Abierto Mexicano Telcel

Mondays With Bob Greene: What happened to me?

STARS

Novak Djokovic beat David Ferrer 7-5 6-3 to win the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Venus Williams won the Abierto Mexicano Telcel women’s title by beating Flavia Pennetta 6-1 6-2 in Acapulco, Mexico

Mardy Fish beat Evgeny Korolev 7-5 6-3 to win the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships in Delray Beach, Florida, USA

Nicolas Almagro defeated Gael Monfils 6-4 6-4 to win the Abierto Mexicano Telcel men’s singles in Acapulco, Mexico

SAYING

“It’s a bridge that connects people, countries, culture, everything, religions, and that’s the beauty of it. That’s why I decided to go into sports and not politics.” – Andy Ram, after becoming the first Israeli to play a tennis tournament in the United Arab Emirates.

“What happened to me? Venus Williams is what happened to me. The number five player in the world is what happened to me. She was just playing so strong, serving so well, it was hard to fight against her power. I didn’t feel I played badly. She just overpowered me.” – Flavia Pennetta, the defending champion who lost the final in Acapulco, Mexico, to Venus Williams.

“Today was one of those matches where you just want to get off the court with a win. It was like I don’t care what the score is, I don’t care what it looks like, I just want to get off this court with a win.” – Mardy Fish, who endured the wind and a rain delay before finally converting his fifth match point to win in Delray Beach, Florida.

“Nobody is a favorite in a final. Everyone has the motivation to do well. But I was physically and emotionally really involved with this tournament and to win it is a great feeling, because Dubai has a history of having one of the strongest fields on the tour. And despite some players pulling out, it was still a tough field.” – Novak Djokovic, noting the field was missing five of the world’s top ten players, including Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

“I’ll probably sleep a little bit better next week as we prepare for the match and not have to prepare for Roger.” – Patrick McEnroe, US Davis Cup captain, noting that Roger Federer will not be on Switzerland’s team during the upcoming World Group tie.

“I didn’t feel any pressure because he’s one of the best players in the world, so I just played my best tennis.” – Lu Yen-Hsun, after upsetting Lleyton Hewitt at Delray Beach, Florida.

“With players of the caliber of (Andre) Agassi, (Steffi) Graf, (Kim) Clijsters and (Tim) Henman, this test event promises to be hugely entertaining.” – Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the All England Club, about a special event on May 17 to celebrate the completion of Wimbledon’s Centre Court roof.

“I got it first down in Australia and I haven’t been the same really since. I woke up in the middle of the night sweating. I got some anti-viral (medication) from the doctor … but it didn’t help so much.” – Andy Murray, after withdrawing from the Dubai Tennis Championships because of a viral infection.

“It’s going to be a new experience and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve heard so much about it from Ana (Ivanovic) and (Fernando) Verdasco, who had trained there before he made the semifinals of the Australian Open. This is going to be a short stint because I’ll be playing tournaments in the following week. If it works well for me I want to go over for a longer stint in the near future.” – Sania Mirza, about training in Las Vegas with Gil Reyes.

“Now I don’t want to let her go.” Boris Becker, talking about his fiancée, Lilly Kerssenberg.

SHAMEFUL ACTION

Even though he lost in the first round, Andy Ram of Israel said he achieved something big at the Dubai Championships. The United Arab Emirates gave Ram a “special permit” to compete in the tournament one week after it refused to issue a visa for fellow Israeli Shahar Peer to play in a women’s event. “It was obviously something big, history here, what’s been done, the first Israeli coming to play sport in Dubai,” Ram said after he and Kevin Ullyett lost their first-round doubles match to Marat Safin and David Ferrer. “I fought for something really, really big, and coming here was something big because it showed that we should not involve sports with politics.” Like most Arab countries, the UAE has no diplomatic ties with Israel and routinely denies entry to its citizens. Spectators and media were stopped from entering the arena until just before the start of the match. Ticket holders had to pass through airport-style security scanners, cell phones were banned and bottles of water confiscated even though spectators had to sit in blazing sunshine with the temperature reaching 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit). Water was eventually passed out in plastic glasses.

STAR POWER

Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi will once again play on Wimbledon’s Centre Court. The couple will play Tim Henman and Kim Clijsters in an exhibition on May 17 to celebrate the completion of the roof over the famed Centre Court. The event, which is being used to test the new roof and air management system, will feature singles matches and a mixed doubles match. Graf won 22 Grand Slam tournament titles, including seven Wimbledon crowns, during her career. Agassi’s eight Grand Slam tournament crowns include the 1992 Wimbledon title. Agassi and Graf, who are married to each other, are both former number one players, as is Clijsters, who won the US Open in 2005. Henman remains one of the most popular players among British fans.

SWINGING AGAIN

Andre Agassi will play two matches for the Philadelphia Freedoms in the World Team Tennis (WTT) league this July. The WTT announced Agassi will play July 10 in Philadelphia and July 17 in Newport Beach, California. Agassi, who retired in 2006, played for WTT from 2002-04. Among other stars who will play during the WTT’s 34th season will be Serena Williams (Washington DC), Venus Williams (Philadelphia), John McEnroe (New York), Anna Kournikova (St. Louis), Michael Chang (Sacramento), Bob and Mike Bryan (Kansas City) and Martina Navratilova (Boston). The 10-team league runs from July 2-26.

SAID WHAT??

Novak Djokovic slammed what he thought was a game-winning ace in his title match against David Ferrer. But an official called the serve out. Djokovic challenged and was proven to be correct. “That was an unusual way to finish the match, and something like this has never happened to me before,” Djokovic said of the 7-5 6-3 victory. “But what worked for me during the match was that I mixed the pace well, which I think David does not like at all.” It was the first final of the year for the third-ranked Djokovic and his first title since capturing the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai last November. Both top-ranked Rafael Nadal and number two Roger Federer pulled out of the tournament with injuries, Andy Murray withdrew from his quarterfinal match because of a viral infection, and Andy Roddick pulled out of the tournament because the United Arab Emirates refused to allow Israel Shahar Peer to play in a women’s tournament the week before.

SECURE AND QUIET

There won’t be fans, but about 1,000 police from seven countries will handle security on March 6-8 when Sweden plays host to Israel in a Davis Cup tie in Malmo. Police commissioner Hakan Jarborg Eriksson said officials expect a “Stop the Match” protest to be relatively calm. But there are fears that protests from small, radical groups could turn violent. The first-round World Group match will be played without fans at the 4,000-seat Baltic Hall. Only teams, officials, some sponsors and journalists will be allowed in the hall. Organizers of the “Stop the Match” campaign expect 8,000 to 12,000 demonstrators before Saturday’s doubles match. Left-wing groups, human rights organizations and pro-Palestinian groups also plan to demonstrate during the tie.

SILENCE, PLEASE

Japan’s top player, Kei Nishikori, has been warned not to let his mobile phone ring on court during Japan’s Davis Cup tie with China. The 19-year-old Nishikori has been told to leave his phone in the locker room after it kept ringing during his first-round loss in a recent tournament in Memphis, Tennessee. Nishikori had left his phone in his jacket pocket and later admitting the ringing phone had interrupted his concentration in his 7-5 6-3 loss to Marcos Baghdatis. Eiji Takeuchi, Japan’s Davis Cup coach, said Nishikori “at the very least will have to learn to put it on vibration mode.”

STREAKING – 1

Venus Williams wound up with the title, but Flavia Pennetta kept one of her streaks going. Williams beat Pennetta 6-1 6-2 in the final of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel for her second straight title this year and 41st of her career. The victory increased her winning string to 10 consecutive matches. While Pennetta failed to defend her title in Acapulco, she reached the final for the sixth consecutive year. The 27-year-old Italian won her first Acapulco title in 2005 and was runner-up in 2004, 2006, 2007 and now 2009.

STREAKING – 2

When Nicolas Almagro successfully defended his men’s single title at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel, he became the first back-to-back men’s winner since the clay court tournament was moved from Mexico City to Acapulco. The fourth-seeded Spaniard also became the first to successfully defend the men’s title since Thomas Muster won four straight from 1993-96.

SWISS WEDDING

Hall of Famer Boris Becker says he will marry his Dutch girlfriend Lilly Kerssenberg in Switzerland on June 12. Becker made the announcement as he and his girlfriend appeared on a television show in Germany. The three-time Wimbledon champion said he had “taken a wrong turn” last summer when he announced his engagement to Sandy Meyer-Woelden, the daughter of his late former manager. The engagement was broken off after only a few weeks. Becker has two sons with his former wife Barbara and a daughter with a London-based Russian model.

SHAPING UP

Sania Mirza is spending some time in Las Vegas, but not at one of the city’s famed casinos. The 22-year-old Indian will be working out with Gil Reyes, the former trainer for Andre Agassi. Mirza is being joined in the Nevada city by coach Sven Groeneveld and will be working both on and off the court. After the week-long session in Las Vegas, Mirza hopes to play in Indian Wells, California, and Miami, Florida.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Dubai: Rix De Voest and Dmitry Tursunov beat Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt 4-6 6-3 10-5 (match tiebreak)

Acapulco (men): Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak beat Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach 4-6 6-4 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Acapulco (women): Llagostera Vives and Martinez Sanchez beat Dominguez Lino and Parro Santonja 6-4 6-2

Delray Beach: Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan beat Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa 6-4 6-4

SITES TO SURF

Bergamo:  www.olmesport.it

Monterrey: www.abiertodetenismonterrey.com

Davis Cup: www.DavisCup.com

Indian Wells: www.bnpparibasopen.org

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$135,000 Internazionali di Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy, hard

WTA TOUR

$220,000 Monterrey Open, Monterrey, Mexico, hard

DAVIS CUP

World Group

(First Round)

Argentina vs. Netherlands at Buenos Aires, Argentina, clay

Czech Republic vs. France at Ostrava, Czech Republic, carpet

United States vs. Switzerland at Birmingham, Alabama, USA, hard

Croatia vs. Chile at Porec, Croatia, hard

Sweden vs. Israel at Malmo, Sweden, carpet

Romania vs. Russia at Sibiu, Romania, carpet

Germany vs. Austria at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, hard

Spain vs. Serbia at Benidorm, Spain, clay

Americas Zone Group I (First Round)

Uruguay at Colombia, Ecuador at Canada

Americas Zone Group II (First Round)

Jamaica at Mexico, Netherlands Antilles at Venezuela, Guatemala at Dominican Republic, Bahamas at Paraguay

Asia/Oceania Zone Group I (Second Round)

Australia at Thailand, India at Chinese Taipei, China at Japan, Korea at Uzbekistan

Asia/Oceania Zone Group II (First Round)

Philippines at Hong Kong, Pakistan at Oman, Kuwait at Indonesia, Malaysia at New Zealand

Europe/Africa Zone Group I (First Round)

Macedonia at South Africa

Europe/Africa Zone Group I (Second Round)

Slovak Republic at Italy, Ukraine at Great Britain, Poland at Belgium

Europe/Africa Zone Group II (First Round)

Georgia at Lithuania, Egypt at Slovenia, Latvia at Moldova, Bulgaria at Hungary, Finland at Denmark, Montenegro at Monaco, Ireland at Algeria, Portugal at Cyprus

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$4,500,000 BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, California, USA, hard

WTA TOUR

$4,500,000 BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, California, USA, hard