Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

But is Rio ready for Roger…?

Leave a comment

The hallowed grounds of Wimbledon gave tennis its most memorable stage at the Olympics this past year, and home-grown gold medalist Andy Murray adding to the British fervor.

But as 2013 ticks closer and the Rio Games sit just three-and-a-half years away, little is known about what the first South American country to host the Olympics will conjure up for a tennis facility.

Over the last 10 days, Brazil has staged what could be seen as a testing tour for the Summer Games with the Gillette Federer Tour, a sponsored batch of exhibition matches headlined by — you guessed it! — Roger Federer.

The exhibitions taking place in Sau Paulo, Argentina, and Colombia were wildly advertised across South American TV and media outlets, with Gillette creating a viral video featuring Federer as a Brazilian soccer and volleyball star that garnered over seven million clicks on YouTube.

From a fan perspective, the swing has widely been viewed as a success, as near-sellout crowds watched six exhibitions that also featured Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Juan Martin Del Potro, Maria Sharapova, Tommy Haas, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Brazil’s highest-ranked player, Tomaz Bellucci.

The tour, which took place over ten days, cemented the players’ support behind Brazil’s hosting of the 2016 Games. No support was greater than Federer’s, who said during his time there that he would cut back his schedule over the next few years, but still aim to play in Rio come 2016.

Lucia Hoffman, a Sao Paulo native and New York-based journalist, said the tennis world has turned its attention to a new source of money and fan interest.

“The players came to check out this new world of tennis that they have been told will become the new tennis destination on the tour,” Hoffman wrote in an email. “Almost like Asia became many years back… The new ATP CEO now he has his eyes on Brazil.”

The loss of two U.S. tennis events (in San Jose and Los Angeles) over the next two years is South America’s gain with the tournaments finding a new home there. Yet it remains unknown what surface (clay, most likely) or what sort of facility the Brazilians will construct or re-purpose for tennis in Rio.

While Federer voiced support for the fan turnout in Brazil, he noted that the aging Ibirapuera Stadium didn’t hold muster compared to ATP event sites when it comes to modern-day amenities.

“I think some things need to be improved if you want to make sure the fans have the best experience possible,” Federer told Estado de Sao Paulo. “This venue is a little old and it needs to be bigger, but the atmosphere is great and the fans incredible. There is no need to worry about that side of things.”

Hoffman said the fans not only treated Federer like royalty, but more like a soccer star, the ultimate South American compliment.

“This tour was huge, like a tsunami, for tennis in Brazil,” she wrote. “Brazilian TV was totally invested in it. So, from all social classes, all ages, people knew about the Gillette Federer Tour as much as they knew about their soccer. And in a country of 200 million, that’s huge.”

Olympic downhill champion wants Formula One-like qualifying in ski racing

Leave a comment

VIENNA (AP) — World Cup skiing needs a qualification system like Formula One, with qualifying runs determining the starting order for the race, Olympic downhill champion Matthias Mayer said Friday.

“You could compete in training for who is the first to pick a start number,” the Austrian skier said.

Mayer’s proposal goes a step further than rules for downhill and super-G implemented this season. In the new system, the top 10 skiers can choose an odd start number between 1 and 19, and the skiers ranked between 11th and 20th pick an even number between 2 and 20.

The International Ski Federation has changed the old format, where the top seven were randomly given a number between 16 and 22, because it hopes TV viewers will watch longer when the best skiers are more spread out.

“It will change something, definitely,” said Mayer, who was speaking at a sponsor event. “The best racer can pick the start number he wants. I think it’s a positive development. But we should discuss a qualifying format in training.”

FIS men’s race director Markus Waldner said skiing’s governing body considered several options before deciding on the new regulation.

“The idea is to spread out the top 10 from the start list,” Waldner said. “Most of our TV viewers were starting to watch a race after the TV break, after the first 15 starters, because the top seven racers all started between 16 and 22. We would like to motivate our TV viewers to watch from the very beginning of a race.”

A winner of three World Cup races, Mayer missed most of last season after breaking two vertebrae in a downhill crash in Val Gardena, Italy. He returned to training on snow in July, and is planning a comeback at the speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Nov. 26-27.

The Austrian skipped the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden last Sunday, though he skied on the course as a forerunner, a skier doing a test run just before the race starts.

MORE: Men’s Alpine skiing season preview

Spain keeps men’s basketball coach through 2020 Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 21:  Spanish coach Sergio Scariolo reacts during the Men's Basketball Bronze medal game between Australia and Spain on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sergio Scariolo will coach Spain at a third straight Olympics in 2020.

Scariolo’s contract was extended through the Tokyo Games by the Spanish basketball federation, it announced Friday.

The 55-year-old Italian began coaching Spain in 2009 and led the nation to silver at the London Olympics and bronze in Rio.

Spain lost by seven points to the U.S. in the 2012 Olympic final and by six points to the U.S. in the Rio semifinals, though it also lost to Croatia and Brazil in group play in Rio.

The Spanish national team’s NBA veterans are aging. Pau Gasol is 36 and hasn’t announced if he will try for a fourth Olympics in Tokyo. Younger brother Marc Gasol is 31.

José Calderón, 35, retired from the national team after the Rio Games.

PHOTOS: Simone Biles meets 7-foot Dirk Nowitzki