Archive for September 5th, 2007

short balls: “this and that” edition

September 5, 2007

Tennis and Latinos: While lots of folks in Latin America might be catching tennis fever, those living stateside are relatively immune — until the U.S. Open comes to town. VivirLatino rode the 7 train to get to the action. “(The 7’s) crowded with working class people of color to begin with, (and) becomes even more crowded, now with wide eyed mostly white tennis fans, most looking a little lost and scared. Most won’t give a lady with a baby in a sling their seat either.” Ugh, what is the world coming to?

Tennis and the rest of the world: Americans might never dominate tennis again, but that’s okay. It’s not that we’re producing less greats. It’s really just that the rest of the world is catching up. So just sit back, and make sure you know how to pronounce Agnieszka Radwanska. (NYT)

Tennis and college football: Scoop Jackson lists 25 reasons why pro tennis is better than college football. (“No. 23: Because women receive equal pay.”)

Tennis and booze: An Ad Ager complains about the recent partnership between Grey Goose vodka and the USTA.

Tennis and gambling: SI‘s S.L. Price keeps the conversation going about match-fixing on the ATP Tour.

Martina and Max: Swiss Miss Martina Hingis took in BCBG‘s Spring 2008 fashion show in New York before heading back home. She looked great in her gold sequin top under a black jumper dress (paired with a gold pendant neckace and some black booties). Martina lost to Victoria Azarenka in the third round of this year’s U.S. Open. (WWD)

Roddick and Brooklyn: Texan Andy Roddick was apparently spotted dining with SI swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker at Nobu. (MTF)

Between a rock and a hard place: How should James Blake deal with his African-American heritage?

(photo of Hingis with Natasha Bedingfield, left, and Nigel Barker, right, both by AP via PDN)

RELATED POSTS
>> TSF’s u.s. open coverage continues…

thank god for usa network

September 5, 2007

Thank god for USA Network. In their decades of covering the U.S. Open, they’ve settled into a style that’s worlds better than CBS‘ (such a relief!). They also keep it consistent and simple: no unnecessary graphics; minimal “comeback kid” or “on the rise” profiles; ample servings of quality matches not involving Americans; a nice sampling of play (i.e., they’ll cover those outer court, low-Q-rating matches in the first week); and they take air breaks of very reasonable length — essentially just enough to cover the changeovers.

The Commentators:

  • Jim Courier — Wow. Where does one begin? With Mr. Courier, it seems we have a perfect balance of pros (brilliance) and cons (hubris, arrogance). Let’s start with the pros: here’s a guy who can back up the goods. Not unlike Johnny Mac, he also has tremendous access to the players and makes good use of it. He’s smart guy, surprisingly articulate, and occasionally makes insightful cultural references.

    But the true bonus with Jim is his tendency to deconstruct tennis broadcasting: “I’ve just been told I can’t say ‘hot chicks’ anymore,” he said the other day in reference to a comment about Safin’s former box-sitters. Or “I’m being told I need to wrap it up,” he’ll say, I’m sure to the great chagrin of his producers. Novice? Yes. Novel? Definitely.

    Another example: the other night, after a long post-match analysis from Jim, host Al Trautwig asked if he wanted to keep going, upon which Jim said, “Okay. Can I read your prompter?” This brashness with which Courier tears down the fourth wall is quite a breath of fresh air.

    He even got into it with Tracy Austin, insisting that Radwanska, who upset defending champion Maria Sharapova, used gamesmanship and broke the locker room code of ethics in attacking Masha’s second serve. Austin countered that this brashness is just the way players are today. Courier’s apparent anger, verging on hostility, brought a little verité into the USA Network booth.

    All that said, Courier is far from perfect: quite often he is the epitome of smug. “Let me tell you how much I know about this; and let me also tell you how much I know about that,” he seems to be saying. He’s passionate — which of course is important — but when he continues to expound deep into a game without stopping, he’s cut off his nose to spite his (and our) face(s). One wonders whether Courier has spent any time reviewing tapes of his broadcasts; if he does, one hopes that he’ll notice his tendency to ramble. Once he corrects this, we may have a truly great player-cum-commentator on our hands.

  • Tracy Austin — All designer business suits (bright blue ones, no less) and mind-numbing, somewhat grating patter, Austin has milked her playing days into a commentary career like a character on The Surreal Life. (Racqonteur gives her a C-.)
  • Al Trautwig — Nice deep pipes and always solidly on-the-ball, Trautwig is the best studio host USA has had. His transitions are impeccable and I’ve never seen him falter in improv mode. A weakness: in his one-on-ones, he doesn’t allow the interviewee much time to respond. But at least he keeps things moving.
  • Michael Barkann — This long-time roving reporter is great at what he does, and far too often it’s a relatively thankless task: I wouldn’t want to be interviewing players who clearly don’t want to be interviewed (which seems to be the case before every Ashe stadium match), but he does it (though I’m fairly sure it wasn’t his idea). He’s also accomplished at the mostly heinous celebrity-in-the-crowd interviews, an equally unenviable task that he manages to get done (thankfully there have been few of them thus far in ’07, though we were horrified to see him sit down for a long exchange with Donny Trump during the Ferrer-Nadal match). He’s at his best doing the roving reporter thing, perhaps throwing in a quick exchange with a fan or two.
  • Ted Robinson — Almost no complaints; there is nothing about Ted that’s not to like. He has a great memory for past matches and players; he keeps things moving but doesn’t ever seem to talk too much; he throws out some relevant anecdotes when things on the court are a little slow; and he knows how to keep it brief at crucial periods in a match. His one downside, which has been minimal at this Open, is his tendency to set McEnroe up for patting himself on the back, which he (Mac) clearly doesn’t need any help with. Still, overall Robinson is a key fixture for USA’s coverage. (add Ted’s blog to your reading list.)
  • Bill Macatee — he’s substantially better here than on CBS. He’s a nice, dry, straight man with an ample smidgeon of personality. Easy enough to tune out, or in, as is appropriate.
  • John McEnroe — Hey Mac: keep the focus on the match and the players and off yourself, and we’re all good. Has the way that Mac has been doing a little biographical digging, and age comparing (is Hyung-Taik Lee the oldest player left, or is Moya?) shown signs of maturing? Heaven forbid.

(photo of Courier by mugley)

Michael Shaw is currently following the Open from his couch on the West Coast.

RELATED POSTS
>> TSF’s u.s. open archive
>> michael shaw archive

lexus holds wii tourney at the rock

September 5, 2007

From September 4-6, Lexus will be staging the Lexus Virtual Open at Rockefeller Plaza, an event which will let Wii tennis fans compete for the chance to win a one-year lease on the Lexus IS-F (a sexy new sedan scheduled for a Spring 2008 release).

ESPN commentator Luke Jensen (above) will be on-site to emcee. And to make sure everyone is wearing their wrist straps.

They’ve erected a scaled-down version of a true tennis stadium (complete with bleachers!) for the competition. Absolutely no living room furniture in sight.

The two highest scorers will vie for the car, and additional prizes will be given out to others, including tickets to watch the US Open semifinals and finals in Lexus’ luxury suite. Also, Lexus will donate $1 to the Andy Roddick Foundation for every ace hit (up to $30,000).

Details: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily; the event is free and open to the public. Participants can sign up on-site to play. For more information, visit www.myownpursuit.com. And TSF’ers: if you participate, make sure to tell us!

(photos via BB Public Relations)

JNP’s photos from the open: the serbs

September 5, 2007

That’s Jelena running in my direction, Baywatch-style, while her mother holds racquets a few steps back. And Nole walks to a crowd for some autographs.

Both are still in their respective main singles draws at this year’s U.S. Open.

TSF contributor JNP is in New York reporting from the U.S. Open trenches. He’s been checking in with us everyday. Read his previous posts here.

sketches of the open’s humble broadcasters

September 5, 2007

Those of us neither out in Flushing, nor subscribers to extremely high-end satellite packages with live feeds, are ultimately resolved to endure CBS’ weekend coverage. As green as TTC proved to be in covering their inaugural slam at this year’s French Open, one perversely hopes that they’ll gain enough leverage to buy out CBS’ Open contract.

NBC is not without substantial guilt for its own slam (RG and Wimbledon) coverage, but the combustible pairing of a major network and its home (okay, American) slam leads to far too much spoon-feeding of emotion and drama, akin to the worst of a Hollywood movie.

We as viewers are savvy enough to bring our own sense of meaning to any given match or storyline (and, if there isn’t one, then we can always fast-forward). Serious tennis fans can really do without the amped-up graphics, schlocky promos, and sentimental broadcasters, not to mention the three-to-one ads-to-tennis ratio.

It was quite a jolt adapting from USA’s coverage to that of CBS': what with the eye strain adjustments to deal with all the bleached out and overly sunlit footage. (Can’t they just use the same filter that USA does?)

And whoever decided to greenlight those pre-match interviews should be hung.

Hey, at least the CBS commentators are a relatively known bunch.

  • Bill Macatee — basically innocuous, with an even more sterilized persona than on USA.
  • Mary Carillo — she’s her usual effervescent and laugh-happy self, a solid and colorful voice, if at times a bit too harsh. (It’s hard to erase the memory of her referring to Davydenko, back when he was ranked #3, not only as “the most anonymous #3 player in the world ever,” but also as “a total mook”.)
  • John McEnroe — Mac has become familiar enough in the booth that he’s not too hard to tune out, or at least tune down. Mac can bring brilliant analysis to the table for any given match, which he deserves credit for, but his overall vibe gets watered down by an ego untethered and run amok. Somehow the CBS dynamic doesn’t allow him quite the forum for inevitable self-aggrandizements.
  • Patrick McEnroe — P-Mac’s commentary is overall equal to John’s, if only because he’s more consistent and doesn’t indulge in his own accomplishments (perhaps just a function of having far fewer than his brother?). His pairing with Mac for the Nadal-Tsonga match was both fun and efficient. His broadcast voice has come off as a bit thinner than it has on ESPN.
  • Ian (pronounced EYE-en) Eagle — not only a capable but even an enjoyable play-by-play guy; newest to the team. It’s a shame he’s been relegated to something of a transition host with minimal air time.
  • Dick Enberg — give this guy an opportunity to sentimentalize, and he’ll take it and run. He’s actually a fine commentator, but over the years most of us have gotten more our fill; and, within the confines of CBS (Enberg joined ESPN’s Aussie Open coverage last year), it all feels just that much more mainstream.

Up next: a look at USA Network’s coverage.

(photo by artnwine1)

Michael Shaw is currently following the Open from his couch on the West Coast.

RELATED POSTS
>> TSF’s u.s. open coverage
>> michael shaw archive


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