by James A. Crabtree
What we have learned Down Under, so far…
The Hopman Cup got the new tennis year started, even before the New Year had arrived.
Perth, the worlds most isolated city welcomed Tomic the Tank Engine who quickly became Saint Bernie after an impressive victory over a jet-lagged Djokovic. Still, it was a memorable enough performance by Bernard Tomic to inspire a tennis rich nation, starved of a real contender, to put their hopes in someone for the month of January.
John Isner looked rusty before he pulled out with an injury. Jo-Wilfred Tsonga looked confident and played aggressive focused tennis that would have pleased new coach Roger Rasheed. Fernando Verdasco and Tommy Haas both displayed improved physiques, sculptured during the off-season although they both may need a few matches until they find some form.
Surprisingly Spain took the spoils that included a diamond encrusted ball, much in part thanks to Anabel Medina Garrigues who only lost one match, that being in a dead group match versus Venus Williams.
Praise should be bestowed on Djokoic and Ivanovic who won the hearts of the Perth crowd, for their lighthearted manor and their attempt at Gangnam Style.
Meanwhile the Brisbane Open had been playing out over on the other side of the country. This turned out to be a relative disaster for the home nation. Every Aussie player fell by the second round. Only qualifier John Millman, in his second round loss, showed true guts with a three set thriller against eventual champion Andy Murray.
Over on the women’s side Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig turned heads with the sort of hard hitting not seen since Seles. Although she lost to Angelique Kerber she is most certainly a player for the future.
Serena Williams won the women’s event in typically devastating fashion that we have come to expect from the most dominant woman on tour. She wasn’t however seen supporting her rumoured boyfriend of last year, and young riser….
‘Baby Fed’ Grigor Dimitrov, who is on the verge of getting a new nickname that has no reference to anybody but himself. His play this past week has been sensational, capped off by clear cut victories over Milos Raonic, Marcos Baghdatis and Jurgen Melzer.
In truth the final versus defending champion Andy Murray could have been a very different story after Grig-er Dimit-ederer (ok so that’s a poor nickname, help me here!) punished with his inside out forehand and his new and improved serve. The young Bulgarian took a 5-2 lead in the first set and had breaks in the second as we all wondered if we were witnessing the second coming of Fed.
Murray, who is wearing the tightest shirts seen since Borg this year, staged his usual counter-punching comeback every time he was counted out. Regardless, place a bet on Grigs the Great to be a top twenty player by the end of this year.
Up next is Sydney which was won last year by Victoria Azarenka and surprise winner Jarkko Nieminen. Oh yes midway through next week is the invitational AAMI Classic at Kooyong, where there is a strong rumour ol’ Mr Federer will be appearing for the first time since 2009.
7 April 2008
Nikolay Davydenko became the first Russian to win the Sony Ericsson Open men’s singles crown at Miami, Florida, by crushing second-seeded Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-2.
Serena Williams outlasted Jelena Jankovic 6-1 5-7 6-3 to capture her fifth Sony Ericsson Open women’s singles title.
Bob and Mike Bryan finally won their first doubles championship of 2008, beating Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 6-2 6-2 at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.
Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama won their second doubles title as a team, edging Cara Black and Liezel Huber 7-5 4-6 10-3 at the Sony Ericsson Open.
“I have only one (racquet). Surprising I didn’t break a string. Warm up and play match, warm up and play match, every match, and I finish with the racquet. I’m going to keep forever this racquet.” – Nikolay Davydenko, who said he used the same racquet in all six matches to win the Sony Ericsson Open.
“People write more about Roger (Federer), about me, about Andy (Roddick). People outside tennis can think different about Nikolay, but we know he’s a very, very good player.” – Rafael Nadal, after losing the Sony Ericsson Open final to Davydenko 6-4 6-2.
“She looked so nervous out there. I could never believe that a girl who has won so many Grand Slams, so many tournaments, could be that nervous closing out a match.” – Jelena Jankovic, after losing the Sony Ericsson Open women’s final to Serena Williams 6-1 5-7 6-3.
“I smashed a racquet? Are you sure it was me? I guess maybe my hand must have been oily.” – Serena Williams, who drew a code violation when she smashed her racquet after blowing a 5-2 40-0 lead in the second set of her three-set victory over Jelena Jankovic.
“This tie is important for the team, as a win would give us the opportunity to compete in a playoff to make it back in the World Group, where I believe Australia belongs.” – Lleyton Hewitt, saying he plans on playing Davis Cup against Thailand.
“Losing in the finals four times just makes you hungrier and hungrier. When we went out there … we didn’t take anything for granted.” – Bob Bryan after he teamed with his brother Mike to win the Sony Ericsson Open men’s doubles.
“Winning in September and staying in the World Group is obviously a key focus for us, but just as vital is working with hose younger players who may be capable of thriving in a Davis Cup environment in the near future.” – Paul Annacone, who has been named coach of Great Britain’s Davis Cup team, succeeding Peter Lundgren.
After he hit a backhand into the net during his third-round match at the Sony Ericsson Open, Mikhail Youzhny showed his displeasure by angrily whacking himself in the head three times with his racket strings. That sent a stream of blood running from above his hairline down his nose and nearly to his mouth. The Russian became a celebrity when a video of his tantrum was put on YouTube and drew more than a half-million hits.
Here it is April and the world’s top two men players are still looking for a 2008 tournament title. Top-ranked Roger Federer’s best results this year have been semifinal appearances at both the Australian Open and the Pacific Life Open. Federer has been limited to just three tournaments because of mononucleosis. World number two Rafael Nadal has been in two finals – the Chennai Open and the Sony Ericsson Open – losing both. He also was a semifinalist at both the Australia Open and the Pacific Life Open. And, the top-ranked men’s doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan won their first title of 2008 at the just-concluded Sony Ericsson Open.
Playing in their fifth final of 2008, twins Bob and Mike Bryan finally came away with the title when they defeated Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 6-2 6-2 at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Beginning with the 2007 Australian Open, the Bryans have reached 20 finals in 27 tournaments. And this championship was their 45th career title together.
SELECTED FOR BEIJING
Players from El Salvador, Togo and Liechtenstein will compete in Olympic tennis for the first time at the Beijing Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Tennis Federation (ITF) selected four players to compete in the Summer Games: Rafael Arevalo of El Salvador, Komlavi Loglo of Togo, Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Stephanie Vogt of Liechtenstein. Only 21 years old, Arevalo has already played 22 Davis Cup ties for El Salvador. Loglo, 23, is the first African Junior Champion from Togo. Vogt, 17, has played eight Fed Cup ties for Liechtenstein. Black, currently co-ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles, played singles at the 2000 Sydney Games.
By nipping Cara Black and Liezel Huber in a Match Tiebreak (7-5 4-6 10-3) to win the women’s doubles at the Sony Ericsson Open, Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama were just repeating themselves. The Miami, Florida, tournament title was their second doubles crown as a team. Their first came last year in Toronto when they also beat Black and Huber in a Match Tiebreak in the final.
STEERING TENNIS EUROPE
Jacques Dupre is the new president of Tennis Europe, succeeding John James of Great Britain. Others elected to the board at the meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, were Peter Bretherton of Great Britain, Michele Brunetti of Italy, Philios Christodoulou of Cyprus, Gunther Lang of Germany, Aleksei Selivanenko of Russai, Jose Antonio Senz de Broto of Spain, Stefan Tzvetkov of Bulgaria and Ayda Uluc of Turket. There were delegates from a record 43 member nations at the 34th annual general meeting.
SOUTH AFRICA ON TOP
South Africa successfully defended its African Junior Championships in Gaborone, Botswana. Tunisia finished in second place, followed by Egypt in third and Morocco in fourth. Points are earned in singles and doubles in three age groups. South Africa captured two of the six singles titles and reached three other finals. The winners dominated the 16-and -under age group with Jarryd Botha defeating fellow South African Japie de Klerk 6-2 6-2 in the boys singles final.
SENIORS DOING IT
A record 376 teams have entered the 2008 ITF Seniors & Super-Seniors World Team Championships in Antalya, Turkey, in October. More than 220 teams from 38 countries have registered for the Seniors age categories – women and men 35 to 55 – while 150 teams will compete in the Super-Seniors: women 60 to 70 and men 60 to 80. The team event will be followed by the ITF Seniors & Super-Seniors World Individual Championships.
SORE BUT READY
Despite possibly having tendinitis and a hip tendon tear – or a combination of both – Lleyton Hewitt says he will play for Australia in its Davis Cup tie against Thailand. Doctors had advised Hewitt to rest his sore left hip and continue treatment. He has suffered hip pain since losing to Mardy Fish in Indian Wells, California, in March.
India’s Davis Cup captain Leander Paes will be a superhero in a cartoon television series in his home country. According to the Indian Express newspaper, Paes will play a miracle man who helps school kids in each of the 26 half-hour episodes being planned. The cartoons, called “The Magic Racquet,” are aimed at promoting an active lifestyle in children. According to the newspaper, a date has not been set for the start of the series.
Two retired Wimbledon champions will play each other on grass once again. Martina Hingis and Jana Novotna will play an exhibition match in Liverpool, England, in June. Hingis beat Novotna in the 1997 Wimbledon final to become the youngest champion in the Open Era. Novotna, who also lost in the final at Wimbledon to Steffi Graf in 1993, finally won the Championships in 1998.
SITES TO SURF
Amelia Island: www.blchamps.com
Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com/
Olympic Tennis: www.itftennis.com/olympics.
Family Circle Cup: www.familycirclecup.com
ITF Seniors: www.itftennis.com/seniors
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
$600,000 Bausch & Lomb Championships, Amelia Island, Florida, clay
World Group Quarterfinals
Czech Republic at Moscow, Russia
Sweden at Buenos Aires, Argentina
Spain at Bremen, Germany
France vs. United States at Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 Second Round
Italy at Zagreb, Croatia; Netherlands at Skopje, Macedonia; Switzerland at Minsk, Belarus; Georgia at Bratislava, Slovak Republic
America’s Zone Group 1 Second Round
Canada at Santiago, Chile; Colombia at Soracaba, Brazil
Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Second Round
Thailand at Townsville, Australia; Japan at New Delhi, India
Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 First-Round Playoffs
Chinese Taipei at Almaty, Kazakhstan; Uzbekistan at Manila, Philippines
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$370,000 Estoril Open, Estoril, Portugal, clay
$370,000 Open de Tenis Comunidad Valencia, Valencia, Spain, clay
$436,000 U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships, Houston, Texas, clay
$1,340,000 Family Circle Cup, Charleston, South Carolina
Photos of Miami: