Backhands and Compliments – ATP Edition

Spain beats host U.S. to advance to Davis Cup semifinals

No Rafael Nadal? Check. A slick, indoor hard-court suited to big-serving and aggressive tactics? Check. A rabid Texas crowd in the hometown of the team’s most decorated and beloved player? Check. Even with all these advantages, the U.S. team still couldn’t overcome the singles performances of David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez and lost to Spain for the first time on home soil and on a surface other than clay. Lopez got Spain an early lead with a dramatic five-set win over Mardy Fish, followed by Ferrer straight-setting Andy Roddick. The Bryan Bros delayed the inevitable with a doubles win before Ferrer outlasted Fish in four long sets for the clincher. The fifth match between Roddick and Lopez was rendered meaningless – and subsequently canceled – making the final score 3-1. Some ticketholders were disappointed not to get another glimpse of Roddick, an Austin resident, but sympathized with his refusal to participate in a match that is traditionally, and mystifyingly, referred to as a “dead rubber.”

Isner wins Newport

John Isner made the most of not being selected to play on the U.S. Davis Cup team by winning his second career title at the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I. The 6-foot-9 Isner fired 22 aces to beat 5-foot-6, Olivier Rochus, 6-3, 7-6 in the finals. Isner took a wildcard into the event and became the first top-seed to win in the tournament’s 35-year history. Isner also skipped his brother’s wedding en route to the title which, after winning, he dubbed “a great decision.” To which his brother responded, “Well it would’ve been great to have John by my side on my wedding day, but his absence did save the photo album. It’s impossible to keep everybody in the frame when there’s a giraffe in the picture. That said, he’d better step up big-time on the gift. Prince and Nike schwag won’t cut it. Neither will chachkies from the Hall of Fame. You don’t save face with a framed autograph from Peachy Kellmeyer.”

Agassi gets inducted into the Hall of Fame

After a storied and rarely boring career that included eight Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold, and more than 100 weeks holding the No. 1 ranking, Andre Agassi took his bronzed place at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. During his induction speech, Agassi admitted that he fell in love with tennis too late in life, but still credited the sport with giving him everything he holds dear. Yet in a moment of his trademark honesty, Agassi also holds tennis accountable for the nightmares he still incurs due to the Lord of the Flies experience that was the Bollettieri Academy, Brad Gilbert’s invented vocabulary, and Pete Sampras’s serve.

ESPN takes over all Wimbledon coverage

ESPN signed a 12-year deal with the All England Lawn and Croquet Club to broadcast Wimbledon from start to finish beginning in 2012. The agreement removes NBC from the broadcasting equation, with the network having covered the tournament  for 43 years. Many tennis fans, especially on the west coast, were critical of NBC’s practice of tape-delaying matches in order to maintain its regular programming schedule. ESPN’s promise of wall-to-wall live coverage is seen as a welcome change. To fill the void NBC is  working on a show in which Mary Carillo rescues stray dogs while wondering why she’s covering less and less tennis.

World TeamTennis gets underway

The three-week season kicked off on July 4th with the Philadelphia Freedoms, spearheaded by Brendan Evans, losing at the Springfield Lasers, led by Carly Gullickson. The nine-team co-ed league offers fans a chance to see past, present, and future stars – sprinkled in between many lesser-known players – in a festive setting with a unique scoring format. While it offers players the opportunity to compete with teammates in a more relaxed atmosphere, with the slight chance of being on-court when John McEnroe does something horribly regrettable.

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