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USTA FL Friday Blog: U.S. Makes Olympic Tennis Statement, More

December 19, 2013 01:59 PM
The German Olympic team awash in pride

BILLIE JEAN LEADS RAINBOW REVOLUTION -- Russia's banning of "gay propaganda" applied to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi sent an oppressive chill across Europe this year. In response, U.S. President Barack Obama this week sent his own message with the announcement of the U.S. delegation for the opening and closing ceremonies -- headed by openly-gay advocate and tennis star Billie Jean King, and "out" hockey player Caitlin Cahow. "I am equally proud to stand with the members of the LGBT community in support of all athletes who will be competing in Sochi and I hope these Olympic Games will indeed be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people," King said of her upcoming appearance at the opening ceremonies. Meanwhile Obama said his schedule would "not allow him to attend" the games, lining up with other world diplomats, like French President Francois Hollande and German President Joachim Gauck among others, who are seemingly joining an unofficial protest of the games in Russia. The Germany Olympic team left people guessing as to its intent when it unveiled its new team uniforms ahead of the Olympics -- rainbow outfits reminiscent of gay rights equality flags. A German Olympics official says the uniforms are not a form of protest, and "this is just a fashionable jacket."


Insert Comcast

TENNIS CHANNEL TO PLAY ON SUPREME COURT -- It looked like a no-brainer when Tennis Channel initially won its lawsuit against the Comcast cable network, which was charging customers extra for Tennis Channel while putting Comcast-owned sports networks such as NBC Sports Network and Golf Channel on free basic cable. Even the Federal Communications Commission agreed. But another court reversed the case ruling in Comcast's favor, so now Tennis Channel is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. While the decision is not make-or-break for Tennis Channel, in the balance are potential millions of dollar in revenue and millions of additional eyeballs on tennis, essential for the sport. "The lower court strayed from long-standing federal discrimination law to invent an arbitrary and unfair standard for deciding cable carriage complaints," Tennis Channel said in a statement. "The ruling ignores Congress' intent to ensure a diverse, competitive media marketplace and eviscerates the FCC's congressionally-assigned responsibility to regulate program network competition in the public interest."

SHARAPOVA WANTS SOME SUGAR FROM 2014 -- Serena Williams is not the bane of Longboat Key-resident Maria Sharapova's existence. "Absolutely, I'm glad she exists," Sharapova told the New York Times. "...On the court, I have the utmost respect for her; I really do." Between selling her "Sugarpova" candy line and doing some TV commentating during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia ("I'm certainly not going to be commenting on bobsledding or anything"), the former world No. 1 looks to be back 100 percent from injuries that hampered her during the 2013 season, with plenty of juice in the tank at age 26. Serena on her part has won her last 13 meetings with Maria stretching over the last eight years, but the Florida-based Russian looks to challenge the current world No. 1 in 2014. "I don't think I would form a new team together and that I would go through the efforts of trying to come back if I didn't have it," she said of her entourage that now contains a new Dutch coach in Sven Groeneveld (who this year replaced short-timer Jimmy Connors who had replaced Thomas Hogstedt), a German hitting coach, a French physiotherapist and a Japanese physical trainer. Sharapova will make her 2014 debut in January at the WTA event in Brisbane.


They Said It

"We are 35 [years old] and keep working hard. It doesn't get old."
-- Florida resident Bob Bryan after he and brother Mike received the ATP World Tour Doubles Team of the Year award for the fifth consecutive year


Johnny Mac will get his chance to vent when he and brother Patrick take on the Bryan brothers in the 2014 BNP Paribas Showdown in NYC

"I like Bob and Mike [Bryan] and single-handedly they are trying to keep doubles going. But sometimes I hear people saying they are the greatest doubles team. I'm like "Excuse me?"
-- John McEnroe  

"I've had a tough week and I'm exhausted. I've lost three finals in this tournament -- 12s, 14s and now 18s. Making the finals isn't good enough. Even in the warm-ups when I got here I was exhausted. The next time you see me, I'm going to be a lot stronger, in better condition. I have to change some things to make it to the top."
-- 15-year-old Stefan Kozlov of Pembroke Pines after losing in the Orange Bowl final

"We changed tennis. We brought passion and fashion wearing extravagant clothes. And also style [and] power as a new skin color as we are African-Americans. We improved tennis."
-- Florida's Serena Williams with sister Venus at an exhibition in Buenos Aires, Argentina in November

U30 Tennis Challenge Among Innovations at USTA Florida Annual Meeting

A group of under-30 former players telling an audience of 300 Florida tennis volunteers that tennis needed to upgrade its "cool" factor, and light-hearted skits highlighting new programming marked one of the more innovative USTA Florida Annual Meeting & Volunteer Celebrations on Dec. 7-8, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando.

Approximately 300 Florida tennis volunteers gathered for the year-end award ceremonies and a couple surprises when it came to education sessions and special guests.

One group of guests were participants in the U30 Challenge. The former participants in the USTA Florida 'Tennis on Campus' club series for their respective schools challenged each other in a series of team athletic events during the Friday night pool party for all meeting participants. They then challenged each other in a brain battle on Saturday, when each group was tasked with coming up with a plan for bringing more young people into the game of tennis, both as players and volunteers.

In four teams the players came up with ideas on how to bring under-30 players and professionals to tennis. All teams presented in front of the full conference audience, with online voting determining the winning group, whose idea for growing tennis will be funded in 2014.

"I hope that through the efforts of the U30 group and our presentations, USTA Florida can drastically make changes," said Eric Kent, a tennis professional at Ibis Country Club. "USTA Florida has the resources available to recreate the Billy Jean King-Bobby Riggs era, showing how cool and fun the sport can be."

"Team Capriati" received the most votes, winning $100 gift cards and the funding of their idea.

Education sessions at the Annual Meeting & Volunteer Celebration Weekend also took on a new twist with skits featuring USTA Florida staff members and volunteers, illustrating programs such as the new Masters Tennis (short-court tennis for 55 players), youth programs, community outreach, adult leagues and more.

"Masters Tennis is such a great program for bringing older players back to tennis," said Sandra Clark, Masters Tennis organizer at The Villages. "Due to injuries or other problems, many players can no longer play on a full court with regular balls, but they can play on a 60-foot court and the lower compression balls are easier on the elbows and shoulders."

Attendees learned more about the variety of tools from USTA Florida available to all tennis providers.

"I believe that the educational sessions were just what we needed," said Susie Rahimitabar, director of junior recreational tennis at Lake Cane Tennis Center in Orlando. "We found out information about what USTA Florida can offer to many different providers looking for assistance with their programs, or trying to get their community involved in tennis. I love what USTA Florida is doing."

Tennis on TV This Weekend

5pm -- Decade's Best: 10 years of Tennis Channel: Episode 8 (Tennis Channel)
7pm -- WTA All Access, Premiere (Tennis Channel)
8pm -- Decade's Best: 10 years of Tennis Channel: Episode 9 (Tennis Channel)
10pm -- Decade's Best: 10 years of Tennis Channel: Episode 10 (Tennis Channel)

7pm -- 16-LOVE (Tennis Channel)
9pm -- Players Give Back (Tennis Channel)

9pm -- Review of the Year: 2013 ATP Masters 1000's, Premiere (Tennis Channel)
10pm -- TC's Signature Series: Bud Collins (Tennis Channel)

The USTA Florida Friday blog is written by USTA Florida Communications Coordinator Rick Vach, former publications editor for the ATP World Tour, editor/publisher of International Tennis and Play Tennis Florida magazine, and award-winning contributor to Tennis Week magazine. Got feedback, want a USTA or tennis-related question answered in the blog, or want to express your opinion? E-mail HERE.





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