Mondays With Bob Greene: A win here is amazing, another victory at the start of the season

STARS

Rafael Nadal won the BNP Paribas Open men’s singles at Indian Wells, California, USA, beating Andy Murray 6-1 6-2

Vera Zvonareva beat Ana Ivanovic 7-6 (5) 6-2 to win the BNP Paribas Open women’s singles at Indian Wells, California

Robin Soderling won the BMW Tennis Championships, beating Tomas Berdych 6-1 6-1 in Sunrise, Florida, USA

Horacio Zeballos beat Santiago Gonzalez 7-6 (3) 6-0 to win the Bancolombia Open in Bogota, Colombia

Marcos Daniel beat Lamine Ouahab 4-6 7-5 6-2 to win the Marrakech Challenger in Marrakech, Morocco

Pete Sampras beat Patrick Rafter 7-6 (6) 6-4 to capture the Del Mar Development Champions Cup in Los Cabos, Mexico

SAYING

“A win here is amazing, another victory at the start of the season. It was a dream for me to win the Australian Open and now here. I love playing here.” – Rafael Nadal, after beating Andy Murray to win the BNP Paribas Open.

“It’s amazing, and a great feeling to win such a big event. I’ve been watching this tournament since I was a kid, you know. It’s been on television back home for so many years. It’s basically one of the biggest events after the majors.” – Vera Zvonareva, who won the BNP Paribas Open women’s singles.

“Honestly, it was the toughest conditions I ever played in. It was very, very windy and it wasn’t much about the game and a game plan today. It was just who can handle the conditions better and who can stay mentally tougher through it. Today she did. She played really well.” – Ana Ivanovic, after losing to Vera Zvonareva in the title match.

“It’s just one of those days when you really don’t feel comfortable on the court. I just didn’t have any momentum. No feel for the ball, no movement, no solutions.” – Novak Djokovic, after losing to Andy Roddick.

“I don’t think he had his best day by any means.” – Andy Roddick, after beating defending champion Novak Djokovic.

“He’s a big favorite and anything that happens to me, it’s all positive. It’s been a while since I didn’t play without that pressure. I feel like I’m 18 again without anything to lose.” – Ivan Ljubicic, before losing to Andy Murray at Indian Wells, California.

“I’m not thinking about this, because if it comes, it comes. If I play like this, definitely it will not come.” – Dinara Safina, on her chances of becoming number one in the world.

“It was only fair. He carried me for three sets. I only had to carry him for about five seconds.” – Andy Roddick, after Mardy Fish jumped on his back following their victory over Andy Ram and Max Mirnyi in the doubles final in Indian Wells.

“We’re both emotional. It’s just the way we are. … We want to win so bad. We want to be so much better that sometimes we just probably expect too much from ourselves. But I think you have to be emotional on the court. Otherwise I don’t think it’s fun.” – Victoria Azarenka, after teaming with Vera Zvonareva to win the women’s doubles in Indian Wells, California.

“Tonight we are here to celebrate. Celebrate our accomplishments, celebrate the Tour’s current success, and of course, celebrate its bright future, which now includes the establishment of the Tour Alumnae & Friends Program. This is a welcome addition to an association that is continually evolving. Let us continue the fun, reconnect with friends and celebrate all that has been achieved over the last 35 years.” – Billie Jean King, speaking at Indian Wells.

“It’s an elegant game that you can watch in every country. It’s a worldwide sport I’m in awe watching.” – Michele Sicard, head of BNP Paribas corporate communications in North America, talking about tennis, a sport she doesn’t play.

SECURITY SWITCH

Pakistan has been forced to give up its right to stage its Davis Cup tie against the Philippines because of security fears in the wake of an attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team. The Asia/Oceania Zone Group II competition was scheduled to be played July 10-12 in Lahore, Pakistan. But the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has moved the tie out of Pakistan. Three of the five Filipino players, including Cecil Mamiit, are dual US-Philippine citizens and Philippine Lawn Tennis Association vice president Randy Villanueva feared they may be targeted because they carry American passports. Rashid Khan, secretary of the Pakistan Tennis Federation, called for the series to be held in a third country.

STRUGGLE

Rafael Nadal ended up winning yet another title, but getting past the fourth round was a struggle for the world’s number one player. Nadal had to save five match points before beating David Nalbandian 3-6 7-6 (5) 6-0 in Indian Wells, California. Nalbandian had four match points at 5-3 in the second set and another on his own serve at 5-4. But Nadal survived to beat Nalbandian, snapping a two-match losing streak to the Argentine. “I didn’t go to the match with a clear idea of how to play,” Nadal said. “I was scared about his backhand and it was a mistake. I played too much to his forehand and he killed me.” Nadal ended the week by besting Andy Murray in the title match.

SELECTED

The new president of the Romanian Tennis Federation is 38-year-old Ruxandra Dragomir, who played on the WTA Tour for a number of years. She succeeds Dumitru Haradau, who became the vice-regent president of the federation after Ilie Nastase resigned. During her playing career, Dragomir won four singles and five doubles titles. Her highest ranking was 15th in the world in August of 1997. In 2001 she suffered a major ankle injury, which ultimately resulted in ending her career.

STRONG MOVE

By reaching the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open, Victoria Azarenka continued her strong move up the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings. She became only the second player from Belarus to crack the top ten, joining Natasha Zvereva in that rarified ranking. Azarenka won the first two titles of her career earlier this season, at Brisbane, Australia, and Memphis, Tennessee. And while Azarenka lost to eventual champion Vera Zvonareva in the semifinals, she didn’t come away from Indian Wells without a title. She teamed with Zvonareva to win the doubles, besting Gisela Dulko and Shahar Peer 6-4 3-6 10-5 in the final.

SKIPPING MONTE CARLO

Roger Federer will miss the Monte Carlo Masters where Rafael Nadal will be going after his record fifth consecutive title. “Roger already told me some time ago that he had to renounce to play in our tournament because of a change in his clay season’s schedule,” tournament director Zljko Franulovic. A three-time finalist at Monte Carlo, Federer could still ask for a last-minute wild card if he changes his mind. Last year, Nadal beat Federer in the final. Also missing from the field will be American Andy Roddick.

STILL NUMBER TWO

Dinara Safina failed in her bid to overtake Serena Williams and climb into the number one spot in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings. The Russian would have moved to the top of the rankings had she reached the final of the BPN Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. Instead, she lost to eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals 6-7 6-1 6-3. Safina’s aggressive all-round game was the reason she moved up in the rankings in the past year. But she says she has gotten away from that in recent weeks. “I played three rounds before and I was struggling with every player that I’m playing,” Safina said. “With everyone I played, they were either serving for the set or had set points. I have to finally start playing my game, because I’m not playing it. Since Australia, I’m playing defensive, and it’s not me. I just want to play aggressive.”

SEEING IS UNBELIEVING

Even the Hawk-Eye system was against Ivan Ljubicic on his 30th birthday. The big-serving Croat was playing Andy Murray in a quarterfinal match at Indian Wells when a shot by Murray landed just outside the line. “I didn’t play the ball because it was clearly out,” Ljubicic said later. Murray, however, challenged the line call and everyone seemed surprised when Hawk-Eye showed the ball was good. “The (Hawk-Eye) operator showed a second bounce instead of the first,” Ljubicic said. “It’s just human error, and it’s frustrating when you see such a clear mistake. We really wanted to take control of the human error with that machine, and then you have a human error of the operator who is controlling that machine. It’s a strange situation.” Murray, who ended up winning the match, agreed. “Obviously I got pretty lucky,” Murray said. “Supposedly he (the operator) took the second bounce of the ball, which obviously landed on the line. So it wasn’t the technology problem. It was sort of human error, which can happen with line calls. But I don’t think it had a huge bearing on the outcome or the result.”

STRONG TEEN

Teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is showing her triumphs as a junior was a harbinger of things to come. The Russian battled her way to the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, knocking off second-seeded Jelena Jankovic and seventh-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska before losing to defending champion Ana Ivanovic. It was the first WTA Tour semifinal berth for Pavlyuchenkova, who won three junior Grand Slam tournament titles.

SODERLING SMASH

Robin Soderling made a loss pay off. After losing his first-round match at Indian Wells, California, Soderling flew to Sunrise, Florida, fought his way through qualifying and eventually won the BMW Tennis Championship title. But in the second set of his quarterfinal match, Soderling smashed his racquet and drew a third conduct warning and game penalty to trail 1-3. Although the Swede won his fourth career title, his temper almost knocked him out of the Challenger event. When he missed a backhand pass down the line in the first-set tiebreak, he belted the ball out of the stadium for violation number one. He received another ball abuse penalty before he slammed his racquet to the court for the third violation and game penalty.

SPECIAL CELEBRATION

More than 100 guests attended a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Alumnae Reunion Celebration in Indian Wells, including Hall of Famers Billie Jean King, Tracy Austin and Rosie Casals. Others in attendance included Lindsay Davenport, Pam Shriver, Mima Jausovec, Mary Joe Fernandez and Diane Desfor Stadler. King honored another Hall of Famer, journalist Bud Collins, as the reporter most interested in women’s tennis and truly promoting it. Casals also spoke at the event, which also reflected on the progress made by women’s tennis since the 1970s, and the recent awarding of equal prize money at all four Grand Slam tournaments.

SEXUAL IDENTITY

Women’s tennis once again has to deal with sexual identity on the courts. Sara Gronert, a 22-year-old from Germany, was born with born male and female genitalia, but underwent surgery to become female both legally and physically. That hasn’t stopped some coaches, players and officials from charging that she seems unnaturally strong for a woman and questioning whether she would be allowed to compete against women. “There is no girl who can hit serves like that, not even Venus Williams,” Schlomo Tzoref said after Gronert upset Julia Glushko, whom Tzoref coaches. Gronert has won two USD $10,000 International Tennis Federation tournaments, one in Israel, the other in Germany. Since her last title, she has lost in two USD $10,000 ITF events in France. In the late 1970s Renee Richards became the first reassigned female to play on the women’s tour after a New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor. Richards, then known as Richard Raskin, had played on the Yale University men’s tennis team before undergoing a sex change operation.

SENIOR LEADER

When Pete Sampras beat Patrick Rafter to win the Del Mar Development Champions Cup in Los Cabos, Mexico, he also overtook John McEnroe as the top-ranked player on the Outback Champion Series. It wasn’t easy for Sampras as he fought off two set points in the opening set, including at 5-6 in the first-tie tiebreaker. It was Sampras’ second tournament title this season on the Outback Champions Series and his fifth career title on the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over.

SACKED

It was a rough day for Mashona Washington. She and partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands lost their doubles match at the BNP Paribas Open. Later the same day, Washington was arrested on suspicion of felony vandalism, according to the Riverside Count Sheriff’s Department. The 32-year-old Washington is scheduled to be arraigned on May 14 in Indian Wells, California. According to authorities, a felony vandalism charge is specific to damage estimated at USD $5,000 or more. Washington, who has been ranked as high as 50th in the world, was released on USD $5,000 bail. Mashona Washington is the sister of 1996 Wimbledon runnerup MaliVai Washington.

SPEAKING

Mario Ancic switched from his tennis clothes in Indian Wells to his lawyer garb at Harvard University. Ancic spoke to students at Harvard Law School about the business side of tennis. Ancic received his law degree from the University of Split in his native Split, Croatia. His 90-minute lecture and question-and-answer session at Harvard was based on his thesis describing the “legal foundation and organization of the ATP Tour.” “I had given a couple of speeches before in Croatian, so it was a little more challenging delivering it in English, but I was prepared and I was really happy with the way it went.” Ancic said.

STARRING

A five-person Class of 2009 will be inducted into the USTA New England Hall of Fame on June 6 in a ceremony in Newport, Rhode Island. This year’s inductees are Peter Allen, Jules Cohen, Avis Murray, Jean Osachuk and Aileen Smith Eleey. Murray is a USPTA Master Professional who has held the number one rankings in both the United States Tennis Association and the USPTA.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

ATP

Indian Wells (men): Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick beat Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram 3-6 6-1 14-12 (match tiebreak)

Indian Wells (women): Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva beat Gisela Dulko and Shahar Peer 6-4 3-6 10-5 (match tiebreak)

Sunrise: Eric Butorac and Bobby Reynolds beat Jeff Coetzee and Jordan Kerr 5-7 6-4 10-4 (match tiebreak)

Bogota: Sebastian Prieto and Horacio Zeballos beat Alexander Peya and Fernando Vicente 4-6 6-1 11-9 (match tiebreak)

Marrakech: Ruben Ramirez Hildago and Santiago Ventura beat Alberto Martin and Daniel Munoz-De La Nava 6-3 7-6 (5)

SITES TO SURF

Miami: www.sonyericssonopen.com/

Napoli: www.atpnapoli.com/

Bethanie Mattek-Sands: www.bmattek.com.

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$4,500,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (first week)

WTA TOUR

$4,500,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (first week)

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$4,500,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (second week)

$116,000 Napoli, Italy, clay

WTA TOUR

$4,500,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (second week)