sorry guys, I needed some time to recover from the Wimbledon/Davis Cup craziness. In many ways it was a slow week in Tennislandia and a well-timed absensce makes the heart grow fonder, right? But even though I wasn’t following the Bastad (congrats, Soderling) or Bad Gastein (well done, Martinez Sanchez) or Stuttgart (vamos Ferrero!), it was impossible to tune out completely.
Let’s start with this past week’s most troubling news: Alisa Kleybanova announced on Friday – which also happened to be her 22nd birthday – that she is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The Russian pulled out of the French Open and Wimbledon due to the illness and is currently undergoing treatment in Italy, which she calls her “second home.” Via the WTA website:
(Treatment) is going well, but it takes lots of patience and time, and I need to be really strong and positive to go through this. I still have a few more months of treatment to go. But the good news is, if I feel well after I’m done with everything, there’s a chance that I’ll be able to play tennis again. There is nothing for sure, but the chance is a big hope for me and it helps me to stay positive and focus on my healing every single day! I really miss playing – I miss seeing fans and friends around the world, I miss hitting the ball, I miss everything. Tennis has been my life for the last 15 years. . .
I am a strong person. I’ve shown it before. Obviously this is different than anything I’ve ever experienced, but after this is over I’m sure my life will be even better than ever before. This is the toughest time of my life till now, and I hope it always remains the toughest time of my life. I’m sure I’ll be able to overcome this – it’s just a matter of patience and time and I believe I have enough!
Of course, even though I’m in treatment, I hope I’ll have a fun birthday today I’m really happy I have my family, my best friends and all the most important people with me here today. They’re here every day, week and month helping me with everything and giving me all their support.
Anyway, I just wanted to write to you all because it has been a long time and I really miss all of you guys… I won’t be on tour for a little while, but I really hope to see all of you again soon
There’s an interview with Kleybanova on Tennis Channel (just ignore the annoying music) where she not only talks about her cancer but also about the birthday dinner with friends and family she had planned – click here.
Some words of support from the tennis family:
Sania Mirza via Twitter: “Just learnt Alisa Kleybanova, my partner in junior Wimbledon that we won together, has been diagnosed with cancer…praying for her to recover.”
Kim Clijsters via Twitter: “hey Alisa,thinking about you!We send you lots of courage, strenght,laughter and love in these tough times! Love kim,brian,jada”
Bethanie Mattek Sands via Twitter: Sending Alisa Kleybanova a big hug and positive vibes. Times like this the drama in tennis seems insignificant… Live in the moment!
Jelena Jankovic via Facebook: I want to wish Alisa Kleybanova all the best during this difficult time in her life while being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. We’re all thinking about you, sending you our best wishes, and hope to see you back on the WTA Tour soon.
Andrea Petkovic: Sending all my prayers to Alisa Kleybanova. U show ur fighting spirit on court every time, so I’m sure u r gonna fight through this as well.
Coach Brad Gilbert: Sending out …positive energy to Alisa Kleybanova – stay tough, stay strong, the tennis world needs fighters like you!
Laura Robson: Wishing Alisa Kleybanova all the best as she battles Hodgkins Lymphoma. Will miss her on tour, great player and lovely person.
Ana Ivanovic via Facebook: My thought are with Alisa Kleybanova after finding out that she’s been diagnosed with cancer. Like all the other girls on the Tour, I was so shocked and very saddened to hear it. Alisa is a lovely person and I really wish her the very best in her fight with this illness. It really puts into perspective everything that we do on the court and shows that there is nothing more important than your health, and the health of your family and friends.
Billie Jean King: Hope U r feeling better and ready to play soon.Praying for you.
A cancer diagnosis is obviously always awful news – but somehow it’s even more mindblowing when it happens to someone so young, and a world-class athlete to boot. For anyone who finds themselves worrying about Alisa and trying to make sense out of this situation, I highly recommend the book “Living through the Racket” by former No. 1 doubles player Corina Morariu, who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 23. It’s a heartfelt, brutally honest and fascinating read on how an athlete deals with a life threatening blow such as this.
Now onto lighter fare, which depending on how you define it could be “Serena’s boobies!” – the subject line my friend Natalie emailed to me with a link to this shot of Serena strutting her stuff at the ESPYs:
The Huffington Post’s take: “Serena Williams stole the sartorial show in a low-cut, hot pink skirt suit paired with sparkly Louboutins, and (Fedophile) Lindsey Vonn didn’t look too bad herself in an embellished mini dress.”
Glad we have consensus on that. I must say that the boobies are looking fab. Serena (I didn’t play for a year) Williams and Rafael Nadal won the “Best Tennis Player” honors this year, but Maria Sharapova, in McQueen, wins best (come) back:
I just love how even a glamour girl like Maria can’t hide her in-your-face athletic build. (Yeah, there’s nothing to hide!)
Oh, and here’s Rafa’s take on the ESPY honor (via Facebook):
Good afternoon. I want to thank to the ESPYS’ jury for having chosen me as the best male tennis player of the year.
I’m very proud of receiving this award. It will help me to keep working hard not to disappoint those who have voted me
So, what else?
I hope you’re all members of RogerFederer.com because there is a fantastic translation of a recent interview with Roger Federer in the forums. Here’s my favorite bit:
The average Swiss is afraid of nuclear disasters, unemployment and foreigners. What are you as a “world citizen” afraid of?
I’m concerned about world poverty. I am aware that also in Switzerland not everyone is doing well financially and that the unemployment is turning into a serious problem. But elsewhere the problems are much more serious; there are nations with 20% unemployment. I am interested in the situation of all the countries that I visit. However for me it’s also important how the Swiss think. That’s why I read newspapers everyday when I’m in Switzerland.
You established a foundation to support children mainly in Africa.
I support via Sporthilfe (Sports Help – a Swiss foundation) also young athletes. I found that it was a good combination on the one hand to do something in Switzerland and on the other hand to help children in Africa receive education. It’s nice to be able to give something back. It shouldn’t always be money. It’s always possible to help for example by giving time. There are so many people who need help. Everybody can give a thought, even if things don’t go well for oneself, that there’s always someone for whom help is more necessary. In this respect I’d like to be a good example with the Roger Federer Foundation.
What triggers the most positive emotions in you off the court?
The family of course. It makes me happy to see the kids grow. However it also gives me pleasure to spend time in Switzerland. After the “tragic defeat at Wimbledon”, as my loss was described by some of the media, I had unexpectedly four unplanned days. I said to Mirka: “What do we want to do?” Maybe nothing at all?” It’s nice to be able to decide spontaneously. It makes me happy to live without a plan for a short time. Otherwise planning is very important to me so that I can manage time well.
Your popularity must also be based on your elegant style of play and your fairness.
Earlier I was told that I was too kind to achieve success. However I didn’t want to be a lout in order to succeed – I’d rather be kinder and a little bit less successful. I wanted to be myself and told myself – if that suffices then it’s fine, otherwise you are just not good enough. I decided to do my best in practice and to play hard but fair in matches. The fact that I have a good image is nice but on the other hand it’s not that important. What matters is that my friends and family members respect me and that I don’t get mobbed in the street. I am happy when people like supporting me and watching me play but I’m aware that I can’t please everybody.
You are known to be “Mr Perfect” on the court. However every person has weaknesses. Can you let us know two-three of them?
(hesitates) I can’t cook…
Can Rafa really cook?
He said that he cooked dinner for his team at Wimbledon many times.
I’m lucky to have been always surrounded by great women who cook well and make my life easier. Today I live mainly in hotels. I can’t even say that cooking is a weakness – I can’t do it at all! Earlier it was a weakness that I was often late. However in this respect I improved strongly. Surely I have more weaknesses but you’d better ask the others, not me (laughs).
How does a perfect day look for you?
There are many options: is it the wedding day? Is it the day when the kids were born? Is it a Wimbledon victory?
Yes, completely sigh-worthy stuff. But what about this ridiculously exciting news via GTT reader/team-member Coach Judy: this Saturday she and her husband participated in a tennis clinic led by Paul Annacone and his brother Steve at a club in Sag Harbour!
“How freakin’ amazing is that?” Judy asks. HELLO! I’m so freakin’ jealous I can’t stand it.
Judy kindly linked to this fascinating interview with Roger Federer’s coach via the Sag Harbour Express:
Q: What’s one thing specifically that you notice a lot of players overlooking about their own game?
It’s funny, you can be playing at the U.S. Open, or you could be playing the club championships down at the park, but I always hear people revert to technique-oriented malfunctions during their play, without even understanding what the mental part of their own game is doing.
In other words, if my dad is playing for the club championship at Mashashimuet Park, he’s going to feel pressure. And if Roger Federer’s playing the finals at Wimbledon, he’s going to feel pressure.
The really skilled coaches will take the whole comprehensive picture into play [and consider the] consequence of what competition does to you before giving out technique-oriented advice.
Q: Now, to keep it current, what is the one thing Federer is working on to gear up for the U.S. Open in September?
Well, right now I hope he’s working on his tan. [laughs]
Basically we’ve been going strong since the beginning of April without any significant break. The Davis Cup just finished on Sunday, so he’s got a little bit of time off. I go back over in a week and a half and we spend basically two and a half weeks training before the U.S. hard court swing starts.
When you’re fortunate enough to be with someone like Roger, most of it is just game management: understanding what he wants to do and how he’s going to do it.
Obviously, in today’s men’s game it’s very difficult to compete. And you see Novak Djokovic having such a great year and Rafa’s always Rafa, so that makes it difficult. But, Roger got to the semis in the Australian Open, got to the finals of the French Open, and quarter finals of Wimbledon: he’s right there. And he’s already won 16 Grand Slam titles, so I don’t see any reason why he’s not going to be really geared up and ready to play in New York.
Q: I would imagine at this point, especially for a top athlete like Federer who’s trained so intensely over the years to perfect strokes and serves, that a lot of it just come down to that mental aspect of the game.
Yeah, a lot of it is your mental disposition and also the strategic way you’re approaching the match on the day. There’s such a fine line between winning and losing these days. And I think that generally the best players know how to manage their game the best, because when they play well, they’re going to beat everybody anyway. But, if they only play average but they manage their game well, they’re still going to beat a large majority of the guys.
That’s one thing that Roger, and Rafa and now Novak have really learned to do extremely well.
For me, a lot of the discussion is about those things. Obviously, we go on the court and do a lot of drills and we do a lot of things to work on good habits and engrain good technique in their shots and understand how they’re hitting the shots. But a lot of it is shot selection and an emphasis on strategy.
And hopefully we’ll be able to impart some of that on some of the park-goers this weekend.
Okay, Judy, we are demanding a full report on Saturday’s clinic! Are you playing more like Roger Federer now????
Oh, and Roger’s working on more than his tan. Via Tennis.com:
Roger Federer launches a $3.3 million project through his foundation that hopes to put 54,000 children in school in Malawi in the next 10 years. “As the father of two little girls, I observe every day how incredibly fast children learn if their environment is a stimulating one,” Federer said in a statement. “It is a great privilege for me and my foundation to help give children in Malawi the chance to reach their full potential.”
The foundation is aiming to build 80 community-based child care centers for three- to five-year-olds in the impoverished country, which will include classrooms, supplies, play areas and meals. Nearly half of all children under the age of five in Malawi are said to be chronically malnourished, and over three million children under the age of eight are out of school. Malawi, which is located in southeast Africa, is said to have half its 13 million people living below the poverty line.
Amazing stuff – shame on me for thinking there could be a single slow week in tennis!