March 28th, 2014
Friday Tennis Blog: Serena Beats Maria 15 Straight; TV Schedule
Glamorous, exclusive events surround the Sony Open in Miami, but how about playing mini-tennis with Roger Federer on a shimmering-white Moet & Chandon court on a rooftop? The Moet & Chandon “Tiny Tennis” Tournament at Club 50 at Viceroy in Miami last week featured the Swiss former No. 1, as well as guests Juan Pablo “The Bachelor” Galavis, Cincinatti Bengals running back Giovanni Bernard, New York Giants linebacker Jon Beason, and Tracy Mourning, wife of former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning, among others. “There’s so much energy and we’re doing this on a rooftop in Miami in South Beach, it’s really cool,” said Federer, who had coach Stefan Edberg in tow. Federer serves as brand ambassador for Moet & Chandon and served as umpire for the event, reportedly won by Bernard.
Modified youth tennis equipment, kid-sized racquets and courts, and lower-compression balls has had its critics, but now science has had a say. The study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, “The Effects of Scaling Tennis Equipment on the Forehand Groundstroke Performance of Children” by Emma J. Larson and Joshua D. Guggenheimer, takes a look at low-compression balls and short courts on forehand development. The findings? Modified ball compression and modified court size increased control, velocity and the overall success of tennis performance, and children had more success learning the game of tennis using modified equipment as opposed to standard adult-sized equipment. “Furthermore,” the study concluded, “for children initially learning tennis, practicing with standard-compression balls on the standard court where they are typically less successful, could lead to frustration and avoidance of the sport altogether.” Well, duh. It’s simple, or if you read the study in its entirety, not-so-simple science.
Up-and-coming American Sloane Stephens and Canadian Genie Bouchard have been tagged as the next generation of Top 10 players, but both suffered early losses at the Sony Open in Miami. Both popular players now find themselves striking a balance between on- and off-court obligations, distractions and fame. This week the queen of sponsorship dollars, Maria Sharapova, dropped some knowledge regarding the difficulties rookie players face striking the balance. “We didn’t start off with modeling agencies,” Sharapova said. “We started off grinding on walls or in tough circumstances and tough situations where we had to grind out and become top professional players. [Modeling] was never our job…You’re always around opinions. No matter who you are, how great you are, there are always going to be those that don’t have nice things to say. And probably as a younger player, someone that’s just coming up, that’s always challenging to take in the beginning of your career…The hype I think is a lot bigger than maybe many years ago because you don’t see [teenagers breaking through] so often. And that adds another level of pressure. All of a sudden you’re photographed by Vogue or you’re talked about. It can become difficult.” But not too difficult, once you get a handle on it. Sharapova reportedly earned $23 million in off-court endorsements last year.
SERENA BEATS MARIA FOR 15 IN A ROW, INTO MIAMI FINAL VS. LI
It was the blockbuster title fight Serena vs. Maria XVIII, but the hype gave way to reality when Serena Williams recorded her 15th straight victory over Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-3 on Thursday at the Sony Open in Miami.
The bout began with Sharapova landing a number of body blows, going up 4-1 in the first set with groundstroke winners flying off her racquet, before Serena unleashed her own groundstoke fury to win five games in a row and the first set. Sharapova struggled overall with 15 winners to 29 unforced errors and no aces, and Serena eventually advanced into the final where she will face world No. 2 Li Na, who Thursday night edged Dominika Cibulkova in three sets.
“I think she started out strong,” Williams said of Sharapova. “I made some unforced errors, and I had a lot of chances to be up first game, and then had some chances to hold serve and chances to break again. So I think I definitely let myself down in the first three games, and then she just started playing better. But when I’m not playing well, or when I’m feeling lower energy, I know I can do better. That’s always a plus.”
It was Serena’s ninth career Miami final, more finals than at any other event during her career. She is 6-2 career in Miami finals.
Williams leads Li 10-1 in their head-to-head series, with Li stretching their most recent encounter to three sets.
THEY SAID IT
“We want to stay in South Florida but we don’t want to run a second-class or third-tier event. The option of going to the highest bidder — such as China, the Middle East or India, where money is growing on trees — is always an appealing option to a corporation.”
— Sony Open Tournament Director Adam Barrett on the road blocks Miami tournament owner IMG has encountered in trying to upgrade the tournament facility over the last couple years
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien, British writer
“33-year-old Tennis Hall of Famer Martina Hingis is once again playing doubles on the WTA tour — but she doesn’t have her famous sidekick with her. Back in the day, she won two Australian Open doubles titles with calendar girl Anna Kournikova, and the two had a famously volatile partnership. ‘Do you think you are the queen? Because I am the queen,’ Hingis once barked at Kournikova during a mid-match disagreement. If Chucky can get the 32-year-old Anna to join her on the comeback trail, doubles would finally get the page one (page three in Britain) attention its proponents so crave.”
— Tennis writer Douglas Perry in The Oregonian
TENNIS ON TV THIS WEEKEND
3-5pm — ATP Miami (live), ESPN
7-9pm — ATP Miami (live), ESPN
1-3pm — WTA Miami women’s final (live), ESPN2
2:30-5pm — ATP Miami men’s final (live), ESPN