For once, it is tempting to take Shamil Tarpishchev at his word when he claims that his Russian Davis Cup team has only a ď35 percent chanceĒ of winning this weekend against the United States. Tarpishchev, Boris N. Yeltsinís former tennis coach, is a wily and enduring force who has not survived and thrived in the shifting landscape of contemporary Russia by playing his cards wrong or by giving away too much in prematch news conferences.
After multiple frustrations on the road, the Americans at last have the home-court advantage in a final, which has allowed them and McEnroe to cherry-pick a surface as far from clay as possible. They should also have ample support considering that Memorial Coliseumís 12,000 seats sold out in fewer than 30 minutes and that the several hundred tickets put back on sale this week have also gone quickly.
ďItís fun, because weíve all been through it together,Ē said McEnroe, who took over for his older brother, John, as captain in 2001. ďWe were in Spain for the 2004 final, in Belgium and the Slovak Republic and all those matches, and itís been pretty much the same guys. So itís nice to see them get the chance to do it at home. Obviously we know itís a tough match, even on a surface that we like and in a home environment, but we certainly have it lined up so the positives are with us.Ē
Larry Scott of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour might have had the best year of any of the heads of sports in the United States. The TV numbers for the WTA Championships in Madrid two weeks ago were overpowering (nine million viewers on Eurosport for the Justine Henin-Maria Sharapova final), but Scott is not treading water for 2008. He recently addressed these issues:
ó Martina Hingis' testing positive for cocaine: "She was in Madrid and we spent quite a bit of time talking about it. Until there's a finding of guilty by the tribunal, I want to believe and support her as much as possible. I hope she's innocent and can prove it."
ó Will Hingis return to tennis if she's exonerated: No, says Scott, who asked her that question directly. "She's not coming back, regardless. She's retiring and moving on to the next stage of her life."
A nostalgic walk with an old champion - Rohit Brijnath, The Hindu
But it is Pete, and you know it the instant he tosses up the ball, for no duplicate could imitiate that serve. He uncoils lazily, all oiled, muscular havoc, and the wrist snaps and the ball bruises the backdrop and Federerís disbelieving face tells a better story than the speed gun that dryly notes 217 kmph.
Itís five years since Pete left tennis after the 2002 US Open but that particular action is tattooed into his muscle memory. How, someone asks, do you still do that, and he drawls: "I donít know. I think some guys are just naturally gifted with a strong arm and serving is something that is not a shot that I think about. I just serve natural, I toss it up and I hit it into the line."
I kind of like this new, loose, unmade, mellow Pete as much as I did the old, ordered, impeturbable, buttoned-up Pete. Itís nice that when he played he bound himself in discipline, an athlete who understood history could be made but only if he dedicated every fibre to his mission. Now itís different, heís unbound, his duty done, and itís gratifying for people to see him like this, a human being emerging from the championís cocoon.
...He broke down Federer for us, saying: "First of all, he has a big first serve and a good second serve. What Roger does is that he moves so well from the back court and hits the ball so clean, basically he just kind of waits for his opportunity to hit his forehand and heís got probably the biggest forehand in this game. His movement is the best in the world. What he can do on the run, he can come in if he wants to, but thereís nothing he canít do." His tone turned mournful when asked about serve and volley. "(Todayís players) serve harder and they donít develop the right technique to volley, you know it takes time to serve and volley, itís sort of a long process, and guys today are picking up these big rackets, and they just hit the crap out of the ball from the baseline."
Most of the questions this week pertained to Sampras' win over Federer. I know this makes me sound jaded and lame but I can't get beyond the first sentence of Lilas' letter. It was "only an exhibition." And let's remember too that this was the final match of Federer's year, one that saw him win 68 matches and eight titles. A week before the exhibition circuit, Sampras was chilling in Beverly Hills. Federer was taking on Roddick, Ferrer and company in the Shanghai Masters Cup.
Don't get me wrong. Sampras ought to be pleased with his level of play. I spoke with one Hall of Famer before these exos and he predicted "Roger would give Pete a few games to keep it respectable." Clearly that didn't happen.
Davydenko agrees to provide phone records to ATP - ESPN
After refusing for months, embattled Russian tennis star Nikolay Davydenko has decided to turn over personal phone records to ATP investigators who are conducting a probe into suspicious gambling activity on one of his matches.
Davydenko, who is in Portland with his Russian teammates preparing for this weekend's Davis Cup final against the U.S., told ESPN on Tuesday that he changed course on the advice of his attorney.
"I'm cooperating and turning over the telephone numbers I use and records of conversations," Davydenko said through an interpreter.
Davis Cup moments: From Sampras to Stan Smith - Joel Drucker, ESPN
2002 Finals: Russia vs. France
Winner: Russia, 3-2
Recap: Since 1968, only six times has the Davis Cup final come down to a single match. In 2002, the man of the hour was Russian Mikhail Youzhny. Up against Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, Youzhny lost the first two sets -- and rallied to win the 4-hour and 26 minute epic, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. With jubilant former Russian President Boris Yeltsin on hand, Russia won its first Davis Cup title.
...1995 Finals: United States vs. Russia
Winner: U.S., 3-2
Recap: The U.S. team traveled to Moscow. Pete Sampras, America's best player, was forced to play on his least favorite surface -- red clay. But Sampras proved the hero, taking all three points, including the clincher versus Yevgeny Kafelnikov on the final Sunday.
Seminal Moment: At the end of his five-set day one win over Andrei Chesnokov, a depleted Sampras fell to the ground and was carried off the court. People questioned if he would he be able to play again. But the next day, Sampras was refreshed. He and Todd Martin partnered and easily won the doubles to put the U.S. up 2-1. Said Martin, "We weren't sure what was going to happen, but then Pete said he was ready to go, so naturally it was logical for him to play."
Sampras improved dramatically from where he started in Seoul, and had every reason to be proud of how far he took his game. Not losing his serve in his last two meetings with Federer, not serving even a single double fault in those two encounters, reminding everyone how majestic he used to be and how great he still can be, was no mean feat.
Foot injury not career-threatening says Nadal - Reuters
World number two Rafael Nadal denied on Wednesday a claim from his coach and uncle Toni Nadal that he had a potentially career-threatening foot injury. "This injury hasn't stopped me competing at the top level for over two years. The story that has come out is totally false,"
Nadal, flanked by Toni Nadal, told Spanish state television....In his newspaper interview, Toni Nadal said: "Rafael's been affected by an injury to his foot since 2005. He has to learn how to live with it and so far he has managed for two years."
"It's very serious. I don't know (if it's career-threatening). I'll let the doctor reply to that. He has to take a lot of precautions when he plays."
Andy Murray lines up M[i]les Maclagan as he prepares for year of opportunity
- Neil Harman, The Times
Andy Murray has asked Miles Maclagan, the former Great Britain Davis Cup player who was born in Zambia of Scottish parents, to spend three weeks with him at a training camp in Florida with a view to joining the team designed to take the British No 1 to the next stage of his tennis development... If the two really hit it off ó they have an excellent relationship already but one not tested by one working for the other ó it could become a permanent arrangement.
...Remarkably, in his column in The Sunday Times two years ago, Pat Cash, the former Wimbledon singles champion, suggested that the pair should link up. He wrote: ďSome might view my tip as off the wall, but I would nominate Miles Maclagan, the former British Davis Cup player who is doing a good job coaching the highly ranked doubles duo of Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett. Miles may not have been a great player, but few of the really top coaches managed to hit the high spots. However, he is hard-working, diligent, extremely aware technically and works closely with Moose Stevens, a former Aussie Rules footballer who is one of the best fitness experts on the tour. And heís Scottish.Ē
Scud set for comeback through wildcard play-off - Linda Pearce, Melbourne Age
MARK Philippoussis is expected to enter the Australian Open wildcard play-off before tomorrow's 5pm deadline, having deferred his announcement to be confident his injury-prone body is prepared for a return to serious matchplay.
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