Monday, July 25, 2005

Wk.29 - Sneaky Patty...and Peeing on the Couch

Well, I've officially gone to the "other side." Gone down the rabbit hole. Peered through the looking glass. Yes, I've seen the show that I figured would either change television history, or set the medium back about five years... and I didn't hate it. In fact, I can't really tear it up quite like I was expecting. But I'll do my best.

What did we learn on the premiere episode of "Venus & Serena: For Real?" Well, for one, the girls really HAVEN't forgotten where they came from, even if they don't have any desire to ever have to go back to those days of five-to-a-bedroom (with four beds), and a life that caused Venus to think that showers hadn't even been invented until the 1990s. It was even slightly endearing to see Venus & Serena's "moment of awe" -- seeing James Avery, the actor who played the father on Will Smith's "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" TV series, on the red carpet of an awards show, not to mention would-be thespian Serena reciting a Shakespearean soliloquy to Venus after being questioned by reporters about her acting ambitions.

A few highlights: Venus states her dislike of yoga, and shoots her trainer a harsh look when the instructor on a videotape begins to chant something that Williams is certain is at odds with her Christian upbringing... while Serena naps under a bedspread. Venus jogs on the beach in her bikini... while Serena and other members of the contingent chase her in a golf cart. But, as it turns out, the "stars" of "For Real" weren't even Venus & Serena. The real stars were named named Lyndrea, Isha and Jackie.

Williams sister Lyndrea is a menace on four wheels, and in Episode 1 she nearly drives the aforementioned golf cart into oncoming traffic (Danica Patrick she most certainly is not). Later, fellow sister Isha sits courtside while Serena plays in Amelia Island in April, but is more interested (between yawns, that is) in why the spectator sitting next to her has to build his chicken salad sandwich by hand rather than buying it "pre-assembled." Yeah, the Williams clan is always a stickler for the details.

But Isha can't lay a hand (or paw) on Jackie, whose moment in the sun comes the same night that Serena injures her ankle (yes, it's true that Serena couldn't get through the first episode without injuring herself -- insert your own smart ass comment here). Serena & Co. return to their hotel room and find that the little Jack Russell terrier has eaten the turkey that was meant for dinner. A limping Serena chases him around the room, orders him into her duffel bag for punishment, then finds the remains of the turkey carcass stuffed between the cushions on the couch. After making Jackie look at the mess he's created, and giving him an appropriate "tough love" scolding, the little dog makes another (more liquid) mess on the couch.

"Sharrrrrooooonnnnnn!!!!!" (Oops, wrong show. My mistake.)

Don't worry, though. The Serena/Jackie dynamic wasn't damaged for long. He "apologized" to her the next morning, while Serena was getting therapy on the injured ankle (the same one that caused her to pull out of yet another tournament this week).

Ah, they're crazy, and they're kooky. The Williams fam-ily.

Next week: Serena models...and Venus loses.

...for more on the state of Williams "reality," go to the show's official webpage.

Now, on to something else. A year ago, when the U.S. Open Series was announced, I noted how much the idea of a hardcourt series was similar to Backspin's quarterly breakdowns that fold the season into condensed "seasons." Well, in what's becoming an annual ritual, I bring up the U.S. Open Series once again as it begins this week in Stanford. This time I do so to note the USTA's adoption of a series of nicknames for some players to give the whole thing some "character" and storyline. You know... kind of like the Backspin monikers that have been employed here for a few years now. Well, sort of.

Looking at the list of "less than creative" nicknames, they leave a lot to be desired:

Amelie Mauresmo: "The Artiste"
Svetlana Kuznetsova: "The Contender"
Serena Williams: "The Diva"
Maria Sharapova: "The It Girl"
Elena Dementieva: "The Femme Fatale"
Justine Henin-H.: "The Comeback Kid"
Venus Williams: "The Goddess"
Kim Clijsters: "Miss Congeniality"
Lindsay Davenport: "Top Gun"

A little bland ("The Comeback Kid?"...zzzzzzz) and corporate, if you ask me, not to mention a few of them being a reach (how exactly can Kuznetsova be dubbed "The Contender" when she WON the U.S. Open a year ago?). Not surprising, though, considering the same USTA marketing "gurus" who came up with the nicknames also thought it'd be a good idea to play up the Series' new blue courts because they'd make people more interested in watching tennis, rather than realizing that making a big deal about something so inane would actually reveal the action to be the rather pathetic attempt to "spruce up" the sport in the eyes of American sports fans that it is. I know I'm more interested in who wins the Bank of the West Classic now that it'll be contested on that spiffy blue surface, aren't you?

I'll take the sometimes appropriately over-the-top ("The Supernova"), cynical ("The Petulant One") and lovingly applied ("Le Petit Taureau") Backspin nicknames any day. But, then again, I'm a little biased.


==WEEK 29==

S: Patty Schnyder d. Akiko Morigami 6-4/6-0
D: Granville/Spears d. Peschke/Salerni
PALERMO, ITALY (IV-red clay)
S: Anabel Medina-Garrigues d. Klara Koukalova 6-4/6-0
D: Casoni/Koryttseva d. Jens/Rodolska


PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Patty Schnyder
...Allez! The Swiss Headhunter (if your name is Justine) finally got her first title inside U.S. borders in Cincinnati, her tenth career WTA crown. Schnyder's having a sneaky good season, with two titles, a Tier I RU and 2 Tier I SF. Her 38 singles victories are behind only Sharapova's 41 for the most by Top 10ers in 2005.
RISERS: Anabel Medina-Garrigues & Akiko Morigami
...AMG defended her Palermo title (which she also won in '01), closing out Klara Koukalova with a love set in the final. Morigami followed up her Fed Cup heroics with wins over Zvonareva & Hantuchova en route to the Cincinnati final.
SURPRISES: Bethanie Mattek & Tzvetana Pironkova
...American Mattek, a 20-year old qualifier, upset Bartoli, Pin and Jankovic on her way to her career-best Cincy SF. Bulgaria's Pironkova, 17, outlasted Farina Elia and knocked off Modena champ Smashnova in Palermo, advancing to her second SF of the season (the other was in Istanbul).
VETERAN: Martina Navratilova
...the 48-year old was surprisingly included on the Boston Lobsters' playing roster for last week's action. The unexpected move worked, as she won two singles sets and went 5-1 in doubles to lead Boston to the WTT playoffs in September.
FRESH FACES: Viktoria Azarenka & Raluca Olaru
...Belarussian Azarenka, 15 (sweet 16 on Sunday!), won her first ITF singles title in Petange, Luxembourg with a win in the final over Viktoriya Kutuzova. The world's top junior, Azarenka won the Australian Open girls crown back in January. 16-year old Romanian Olaru, Roland Garros girls RU, won a $10K title in Bucharest, taking out another Russian Anna (Bastrikova) in the final.
DOWN: Jennifer Capriati
...a comeback during the hardcourt season was indeed too optimistic after shoulder surgery. After pulling out of New Haven, The Petulant One's presence is Flushing Meadows will be nil, as well, it was announced last week. 2006, anyone?


1.Cin F - Schnyder d. Morigami
...6-4/6-0. Schnyder had to break Morigami three times in the 1st set to make up for her own serving problems. From the looks of post-match reports, though, Morigami did nothing to warrent Patty hitting any balls at her head.
2.Pal F - Medina-Garrigues d. Koukalova
...6-4/6-0. No one has won Palermo as many times as AMG (thrice).
3.Louisville $50K F - Harkleroad d. Beltrame
...4-6/7-5/6-0. Okay, so this is a week late. But Harkleroad's first title in three years is still worth mentioning, especially since it's part three of American Splendor's summer trilogy, in which she's gone from College Park challenger RU to Wimbledon qualifier to... yes, singles champion. Maybe the Debutante should give Ashley a call to learn how it's supposed to be done.
4.Cin 1r - Mirza d. Groenefeld
...6-4/6-3. Has the Backspin Curse been shifted to ALG? On the other hand, this was a great result for the Indian Princess.
5.Cin 2r - Morigami d. Zvonareva
...6-3/6-2. Vera the Almost was the RU in Cincy last year.
HM--WTT--Vaidisova(Sacramento) d. V.Williams(Delaware)
...5-2. Ah, Darth Vaidisova gets revenge for the Sith. Uh, I mean her Istanbul final loss to Venus.
HM--WTT--Sharapova(Newport Beach) d. Jackson(St.Louis)
...5-0. The Supernova's Newport Beach team made the WTT playoffs, and will face Sacramento (maybe with both Kournikova & Vaidisova?) in the SF. They'll be selling digital cameras outside the stadium... hmmm, I wonder if they'll be made by Canon?



[2+ finals]

8...Sharapova (4-4)
6...Davenport (6-0)
6...Mauresmo (3-3)
6...Schnyder (3-3)

Memphis - Vera Zvonareva
Amelia Island - Lindsay Davenport
Rome - Amelie Mauresmo
Birmingham - Maria Sharapova
Palermo - Anabel Medina-Garrigues



...Battle Royale 2 isn't really heating up (maybe we should make our predictions in blue?). Pierre leads 5-4 in semifinalists. I lead 2-0 in finalists. We've picked zero (??) champions so far. Okay, who did we tick off?

STANFORD, CAL USA (II-Hard)-US Open Series
04 F: Davenport d. V.Williams
05 TOP: Davenport/V.Williams
SF: Clijsters d. Davenport; Schnyder d. V.Williams
FINAL: Clijsters d. Schnyder

04 F: Jankovic d. Sucha
05 TOP: Smashnova/Srebotnik
SF: Sanchez-Lorenzo d. Ondraskova; Srebotnik d. Martinez-Granados
FINAL: Srebotnik d. Sanchez-Lorenzo



SF: Clijsters d. Davenport; V.Williams d. Schnyder
FINAL: Clijsters d. V.Williams

SF: Kostanic d. Ondraskova; Diaz-Oliva d. Castano
FINAL: Kostanic d. Diaz-Oliva

Hmmm... make one mistake and it's ok, but repeat it a few months later? Well, I'm once again taking Kim Clijsters to take on Lindsay Davenport. Let's hope it will be enough to take me over Todd (hoping he did not pick the same!!).


All for now.


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