Bob Greene

a native of Portland, Maine, who has covered tennis internationally since 1969. He has twice served as president of the U.S. Tennis Writers Association and in 1980 was named Associated Press Tennis Writer. He retired from The AP in 2001 but continues to write about the sport.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I think that Justine’s comeback is good news for women’s tennis

STARS

Albert Montanes won the BCR Open Romania, beating Juan Monaco 7-6 (2) 7-6 (6) in Bucharest, Romania

Gael Monfils beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6 (1) 3-6 6-2 to win the Open de Moselle in Metz, France

Kimiko Date Krumm beat Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3 6-3 to win the Hansol Korea Open in Seoul, Korea

Shahar Peer won the Tashkent Open, defeating Akgul Amanmuradova 6-3 6-4 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Arantxa Parra-Santonja beat Alexandra Dulgheru 6-4 6-3 to win the Open GDF Suez de Bretagne in Saint Malo, France

Thomas Enqvist beat Michael Chang 6-4 7-6 (5) to win the Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere in Paris, France

Jim Courier beat Pete Sampras 2-6 6-4 10-8 (match tiebreak) to win the Breezeplay Championships in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

SAYING

“A flame I thought was extinguished forever suddenly lit up again.” – Justine Henin, announcing her return to tennis one year after she retired while being ranked number one in the world.

“Justine is that rare athlete who decided to step away from the game at the height of her powers and no doubt she will be a force to be reckoned with.” – Stacey Allaster, WTA Tour CEO, on Justin Henin ending her retirement.

“The match reminded me again that in tennis you really don’t know how anything will turn out before you actually play.” – Kimiko Date Krumm, at 38 years, 11 months, 30 days becoming the second oldest player in the Open Era to win a singles title on the WTA Tour.

“When I was on court, I didn’t feel like she was 38. She won five matches in a row this week, four in three sets, more than two and a half hours, and today she was running like it was the first day.” – Anabel Medina Garrigues, after losing to Kimiko Date Krumm in the final of the Hansol Korea Open.

“For a long time people spoke about my lost finals. But now the curse is over.” – Gael Monfils, who ended a four-year title drought with his victory at the Open de Moselle.

“I think that Justine’s comeback is good news for women’s tennis but even better news for Belgium in general. … For tennis it is brilliant that she’s back.” – Kim Clijsters, on the return of Justine Henin.

“When I saw the draw I thought I could beat her. But you never know what she’s going to bring.” – Lucie Safarova, after beating former world number one Ana Ivanovic in a first-round match in Tokyo.

“I’m a little bit disappointed, but sports is like this. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.” – Juan Monaco, after losing the BCR Open Romania to Albert Montanes.

“We’ve played our first two tournaments together in the last two weeks and won them both. It’s a great feeling.” – Tatiana Poutchek, who teamed with Olga Govortsova to win the doubles in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, a week after winning in Guangzhou, China.

“It was a fabulous and glorious end, but he got a bad call late in the fifth set. He didn’t argue it.” – Jack Kramer’s son Bob, talking at his father’s memorial service.

SHE’S BACK

After watching fellow Belgian countrywoman Kim Clijsters win the US Open, another former number one player, Justine Henin, has decided to end her retirement. “The past 15 months I have been able to recharge my physical batteries, mental batteries (and) emotional batteries,” Henin said. Winner of four French Opens, two US Opens and the Australian Open, Henin said she plans to return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in January in Australia. Henin was 25 years old when she retired in May 2008, saying she no longer had passion for tennis. She now says the passion is back. She will begin her comeback by playing exhibition tournaments in Dubai and Belgium in November and December. “Justine is one of the great champions in the history of women’s tennis and we, along with millions of her fans around the globe, are thrilled with her announcement today,” WTA Tour chief Stacey Allaster said in a statement.

STILL SORE

Rafael Nadal has pulled out of the Thailand Open because of an acute rupture of an abdominal muscle. Nadal admitted the injury contributed to his US Open semifinal loss to eventual champion Juan Martin del Potro. The Spaniard is expected to be sidelined for two to three weeks. Nadal will remain in Spain to receive treatment for the injury.

STAYING HOME

Citing exhaustion, Roger Federer withdrew from the Japan Open and Shanghai ATP Masters. “This will allow me a chance to give my body a chance to rest, rehabilitate and recover from a physically challenging year,” Federer said in a statement. The Swiss star reached the final of all four Grand Slam tournaments this year, winning the French Open for the first time and breaking Pete Sampras’ record by capturing his 15th major title at Wimbledon. He also earned two points in Switzerland’s 3-2 Davis Cup victory over Italy in September.

STAYING THE COURSE

The retirements of Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin were just like taking weekends off if you compare them to Kimiko Date Krumm. Once ranked as high as fourth in the world, Date Krumm was retired for 12 years before returning to the tennis tour. After eight consecutive first-round losses, Date Krumm won not only a match but a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournament when she defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3 6-3 in the final of the Korea Open in Seoul. It was her first WTA Tour title since 1996 and, at age 38 years, 11 months and 30 days, the Japanese veteran becomes the second oldest player to win a Tour singles title, behind Billie Jean King. Date Krumm enjoyed success on the ITF women’s circuit before rejoining the WTA Tour. “For the past year I didn’t know if I could compete well on the Tour, but now it looks OK,” Date Krumm said.

SRICHAPHAN RETURNS

Paradorn Srichaphan never retired, he just stopped playing because of injuries. Now, the former ninth-ranked player will play doubles at the Thailand Open this week, his first action since March 2007. “I wanted to come back by using the Thailand Open as my tournament,” said the best player ever to come out of Thailand. “I’m not fit enough for the singles.” Srichaphan, who has won five career titles, underwent surgery on his wrist in Los Angeles in 2007 and again in Bangkok, Thailand, earlier this year. He and countryman Danai Udomchoke received a wild card entry into the Thailand Open.

SAD SENDOFF

Several hundred spectators paid tribute to Hall of Famer Jack Kramer as he was remembered at a memorial service at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. Kramer died on September 12 after a battle with cancer. The 88-year-old is survived by five children and eight grandchildren. US Open tournament director Jim Curley, calling Kramer a pioneer, said: “Every one of us who makes our living in professional tennis owes a debt of gratitude to Jack” Hall of Famer Pam Shriver and Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times served as hosts of the ceremony.

SWITZERLAND-SPAIN TIE

They’ve met in the finals of the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon. Now, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer could battle in the opening round of the 2010 Davis Cup. Spain and Switzerland could face each other in the first round of World Group play next year. The world’s top two players have never faced each other in Davis Cup action since neither played when the two nations met in a first-round tie in 2007, Spain winning 3-2. “I truly enjoy playing for my country but I’ll also have to see where I have my priorities for next season,” Federer said. “Of course, there are the Grand Slams, but there is also number one, which is a bit of a dilemma. Like in the other years, I will see after the Australian Open how I feel and if I play the first round.”

SET FOR HOPMAN

Teen-ager Melanie Oudin and big John Isner both made big splashes at the US Open where they recorded huge upsets. Now they’ll team up to lead the United States challenge at the 2010 Hopman Cup. Oudin is ranked 43rd in the world after her US Open run to the quarterfinals where she upset top 10 player Elena Dementieva and former world number one Maria Sharapova. The 6-foot-9 (2.06 m) Isner used his big serve to upset fellow American Andy Roddick before losing to Roger Federer in the fourth round. Others confirmed for the Hopman Cup, which runs from January 2-9, include Australians Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur, and Russians Igor Andreev and Dementieva.

STAYING HOME

Serena Williams won’t be playing in Tokyo this week because of injuries. The Australian and Wimbledon champion pulled out of the Pan Pacific Open with problems with her knee and toe. She has not played a singles match since her rant at a lineswoman in her semifinal loss to Kim Clijsters at the US Open. Serena will be the only member of the women’s top 10, including her older sister Venus, not competing in the USD $2 million event.

SPARKLING PLAY

The British duo of Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski finally have a title to go along with the scalps of top doubles teams they have collected. “This is our first (direct) acceptance at ATP World Tour level,” Skupski said, then noted that in the previous three ATP events they’re played they have beaten American twins Bob and Mike Bryan as well as the Brazilian duo of Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa. “So we always knew that we were capable of beating top guys,” he said. At Metz, France, Fleming and Skupski upset the top-seeded team of Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra 2-6 6-4 10-5 (match tiebreak) to win the Open de Moselle. En route to the final, they also knocked off the third-seeded team of Christopher Kas and Rogier Wassen.

SUCCESS FINALLY

When Jim Courier beat Pete Sampras for the first time since the opening round of the 1997 Italian Open, it gave him the title of the $150,000 Breezeplay Championships at The Palisades Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. It was Courier’s ninth career title on the Outback Champions Series, the global circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. Courier clinched the title when Sampras double-faulted on match point. “I was serving right into the sun on that one and it hurt a little bit,” Sampras said. During their ATP Tour careers, Sampras beat Courier 16 times in their 20 meetings, including the Wimbledon final in 1993.

SURPRISE TREAT

Andre Agassi, making his Outback Champions Series debut, and Mikael Pernfors will clash in the opening round of the 2009 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships to be held October 8-11 in Surprise, Arizona, USA. Agassi will be the eighth former world number one to compete in the Outback Champions Series, a global tennis circuit for champion players age 30 and over. Others competing this year include Mark Philippoussis, Wayne Ferreira, Jim Courier, Todd Martin, Aaron Krickstein and Jimmy Arias. Other former number one players who have competed on the Outback Champions Series include Pete Sampras, Courier, Pat Rafter, Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander, Thomas Muster and John McEnroe.

STOPPING

Sergio Roitman says he will retire from professional tennis at the conclusion of the Copa Petrobas, an ATP World Tour Challenger tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A native of Buenos Aires, Roitman announced his decision at the draw ceremony. “It is a strange moment for me, but the time has come for me to leave professional tennis,” said Roitman. “Physically, I cannot compete at the highest level anymore. I think this is the best place to retire, at a tournament that has given me a lot of pleasure and surrounded by people that have helped me and whom I love very much.” Currently ranked 124th in the world, the 30-year-old Roitman reached a career-high 62 in singles in October 2007. During his 14-year-old career he won two ATP World Tour doubles titles, and achieved high highest doubles ranking of 45th in the world in September 2008.

SERBIAN JAIL

Jelena Dokic’s father has had his 15-month prison sentence confirmed by a Serbian court. The retrial for Damir Dokic was held because the Australian ambassador to Serbia, Clair Birgin, did not testify in person during the original hearing in June. This time she was again represented by a lawyer. In June, Dokic was found guilty of “endangering the security” of Ambassador Birgin as well as unlawful possession of weapons, including a hand grenade. Dokic was arrested after reportedly saying he would blow up Birgin’s car if she didn’t stop negative articles about him from being published in Australia. Now 26 years old, Jelena Dokic was born in the former Yugoslavia and migrated with her family to Australia as a child and represented her adopted country at the 2000 Olympics. She renounced her Australian ties in 2001 and moved back to Serbia, only to return to Australia in 2006.

SERENA SPONSOR

Serena Williams is featured in a lighthearted campaign for Tampax. The Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co. said Williams will take on Tampax’s “Mother Nature” character in new magazine print advertising. Company officials said Williams represents the energy, independence and strength of women they want to celebrate. The campaign was in the works before Williams was fined $10,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct during the US Open when she harangued a lineswoman. P&G spokesman David Bernens said: “Clearly she admitted she made a mistake. She apologized. We support her apology.”

SENIOR SPONSOR

The Masters Tennis at Royal Albert Hall in London has a new sponsor. AEGON will become the title sponsor of the senior event that has featured an array of Wimbledon champions, including Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras. The tournament will be known as the AEGON Masters Tennis as the life assurance and pensions company’s involvement in the sport in Great Britain continues to grow. The new sponsorship means AEGON is involved in British tennis at every level, from grass roots development to the hugely popular senior event. Among those expected to compete this year will be Wimbledon champions Goran Ivanisevic and Stefan Edberg, along with two-time Wimbledon finalist Patrick Rafter.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Bucharest: Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 6-4

Metz: Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski beat Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra 2-6 6-4 10-5 (match tiebreak)

Seoul: Chan Yung-Jan and Abigail Spears beat Carly Gullickson and Nicole Kriz 6-3 6-4

Tashkent: Olga Govortsova and Tatiana Poutchek beat Vitalia Diatchenko and Ekaterina Dzehalevich 6-2 6-7 (1) 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Saint Malo: Timea Bacsinszky and Tathiana Garbin beat Andreja Klepac and Aurelie Vedy 6-3 retired

SITES TO SURF

Bangkok: www.thailandopen.org

Kuala Lumpur: www.malasianopentennis.com/

Athens: www.vogueathensopen.com

Beijing: www.chinaopen.cn/

Tokyo: http://rakutenopen.rakuten.co.jp/en/index.html

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$947,750 Proton Malaysia Open, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hard

$608,500 PTT Thailand Open, Bangkok, Thailand, hard

WTA

$2,000,000 Toray Pan Pacific Open, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$100,000 Vogue Athens Open, Athens, Greece, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$3,337,000 China Open, Beijing, China, hard

$1,226,500 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, Tokyo, Japan, hard

WTA

$4,500,000 China Open, Beijing, China, hard

$100,000 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, Tokyo, Japan, hard

SENIORS

$150,000 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships, Surprise, Arizona, USA

Mondays With Bob Greene: I Fought For My Country

STARS

Shahar Peer won the GDD-Guangzhou International Women’s Open, beating Alberta Brianti 6-3 6-4 in Guangzhou, China

Melinda Czink beat Lucie Safarova 4-6 6-3 7-5 to win the Bell Challenge in Quebec City, Canada

Evgeny Korolev beat Florent Serra 6-4 6-3 to win the Pekao Szczecin Open in Szczecin, Poland

DAVIS CUP

World Group Semifinals

Czech Republic beat Croatia 4-1 in Porec, Croatia

Spain beat Israel 4-1 in Murcia, Spain

World Group Playoffs

Switzerland beat Italy 3-2, France beat Netherlands 4-1, Sweden beat Romania 3-21, Serbia beat Uzbekistan 5-0, India beat South Africa 4-1, Belgium beat Ukraine 3-2, Ecuador beat Brazil 3-2, and Chile played Austria

Americas Zone

Group I Playoff: Peru vs. Uruguay beat Peru 4-1; Group II Final: Dominican Republic beat Venezuela 3-2

Asia-Oceania Zone

Group I Playoff: China beat Thailand 4-1. Group II 3rd Round: Philippines beat New Zealand 4-1

Europe/Africa Zone

Group I Playoffs: Slovak Republic beat FYR Macedonia 5-1; Poland beat Great Britain 3-2; Group II 3rd Round: Latvia beat Slovenia 3-2; Finland beat Cyprus 3-2

SAYING

“I feel like I was in a 10-round boxing match. Everything hurts.” – Ivo Karlovic, who served a record 78 aces, yet lost his Davis Cup match against Radek Stepanek.

“I fought for my country. It was an amazing game.” – Radek Stepanek, who survived Ivo Karlovic’s record 78 aces to win 6-7 (5) 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) 6-7 (2) 16-14.

“I have to go on holiday badly. I have a problem with my leg. I have a problem with my arm – everything is hurting. And I’ve got to do some babysitting.” – Roger Federer, after helping Switzerland beat Italy and remain in the World Group in 2010.

“I tried everything, but he was particularly good today.” – Potito Starace, who lost to Roger Federer to give Switzerland an insurmountable lead in its Davis Cup playoff against Italy.

“It’s not the way to act – win or lose, good call or bad call, in any sport, in any manner.” – Serena Williams, apologizing for her verbal assault towards a line judge during the US Open women’s final.

“I was very tired after the first two sets, lost the third and the fourth. But then, when I went to the locker room when the fourth set finished, I told my brother I wasn’t going to lose the match. This is the beauty of Davis Cup, the energy of a team and the energy of a country.” – Nicolas Lapentti, whose 6-4 6-4 1-6 2-6 8-6 victory over Marcos Daniel clinched Ecuador’s World Group Playoff tie over Brazil.

“It’s like David against Goliath – and we know who won that one!” – Andy Ram, before Israel played Spain in a Davis Cup semifinal. This time Goliath won.

“I hope it’s the start of something.” – Eyal Ran, Israel’s Davis Cup captain, on his team’s surprising run to the World Group semifinals.

“I hope to come back next year and do better. Unless you win, you can always do better.” – Lucie Safarova, who lost to Melinda Czink in the final of the Bell Challenge.

“I thought they (India) were trying different tactics. I couldn’t understand why he (Mahesh Bhupathi) was serving and staying back.” – Jeff Coetzee, who with his partner Wesley Moodie earned South Africa’s lone point in their Davis Cup tie against India when the Indian doubles team was forced to retire after Bhupathi suffered a groin injury.

“At last we are where we deserve to be.” – Andy Murray, on Great Britain being relegated to Group II in the Euro/Africa Zone after losing its Davis Cup tie to Poland.

SMOKIN’

Ivo Karlovic slammed a record 78 aces yet lost his Davis Cup match against Radek Stepanek in a marathon that lasted one minute short of six hours. Stepanek’s 6-7 (5) 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) 6-7 (2) 16-14 victory gave the Czech Republic a 2-0 first-day lead over Croatia. The Czechs captured the tie 4-1 and advanced to the final against Spain. The 82 games equaled the Davis Cup record since tiebreakers were introduced in 1989, but the elapsed time was well short of two matches played by John McEnroe, against Mats Wilander in 1982 and against Boris Becker in 1987, both of which lasted around 6½ hours. Karlovic wasted four match points in the final set, and there were only five break-point chances in the match. Karlovic obliterated both the men’s record and Davis Cup record for aces, marks he held. He had 55 aces in a loss to Lleyton Hewitt at the French Open in May, and his previous Davis Cup mark was 47, which he shared with Brazil’s Gustavo Kuerten and Switzerland’s Marc Rosset.

SMALL CHANGE?

Apparently apparel company Fila has deep pockets. According to reports, Kim Clijsters was given a significant bonus by her shoe and clothing sponsor for her surprising US Open singles championship. And where companies usually insure these bonuses, CNBC says Fila did not. The bonus is reported to be in the range of USD $300,000, which could buy a lot of shoes for Clijsters’ young daughter. Darren Rovell of SportsBiz says that while it’s standard practice for companies to insure their big incentive bonuses to minimize the risk, Fila didn’t do it with Clijsters since she had played just two tournaments following a two-year retirement. The odds on Clijsters winning were as high as 40-to-1.

STAYING UP

You can excuse Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych if they want to take an extra nap or two. Between them, the Czech duo played for nearly 10 hours on the first day of the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup semifinal against Croatia. But the two then joined forces on the second day to play – and win – their doubles, clinching a spot for the Czech Republic in the final against Spain. On the first day, Stepanek needed one minute less than 6 hours to outlast Ivo Karlovic, and then Berdych was on court for 3 hours 48 minutes to down Marin Cilic in five sets. Together, Stepanek and Berdych needed only 2 hours, 16 minutes to defeat Lukas Dlouhy and Jan Hajek. Stepanek and Berdych are unbeaten together in Davis Cup doubles, improving their record to 5-0, including 3-0 this season.

SINKING BRITS

Even with Andy Murray playing all three days, Great Britain was relegated to Group Two of the Euro/African zonal play when Poland won their Davis Cup tie 3-2. Murray won both of his singles matches, but Michal Przysiezny beat Dan Evans in the decisive singles to give Poland the victory. It is the first time in 13 years that Great Britain has been dropped to the third tier of the world-wide competition. Evans also lost his first-day singles match to Jerzy Janowicz, But Poland’s Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski beat Murray and Ross Hutchins in the doubles.

SURPRISING BELGIUM

When talking about Belgium tennis, most are thinking about the women. The country has produced former number ones Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, the latter winning the US Open earlier this month on her return to the sport following a two-year retirement. But Belgium’s men have also proved their mettle, keeping the country in the World Group for 2010 by besting Ukraine 3-2. And that came despite Belgium losing it’s number one player with an injury just hours before the Davis Cup Playoff began. Olivier Rochus withdrew with a leg injury, but his brother Christophe Rochus joined with Steve Darcis to help Belgium beat Ukraine.

SETTLED SUIT

Zina Garrison has settled the racial discrimination suit she brought against the United States Tennis Association (USTA). A deal was signed on August 27, although its terms were not disclosed. A former Fed Cup captain, Garrison filed her lawsuit in February, saying she was unfairly treated, paid a lower salary than Davis Cup coach Patrick McEnroe while being held to higher standards. As a player, Garrison was the 1990 Wimbledon runner-up, at the time becoming the first black woman since Althea Gibson to play in a Grand Slam tournament singles final. She became the first black captain of the US Fed Cup team when she replaced Billie Jean King in 2004. Spokesman Chris Widmaier said the USTA is happy the case was resolved and looks forward to working with Garrison in the future.

STOP RIGHT NOW

Martina Hingis should stick to tennis and stay away from dancing, at least according to the British public. Hingis became the first celebrity to be ousted from the new BBBC reality talent show, “Strictly Come Dancing.” It’s England’s answer to the American TV show “Dancing With The Stars.” Hingis and her partner Matthew Cutler were in the bottom two when phone votes were added to the judges’ score. They then lost a dance-off against policeman-turned-crime-presenter Rav Wilding and his partner Aliona Vilani. Two years ago, Cutler teamed with Alesha Dixon to win the competition. This year, Dixon, a singer, is a judge on the show.

SERENA SPEAKS

Admitting she lost her cool, Serena Williams has issued an apology for her outburst towards a line judge in her women’s singles final at the US Open. “I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately,” Williams said. “I want to sincerely apologize first to the lineswoman, Kim Clijsters, the US Tennis Association and tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst.” The line judge had called a foot fault on Williams on her second serve, giving Clijsters match point. William, who already had been handed a code violation for racquet abuse, unleashed a tirade towards the line judge, briefly walked away, and then returned for another blast at the official. When chair umpire Louise Engzell asked the line judge what had been said, she called for the tournament referee Brian Earley and eventually ordered a point penalty, the next level of punishment under the code. That gave the match to Clijsters. Williams was fined USD $10,000 for the infraction, and was further penalized USD $500 for the racquet abuse.

SPEAK YE NOT

Saying the “magic” word cost Roger Federer a USD $1,500 fine at the US Open. The Swiss superstar was fined for using a profanity while arguing with the chair umpire during the US Open final. Television microphones picked up the naughty word during the live broadcast of the match. Tournament spokesman said Federer was fined the same amount as two other players – Vera Zvonareva and Daniel Koellerer – for audible obscenities. Daniel Nestor was fined USD $5,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct toward a fan, but the big loser at this year’s final Grand Slam tournament was Serena Williams, who was docked USD $10,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct. She also was fined USD $500 for racket abuse.

SUCCESS

Melinda Czink is finally a winner on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The left-hander from Hungary beat Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic to capture the Bell Challenge in Quebec City, Canada. Playing in her second career final, it was Czink’s first title. “It feels great. I haven’t really processed it year, but I will,” she said. Czink’s first final was somewhat historic. She lost to Ana Ivanovic in the final round of qualifying in Canberra, Australia, in 2005, gained entry into the main draw as a “lucky loser,” then met and lost to Ivanovic in the final, the only known time that has happened.

SAYS YOU, SAYS ME

India has two of the world’s best doubles players. Both are now sidelined with injuries. Leander Paes pulled out of India’s Davis Cup World Group Playoff tie against South Africa because of an injury he sustained during the US Open, where he won the doubles title with Lucas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic and reached the mixed doubles final with Cara Black of Zimbabwe. Mahesh Bhupathi, who lost the men’s doubles with his partner Mark Knowles of the Bahamas, suffered a groin injury during the Davis Cup doubles. The injury forced the Indian doubles team to retire, giving South Africa its lone point in the tie.

SOME KIND OF PROBLEM

Albert Costa has a problem every Davis Cup captain would love to have. Costa has been Spain’s Davis Cup captain for just nine months, but already he faces several decisions that could make him unpopular with several players and their supporters. Costa’s team just swept past Israel 4-1 to return to the final to defend their Davis Cup title. This time they will take on the Czech Republic, which beat Croatia. Costa’s problem. His top two players missed the Israeli tie because of injuries. Does he now name the players who took Spain to the final or go with the two missing players – second ranked Rafael Nadal and ninth-ranked Fernando Verdasco. Of course, there may be no problem. Although injured, both Nadal and Verdasco sat through all three live rubbers on Friday and Saturday, cheering on their compatriots.

SEATS ARE FREE

Admittance to next week’s Vogue Athens Open will be free. The organizers Liberis Publications and Hellenic Tennis Federation decided to open the doors to the public for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event that will be played on the same courts where five years ago the Athens Olympic Games were held. The decision was also made because of the large capacity at the Olympic Tennis Center. All seats are available to anyone, beginning with the qualifying all the way through the final, which will be played on October 4.

STAYING HOME

Juan Martin del Potro’s five-set upset of five-time defending champion Roger Federer had the fans at home turning on their television sets. The men’s final, which was postponed because of rain to Monday, drew a 2.3 rating and 5 share on CBS. That’s up 35 percent from the 2008 final, which was also played on Monday because of rain delays. That was when Federer beat Andy Murray in straight sets. Ratings represent the percentage of all households with televisions, and shares represent the percentage of all homes with TVs in use at the time.

SEEING IS BELIEVING

Things at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center are normal. The US Open set an attendance record this year, just as it has done every year. This year’s attendance was 721,059, slightly more than the previous record of 720,227 set last year. The tournament also set a Week One attendance record of 423,427, including a single-day high of 61,554 for the combined day and night sessions on the first Friday.

SPONSOR

Remember Melanie Oudin, the 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, who reached the quarterfinals of the US Open. Well, she has signed on to be a pitch woman for AirTran Airways Inc., an Orlando, Florida-based company. Oudin became the youngest woman to reach the US Open quarterfinals since Serena Williams did it in 1999. Oudin had victories over fourth-ranked Elena Dementieva, 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova and former US Open champion Maria Sharapova. The youngster is currently ranked 44th in the world and is the third-highest ranked American woman, behind sisters Serena and Venus Williams. AirTran, a low-cost airline, recently took over as the official airline of the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Guangzhou: Olga Govortsova and Tatiana Poutchek beat Kimiko Date Krumm and Sun Tiantian 3-6 6-2 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Quebec City: Vania King and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova beat Sofia Arvidsson and Severine Bremond Beltrame 6-1 6-3

Szczecin: Tomasz Bednarek and Mateusz Kowalczyk beat Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. and Artem Smirnov 6-3 6-4

SITES TO SURF

Bucharest: www.bcropenromania.ro/

Metz: www.openmoselle.com

Hansol: www.hansolopen.com

Tashkent: www.tashkentopen.uz

Saint Malo: www.opengdfsuez-bretagne.com

Bangkok: www.thailandopen.org

Kuala Lumpur: www.malasianopentennis.com/

Athens: www.vogueathensopen.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$650,000 BCR Open Romania, Bucharest, Romana, clay

$650,000 Open de Moselle, Metz, France, hard

WTA

$220,000 Hansol Korea Open, Seoul, Korea, hard

$220,000 Tashkent Open, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hard

$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Bretagne, Saint Malo, France, clay

SENIORS

Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere, Paris, France, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$947,750 Proton Malaysia Open, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hard

$608,500 Thailand Open, Bangkok, Thailand, hard

WTA

$2,000,000 Toray Pan Pacific Open, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$100,000 Vogue Athens Open, Athens, Greece, hard

Mondays With Bob Greene: I can’t believe this happened

STARS

(US Open)

Men’s singles:

Women’s singles: Kim Clijsters beat Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 6-3

Men’s doubles: Leander Paes and Lukas Dlouhy beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 3-6 6-3 6-2

Women’s doubles: Serena Williams and Venus Williams beat Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-2 6-2

Mixed doubles: Carly Gullickson and Travis Parrott beat Cara Black and Leander Paes 6-2 6-4

Boys’ singles: Bernard Tomic beat Chase Buchanan 6-1 6-3

Girls’ singles: Heather Watson beat Yana Buchina 6-4 6-1

Boys’ doubles: Cheng Peng Hsieh and Marton Fucsovics beat Julien Obry and Adrien Puget 7-6 (5) 5-7 10-1 (match tiebreak)

Girls’ doubles: Valeria Solovieva and Maryna Zanevska beat Elena Bogdan and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn 1-6 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Men’s wheelchair singles: Shingo Kunieda beat Maikel Scheffers 6-0 6-0

Men’s wheelchair doubles: Stephane Houdet and Stefan Olsson beat Maikel Scheffers and Ronald Vink 6-4 4-6 6-4

Women’s wheelchair singles: Esther Vergeer beat Korie Homan 6-0 6-0

Women’s wheelchair doubles: Esther Vergeer and Korie Homan beat Daniela DiToro and Florence Gravellier 6-2 6-2

OTHER:

Alberto Martin beat Carlos Berlocq 6-3 6-3 to win the AON Open Challenger in Genoa, Italy

SAYING

“When I would have a dream, it was to win the US Open, and the other one is to be like Roger. One is done.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after beating Roger Federer and winning the US Open men’s singles.

“Five was great, four was great, too. Six would have been a dream, too. Can’t have them all. I’ve had an amazing summer and a great run. I’m not too disappointed just because I thought I played another wonderful tournament.” – Roger Federer, after losing the US Open men’s singles final to Juan Martin del Potro.

“I can’t believe this happened. Because it still seems so surreal that in my third tournament back I won my second Grand Slam. Because it wasn’t in the plan. I just wanted to come here and get a feel for it all over again, play a Grand Slam so to start the next year I didn’t have to go through all the new experiences over.” – Kim Clijsters, who won her second straight US Open women’s title four years after her first title.

“I think that I’ll learn that it pays to always play your best and always be your best and always act your best no matter what. And I think that I’m young and I feel like in life everyone has to have experience that they take and that they learn from, and I think that’s great that I have an opportunity to still b e physically fit to go several more years and learn from the past.” – Serena Williams, after losing her semifinal to Kim Clijsters after receiving a point penalty on match point.

“I cannot really tell that I was playing bad. She was playing good.” – Kateryna Bondarenko, after losing to Yanina Wickmayer.

“Today, I could’ve been better in pretty much every part of my game, whether it was mental, forehand, backhand, return.” – Andy Murray, after losing his fourth-round match to Marin Cilic.

“I lost it myself because I made so many unforced errors. So many unforced errors, you can’t win against anybody. No chance.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after committing 69 unforced errors in her three-set loss to Caroline Wozniacki.

“I was thinking, every point, do the same, try to put the ball in the court. When you fight that way to the final point, you have many chances, and that’s what happened today.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after his quarterfinal win.

“I think the biggest weapon can be mental toughness. It doesn’t have to be a stroke or a shot or anything like that. If you’re mentally tough out there, then you can beat anyone.” – Melanie Oudin, after beating Maria Sharapova to advance to the fourth round.

STARTING NEW ERA

By winning the US Open, Juan Martin del Potro became only the third player to beat both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the same tournament. He also became the first player this year to defeat the world’s top three players, having also beat Andy Murray in Madrid, Spain. Del Potro is the first South American to be in the US Open final since fellow Argentine Guillermo Vilas won in 1977, and the first South African to be in a Grand Slam final since Fernando Gonzalez of Chile lost to Federer in the 2007 Australian Open.

SO SWEET, SO WRONG

After he ran onto the court to kiss Rafael Nadal, a New York City man, Noam U. Aorta, was arrested and charged with trespassing. Aorta jumped out of the stands after Nadal beat Gael Monfils in a fourth-round match. “For me it wasn’t a problem. The guy was really nice,” Nadal said. “He said, ‘I love you,’ and he kissed me.” District Attorney Richard Brown called it “particularly disturbing” since Aorta made physical contact with Nadal, noting that Monica Seles was stabbed in 1993 by a spectator who jumped out of the stands in Hamburg, Germany.

SAFINA STILL ON TOP

Serena Williams lost the chance to move back into the number one spot on the women’s tennis tour. The American could have replaced Dinara Safina on the top of the rankings if she had successfully defended her US Open title. Instead, she lost to eventual champion Kim Clijsters in the semifinals and, consequently, will remain in the number two spot.

The US Open was the third tournament back for US Open champion Kim Clijsters since she ended her two-year retirement. And you need to play three tournaments to get a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour ranking. In this week’s rankings, Clijsters is number 19 in the world.

SEASON-ENDING QUALIFIERS

The world’s top doubles team, Cara Black and Liezel Huber, are the first to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held October 27-November 1 in Doha, Qatar. It will be the third trip the final Championships for Black and Huber, having clinched the title in the last two years. The top four doubles teams will compete for the title. Two players have already qualified for the eight-player singles competition, Dinara Safina and Serena Williams.

STANDING FOR ELECTION

Doubles players will get a chance to shine in the 2010 International Tennis Hall of Fame ITHF) balloting. The ITHF announced the names of the 12 nominees for possible induction into the Newport, Rhode Island, shrine next year, including Beatrizs “Gigi” Fernandez, Natasha Zvereva, Todd Woodbridge, Mark Woodforde and Anders Jarryd. On the ballot in the Master Player category are Owen Davidson, Peter Fleming and Bob Lutz, while the Contributor category has four nominees: wheelchair tennis pioneer Brad Parks, coach Nick Bollettieri, Lawn Tennis Association chairman Derek Hardwick and Japan’s Eichi Kawatei. Voting for the 2010 ballot will take place over the next several months with an announcement of the induction class scheduled for January. The Class of 2010 induction ceremony will be held July 10 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport.

SUGIYAMA RETIRING

Ai Sugiyama is ready to say sayonara. The Japanese veteran says she will probably retire at the end of this year, concluding her 17-year career. She once was ranked as high as number eight in the world. “I am normally the type that can picture what the near future holds, but to be honest at this moment in time, I can’t see myself competing next season,” Sugiyama told Kyodo news. She won six WTA Tour singles titles and doubles championships at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. She lost in the Australian Open final this year.

SPECIAL MOMS

When Kim Clijsters won the US Open, she became the first mother to win a Grand Slam tournament singles title since Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley captured Wimbledon in 1980. But Clijsters wasn’t the only mother competing at America’s premier tennis event. Sybille Bammer of Austria lost in the first round to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, while Rossana de los Rios of Paraguay fell to 14th-seeded Marion Bartoli in her first-round match. After the birth of her baby, Bammer climbed as high as number 19 in the world and won at Prague, Czech Republic, earlier this year. De los Rios has won six ITF singles titles since giving birth to her daughter in 1997.

SAD WEEK

Sloane Stephens was looking forward to the US Open junior girls tournament, where she was seeded fourth. But just before junior play got underway, Stephens’ father, former NFL running back John Stephens, died in a car accident. The 16-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, took a day off to fly to her father’s funeral in Louisiana, then returned to win her second-round match. But she lost her next outing to Jana Cepelova of Slovakia 4-6 6-1 6-0. “I was trying to focus and do things I should have done, but mentally I wasn’t there,” she said. The youngster had reconnected with her father three years ago and she had met him only a handful of times, but the two had developed a relationship over the telephone.

SISTER ACT

Venus and Serena Williams won their 10th Grand Slam tournament women’s doubles title, beating the top-seeded team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber. The sisters have never lost in a Grand Slam tournament once they’ve reached the final. “Hopefully that’s a record that won’t end yet,” Serena said. It is their first US Open doubles crown since 1999, and the sisters are now halfway to the record set by Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver.

SUITE NEWS

As far as fans were concerned, Melanie Oudin didn’t outstay her welcome at the US Open. That’s not true about her New York City hotel room. The 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, was one of the biggest surprises of this year’s final Grand Slam event, reaching the quarterfinals before being eliminated. But she outstayed her hotel reservation at the Marriott in Manhattan, according to SportsBusiness Journal. Her management company quickly got her a room at the Intercontinental Hotel. Oudin, who was not seeded, was not expected to play in the second week of the US Open. So the room she shared with her mother was apparently reserved for someone else. “Obviously we will not be sending any of our players back to that hotel (the Marriott),” Oudin’s agent, BEST Tennis president John Tobias, told the Journal.

STILL RELEVANT

He won the first US Open in 1968 and the main stadium at America’s premier tennis tournament is named for him. But it wasn’t until this year that Arthur Ashe was inducted into the US Open Court of Champions, which honors the greatest singles champions in the history of the 128 years of the US Championships/US Open. Ashe joined prior inductees Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Jimmy Connors, Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Althea Gibson, Steffi Graf, Billie Jean King, Jack Kramer, Rod Laver, Ivan Lendl, Molla Bjurstedt Mallory, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Bill Tilden and Helen Wills. An international panel of journalists selects the inductees annually. Former President Bill Clinton participated in Ashe’s induction ceremonies.

SET FOR DOHA

US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki and Elena Dementieva are the latest to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held October 27-November 1 in Doha, Qatar. The world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams will compete for the Sony Ericsson Championships title and a share of the record Championships prize money of USD $4.45 million.

STAYING IN TOUCH

Fans attending the US Open sent a record number of emails and text, picture and video messages from in and around Arthur Ashe Stadium the first week of the tournament. “US Open fans are letting their fingers do the talking this year as increasing numbers of Verizon Wireless customers use Smartphones and PDAs to stay in touch with their homes and offices,” said Michele White, executive director-network for company’s New York Metro Region. “The number of data connections established by Verizon Wireless customers in and around the tennis center during the busiest hours of the event last week was 80 percent higher than last year while voice traffic was down.”

STRONG SPORT

Despite the gloomy global economy, the women’s tennis circuit is doing just fine, thank you. Stacey Allaster, CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, said they have lost just one title sponsor in 2009 and have added two new tournaments in 2010. “The bottom line is we want to be a credible product, consistently delivering to fans and sponsors, and in 2009 our athletes have done that,” Allaster said. Of the tour’s 51 title sponsors, only one has dropped out, and that is “an incredible success story for women’s tennis,” she said. Tournaments have been added in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, while the Los Angeles event has moved to San Diego.

SHAMEFUL ACTIONS

Three teenagers have been convicted in Malmo, Sweden, for rioting outside a Davis Cup tie between Israel and Sweden in March. The three Swedish males, aged 17 to 19, were sentenced to community service for juveniles. Two of them were also ordered to pay USD $19,020 for sabotaging a police vehicle. The three were among 10 people arrested after protesting Israel’s offensive in Gaza. The court had previously sentenced two others to 9 and 15 months in prison. No spectators were allowed to watch the matches after Malmo officials said they could not guarantee security. The International Tennis Association (ITF) fined the Swedish tennis federation USD $5,000 for that decision and banned Malmo from staging Davis Cup matches for five years.

SAY IT AIN’T SO

A media report that he and his wife are living in fear amid crime and poverty in the Bahamas has brought an angry response from Lleyton Hewitt. The 2001 US Open champion told a newspaper that the report in an Australian magazine was “absolute rubbish.” Hewitt said he and his family have had “fantastic experiences” in the nine months they have lived in a gated community on New Providence island. “For us it’s a fantastic place to raise a young family.”

SAYS YOU, SAYS ME

You knew it had to happen. Novak Djokovic and John McEnroe took turns imitating each other during an impromptu US Open moment. Following his victory over Radek Stepanek, Djokovic called McEnroe down from his television booth, then mimicked the mannerisms and serving style of the four-time US Open champion. He tossed his racquet onto the court and screamed at an imaginary umpire. Once McEnroe arrived on court, he unbuttoned his white shirt, rolled up his sleeves and, using a borrowed racquet, bounced the ball repeatedly, imitating Djokovic’s pre-serve habits. Two years ago, Djokovic delighted the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd by impersonating Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova, among others. “What I’ve done in 2007 with those impersonations and tonight playing with Johnny Mac, I think that’s what the crowd wants, especially in these hours,” Djokovic said. “I think these night matches are very special.”

SKIPPING SCHOOL

Her exciting run to US Open quarterfinals kept Melanie Oudin in New York City doing what she wants to do. She doesn’t do the ordinary high school things, like going to the junior prom or homecoming, or even hanging out with friends at the mall. “She doesn’t do any of that kind of stuff, and she’s OK with it,” said Katherine Oudin, Melanie’s mother. “I know she misses the normal life a little, but she does not regret it at all. Zero. She’s totally OK with it because she knows this is what she’s wanted her entire life.”

SOCKING IT AWAY

Each of the singles champions here at the US Open will take home USD $1.6 million, a nice tidy sum in any language. Going into the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, Roger Federer has earned USD $36 million over the past 12 months. His three Grand Slam wins – 2008 US Open, French Open and Wimbledon – and other tournament play netted him USD $8 million. And when he won his first-round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this year, he became the first player to surpass USD $50 million in career earnings on the court. The 28-year-old Federer has 10-year endorsement deals with Nike, Rolex, Wilson and Swiss coffee machine maker Jura. His Nike contract extension that he signed in 2008 is worth more than USD $10 million annually. Maria Sharapova is close to Federer in off-court earnings. The Russian earned USD $22.5 million over the past year despite missing most of the season with a shoulder injury.

SUED

The US Tennis Association (USTA) has been sued by a New York City documentary filmmaker who claims the ruling tennis body discriminates against wheelchair players by refusing to sell broadcast licensing rights to their matches. Brooklyn, New York, filmmaker Alan Rich is a lawyer who is representing himself and seven handicapped players. He has been filming a documentary about the players called “Fire in the Belly.” Rich contends that because the major networks covering the tournament – CBS, ESPN and Tennis Channel – do not cover wheelchair events, he should be given the rights. USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said his organization limits filming of matches to the three television companies that have contracts with them. He said that two years ago, Tennis Channel aired the wheelchair finals competition live and produced a half-hour highlights show of the tournament.

SIMON REPLACED

Jeremy Chardy will play Davis Cup for France against the Netherlands. Chardy replaces Gilles Simon, who has a knee injury. France plays the Netherlands for a spot in next year’s World Group. The French team also includes Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and doubles specialist Michael Llordra. Chardy originally had been selected as an alternative. That role now goes to Julien Benneteau.

SCRIBE AWARDS

Sixteen writers were honored at the US Open by the US Tennis Writers Association in the 10th annual USTWA Writing Contest. William Weinbaum and John Barr of ESPN.com won first place in Hard News/Enterprise for their story about the controversial match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello. Other first-place winners were: Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle, Column/Commentary; Cindy Shmerler, TENNIS Magazine, Feature Story (Pro); Stephen Tignor, TENNIS Magazine, Feature Story (Non-Pro); Filip Bondy, New York Daily News, Game Story (Pro); and Paul Fein, TennisOne.com, Service Story.

The USTWA announced the election of its board of directors at its annual meeting at the US Open: Cindy Cantrell, Tennis Life; Paul Fein, freelance writer; Ann LoPrinzi, The Times of Trenton (New Jersey); Richard Kent, freelance writer; Jim Martz, Florida Tennis; and Art Spander, The (San Francisco) Examiner. Fein, Kent and Spander are new to the board. The officers will be determined by the board.

SHARED PERFORMANCE

Genoa: Daniele Bracciali and Alessandro Motti beat Amir Hadad and Harel Levy 6-4 6-2

SITES TO SURF

Davis Cup: www.DavisCup.com

Quebec: www.challengebell.com

Guangzhou: http://sports.21cn.com

Bucharest: www.bcropenromania.ro/

Metz: www.openmoselle.com

Hansol: www.hansolopen.com

Tashkent: www.tashkentopen.uz

Saint Malo: www.opengdfsuez-bretagne.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$150,000 Pekao Open, Szczecin, Poland, clay

WTA

$220,000 Bell Challenge, Quebec City, Canada, hard

$220,000 Guangzhou International Women’s Open, Guangzhou, China, hard

DAVIS CUP

World Group Semifinals

Croatia vs. Czech Republic at Porec, Croatia

Spain vs. Israel at Murcia, Spain

World Group Playoffs

Chile vs. Austria at Rancagua, Chile; Belgium vs. Ukraine at Charleroi, Belgium; Brazil vs. Ecuador at Porto Alegre, Brazil; Netherlands vs. France at Maastricht, Netherlands; South Africa vs. India at Johannesburg, South Africa; Serbia vs. Uzbekistan at Belgrade, Serbia; Sweden vs. Romania at Helsingborg, Sweden; Italy vs. Switzerland at Genova, Italy

Americas Zone

Group I Playoff: Peru vs. Uruguay at Lima, Peru

Group II Final: Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Asia-Oceania Zone

Group I Playoff: China vs. Thailand at Jiaxing, China

Group II 3rd Round: Philippines vs. New Zealand at Manila, Philippines

Europe/Africa Zone

Group I Playoffs: Slovak Republic vs. FYR Macedonia at Bratislava, Slovak Republic; Great Britain vs. Poland at Liverpool, Great Britain

Group II 3rd Round: Latvia vs. Slovenia at Jurmala, Latvia; Finland vs. Cyprus at Salo, Finland

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$650,000 BCR Open Romania, Bucharest, Romana, clay

$650,000 Open de Moselle, Metz, France, hard

WTA

$220,000 Hansol Korea Open, Seoul, Korea, hard

$220,000 Tashkent Open, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hard

$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Bretagne, Saint Malo, France, clay

SENIORS

Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere, Paris, France, clay

It’s Del Potro In An Upset

NEW YORK – The reign is over. Long live the king.

Juan Martin del Potro, appearing in his first Grand Slam tournament final, overpowered five-time defending champion Roger Federer to capture the US Open on Monday 3-6 7-6 (5) 4-6 7-6 (4) 6-2.

Riding a fearsome forehand that rocketed winners from way behind the baseline, del Potro became the second Argentine to win America’s premier tennis tournament. Guillermo Vilas won in 1977 when the US Open was played on clay at Forest Hills. Now, it’s on hard court, del Potro’s favorite surface, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“When I would have a dream, it was to win the US Open, and the other one is to be like Roger,” del Potro said during the on-court ceremony where he collected a check for USD $1.85 million. “One is done.”

Then, addressing Federer directly, del Potro said: “I need to improve a lot to be like you. I’d like to congratulate you for fighting ‘til the last point.”

Federer was seeking his record-tying sixth straight US Open championship and his third consecutive Grand Slam tournament title this year, having captured his first French Open and his sixth Wimbledon earlier this summer. But del Potro had other ideas.

“A dream came true,” del Potro said. “I don’t have words to explain how I feel.”

Words weren’t needed. The tears of joy streaming down his face spoke volumes.

Del Potro, who turns 21 next week, snapped Federer’s 41-match unbeaten streak at Flushing Meadows as he completely dominated his Swiss opponent who has been called the greatest tennis player of all time.

“It’s difficult to explain this moment,” said del Potro. “You know, since young I dream of this and now I take the trophy with me. I did my dream, and it’s unbelievable moment. It’s amazing match, amazing people. Everything is perfect.”

Federer admitted del Potro was the better player on the final day of this rain-delayed tournament. But he felt it was still a great year despite the loss.

“Five was great, four was great, too,” said Federer, who came into the US Open having won a men’s record 16 Grand Slam singles titles. “Six would have been a dream, too. Can’t have them all. I’ve had an amazing summer and a great run.

“I’m not too disappointed just because I thought I played another wonderful tournament. Had chances today to win, but couldn’t take them. It was unfortunate.

It wasn’t a typical Federer match. A lot of that was because of the play of del Potro, who controlled their baseline rallies with his monster forehand, which he ripped deep into the far reaches of the court or down the line, shots that Federer for the most part only could wave at or watch the ball clip off his racquet.

The Swiss superstar came within two points of taking a two-set lead. But del Potro recovered, then won the tiebreak to level the match. Federer won the third set and was up 5-4 in the fourth, again two points from winning the title while leading 15-30 on del Potro’s serve. It was the last time Federer came close as del Potro held, then went on to win yet another tiebreak.

It was only the third time since he began his championship run that Federer has had to play a fifth set at the US Open. It was the first time he has lost.

“Got to give him all the credit because it’s not an easy thing to do, especially coming out against someone like me with so much experience,” Federer said. “Towards the end, of course, up 5‑2 in the fifth. That was easy. But he had to live through some really tough moments earlier on in both breakers throughout those sets to come back. So his effort was fantastic.”

In the end, it was del Potro who dominated, the Argentine who rose to the occasion and won.

The reign is over. Long live the king.

Two days after she left the court amid a chorus of boos, Serena Williams returned to Arthur Ashe Stadium and with her sister Venus won the US Open women’s doubles title for the first time since 1999. It was the sister’s 10th Grand Slam tournament women’s doubles title, half as many as the record held by Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver.

The Williams sisters downed the top-seeded team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-3 6-2.

Clijsters Wins US Open Yet Again

NEW YORK – In a strange way, the US Open women’s singles champion was no surprise. After all, Kim Clijsters was the defending champion.

Yes, she shows up in New York City only every few years, but when she does she walks away with some of the top hardware.

Sunday night, Clijsters defeated Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 6-3 to capture her second Grand Slam tournament title, both coming on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“I’m glad I was able to come back and defend my title,” Clijsters said.

OK, so Serena Williams won the women’s singles in 2008. The same Serena Williams who put on a nasty display of pique that resulted in a point penalty at match point in her semifinals against Clijsters.

But Clijsters won in her last appearance in Arthur Ashe Stadium, in 2005. And the last time she played the US Open before that, in 2003, she lost to fellow Belgian Justine Henin in the title match.

Now she becomes the first wild card entry to win a US Open title and the first to win a Grand Slam singles title since Goran Ivanisevic captured Wimbledon in 2001. And with her daughter Jada in the stands watching mommy play, Clijsters becomes the first mother to capture a Grand Slam singles since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon in 1980.

Winning the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, however, was not in Clijsters’ plans.

“I just wanted to start these three tournaments to get back into the rhythm of playing tennis and get used to the surroundings again,” said Clijsters, who earned USD $1.6 million to go along with the trophy. “So I have to thank the USTA for giving me the wild card to come back here.”

The men’s semifinals were also held Sunday in the rain-delayed US Open. Roger Federer, seeking his sixth straight men’s singles crown at America’s premier tennis event and his third straight Grand Slam title of the year, defeated Novak Djokovic 7-6 (3), 7-5 7-5 after Juan Martin del Potro dominated third-seeded Rafael Nadal 6-2 6-2 6-2. The men’s final will be played Monday afternoon.

After her 2005 US Open victory, Clijsters suffered an injury that forced her to miss the event in 2006. Then she retired in early 2007, got married and gave birth to a daughter.

It was earlier this year that she decided to end her retirement and return to the women’s tour. The US Open was her third tournament, enough now to give her a ranking.

Clijsters was the heavy favorite against the ninth-seeded Wozniacki. They forgot to tell Wozniacki that.

In a series of streaks, Clijsters, who beat sisters Serena and Venus Williams en route to the title match, took the first two games of the final before the 19-year-old Wozniacki, playing in her first Grand Slam tournament final, reeled off the next four games for a 4-2 lead. Clijsters, who had committed a slew of unforced errors, tightened her game considerably and began finding the lines with her shots, especially her inside-out forehand.

The former world number had the firepower, while Wozniacki played a steady game, keeping the ball in play, taking the pace off the ball. Yet when the young Dane served for the opening set at 5-4, Clijsters showed the form that has taken her to six Grand Slam tournament finals. She won the next two games to close out the set.

Wozniacki never gave up, her quickness along the baseline and spirited returning keeping her in the points. But Clijsters also has quickness, and the veteran had much more firepower in her ground strokes.

Clijsters finished with 36 winners and 34 unforced errors. The counter-punching Wozniacki had just 10 winners in the match.

Wozniacki had one advantage over Clijsters on this night. When she accepted the runner-up trophy, she thanked the crowd in three languages: English, Danish and Polish.

Several other titles were determined Sunday.

Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes won the men’s doubles, defeating Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 3-6 6-3 6-2.

Seventeen-year-old Heather Watson of Great Britain defeated Russia’s Yana Buchina 6-4 6-1 to capture the junior girls title, while Australian Bernard Tomic stopped American Chase Buchanan 61 6-3.

Cheng Peng Hsieh of Chinese Taipei teamed with Marton Fucsovics of Hungary to win the junior boys doubles, edging Julien Obry and Adrien Puget of France 7-6 (5) 5-7 10-1 (match tiebreak). The girls doubles was won by Valeria Solovieva of Russia and Maryna Zanevska of Ukraine, 1-6 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak) over Elena Bogdan of Romania and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand.

In the wheelchair competition, Shingo Kunieda of Japan bested Maikel Scheffers of the Netherlands 6-0 6-0 for the men’s singles; and Esther Vergeer blanked fellow Dutch player Korie Homan 6-0 6-0 for the women’s singles.

Shockingly, Clijsters In Women’s Final

NEW YORK – Suddenly, too suddenly, Kim Clijsters was back in the women’s singles final at the US Open. She had, it seemed, just loaned out her title for a few years.

But while the Belgian mother earned her semifinal victory on the court Saturday night, the final point in her battle against Serena Williams came when the defending champion was given a point penalty at match point for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Clijsters appeared stricken by the sudden end of a match that had been delayed by rain for more than 24 hours.

“I don’t think she actually understood it was a point penalty, which meant that I lost that point, which meant that I lost the match,” Williams said.

Williams trailed 4-6 5-6 15-30 when she served a fault. On her second serve, a foot fault was called, taking Clijsters to double match point at 15-40.

As she started to the line to begin her next serve, Williams turned and said something to the baseline judge who had called the foot fault. Not content with that, the tournament’s second-seeded player then walked over to the left side of the court, wagging her finger and heatedly talking to the linesperson.

Umpire Louise Engzell summoned the linesperson to the chair and asked what had been said. Then she summoned the tournament referee Brian Earley. After a consultation that included the player, Williams, who earlier in the match had been assessed a code of conduct warning, was given a point penalty.

Because it was match point, Clijsters advanced with a 6-4 7-5 victory.

“She was called for a foot fault, and a point later, she said something to a line umpire, and it was reported to the chair, and that resulted in a point penalty,” Earley explained. “And it just happened that point penalty was match point. It was a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct.”

“It’s unfortunate that a match that I was playing so well at to end that way,” Clijsters said. “I still – to this point I’m a little confused about what happened out there because I was so focused. You know, just trying to win that last point for me.

“So then things ended up ending a little bit different than I expected.”

Clijsters will be heavily favored to win her second straight US Open women’s singles title – the last was in 2005 – when she faces ninth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark on Sunday night. Wozniacki advanced with a 6-3 6-3 win over another Belgian player, Yanina Wickmayer.

They were finally able to get some matches played on Saturday despite a steady nearly day-long rain. That was much better than Friday, when the entire program was washed out by rain.

Earlier Saturday, Rafael Nadal completed his 7-6 (4) 7-6 (2) 6-0 quarterfinal victory over 11th-seeded Fernando Gonzalez of Chile.

The match began on Thursday before rain halted play with Nadal leading 3-2 in the second set tiebreak. After waiting all day Friday, the pair finally made it to the court early Saturday afternoon.

Gonzalez lost both of his serves to begin play, giving Nadal a 5-2 margin. And when the third-seeded Nadal won the next two points on his own serve, he had a 2-0 lead in sets.

Nadal then raced through the next six games in 31 minutes, aided immensely by 21 unforced errors by Gonzalez, who finished the match with 59 errors against 37 winners. Nadal, on the other hand, had only 20 winners, 11 coming on his fearsome forehand, but committed just 13 unforced errors.

“I get like afraid maybe in the tiebreakers,” Gonzalez said. “I went for it. I think I did a good play, miss one. The next play I miss another one, then I miss another one.

“What else can I do? I try my best.”

The men’s semifinals are scheduled to be played Sunday, with the forecast for sunny skies and warm temperatures. Nadal will take on sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, while Roger Federer, seeking his sixth consecutive US Open men’s singles crown, will meet fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic.

“He’s good. I think he’s a complete player,” Nadal said of del Potro. “I try to be ready to put one more ball than the rest.”

Clijsters beat Venus Williams in the fourth round and became just the second player to defeat both Williams sisters in the same US Open. The other was another Belgian, Justine Henin, who beat Serena in the quarterfinals and Venus in the semifinals in 2007. Henin, who went on the stop Svetlana Kuznetsova in the title match, has since retired.

Clijsters is riding a 13-match winning streak at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. She won the women’s singles in her last visit to Flushing Meadows, in 2005. An injury stopped her from defending her crown in 2006, then she retired early in 2007, got married and gave birth to a daughter.

The US Open is only her third tournament since she returned to the tennis tour.

“I’ve spoken before about what for me was really important in Cincinnati and Toronto and those tournaments was knowing that I was capable of competing with those top girls,” Clijsters said., “I think that’s where I kind of made a click, but I never really expected to be beating Venus and beating Serena. You try and you try to bring your best tennis, but, no, I mean, you don’t expect things to be going this well this soon.”

She also is the first wild card entry to reach a US Open singles final. Jimmy Connors received a wild card in 1991 when he reached the semifinals at the age of 39.

And Clijsters is trying to become the first mother to win a Grand Slam tournament since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon in 1980.

At Least The US Open Final Won’t Be Delayed Another Seven Days

It’s official. The US Open will finish on a Monday – at the earliest. For the second year in a row, rain has played havoc to the final weekend of the US Open and has pushed the tournament into a third week. Last year’s men’s final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray, which started at 5 pm on the third Monday of the event, was the first Monday final since 1987, when Ivan Lendl defeated Mats Wilander to win his third straight U.S. title. However, as excerpted from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com), the two most delayed U.S. finals were as follows…

From September 17, 1960 – In the most delayed conclusion to a major tournament in the sport’s history, Neale Fraser of Australia and Darlene Hard of the United States win the singles titles at the U.S. Championships – one week after winning semifinal matches to advance into the championship match. The U.S. Championships at Forest Hills are delayed a full seven days as Hurricane Donna slams New York and soggies up the grass courts at the West Side Tennis Club. Fraser finally defends his 1959 title, defeating fellow Aussie Rod Laver 6-4, 6-4, 10-8, becoming the first repeat men’s winner at Forest Hills since fellow Aussie Frank Sedgman in 1951 and 1952. Hard finally breaks through and wins her first U.S. singles title, upsetting defending champion Maria Bueno of Brazil 6-3, 10-8, 6-4. Fraser and Hard both win semifinal matches on September 10 – Fraser beating Dennis Ralston and Hard beating Donna Floyd – before the rains come. The Fraser-Laver final is a rubber match for the two Aussies, who split their two previous meetings in major finals on the year – Laver winning the Australian title in January for his first major singles title and Fraser turning the tide on “The Rocket” at Wimbledon. Fraser also ends Laver’s 29-match winning streak securing on the Eastern grass court circuit following his loss to Fraser at Wimbledon. Hard finally breaks through and wins her first U.S. title after five previous attempts to win the title. Says Hard, “I never thought I would do it, “ says Hard. “That girl (Bueno) never gives up. She hits winners when she least expects it. It’s been a long time coming. It’s great.”

From September 23, 1938 – After a delay of six days due to a hurricane hitting the New York area, play is resumed at the U.S. Championships at the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills as Don Budge keeps his dream of being the first player to win a Grand Slam alive by beating 1931 Wimbledon champion Sidney Wood 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in the men’s semifinals. Advancing to play Budge in the final is his unseeded doubles partner, Gene Mako, who defeats Australia’s John Bromwich 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in the other men’s semifinal. In women’s singles semifinals, Alice Marble beats Sarah Palfrey Fabyan 5-7, 7-5, 7-5, saving two match points at 2-5, 15-40 in the second set, while Nancye Wynne defeats Dorothy Bundy 5-7, 6-4, 8-6.

Del Potro Advances to Semifinals

NEW YORK – Welcome to Arthur Ashe Stadium, the world’s largest tennis facility, Juan Martin del Potro.

Ranked sixth in the world, the Argentine had to wait until the quarterfinals to make it to the 23,700-seat facility this year without having to buy a ticket. Del Potro made sure he will return to the big stage in the semifinals after beating Marin Cilic 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-1 Thursday.

“It’s like a dream,” del Potro said of the victory. “My dream is win this tournament. I’m so close to do it, but now I am focusing (on) the semis.”

Del Potro will play the winner of the late quarterfinal between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Gonzalez, which was twice delayed by rain, the first time this fortnight that weather has caused an interruption in play. The match was eventually suspended until Friday, although rain, heavy at times, was forecast for the New York City area throughout Friday.

The other semifinal was set Wednesday when top-seeded Roger Federer, seeking his sixth straight US Open title, and fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic both won their quarterfinals.

Thursday’s first quarterfinal was an old-fashioned heavyweight battle, a throwback to the New York City days of championship heavyweight bouts in either Madison Square Garden or Yankee Stadium. But this time the combatants stood 78 feet (23.77 m) apart, blasting tennis balls at each other.

Del Potro stood at one end of the court nestled at the bottom of Arthur Ashe Stadium, his Croatian opponent at the other.

Del Potro vs. Cilic. Two 6-foot-6 (1.98 m), 20-year-old right-handers who excel at the long-range gunnery that moves an opponent from side to side until an opening, ever so small, is created for a winning shot or one or the other commits an error.

Cilic pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament in the fourth round when he knocked off second-seeded Andy Murray. Del Potro ousted 24th-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero in his fourth-round match.

Until Thursday, Cilic and del Potro had only met once before, del Potro winning in four sets at the Australian Open in January. Del Potro made it two straight, but it wasn’t nearly as easy as the score might indicate.

Cilic, seeded 16th and playing in his first Grand Slam tournament quarterfinal, was nearly perfect to begin the match. His powerful ground strokes found the far reaches of the court and every corner as he dominated play. He slammed 13 winners, six coming on forehands, controlling play.

“At the beginning of the match I was playing really good and moving him a lot around. I found after the first set that it got a lot cooler and the court was a little bit hard to play on. The ball wasn’t going through the court as much as it was in the beginning.”

Cilic’s sharp play in the opening set quickly disappeared along with the good weather that had graced this year’s US Open. He finished the match with 53 unforced errors against 29 winners, while del Potro balanced 24 unforced errors with 27 winners.

“Was a good comeback, you know, the crowd cheering for me at 1-3 in the second,” del Potro said. “I start to play better after that moment. … Of course I need to improve for the semis a lot, but I’m happy with my match and with the result.”

The match was played with temperatures in the mid-60s and winds gusting up to 30 mph.

“The weather was bad,” del Potro said, “but it was bad for both players. I just need to be in focus in the beginning of the match until the last point and play my game.”

The first title of the tournament was determined Thursday when Carly Gullickson and Todd Parrott, playing together for the first time, upset defending champions Cara Black and Leander Paes 6-2 6-4 to win the mixed doubles.

Serena and Venus Williams began the day by advancing to the women’s doubles final with a 7-6 (4) 3-6 6-2 win over Russians Alisa Kleybanova and Ekaterina Makarova.

Serena is scheduled to return to the court Friday for her women’s singles semifinal where she will take on another defending champion, Belgium’s Kim Clijsters. The second women’s semi pits ninth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark against unseeded Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium.

Serena Williams, who captured the crown last year, is going for her fourth US Open title. Clijsters won in 2005, the last time she played America’s premier event because of injuries, retirement, marriage and the birth of a daughter.

Wozniacki Ends Melanie’s Dream

NEW YORK – Four straight unforced errors ended one dream and continued another.

Although the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd was loudly pulling for her, Melanie Oudin’s dream run at the US Open ended Wednesday night when she was overwhelmed 6-2 6-2 by ninth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki.

“She had a great run, beaten so many great players,” said Wozniacki, the first Danish player to reach the semifinals in a Grand Slam tournament Wozniacki made sure Oudin’s “great run” didn’t continue, instead controlling the points with her consistent baseline game, moving her 17-year-old opponent all around the court and finding answers to every problem the Marietta, Georgia, right-hander posed. In the final game, Oudin won the first point, then netted a forehand, attempted a backhand drop shot that didn’t even make it to the net, sailed a forehand long and was wide with a backhand on match point.

With a spot in the championship match awaiting the winner, Wozniacki will next take on Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium, who won her quarterfinal earlier in the day, 7-5 6-4 over Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine.

Oudin became the darling of America’s premier tennis tournament when she unexpectedly mowed down a series of Russians in her march to the quarterfinals. Although she had upset Jelena Jankovic en route to the fourth round at Wimbledon, she was a pleasant surprise here on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The youngster started off by beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, then followed that up with victories over fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva, 29th-seeded Maria Sharapova and 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova. With each successive upset, Oudin’s dream grew more vivid along with the expectations from growing legend of fans.

Only two years older than Oudin, Wozniacki never was in trouble against the American, repeatedly hitting with heavy topspin, making the ball jump up high to Oudin’s ground strokes. It was Wozniacki who was dictating the pace and the points.

“She’s such a strong player. She doesn’t give you anything for free,” Oudin said of Wozniacki. “She plays incredible defense. Makes me hit a thousand balls and really is a really great player.”

Unlike Oudin, Wozniacki wasn’t an unknown entity when she began the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. She was seeded ninth after entering the US Open having won the 56 matches, the most of any player on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour this year. And she has captured three titles this year, including the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, the day before the US Open began its two-week run.

Wozniacki said she wasn’t bothered by the crowd’s overwhelming support of Oudin.

“It’s always tough to play against a home favorite,” Wozniacki said. “I had this experience in Australia this year where I played (Australian) Jelena Dokic.

“I knew how I was going to feel to be out there and the crowd, but I just used the energy and tried to convert it into some good tennis.”

Oudin’s never-say-die attitude, her big forehand and her constant pressure caused her Russian opponents to eventually collapse. Not so with Wozniacki.

“She beat some great players,” Wozniacki said of Oudin. “I knew that it was going to be tough and I knew that she was going to fight to the last point. I just thought about one point at a time, one ball at a time and tried not to think too much about the score.
“I’m a fighter, so I don’t give up. I fought to the last point.”

Like Wozniacki, Wickmayer is playing in a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time. Her lone WTA Tour singles title came on clay in Estoril, Portugal.

Wickmayer started the US Open by upsetting 16th-seeded Virginie Razzano. Since then she has not had to face another seeded player.

“Before this my best result was second round (in a Grand Slam tournament),” Wickmayer said. “So of course when you get to the third, fourth round, you start surprising yourself. But actually I’ve been staying pretty calm. I’ve worked really hard for this.”

Top-seeded Roger Federer advanced one step closer to a sixth consecutive US Open men’s singles title when he ended the night by dodging an inspired Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-0 6-3 6-7 (6) 7-6 (6).

It appeared as if Federer would sail through the quarterfinal against the man he beat in the French Open final. But Soderling stepped up his game in the third set, and after Federer swept out to a 4-0 lead in the tiebreak, Soderling roared back to win it 8-6.
The two battled evenly through the fourth set, Federer using his huge serve and Soderling his big ground strokes.
Then, suddenly, Soderling ripped a forehand crosscourt that sailed wide, the only mini-break in the tiebreak, but one that gave Federer the match at 8-6.

“It was so close towards the end, a great relief to come through,” Federer said. “The beginning was a bit too easy. But he showed what a great player he is.”

The Swiss superstar is in his record 22nd straight major semifinal – Ivan Lendl had the old mark at 10 – and is seeking to become the first man to win three consecutive majors in one season since Rod Laver completed the Grand Slam in 1969.

Federer also is bidding to become the first man since Bill Tilden in 1925 to win six consecutive US titles. He is the only man to win five or more successive titles at two Grand Slam tournaments, having won Wimbledon from 2003 through 2007.

In the semifinals, Federer will face fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic, a 7-6 (2) 1-6 7-5 6-2 winner over Fernando Verdasco.

Clijsters Crashing Party at US Open

NEW YORK – Kim Clijsters may be like a bull in a china shop, crashing through the US Open party, but she no longer feels like an elephant.

Three months after giving birth to her daughter, Clijsters, then retired, went onto a tennis court to hit with a friend and former player, Caroline Maze.

Clijsters Crashing Party at US Open
Clijsters Crashing Party at US Open

“That was a big mistake because I was so frustrated after that,” Clijsters remembered. “Because in my mind I still knew how to step forward, step back, move to the side. But the connection from the brain to the body wasn’t really – there was nothing there.

“So I had a good feeling when the ball was coming towards me, but just moving was absolutely terrible. I felt like an elephant sometimes just trying to move.”

Playing in her third tournament since ending a two-year retirement, Clijsters is moving just perfectly, thank you. With an easy 6-2 6-4 victory Tuesday over China’s Li Na, Clijsters grabbed a spot in the women’s semifinals with her 12th consecutive victory on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Her next hurdle will be defending champion Serena Williams, who advanced with a 6-4 6-3 victory over 10th-seeded Flavia Pennetta of Italy.

“She’s a really good player,” Williams said of Clijsters. “She plays tough. She plays hard. Now it’s like a totally different level because shed has absolutely nothing to lose. … I think that’s when you can play your ultimate best tennis.”

In men’s fourth-round play Tuesday, 16th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia shocked No. 2 Andy Murray of Great Britain 7-5 6-2 6-2; No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina brushed aside No. 24 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 6-3 6-3 6-3; No. 11 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile knocked off No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 3-6 6-3 7-6 (3) 6-4; and third-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain stopped No. 13 Gael Monfils of France 6-7 (3) 6-3 6-1 6-3.

The last time Clijsters played in the US Open, in 2005, she won the women’s singles, beating Mary Pierce of France. Injuries and then retirement, marriage and motherhood kept her away from New York until this year.

She also didn’t play here in 2004 because of injuries. The last time she lost at Flushing Meadows was to fellow Belgian Justine Henin in the 2003 championship match.

Not even Clijsters could imagine her implausible run to the US Open semifinals when she decided to return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. But she surprised even herself by her success in tournaments at Cincinnati and Toronto leading up to the year’s final Grand Slam event.

“I definitely didn’t have that idea, you know, or that thought in my head now,” she said. “But like I said before, something switched with me after Toronto where I felt like, OK, I can, you know, compete with these girls. Because that was obviously a big question in my mind.

“So I am surprised that I’m sitting here talking to you right now, but I’m very happy and, you know, flattered that I get to do that.”
Because of her time away from the tour, Clijsters will have no computer ranking until after her third tournament back – the US Open. She was given a wild card into the tournament and has become the first unseeded player to reach the semifinals at Flushing Meadows since Elena Dementieva in 2000.

Li, China’s top player, wasn’t surprised by the play of the Belgian right-hander.

“I saw her when she came back in her first tournament,” Li said. “I knew she was at a high level. She’s much stronger than other girls, so I knew if she was going to come back it must be a strong comeback.”

It was much too strong for Li, who did break Clijsters’s serve to knot the score 4-4 in the second set. But Li then made four unforced errors and Clijsters quickly wrapped up the victory and a spot in the semifinals.

She is attempting to become the third mother to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open Era, behind Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong. At the age of 26, Clijsters was the youngest of the four quarterfinalists in the bottom half of the draw: Li, Williams and Flavia Pennetta are all 27.

In the top half, Kateryna Bondarenko, at 23, is joined by two 19-year-olds, Caroline Wozniacki and Yanina Wickmayer, and 17-year-old Melanie Oudin. They play their quarterfinal matches on Wednesday.

“You don’t really think about the age or anything,” said Clijsters, the mother of 18-month-old Jada. “Unless like now that I’m older I look back and I’m like, ‘Wow, they’re young.’ … They look at things in a different way when they get to a Grand Slam because it’s so new.

“That’s something I think in the beginning is really good for them. But I think as they progress and they make a name on tour, I think that that will change. The pressure will gradually start to build in a little bit.

“But, you know, it’s great what they’re doing here. It’s fun to watch for me, as well.”