Brad Gilbert

Jerzy Janowicz (above) on the attack.

All England Club 2013
Ladies Semi-final July 04

Kirsten Flipkens: + 130
Marion Bartoli: – 160
__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
Sabine Lisicki: – 150
Agnieszka Radwanska: + 120


Men’s Semifinal July 05

Juan Martin Del Potro: + 500

NovaK Djokovic: – 800

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
Jerzy Janowicz: + 375

Andy Murray: – 500
I would certainly hail Jerzy Janowicz, should he hoist the trophy come Sunday noon. That kid is going places. Looks a little Sampras-ish. But we think it will be King Novak who wins the day. At any rate, and these rates are fine, we would take JJ tomorrow. Look for him to finish off Murray where Verdasco we knew, would not. Verdasco is like the white James Blake. All talent and near misses, the both of them. Janowicz has the right game for the lawn, and Murray is gonna have to get down if he wants to get through, which may not be easy, considering the back has seemed balky, that same back that has plagued him since early 2012. Say what, you say. Yes. We were shocked to read Chris Clarey on the eve of Roland Garros telling us Andy Murray was skipping because of a back injury which first affected him 14 months ago. We don’t like when players get their rhythm amended near the time of a major, especially with the RG/SW-19 quick turn around, the way Murray’s was. No way around that Murray was not playing competitive tennis at the highest level last month. We don’t like it. The pusher injuries began 14 months ago with Murray, it seems, and more to come, which puts a real damper on Murray’s long term plans to win the French Open, oh pity Britain. Murray should not fold up the tent on RG yet, especially since he can hit as many shots as he wants there and he just loves hitting shots, just not winners.

We think Murray might get the game took to him Friday by the Polish Lightning Bolt. If not, then Djokovic should school him proper Sunday, because seems to us better inclined and better primed to take the match, which is what is called for on grass after all. Though Djoker’s got his work cur out with him with JMDP, and don’t think we don’t love JMDP on that money line, especially since we saw JMDP unleash bomb after bomb on Novak less than a year ago on these very courts in taking out the King at the Olympic fare. Janowicz, to us, should have had the +5 and JMDP should be much much much lower, because Djokovic could very easily lose here in this spot. But we think Djoker needs this to cleanse the stench from his RG semi chokefest very badly, which will overcome.

As for the ladies, not gonna say much. Respect Lisicki, the big hitter, yeah, Bartoli not so much, but we love both dogs there too. Bartoli, a 2 hander, hates having variety thrown at her, hates having her rhythm and time disrupted. Which is Flipkens description–old school, crafty, grass court tennis. And that’s why we like Aggie too, because of the craft. This is Aggie’s best ever chance to do something, let’s be real. None of the big 3 is here. She needs it, and she has always played very well when she has needed it, we thinks. Would be a sensational coup too if Aggie hoisted the heavy metal, considering how lightly she packs. Just being real, son.

So nice to see the grass reward the bold (and Andy Murray) as it traditionally does, and for so many reasons, like the lack for the lack of prep on the stuff (can’t practice on the grounds prior to the tourny) and the onus on attack, volley, good old ‘do you have the balls to take it out of the air, far from the baseline?’ tennis. Essentially what we are describing is…TENNIS!!! So let’s make Halle a Masters 1000 and let the Olympians play their tennis at SW-19 regardless of the silly host country from here on in and perhaps we can start to undo some of the damage that plan A only Sharapova drones and straight up pushers like 90% of all 2-handers out there and their fearless leader, precious oh precious Rafael, and Florida and Chris Evert’s dad and Brad Gilbert and Plexicushion and clay have done to this game.

It was wild.

Crackbillionair (

Last night during Erakovic/Cibulkova on TTC, Lindsay Davenport, excited about the main event to come on ESPN between Serena Williams (victorious above) and Sharapova, talked it up a little bit over some video of Sharapova ferociously shadow hitting backhand after forehand in rapid fire succession.  Davenport explained that Serena had already been put through some rigorous steps by her people to prep for the match, and now Sharapova was doing the same thing.  When the coverage began on ESPN, Patrick McEnroe, Mary Joe Fernandez, and Brad Gilbert echoed the same sentiment.  They said that both players were treating the match more like a “Grand Slam final”, that they uncharacteristically spent an inordinate amount of time in what they called hard warmups compared to their normal routines, and that the atmosphere out at Stanford was completely electric.

Then the match started.  So much for the questions about Serena and where she was in her comeback.  So much for any hype surrounding the match.  So much for Sharapova who had seemed to reclaim her form of old.  Because Serena stormed out of the gate, winning a stunning first 5 games on Sharapova’s serve, and locking up the first set in what seemed like 5 minutes, en route to a 6-1, 6-3 easy breezy victory over the world #5, that might have been even more lopsided than the score line.

Serving to the world #169 (we know that’s outrageous and obviously on the mend), Sharapova’s achiles heel once again became apparent.  Against Hantuchova Thursday, Sharapova threw in 11 double faults, and added another 7 last night.  In a completely embarrassing display, Sharapova won only 12 points on her 1st serve in the entire match.  And what had become a rivalry several years ago when an unexpected blonde 17 year old dusted Serena in the Wimbledon final, is now decidedly far from it. 

Serena is now 7-2 lifetime versus Sharapova and has not lost in the series in almost 7 years.  The ticky tack blue Plexicushion surface which both players have won majors on, played like lightning.  Even on a coolish night.  Finally.  Serena, looking for her 1st final since last year’s Wimbledon, will take on Sabine Lisicki under similar conditions tonight.

Here are the odds for today’s matches:

Serena:  – 320

Lisicki:  + 240


Cibulkova:  + 140

Bartoli:  – 180


Fish:  – 600

Harrison:  + 400


Bogomolov:  + 170

Gulbis:  – 220


From what we saw last night, we love Serena and Gulbis today.

Crack (,

ESPN has acquired the exclusive rights to Wimbledon, and will hopefully announce a deal for John McEnroe (above) as analyst on The Championships in due time.

We would think there were a lot of happy tennis fans who rejoiced over the recent news that Wimbledon has ended its long standing relationship with NBC.  We among them.  Our readers know that we have been immensely critical of NBC’s coverage of the tennis championships, and in fact, of all NBC tennis coverage, including the French Open.  It was announced that Wimbledon has signed an exclusive rights deal with ESPN, who had been providing partial coverage on ESPN2 and who coordinated the Mix Channels coverage for the first seven days of action.  The problems often resulted when NBC’s exclusivity kicked in on weekends, rendering the fine mix channels moot, and making the audience slaves to NBC’s ratings whore tactics that leave tennis fans screaming.

Not that we are necessarily in love with how ESPN falls into some of the same pratfalls, such as airing matches on delay, albeit brief ones, or their insistance on keeping the ancient Dick Enberg around, who looks like a decrepit Crank Yanker puppet at this point, and who is so obviously senile and out of touch with the current state of the game.  We were personally offended when ESPN cut to a Nadal retrospective on the 2008 Wimbledon final during Federer-Tsonga at the start of the fourth set of their quarter-final match, which caused the audience to miss 2 games and created approximately a 3 minute time delay.

But there are many aspects of ESPN tennis coverage we favor at the major, like the fact that they do not go to commercial in extended fifth sets.  Here’s a snippet from an article on the new TV deal as well as a few links:

As the press release explains: “ESPN has acquired the exclusive U.S. television rights to live action from The Championships, Wimbledon, including both the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Singles Finals, in a 12-year agreement with the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club beginning in 2012.  Comprehensive coverage from start to finish across a variety of platforms will result in more tennis for fans and all of it live.”

The CEO of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, Ian Ritchie, added that, “This new agreement will bring increased live coverage of The Championships and ensure that the huge international audience for Wimbledon can now enjoy all the drama and colour of the Fortnight through a sustained narrative delivered with clarity, continuity and consistency across a wide range of platforms.”

It’s a great day for tennis fans, and if nothing else, that’s a testament to how frustrating NBC’s coverage has been in recent years. Indeed, the “clarity, continuity, and consistency” he mentions will be a breath of fresh air for tennis fans that have been suffocated by NBC’s uneven broadcast schedules.

While some are nervous because ESPN has yet to announce whether John McEnroe will be part of their coverage, we would expect that he would be.  McEnroe joined ESPN’s US open coverage, and is a commentator on the ESPN mixed channels at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open.  Considering the magnitude of a McEnroe deal, we’d chalk it up as something that will get ironed out in time.  We doubt that the American legend will be looking for anything more than the status quo, and frankly, the collection of second rate ex-players the likes of Brad Gilbert, Patrick McEnroe, and Darren Cahill, desperately lacks what McEnroe provides. (John McEnroe ESPN Wimbledon article)

If McEnroe can not come to terms with ESPN, we would expect him to join The Tennis Channel’s supplemental coverage, and to still call the feature matches, probably for the BBC, which would be aired in repeats on TTC in perpuity.  All in all, good news.

Crack (,

Jim Courier hoists the French Open Men’s Championship trophy (above).

Inside Tennis and The Tennis Channel are both reporting that former world # 1 and 4 time major singles champion Jim Courier will succeed Patrick McEnroe as America’s Davis Cup Captain, having beaten out Todd Martin and Brad Gilbert for the post.

Reliable sources indicate that Jim Courier — who heads a short list of candidates that includes Todd Martin and Brad Gilbert — will replace Patrick McEnroe as the next captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team.The 40-year-old former No. 1-turned broadcaster was quick to put his name in the hat following McEnroe’s resignation at the U.S. Open, saying, “Davis Cup means the world to me.  And at some point in my life I certainly hope to have that seat.  I’m definitely interested in the job, so hopefully they’ll give me a call and we’ll chat about it.”

Courier, who went a combined 17-10 in Davis Cup play in the ’90s, lost both his matches against Russia during America’s victorious run to the World Group title in Moscow in ‘95, but played the role of hero in ‘99 in Birmingham, England, where he posted a pair of dramatic five-set victories in lifting the U.S. to 3-2 victory over Great Britain. In one of the greatest post-tie celebrations, U.S. coach Tom Gullikson rolled around on the court hugging Courier, then single-handedly carried him around on his shoulders.

We applaud this decision, especially when considering the alternatives.  Courier, a Floridian who now lives in the city, has been our pick since we learned who the candidates were.  Todd Martin’s poor run with Novak Djokovic’s coaching team which destabilized the world # 2, set the young Serb back markedly.  Martin was brought in to help the Djoker improve his serve, but in tinkering with Djokovic’s service motion, things went awry.  Djokovic, whose serve was once considered a strength of his game, only began to regain his serving edge late this summer, months after Martin had already been dispatched.

Aside from his short tenure with Djokovic, Martin has little experience working with elite players.  While the same could be said of Courier, who has settled in as an announcer, at one time for USA Network and currently for ESPN, we have no doubts that Courier will have the player’s attention on the American team.  Courier, once upon a time, helped dispell the myth that Americans could not win on clay by winning back to French Open titles in 1991 and 1992, famoulsy upsetting rival Andre Agassi in the ’91 final.

Courier, a work ethic player with a big serve and forehand, was a guy willing to grind out, but who could also win free points and end points off either wing and at the net.  In 1992, Courier won 2 major titles, and Courier made two major finals in each of the years 1991, 1992, and 1993.  Courier, coached to his greatest successes by Spaniard Jose Higueras, who had short stints coaching both Sampras and Federer as well, may pick Higueras’ brain frequently on Davis Cup matters, considering that Higueras is now one of the USTA’s top coaches.

Courier once said that he was so determined to adapt to clay that he would practice on the surface for between 9 and 11 hours a day leading up to Roland Garros.  That’s the attitude that the American squad needs.  Young Americans Sam Querrey and John Isner would both seem to benefit greatly by Courier’s hire, as in all likelihood, they will be playing a lot of singles in Davis Cup over the next few years.  The entire American stable of players would likely benefit, including impressive young Texan Ryan Harrison and rising American Mardy Fish, who all play styles similar to Courier’s.

Brad Gilbert was apparently also in the running for the job, and we are ecstatic that he doesn’t seem to be in line for the coveted spot.  Gilbert, admittedly a “pusher”, or grinder, is uncomplicated as a coach, and has clashed with his last two big ticket clients, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray.  His coaching style consists of imploring his players to just get it back, and many have griped at the emphasis Gilbert places on weight training.  Gilbert likes to say that players should only come to the net “on their terms”, which produces a very boring style of baseline tennis that encourages passive play.  That’s not the American style of play and is not a style best suited to American hardcourts.

In other quality tennis news, Rafael Nadal finally lost.  Fellow Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez bested the world’s undisputed # 1, 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 in 2 hours and 45 minutes in the semis of the PTT Open in Thailand.


Crack (,

Current back to back Rogers Cup champion and pride of Britain, Andy Murray (above).

Last weekend, amid a semi-raucous bachelor party, your loyal scribe still made time for some definite appointment television: Saturday evening from Toronto, it was the 15th career meeting between the legend and the lame–Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, and then Sunday at 3 PM, after Roger had taken care of his business from the night before, it was the Australian Open rematch from this year, in a best of 3 set format live from Toronto between Roger Federer and Andy Murray.

That major final–and that major in its entirety for that matter–was the last time we saw Federer move with the surgical precision of a highly artistic grim reaper, completely dusting Nikolay Davydenko in a quarter-final matchup in which Federer won an incredible 14 straight games, after dropping the first set, a winning run that stretched on into a 2nd hour.

Roger then held a clinic in the semi-finals, abusing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets, and going deep into the bag of tricks while doing so, pulling out the lob volley and the drop shot serve return, on his way to a date in the finals with Andy Murray and an inevitable 16th major championship and 4th Australian title, jumping on Murray early in a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (11) straight set whipping that left Murray in tears.  You remember Murray’s classic loser’s speech (below) in which he declared that he “can cry like Roger, I just can’t play like him.”

Murray, who we are intensely critical of here in this space (we don’t like players who wait around for errors; we like players who take the initiative), suffered a heart breaking 4 set loss with the weight of the British Isles on his shoulders in the semi-finals of Wimbledon 09 to American Andy Roddick, then made a big deal of telling the world that there was too much pressure on him at Wimbledon, and that he’d train harder than ever for the major where he felt he had the best chance, the quick hardcourts of Flushing.  Several weeks of interviews and ESPN commercials later that showed Andy Murray doing situps with a medicine ball and training in the hot Miami sun–and talking about how great he is–and then Murray posts a big win over arch rival Juan Martin Del Potro in Montreal, and the next thing you know, this kid is telling the cameras of his personal rankings computations and how if he wins Cincinnati and The Open, he takes over the top ranking on the computer.

Federer, panned for dropping so many best of 3 set matches to Murray in his career (2-6 vs. Murray until then with all the losses coming in best of 3’s), must have been watching ESPN with a healthy distaste for the British media darling.  He jumped on Murray in the finals at Cincy, took the 1st set off the kid in 17 minutes which left him reeling, on his way to a 6-2, 7-6 (8) victory that assured Federer of the top spot for months to come.  Murray then came out in the round of 16 at The Open, took a big serving, ball crushing opponent like Marin Cilic lightly, and the big man dusted Murray 7-5, 6-2, 6-2, ending Murray’s 2009 quest for a major title, and rendering his year a grave disappointment, despite his 6 titles during the calendar year that led all players on the tour. 

Murray had regressed, had struck out at his self proclaimed best major, and had let down his major hungry nation and fanbase.  For a good player who had become a big endorsement machine, and who had a lot of considerable, albeit, lesser hardware in his trophy case, Murray got smoked in the 3 spots where he was racked with the most pressure and expectations: Wimbledon, the home major, Cincinnati, the first step in his plan to steal the # 1 ranking, and the US Open, the major that Murray basically announced would have his name on the trophy.  And to add insult to injury, one time prospective coach and current Roddick coach, Larry Stefanki, ripped Murray after Wimbledon for his gutless, passive style.  Recall that Murray had once had his camp ask Stefanki if he’d coach Murray, and Stefanki replied by telling Murray’s people to have the kid call him.  Murray never called, and Stefanki perceived the non call as diva like behavior from the kid.  Stefanki ended up coaching Chilean one handed star, Fernando Gonzalez, who despite not having english mastered, did call Stefanki personally, before eventually winding up in Roddick’s box.

Sunday’s showdown between Federer and Murray marked their first meeting since Oz, featured Federer on a court more favorable to his game (43 out of 62 of Roger’s titles have come on hards) despite it suiting Murray well too, saw Federer in pursuit of his first title since Australia, and Murray in pursuit of his first title of the year of any sort, and featured Federer as the all time leader in career masters series match wins–a lot of buzz for a Masters Series final.

The matchup meant that Roger had put in his best week of tennis since Australia, not coincidentally in his first week on tour with new coach Paul Annacone, with gutsy 3 set wins over rising nemesis Tomas Berdych and rival Novak Djokovic, whom Federer blitzed 6-1 in the first set, but who looked a lot more stout an hour later when he seemed to be cracking backhand winners at will, and serving well.  From mid second set when Djokovic won back a break until the middle of the 3rd set, Djokovic played the more solid tennis, made fewer errors, and seemed to punish every short ball Federer gave him a look at.  And I said to my buddy, “Fed’s done.”

Not so fast.  It only took a few shaky serves from the Djoker for Roger to get way out in front in the 3rd game of the 3rd set, and a tired looking Roger seemed to transport himself back to Federer circa 2006, dialing up the trademark run around forehand at will until Federer had set up a Sunday date with Murray.  I went out that night aglow, I admit, with thoughts of Roger Federer returning to dominance on hardcourts against Murray the next day, in Cincy like fashion.  Yes, Roger would return to tournament winning tennis by taking his 3rd Rogers Cup, with new coach–the perfect attacking style coach for Federer, former Sampras’ coach Paul Annacone, sitting bemused in the box next to Mirka.

A thousand words plus and we are barely to the actual match.  Enjoy these volumes if you are one to, because you probably won’t see another write-up of the sort on tennis for some time out of me, with many vacations coming up and a few weekend weddings on the slate.

Then the match started.  I told my boy that I expected–no, I knew that Roger would win, that Roger probably already had the kid psyched out, and I expected to see the Cincy 09 final repeated.  Roger would jump all over Murray early, the way he did in 08 at the Open and in 2010 in Australia, and of course, last year in Ohio.  The way he jumped on Djokovic the night before, who, by the way, had a very notable supporter in the stands–world # 1 Rafael Nadal, who came out to watch Fed/Djoker XV in a pink Polo shirt a few hours after Murray straighted him.  Perhaps Fed/Djoker really piqued the Spaniard’s interest, perhaps Nadal was being a good teammate to Djokovic, who was his doubles partner that week.  At any rate, I thought it was a very classy move on Nadal’s part to take in the match as a spectator, especially after suffering a tough loss a few hours prior.

My big Federer hypothesis held up for all of 1 point on Sunday.  Federer, with serve, stepped up and passed Murray to take the first point.  But on the 30-15 point, in a long baseline rally, Murray kicked the ball up high to Federer’s backhand–the Rafa play–and forced the error.  Fed played tight on the next two points, and Murray seemed to play way more aggressively than normal, perhaps with Larry Stefanki’s harsh sentiments echoing in his ears, or perhaps as a result of the watchful eye of Judy Murray, the mother and sometimes coach of Andy Murray, who we assume had her duties expanded when Murray fired coach Miles Maclagan.

A look to the player’s box revealed that Annacone was not present coaching Federer for the Murray match, an ominous sign for Federer.  But Annacone was prevented from being in the box by a conflict of interest, as his responsibilities to the British LTA have not yet been totally severed, so the man on the scene who knew best about Murray’s game, having coached him for 2 years in Davis Cup, could not actually be on the scene.

Murray jumped out to a 3-love edge, breaking Federer again in Roger’s next service game, and Brad Gilbert pointed out that Roger was tight, and worn out from two hard fought 3 set night matches in a row.  Federer broke back to reclaim 1 of the breaks to get to 3-1, and then capitalized as Murray served for the set at 5-4, and threw in a shaky game, as Murray has always been notoriously bad at closing out sets on serve.  Federer got to 5-5, and very importantly, began to flash the footwork, hitting his first backhand winner on a lightning strike of a pass in the crucial 5-4 break back game.  I felt like Roger was getting it together, but then Federer comes out loose in the 5-5 game on his serve, but down break point Roger smashed a high backhand volley winner, and then he comes in for a touch volley to go up the ad, before wasting a few first serves, then going down another break point on a classic rally point, and then giving up the break before Murray quickly served out the set.

It was a bleak set for Roger, who only came up with 4 winners, total.  When Roger loses the first set to a guy like Murray, who you know is going to fight hard for every point, the doubt begins to creep in about Roger’s ability to take two difficult sets after dropping a hard one.  So it was.  Murray won an early break to go up 3-1, and then the rains came.  Roger would get it back to 5-5 after a rain delay, but ended up dropping the match to Murray, who took his first title of the year, a few weeks after losing in exciting fashion to American Sam Querrey at the Farmers Classic, where Murray was a late entrant wildcard, the top seed and a prohibitive favorite.

Sunday, despite my good feelings coming into the match, was a bleak day for Roger in an otherwise good week.  Murray proved to be the better conditioned player, and the better mover on hardcourts right now, and in watching the match, I marveled at how he hadn’t won a title this year, despite his no guts style.  Though I am no Murray fan and never will be, I find myself empathizing with his plight–the awkward kid with the domineering mom who cried like a baby in Melbourne at the trophy presentation.  The kid who takes out Nadal for Roger, and who just wants to play video games sometimes, who has the weight of a nation’s major tennis hopes squarely on his shoulders.

What about his mom?  Good tennis fans would know that many of the players who Murray came up with do not like his mom, and notably, US Open Champion Juan Martin Del Potro has had heated arguments with both Murray and his mother, on court and in the locker room, stemming from Murray’s mom’s propensity to cheer too loudly during matches.

As for Roger, I’m going to stick with a my time honored philosophy of not getting too crazy about results in the Masters Series.  As gratifying a win as Federer’s was for me last year in Cincy, it would have been much better had he lost in Cincinnati and won The Open.  Was his footwork good enough to beat Murray on a fast hardcourt on Sunday?  No.  But let’s give Paul Annacone a chance–it’s only been a week.  Federer has some work to do yet to prepare for The Open, and hopefully he has enough time to get his feet right going into Flushing, where Federer can pull off an amazing double should he win.  Winning The Open would give Roger a record 6 Wimbledon and 6 US Open titles.

Though it could be disconcerting when a lumberer like Querrey can beat Murray, and a re-invented Mardy Fish can beat Murray (Fish just eliminated Murray from Cincinnati, 6-7 (7), 6-1, 7-6 (5)), and Roger doesn’t.  And it will be, if Federer isn’t more ready for Murray should they meet in Flushing.  Still, something tells me Roger will be okay when he gets his body on the major schedule, and has a day, sometimes two, between matches (except for the semi-finals and finals, which are played on the final Saturday and Sunday consecutively, unlike any other major, and making the US Open even tougher for most to win.)

–Crack (,

Maria Sharapova (above) on a practice court at Wimbledon.

Maria Sharapova, as an unlikely kid, burst on to the scene at Wimbledon, and blew Serena Williams off centre court to take the 2004 Ladies Championship.  In her US Open victory, she overpowered Justine Henin and blew her off Arthur Ashe.  Since shoulder injuries have befallen her, the once mighty serve is gone, to the point where she throws in 21 doubles against Melanie Oudin–a hard fall from grace for a fierce champion. 

At this point, she may actually have the best chance to win on clay, where the serve is neutralized.  And it would be quite a coup for Maria to tough her way through the French Open–the only major she hasn’t won.  But Lucie Safarova, can we say, best known as Tomas Berdych’s ugly girlfriend, got the better of Maria today, 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the Madrid Open.

Maria’s woes on serve continued.  She won only 32 of 60 points while serving, threw in 4 doubles, and was broken in 4 of 9 service games.  Brad Gilbert, our least favorite pocket square and jeans tennis announcer, and erstwhile coach–when he can confuse someone into coaching them, has repeatedly lobbied to work with Maria, calling her serve “an easy fix.”

Well, if it’s so easy, then why didn’t BG fix his own serve?  He had to be the worst top ten player I have ever seen.  Anyway, at least Maria still looks hot in a bikini.  Take a look.

While we don’t care much for her dog, we sure don’t mind her pussy cat.  Sorry, Yuri.

–Crack (