Mondays With Bob Greene: I still have that craving

STARS

Sony Ericsson Open

(First Week)

Samantha Stosur beat second-seeded Dinara Safina 6-1 6-4

Gisela Dulko beat third-seeded Jelena Jankovic 6-4 7-6 (5)

Li Na beat sixth-seeded Vera Zvonareva 6-4 3-6 6-2

Agnes Szavay beat seventh-seeded Ana Ivanovic 6-4 4-6 6-1

Ekaterina Makarova beat ninth-seeded Nadia Petrova 7-5 6-1

SAYING

“I still have that craving.” – Kim Clijsters, saying she will return to professional tennis after a two-year retirement, marriage and motherhood.

“As a past U.S. Open champion and former world number one, Kim (Clijsters) has been a great ambassador for our sport. We are excited about Kim’s return to tennis and look forward to welcoming her to New York this summer.” – Jim Curley, US Open tournament director, confirming Clijsters will receive a wild card into this year’s event.

“It’ll be great for the game because she had such a great spirit and she’s such a good player. And, also she was just so nice. It’s good to have people like that around.” – Serena Williams, on Kim Clijsters’ return to the WTA Tour.

“I am amazed how many players I don’t even know. There are even many names I do not know how to pronounce.” – Kim Clijsters, who left the WTA Tour in 2007.

“Now is the right time for me to embrace a new challenge.” – Larry Scott, announcing he is stepping down as chairman and chief executive of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

“We’re all sad. He had a special vision and the personality and character and talents and abilities to carry it out. It takes someone special like him.” – Venus Williams, about Larry Scott leaving the WTA Tour.

“There is a gap there right now. You can’t deny that. It’s very tough out here.” – Alexa Glatch, acknowledging there are no young American players currently ready to succeed sisters Serena and Venus Williams.

“We don’t have anyone right now. If you look at the rankings, with only Venus at age 28 and Serena at 27, it’s not a good state.” – Lindsay Davenport, agreeing with Glatch on the state of women’s tennis in the United States.

“She’s obviously a great player, and if I can beat her then that means I’m on top of the game, so I hope we can meet in the semifinals.” – Venus Williams, talking about her sister, Serena.

“I’ve been trying to get a win like this for a long time. I was happy I was able to do it and hopefully there will be more to come.” – Samantha Stosur, after upsetting second-seeded Dinara Safina.

“Obviously it’s nice to get to stay in your own bed at the tournament. That doesn’t happen too much throughout the year.” – Andy Murray, noting he has an apartment in South Beach, Florida, not far from the Sony Ericsson Open.

“I’m at the point where I just want to select the tournaments I’m going to enter and not play too much during the year, and really just try to do well in those tournaments.” – Amelie Mauresmo.

“I don’t have a preference. I prefer to go out with a nice and funny girl. Doesn’t matter if she is a player or an artist.” – Rafael Nadal, answering a reporter’s question.

“We have received advice from a variety of sources referring to traveling to India. It is on that basis of security concerns that we have asked for the tie to be moved out of India.” – Steve Wood, chief executive of Tennis Australia, in a statement.

“We’re a wonderful country as hosts. We’ll provide foolproof security and we want the Australian tennis players to come and play in India.” – Anil Khanna, secretary general of the All India Tennis Association and president of the Asian Tennis Federation.

“It is always important for me to be a good sportsman on the court and give the right example for others to follow and hopefully inspire the next generation. It also means the world to me to be the fans’ favorite player for the sixth year in a row. The support I receive from the fans around the world is so motivating.” – Roger Federer, who was named Sportsman of the Year and Fan Favorite on the ATP tour.

“I’m not going to clean off the court, for sure.” – Novak Djokovic, when asked what he will be doing at his own tournament, the Serbia Open.

SHE’S BACK

Shes back

She's back

Ending a two-year retirement that saw her get married and give birth to her daughter Jada, Kim Clijsters will return to the scene of her greatest triumph: the US Open. “I am not coming back to lose in the first rounds,” said Clijsters, who asked for a wild card entry into America’s Grand Slam tournament. “We have been in contact with Kim regarding her comeback and have committed a 2009 US Open wild card to her,” said tournament director Jim Curley. Clijsters also asked for wild-card entries into the hard-court tournaments in Cincinnati and Toronto that lead up to the US Open. The 25-year-old Belgian right-hander won the US Open in 2005 and was runner-up at four other Grand Slam tournaments, the US Open in 2003, the Australian Open in 2004 and Roland Garros in 2001 and 2003. She was ranked number one in the world in both singles and doubles I 2003.

STEPPING DOWN

Larry Scott is stepping down later this year as Sony Ericsson WTA Tour chairman and chief executive and will become commissioner of the Pacific-10 Conference, a college athletic conference in the United States. Under his six-year guidance the WTA Tour has attained equal prize money at every Grand Slam tournament, made sweeping reforms to its calendar and introduced innovations, including electronic line calling. Scott said he began thinking about leaving tennis when the ATP rejected his proposal for a merger of the men’s and women’s tours. “For a variety of reasons it wasn’t accepted,” Scott said. “It’s clear that tennis, for whatever reasons, isn’t ready for that vision to be realized. And then I realized, you know, I’ve done most of the major things that I could want to do. And if this coming together of the men’s and women’s tours is impossible right now, maybe it is a time to think about what else I could do that could be gratifying.” He will work with the WTA Tour board on the selection process for his successor.

SECURITY CONCERNS?

Anil Khanna, secretary general of the All India Tennis Association, says Australia’s call for a change of venue of their upcoming Davis Cup tie is based on unfounded security concerns. Steve Wood, chief executive of Tennis Australia, said his country sent a request for a venue change to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after receiving advice from “a variety of sources.” Khanna, who is also president of the Asian Tennis Federation, said he is expecting the ITF to reject Tennis Australia’s claims. The Asia/Oceania Group I series is scheduled to be played May 8-10, with the winner advancing to the playoffs for a spot in Davis Cup’s elite World Group. The Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket tournament was just moved to South Africa after the Home Ministry said it could not guarantee safety because the dates of the competition clashed with the country’s general elections. In a statement, Wood said: “We have received advice from a variety of sources referring to traveling to India. It is on that basis of security concerns that we have asked for the tie to be moved out of India.”

STAYING PUT

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has rejected Pakistan’s demand to move its Davis Cup tie against the Philippines to a neutral venue. In a letter to Dilawar Abbas, the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) president, the ITF said the second-round tie will be played in Manila. The July 10-12 competition was originally scheduled to be played in Lahore, Pakistan, but was moved to the Philippines after a terrorist attack in Lahore on cricket players from Sri Lanka. Pakistan said it is concerned about its players’ safety in the Philippines, which also has been dogged by violence.

SERIOUS HE IS

John McEnroe lost a reported USD $2 million in what has been called an art investment scam. Art dealer Lawrence Salander was arrested in New York and he and his gallery have been charged with 100 counts, including grand larceny and securities fraud. Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said Salander faces up to 25 years in prison on the most serious charge. McEnroe lost his money by investing a half share in two paintings. Authorities said the share in the paintings was sold at the same time to another collector and McEnroe never recouped the money. The former tennis star was alerted to the scheme when he learned an art collector owned the same painting he had. Twenty-five other victims of Salander’s alleged scheme have been identified.

SERBIA OPEN PROBLEM

In a dispute with the father of Novak Djokovic, Niki Pilic has stepped down as tournament director of the Serbia Open. Pilic said his decision came after Srdjan Djokovic held a news conference “without previously consulting with me and spoke of things he has no place or capacity to talk about.” Pilic said he will remain as advisor to the Serbia Davis Cup team and “this will not influence my cooperation with Novak Djokovic, with whom I still have a great relationship.” Novak Djokovic is part owner of the Serbia Open, which will be held in Belgrade next month.

SWISS CHARM

Roger Federer continues to pile up the trophies off the court. Fellow players voted the Swiss star the winner of the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship award for a record fifth consecutive year, while fans selected Federer for the sixth consecutive year as their favorite. The only other person to win the Stefan Edberg award five times was Edberg himself, and he needed eight years to do it. Rafael Nadal, who became the first player since Bjorn Borg to win both Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year and the first left-hander since John McEnroe in 1984 to finish the year ranked number one in the world, was selected Player of the Year . Other awards went to: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic, Doubles Team of the Year; James Blake, Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Most Improved; Kei Nishikori, Newcomer of the Year; Rainer Schuettler, Comeback Player of the Year; Bob and Mike Bryan, Fans’ Favorite Doubles Team; and Alan Trengove, Ron Bookman Media Excellence Award.

SERENA’S THE ONE

For the second time in her career, Serena Williams has been voted the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour’s Player of the Year. Besides winning the US Open in 2008, the 26-year-old American took over the top ranking for the second time in her career. She also teamed with sister Venus to win the doubles gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. Cara Black and Liezel Huber earned their second award for Doubles Team of the Year, while Dinara Safina was named Most Improved Player. Other awards passed out during the Sony Ericsson Championships in Miami, Florida, went to Zheng Jie, Comeback Player of the Year; Caroline Wozniacki, Newcomer of the Year; Ana Ivanovic, Humanitarian of the Year; Elena Dementieva, Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award; and Liezel Huber, Player Service Award.

SOME LUCK

Dudi Sela, Israel’s top player, lost his qualifying match, yet still reached the main draw of the Sony Ericsson Open when Mario Ancic had to withdraw with an injury. Sela then became a “lucky loser.” Some luck. Sela, who is ranked 57th in the world, was drawn to face former world number one Lleyton Hewitt of Australia in the featured match of the tournament’s opening evening. Hewitt, who received a wild card into the tournament, lost the first set before handing Sela another defeat, this time 3-6 6-4 6-3.

SCULLY AWARD

Dick Enberg, ESPN’s lead commentator on Wimbledon, the French Open and the Australian Open, will receive the second Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Broadcasting. The award will be presented by WFUV Radio at its second annual Spring Gala in New York City on May 6. Also receiving awards that evening will be newscaster Jim Lehrer and musician Paul Simon. The honorees were nominated by their colleagues in their respective field. The award is named for Scully, the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers who is an alumnus of WFUV and is now in his 60th season of broadcasting Dodgers’ baseball games.

STARRING

Hall of Famer Butch Buchholz was honored at the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) and First Serve festivities in Miami, Florida. The special evening also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Sony Ericsson Open. Buchholz, who played key roles in the evolution of both professional and amateur tennis, was inducted into the ITHF in 2005. He was commissioner of World Team Tennis (1977-78), ATP executive director (1981-82) and a member of the International Men’s Pro Council (1981-83). He created the Sony Ericsson Open in 1985 and was also instrumental in setting up an ATP World Tour event in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Buchholz also teamed with Arthur Ashe in 1992 to form the “Good Life Mentoring Program” benefiting hundreds of elementary and middle school children in the greater Miami area. As a player, Buchholz was ranked number five in the world in 1960 and was a member of the United States Davis Cup team in 1959-60.

SAME OLD SPOT

For the third straight home tie, the Czech Davis Cup team will be playing at the CEZ Arena in Ostrava. The Czech Tennis Association announced the site for the Davis Cup quarterfinal competition against Argentina on July 10-12. Playing on the same court, the Czechs defeated Belgium in last year’s first round and France in this year’s opener. The
Czech Republic is looking to reach its first Davis Cup semifinal since 1996 against last year’s runner-up Argentina, which defeated Netherlands in this year’s first round.

SCAMMER BOOTED

A man suspected of being part of a betting scam was ejected from a tournament in Les Ormes, Jersey, Channel Islands, Great Britain. Carl Baldwin, the International Tennis Federation supervisor, confirmed that officials were alerted when a player spotted the man acting suspiciously and relaying scores from matches via his mobile phone. The man was asked to leave the Caversham International Tennis Tournament, and he complied without resistance. Britain’s Katie O’Brien won the tournament when Claire Feuerstein of France retired while trailing 7-5 1-0.

SERVING

Jamshid Ehsani of Greenwich, Connecticut, has been named to the board of directors of USTA Serves, the philanthropic and charitable entity of the United States Tennis Association. Ehsani has served in senior leadership positions with a number of multinational corporations, including the World Bank, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and UBS and Swiss Re Financial Services.

SITES TO SURF

Miami: www.sonyericssonopen.com/

Napoli: www.atpnapoli.com/

Casablanca: www.frmtennis.com

Houston: www.mensclaycourt.com/

Ponte Vedra Beach: http://mpsgroupchamps.net

Marbella, Spain: www.andaluciatennis.com

Torhout: www.koddaertladiesopen.be/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

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

$116,000 Napoli Cup, Napoli, Italy, clay

WTA TOUR

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

DAVIS CUP

Asia/Oceania Group IV at Dhaka, Bangladesh: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Iraq, Jordan, Myanmar, Qatar, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Yemen

Europe/Africa Group IV at Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire: Armenia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Cameroon

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$550,000 Grand Prix Hassan II, Casablanca, Morocco, clay

$500,000 US Men’s Clay Court Championships, Houston, Texas, USA, clay

WTA

$220,000 MPS Group Championships, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA,. Clay

$220,000 Andalucia Tennis Experience, Marbella, Spain, clay

$100,000 Koddaert Ladies Open, Torhout, Belgium, hard