Tuesday, February 28, 2012

DWTS 14 new cast revealed

Donald Driver and Martina Navratilova will represent athletes who dare to dance publicly on this season’s edition of “Dancing with the Stars.”
Navratilova, the winner of 18 Grand Slam tennis singles titles and an athletic marvel still at 55, is listed as a 20-1 shot to win the competition by Bovada.LV, the offshore sportsbook.

Driver, the Green Bay Packers’ affable wide receiver, joins a long line of football-playing dancer-wannabes, like Hines Ward, Chad Ochocinco, Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, Warren Sapp, Kurt Warner, Jason Taylor and Emmitt Smith. Driver is listed as a 13-2 shot to win, but his quarterback thinks he’s a lock to make the finals.
The rest of the cast? It consists of soap star Jack Wagner, actress Melissa Gilbert, telenovela star William Levy (”the Brad Pitt of Mexico”), “The View” co-host Sherri Shepherd, opera star Katherine Jenkins, pop singer Gavin DeGraw, hip-hop producer Roshon Fegan, “Extra” co-host and New England Patriots fan Maria Menounos, actor Jaleel White, and singer Gladys Knight.

  • Gavin Degraw: Platinum-selling recording artist. Pro partner is Karina Smirnoff.

  • Donald Driver: Super Bowl champion and Green Bay Packers all-time leading receiver. Pro partner is Petra Nemcova.

  • Roshon Fegan: Disney star of Shake It Up. Pro partner is Chelsie Hightower.

  • Melissa Gilbert: Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie. Pro partner is Maxim Chmerkovskiy.

  • Katherine Jenkins: Opera superstar who has sold 4 million records. Pro partner is Mark Ballas.

  • Gladys Knight: Empress of soul and 8-time Emmy winner. Pro partner is Tristan MacManus.

  • William Levy: Telenova superstar and dancer from Jennifer Lopez video. Pro partner is Cheryl Burke.

  • Maria Menounos: Teen beauty queen and TV host. Pro partner is Derek Hough.

  • Martina Navratilova: Tennis superstar and winner of 50 Grand Slam championships. Pro partner is Tony Dovolani.

  • Sherri Shepherd: Newlywed and host of The View. Pro artner is Val Chmerkovskiy.

  • Jack Wagner: Top 40 singer and actor from General Hospital and Melrose Place. Pro partner is Anna Trebunskaya.

  • Jaleel White: Best known as Steve Urkel from Family Matters. Pro partner is Kim Johnson

  • Most interesting Martina Navratilova (who wants to bet the only reason she got Tony as a partner is because he's taller then the rest).

    Sherri Shepherd I was wondering it they (ABC) would ever talk her into it, given how much she always talks about DWTS on The View.

    Jaleel White (there's a blast from the past), it'll be interesting to see if Urkel can dance.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Caroline Wozniacki lashes out at Hingis & Navratilova

    Caroline Wozniacki may have lost her no. 1 ranking but the Dane has not lost her sharp tongue as she lashed out at former world no.1s Martina Navratilova and Martina Hingis for saying she did not deserve to be ranked no. 1 since she had not won a Slam.

    "I would never say Martina was No. 1 when there was no-one playing, or that she was the best when no-one was playing. That would be disrespectful," Wozniacki said in Dubai where she is playing this week's Premier WTA event.

    "I think I have to be honest, lost a little bit of respect. Because I respect what they have achieved. "She (Navratilova) won so many Grand Slams, her touch was unbelievable. Martina Hingis was unbelievable as well—for me my favorite player. But I think they should respect players that are playing now as well. Because they know how hard it is. You don't just wake up and say okay I want to win this tournament, and it just happens like this...They always have to make comments, and that's what they get paid for—to be comments, because they are not playing any more. And they need to stir everything up."

    Oh, Snap!.  Although I can't recall Martina Hingis actually making any comments about Caroline not deserving her ranking, only Navratilova was making that perfectly clear.

    Saturday, February 18, 2012

    Roger Federer Rotterdam title winner

    Photo: Henk Koster

    Top seed Roger Federer lifted his first trophy of the season in Rotterdam Sunday, defeating Juan Martin del Potro 6-1, 6-4 in the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournamentfinal. "In the first set, I was rock solid. I played great from start to finish," said Federer. "In the second set, it got tighter. I'm happy I was able to sneak it out."

    Federer raced out to a 5-0 lead in the first set, converting both of his break point opportunities against the Argentine. After del Potro held to get on the scoreboard, Federer served out the 34-minute set.

    Del Potro settled into the match in the second set, but was broken in the fifth game by the World No. 3. Federer was pressed on his serve by the 10th-ranked del Potro, but saved all seven break points he faced throughout the match to beat the former US Open champion for the ninth time in 11 FedEx ATP Head 2 Head meetings, claiming victory in one hour and 26 minutes. "He couldn't pull the trigger the way he wanted to," assessed Federer. "Just like yesterday, I had a good mindset. I really believed I was going to make it difficult for him, especially on the break points. I know the second set could have been a whole lot different."

    With the win, the Swiss extended his streak of winning at least one ATP World Tour title each season to 12 years in a row. He has triumphed at the last five indoor-hard court events he has entered, dating back to the 2010 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, winning 24 consecutive matches in those tournaments. His last loss on the surface came at the hands ofGael Monfils in the BNP Paribas Masters semi-finals two years ago. "It's nice to pick up the momentum after the indoor season I had last year," Federer said.

    "And then coming back here after seven years and going through this whole buzz in Rotterdam has been amazing, having a standing ovation every time I walked on and off the court. I think it was a great tournament all-around. I really enjoyed myself here and saved my best for last. That match with Davydenko was gigantic looking back now. I knew I had a chance if I got through that one. It all came together perfectly. I'll enjoy this tonight with my friends and family who are here."

    The 23-year-old del Potro was bidding to win the ATP World Tour 500 event on his event debut. Federer improves to a 71-30 final record, while del Potro drops to 9-5 in title matches. "He played much better than me today," said del Potro. "I didn't take the break points when I had them. It's really difficult to beat Federer if you have the chances and don't take them. He was more confident and concentrated than me in the important moments and I think that was the key."

    Following the trophy ceremony, Federer completed a press conference and six TV interviews in three different languages.

    Friday, February 17, 2012

    The mind of tennis fan

    There’s always a point of no return.

    For Brad, it was seeing Steffi Graf’s ponytail fly up and hit her in the face when she hit her forehand in a 1990 match against Jennifer Capriati. For Chris, it was watching a teenage Andy Murray at the 2005 Wimbledon stand up to then 14th seed Radek Stepanek by mocking his lucky net-cord kiss. For Kelly Padgett, it was stumbling upon one of  Andrea Petkovic’s infamous videos on youtube, and laughing as Petkovic pretended to pay Novak Djokovic for an interview.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the psyche of tennis fans lately. What is about this sport and the people that play it that makes us rearrange our schedules, worry for days on end, and get up at all hours of the night to watch a fuzzy yellow ball be hit back and forth from one side of the court to the other? Why do we care so much? Why does it matter?

    To try and make sense of it all, I asked for volunteers to answer some questions for me about their experience being a tennis fan. Overall, I received thirty-one completed “fandom surveys” from fans of twenty-one different players. I laughed and cried as I scoured through them for days, re-reading the candid stories and over-analyzing the similarities and differences between them. I was overwhelmed by the honesty and poignancy. At the end of the day, I’m not sure if I solved any great mysteries, but I did come away with a deeper understanding of the power of our sport.


    Melissa has been a Xavier Malisse fan since 1998- fourteen long years of ups and downs. “I just started following him, and never stopped,” she said. “Once I start following a player, I support him through good and bad times, even if that is sometimes hard.  I don’t abandon a player because of negative results.”

    Ruby, a Marcel Granollers fan, feels the same way. “Pathetically enough,” she told me, “I almost see it as my ‘job’ to stick by him.”

    Melissa and Ruby are far from the only loyal tennis fans out there. Thirty of the fans I surveyed said that there was nothing they could imagine (besides a flippant mention of manslaughter) that would make them stop being a fan of their favorite player.  Y. Jones, a Kei Nishikori fan, was the lone exception.  She told me that she’d have to re-think her commitment to Nishikori if he ever got his ear pierced. “I just cannot stand a male figure wearing (an earring) in general,” she confessed.

    Of course, a loyal tennis fan usually endures more lows than highs.  Linda started following Flavia Pennetta in 2006, and became a die-hard fan when she saw an injured Pennetta enthusiastically cheering on her teammates in the Fed Cup Final that year.   She couldn’t have picked a worst time to start being a fan. Between “the wrist injury, the struggle to come back, the breakup with Carlos Moya, and the struggle to recover from that,”  Linda describes the events of 2006-2007 as “twelve months of horror” for Pennetta.  But Linda stuck by the fiery Italian, and her loyalty paid off.   She got to experience the joys of Pennetta’s two wins over Venus Williams, and her incredible run in the summer of 2009 when Pennetta won Palmero and L.A. back to back and became the first Italian woman to enter the Top-10. Linda describes the entire summer as “magical”.

    As an Andy Murray fan, Hannah has been on a roller-coaster ride, but it’s how Murray has reacted during the low points that has secured her as a fan for life.  She started following him during the 2010 Hopman Cup, but after his 2010 Australian Open Final loss to Roger Federer, there was no looking back. It wasn’t necessarily his play on-the-court that she admired, but rather his heartfelt display on the podium afterwards that made an impression. “Oh that speech.”

    Similarly, Hannah was deeply impacted by how Murray acted after withdrawing from the World Tour Finals in London last November.  “I was waiting for him (after his press conference announcing his withdrawal), just wanting to wish him luck for the next season and a fast recovery from that groin injury. As he walked out the venue, he was clearly very disappointed with not being able to play. However, he was still kind enough to give fans his autographs and thank everyone there for waiting and cheering him on.”

    “His decentness as a guy is just admirable,” she concludes.
    Curtis, an Ana Ivanovic fan, can relate.  He recalls being “on cloud nine for an entire month” after (Ivanovic’s) 2008 French Open win, and has stuck by her through all the tough times since.  “I have always considered myself a bigger fan of Ana Ivanovic the person, than Ana Ivanovic the tennis player,” he said.  “While her results on court have changed over the years, she hasn’t changed as a person, which I really admire. She never let her fame or her struggles change the person who she was. That’s not easy to do. That’s why I keep coming back.”

    In order to “keep coming back”, even in the rough times, most tennis fans maintain a delicate balance between their hopes and expectations. Charlotte, an Andy Roddick fan since 2003, realistically expects him to just win a few more minor tournaments, but deep down lets herself  hope that he will “win many slams and beat Roger Federer as many times as he damn well likes.” Linda says that she’s learned the hard way to “never really have high expectations for (her) favorite players. The lower your expectations, the smaller you chance is of being disappointed!”


    There are rare occasions when hopes and expectations merge together. For fans of players such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic, this happens more often then not.
    Freelance sportswriter Matt Zemek became a Federer fan in 2004. “(Federer) played a brand of tennis that was more eye-pleasing and stylish than anything I had seen before.” He vividly recalled the first breakthrough moment he witnessed as a fan, Federer’s 2004 U.S. Open Quarterfinal against Andre Agassi. 

    “When Agassi forced a fifth set in very windy conditions on that Thursday afternoon – the second day of the match – the American had the advantage. Federer somehow found a way to turn the tide in the fifth set and play particularly focused tennis. When he won, he let out a particularly primal roar and tore at his shirt. (He’s not Djokovic, so he didn’t succeed in tearing the shirt!)  Federer seemed to know right then that he had conquered New York and all of its distractions. Sure enough, he didn’t lose another U.S. Open match until 2009.”

    After such an immediate and long-term payoff, it’s no surprise that Zemek calls becoming a fan of Federer, “the most rewarding fan investment of (his) life.”

    Zemek’s experience is unique.  Most of the time becoming a fan, even of the greatest players, isn’t instantly rewarding. Aleksa became a fan of Novak Djokovic in 2005. “I first saw him play Marat Safin that year in the first round of the Australian Open,” she remembered. “He was crushed, of course. He was just a baby with porcupine hair.  Six years and six months later he won Wimbledon.”
    Anna became a Novak Djokovic fan a little later- in 2010 to be exact.  She hoped that he would win another Grand Slam or two, but she never saw the 2011 season coming.

    “I felt constant surprise, joy, and elation. Never in my wildest dreams did I think he’d pull off all of that,” she said. While Anna admits that she does “hope that (Djokovic) wins all the Grand Slams from now on”, she realizes that is unrealistic. She is going to have to start managing her expectations again, keeping her hopes in check. Angela, a Rafael Nadal fan, is having a hard time doing just that. “Though (Nadal) has accomplished so much already, I would like him to have even greater successes,” she admitted.  Angela does, however, realize that he may never reach the same heights he did in 2010, and says she will “deal with it as it comes.”

    That’s the thing about reaching the top of the tennis world, whether as a player or as a fan- eventually, there will be a decline.

    Siva, a Federer fan since 2001, is trying to come to terms with this. “Decline is the one constant in the game. I am fairly certain that Federer is declining. I am not sure I am prepared to deal with it.” Zemek disagrees. “Watching Federer handle tennis mortality is something to relish, not cringe at (for now),” he says.

    Lawrence, another Federer fan, sides more with Zemek. “If (Federer) doesn’t become number 1 in his professional career again the Earth will still twirl around the Sun. Yes. It doesn’t matter.”


    Aisha has been an Ana Ivanovic fan since 2005 when she was a ball-girl during her match against Nicole Vaidasova in Miami. Throughout the match Aisha recalls that Ivanovic “was an absolute sweetheart.”  Aisha has stuck by the Serbian through the thick and the thin past seven years, but sometimes the losses are hard to take.  When Ivanovic lost to Petra Cetkovska at Wimbledon last year, Aisha momentarily lost control and smashed her iPhone to bits. (Luckily she works at Best Buy and was able to get a replacement one quickly.)

    Romi Castagnino promised herself that if her favorite player, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, ever won a Major that she would go sky-diving.  Mattek-Sands won the Australian Open Mixed Doubles Championship with Horacia Tecau last month.  Castagnino is rapidly trying to overcome her fear of heights.

    Though the above examples are extreme, it was clear after reading through the surveys just how strong of an affect tennis players have on their fans.  I was expecting to read about the loss of sleep, the occasional (or not-so-occasional) skipped class, and the general emotional highs and lows of fandom, but it became apparent that the influence runs deeper than that.

    Many fans have drawn messages of hope and fortitude through their relationships with their favorite players. Maureen has learned about toughness by watching Maria Sharapova battle through matches and injuries. “I’ve learned not to give up easily,” she reflected.  Christy has taken similar lessons from David Ferrer. “He has shown me that perseverance can overcome almost anything,” she told me. “Just because you’re ‘too short’ or whatever, doesn’t mean you can’t reach (your goals).”  Karen Williams added, “Becoming a fan of Venus (Williams) has made me realize personally that through times of adversity you can accomplish much.” Suman has tried to adopt Roddick’s “never-say-no attitude”.

    For Hannah, being a Murray fan has made her a much more independent person. She has traveled, often alone, all around the United Kingdom (and beyond) to see him play.  For Lawrence, the impact Fed has had on his life is simple. “Be yourself.  Stay cool.” 

    For some, the connection runs even deeper than that. Besides being pushed to face her fear of heights, Castagino has been inspired by Bethanie Mattek-Sands comeback from injury. “This was extra inspirational for me because around the same time she had her injury I broke my psoas muscles and it was pretty serious thing. I am still in rehab but seeing Bethanie come through her injury gives me extra motivation to push harder and keep my mind positive.”  Similarly, a Rafael Nadal fan (who chose to remain anonymous), also found inspiration in Nadal’s transition from knee problems in 2009 to three-time Grand Slam Champion in 2010 . While struggling with personal matters during the time of his Wimbledon and U.S. Open triumphs she reflects that, “it was Rafa who got me through the bad days, the ones where I felt there was no hope.”

    Most of the time in sports, you become a fan by default. You root for a team because you were born in a certain state, or went to a certain school, or were brought up a certain way.  Being a tennis fan is different. It’s a relationship. It’s personal. It’s intimate.  We don’t become fans of groups of people, states, or organizations- we become fans of human beings.

    Sometimes we choose the players we are going to be fans of. Other times, the players choose us. Whether there’s something about them that we relate to, or something about them that we aspire to become, once the connection is made it’s virtually unbreakable.  It’s why we get worked up when our favorite player is insulted. It’s why we get anxious for the matches, sad for the defeats, and exuberant over the victories. It’s why we do care. It’s why it does matter.

    If I’ve learned nothing else from reading the stories of thirty-one passionate tennis fans, it’s that our favorite players aren’t just an extension of us, they’re an integral part of us. Most of the time, that’s a good thing.


    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    Martina Hingis back with WTT NY Sportimes

    The New York Sportimes today retained two legendary former world No. 1 players in the 2012 World TeamTennis Marquee Player Draft, by protecting its rights to John McEnroe and Martina Hingis in rounds one and three, respectively. 

    McEnroe will return to the Sportimes for his 11th year as the team’s captain and Hingis will be back for her fourth and second consecutive year with the Sportimes. For the second straight year, the NY Sportimes will play five matches at Sportime Randall’s Island, the 20-court club that is home to the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, and two matches at SEFCU Arena in Albany, N.Y.

    The 2012 schedule for the WTT Pro League presented by GEICO (July 9-29) will be announced in March, and the remainder of the roster will be revealed following the WTT Roster Player Draft on March 13. 

    The top two teams from both the Western and Eastern Conference advance to the WTT Finals Weekend presented by GEICO, Sept. 14-16, at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C.


    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    Kim Clijsters out of Indian Wells with yet another ankle injury

    INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) – Kim Clijsters announced Tuesday that she has withdrawn from next month's BNP Paribas Open because of an injury to her left ankle.

    Clijsters said in a statement that she is disappointed she won't be playing in the tournament, saying she has great memories of Indian Wells.

    The Belgian plans to retire at the end of the season. Clijsters has already retired once — in 2007 — but was tempted back in 2009 and has since won three Grand Slam titles.

    She won the Australian Open a year ago but the remainder of the season was marred by shoulder, wrist and abdominal injuries. 

    A twisted ankle almost curtailed the defense of her Australian Open title last month. Clijsters lost to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka.

    Seriously again?!.  Or is this the same ankle she injured at the Australian Open this year?.  Hope she gives it plenty of time to heal properly.  

    Otherwise it will cause her problems down the road.  It would be really nice if she was actually able to participate at the French Open this year (most likely her last).

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Whitney Houston performing at opening of Arthur Ashe Stadium

    You can never have too many Whitney Houston tributes.

    In 1997, the late singer performed her hit "One Moment In Time" at the grand opening of Arthur Ashe Stadium. Her rousing vocal capped off an hour-long ceremony that paid tribute to the American tennis hero and celebrated the opening of the $254 million stadium.

    Yahoo Sports

    I have completely forgotten about this performance.  So powerful and lovely.  Hope you're at peace Whitney :(.

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Hingis/Federer mixed Olympic pairing dream definitely over

    Roger Federer has ruled out a dream Olympic match-up with Martina Hingis at London 2012.
    The six-time Wimbledon champion admits it is a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to play in the Olympics at the All England Club, where he will look to add Olympic gold to his already-impressive CV. 

    Federer boasts a record 16 grand slams and is one of only seven men to have won all four majors, but an Olympic singles title has thus far eluded him. He fell to Tomas Berdych in the second round at Athens in 2004, and the quarter-finals to James Blake in Beijing, although he did go on to win doubles gold with Stanislas Wawrinka. 

    In what could be his final attempt to seal the career Golden Slam (Federer will turn 31 during this summer's Games), Federer admits it is made all the more special by the location. 

    "It's an amazing once in a lifetime experience and may never come again in our lifetimes," Federer told Gazzetta dello Sport. "It's a big, big milestone for tennis at the Olympics for all players of my generation. It will be a very, very big and special atmosphere there, I'm really looking forward to it and I hope I can make a big result there." 

    Hingis, who won her first grand slam at the age of 15 at Wimbledon with Helena Sukova, won five majors and spent 209 weeks as world No. 1. Though only a year older than Federer, Hingis had won all five of her singles titles before Federer won his first in 2003, and has not played since 2007. However, she has played exhibition doubles at Wimbledon for the past two years, with Anna Kournikova in 2010 and Lindsay Davenport last year. 

    But despite rumours that the pair, who won the Hopman Cup for Switzerland in 2001, could be set for an Olympic reunion for the mixed doubles this summer, Federer revealed it was Hingis who turned down his invitation. 

    "The only partner I could imagine myself playing with was Martina because she's been such an amazing player from such a young age," Federer said. "She's only one year older than me and in some ways I learnt so much from her about how to play at the highest level for so long. She drove me and inspired me as well. 

    "I spoke with Martina on the phone and she said, 'I don't think we should do it, I would love to do it but you should concentrate on the singles and doubles. It would be crazy, I wouldn't do it'. So I said, 'OK, we don't do it, we're both very happy, you're happy in retirement and I'm happy on court'. It was a good conversation, in a way I'm disappointed but it was the smart decision to make." 


    It's really too bad, but I think Martina is completely right (he should concentrate on singles especially).  Would have been awesome to see them play together though.

    It's nice to know Martina inspired him (I'm guessing they both have a mutual admiration for one another).  Always nice when a player of Federer's statue reminds people of just how great Martina was.

    Saturday, February 11, 2012

    RIP Whitney Houston

     LOS ANGELES - Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, has died. She was 48.

    Houston's publicist, Kristen Foster, said Saturday that the singer had died, but the cause and the location of her death were unknown.

    News of Houston's death came on the eve of music's biggest night — the Grammy Awards. It's a showcase where she once reigned, and her death was sure to case a heavy pall on Sunday's ceremony. Houston's longtime mentor Clive Davis was to hold his annual concert and dinner Saturday; it was unclear if it was going to go forward.

    At her peak, Houston the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world's best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.

    Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits like "The Bodyguard" and "Waiting to Exhale."

    She had the he perfect voice, and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.

    She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston.

    But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.

    "The biggest devil is me. I'm either my best friend or my worst enemy," Houston told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Brown by her side.
    It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the United States alone.

    She seemed to be born into greatness. She was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne Warwick and the goddaughter of Aretha Franklin.

    Houston first started singing in the church as a child. In her teens, she sang backup for Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and others, in addition to modeling. It was around that time when music mogul Clive Davis first heard Houston perform.

    "The time that I first saw her singing in her mother's act in a club ... it was such a stunning impact," Davis told "Good Morning America."

    "To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song. I mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine," he added.

    Before long, the rest of the country would feel it, too. Houston made her album debut in 1985 with "Whitney Houston," which sold millions and spawned hit after hit. "Saving All My Love for You" brought her her first Grammy, for best female pop vocal. "How Will I Know," "You Give Good Love" and "The Greatest Love of All" also became hit singles.

    Another multiplatinum album, "Whitney," came out in 1987 and included hits like "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody."

    The New York Times wrote that Houston "possesses one of her generation's most powerful gospel-trained voices, but she eschews many of the churchier mannerisms of her forerunners. She uses ornamental gospel phrasing only sparingly, and instead of projecting an earthy, tearful vulnerability, communicates cool self-assurance and strength, building pop ballads to majestic, sustained peaks of intensity."

    Her decision not to follow the more soulful inflections of singers like Franklin drew criticism by some who saw her as playing down her black roots to go pop and reach white audiences. The criticism would become a constant refrain through much of her career. She was even booed during the "Soul Train Awards" in 1989.

    "Sometimes it gets down to that, you know?" she told Katie Couric in 1996. "You're not black enough for them. I don't know. You're not R&B enough. You're very pop. The white audience has taken you away from them."

    Some saw her 1992 marriage to former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown as an attempt to refute those critics. It seemed to be an odd union; she was seen as pop's pure princess while he had a bad-boy image, and already had children of his own. (The couple had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993.) Over the years, he would be arrested several times, on charges ranging from DUI to failure to pay child support.

    But Houston said their true personalities were not as far apart as people may have believed.
    "When you love, you love. I mean, do you stop loving somebody because you have different images? You know, Bobby and I basically come from the same place," she told Rolling Stone in 1993. "You see somebody, and you deal with their image, that's their image. It's part of them, it's not the whole picture. I am not always in a sequined gown. I am nobody's angel. I can get down and dirty. I can get raunchy."

    It would take several years, however, for the public to see that side of Houston. Her moving 1991 rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl, amid the first Gulf War, set a new standard and once again reaffirmed her as America's sweetheart.

    In 1992, she became a star in the acting world with "The Bodyguard." Despite mixed reviews, the story of a singer (Houston) guarded by a former Secret Service agent (Kevin Costner) was an international success.

    It also gave her perhaps her most memorable hit: a searing, stunning rendition of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," which sat atop the charts for weeks. It was Grammy's record of the year and best female pop vocal, and the "Bodyguard" soundtrack was named album of the year.

    She returned to the big screen in 1995-96 with "Waiting to Exhale" and "The Preacher's Wife." Both spawned soundtrack albums, and another hit studio album, "My Love Is Your Love," in 1998, brought her a Grammy for best female R&B vocal for the cut "It's Not Right But It's Okay."

    But during these career and personal highs, Houston was using drugs. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2010, she said by the time "The Preacher's Wife" was released, "(doing drugs) was an everyday thing. ... I would do my work, but after I did my work, for a whole year or two, it was every day. ... I wasn't happy by that point in time. I was losing myself."

    In the interview, Houston blamed her rocky marriage to Brown, which included a charge of domestic abuse against Brown in 1993. They divorced in 2007.

    Houston would go to rehab twice before she would declare herself drug-free to Winfrey in 2010. But in the interim, there were missed concert dates, a stop at an airport due to drugs, and public meltdowns.

    She was so startlingly thin during a 2001 Michael Jackson tribute concert that rumors spread she had died the next day. Her crude behavior and jittery appearance on Brown's reality show, "Being Bobby Brown," was an example of her sad decline. Her Sawyer interview, where she declared "crack is whack," was often parodied. She dropped out of the spotlight for a few years.

    Houston staged what seemed to be a successful comeback with the 2009 album "I Look To You." The album debuted on the top of the charts, and would eventually go platinum.
    Things soon fell apart. A concert to promote the album on "Good Morning America" went awry as Houston's voice sounded ragged and off-key. She blamed an interview with Winfrey for straining her voice.

    A world tour launched overseas, however, only confirmed suspicions that Houston had lost her treasured gift, as she failed to hit notes and left many fans unimpressed; some walked out. Canceled concert dates raised speculation that she may have been abusing drugs, but she denied those claims and said she was in great shape, blaming illness for cancellations.

    It is extremely sad to lose another iconic legend so young.  Feels like yesterday that we lost Michael Jackson at 50.  It's another sad day for the music industry. 

    Upon hearing the news just like with Michael I thought it was another sick joke at first, my heart dropped when I read the confirmation on CNN (I still don't quite believe it).   

    I grew up listening to Whitney throughout my childhood, "The Bodyguard" is still one of my all time favourite soundtracks.

    Whatever may have been the reason for the death (which at the time I write this is unknown) there's no denying that her talent and her voice was one of a kind and it will never be matched or forgotten.

    RIP Whitney the world will always remember and thank you for all the joy you brought to our lives with your extraordinary voice.  :(.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends especially her young daughter.

    "Bittersweet memories, that is all I'm taking with me, so goodbye please don't cry"~I Will Always Love You"- The Bodyguard

    I will never be able to sing this lyric without tearing up.

    Monday, February 06, 2012

    Let the bark be with you

    I've never been much of a "Star Wars" fan but this is just freaking awesome!.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2012

    More Martina Hingis on coaching

    MELBOURNE — Show Court 3 was not far from empty on Friday as Yulia Putintseva and Eugenie Bouchard played in the full heat of a Melbourne summer in the semifinals of the Australian Open girls tournament. 

    In the third row of the stands, under a broad-brimmed straw hat and without the benefit of a racket, Martina Hingis put both clenched fists together and imitated the backhand stroke that she wished she had just seen from Putintseva. 

    Hingis, now 31, did not see many empty seats during her playing career. The ultimate tennis prodigy, she turned pro at 14 after dominating her elders as a junior and won her first major title at age 16 at the Australian Open, becoming the youngest Grand Slam singles champion in the 20th century.

    Two months later, she was the youngest No. 1 in tennis history and went on to reach the final of the French Open and win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open — all before she turned 17. 

    Times, physical demands and training methods have changed. Putintseva — a stocky, deeply tanned Russian who likes to smash rackets as well as forehands — turned 17 earlier this month and is still working and storming her way through the juniors. She lost in the final here to the American Taylor Townsend (and did not go quietly). 

    “I enjoy watching the girls, the younger ones,” Hingis said. “It’s not always the easiest; I know how I was at 17 or 18. Sometimes I watch the old videos and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God,’ you know? I wasn’t always the best listener with my mom.” 

    Hingis, long coached by her mother, Melanie Molitor, is now the one trying to make her case to teenagers. She is working as a coaching consultant with Putintseva and four other young women in France. 

    All have their personal coaches and all are based at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy west of Paris in the suburb of Thiverval-Grignon. The group includes two Russians, including the former U.S. Open junior champion Daria Gavrilova, an American, a Briton and a French player. 

    “It’s good because I was multicultural, too, so that helps,” said Hingis, who is Swiss but was born in Kosice in what is now Slovakia. 

    Hingis, who married Thibault Hutin of France in December 2010, was the one who initiated the coaching job: approaching the academy’s founder, Patrick Mouratoglou, at the U.S. Open last year.

    “I think now I’m ready to do it,” Hingis said. “Before I was more thinking about maybe playing or doing this and that, and now I’m ready more to give, and I love working with the kids, too. I say kids, but I should say young women. They are making their own stand on the tour, playing the juniors and getting into the seniors. I think it’s a very interesting age.” 

    Mouratoglou, a Frenchman, has made a habit of hiring star coaches, including Peter Lundgren and Tony Roche, both of whom once worked with Roger Federer and both of whom are no longer affiliated with the academy. But Mouratoglou said he was not seeking to bolster public relations by bringing Hingis on board but rather connecting with a kindred tennis spirit. 

    “I understand the question, and why you pose it,” Mouratoglou said. “Martina is the one who came and asked me, so it wasn’t me thinking, ‘Hey, I’ll get someone famous to come coach.’ I always have a goal in my head when I do things. It’s better that way, and when I brought in Tony Roche and Peter Lundgren — who aren’t there anymore, by the way — I had in mind to attract certain players, and I needed the coaches who would correspond to them. Since then, my thinking has evolved, and I don’t want to take that approach anymore.” 
    “Martina has a conception of tennis that is very close to my own. I have always worked with players to get them inside the court and take the ball early. I think it’s the game of the future. Not necessarily coming to net, if they come to net all the better, but the game of the future is to be able to take time away from the opponent, to cut the trajectories off. 

    “It’s what Roger Federer does very well and what Novak Djokovic does very, very well, but 90 percent of the other players are not doing it. But Martina always did this. It’s the way she was taught, the way she learned to play the game.” 

     Both Putintseva and Gavrilova said in interviews that they had been encouraged by Hingis to expand their range since she began training with them late last year. “The trainings with her are really intense,” Gavrilova said. “And we always do something different and are working on many things, and she’s really playing inside the court, so that’s what she wants me to improve.” 

    Hingis, in her first major tournament in this role, is one of two former world No. 1’s to join the coaching ranks this season. But unlike Ivan Lendl, now 51 and working with Andy Murray, Hingis is still of an age to be competing at this level. 

    One of her primary rivals, Serena Williams, remains a main contender at age 30, and Venus Williams, 31, plans to return to competition this week for the Fed Cup. Kim Clijsters, who will turn 29 this year, just reached the semifinals here.

    “They have a different game; they have serves; they have big first shots,” Hingis said. “I was a different player.” 

    She said she was not surprised that Serena Williams, in particular, has endured. “The willpower of Serena, nobody can beat that,” she said. “There has not been another player who has the same hunger.” 

    Hingis last played on tour more than four years ago after retiring (for the second time) in November 2007 after testing positive for cocaine metabolite at Wimbledon that year. 

    It was a trace amount. Hingis declared that she had not ingested cocaine wittingly, declined to engage in an expensive, extended appeal process and chose to retire instead — something she said she was already considering. She was later given a two-year ban that restricted her formal access to tournament sites.

    “It wasn’t the greatest way to stop, that’s for sure,” she said. 

    In a later case, the French player Richard Gasquet, who tested positive for a trace amount of cocaine, had his suspension cut from two years to two and a half months after the International Tennis Federation ruled on appeal that he had inadvertently ingested the substance.

    “They made an example, I guess,” said Hingis, referring to her case. “I just look into the future. You can’t look back. Two years, they passed away, and now the last two years have been great, being back in business and in tennis. This has always been my home.”