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Russian princess returns to the French court – one Grande Dame left to conquer …

25 May

Maria Sharapova has won three of the four Grand Slam singles titles so far. She won Wimbledon in 2004 at the age of 17, defeating Serena Williams in the final. This was followed by the US Open in 2006, defeating Justine Henin, and then the Australian Open in 2008, defeating Ana Ivanović.

Maria Sharapova arrives at Roland Garros 2009

Maria Sharapova arrives at Roland Garros 2009

Just look at this photo of Maria returning to the 2009 French Open at Roland Garros following a 9-month recovery from shoulder surgery. Notice those fantastic and focussed “predator” eyes. Sharapova’s eyes bring a whole new meaning to the idea of sweet and sour!

When she smiles, Maria’s eyes are gorgeous and sparkling. But when she looks to the other end of the court and the game-plan is uppermost in her mind, watch those eyes become laser beams of intensity. Which we just love to see.

Most commentators suggest Maria will be unlikely to win in Paris but see it more as preparation for the grass season and especially Wimbledon. We don’t mind – any appearance by Maria Sharapova is welcome.


The strong new faces in tennis – teens now challenge the 20s

6 Apr

Every few years in tennis there is a significant assault on the “established” rankings when a new crop of mid-teens start punching above their weight and toppling the older champions. And by “old” we mean early-to-mid-20s. It looks like 2009 is going to be one of those years when the younger players establish a new ruling elite.

Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka

Just when we thought Dinara Safina was going to finally achieve all the promise expected of her, along come players like Victoria Azarenka (photo) to take the headlines – and the titles.

As a very handy doubles player, Azarenka has an impressive record in the grand slam competitions. She was runner-up at the Australian Open in 2007 (mixed doubles) and 2008 (women’s doubles). In 2007 at age 17 Victoria won the US Open and in 2008 the French Open, both in mixed doubles.

Azarenka has also impressed on the WTA Tour in women’s doubles, with wins in Memphis and Indian Wells this year. Those wins follow a strong list of runner-up matches in 2007 and 2008. Singles wins have included success over other promising teenagers, especially the lively Caroline Wozniacki.

Victoria’s progress through the past 3 years has been very steady, each year moving further through the major tournaments to reach quarter-finals in 2007, semi-finals in 2008, and wins in 2009. Rather than bursting on the scene in a blaze of glory and then fading away, it looks like the new girls on court have talent and staying power.

Whole Lotta Love in full colour – Olympic triumph for Leona Lewis

14 Mar

leona-lewis-2008-summer-olympics-beijing-closing-ceremony3_150pxA recent documentary about the British promotion for the 2012 Olympics included, at last, a high quality soundtrack for the Jimmy Page and Leona Lewis contribution to the closing ceremony at Beijing. Sound problems during the live broadcast meant a low quality version was all we heard.

Music chief Philip Sheppard together with co-producer Steve Robson worked with Page and Lewis on the preparation of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love as being an ideal signature tune for the British bid.

leona-lewis-and-jimmy-page-at-beijing-olympics-august-20082_250pxSheppard was astonished at how technically and musically accomplished Leona Lewis is as an artist. He said, “I’ve not worked with many singers in the pop world who can discuss coloratura technique, and operas by Purcell and Bellini … Leona can really sing with heart and soul, balanced with quite astounding technique.”

They laid down the backing at Olympic Studios ( with as near to an authentic setup as possible, including the use of risers for the drums and correct amplifiers. So while Jimmy and Leona were live, the backing track had been prepared by bass player Guy Pratt and drummer Geoff Dugmore.

As Sheppard says, Leona Lewis is a remarkable singer, and totally at home with huge rock as much as power ballads.

Dinara Safina – quotable quotes

5 Sep
Dinara Safina quotes

Dinara Safina quotes

the US Open has a great collection of quotes from Dinara, altho they may not realize it :: the questions after matches are often a bit superficial, so it’s great when Dinara gives an intelligent and deep answer, completely throwing the interviewers off stride

and it’s so great to see how Safina sees life as a journey, training as a task, and winning as a step-by-step process :: right at the start of the US Open they were already asking about whether she could be number 1 :: and Dinara sensibly explained, probably for the hundredth time, that she only ever thinks about the next match – and usually does not even look at the draw


QUESTION: Through all the success this summer, what has been your happiest day? Has it been a match or has it been going shopping?

DINARA SAFINA: Happiest day? Every day is a happy day. Why it has to be [one day]? Doesn’t matter. When you wake up it’s already happy!

superb :: you can read more stirring examples at

Safina at Olympics :: update

14 Aug

while on the subject of the Olympics, Dinara has been making good strides to reach the semi-finals.

world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia was hoping for revenge after No. 6 seed Safina defeated her in the semifinals of a WTA Tour event in Los Angeles last month, en-route to winning the title :: despite a tricky second set, Safina prevailed 6-2 5-7 6-3 and so there are three Russians in the semis – No. 5 seed Dementieva faces No. 9 seed Zvonareva, and Safina faces Li Na (who may have a huge home-crowd advantage)

and speaking of amazons, both No. 4 seed Serena Williams and No. 7 seed Venus Williams were despatched in the quarters, Serena by Dementieva (3-6 6-4 6-3) and Venus by Li Na (7-5 7-5)

Aussie Amazons Rule!

14 Aug
Bronte Kylie Linda Stephanie

Bronte Kylie Linda Stephanie

Stephanie Rice picked up her 3rd Gold medal in the Women’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay final, along with Bronte Barratt, Kylie Palmer and Linda MacKenzie :: they also set a new World Record and a new Olympic Record.

China, USA and even Italy in fourth also broke the previous records :: so amazon women are powering onwards and upwards in this year’s Olympics – yeah!

Dinara Safina

5 Aug

you may have noticed i have a bit of an amazon fetish :: well, maybe not fetish, but a definite attraction to the positive images presented by successful women, especially in music and, as it happens, tennis and athletics :: if they happen to be attractive too, all the better, although attractive is a strange word :: anyone who sees Venus Williams live on court sees a prowess and athleticism that is so pure it is attractive, it draws you in, you want to know more about the person

amazon Dinara Safina

amazon Dinara Safina

my current amazon inspiration is Dinara Safina, who has just won the 2008 Olympus US Open Series women’s title after winning her second consecutive Series tournament at the Rogers Cup

Safina defeated Dominika Cibulkova in the Montréal final, 6-2 6-1, to extend her career-best winning streak to 10 matches. The 2008 Roland Garros runner-up will now compete for the largest payout in tennis history at the 2008 US Open – $2.5 million!

Yes girls (and boys), Dinara is in the running to gather $1.5 million if she wins the US Open, plus a $1 million bonus for winning both the Olympus Series and the US Open

which is not just about money but a necessary recognition of excellence and commitment in sport, and personal drive and, yes, various degrees of sacrifice

other amazon inspirations include Jennifer Capriati, Kim Clijsters, Steffi Graf, Kelly Holmes, Yelena Isinbayeve, Ana Ivanovic, Carolina Kluft, Janica Kostelic, Denise Lewis, Martina Navratilova, Paula Radcliffe, Maria Sharapova, Kelly Sotherton – to name just a few :: so i will be glued to lots of the Olympics broadcasts