Adrian Mannarino

Federer’s 300 Wins, Pliskova’s 31 Aces, Djokovic’s 100 Errors – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

  • Roger Federer became the first player to win 300 grand slam matches with his third round win over Grigor Dimitrov at the Australian Open. Compatriot Stan Wawrinka also had a milestone win in Melbourne as he won his 400th career ATP match with his third round win over Lukas Rosol.
  • Kristyna Pliskova set the record for most aces in a women’s match by hitting 31 in her second round loss to Monica Puig at the Australian Open.
  • Novak Djokovic hit 100 unforced errors in his five set win over Gilles Simon in the fourth round, after only hitting 78 unforced errors in his first three matches combined. The win sent Djokovic to the quarterfinals for his 27th consecutive quarterfinal appearance at a grand slam event.
  • Victoria Azarenka is still undefeated in 2016 with a 9-0 record that sees her in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. Azarenka has only lost three or more games in a set four times, only once being taken to 6-4.
  • John Isner exited the Australian Open in the fourth round, but not before hitting 119 aces, an average of just under 30 per match. Isner also made 75 percent of his first serves throughout the tournament. The second best first serve percentage of a player that made it to the fourth round was Bernard Tomic at 66 percent.
  • Gilles Muller and Fabio Fognini played the first all tiebreak four set match at the Australian Open since 2000 when Max Mirnyi beat Antony Dupuis in four tiebreak sets. Muller was the winner with a 7-6, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 score line.
  • Adrian Mannarino and Lucas Pouille of France have teamed up to make the men’s doubles quarterfinals at the Australian Open without losing a set. Before the tournament, the two had a combined 10-42 doubles record for their careers.
  • 38 year old Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo made the semifinals of the challenger in Rio de Janeiro this week. The 263rd ranked Spaniard has now made at least one challenger semifinal every year since 2001.

What to Watch in the ATP This Week: Hamburg and Bogota Previews

Only one member of the top 10 takes the court in next week’s two ATP tournaments.  But he’s someone who might merit your attention.

Hamburg:

Top half:  After his second-round loss at Wimbledon, Roger Federer admitted that he needed to regain his rhythm and poise at key moments in matches.  Taking a wildcard into Hamburg, which he won as a Masters 1000 tournament, Federer seeks his first title of the season above the 250 level.  That triumph came at the grass event in Halle, so the world No. 5 will hope to make it two for two on German soil.  Home favorite Daniel Brands could prove an intriguing opening test, considering the challenge that Brands posed for Rafael Nadal in a Roland Garros four-setter.  But the headline match of the quarter, or perhaps the half, comes in the next round with Ernests Gulbis.  Defeating Federer on clay in Rome before, Gulbis has taken at least one set in all three of their previous meetings.  Most of the other players in this section, such as Feliciano Lopez or Nikolay Davydenko, have grown accustomed to Federer’s superiority.

All four seeds in the second quarter reached a quarterfinal at a major this year, rare for an event of Hamburg’s diminished stature.  Jerzy Janowicz and Fernando Verdasco both launched their surprise runs at Wimbledon, and Verdasco extended his surge from grass to clay by winning his first title since 2010 last week.  In his first tournament as a member of the top 20, Janowicz has built his ranking less on consistency than on a handful of notable achievements at key tournaments.  Similarly, Australian Open quarterfinalist Jeremy Chardy has struggled to string together momentum and has secured just one semifinal berth since that breakthrough.  An all-Spanish quarterfinal might await if Verdasco and Roland Garros quarterfinalist Tommy Robredo use their superior clay expertise to halt the higher-ranked Janowicz and Chardy, respectively.  Federer never has lost to any of these men, or to anyone else in a section where Madrid semifinalist Pablo Andujar also lurks.

Semifinal:  Federer vs. Verdasco

Bottom half:  The sight of Nicolas Almagro and Mikhail Youzhny in the same vicinity calls to mind their Miami clash five years ago.  Youzhny famously won that match with blood dripping down his head after banging his racket on it repeatedly.  Undefeated in their previous meetings, Youzhny stopped Almagro in another three-setter this spring without reacquainting his racket with his head.  While the Spaniard has faltered after a promising start to 2013, he still holds the surface edge on his nemesis.  This section also contains four unseeded players who have reached clay finals this year.  Bucharest champion Lukas Rosol could derail Almagro straight out of the gate, while Bucharest runner-up Guillermo Garcia-Lopez sets his sights on Youzhny.  A champion in Nice, Albert Montanes could eye a rematch of his final there against Gael Monfils, but only if the latter can upset defending champion Juan Monaco.  The Argentine won a clay title in Dusseldorf on the day that Montanes won Nice, his fourth on clay in 2012-13.

Second seed Tommy Haas usually shines on German soil during these latter stages of his career.  Winning Munich on clay and taking a set from Federer in a Halle semifinal, Haas finished runner-up to Monaco in Hamburg last year.  On the verge of the top 10, he showed some traces of fatigue by falling early in Stuttgart as the top seed.  A semifinalist at that tournament, Victor Hanescu could face Haas in his opener, while Bastad runner-up Carlos Berlocq looms a round later.  The other side of the section exudes a distinctly Italian flavor, bookended by Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini.  A semifinalist in Monte Carlo, Fognini started his campaign there by defeating Seppi in three sets, and he has enjoyed far stronger clay results than his compatriot this year.  Of minor note are Vina del Mar champion Horacio Zeballos, just 4-14 since that breakthrough, and Rome quarterfinalist Marcel Granollers, who owed that result in large part to Andy Murray’s retirement.

Semifinal:  Monaco vs. Haas

Final:  Federer vs. Monaco

Bogota:

Top half:  Not since the Australian Open has Janko Tipsarevic won more than two matches in a tournament.  The beleaguered Serb saw his ranking slide out of the top 10 this summer, unable to salvage it even with several appearances at the 250 level.  Another such effort to gobble up easy points as the top seed unfolds in Bogota.  This draw looks more accommodating to Tipsarevic than others in which he has held that position.  A pair of Colombians, Alejandro Falla and a wildcard, join a pair of Belgians and Australian serve-volleyer Matthew Ebden in his vicinity.  If he can rediscover the tennis that brought him to the top 10, Tipsarevic should cruise.  If he plays as he has for most of the year, anything could happen.

Among the most intriguing names in the second quarter is rising Canadian star Vasek Pospisil.  Depending on how fast the courts play in Bogota, Pospisil could deploy his serve and shot-making to devastating effect against less powerful opponents.  Australian journeyman James Duckworth showed his mettle in two epics at his home major this year, while Aljaz Bedene owns a win over Stanislas Wawrinka—but not much else.  A finalist in Delray Beach, fourth seed Edouard Roger-Vasselin hopes to halt a four-match losing streak.  At least Mr. Bye cannot stop him in the first round.

Bottom half:  Surprising most observers by reaching the second week of Wimbledon, Adrian Mannarino came back to earth with a modest result in Newport.  At an event of similar caliber, he will hope to build on his momentum from grass while it still lingers.  The same motivation probably spurs third seed Igor Sijsling, who upset Milos Raonic at Wimbledon after bursting on the scene with a victory over Tsonga in February.  Back into action with a quarterfinal showing in Newport, Ivo Karlovic brings his towering serve to an altitude ideal for it.  At 7,000 feet above sea level, Dr. Ivo might be nearly unbreakable if his fitness weathers the thin air.

Also armed with a massive serve, second seed Kevin Anderson eyes a cluster of Colombians.  Two home hopes meet in the first round, but Santiago Giraldo will fancy his chances to reach the quarterfinals.  Near him is Kazakh loose cannon Evgeny Korolev, who oozes with talent while lacking the reins to harness it.  Anderson has won all three of his meetings with Korolev and his only previous encounter with Giraldo, so his path to the weekend looks clear.

Final:  Unseeded player vs. Anderson

 

 

What to Watch in the ATP This Week: Bastad, Stuttgart, Newport Draw Previews

A day after the dust settled on the Wimbledon final, several notable men launch back into action at tournaments on clay and grass.

Bastad:

Top half:  The apparently indefatigable Tomas Berdych surges into Sweden just days after his appearance in the Wimbledon quarterfinals.  This spring, Berdych complained of fatigue caused by an overstuffed schedule, but a substantial appearance fee probably persuaded him to enter this small clay tournament.  Not at his best on clay this year, the top seed should cruise to the quarterfinals with no surface specialist in his area.  Viktor Troicki, his projected quarterfinal opponent, produced some encouraging results at Wimbledon but lacks meaningful clay credentials.

Much more compelling is the section from which Berdych’s semifinal opponent will emerge.  The fourth-seeded Tommy Robredo, a surprise quarterfinalist at Roland Garros, will hope to repeat his victory over the Czech in Barcelona.  On the other hand, Robredo cannot afford to dig the same early holes for himself in a best-of-three format that he did in Paris.  A first-round skirmish between fellow Argentines Carlos Berlocq and Horacio Zeballos features two thorns in Rafael Nadal’s side this year.  While Zeballos defeated the Spaniard to win Vina del Mar in February, Berlocq extended him deep into a third set soon afterward in Sao Paulo.

Bottom half:  The most famous tennis player to visit Stockholm this month will not appear in the Swedish Open.  Following her second-round exit at Wimbledon, Maria Sharapova accompanied boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov on a brief summer vacation before his appearance here.  Dimitrov holds the fifth seed in a wide-open quarter as he aims to thrust an epic Wimbledon loss behind him.  The man who stunned Novak Djokovic on Madrid clay this year has receded in recent weeks, and dirt devil Juan Monaco may test his questionable stamina in the quarterfinals.  Two Italian journeymen, Filippo Volandri and Paolo Lorenzi, look to squeeze out all that they can from their best surface.

Probably the most compelling quarterfinal would emerge in the lowest section of the draw between Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco.  Like Berdych, Verdasco travels to Sweden on short rest after reaching the Wimbledon quarterfinals.  Unlike Berdych, his result there astonished as he suddenly rediscovered his form in a dismal 2013, even extending Andy Murray to five sets.  Verdasco can resuscitate his ranking during the weeks ahead if he builds on that breakthrough, and he has won five of seven meetings from Almagro on clay.  Slumping recently after a fine start to the year, Almagro faces a potential early challenge against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Final: Robredo vs. Verdasco

Stuttgart:

Top half:  Often at his best on home soil, the top-seeded Tommy Haas eyes a rematch of his meeting in Munich this spring with Ernests Gulbis.  The veteran needed three sets to halt the Latvian firecracker that time.  But Marcel Granollers might intercept Gulbis in the first round, relying on his superior clay prowess.  In fact, plenty of quality clay tennis could await in a section that includes Monte Carlo semifinalist Fabio Fognini and Madrid semifinalist Pablo Andujar.  All of these men will have felt grateful to leave the brief grass season behind them as they return to the foundation of their success.

Much less deep in surface skills is the second quarter, headlined by Jeremy Chardy and Martin Klizan.  Despite his Australian Open quarterfinal when the season started, Chardy continues to languish below the elite level, which leaves this section ripe for surprises.  Granted, Klizan took a set from Nadal at Roland Garros, an achievement impressive under any circumstances.  He opens against Nice champion Albert Montanes, who once defeated Roger Federer on clay with a quintessential grinder’s game.  Perhaps Roberto Bautista-Agut will have gained confidence from his four-set tussle with David Ferrer at Wimbledon, or Daniel Gimeno-Traver from his upset of Richard Gasquet in Madrid.

Bottom half:   Never a threat at Wimbledon, Nikolay Davydenko chose to skip the third major this year to preserve his energy for more profitable surfaces.  Davydenko will begin to find out whether that decision made sense in Stuttgart, where he could face fourth seed Benoit Paire in the second round.  Both Paire and the other seed in this quarter, Lukas Rosol, seek to make amends for disappointing efforts at Wimbledon.  Each of them failed to capitalize on the Federer-Nadal quarter that imploded around them.  Another Russian seeking to make a comeback this year, Dmitry Tursunov, hopes to prove that February was no fluke.  Surprising successes at small tournaments that month have not led to anything greater for Tursunov so far, other than an odd upset of Ferrer.

Another player who skipped Wimbledon, Gael Monfils looks to extend a clay resurgence from his Nice final and a five-set thriller at Roland Garros against Berdych.  Two enigmatic Germans surround the even more enigmatic Frenchman, creating a section of unpredictability.  Philipp Kohlschreiber returns to action soon after he retired from a Wimbledon fifth set with alleged fatigue.  While compatriot Florian Mayer also fell in the first round, he had the much sturdier alibi of drawing Novak Djokovic.

Final:  Haas vs. Paire

Newport:

Top half:  Not part of the US Open Series, this cozy grass event at the Tennis Hall of Fame gives grass specialists one last opportunity to collect some victories.  Wildcard Nicolas Mahut could meet top seed Sam Querrey in round two, hoping that the American continues to stumble after an opening-round loss at Wimbledon.  But Querrey usually shines much more brightly on home soil, winning all but one of his career titles there.  A rising American star, Rhyne Williams, and doubles specialist Rajeev Ram look to pose his main pre-semifinal tests.  Ram has shone in Newport before, defeating Querrey in the 2009 final and reaching the semifinals last year with a victory over Kei Nishikori.

Among the most surprising names to reach the second week of Wimbledon was Kenny De Schepper, who outlasted fellow Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet.  De Schepper will try to exploit a section without any man in the top 50, but Igor Sijsling has played better than his ranking recently.  The Australian Open doubles finalist defeated Milos Raonic and won a set from Tsonga on grass this year, while extending Robredo to five sets at Roland Garros.  But Sijsling retired from Wimbledon with the flu, leaving his fitness in doubt.

Bottom half: Currently more dangerous on grass than anywhere else, Lleyton Hewitt reached the Newport final in his first appearance at the tournament last year.  The former Wimbledon champion more recently upset No. 11 seed Stanislas Wawrinka at Wimbledon after defeating Querrey, Dimitrov, and Juan Martin Del Potro at Queen’s Club.  Hewitt holds the fourth seed in Newport, where an all-Australian quarterfinal against Marinko Matosevic could unfold.   A former Newport runner-up in Prakash Amritraj and yet another Aussie in Matthew Ebden add their serve-volley repertoire to a section of contrasting playing styles.

Meeting for the fourth time this year are two struggling Americans, Ryan Harrison and the second-seeded John Isner.  The latter man aims to defend his Newport title as he regroups from a knee injury at the All England Club, but fellow giant Ivo Karlovic could loom in the quarterfinals.  Just back from a serious medical issue, Karlovic opens against Wimbledon doubles semifinalist Edouard Roger-Vasselin.  Potential talents Denis Kudla and Vasek Pospisil also square off, while Adrian Mannarino looks to recapture the form that took him to the brink of a Wimbledon quarterfinal.

Final:  Querrey vs. Hewitt

Wimbledon Rewind: Serena Stunned, Djokovic Dominant, Radwanska Resilient, Li Lethal, Ferrer Fierce on Manic Monday

Monday got manic in a hurry with a titanic upset in the women’s draw, only to settle down into more predictable outcomes for most of the day.  Catch up on any of the fourth-round action that you may have missed with the daily Wimbledon rewind.

ATP:

Match of the day:  Twists and turns pervaded the clash of rising star Jerzy Janowicz and grizzled veteran Jurgen Melzer.  In the intimate surroundings of Court 12, Melzer started the match on fire but gradually lost his momentum in the second set and later trailed two sets to one.  Able to rally in the fourth, he secured a clutch break in the tenth game to force a deciding set.  With his first major quarterfinal on the line, though, Janowicz refused to let the opportunity escape him as he edged across the finish line 6-4 in the fifth.

Comeback of the day:  The other half of an all-Polish men’s quarterfinal, Lukas Kubot trailed Adrian Mannarino by a set and later by two sets to one in the most important match of his career so far.  Nobody would have expected Kubot to reach a major quarterfinal in singles, yet he wrested away this five-set encounter from his fellow journeyman.  His semifinal chances may hinge on whether Janowicz or he can recover from their draining victories more efficiently.

Upset of the day:  None.  Tomas Berdych deserves credit for snuffing out the most plausible upset threat in Bernard Tomic.  Splitting the first two sets in tiebreaks, Berdych gradually asserted himself against the Aussie talent in the next two sets and avoided the nerve-jangling scenario of a fifth set.

Gold star:  Before 2013, Juan Martin Del Potro never had reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.  This year, he has reached the quarterfinals without losing a set.  Del Potro overcame a knee injury to defeat Andreas Seppi after wondering whether he would be fit to play on Monday.  Despite all of the surprises at Wimbledon this year, all of the top-eight seeds in the men’s top half reached the quarterfinals.

Silver star:  Winless in two previous grass meetings with Tommy Haas, Novak Djokovic seized control of the third from the outset and never let the veteran catch his breath.  Like Del Potro, Djokovic has not lost a set en route to the quarterfinals, but this victory impressed more than those that came before because of his history against Haas.  He will seek his fourth straight Wimbledon semifinal, not bad for a man whose worst surface is grass.

What doesn’t kill you…:  …makes you stronger?  World No. 4 David Ferrer has not won any of his four matches in straight sets, three of them against unseeded opponents.  Struggling with a painful ankle injury, Ferrer fell behind early again on Monday before dominating the latter stages of the match, as he had in the third round.  Wimbledon is the only major where he has not reached the semifinals, so he will aim to end that futility by repeating last year’s victory there over Del Potro.

Foregone conclusion of the day:  Even with Nadal’s early exit, two Spaniards reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals.  Joining Ferrer there was Fernando Verdasco, who rolled past Kenny de Schepper in straight sets.

Stat of the day: In addition to Agnieszka Radwanska in the women’s draw, the quarterfinal appearances of Kubot and Janowicz gave Poland more Wimbledon quarterfinalists than any other nation.

Question of the day:  World No. 2 Andy Murray again took care of business efficiently today, dispatching 20th seed Mikhail Youzhny.  Can Murray continue his uneventful progress to the final, his path barred only by Verdasco and one of the Poles?  Or will the escalating pressure of the second week lead to some unexpected drama in the bottom half?

WTA:

Match of the day:  One of the greatest grass specialists in WTA history, Sabine Lisicki reached her fourth Wimbledon quarterfinal by shocking heavy title favorite, defending champion, and world No. 1 Serena Williams in three sets.  Serena had not looked as sharp in the first week as she had at Roland Garros, but one expected her to prevail once she recovered from a dismal first set.  The defending champion dominated Lisicki in the second set and rolled to an early lead in the third, at which point many underdogs might have surrendered.  Lisicki is a different player on this court than she is anywhere else, though, and she swung freely with the match in the balance at 4-4 in the final set.  Hitting through her nerves and a staggering Serena, she scored perhaps the biggest upset in an upset-riddled draw.

Comeback of the day:  When Tsvetana Pironkova claimed the first set from Agnieszka Radwanska, Wimbledon suddenly looked in danger of losing all of the top five women before the quarterfinals.  But grass specialists would split their two meetings with top-four seeds on Monday as Radwanska ground through a second straight three-set victory.  As has been the case with much of her 2013 campaign, she has not shown her best form while doing just enough to win.

Gold star:  Li Na had survived consecutive three-setters to end the first week, including an 8-6 epic against Klara Zakopalova.  She needed to fasten her teeth into the tournament more firmly, and she did by losing just two games to the 11th seed, Roberta Vinci.  Having defeated Radwanska in a quarterfinal at the Australian Open, Li will hope to repeat the feat in a Tuesday match between the two highest-ranked women remaining in the draw.

Silver star:  Only one woman has reached the quarterfinals without losing a set or playing a tiebreak.  Take a bow, world No. 15 Marion Bartoli, who has threatened only occasionally at majors since reaching the Wimbledon final in 2007.  Granted, Bartoli has faced no opponent in the top 50 to this stage.  She participated in a bloodbath of Italians by ousting Karin Knapp for the loss of just five games.  (None of the four Italians who reached the fourth round won a set on Manic Monday.)

What doesn’t kill you…:  …makes you stronger?  The only former Wimbledon champion left in the women’s draw, Petra Kvitova had dropped sets in both of her first-week victories and easily could have done so again on Monday.  Former nemesis Carla Suarez Navarro took Kvitova to a first-set tiebreak and the brink of an emotional meltdown, but the Czech steadied herself once she survived it.  Kvitova can look ahead to a quarterfinal against Kirsten Flipkens, also fortunate to avoid losing a first set for which her opponent served twice.  Flipkens won their previous meeting this year in Miami.

All eyes on Andy:  A round after she upset Angelique Kerber, Kaia Kanepi sent home local darling Laura Robson in two tight sets.  The match could have tilted in either direction, so Kanepi’s experience probably proved vital in securing her second Wimbledon quarterfinal appearance.  She also earned the last laugh on British tabloids that lampooned her burly physique before the Robson match.

Americans in London:  In the wake of Serena’s loss, the United States plausibly might have gone home without a single quarterfinalist in either singles draw.  Sloane Stephens averted that disappointment by winning a second straight three-setter, this time against Monica Puig.  Trailing by a set, Stephens showed resilience in battling through a tight second set and then dominating the third.  She has won twelve matches at majors this year, more than many higher-ranked women.

Stat of the day: In Lisicki’s last four Wimbledon appearances, she has defeated the current Roland Garros champion every time.  Her repeated denials of Channel Slams protect a record held by compatriot Steffi Graf, who completed the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double four times.

Question of the day:  The first three majors will crown three different women’s champions for the third straight year.  With all of the top three gone before the quarterfinals, who becomes the new title favorite?  One might favor Kvitova, the only woman who has won here before, but conventional wisdom has taken it on the chin all fortnight.

 

Buy, Hold, Sell: The Unseeded Thirteen (Plus Memo on Wimbledon’s Middle Sunday)

Although I enjoy most Wimbledon traditions, one of the exceptions is the Middle Sunday.  Before I launch into today’s topic, the unseeded players who have reached the second week, I wanted to share some thoughts about this lacuna.  Feel free to jump down below the asterisks if you’d prefer.  Otherwise, let me explain why I would dispense with the Middle Sunday.

Not just because Great Britain is a secular state, and the AELTC a secular organization.

Not just because it seems capricious to toss aside a quarter of your tournament’s weekend days.  (You know, the days when people are best able to actually sit on their couches and watch things like tennis.)

Not just because it seems slightly elitist to separate the haves of the second week so sharply from the have-nots of the first.

Not just because arbitrarily removing an entire day from your schedule makes every rain delay loom that much larger.  (This is exacerbated by the tournament’s refusal to start play on show courts earlier than 1 PM, leaving room for only three matches on each.)  Nature has a sense of humor, by the way.  Rarely does it rain on Middle Sunday.

Not just because “we do it this way because we’ve always done it this way” is one of the worst possible justifications for doing anything.

No, my main issue with Middle Sunday, and really the only issue that matters, is its impact on the schedule for the rest of the tournament.  Almost a tradition in its own right, Manic Monday has a certain gaudy appeal at first glance.  Lots of exciting stuff is happening!  All at the same time!  Everywhere!  It’s a channel-surfer’s paradise:  instant gratification, saturating the senses.

But the day rushes past before you know it, leaving no time to thoroughly savor and digest the delicious matches on the menu.  We could appreciate each of these fascinating encounters better if the tournament divided the fourth round, the round that usually separates contenders from pretenders, into two days of four ATP and four WTA matches apiece.

Even more importantly, Middle Sunday and Manic Monday result in a gender-based bifurcation of the entire second week.  At other majors, for example, fans can watch two men’s and two women’s quarterfinals on Tuesday, and the same lineup on Wednesday.  At Wimbledon, fans must watch the ladies on Tuesday, the gentlemen on Wednesday, and so forth alternating each day to the end.  Doubles is an exception, of course.

While I never have attended Wimbledon in person, I know that I prefer watching tournaments that interweave the men and the women in their schedules.  General fans who follow both the ATP and the WTA appreciate the variety that the rich contrasts between them offer.  The Australian Open has the ideal schedule in my view:  two quarterfinals from each Tour on Tuesday, the rest of the quarterfinals on Wednesday, women’s semifinals and one men’s semifinal on Thursday, the remaining men’s semifinal on Friday, and night sessions for each of the singles finals.  By the time that Friday arrives, obviously, there is almost no alternative to splitting the Tours.  But starting that rigid alternation on Tuesday takes away part of what makes a major feel like a major:   the chance to see the best players of both genders trading places with each other on the same court.

The US Open has scrapped its version of Middle Sunday, the “Super Saturday” on the second weekend that forced the men’s finalists to play best-of-five matches on consecutive days.  That version of cruel and unusual punishment died a slower death than it should have.  It’s time for Middle Sunday to start dying its slow death too.

***

At any rate, on to the tennis!  The chaos of the first week has left us with thirteen unseeded players in the fourth round.  This article takes a look at how each of them reached Manic Monday, the biggest stage on which many have starred.  And we discuss which of these underdogs you should buy, hold, or sell.

ATP:

Bernard Tomic:  Into the second week of Wimbledon for the second time, he knocked off top-25 opponent Sam Querrey to start the tournament.  Unlike many of those who started the tournament with a bang, Tomic used that victory to light the fuse of two more. His latest came against world No. 9 Richard Gasquet.  Now looms his first career meeting with Tomas Berdych at the ATP level.  While Berdych enters that match as the favorite, dark horses have intercepted him at majors before.

Buy, hold, or sell?   Buy

Ivan Dodig:  A bit of a Typhoid Mary last week, Dodig received two retirements in three matches.  The Croat fell behind Philipp Kohlschreiber by two sets in the first round, but he recovered to sneak out the next two before Kohlschreiber’s odd “I feel tired” retirement.  Not one to let this sort of opportunity go for naught, Dodig has not lost a set since.  Now he faces David Ferrer, who has not had an easy win in the tournament and needed five sets to escape Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Buy, hold, or sell?  Hold

Lukas Kubot:  Sandwiched around a walkover were two straight-sets victories, the second against a seeded opponent in Benoit Paire.  Kubot’s game fits the grass neatly with his reliance on quick strikes and ability to open the court.  He looks to arrange an intriguing all-Polish quarterfinal in the section where everyone envisioned an epic Nadal-Federer collision.

Buy, hold, or sell?  Buy

Adrian Mannarino:  The man who vies with Kubot for that quarterfinal berth never had reached the second week at any major before.  Like Kubot, Mannarino enjoyed a second-round boost when his opponent withdrew.  John Isner’s retirement opened the door for him to exploit the sequence of upsets when Dustin Brown defeated Lleyton Hewitt, who had defeated Stanislas Wawrinka.  Mannarino’s presence here thus seems more fortuitous than ferocious.

Buy, hold, or sell?  Sell

Jurgen Melzer:  Emerging from Roger Federer’s section of the draw, Melzer has advanced this far at a major before.  A Roland Garros semifinalist in 2010, the veteran lefty has played exactly four sets in each of his three matches.  He slew the man who slew the defending champion, benefiting from Sergiy Stakhovsky’s predictable lull.  Jerzy Janowicz’s thunderous serve and youthful exuberance should prove a test much more arduous.

Buy, hold, or sell?  Sell

Fernando Verdasco:  2013 could not have started much worse for Verdasco, who sagged outside the top 50 by the clay season.  Wimbledon could turn his entire season around if he can take care of business against the anonymous man below him on this list.  Verdasco did not benefit from the injuries of those around him, straight-setting both Julien Benneteau and the dangerous Ernests Gulbis.  If his lefty serve keeps firing, his attitude of relentless aggression should play well on grass.

Buy, hold, or sell?  Buy

Kenny de Schepper:  Ranked somewhat higher than Mannarino, de Schepper is only the tenth-best Frenchman in the ATP.  His presence in the fourth round reveals his nation’s tennis depth.  Although he ousted the grass-averse Juan Monaco to end the first week, his debut in the second week of a major pits him against the far more experienced Verdasco.  De Schepper’s best hope consists of a Verdasco letdown, which is not implausible, but he also must manage a moment to which he is unaccustomed.

Buy, hold, or sell?  Sell

WTA:

Laura Robson:  The darling of local fans caused British hearts to palpitate when Marina Erakovic served for the match against her in the third round.  Lackluster in the early stages of that encounter, Robson found the poise to regroup as she turned the fraught atmosphere to her advantage.  She upset world No. 10 Maria Kirilenko to start the tournament and can penetrate the grass smoothly with a massive lefty forehand.  But she faces a daunting test in the next round against former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Kanepi.

Buy, hold, or sell?  Buy

Kaia Kanepi:  Eager to engage in a slugfest with Robson, Kanepi knows what it feels like to reach this stage of this tournament.  A quarterfinalist as a qualifier in 2010, she built on those memories by upsetting the seventh-ranked Angelique Kerber in the second round.  Kanepi showed as much toughness in that match as Robson did against Erakovic, mounting a similar comeback from a deep deficit.  She struggled against a British journeywoman in her opener, which might not bode well for Monday, but Robson can expect a battle.

Buy, hold, or sell?  Hold

Tsvetana Pironkova:  Perhaps the least surprising of the unseeded women in the second week, Pironkova announced her presence by nearly double-bageling top-25 opponent Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to start the tournament.  Her form has dwindled a bit since then, including a three-setter against Petra Martic, and Radwanska has owned her for most of their careers.  Pironkova lacks the power to hit through the Pole consistently, but she did defeat Radwanska on grass last year.

Buy, hold, or sell?  Hold

Monica Puig:  Scoring an upset against a top-five opponent is an excellent achievement in itself, as Puig did against Sara Errani.  Building upon it is even more impressive, and that is where Puig separated herself from Steve Darcis, Sergiy Stakhovsky, and Michelle Larcher de Brito last week.  Her lack of experience at majors may catch up with her against the suddenly seasoned Stephens, one of only three women to reach the second week at every major this year.  Still, Stephens looked far from formidable in a three-set struggle against qualifier Petra Cetkovska.

Buy, hold, or sell?  Hold

Karin Knapp:  A victory over the ever-enigmatic Lucie Safarova highlighted Knapp’s unexpected three-match winning streak.  The world No. 104 won just a single game from Marion Bartoli in their only previous meeting, though, and she would shock the tennis world if she solves the 15th seed.  A 2007 finalist here, Bartoli has played surprisingly steady tennis and did not lose a set in the first week.

Buy, hold, or sell?  Sell

Flavia Pennetta:  When world No. 2 Victoria Azarenka withdrew, Pennetta sniffed a chance to reassert her presence.  Her ranking has tumbled outside the top 150 after injury, but the Italian veteran twice before reached the second week at Wimbledon and can threaten on any surface.  A stirring comeback against Alize Cornet brings her into a Monday match with the 20th-ranked Kirsten Flipkens.  Reaching the final at the Dutch Open a week ago, Flipkens has won all of her matches in straight sets as the grass has rewarded her deft touch and forecourt skills.

Buy, hold, or sell?  Sell

Back to the Future: Del Potro’s Impressive Opener

During the second half of 2012, Del Potro had reaffirmed his position as one of the men most likely to threaten the ATP Big Four on the grandest stages.  The 2009 US Open champion not only upset Djokovic and Federer but dominated most of the players below his quality.  To advance towards the latter stages of the Australian Open, Del Potro must string together a series of efficient victories that continue his momentum from last season.  He took a solid step in that direction today with a 6-1 6-2 6-2 demolition that recalled the fearless tennis of his initial breakthrough, striking plenty of winners while keeping his unforced errors well within single digits.

Like Federer, Del Potro opened his campaign against a somewhat obscure Frenchman in Adrian Mannarino.  A small lefty, Mannarino relies on an uncanny sense of timing rather than the raw power projected by his opponent on serve and from the baseline.  This match thus offered Del Potro the opportunity to find his groundstroke rhythm after limited match practice this offseason, without fearing that his challenger would hit him off the court before he grew comfortable.

Crisp from the outset, the sixth seed kept Mannarino pinned harmlessly behind the baseline with a barrage of inside-out and inside-in forehands through the early stages.  So unconcerned was Del Potro by the Frenchman’s ball-striking talents that he often ran around his backhand when well inside that part of the court to set up unanswerable forehand strikes.  He spurted to a quick 4-0 lead by exploiting the visible size advantage that he held over Mannarino.  At that stage, Del Potro may have grown a bit complacent after tasting success so easily.  He threw Mannarino a lifeline with overly casual groundstrokes, only to snatch it back with the strong serving that characterized this 6-1 set.

Finishing the first set with a love hold, Del Potro needed to guard against the temptation to lose focus early in the second set against an opponent clearly overpowered.  Mannarino’s evident lack of belief played a role in extending the momentum of the rout, however, as he offered minimal resistance in his first service game.  After 33 minutes, Del Potro led by a set and a double break, having entered ten of the first eleven games into his ledger.  Filled with confidence, he fired forehands off the outsides of lines and found corners of the service box with second-serve aces.

In his leisurely manner, Del Potro ambled around the court between the fierce groundstrokes that continued to rocket past Mannarino in the third set.  While the Frenchman somehow managed to survive his first service game, the only break that the Argentine required came soon afterwards.  As the conversation swirls around Djokovic, Federer, and Murray as the leading title contenders, Del Potro unleashed an impressive opening salvo that hinted at his ability to join that group.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Did I hear the baby? My grandmother in Russia heard the baby

STARS

Juan Martin del Potro beat Andy Roddick 3-6 7-5 7-6 (6) to win the Legg Mason Tennis Classic title in Washington, DC, USA

Flavia Pennetta beat Samantha Stosur 6-4 6-3 to win the LA Women’s Tennis Championships in Los Angeles, California, USA

Feliciano Lopez won the ATP Open Castilla y Leon in Segovia, Spain, defeating Adrian Mannarino 6-3 6-4

Andreas Seppi beat Potito Starace 7-6 (4) 2-6 6-4 to win the San Marino CEPU Open in San Marino

Marcos Baghdatis beat Xavier Malisse 6-4 6-4 to win the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open men’s singles in Vancouver, Canada

Stephanie Dubois beat Sania Mirza 1-6 6-4 6-4 to win the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open women’s singles in Vancouver, Canada

SAYING

“We play until the tiebreaker, and then I did the best service of my life.” – Juan Martin del Potro, who hit five of his 19 aces in the tiebreaker to beat Andy Roddick and win his second straight Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

“I kind of forced him to play high-risk tennis, especially with the heat. He was taking big cuts, especially for the last 30, 45 minutes we were out there, and he was connecting.” – Andy Roddick, after losing to Juan Martin del Potro in the final at Washington, DC.

“Every match I improved. I had a great chance in the second set and I took it, that’s why I won.” – Flavia Pennetta, who won the LA Women’s Tennis Championships.

“My whole career I’ve been trying to get to this point. It kind of looks like I’ve done it late, but I don’t worry too much about that. I took a little longer to develop.” – Samantha Stosur, after reaching the final of the LA Women’s Tennis Championships.

“I don’t have fear if I miss that important point. If you don’t take a risk, you don’t gain.” – Fernando Gonzalez, after beating Tommy Haas at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

“Did I hear the baby? My grandmother in Russia heard the baby.” – Maria Sharapova, after a baby started crying in the first set of her 6-4 (4) 6-4 6-2 victory over Victoria Azarenka at the LA Women’s Tennis Championships.

“I have to give him a lot of credit. He helped turn my mind around. I’m no longer looking at tennis as a matter of life and death.” – Philip Bester of Canada, speaking about his several sessions with sports psychologist Jim Loehr.

”I realized how much I missed it and how it made me sharper, and, in some ways, more focused. Then I realized I wanted it back.” – Ana Ivanovic, talking about the pressure of being number one in the world.

“Maybe some people think it’s too crazy, but I’m enjoying a lot. For me it’s not only for the ranking or always to win the tournament. It’s just to enjoy life.” – Kimiko Date Krumm, on returning to the WTA Tour after her 12-year retirement.

SECONDING THE CALL

After battling through 14 points in the final-set tiebreaker, Andy Roddick and Juan Martin del Potro waited at the net for the replay to tell them if their match was over. Del Potro appeared to win the match with a crosscourt forehand winner, but Roddick challenged the call. “I actually thought it might have been out, and I asked him and he said it might have been out,” Roddick said. “So imagine the disappointment when it wasn’t.” The disappointment was all Roddick’s as del Potro won his second straight Legg Mason Tennis Classic title in Washington, DC, edging Roddick 3-6 7-5 7-6 (6).

STRIKING BACK

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has appealed a ruling that essentially cleared Richard Gasquet, who said he inadvertently took cocaine by kissing a woman in a nightclub. The ITF is appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after an independent tribunal decided to exonerate Gasquet for a positive cocaine test. The Frenchman was allowed to resume playing after serving a 2½-month retroactive ban. The ITF is seeking a two-year ban under the terms of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code.

SKIPPING SUSPENSION

Tamira Paszek will not be suspended while officials investigate whether medical treatment the Austrian tennis player received for a back injury violated doping regulations. The disciplinary committee of Austria’s anti-doping agency said Paszek can continue to play on the WTA Tour until a verdict is reached in about seven weeks. Last month Paszek had blood taken for homeopathic enrichment, and then re-injected into her lower back. Re-injecting one’s own blood is banned under international anti-doping rules. It was Paszek herself who alerted the doping agency when she learned that her treatment may have been illegal. She hasn’t played a match since retiring in the first round of Wimbledon in June.

SPARKLING MARK

Andy Roddick reached another milestone at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC. When the Wimbledon finalist beat fellow American Sam Querrey in a third-round match, it was his 500th career match victory, making Roddick only the fourth active player and the 36th in the Open Era to win 500 matches. Roger Federer – no surprise there – leads the active players with 657 match wins, while Carlos Moya has 573 and Lleyton Hewitt 511.

SODERLING STOPPED

An elbow injury did what an opponent couldn’t at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC. An injury to his right elbow forced Sweden’s Robin Soderling to withdraw from his quarterfinal match against second-seeded Juan Martin del Potro. Soderling reached the French Open final this year, losing to Roger Federer, then won the Swedish Open in Bastad, Sweden, in his last two tournaments.

SQUEEZE PLAY

After years of paying on consecutive weeks, men and women will compete for the Rogers Cup at the same time but in separate Canadian cities. The men and women take turns playing one year in Montreal, then the next in Toronto. This year, the men will play in Stade Uniprix at Jarry Park in Montreal this week; the women will play at Rexall Centre at York University in Toronto next week. But because of increased international pressure for more combined men’s and women’s tournaments, Tennis Canada will squeeze its two marquee events into the same week beginning in 2011. That’s the only way the Rogers Cup can be played three weeks before the US Open, the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Despite the two tours playing in separate cities, Tennis Canada will be calling it the world’s first “virtually-combined” tournament, melding the two events into one through the medium of television.

SINGLES WINNER

On her way to the court to play for the title, Stephanie Dubois noticed the photos of the previous winners of the Vancouver Open. “I visualized myself on that wall with the others,” said Dubois, a native of Quebec, Canada. “I worked very hard for this.” The 22-year-old Dubois made sure her picture will be added to the “winners’ wall” when she became the first Canadian to capture the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open women’s singles title by beating India’s Sania Mirza 1-6 6-4 6-4. The winner didn’t hold serve until 3-2 in the second set, then knotted the match at one set apiece when she cashed in on her sixth set point. “I’m very happy to have won,” Dubois said. “I came here with that objective.”

SWEETING FINED

When he suffered a second-round loss at the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open, Ryan Sweeting had a few choice words to say to the chair umpire. The officials weren’t impressed by his choice of words and instead fined Sweeting USD $1,500 for verbal abuse of a chair umpire. The young American made his expensive speech after losing to Canada’s Philip Bester 6-4 6-3.

SIGN UP, PLEASE

Two tennis stars, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza, have asked cricketers in India to sign the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code despite apprehension about the “whereabout” clause. “Lots of the tennis players had apprehensions early but we are all doing it,” Bhupathi said. The disputed clause makes it mandatory for athletes to disclose their whereabouts three months in advance. Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams are two tennis stars who are the most vociferous critics of the clause, but both have signed it. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) supports its players and has asked the International Cricket Council, a WADA signatory, to explore the possibility of having an anti-doping agency of its own. “It would not be fair to all the other sports and sportsmen of the world to make exceptions to WADA’s rules, and I’m sure any doubts that the cricketers have can be sorted out amicably through consensus before they sign on the dotted line,” Sania said.

SWISS DOUBLES

Roger Federer posted the first public photo of his twin daughters on the Internet. The Swiss tennis star wrote below the photo on his Facebook account that the girls and mother are “doing great,” and thanks friends and fans for their wishes. Federer and his wife Mirka are each holding a baby in the picture. Charlene Riva and Myla Rose were born July 23. Federer said the photo was taken by his father.

SPECIAL HONOR

Jane Brown Grimes and John Reese are the 2009 recipients of the prestigious International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum (ITHFM) Chairman’s Award, which recognizes outstanding service by a board member. Brown Grimes opened the ITHFM’s New York office in 1977 and became the Hall of Fame’s executive director in 1981. In 1986 she became managing director of the Women’s Tennis Council, then returned to the Hall of Fame as its president and CEO in 1991, serving until 2000. A board member since 1983, Reese became executive vice president of the Hall of Fame board and later served in a number of positions, including president and CEO, chairman and CEO, and chairman of the executive committee. In 1998, Reese was inducted into the United States Tennis Association’s Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame.

SPOT CLINCHED

Dinara Safina is the first player to clinch a spot in the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held October 27-November 1 at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex in Doha, Qatar. The world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams from the 2009 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour will compete for the year-ending title and a share of the record Championships prize money of USD $4.45 million. It will be Safina’s second trip to the Championships, having made her debut a year ago. The Russian reached the world number one ranking on April 20. Her 16-match winning streak is the best on the WTA Tour this season. She also has reached the final of the Australian Open and Roland Garros, while gaining a semifinal berth at Wimbledon. “Qualifying for the year-end Sony Ericsson Championships is one of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year,” Safina said. “I’ve accomplished a lot of milestones this season and am thrilled to be the first to qualify for the Championships.”

STAR JUNIORS

The United States became the first nation to win three straight World Junior Tennis titles when the 14-and-under girls beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in the final held in Prostejov, Czech Republic. Aneta Dvorakova beat Victoria Duval of Delray Beach, Florida, to begin the title competition. After Sachia Vickery of Miramar, Florida, beat Petra Rohanova 6-4 6-7 (3) 6-2 of knot the tie at one match each, the American doubles team of Duval and Vickery beat Dvorakova and Rohanova 6-2 6-7 (4) 6-1 to clinch the crown. Also on the winning team was Brooke Austin of Indianapolis, Indiana.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Washington: Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt beat Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 7-5 7-6 (3)

Los Angeles: Chuang Chia-Jung and Yan Zi beat Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Segovia: Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin beat Sergiy Stakhovsky and Lovro Zovko 6-7 (4) 6-3 10-8 (match tiebreak)

San Marino: Lucas Arnold Ker and Sebastian Prieto beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 7-6 (4) 2-6 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Vancouver (men): Kevin Anderson and Rik De Voest beat Ramon Delgado and Kaes Van’t Hof 6-4 6-4

Vancouver (women): Ahsha Rolle and Riza Zalameda beat Madison Brengle and Lilia Osterloh 6-4 6-3

SITES TO SURF

Montreal: http://www3.rogerscup.com/men/english/home.php

Cincinnati: www.cincytennis.com/

Cordenons: www.euro-sporting.it/challenger/

Toronto: www.rogerscup.com/

Algarve: www.atpchampionstour.com/

Newport: www.championsseriestennis.com/newport2009/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$3,000,000 Rogers Cup, Montreal, Canada, hard

$120,000 Internazionali del Friuli Venezia Guilia Tennis Cup Cordenons, Italy, clay

WTA

$2,000,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, hard

SENIORS

Vale Do Lobo Grand Champions CGD, Algarve, Portugal, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$3,000,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, hard

WTA

$2,000,000 Rogers Cup, Toronto, Canada, hard

SENIORS

International Tennis Hall of Fame Champions Cup, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, grass

Mondays With Bob Greene: Doubles is like Marriage

STARS

Jelena Jankovic beat Nadia Petrova 6-4 6-3 to win the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany

Tomas Berdych won the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships men’s singles, defeating Juan Martin del Potro 6-1 6-4 in Tokyo, Japan

Caroline Wozniacki beat Kala Kanepi 6-2 3-6 6-1 to win the women’s singles at the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo, Japan

Sorana Cirstea defeated Sabine Lisicki 2-6 6-4 7-6 (4) to capture the Tashkent Open in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Dmitry Tursunov beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-6 (6) 1-6 6-4 to win the Open de Moselle in Metz, France

Teimuraz Gabashvili won the Ethias Trophy by beating Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-4 6-4 in Mons, Belgium

Richard Krajicek beat Goran Ivanisevic 7-6 7-5 to win the AFAS Tennis Classics in Eindhoven, Netherlands

SAYINGS

“There are some days you wake up and you know it’s not going to be your day.” – Nadia Petrova, after losing to Jelena Jankovic in the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix final.

“Doubles is like marriage. It has to be good from the first day.” – Mischa Zverev, who teamed with Mikhail Youzhny to win the doubles at the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo.

“She is having a great year and I knew it would be hard to beat her. But the game went according to plan.” – Venus Williams, after beating Dinara Safina 6-4 6-2.

“It feels great to be back at number one, but my goal is to finish the year as number one. I’m playing better and better, I am improving. I don’t feel any extra pressure.” – Jelena Jankovic, on her return to the top spot in the WTA Tour rankings.

“I feel fortunate to be healthy again, but I want to remain at the top of the game for many more years to come and go after the number one ranking again.” – Roger Federer, after pulling out of the Stockholm Open.

“I need to take a break now to get it back to 100 percent, which is why I have to regretfully take this decision and withdraw. I have played a lot this year and my body needs to recover.” – Serena Williams, after withdrawing from the Kremlin Cup with an ankle injury.

“After I lost the first set I checked the clock and saw it was only 20 minutes, so I told myself I had to make it at least an hour. Of course I’m very happy about my win today, and for both of my wins over the Williams sisters this year.” – Li Na, after beating Serena William 0-6 6-1 6-4 and knocking the US Open champion out of the number one ranking.

“I think I have to come to Germany more often.” – Victoria Azarenka, who has reached the semifinals in both tournaments she has played in Germany this year.

“People want to see me because I was once the number one in the world and won Grand Slam titles. People want to see the guys who they idolized. Now, as we get older, we’re really thankful that people want to see us. It’s really wonderful, and we’re going to try to give our best back.” – Yevgeny Kafelnikov, playing his first competitive tennis match in five years, the BlackRock Tour of Champions event in Eindhoven, Netherlands.

“I have played one match with her here and I have won. Not bad.” – Goran Ivanisevic, saying his 5-year-old daughter Amber, who was watching her father play for the first time, is his lucky charm.

“I still cannot fully realize that I’ve won. In the middle of the match I thought my chances of winning were about 40 percent.” – Ksenia Palkina, a teenager from Kyrgystan ranked 203rd in the world, after she upset second-seeded Olga Govortsova in the first round of the Tashkent Open.

“Our success in these junior team events against the world’s best competition is a good indication of where our players stand amongst their peers at this state. Of course there is a lot of work to be done for these kids to become world-class professionals. But, if these results are any indication, the future is very promising.” – Patrick McEnroe, on the United States sweep of the Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup competitions.

STEPPING UP

In the game of musical chairs that is called the WTA Tour rankings, Jelena Jankovic is once again in the top spot. The Serb moved up to number one when Serena Williams was upset by China’s Li Na. Jankovic held the top ranking for one week in August. Since Justine Henin retired in May, four players have been number one: Williams, Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova. Williams held the top spot for four weeks after defeating Jankovic in the US Open final. Overall, Jankovic has won more matches than any other player on tour this year.

SURPRISE SEMIFINALIST

Adrian Mannarino had a ball in Metz, France. Ranked 181st in the world, the French qualifier didn’t lose a set in his run to the semifinals at the Open de Moselle. Then he ran into Paul-Henri Matheu, who barely escaped Mannarino 7-6 (8) 7-6 (1). The 20-year-old Mannarino had not won an ATP-level match before he upset sixth-seeded Andreas Seppi in the opening round at Metz.

STUMBLING BLOCKS

China’s top two players are making a lot of noise on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour this year. At Wimbledon, Zheng Jie became the first Chinese player to beat a reigning world number one when she shocked Ana Ivanovic on her way to the semifinals. At the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany, last week, Li Na matched that feat, knocking Serena Williams out of the tournament and the number one ranking, 0-6 6-1 6-4. It was Li’s 11th career win over a top 10 player but first over a number one.

SELA GROUNDED

An El Al plane carrying Israeli tennis star Dudi Sela had to make an emergency landing in Beijing when a bird flew into one of its engines. Sela was returning to Israel after losing in a tournament in Tokyo. While the plane was heading back to Beijing, Sela called his brother Ofer in Israel to let him know what was happening. El Al sent a replacement jet to fly the 150 passengers to Israel.

SERENA HURT

An ankle injury has forced Serena Williams to withdraw from the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. The American withdrew two days after being upset by China’s Li Na in Stuttgart, Germany. The winner of four tournaments this year, Williams said her left ankle has been bothering her since the US Open last month, which she won.

SO DELIGHTED

Yevgeny Kafelnikov admits he is delighted to be back playing competitively after a five-year layoff. “It was quite exciting,” the Russian said after losing to Michael Chang in a BlackRock Tour of Champions match at Eindhoven, Netherlands. “I haven’t had this feeling in a long time.” Once he decided to play again, Kafelnikov worked hard to lose the weight he had gained after retiring. Then he asked to play in the AFAS Classics tournament in Eindhoven. He came away winless in his return, losing also to Paul Haarhuis and Goran Ivanisevic.

SUPER WIN

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga became only the eighth player in the last 20 yeas to win his first ATP title by defeating a top-five opponent in the final, knocking off third-ranked Novak Djokovic to capture the Thailand Open in Bangkok. Greg Sharko, senior editor of ATPTennis.com, says Tsonga is the first to accomplish the feat since fellow Frenchman Michael Llorda did it four years ago when he beat Guillermo Coria, who was number three in the world at the time. In 1988, Mikael Pernfors won his first title in Los Angeles, beating fourth-ranked Andre Agassi. Jim Courier’s first title, in 1989 in Basel, Switzerland, came when he beat third-ranked Stefan Edberg. Others who beat top five players to capture their first tournament titles were Omar Camporese in 1991, Alberta Costa and Filip Dewulf in 1995, and Hyung-Taik Lee in 2003.

SET FOR KOOYONG

Two Swiss players – US Open champion Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka – will warm up for the 2009 Australian Open by playing at the invitational Kooyong Classic. Weakened by mononucleosis, Federer missed the tournament in 2008. Also scheduled to play in the event are Marat Safin, Fernando Gonzalez, Marcos Baghdatis, James Blake and Ernests Gulbis. The eighth spot for the tournament, which guarantees each player three matches on the same surface as that used at the Australian Open, will be named later.

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SKIPPING STOCKHOLM

Saying he needs a break, Roger Federer will not play in the upcoming Stockholm Open. Federer has not played since winning his fifth consecutive US Open last month. “(This) has been a tough year for me as I was always playing catch-up after being diagnosed with mononucleosis at the beginning of the year,” said Federer, who lost his number one ranking to Rafael Nadal in August after holding it for a record 237 consecutive weeks.

SWITCHING SPORTS?

Paradorn Srichaphan is thinking about switching sports, perhaps becoming a race car driver. Beset by injury for almost two years, Thailand’s best player has been busy promoting motorsports in his country. “I’ve been really bored and it would be huge challenge to move from one sport to the next,” Srichaphan said. “I’m involved in a racing team and my sponsors are interested in having me racing for them, but only when I retire from tennis. I still plan to return to the tour.”

SLIPPERY COURT

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has penalized Croatia for playing Davis Cup matches against Brazil on a court that was considered too fast. As part of the Davis Cup Committee’s ruling, Croatia will lose 2,000 points and pay an undisclosed fine. Marina Mihelic, head of the Croatian Tennis Federation, said she was “surprised and annoyed” by the decision. The ITF said Croatia violated the federation’s “court pace rating rule,” which assesses the speed of surfaces other than grass and clay. It’s the first such case involving the rule, which was implemented this year. The ITF rejected Brazil’s appeal to have Croatia disqualified, the victory awarded to Brazil and financial compensation paid to Brazil.

SWEEP

The United States Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup teams captured the 2008 World Finals without dropping a single match. The international team competition for players age 16 and under held in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, continued the American domination of junior events. The American boys’ and girls’ squads won the World Junior Tennis Championships for 14-and-under in August in Prostejoy, Czech Republic. It is the first time the same country has won all four titles in the same year. The American Junior Fed Cup team beat Colombia, Chinese Taipei, Serbia, Hungary and Great Britain. The American Junior Davis Cup squad beat Latvia, Chinese Taipei, Sweden, India and Argentina.

STENNING LAUDED

Mark L. Stenning has been awarded the prestigious Chairman’s Award by the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. The Chairman’s Award recognizes outstanding service by a Hall of Fame board member. Stenning joined the ITHOF in 1980 and currently holds the position of chief executive officer. He also currently serves on the Davis Cup and Fed Cup Committees of the United States Tennis Association.

SPONSOR

TENNIS.com is the new title sponsor of the Zurich Open, a stop on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The Tennis Company, headquartered in Santa Monica, California, calls itself the world’s leading website for tennis fans. Aside from TENNIS.com, the company publishes Tennis Magazine and Smash Magazine. The Tennis Company is also a managing partner in the Indian Springs, California, tournament. Among others, The Tennis Company’s partners include Chris Evert, Billie Jean King and Pete Sampras.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Stuttgart: Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Patty Schnyder beat Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs 6-2 6-4

Tokyo (men): Mikhail Youzhny and Mischa Zverev beat Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes 6-3 6-4

Tokyo (women): Jill Craybus and Marina Erakovic beat Ayumi Morita and Aiko Nakamura 4-6 7-5 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Tashkent: Ioana Raluca Olaru and Olga Savchuk beat Nina Bratchikova and Kathrin Woerle 5-7 7-5 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Metz: Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra beat Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 5-7 6-3 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Mons: Michal Mertinak and Lovro Zovko beat Yves Allegro and Horia Tecau 7-5 6-3

SITES TO SURF

Vienna: www.ba-ca-tennistrophy.at

Stockholm: www.stockholmopen.se

Moscow: www.kremlincup.ru

Madrid: www.mutuamad-mastersmadrid.com

Zurich: www.zurichopen.net

Ortisei: www.itfvalgardena.com

Budapest: www.tennisclassics.hu/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$1,000,000 ATP Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, carpet

$800,000 IF Stockholm Open, Stockholm, Sweden, hard

$755,000 Bank Austria TennisTrophy, Vienna, Austria, hard

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, carpet

SENIORS

BlackRock Tour of Champions, Budapest, Hungary, carpet

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,450,000 Mutua Madrilena Masters Madrid, Madrid, Spain, hard

$125,000 Tashkent, Uzbekistan

WTA TOUR

$600,000 Zurich Open, Zurich, Switzerland

$100,000 Internazionali Tennis Val Gardena, Ortisei, Italy, carpet