1. Vika is for victory: The U.S. Open Series swung through California last week. That a tall, Soviet-born, Americanized heavy hitter won the Bank of the West event at Stanford was no surprise. That it was Victoria Azarenka, not Maria Sharapova, however, was a considerable upset. In throes of a miserable slump, Azarenka found her game in a big way, beating Sam Stosur in the semis and then waxing Sharapova, 6-4, 6-1, to take her first title of 2010. True, one tournament is an awfully small sample size. But if Azarenka can sustain this level of play, she suddenly becomes a player to watch at the U.S. Open, especially if it's a Serena-less affair. A few hours south at the Farmers Cassic event in Los Angeles, Sam Querrey, king of the U.S. events, bagged still another one to defend his title. Querrey's defeat of Andy Murray, staving off a match point, might well mark the biggest win of his career. If he could replicate a win of this nature in a major -- ironically, he lost to Murray in his last Grand Slam match -- he'd really be in business.
2. Brotherly love: A round of applause to Bob and Mike Bryan. If the Williams sisters are the ultimate sibling act in sports, the Bryans are right up there. The twins won the doubles title in L.A., thereby establishing the all-time record for titles as team. Their 62nd tournament win vaulted them past the Woodies, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, who were inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame last month. Overall, a good week for American tennis.
3. Just the facts, ma'am: Over the past weeks, a few of you sent me links to accounts on Rafael Nadal condemning Israel. Nadal insinuating himself into the Middle East snarl? This struck me as odd. He tends to shy away from politics. But he's been more outspoken on non-tennis issues lately. And the quotes kept popping up, yes in what are clearly fringe propagandist sites, but also in mainstream accounts. (You may have agreed or disagreed with his quote; but it was hard to fault an athlete for using his platform to support a cause more meaningful than a sports drink or a brand of shoe.) I sent a link via Twitter. Many of you commented. I contacted the Nadal camp to see if there was more to the story. The response: "The information about that flotilla and Rafa being part of it is COMPLETELY false. Rafa has 1) not been approached, 2) has never committed to anything like this and 3) is not talking about politics on a national or international level and is not planning to do so anytime soon although clearly he has his own thoughts. So even if he would have been approached he would have declined." Here's a part of an email from Nadal himself: "I got really upset with this information, Normally I get very upset when I see false news out there, but even more when they are fake news about politics. Hope this is clear, crystal clear." The morals here are obvious. Perils of the digital age. Don't believe everything you read. Take a second before blindly forwarding a link.