Kiss From A Rose


Even with her doping ban reduced, Maria Sharapova remains a spectator. So to exercise her competitive juices she decided to play softball instead. Celebrating what she deemed a “repudiation” of her suspension by the ITF, Sharapova got lobbed sitters from rubber-armed Charlie Rose in an interview that aired on PBS last night. Rose, a longtime tennis fan and U.S. Open fixture, served as quite the capable doubles partner, setting up Sharapova to put-away all those nasty irritants that have been dogging her since testing positive for meldonium: the ITF, the press, the facts.

Sharapova played the victim, as she was only using a medically prescribed drug that, according to her, is taken as commonly as aspirin in her native Russia—the land of clear heads and rhythmic hearts. Rose did get Sharapova to admit that the ruling was not a complete exoneration, and a 15-month ban is still a significant chunk of time. But ultimately the interviewer seemed content to show that she’s not a rule-breaker just because she’s not a rule-reader.

In Rose’s defense, he did have a set of tougher questions to pose to Sharapova. However her management team sanitized anything probing pre-interview. We’ve obtained a copy of some of the questions in their before-and-after forms:

You’ve lived in the United States since the age of 7. It has the best doctors in the world. When you had your shoulder surgery, you had it done here, not Moscow. So why did you not seek medical advice in what was essentially your home country, or take medication approved for use by the FDA, and instead went to Russia to take at what that time was an experimental drug produced in Latvia?

Be honest, don’t you think Serena shows too much skin when she plays?

You had been taking meldonium consistently for 10 years to treat a heart condition. Yet not once, on any medical form filled out before a tournament, did you ever list it as a drug you were currently taking. Nor did anyone on your team outside of your agent know you were using it. How could that be unless you wanted to conceal it?

Personally, and I think I speak for most of the guests on my show, if I’m going to drive German, I much prefer Mercedes over Porsche. That said, how’s your father doing?

In your press conference you stated that one of the reasons you took meldonium is because you showed early signs of diabetes. Even though there are numerous more effective drugs to treat the disease, if that’s true can you understand that starting Sugarpova, a candy company, makes such a justification much harder to believe? Not to mention the troubling optics of a supposed diabetic peddling sweets.

The craft of being a successful businesswoman…tell me about its process.

Numerous other Russian athletes across various sports, none of whom proclaim to have a heart condition, have tested positive for meldonium. Do you see how tennis observers may find it difficult to believe that you were using it for all those years as medication, yet all these other athletes were taking it for performance-enhancing purposes?

Is it fair to say the “I” in ITF should now stand for inept? 

When you made it public that you had tested positive for a banned substance that has been linked to performance enhancement, the support from your peers was hard to find. This suspension has obviously tarnished your reputation and put your previous achievements under scrutiny. What, if anything, do you think it will take to earn back some of that respect?

I’m going to quote one of my favorite songs that I think describes your career and I’d like to know if you agree: “Shooting at the walls of heartache/bang bang/I am the warrior.” 


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Racket Attack


After more than a month since their split, Roger Federer’s racket has decided to break his silence. The scorned Wilson frame famous for its precise shot-making helped Federer win more Grand Slams than any other male player. However, a recent slump in play, including a surprising second-round exit from Wimbledon, prompted Federer to make the equipment change.
“Honestly, I thought it was going to be temporary,” says the Pro Staff. “I thought he’d test out a few younger, prettier frames with some of the enhancements men of his age seem to covet. But no matter how good they looked or felt, he’d never find the level of comfort he has with me. You can’t erase 17 majors together.”
Federer moved on, nonetheless. He tried his new frame at two consecutive clay court tournaments—Hamburg and Gstaad—and lost to much lower-ranked players at both events. What would seem to be validation of the importance of his old frame—Federer is struggling just as much without it—has only served to further its rage.
“Delbonis? Brands? I got kicked to the curb for that? I’ve been a good soldier, but I can’t bite my strings any longer. It’s not my fault he mishits so many shots; the guy can’t see two feet in front of him. When we’d go to restaurants (yes, he took me with him) Mirka or Annacone or (barf) Rossdale would have to read him the menu. I’ll never forget something Venus Williams said to me: 32 aint 22.”
The racket also claims that Federer works hard, but overstates his dedication. “If I told him to hit the gym so we could dish out more powerful shots he’d just call me a nag and skulk to the basement to watch Family Guy or House Hunters. And I was always on him about working on coming over the high backhand. ‘Don’t worry,’ he’d say, ‘I’ve got the slice. It’s more refined.’ Tell that to Rafa when he’s pummeling it.”
So now things will get a little ugly. According to divorce papers filed in Basel, the racket is seeking the house in Dubai and half of past and future proceeds from Federer’s Lindt chocolate and Gillette endorsement deals. He’s also requesting supervised visits of Federer’s trophy room. It seems like a lot, but the Pro Staff believes his reputation and potential earnings have been irreparably damaged.
“Now everybody thinks I’m too demanding. Miss my sweet spot by the width of a fingernail and you’ll catch the shanks. Sure I’ve got a bunch of Slams on the resume, but nobody wants a 90 square-inch head and 12.5 ounce body anymore. I’m destined to be hung on the walls of country clubs next to the T2000 and Prince Woodie. A temperamental relic from an earlier era. I always pitied Safin’s rackets, but at least he gave them a quick death.”
But what if Federer continues his erratic play? What if he decides the grass wasn’t greener? Would his old, trusted ally be interested in a reconciliation?
“I come from a proud tradition. Sampras, Edberg, Courier—they all played with cousins of mine. Anytime one of those guys strayed, they came back begging for forgiveness. Roger and I had some amazing times together, winning all those Wimbledons and torturing Roddick. I wish him all the success in the world, but this wound cuts too deep. I’m really going to miss those tweeners.”

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Bizarro Indian Wells

12 things that probably won’t be overheard at Indian Wells


1. Hi, Serena. So good to see you again.


2. Everyone here is so young and energized. This tournament really has a similar vibe to Miami.


3. I saw Federer out at dinner last night. What a slob.

4. Not only do you get used to it, but after a while the screeching actually becomes pretty enjoyable.


5. The men’s quarters are loaded with Americans.


6. It’s the same old story: Ferrer phones it in and Tomic grinds it out.


7. Come quick! Azarenka and Sharapova are about to lip sync a duet of “Call Me Maybe” in the player’s garden.


8. I love him in the booth, but I really do miss seeing Gimelstob on court.


9. That’s Redfoo. I celebrate the man’s entire music catalog.


10. Totally speculating here, but just giving him the eyeball test, Cilic might be juicing.


11. It seems totally fair to take a ten-minute injury timeout right before your opponent is about to serve for the set.


12. Who hasn’t woken up in the middle of the night and fired four bullets into their bathroom?

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Murray’s Complaint


Interior of therapist Alexis Castorri’s office in Fort Lauderdale, Fl. The waiting room has large framed pictures of marlins adorning the walls and numerous copies of AARP magazine. Inside Castorri’s private office there is a long, white leather couch that rests on an teal-colored rug. On her large mahogany desk sits a personal computer, a stack of patient files, a Dan Marino bobblehead doll, and leftover Bang-Bang chicken and shrimp from lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. Andy Murray enters the office and takes a seat on the couch. Castorri sits in an upright chair directly across from him. This is their year-end evaluation.

AC: Hello, Andy. I’m so glad we were able to squeeze in this session. I’ve been eager to talk with you about your past season and to look ahead to 2013. How have you been?

AM: Not bad. I think I’ve been at a tolerable level of crabbiness. Maybe even pleasant.

AC: I’m happy to hear it. You have every right to be pleased. Winning the gold at the Olympics and your first Grand Slam title must keep you in a better emotional place. What have those two wins done for you?

AM: Well I don’t ball my fists anymore when I walk into a press conference after a loss. I don’t shoot daggers at Neil Harmon for asking me: “What happened in the second set, Andy?” He’s seen a million tennis matches; he bloody well knows what happened in the second set. Other times, though, I can’t stop losses from getting me frustrated. I want to listen to old Blink-182 and break things.

AC: I realize your career is a results-driven one, but we’ve discussed the pitfalls of relying on wins and losses to determine your worth. What has been bothering you lately?

AM: Let’s see: I blew match points – five of them – against Novak in the finals of Shanghai. I lost to somebody named Jerzy Janowicz in Paris; sounds like a con man on Boardwalk Empire. Then I ended the year losing – again – to Novak and Roger in the Tour Finals. Kind of finishing the season with a whimper.

AC: Andy, you’re a creative and technical genius. But even with all that skill, you have to accept that on occasion you may fail.

AM: That’s kind of you to say, but hitting a drop shot from behind the baseline down double break point isn’t inventive – it’s a cop out. Just because it worked doesn’t make it brilliant.

AC: Sounds like you still need to work on your relaxation techniques. When I worked with Lendl we had him practice yoga and jazzercise.

AM: Those seem a little fruity to me. If Sean Connery heard I was doing them he’d never talk to me again. Pierce Brosnan, maybe, but not Sean. Boxing is what I like to do to release aggression. That, and make jokes about Brad Gilbert. Stupid pocket squares.

AC: Boxing may release some anger, but it’s not going to help you relax when pressure builds during a match. I find it even stokes a person’s aggression. I’ve noticed you still shout things to your friends box when things are tight. What are you thinking about when you look over there?

AM: Lots of things. Nonsense, really. Is Pippa following me? Should my Black Ops online handle be BallsofMurray87? But mostly that my mum needs a new haircut. I mean I don’t know how much longer she can rock the Lois Griffin.

AC: Nothing about Ivan? Do you have trouble relating to him at times? I realize you have very different personalities and playing temperaments?

AM: Why? Because I’m a stubbed toe away from a possible Three Mile meltdown and he can play with sawdust dripping from his eyelashes?

AC: Something like that. How are things progressing with him?

AM: Fine, I guess. Can’t really complain about the results. Until I started working with him I never realized how much fun it is to crack sitters at your opponents’ sack. Although some of his advice needs freshening up. One of the first things he ever told me was to never play cards for money before a match with my opponents or their entourage, like he used to with Connors. I learned that the hard way years ago playing hearts against Dean Goldfine in Umag.

AC: He’s just trying to protect you from the mistakes that he made. Have you two discussed your goals for 2013.

AM: Wimbledon. Getting to No. 1 would be nice, too, but it’s all about getting one match better than last year. Sure, I’m happy to retire that “best to not to win a Slam” anchor, but the US Open doesn’t cut it back home. Wimbledon is the real prize. Then it’s hello knighthood and a regular role on Downton Abbey. I’m thinking Andrew Greengrass, Earl of  Flushing.

AC: I understand. Ivan felt the same way. It was the only Slam he couldn’t win. Do you ever talk about that with him?

AM: No. We don’t discuss winning Wimbledon. It’s like Chinatown.

AC: Of course. Painful memories of loss can be difficult to dredge up. But at least you lost the final to Federer. There’s no shame in that. He has to live with coming up short to Pat Cash.

AM: I see the pain on him every day. The guy only pays for things with credit cards.

AC: This all sounds like healthy progression to me. I believe in you, Andy. I believe you’ll have another positive year in 2013. (The phone on her desk rings). I’m sorry, but you’ll have to excuse me a moment – my office assistant is out today and I need to take this. (She gets up out of her chair and picks up the phone.) Hello…Yes, this is she…Yes, I’m quite experienced working with athletes recovering from a humiliating loss and a recurring injury. It’s all about regaining their confidence…I appreciate he needs to maintain a low profile, but I can assure you his name won’t leave this office…Great, let me just write that down in my appointment book: N-A-D-A-L…Well, I look forward to meeting him, too. (Looks over at Murray.) Trust me, I can work wonders.

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Rafa’s Knee Plays Defense

So now it’s my fault again. Last July it was his foot, but this summer we’re back at the familiar frailty refrain: Rafa’s knee just can’t handle the pounding. The guy is a mere sturdy tendon away from being the greatest ever. Hey, I’m an imperfect joint. You want dependability? Buy a Honda. Or watch Federer. I like a little me time during the summer. I need some solitude on the couch to catch up on my shows (you’re one mean hombre, Walter White). Sue me. It’s not my fault Rafa plays every point like he’s got a bet on it. We’re up 40-0; let the drop shot go. It’s Murray – there will be plenty more. I blame that crazy Uncle. He convinced Rafa he’s not as talented as the other top players so he’s got to outwork everybody. The guy reads too much Gladwell.

And what’s this Regenokine? Why is everyone telling Rafa he needs to inject it into me? I’m not crazy about needles. Even less so about one full of goo that sounds like something out of a Roger Corman movie. Gasol called Rafa yesterday to relay how Kobe swears by the stuff. Made his knee feel all Lebron-like. (I think Pau’s just giddy that with D12 around he won’t get put on any more posters).  But we’ve got to go to Dusseldorf to get the procedure done. I’ve got bad memories of Dusseldorf. The clay is always thick and damp, like FLo’s hair.

Can’t we just treat this the old fashioned way? Some ice baths, a foam roller, and surfing with Xisca. Maybe rub a little clay on it. Personally, I feel like I’m being made the scapegoat. Sure, I’m a bit sore and creeky, but I’m game for Flushing Meadows. I think Rafa is still licking his wounds from Wimbledon. Lukas Rosol? He’s George Bastl for the Twitterverse. Rafa didn’t lose that match because I was hobbled; he lost because tennis Buster Douglas summoned his inner Soderling. Rafa’s pride deflated more than I swelled.

Now all the experts want Rafa to reduce his schedule. They say he’s got to be smarter when it comes to his commitments. Jim Courier was on TV this past weekend posturing about how we should never play dubs again. Sorry, but I live my life by three simple rules: always say yes to Kinesio tape, barefoot running will be proven stupid, and never trust a ginger. We can still handle some hit and giggle doubles in Palm Springs.

You know what I really want? For everybody to start counting us out. To think this is the beginning of the end. Like Bolt after losing at the Olympic trials or Arnold after nailing his maid. We rehab like crazy and then come January we turn the tables in Melbourne. We rip through the draw and Rafa takes a bite out of his 12th Grand Slam title. I stand up strong during the spring hard courts and the clay season becomes our personal playground once again. Roland Garros is a mere formality. I feel positively bionic just thinking about it.

But just in case: Anyone got Kobe’s number?

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Out of David’s Closet: Jennifer Capriati

I found this shot online when I heard Jennifer Capriati would be inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame. This was taken during Capriati’s first professional match at The Virginia Slims of Florida in 1990. I was a huge tennis nut growing up and during my freshman year of college I headed down to Boca Raton for spring break.  My family had a place about a 15 minute drive to the Polo Club where the tournament was held.

I went down with six girls and we drove around in a gold Lincoln Town Car. Somehow, I managed to drag two of them with me to catch probably the most hyped match involving a 13 year old of all time.

Tennis seemed really accessible at that time. We bought tickets right at the gate and were able to head close to the court to watch the match (it was an intimate stadium to say the least). Ushers weren’t as difficult then as they are now.  I remember one year at the tournament walking on the court with my best friend and taking pictures with Mary Joe Fernandez after a late night doubles match. In 1990 we even took the free Virginia Slims cigarettes they handed out and smoked them just outside of the stadium. It was freshman year spring break after all.

When we sat down, we didn’t realize a bunch of Capriati’s school friends were seated behind us and they held up “Go Jennifer” signs pretty much after every point she won. It was annoying but I remember the photographers taking pictures and I thought we might have a chance of ending up in a publication. I shouldn’t be surprised I ended up as a photo editor for Tennis Magazine.

Back then the non-slam events had such an exotic feel to them. Because few early rounds at tournaments were ever televised, I never really had an idea of the atmosphere the smaller events had. Seeing the draws scribbled on the wooden signs was seriously exciting for me. Players walked around the grounds barely recognizable since there wasn’t any internet presence; practice courts weren’t blocked by fans holding up cell phones. It was new and fascinating to me and I often arrived hours before the first match and left only after the last ball was struck just trying to soak up the atmosphere.

Capriati’s first round match was a blur. I went to all of her matches that tournament right up to the final she lost to Gabriela Sabatini. The one match that sticks out in my mind was the quarterfinal against Helena Sukova. I really thought Sukova was going to handle Capriati but she only won a handful of games.  Sukova just didn’t know what to do with the pace and precision Capriati offered up. It really was the end of women’s serve and volley tennis and it was shocking to me.

When we got back to Boston, I bought Sports Illustrated and Newsweek and found the shots of Capriati’s friends in both magazines. I’m under the “R” wearing an extra- large tee-shirt when I was definitely an extra-small. My two friends are to the left, under the “E” and “F” both wearing Ray- Bans. I remember my friend bought a blazer at Cignal on Newbury Street (remember that store?) and we were so excited it made it into the magazines. Shoulder pads were clearly still in style at that point.

Years later I learned my cousins used to babysit Capriati when she lived in Wesley Chapel. They said she was a really sweet kid and her dad used to tell them over and over that she would one day become number one. I thought back to that week in Boca Raton and remembered thinking she was a sweet kid and probably would be number one.

I’m really excited to see Capriati headed into the Hall of Fame. The first year I was credentialed at the US Open, I sat with the photographers during her semifinal match against Justine Henin. It’s definitely a top five tennis moment for me. The energy she produced in Ashe Stadium was just as palpable as the energy she produced in 1990. Funny enough, I’m heading to Rhode Island tomorrow for a family reunion just outside Newport. I’ve never met Capriati, never worked with her and won’t be attending the induction, but I’ll be close enough to almost bookend her career. It’s too bad we didn’t get to see more of Capriati but I’m grateful for the memories she’s provided: of tense matches, spring break, babysitting, cigarettes and shoulder pads. There aren’t too many other players who have given me as much.

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Steffi Graf Has a Birthday Meltdown








Apparently elegance really is an attitude.

A birthday celebration for Stefanie Graf ended in a shocking scene of tears and tantrums last night after Graf had an unprecedented meltdown during her birthday cake presentation and was unable to blow out her 43 candles.

The party was going well until husband Andre Agassi came out with the cake and guests began to serenade the shy birthday girl. The chaos started when some guests reportedly stopped short of singing Graf’s full name, finishing instead with “Happy birthday dear Steffi.” Since retiring from professional tennis, Graf has been adamant about being called Stefanie. When party-goers sang “Steffi,” Graf started mumbling “ANIE” in a whisper but her cries soon escalated to a fever pitch of “It’s Stef-ANIE!” with a rage never seen from Graf, even during her most devastating moments on court.

Confused guests then started re-singing the song, making sure to annunciate “Stefanie” at full volume. The effect created a “rounds” atmosphere with echoes of “Steffi” and “Stefanie” filling the room until Graf fell to the floor, sobbing “Just finish the fucking song, ok! Just finish the fucking song!”

Agassi then pulled out the chalk board, made famous during his International Tennis Hall of Fame induction speech for Graf in 2004. In Agassi’s speech, he mentioned his nightly ritual of filling the board with notes about his love for Graf.

Guests said Agassi started writing furiously on the board in at attempt to calm Graf. “Stefanie,” “legs,” “slams,” and “Monica wouldn’t have taken over regardless” were scribbled on the board.

One drunk guest noticed the German spelling of “Stefanie” and screamed “Hey Andre, where did you learn to spell? The Agassi Academy?”

According to Chris Evert who was also in attendance, the whole scene just reeked of a spoiled tennis player whose success was paved by her foresisters. According to Evert, Graf shouldn’t have even been celebrating her birthday without first thanking Billie Jean King.

“Steffi, Stefanie – who cares? I’ve been going by Chrissie my entire life,” began Evert. “It doesn’t bother me one bit. Steffi should get her diaper changed and suck it up. Shit, if I had her bank account I’d sing my own birthday song and call myself Martina!”

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