Monday, February 22, 2010

Tennised Out?

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 11:35 AM

Maria Sharapova
  • Maria Sharapova
The empty seats at the finals of the men's and women's professional tennis tournaments at the Racquet Club last weekend are evidence of the perils of serving sports fans a ten-day feast. I'm not sure what tournament my journalistic colleague Geoff Calkins was watching when he described it today as a smash.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Schedule Change in Tennis Tournament

Posted By on Sat, Feb 20, 2010 at 10:33 PM

The schedule for Sunday's finals of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships at the Racquet Club has been changed because both finalists are also in the doubles final.

The final singles match between Sam Querrey and John Isner will begin at 3 p.m., followed by the doubles final after a rest interval.

At 1 p.m. there will be an exhibition doubles match featuring a pair of University of Memphis players and two professionals.

The change was necessary because of the highly unusual circumstance of both singles finalists not only playing in the doubles final but also playing as partners.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Hair, the Stare, and the Scream

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2010 at 11:30 PM

Sam Querrey
  • Sam Querrey
It's the little things that separate the champions from the also-rans.

For Maria Sharapova, it's a pre-serve ritual involving her hair, a stare, two bounces of the ball, and a scream. She hasn't lost a set on her way to Saturday's finals in the Cellular South Cup.

For Andy Roddick, the difference between beating Sam Querrey last week and losing to him Friday night in the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships was a double fault, a missed forehand, a close line call, and a smashed racquet in the second game of the third set. He was serving at the time and blew a 40-15 lead. Five games later he was whipped.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Biggest Serve, Ordinary Game

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 10:29 AM

Ivo Karlovic
  • Ivo Karlovic
If you're into sports oddities, consider Ivo Karlovic, the 6' 10" Serbian playing this week in the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships.

There has never been a player like Karlovic in the history of tennis. He's the tallest pro to climb high (#37) in the world rankings, and he has, arguably, the biggest serve ever.

In his opening match this week, which he won 7-6, 7-6, he served 32 aces. That's an ordinary day's work for him. In a Davis Cup match last year, he had 78 aces. That broke his previous ace records of 51 and 55. The oddity of oddities is that he lost all three of those matches. He is like a long driver in golf or a home-run hitter in baseball.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tennis Tournament's Worst Dressed is a Crowd Pleaser

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 11:40 AM

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Not even that many hardcore tennis fans have heard of her, but American Bethanie Mattek Sands, who plays Maria Sharapova Wednesday night at The Racquet Club, is easily the most colorful player in the tournament.

And that's another reason for fans to stick around after the headliner featuring Andy Roddick and James Blake. Talk about a clash of styles. The glamorous Sharapova is a tennis fashion plate and the poster-girl for the Cellular South Cup. Mattek Sands looks like she scrounged up her outfit at a rummage sale. But she can play, and her go-for-it style entertains the crowd in the manner of past local favorites Jimmy Connors and the Jensen brothers.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Maria Sharapova's Memphis Star Power

Posted By on Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 11:14 AM

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There are pros and there are stars on the women's tennis tour.

Pros compete for prize money, get free racquets, and practice four to a court in isolation. Stars get appearance money, big-time endorsements, and attract crowds and autograph seekers to their practice sessions.

Maria Sharapova is a star. After practicing Sunday afternoon for 45 minutes in the Stadium Court and chatting with fans and sponsors, she'll play her first match Monday night at The Racquet Club in the Cellular South Cup.

She's heavily favored to win it, but I wouldn't bet my Canon camera on it until we see if she has cured the problems with her serve that resulted in 21 double faults at the 2009 U.S. Open. The woman who beat her in New York, Melanie Oudin, is also in the Memphis field.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Opening Ceremonies Dud

Posted By on Sat, Feb 13, 2010 at 10:28 AM

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Vancouver looks like a nice place to visit but not such a nice place to hold the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Parts of last night's opening ceremony on NBC looked as forced as Cris Collinsworth's constant smile. A parade of nation's with one athlete, an indoor arena, and worst of all no snow. My favorite part was when Bob Costas noted that some of the "indigenous people" had been dancing so long that they had to "take a knee."

The Chinese may have set the bar too high in the last summer Olympics. The Snoozer in Vancouver reminded me of the 1982 Worlds Fair in Knoxville. Thank goodness for the honey shots of the blond-haired skaters and skiers who are the early favorites for the coveted couch potato's gold medal.

I loved the hats and the hair on Lindsey Vonn, Lindsey Jacobellis, Gretchen Bleiler, and Tanith Belbin. Johnny Weir has something. And so does Apolo. Get ready for a week of constant exposure.

Bring on the short track, the moguls, the downhill, women's hockey and getting some air. And the snow.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Finding Motivation to Get Fit

Posted By on Thu, Jan 28, 2010 at 9:59 AM

Justin Burks
  • Justin Burks
Having trouble getting motivated to get fit or stay fit? Join the club. Even trainers fight temptation and apathy, and sometimes it takes a life-changing event to make the lifestyle changes that make a lasting difference.

There's no quick fix, as the stories of trainer Marcus Santi and photographer Justin Burks demonstrate.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Politics of Skate Parks

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 10:47 AM

Who would have thought that a skate park would be seen as a threat to a historic neighborhood?

I'm sorry but not surprised that the skate park proposed for Glenview Park has run into opposition and will possibly be built at Rodney Baber Park instead.

Sorry because Rodney Baber Park floods from the Wolf River part of the year and is hard to get to without a car. It's a baseball and softball park on the north end of McLean just north of Interstate 40. It's hard to imagine kids without cars getting over there on their skateboards, but what do I know. I came of age in the Pleistocene Era of hula hoops, pogo sticks and baseball.

I'm not surprised because I know both Councilwoman Wanda Halbert and skate park proponent Aaron Shafer, and I could see this one coming.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Andre Agassi: How Open is "Open"?

Posted By on Sun, Jan 3, 2010 at 4:01 PM

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When a professional athlete writes a book and calls it "Open," skepticism is in order.

Andre Agassi's autobiography is uncommonly interesting, uncommonly well written, and — to an extent we may never know — uncommonly open. But I had a feeling after I finished it that I had been shortchanged on the story.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Go Griz, Western Style

Posted By on Fri, Jan 1, 2010 at 1:51 PM

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MISSOULA, Montana — The Grizzlies own this town under the big "M" on Mount Sentinel.

Their "Go Griz" slogan and trademarked maroon paw print are on convenience stores, billboards, bars, restaurants, newspapers, and jackets. Of course the Grizzlies are from the University of Montana, not Memphis.

If a team longs to be embraced, it helps to be good. The football team went 14-1 in 2009 and lost in the national championship game in Chattanooga for the second year in a row. It also helps to be the only game in town. The closest pro sports teams are in Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Canada.

Other pleasant surprises about Montana: no sales tax, free samples of Trout Slayer Ale and Moose Drool beer, snowshoes, the Clark Fork River, the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, books about mountain men, George Winston's CD "Montana: A Love Story," and the discovery of a disparaging word for immigrants — honyocker.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Old Man and the Tennis Court

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 1:12 PM

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We buried the old man last week. My father-in-law was 77 years old. He was a lifelong hunter, cattleman, and athlete in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, 30 miles south of Jackson on Interstate 55. You might have seen his "rainbow barn" when you were driving to New Orleans.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On Sports Outliers, Blogs, and Trolls

Posted By on Wed, Dec 16, 2009 at 5:04 PM

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Good health is more important than good skills.

Keeping a journal is good discipline but keeping a blog going is as hard as keeping a rally going in the third set, running through the wall at Mile 20, holding that pose, or doing that final set of push-ups or curls.

And trolls are like hecklers — tolerable to a point.

That's some of what I learned in the 11 months and 3 weeks since I started a book that became a journal that became a blog that did a U-turn back to journal and book culminating, I hope, in a national age-group championship or at least a respectable finish in the admittedly obscure sport of squash.

As I said at the beginning, it's a small sport but it's a big nation.

I wanted to learn more about how and why athletes fail, and get better, or don't get better. And I did.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Why Do You Write About That?

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2009 at 4:42 PM

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A reader (I think) asks why I write about obscure sports that nobody in Memphis knows or cares anything about.

It's a fair question. He/she (?) is not the first to ask that. I ask myself that all the time.

The short answer is "because I feel like it."

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When Sports is Better than Sex

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2009 at 10:35 AM

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"Better than sex."

That's what an old tennis partner used to say, just loud enough for his doubles partner and opponents to hear, after hitting a winner.

Athletes know the feeling by other names — runner's high, in the zone, out of your head, grooved, unconscious — but I like "better than sex" for those rare moments of perfection for us amateurs more familiar with failures that are "worse than dental surgery."

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