Thu May 16 10:39am EDT
They say tennis is one of the loneliest sports, a man or woman out on an island beating ball after ball back at an opponent that is going through the same mental checklist on each shot in hopes of reigning supreme. In some cases, that solitarily can lead one to a bit of a breakdown.
Enter Viktor Troicki, a 27-year-old Serbian with one career ATP title and now one career-defining meltdown that took place during his second-round match at the Italian Open against Ernests Gulbis. Troicki had dropped the first set 6-1 and was facing a break point in the first game of the second set when chair umpire Cedric Mourier overruled a backhand by Troicki that lost him the game.
That, apparently, was enough for Troicki who started yelling, screaming and pointing at Mourier for the next four minutes.
How bad did it get? Troicki eventually grabbed a cameraman and pulled him over to the spot that he thought the ball landed, instructing the man to do a close-up of what he thought was the in-spot of his shot.
The whole thing is incredible for a number of reasons, but this entire quote is just golden.
"No, come on, Cedric, you know you’re wrong," Troicki said during his meltdown. "Come on, you know you’re wrong. Come on, please. You know that you’re wrong. You called it and now you don’t want to overrule yourself. Come on, there is no space. You know there is no space. Come on, no, I don’t want to play like this. There is no space. There is zero space. … You don’t want to correct yourself … because you always think you’re right, but you’re not."
Troicki eventually lost the match 6-1, 6-1 and while he is out in Rome, this video will live forever.
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Fri May 10 01:51pm EDT
Maria Sharapova is dating fellow tennis player Gregor Dimitrov, a fact brought to light earlier this week when paparazzi snapped a photo of Sharapova and Dimitrov sharing a tender moment on the streets of Madrid. Both are playing in the Madrid Open, where Dimitrov upset world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, so, yeah, it didn't exactly require CIA-level espionage tactics to catch them together.
After winning her own quarterfinal in Madrid, Sharapova joked about the revelation with a bit of impromptu camera lens art. She wrote, "How did you find us???" with a handy marker, smiling all the way. Hey, better this than enraged denials, smashed cameras or lawsuits.
Alas, Maria made the common mistake of failing to account for reversed letters, the same affliction that befell a Florida State fan who apparently painted her face in the mirror last fall. It's cool, we knew what you meant anyway.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-
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Tue May 07 11:56am EDT
Details continue to emerge of an incredibly ugly incident out of Madrid, where Bernard Tomic's father, John Tomic, headbutted the 20-year-old Australian's hitting partner before the team was scheduled to board an airplane.
The story goes that Thomas Drouet, the hitting partner of Bernard, got into an altercation with John after he told Drouet that he wouldn't be paid or allowed on the flight, going after the playing partner, spitting in his face and then headbutting him, breaking his nose and leaving him unconscious outside the player's hotel in Madrid.
Mon May 06 12:05pm EDT
Remember a few months back when Sloane Stephens went up against Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and stories upon stories were made about how the student was finally getting to face her mentor?
Well, apparently that wasn't so much the case. In an interview with ESPN the Magazine, Stephens held nothing back in how she feels about Williams, basically tearing apart any semblance of a relationship the two American tennis players might have had.
Here is a part of the story that comes out on May 13 ...
“She’s not said one word to me, not spoken to me, not said hi, not looked my way, not been in the same room with me since I played her in Australia,” Stephens says emphatically. “And that should tell everyone something, how she went from saying all these nice things about me to unfollowing me on Twitter.”
Her mom tries to slow her down, but Sloane is insistent. “Like, seriously! People should know. They think she’s so friendly and she’s so this and she’s so that — no, that’s not reality! You don’t unfollow someone on Twitter, delete them off of BlackBerry Messenger. I mean, what for? Why?”
Stephens went on to pound on any rumor that Williams was the person she looked up to as she was becoming the tennis player she is today. Sloane mentioned the infamous poster of Serena that she had on her wall, saying she waited three hours as a 12-year-old for Williams to sign it, but both Serena and sister Venus walked by without so much as an autograph.
And speaking of all that mentor stuff? Listen to what Stephens said about who she really loved to watch as a child.
“I’ve always said Kim Clijsters is my favorite player, so it’s kind of weird,” she says.
It's rare to see an athlete like Stephens really let loose on a fellow competitor, but it seemed Sloane had an agenda with this interview with Marin Cogan and that was to let the world know she isn't a huge fan of Serena in any capacity.
The French Open kicks off on May 21. I'm assuming if these two meet again, the stories will take on a completely different tone than when the tour was in Australia.
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Tue Apr 30 04:14pm EDT
On April 30, 1993, then-world No. 1 Monica Seles was playing Magdalena Maleeva in the Citizen Cup, an undistinguished event in Germany. Seles was up 4-3 in the second set after having won the first, and appeared to be within minutes of taking the match and moving onward.
And then, during the changeover, the entire world of tennis changed in an instant. Gunter Parche, an unemployed 38-year-old, leaned over and stabbed at Seles with a nine-inch blade. Parche later admitted an obsession with Steffi Graf, Seles' rival, and sought to end the rivalry himself.
"I remember sitting there, toweling off, and then I leaned forward to take a sip of water, our time was almost up and my mouth was dry. The cup had barely touched my lips when I felt a horrible pain in my back," Seles would later write in her 2009 autobiography "Getting a Grip." "My head whipped around towards where it hurt and I saw a man wearing a baseball cap, a sneer across his face. His arms were raised above his head and his hands were clutching a long knife. He started to lunge at me again. I didn't understand what was happening."
Here is video of the aftermath:
Security and spectators restrained Parche before he could stab again. Seles was fortunate; the incision was only about an inch and a half deep, and Parche just missed her spinal cord or other organs. Seles was only slightly injured physically, but one could argue that the psychological scars never healed.
It's impossible to overstate how the Seles stabbing affected not just her career, but the entire game of tennis and, to some extent, pro sports as a whole. Seles was, in both ranking and demeanor, atop the world. At age 19, she was coming off a run of 22 straight singles titles, and held eight Grand Slam tournaments. She and Graf appeared poised to give tennis fans a rivalry to echo Evert-Navratilova and Sampras-Agassi.
But in the wake of the incident, Seles would stay away from the game for more than two years. While Seles would win one more major, as well as an Olympic bronze medal in 2000, Graf, without a true rival, completely destroyed the women's game, winning a total of 22 majors in her career.
Astonishingly, Parche received only a suspended sentence and probation, as the German court charged with rendering judgment dismissed an attempted murder charge. A later court upheld the verdict, in part because Seles did not want to come back to Hamburg and sit in a courtroom with Parche.
"I think that [got to me] more than anything, that there was no kind of punishment," Martina Navratilova told ESPN. "The judge was like, 'Oh, he won't do it again so I'll let him go so he can really kill someone.' It was insane and so nationality driven. If someone had done that to Steffi so Monica would win, they'd have thrown away the key."
Seles would eventually retire in 2008, although she hadn't played her last competitive match in five years. She would be elected to tennis' Hall of Fame the next year.
Fortunately, there have been few cases of fans getting onto the field and directly assaulting athletes since then. Perhaps the most notable was an incident in 2002 when a father and a son ran onto the field during a White Sox game and tackled Kansas City Royals coach Tom Gamboa; a pocketknife was found at the scene of the incident. But the players' vulnerability remains.
And even in tennis, the players are not completely safe. A fan charged Roger Federer at the 2009 French Open, prompting NBC's Ted Robinson to remark, "there should be zero tolerance for that, and of all sports, this one is the one that experienced the absolute worst with the nightmare of Monica Seles."
Seles remains in the public eye, having appeared on "Dancing With the Stars" and penned both an autobiography and an upcoming children's book. Still, her every move is haunted by what might have been.
"She was dominating Steffi Graf, who, prior to Seles, dominated everyone else," Pam Shriver told ESPN. "The sad thing about the whole thing to me was that besides the physical and emotional harm that was done to Monica, one of our great champions, is that this guy, in the end, got exactly what he wanted."
Mon Apr 29 01:26pm EDT
Remember when Rafael Nadal was the battered champion that some thought might never return to the form that has picked up 11 Grand Slam titles in his career? Yeah, that isn't exactly what has happened.
Nadal returned to tennis in February, and hasn't just hit the ground running, he's blown the game wide open. Since coming back, Nadal has reached the finals in all six events he has started, winning four of them including the Barcelona Open on Sunday.
His 6-4, 6-3 win was impressive, but it was this tweeter shot he hit late in the first set that was easily the shot of the day.
Nadal came in, Nicolas Almagro lobbed one over his head, and Nadal retreated, pounding it back down the line between his legs and eventually winning the point.
Wed Mar 27 12:25pm EDT
Tommy Haas is a guy that has been in and out of our tennis lives for a number of years. Ranked as high as No. 2 in the world back in 2002, Haas is now 34-years-old and a far cry from the player he used to be.
That was, until his fourth round match against No. 1 in the world Novak Djokovic on Tuesday night at the Sony Open.
The funny thing about men's tennis these days is that upsets, real, true upsets, happen about as often as Roger Federer looks fatigued. We get around the Grand Slams and the final four almost always look the same, with the finals being some revolving door of Federer, Djokovic, Andy Murray or Rafael Nadal. But on Tuesday night, Haas pulled off an upset for the ages.
Haas beat Djokovic 6-2, 6-4, an absolute thrashing in tennis terms especially considering that a guy Haas' age hasn't beat a No. 1 in the world since 1973.
It was a "turn back the clock" performance by both players, really. Haas was on his game, smashing his one-handed backhand and pushing Djokovic around while the six-time major winner looked like he did back in his shoulder-slumping, sulking days before he became the force he is today.
So how did the upset happen?
There are a number of theories, with the top one being that Djokovic just played terrible, terrible tennis ("It’s definitely the worst match I have played in a long time," Novak said afterwards).
The other one that is floating around deals with the unseasonably cold conditions that swept through the Miami area. It was in the low 50s during the Tuesday night match, and Haas basically used the cold weather to his advantage, beating up on Novak by keeping the ball low and forcing Novak out of position and out of his comfort zone.
So Djokovic is out at the Sony Open, and Haas moves on as the 34-year-old feel-good story of the year in tennis. Haas now gets Gilles Simon in the quarterfinals. I bet I know what weather he's rooting for when the balls come out in Miami on Wednesday night.
Wed Mar 27 11:46am EDT
Seriously, what more can you say about this shot by Agnieszka Radwanska in her quarterfinals match against Kirsten Flipkens? Serving up 2-0 in the second set, Radwanska came to net only to have Flipkens' pass catch the tape.
No worries, as Radwanska did a full turn, no-look drop shot for the winner.
I know it's early, but this could easily be the Shot of the Year in women's tennis.
Thu Mar 21 03:52pm EDT
Jennifer Capriati, now 36, has had a tough road since her days as a teen tennis prodigy and a stint atop the world rankings. Although she's a three-time major winner and a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, she's had difficulties off the court, with arrests ranging from shoplifting to marijuana possession.
And the problems continue. Capriati now faces battery and stalking charges in Palm Beach County, Florida stemming from an incident with an ex-boyfriend on Valentine's Day. According to North Palm Beach police, Capriati approached her ex-boyfriend, Ivan Brannan, at a gym and began screaming at him. When he tried to leave by going to the men's locker room, Capriati allegedly blocked his path and punched at his chest. The summons indicates that she "actually and intentionally touch[ed] and [struck]" Brannan and "willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follow[ed], harass[ed]" him.
According to county records, Capriati has been summoned to appear before a judge on April 17. However, she has not been arrested.
Capriati's summons is linked below.
Wed Mar 20 05:22pm EDT
While Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn might have stole the headlines this week for power athletic couple, there is still Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki.
Wozniacki made it to the finals of last week's BNP Paribas Open, losing to Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-2, and while she might not have been all smiles after that, she sure was at the player's party on Tuesday night at the Sony Open in Miami.
Caroline posted the picture above to her Twitter on Wednesday, showing us her best McIlroy impersonation while standing next to her beau. Wozniacki is in the field this week while McIlroy skipped out on the Arnold Palmer Invitational also in Florida.
I think she looks pretty good with the wig, almost like a dark-haired "Annie" standing next to Mr. McIlory.