Mondays With Bob Greene: Roland Garros First Week

STARS

(French Open first week)

Ivan Ljubicic beat fourth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4

Katarina Srebotnik beat fifth-seeded Serena Williams 6-4 6-4

Jeremy Chardy beat sixth-seeded David Nalbandian 3-6 4-6 6-2 6-1 6-2

Kaia Kanepi beat sixth-seeded Anna Chakvetadze 6-4 7-6 (2)

Ernests Gulbis beat seventh-seeded James Blake 7-6 (2) 3-6 7-5 6-3

Flavia Pennetta beat eighth-seeded Venus Williams 7-5 6-3

Fernando Gonzalez beat ninth-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka 5-7 2-6 6-4 6-4 6-4

Casey Dellacqua beat ninth-seeded Marion Bartoli 6-7 (4) 6-3 6-2

SAYINGS

“It wasn’t a good day for our family.” – Venus Williams, after both she and sister Serena lost their third-round matches on the same day.

“I had my time … I feel I had my job done, and maybe I find another way to feel as happy as I was playing tennis.” – Gustavo Kuerten, following his first-round loss at the French Open and concluding a career that saw him win three titles at Roland Garros.

“There are a lot of things I would try to do different, but you can’t rewind time.” – Serena Williams, after losing to Katarina Srebotnik 6-4 6-4.

“Today I woke up and it was just another opportunity.” Katarina Srebotnik, after her win over Serena Williams.

“I was trying to change a lot, to don’t play always in the same part of the court. I never play I think two balls like the same.” – Flavia Pennetta, after beating Venus Williams.

“It was quite big. I was like Popeye.” – Jelena Jankovic, explaining her painfully swollen right forearm.

“He slowed down a little bit in the third (set). I smelled the blood, and I said, `Well now, let’s try to hang in here.'” – Ivan Ljubicic, who rallied from two sets down to upset Nikolay Davydenko 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4.

“Last guy standing. It’s a good feeling.” – Robby Ginepri, who by reaching the fourth round became the lone American player left in singles at Roland Garros.

“It wasn’t a good day for him.” – Rafael Nadal, after beating Fernando Verdasco 6-1 6-0 6-2.

“I am definitely feeling comfortable on clay, although I believe I can play good tennis on any surface.” – Radek Stepanek, after upsetting 12th-seeded Tommy Robredo 6-3 6-2 6-1.

“I lost to a guy ranked 80th in the world. Granted, he didn’t play like 80th in the world, he played better than that.” – James Blake, after losing to Latvian teenager Ernests Gulbis.

“People are really interested in tennis at this moment. … If I go to practice at home, I don’t get a court. It’s full.” – Ernests Gulbis, telling how interest in tennis in his native Latvia has blossomed since he reached the US Open fourth round last year.

“Tennis has given me a lot and I couldn’t leave tennis this way. So that’s why I didn’t quit.” – Guillermo Coria, saying he almost retired from the sport a few weeks ago after becoming disenchanted with life on the tour.

“It’s a shame. I always try my best to win. That’s not something you should say to an athlete.” – Akiko Morigami, saying a Japan team coach asked her to deliberately lose a doubles match at the French Open.

“The ITF takes this allegation very seriously and, with the Grand Slams and WTA Tour, has zero tolerance for any attempt to influence the outcome of a match.” – Statement from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) regarding Akiko Morigami’s charges.

SLAM SISTERS SLAMMED

Venus and Serena Williams, who between them have won 14 Grand Slam singles titles, won’t add to their collection at this year’s French Open. Both sisters were booted out of Roland Garros on the first Friday of the two-week event, Venus by Flavia Pennetta 7-5 6-3 and Serena by Katarina Srebotnik 6-4 6-4. The sisterly slide means that for the first time in the Open Era there will be no Americans in the women’s fourth round on the slow, red clay in Paris. Serena Williams won the French Open in 2002 and was the only former champion in this year’s women’s draw.

STARTING SLOW

Jeremy “Cheesy” Chardy and Paul-Henri Mathieu gave the home folks something to cheer about. The two Frenchmen, both playing five-set matches for the first time, rallied from two-set deficits to win their marathons on the clay at Roland Garros. Chardy shocked sixth-seeded David Nalbandian 3-6 4-6 6-2 6-1 6-2, while Mathieu ousted Oscar Hernandez of Spain 2-6 1-6 6-4 6-3 6-2 in a match that lasted for more than four hours. Earlier in the tournament Mathieu ended Gustavo Kuerten’s love affair with Paris, besting the three-time French Open champion and sending the Brazilian into retirement.

STUNNED

Amelie Mauresmo always has had trouble at Roland Garros, playing her worst tennis before her home fans. This year was even worse for the former world number one, who lost 6-3 6-4 in the second round to Spanish qualifier Carla Suarez Navarro, who is playing in her first Grand Slam tournament. Mauresmo, who has twice captured Grand Slam singles titles, has never made it past the quarterfinals in Paris. Mauresmo suffered an abdominal injury last month while playing for France in a Fed Cup tie in Japan, and had not played again until the French Open.

SURPRISE

The first-week surprises at Roland Garros weren’t limited to the singles draw. Stephen Huss of Australia and Ross Hutchins of Great Britain upset the fourth-seeded team of Mahesh Bupathi of India and Mark Knowles of the Bahamas 6-4 6-4 in a first-round doubles match. At least the pain of defeat was quick: the match lasted just a little over an hour. Knowles had teamed with Canadian Daniel Nestor to win the French Open last year.

STILL IN THE HUNT

Ernests Gulbis is single-handedly putting Latvia on the tennis map. Only 19, Gulbis is the only player from Latvia to play in a Grand Slam tournament. And he has reached the quarterfinals of a major for the first time. He first waved the Latvian flag at the US Open last year when he earned a fourth-round berth. And he’s no stranger to his quarterfinal foe, the world third-ranked Novak Djokovic. They two trained together at the Niki Pilic academy in Munich, Germany, when Gulbis was just 12 years old.

STREAKING SCHWANK

Eduardo Schwank’s winning streak has finally come to an end on the red clay courts of Roland Garros. The right-hander from Rosario, Argentina, won 20 straight matches before losing to Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2 6-3 3-6 7-6 (9). But, by reaching the third round of the French Open, Schwank earned $29,775, more than making up for the $3,250 paycheck he lost in a hotel fire in Bordeaux, France last month that was confined to his room. Schwank won his last three Challenger tournaments – in Cremona, Italy, Rome and Bordeaux. He then won three qualifying matches before upsetting 16th-seeded Carlos Moya in a first-round five-set match. He won a four-setter to reach the third round and Mathieu.

STRONG RESPONSE

The organizers of the French Open are investigating charges that Akiko Morigami was asked to deliberately lose a doubles match at the clay court Grand Slam tournament. Morigami accused a Japan national team coach of asking her to deliberately lose the match so that her partner, Aiko Nakamura, would be free to play another tournament this week and thus improve Nakamura’s chances of qualifying for the Beijing Olympics. Morigami and Nakamura lost the match 6-0 6-1 to Taiwan’s fourth-seeded team of Chan Yung-jan and Chuang Chia-jung.

SAD SONG FOR SVEN

Sven Davidson, who became the first player from Sweden to win a Grand Slam singles title when he captured the French Open in 1957, is dead. He was 79 years old. Davidson was the Swedish singles champion from 1950 through 1960 and was ranked in the top ten in the world as an amateur for six years, rising as high as number three. He was a finalist three times at Roland Garros and teamed with Ulf Schmidt to win the doubles at Wimbledon in 1958. He was a member of Sweden’s Davis Cup team from 1950-61 with a singles record of 39-14 and a doubles mark of 23-9. He still holds Sweden’s record for most Davis Cup doubles match victories. In 1978, Davidson won the Wimbledon Grand Masters Singles, defeating Neale Fraser 6-4 3-6 8-6. He covered tennis for Swedish television and created the Stockholm Open in 1969, the first tournament in northern Europe with official prize money.

STEPPING DOWN

Spanish Tennis Federation (RFET) president Pedro Munoz says he will not seek re-election to his post and will not attend promotional events in an effort to appease Spanish players who disagree with the way he has run the RFET. Davis Cup players such as Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer have called for Munoz to step down and have refused to participate in promotional events while he remains president.

SELECT GROUP

When Somdev Devvarman of the University of Virginia won the NCAA men’s singles title for the second straight year, he joined a select group. The native of Chennai, India, is only the fourth player in the last 50 years to win consecutive NCAA men’s singles championships, joining Matias Boeker in 2001-02, Mikael Pernfors in 1984-85 and Dennis Ralston in 1963-64. It also was Devvarman’s third straight trip to final, where he lost as a sophomore. A member of India’s Davis Cup team, Devvarman has won a record 18 straight NCAA matches.

SOCIALLY SPEAKING

Boston businessman Peter Palandjian will co-chair the 2008 International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Legends Ball, which will be held September 5 in New York City. The special night will honor Billie Jean King and the Hall of Fame induction class of 2008 – Michael Chang, Mark McCormack, Eugene Scott and Russ Adams. The Legends Ball celebrates the history of the game and honors the sport’s great contributors while also raising money for the International Tennis Hall of Fame, which is located in Newport, Rhode Island.

STIFFING DEALERSHIP

Roscoe Tanner is in trouble again. The 1977 Australian Open winner has been arraigned on felony theft charges in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is accused of writing a check for $72,263.43 USD to a Knoxville Toyota dealership for two Toyota Highlanders, then refusing to return the vehicles when the check bounced. Tanner was convicted of grand theft in Florida in 2000 after buying a 32-foot boat with a $35,595 USD check that bounced.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and India’s Rohan Bopanna are hoping their tennis partnership will extend to the relations between their two countries. The two, who have played together in mostly low-key tournaments since 2002, made their Grand Slam debut in the men’s doubles at the French Open. Unfortunately, they faced the world’s number one doubles team, American twins Bob and Mike Bryan, and lost 6-1 6-4. Qureshi is finding this partner easier than one he had six years ago. That was when he was denounced by the Pakistan tennis federation and threatened to be banned from his country’s Davis Cup squad for playing doubles with Amir Hadad of Israel.

SOUTH AFRICAN STADIUM

When Denmark travels to South Africa for the Euro-Africa Group 2 Davis Cup, the tie will be staged in a new 1,500-seat outdoor stadium in the scenic Emperors Palace Gardens. South Africa and Denmark have met four times in Davis Cup play, with the two nations having each won twice. Attending the announcement of the site was Abe Segal, who played for the winning South African squad against Denmark 45 years ago. Segal recalled how Denmark’s top player, Torben Ulrich, missed the tie because had had been arrested after biting the nose of a policeman during a traffic skirmish.

STARS FOR NCAA

NCAA singles champions Somdev Devvarman of Virginia and Amanda McDowell of Georgia Tech highlight the 2008 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All-America teams for NCAA Division I men’s and women’s tennis. Travis Helgeson of the University of Georgia made the team for the fourth straight year, while five women are being honored as All-America for the fourth team in their career: Susie Babos of California, Kristi Miller of Georgia Tech, Megan Moulton-Levy of William & Mary, Zuzana Zemenova of Baylor and Riza Zalameda of UCLA. Also on the team are NCAA doubles champions Tracy Lin and Zalameda from UCLA, and Robert Farah and Kaes Van’t Hof from Southern California.

SITES TO SURF

French Open (Roland Garros): www.rolandgarros.com/

French Tennis Federation: www.fft.fr/portail/

London: www.artoischampionships.com

Halle: www.gerryweber-open.de

Warsaw: www.orangewarsawopen.pl

Birmingham: http://birmingham.lta.org.uk

Barcelona: www.bcnwta.com

Prostejov: www.czech-open.com

Russian Tennis Federation: http://www.tennis-russia.ru/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$11,034,805 Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay

$150,000 UniCredit Czech Open 2008, Prostejov, Czech Republic, clay

WTA TOUR

$10,891,368 Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay

$100,000 Tiro A Volo, Rome, Italy, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$1,125,000 The Artois Championships, London, England, grass

$1,125,000 Gerry Weber Open, Halle, Germany, grass

$670,000 Orange Prokom Open, Warsaw, Poland, clay

WTA TOUR

$200,000 DFS Classic, Birmingham, Great Britain, grass

$145,000 Torneo Barcelona KIA, Barcelona, Spain, clay