WTA tour stops at Niagara Falls


There are plenty of Canadians who have never seen Niagara Falls.

But anecdotally, there seem to be plenty of worldly tennis players who make a point of stopping off to gaze upon their magnificence every second year, when the WTA is in Toronto for the Rogers Cup.

Assuming they’re not playing through the weekend, of course.

Among the visitors this year were Daria Gavrilova, doubles specialist Alicja Rosolska and Brits Heather Watson and Naomi Broady.

Marat Safin inspires Next-Geners


Someone paid a visit to a couple of Next-Gen players.

It was former No. 1 Marat Safin.

Just look at Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov, the two Russian kids playing in Spain. They look thrilled – even the usually dour Rublev.

“What a pleasure to have Marat with us. Never easy to be a good tennis player, but to be a good tennis player and a good person more difficult !! What a fu ….. legend !!” Khachanov coach Galo Blanco wrote on Instagram.

Now, Marat, about those harem pants? Not legend.

Serena gets “Greasy” baby shower


There was a theme for Serena Williams’s baby shower last weekend down in Florida.

It was a 1950s kind of thing, and also it wasn’t limited to the (Pink) ladies only, as fiancé Alex Ohanian also got into the spirit of things.

Williams had most of her posse of girlfriends there – including sister Venus. Really – is Serena enjoying this, or what?

Family is the priority. But the festivities didn’t leave Venus much time to get up to Toronto for the Rogers Cup. She plays her first-round match Monday night.

Kobe Bryant’s new sport


Just back from the Wimbledon juniors, California teen Taylor Johnson faced a much tougher opponent on the courts at Newport Beach this week.

Her idol, former basketball star Kobe Bryant, was ready for her.

Johnson was pretty excited. And another Californian, Coco Vandeweghe, also is ready to take him on.

At 38, Bryant is too old to seriously think about tennis as a career – luckily for the Tour, given his supreme athletic ability.

But from the video we’ve seen, he has plenty of room for improvement … er, plenty of upside.

Summer Wedding I: Aga Radwanska


The official off-season break in tennis usually doesn’t bring good weather with it.

So when there is a tennis wedding, it often takes place in the period after Wimbledon.

On Saturday, it was Agnieszka Radwanska’s turn, as she got hitched to Dawid Celt.

Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki attended. You see other players often at the weddings of ATP Tour players. With the women, not quite as much. Fellow Polish player Jerzy Janowicz also was on hand.

The new couple ripped up the first dance.

Nastase visits ATP event in Bastad


Even as he awaited the ruling by the ITF’s tribunal about his misbehaviour during the Romania – Great Britain Fed Cup tie back in April, Ilie Nastase hasn’t kept a low profile.

The 71-year-old was in Bastad, Sweden this week for the ATP Tour event there.

It’s the 70th anniversary of the tournament, and Nastase is among the former champions invited back.

The suspension handed down Friday by the ITF, of course, doesn’t extend to the ATP and WTA Tours, which are separate. It doesn’t even apply to the Grand Slams.

Bouchard-Wie mix golf and tennis


Canadian Genie Bouchard, out in the first round at Wimbledon, went to Las Vegas to do a training block in preparation for the summer hard-court season.

But she wasn’t there too long before she headed for New York. Bouchard did some Nike cross-promotion with golfer Michelle Wie Monday.

Take a look at the Bouchard golf swing here. Unlike many Canadians, she’s not swinging lefty. 

Wie had some time to kill. The US Women’s Open was being played in nearby Bedminster, NJ, but a neck injury prevented Wie from taking part.

Great Sock towel heist ends well


WIMBLEDON – It doesn’t take much for a video to spread like wildfire – especially if there’s a kid and some mean adults involved.

And so, one teenager immediately became social-media famous this week.

Video of American player Jack Sock’s first round match appeared to show a grown man aggressively fighting for a towel thrown by Sock in the kid’s direction.

The reality is not quite so clear-cut, of course.

Sock didn’t even look up as he threw the towel, and underthrew it if he was aiming at the kid.

So in fact, the kid reached over to where the man and his wife were comfortably ensconced in their front-row seats (in matching shirts and coordinated hats, no less) to get the towel.

Nevertheless, what grown man will tug-of-war so relentlessly to take a souvenir towel away from a kid? 

This man.

Meanwhile, the man’s wife just smirked, and never broke rhythm with the chewing gum.

Social media to the rescue

Sock got wind of it, and reached out on social media.

The 24-year-old American called the fellow an “elderly man”.

That probably hurt more than the towel burns he got in securing possession of the souvenir.

On Wednesday, a representative from Sock’s management agency, IMG, said the young fan had been found and that he was from Ireland.

“He is gone home now but Jack invited him to his matches and said he will send him a towel,” the spokesperson said.

But …. hold the phone.

It turned out the kid from Ireland was scamming. The real kid was an American kid from Philadelphia named Peter Woodville.

His mother Faiézé, who is on Twitter but had barely Tweeted until this week, had it brought to her attention, and responded.

The proof was in the cap. It’s from the boarding school Peter Woodville’s father attended – one of the most exclusive schools in the U.S.

The school, of course, jumped on the opportunity to recognize its alumnus. Even snooty prep schools are on Twitter!

Peter came back the next day – he and his family queued up for five hours to get back onto the grounds – and got his towel. And a photo.

“He was upset. He told me he was shocked more than anything. Because in the states at a lot of these sporting events, if adults catch a ball or something they go out of their way to give it to the youngsters. They don’t keep it for themselves. He was very disappointed and I think he was shocked,” mother Faézé told the British Associated Press.

That’s far from true. Old guys wrestle foul balls from young kids in the stands at baseball games all the time. But it’s always better to remember the good people.

Ready for his closeup

In the meantime, the 14-year-old did what a 14-year-old in this day and age does. He got on Twitter and started fielding media inquiries that pretty much sounded like this: “Hi, I’m a journalist. Can you follow me so I can DM you a few questions about the towel?”

As for the well-hatted couple, you hope they headed home and had some of their other grownup friends give them the what-for.

Certainly no one sitting around them did – Wimbledon fans are far too decorous.

Ivanovic hits another Grand Slam


Ana Ivanovic may be retired and living in Chicago with her soccer-star husband.

But she’s certainly no stranger to the tennis these days.

The 30-year-old was in Paris for a special retirement tribute on women’s semifinal day. And she’s in London this week.

Ivanovic found time to catch up with old friend Kirsten Flipkens for dinner Tuesday night. On Wednesday, she caught up with No. 1 Angelique Kerber

You think she misses all the action? No doubt.

Serena still hitting it, at 7 months


As she gets into the home stretch of her pregnancy, Serena Williams clearly is missing the tennis.

So on the first day of Wimbledon, on the grass, she was out hitting – on red clay, of course. It’s either that, or talk about finally getting her “pregnancy lips” on Snapchat. 

Okay, she did that, too.

Meanwhile, sister Venus won her first round and, when asked what it was like to play without her sister around this season, said this:  “I miss her a lot. I think she misses me too.”