Albert Costa

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John Isner breaks Newport curse, US Davis Cup team diggs deep, Wozniacki’s dad slams critics – The Friday Five

John Isner

By Maud Watson

Diggin’ Deep

That pretty much sums up Spain’s performance this past weekend. When it was first known that the United States would be facing Spain on U.S. soil in the Davis Cup quarterfinals, odds were already slightly in favor of the U.S. Throw in that it would be staged in Roddick’s adopted hometown of Austin and played on a fast indoor surface that had more than one set of Spanish eyebrows raised in concern, and the scales were tipped even further in Uncle Sam’s favor. Then came Nadal’s announcement that he would not be playing in order to rest that week, and you really had to like the American squad’s chances of moving on to the semifinals. But the Spaniards had other ideas, as Captain Albert Costa was able to pull from Spain’s wealth of talented players to put together a winning combination. Feliciano Lopez, whose backhand is much improved, got things off on the right note with an enthralling five-set victory over new top American Mardy Fish. And while the Bryans notched a win over Verdasco and Granollers, the two Spaniards staged a valiant fight before succumbing in four. But the man of the weekend had to be David Ferrer. Often in the shadows of many of his countrymen, he put in an extraordinary workman-like performance, defeating Roddick in straights on the opening day before finding a way to hold his nerve and seal the win with a victory over Fish on final Sunday. Hats off to Spain for a very impressive victory, and no doubt they will prove a formidable opponent in the semifinals.

Curse Broken

The curse of the Newport Casino is no more, as John Isner, who came to play on a wildcard, won the tournament as the number one seed – the first player seeded number one to do so. Isner was in desperate need to string some matches together and come up with a big win to get back on track, so hopefully this tournament will prove a springboard to a good hard court summer, much as it did for Fish in 2010. Given that Isner missed his brother’s wedding to see the tournament through to the end (allegedly much to the chagrin of his new sister-in-law), he’d better hope that this victory continues to pay dividends. At least he had the decency to pay for the honeymoon as a peace-offering.

Capstone Moment

It was a great weekend for American tennis period in Newport, as tennis legend Andre Agassi took his place in the Hall of Fame. There’s nothing more to say about Agassi and what he’s done on and off the court that hasn’t already been said, but there was one refreshing thing that came out of his acceptance speech. After all of the publicity that was given to his comments about hating tennis when his book was first released, it was good to hear him thank tennis and recognize it for the life and opportunities that it has given him, as well as his wife. And while the day was really all about Agassi, it’s also worth noting Fern “Peachy” Kellmeyer also took her place in the Hall. Not only has she done a lot for women’s sports in general, but she has tirelessly devoted years of her life to the WTA and turning the tour into what it is today.

Father Knows Best?

Piotr Wozniacki, father of current World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, has had a few things to say to the critics who have gone after him and his daughter, suggesting that she needs to replace her father with a new coach. While it’s not fair to go after Wozniacki for her ranking without a major win – it’s not her fault the other top players prove less than consistent week in and week out or don’t play at all – it is right to question if she couldn’t benefit from a new voice in her ear. The current combination of daughter-father as player-coach hasn’t proven able to clear that final hurdle to win one of the four grandest prizes in tennis. If anything, she has shown some regression in the last couple of majors. The positive is that Caroline recognizes the need for some changes in the future. Dad doesn’t have to give up the reigns completely, but a new coach in the corner would most likely prove a welcome change.

Lining some Pockets

Earlier this week, the USTA announced that it would be upping its overall prize money by more than one million dollars, with each of the singles winners taking home $1.8 million of the pot. It seems every year the majors keep upping the prize money, and while it’s understandable each desires to keep up with the others, the USTA might be better served to save some of this prize money and gear it towards further improvements to the site. Already at Wimbledon there were mumbles about how the US Open is lagging behind the other majors, and a string of storms or torrential rains from the remnants of a hurricane (as has happened the last three years) will only ensure these mumbles grow louder.

Andy Murray back in form, Wimbledon increases prize money and Rafael Nadal’s clay court mojo is working – The Friday Five

Rafael Nadal

By Maud Watson

Warm-Up Act

While the much-anticipated Davis Cup matchup between Spain and the United States is still over two months away, the fireworks are starting a little early with Spanish Captain Albert Costa submitting an appeal to the ITF, arguing that the court surface chosen by the U.S. shouldn’t be allowed for use in the upcoming tie. In some respects, it seemed that Costa may have found a loophole in his favor, but rules are always open to interpretation. As it stands, the ITF unanimously ruled in favor of the U.S., saying that the court surface chosen by the United States is a type of “acrylic” court used in over 30 different tournaments, including two Grand Slams. They further stated that the regulations did not “specify or imply a requirement for specific brands.” Plus, the ITF had already given the green light to the surface in past Davis and Fed Cup ties, so it was always unlikely that they would now make a ruling suggesting that they had been remiss in the past. While Costa and his squad may be a bit dismayed by the ruling, expect this to only fire them up more this coming July.

Familiar Ground

Still smarting from his two consecutive losses to Novak Djokovic in the finals of Indian Wells and Miami, Rafael Nadal came into Monte Carlo in a “subdued” mood. But as the Spaniard has done so often in recent years, he simply becomes a different player when on his favored clay court surface. Incredibly, he won his seventh straight Monte Carlo crown, a feat that is unmatched by any player in the history of the game. While he probably had to play a little more defense than he would have liked near the end of the tournament (which included losing a set to Andy Murray in the semifinals), the message he sent to the rest of the field was an ominous one. He’s got his clay court mojo working, and if he gets on a roll, you can be sure it will take something pretty special to derail him at Roland Garros.

Trying Patience

It’s hard to feel bad for a 23-year-old multimillionaire, but nonetheless, there must be many a fan who sympathizes with the situation in which Andy Murray now finds himself. Much as he did at last year’s Wimbledon, Murray seemed to rediscover his top form out of nowhere last week in Monte Carlo. Even more impressive, despite having to have pain-killing injections in his right elbow before his semifinal match, he was the only player to push Rafael Nadal to three sets in what was one of the most entertaining and competitive matches of the tournament. Undoubtedly, Murray would have been keen to begin building on this recent run of good form, but he was instead forced to pull out of Barcelona with his elbow injury. Hopefully he will make a speedy recovery and return to building his confidence and presence at the top of the game, as the sport and Great Britain could use a top notch Andy Murray back on the scene.

Upping the Ante

Earlier this week, Wimbledon announced that they were going to be upping their prize money for their singles champions, with $1.8 million slated to go to both the men’s and women’s singles winners. The move stemmed from the fact that the British government imposes a tax on the endorsement income of individual players competing or practicing in the UK. The feeling is that in this economic climate, such a policy might deter players from playing any of the UK warm-up events, such as Queen’s, as well as the ATP World Finals scheduled to be contested in London at the end of the season. Wimbledon tournament organizers did not want to see their quality of field suffer the same fate. Frankly, the law does seem a bit ludicrous, especially when considering team events are not taxed the same way. Hopefully the tennis lobbyists, who have been lobbying for two years now, will be able to work out an agreement with the government to avoid this potentially harmful effect in the future.

Honors Earned

His name is perhaps not as well known as some of the others who are part of what pundits have termed the “Spanish Armada,” but Nicolas Almagro is a man to be reckoned with, especially on clay. With his win over a struggling Nikolay Davydenko in the third round of Barcelona this week, the Spaniard will crack the Top Ten for the first time in his career when the rankings are released on Monday. For sure, Almagro is by far and away the most at home on clay, but with the confidence that comes from entering the Top Ten, be sure to keep an eye on him as the season progresses.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I Fought For My Country

Roger Federer

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: It shows how important Andy is for the team

Andreas Beck

STARS

Rajeev Ram beat Sam Querry 6-7 (3) 7-5 6-3 to win the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, USA

Agnes Szavay won the GDF Suez Grand Prix, beating Patty Schnyder 2-6 6-4 6-2 in Budapest, Hungary

Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 6-4 to win the Collector Swedish Open Women in Bastad, Sweden

Julia Goerges beat Ekaterina Dzehalevich 7-5 6-0 in Biarritz, France, to win the Open GDF Suez de Biarritz

Karol Beck won the Open Diputacion Ciudad de Pozoblanco in Pozoblanco, Cordoba, Spain, beating Thiago Alves 6-4 6-3

DAVIS CUP

World Group Quarterfinals

Czech Republic Argentina 3-2; Croatia beat the United States 3-2; Israel beat Russia 4-1; Spain beat Germany 3-2

Americas Zone Group 1 Playoff: Peru vs. Canada; Group 2 Second Round: Venezuela beat Mexico; Dominican Republic beat Paraguay; Netherlands Antilles beat Jamaica; Bahamas vs. Guatemala

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Second Round Playoffs: Kazakhstan beat Thailand 5-0; Korea vs. China; Group 2 Second Round: Philippines beat Pakistan 3-2; New Zealand beat Indonesia 5-0; Group 2 Playoffs: Hong Kong-China beat Oman 5-0; Malaysia beat Kuwait 4-1

Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 Playoffs: Belarus beat FYR Macedonia 4-1; Group 2 Second Round: Slovenia beat Lithuania 5-0; Latvia beat Bulgaria 4-1; Finland beat Monaco 3-2; Cyprus beat Ireland 3-1; Group 2 Playoffs: Egypt beat Georgia 5-0; Hungary beat Moldova 3-2; Denmark beat Montenegro 3-2; Portugal beat Algeria 5-0

SAYING

“It’s a beautiful way to celebrate my career. … I wish my dad would have been here today, but I know he’s here in spirit because without him I wouldn’t be sitting here today.” – Monica Seles, on her installation into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

“These days don’t come around very often unless you’re (Roger) Federer or (Rafael) Nadal. There’s definitely pressure. … Winning tournaments is not normal on the tour for 99 percent of us.” – Rajeev Ram, after beating fellow American Sam Querry in Newport to win his first ATP title.

“I’m sorry I spoiled your (birthday) celebrations, but I promise I will buy you something instead.” – Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain, after beating Caroline Wozniacki on the Dane’s 19th birthday.

“For the first time I have absolutely nothing to say, usually I just can’t stop talking, and I started to cry like a little boy.” – Andy Ram, after teaming with Jonathan Erlich to win the doubles and clinch Israel’s first semifinal berth in Davis Cup competition.

“It was a great fight. At the end I was just fighting like a tiger. That was the difference, I think. It wasn’t about the tennis in that match. I was so close to losing.” – Agnes Szavay, after beating Patty Schnyder in the final in Budapest.

“I was so embarrassed to be with them that I called everybody sir. Those players have won Wimbledon, Davis Cup, Forest Hills, French Open, and I have one trophy, Monte Carlo.” – Andres Gimeno, who joined Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad and others on the pro tour before he won his only Grand Slam tournament title, the French Open, in 1972.

“It shows how important Andy is for the team. Being on the No. 2 spot is less pressure than playing on the No. 1 spot.” – James Blake, losing both of his singles matches after being forced to play No. 1 when Andy Roddick pulled out of the United States-Croatia Davis Cup quarterfinal tie with a hip injury.

SWEET DAY INDEED

In a string of circumstances, Andy Roddick’s hip injury may have been the catalyst that led to Rajeev Ram winning his first ATP title. When Roddick pulled out of Davis Cup with the injury, he was replaced by Mardy Fish, the top seed at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island. Knowing he would get a spot in the main draw because of Fish’s leaving, Ram withdrew from his final round of qualifying, then became the tournament’s “lucky loser.” With rain curtailing play on Tuesday and Wednesday, Ram played eight matches over the last three days of the tournament as he became just the third player on the ATP World Tour this year to win both singles and doubles at the same event. He downed fellow American Sam Querrey 6-7 (3) 7-5 6-3 for the singles title, then teamed with Austria’s Jordan Kerr to beat Michael Kohlmann of Germany and Dutchman Rogier Wassen 6-7 (6) 7-6 (7) 10-6 (match tiebreak) in the doubles. Ram, playing in his fist ATP final and ranked 181 in the world, is the lowest ranked player to win a tournament this year. Until the Newport tournament, he had won a total of six career ATP matches.

SHOCKER

In the biggest shocker of the Davis Cup weekend, Israel advanced to the semifinals of the World Group for the first time by upsetting Russia 4-1. The Israelis clinched the tie when Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich bested Marat Safin and Igor Kunitsyn to win the doubles and give their side an unassailable 3-0 lead over the two-time Davis Cup champions. “I actually can’t describe how I feel. … I am so proud to be an Israeli today, to be a part of this team, so proud to be part of this sport and Davis Cup tennis, it was a classic tie,” said Israel team captain Eyal Ran. Israel took a surprising 2-0 lead on the opening day when 210th-ranked Harel Levy upset Igor Andreev before Dudi Sela beat Mikhail Youzhny. Israel will take on defending champion Spain in the semifinals on September 18-20.

The other semifinal will pit two other surprising teams against each other. The Czech Republic edged Argentina, last year’s Davis Cup finalists, 3-1, while Croatia defeated the Andy Roddick-less United States 3-2.

STRIKING GOLD

The singles winners at the US Open will pocket at least a record USD $1.6 million. The two champions also can earn an additional USD $1 million in bonus prize money, which could help in building a new garage on their home since they will also receive a new 2010 Lexus IS convertible vehicle. The USTA announced that the total US Open purse will top USD $12.6 million, making it the third consecutive year that the prize money has increased by USD $1 million. In addition to the base purse of USD $21.6 million, the top three men and top three women finishers in the Olympus US Open Series may earn up to an additional USD $2.6 million in bonus prize money. And just in case that’s not enough to make ends meet, the US Open winners – like all the other players in the field – will receive per diem payments to help with the cost of accommodations and other expenses during their New York City stay.

STAR POWER

Andre Agassi is returning to the US Open. Twice a champion in the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, Agassi will headline the opening night ceremony on August 31 as the US Open celebrates charity work by athletes. Agassi, who began the Andre Agassi Foundation in 1994, ended his 21-year career by retiring at the end of the 2006 US Open. His foundation has a charger school in Las Vegas, Nevada, which graduated its first senior class in June, sending all 34 students to college.

SEEING IS BELIEVING

The marathon Wimbledon final in which Roger Federer outlasted Andy Roddick was the most-watch All England Club men’s final in the United States in 10 years. NBC said an average of 5.71 million people tuned in to watch Federer win his record-setting 15th Grand Slam title, the most since Pete Sampras beat Andre Agassi in the 1999 final. The 3.8 rating and 10 share was the best for a men’s final since Sampras defeat4ed Patrick Rafter in 2000, and surpassed last year’s five-set battle between Federer and Rafael Nadal by nine percent. The fifth set of the Federer-Roddick match was the longest in major final history.

SMILE

While in Newport, Rhode Island, to attend his colleague Donald Dell’s induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Ray Benton told the story about how he once advised Ivan Lendl that if he showed how much he enjoyed playing tennis it could help the bottom line. Benton, Lendl’s agent, theorized that if the stoic-looking Lendl just smiled and acted happy after he won matches, it would result in the player earning an additional USD $1 million dollars a year in endorsements. Benton said Lendl pondered the idea for a few moments, then said, “It’s not worth it.” Lendl, who won 94 singles titles in his career, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.

SOMETHING TO PLAY FOR

The top mixed doubles team in the Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League will be playing on the big stage come this August. The mixed doubles team that finishes at the top of the WTT Pro League rankings will receive a wild card into the 2009 US Open mixed doubles tournament. More than 50 players are competing in the Advanta WTT Pro League this month for 10 franchises throughout the United States. “World TeamTennis has long featured some of the best players in the world, especially in doubles,” said WTT commissioner Ilana Kloss. “We are very excited to work with the USTA to provide our players with this opportunity to be rewarded for their high level of play.” World TeamTennis matches feature three sets of doubles – men’s, women’s and mixed – along with one set each of men’s and women’s single. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) is a minority owner and promotional partner of World TeamTennis.

SPANISH LION

Spain reached back into the past to gain a victory in their Davis Cup tie against Germany. When Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer both pulled out of the World Group quarterfinal because of injuries, Juan Carlos Ferrero was added to the team. Then Spanish captain Albert Costa replaced Tommy Robredo with Ferrero in the decisive fifth match, and the former world number one bested Andreas Beck 6-4 6-4 6-4. It was the first time since 2005 against Italy that Spain won a fifth match to determine the outcome of a tie. It was Ferrero that time also who came away victorious. “It’s amazing what I felt on the court today,” Ferrero said. “It’s a long time I didn’t play Davis Cup competition and this tie for me was very special. To come back and play the last point, I felt amazing on the court.”

SMITTENED

India’s Sania Mirza is making headlines for reasons beyond her tennis. In the latest incident, two engineering students have been arrested and accused of stalking her. All of this comes as she is being engaged to family friend Sohrab Mirza, whose father owns Universal Bakers chain in Hyderabad, India. The 23-year-old Sohrab is reportedly heading to the United Kingdom to pursue an MBA degree. Police said Ajay Singh Yadva was apprehended as he tried to barge into the tennis player’s house, apparently to profess his love. He was taken into custody when he refused to leave. Yadav’s arrest came a day after another student threatened to commit suicide if the engagement was not called off. Last month, the Andhra Pradesh state government found that a man had secured a white ration card showing Sania Mirza as his wife, complete with photos of the tennis star. White ration cards are meant for people living below the poverty line. The 22-year-old Mirza became the first Indian woman to climb into the top 40 in the rankings. At one time, the Muslim player was assailed by conservative elements of the Indian community for competing in short skirts and sleeveless shirts.

SERVING BAN

Former junior Australian Open champion Brydan Klein has been banned from the game for six months for racially abusing South African Raven Klaasen during an ATP event in England last month. The 19-year-old Australian also will undergo a racial sensitivity course and was fined USD $10,000 by the ATP. Australian media said Klein called Klaasen a “kaffir” and spat at his coach and another player. Klein earlier had been fined USD $13,290 by Tennis Australia, which suspended him from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and cut off his funding grants. “I sincerely regret my error in judgment in using the language I did and I am deeply sorry for the offense caused,” Australian Associated Press (AAP) quoted Klein as saying in a statement. “I am accepting the ATP’s ruling and am now looking to put the whole incident behind me. I will undergo a racial sensitivity course and am determined to learn from this mistake.” The suspension covers all ATP World Tour and ATP Challenger Tour events. The final two months of the suspension and extra fine will be waived if Klein successfully completes the racial sensitivity training course.

SIDELINED

Jelena Dokic’s ailment has been diagnosed as mononucleosis. The illness has plagued Dokic since the end of the French Open. Blood tests taken after she lost at Wimbledon revealed the illness. She was told by doctors to do nothing but rest for at least two weeks. “I am disappointed to have to pull out of a couple of events, but I am also relieved to finally know what was wrong,” said Dokic, who once was ranked as high as fifth in the world before dropping off the tour with personal problems. “It has been so frustrating since the French. My natural work ethic is to get on court and train hard with intensity. I just haven’t been able to do that, and until now I didn’t know why.”

SELECTED

Todd Woodbridge is Australia’s new Davis Cup coach. A 16-time doubles Grand Slam tournament champion, Woodbridge has been appointed national men’s and Davis Cup coach in an expanded full-time role. Tennis Australia made the move in an effort to reverse the country’s flagging fortunes in the competition, which they have won 28 times, second only to the United States. Woodbridge is Australia’s longest serving Davis Cup player and was a member of the 1999 and 2003 Davis Cup winning teams. The country currently has only one player ranked in the top 100 in the world, Lleyton Hewitt. It ended its 2009 campaign by forfeiting a regional group tie against India earlier this year, claiming security concerns on the sub-continent.

SOME HELP NEEDED

Being that tweeting while playing is against the rules, Justin Gimelstob needed help to tweet during his doubles match at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island. Gimelstob would write notes and give them to a ball girl who would run over to the side of the court where another person would post them on Gimelstob’s Twitter account. Some times he would mouth a few comments for the intern to post in between points. Most of the twittering was standard play-by-play recaps. “There’s so much competition for the entertainment dollar,” Gimelstob explained. “Fans want to know what goes on behind the scenes. Fans want to know what goes on in the players’ heads.”

SAD NEWS

The death of French tennis player Mathieu Montcourt has been attributed to cardiac arrest. Montcourt, who had just begun a five-week ban from tennis for gambling on other players’ matches, was found outside his apartment in Paris after he spent the evening at the home of Patrice Dominguez, technical director of the French Tennis Federation. Ranked 119th in the world, Montcourt was cleared of influencing the outcome of any of the matches he had bet on. He also had been fined USD $12,000 for the offense, which he called ridiculous since he had only bet a total of USD $192.

SPONSOR

NH Hoteles has extended its sponsorship of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas for an additional three years. Originally a Spanish brand, NH Hoteles has grown to 348 hotels in 22 countries in Europe, Africa and the Americas. The International Tennis Federation (ITF), in making the announcement, noted that since NH Hoteles joined the Davis Cup family in 2004 as an international sponsor it has added 106 hotel properties to its portfolio.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Newport: Rajeev Ram and Jordan Kerr beat Michael Kohlmann and Rogier Wassen 6-7 (6) 7-6 (7) 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Bastad: Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta beat Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-2 0-6 10-5 (match tiebreak)

Budapest: Alisa Kleybanova and Monica Niculescu beat Alona Bondarenko and Kateryna Bondarenko 6-4 7-6 (5)

Biarritz: Yung-Jan Chan and Anastasia Rodionova beat Akgul Amanmuradova and Darya Kustova 3-6 6-4 10-7 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Indianapolis: www.tennisindy.com/

Bastad: http://men.swedishopen.org/

Stuttgart: www.mercedescup.de/

Prague: www.pragueopen.cz/

Palermo: www.countrytimeclub.com/web/club/home.asp

Portoroz: www.sloveniaopen.si/

Bad Gastein: www.matchmaker.at/gastein/

Los Angeles: www.latennisopen.com/

Gstaad: www.allianzsuisseopengstaad.com/e/

Umag: www.croatiaopen.hr

Stanford: www.bankofthewestclassic.com/

Istanbul: www.istanbulcup.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$600,000 Catella Swedish Open, Bastad, Sweden, clay

$600,000 Mercedes Cup, Stuttgart, Germany, clay

$125,000 Bogota, Columbia, clay

WTA

$220,000 Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo, Palermo, Italy, clay

$220,000 ECM Prague Open, Prague, Czech Republic, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$1,500,000 Bet-at-Home Open, Hamburg, Germany, clay

$600,000 Indianapolis Tennis Championships, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, hard

WTA

$220,000 Banka Koper Slovenia Open, Portoroz, Slovenia, hard

$220,000 Gastein Ladies, Bad Gastein, Austria, clay

Mondays with Bob Greene: Five Straight for Rafa

Rafael Nadal wins Monte Carlo

STARS

Rafael Nadal won his fifth straight Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title, beating Novak Djokovic 6-3 2-6 61 in Monte Carlo

Sabine Lisicki won the Family Circle Cup, beating Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 6-4 in Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Roberta Vinci beat Maria Kirilenko 6-0 6-4 to win the Barcelona Ladies Open in Barcelona, Spain

Fabrice Santoro beat Rik De Voest 7-5 6-4 to win the Soweto Men’s Open in Johannesburg, South Africa

Felix Mantilla beat Albert Costa 6-4 6-1 to win the ATP Champions Cup in Barcelona, Spain

SAYING

“Everyone can improve in every surface, no? No one is perfect. Sure, I can improve. I always work to improve because when you feel you can’t improve, is difficult to wake up and go on court and practice.” – Rafael Nadal  after winning his fifth straight Monte Carlo Rolex Masters.

“She’s just a great champion. I still can’t really believe I won. … But beating Venus Williams here was just awesome.” – Sabine Lisicki, who beat Venus Williams early in the week and went on to win the Family Circle Cup.

“I wasn’t expecting that.” – Venus Williams, after losing to Sabine Lisicki at the Family Circle Cup.

“He did a good job today. He kept the ball in play.” – Roger Federer, after losing to Stanislas Wawrinka at Monte Carlo.

“I am a bit embarrassed to celebrate it.” – Stanislas Wawrinka, on his victory over Roger Federer.

“The competition is pretty tough. You have to be ready from the first round, especially playing the first tournament on clay courts. You really have to be patient and take some time before you really feel the surface.” – Elena Dementieva, noting that second-seeded Venus Williams, third-seeded Vera Zvonareva and fourth-seeded Nadia Petrova were all eliminated from the Family Circle Cup on the same day.

“If you want to get married in private, you have to go to Switzerland. They don’t actually care over there. They actually want to give you peace and privacy. That’s why I love being a Swiss and living in Switzerland.” – Roger Federer, on his marriage to long-time girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec.

“Obviously our rankings both aren’t in the top 10 anymore, so you’re not getting the protection of not playing each other early on. But, yeah, he’s obviously still a class player when he’s on.” – Lleyton Hewitt, after losing to Marat Safin in a battle of former world number ones.

“It’s nice that I know him, and he’s supporting me out here, coming to watch me play.” – Alexander Stevenson, acknowledging that her father, basketball great Julius Erving, saw her play tennis for the first time as she lost her first-round match at the Family Circle Cup.

“I had a lead and then the whole thing was, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m actually beating someone who’s 13 in the world,’ and that got in my head a little bit.” – American qualifier Melanie Oudin, after losing to third-seeded Marion Bartoli at the Family Circle Cup.

“Our personalities match. We work a lot off the court together and we really understand each other’s game. We know each other’s strengths and know how to work as a team.” – Nadia Petrova, after teaming with Bethanie Mattek-Sands to win the Family Circle Cup doubles.

“When I got my illness, I felt like I was retired and that it was finished. But then they gave me the possibility to come here and to play on the ATP Champions Tour and I thought, ‘Why not?’ It’s always nice to play your sport while having fun.” – Felix Mantilla, who has recovered from skin cancer and resumed playing, winning the Barcelona, Spain, stop on the ATP Champions Tour.

SHOCKER I

Roger Federer teamed with Stanislas Wawrinka to give Switzerland a gold medal in the doubles at the Beijing Olympics last summer. In Monte Carlo, it was Wawrinka who showed Federer the exit in their third-round match. Federer struggled throughout the match, facing 14 break points. The world number two, Federer entered the Monte Carlo Masters on a wild card after getting married the weekend before the tournament.

SHOCKER II

Venus Williams was a heavy favorite to win her Family Circle Cup third-round match against little-known Sabine Lisicki. Instead, the German right-hander shocked the tournament’s number-two seed 6-4 7-6 (5) in her remarkable run to her first WTA Tour title. “I wasn’t expecting that and, you know, I’ll try to come back next year and win,” Williams said. “I made a few errors at the wrong time, and she played some great shots.”

SWEET WEEK

Sabine Lisicki first gained notice when she pulled off the biggest victory over her career by upsetting Venus Williams early in the tournament. She capped her fantasy run by beating Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 6-4 to become the lowest-ranked player ever to win the Family Circle Cup, her first WTA Tour title. The German right-hander proved her surprise win was no fluke, knocking off Elena Vesnina in the quarterfinals, sixth-seeded Marion Bartoli in the semis and fifth-seeded Wozniacki in the final, closing out the victory on her sixth match point. Against Wozniacki, Lisicki rallied from behind in both sets.

STILL CHAMPION

It’s becoming a habit. Rafael Nadal won his fifth straight Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, this year beating third-seeded Novak Djokovic in the final and running his winning streak to 27 matches at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament. The Spaniard becomes the first player to win an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament five consecutive years, and joins Roger Federer with 14 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles, second only to the 17 won by Andre Agassi. Nadal also is the first world number one player to win at Monte Carlo since Ivan Lendl in 1988.

SUPERB FINALIST

Roberta Vinci has only reached two finals in her WTA Tour career. But she’s perfect once she gets there, capturing her second career title at the Barcelona Ladies Open. Her only other title match appearance came in Bogota, Colombia, in 2007, which she also won. “It’s such a great feeling to win again,” Vinci said. “It has been a long time since I played well.” Both of Vinci’s titles have come on red clay.

SPECIAL SWINGER

The only player to win two Grand Slams – winning the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US singles championships in the same calendar year – Rod Laver is being honored again. The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum (ITHFM) will honor Laver with a special presentation on Center Court during ceremonies for the Class of 2009 inductees into the Hall of Fame. In addition, the left-hander from Australia will be named a Life Trustee of the Newport, Rhode Island, shrine. “Rod Laver is arguably the best tennis player ever to swing a racquet,” said Christopher Clouser, chairman of the ITHFM. “And beyond being a great champion of tennis, he is a great person and ambassador of tennis who continues to give back to our sport.” Laver won the Grand Slam in 1962 as an amateur, then again in 1969, one year after the Open Era began, allowing professionals to compete. In 2001, the Australian Open stadium in Melbourne was named “The Rod Laver Arena.”

SPORTS AWARDS NOMINEES

Venus Williams, Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic have been nominated for the 10th Laureus World Sports Awards. Williams, who won her fifth Wimbledon title last summer, has been nominated for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award. Ivanovic, the French Open winner in 2008, and countryman Djokovic, the 2008 Australian Open champion, have been nominated in the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year category.

STADIUM TOPPER?

The US Tennis Association (USTA) is looking into the possibility of putting a roof over Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium, site of the US Open. The stadium, which opened in 1997, seats 22,500, making it one of the largest outdoor tennis stadiums in the world. Spokesman Chris Wittmeier said the USTA is interested in whether new lightweight materials and engineering techniques could be used to make a retractable roof to prevent championship tennis events from being rained out. The stadium was not initially designed to accommodate a roof. The Australian Open’s main stadium has a retractable roof, and a roof was also added to Wimbledon for this year’s tournament. Wittmeier knocked down speculation that the New York Islanders would move their National Hockey League franchise to Arthur Ashe Stadium if a roof was installed. “It’s not even on our wish list,” Wittmeier said. “The way that Arthur Ashe is engineered and configured, it wouldn’t work for hockey.”

SAYING “I DO, TOO”

One week after Roger Federer got married, Andy Roddick walked down the aisle. The 2003 US Open champion married Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker at Roddick’s home in Austin, Texas. Elton John sang at a reception held at a country club following the ceremony. Among those attending the wedding were Billie Jean King, James Blake, Mardy Fish and Patrick McEnroe. Federer married longtime girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec in a small ceremony in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland.

STRUCK DOWN

An ankle injury knocked third-seeded Vera Zvonareva out of the Family Circle Cup singles. On serve with Virginie Razzano in the opening set, Zvonareva fell in the third game while chasing down a ball along the baseline. She cried out in pain and lay on the court for about five minutes, clutching her right ankle. She was helped to her chair where a trainer wrapped her ankle and applied ice to the injury. The Russian then was taken off the court on a golf cart.

SPONSOR SLIP

Maria Sharapova, who hasn’t played singles since last summer, has lost one of her endorsement deals. A spokesman for PepsiCo Inc. said there was no particular reason for the split other than the two-year contract has ended. Sharapova had been the first tennis player to represent PepsiCo’s Gatorade sports drink and Tropicana fruit juice brands worldwide. Since winning Wimbledon in 2004, Sharapova has become the highest-paid female athlete in the world. Sports Illustrated reported the Russian right-hander earns close to USD $22 million a year. She took over the world number one ranking when Justine Henin retired, but has since dropped to number 53 in the world after missing the Beijing Olympics, the US Open and the Australian Open. She has undergone shoulder surgery. Serena Williams endorses Gatorade in the United States.

SEEKING COMEBACK

Carlos Moya is not going to let surgery keep him down. The former world number one is planning on returning to the ATP Tour once he recovers from his pelvic bone surgery.  “They have told me that the recuperation period will be between four or five months,” said the 32-year-old Moya, who won the French Open in 1998. “I think that to come back after the US Open (in September) it’s best to accept the situation in a relaxed way and have more guarantees for next year.”

SENIOR SITE

The ATP Champions Tour has launched its own official website, www.atpchampionstour.com. The site has a new interactive FanZone where fans can send questions to their favorite player, access exclusive video and audio, and test their knowledge of the Champions. Another section explains how players are eligible to play on the ATP Champions Tour.

STEPPING DOWN I

Alfred Tesar is ending his eight-year reign as captain of Austria’s Fed Cup team. In its first match under Tesar in 2002, Austria upset the United States and reached the World Group semifinals, which they did again in 2004. But Austria was relegated to the Europe/Africa Zone last year. “Alfred Tesar and the Fed Cup team achieved outstanding successes,” Austrian Tennis Federation general secretary Peter Teuschl said. “But after eight years … it’s time for a new start.”

STEPPING DOWN II

Carl Maes has resigned as head of women’s tennis at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). Maes is a native of Belgium who made his reputation coaching Kim Clijsters from her time in the juniors until she was on the cusp of her Grand Slam tournament successes.

SAYS NO TO MEDIA

Australian sports organizations, including Tennis Australia, is trying to restrict reporting of their events, a move that Australian media group News Ltd. says would be an assault on free speech. Australia’s leading sporting bodies have told a Senate inquiry that the advent of online “news” reporting is affecting their revenue streams and could limit their ability to support grassroots participation. Cricket Australia, the Australian Football League and Tennis Australia are among the administrators who appeared before the Australian Senate inquiry calling for the government to create laws or regulations to put limits on what media organizations can publish, from their events, on the Internet. David Tomlin, associate general counsel of The Associated Press, told the inquiry that sports leagues and organizers were entering the publishing arena with their own web sites and digital deals and competing for advertising and other revenue.

SICHUAN HELP

Zheng Jie returned to her home in Sichuan Province for the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that killed nearly 69,000 people. Last year, Zheng Jie donated her Wimbledon prize money to the earthquake victims. This year she spoke to students at the Hong Bai School in Shifang, Sichuan Province, and also held a tennis clinic. Zheng and the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour donated racquets and balls to the students, while two sponsors, Anta and Mercedes Benz, also made donations to the children.

SOUTH AFRICAN CAPTAIN

Former top player Greer Stevens has been named captain of South Africa’s Fed Cup team. South Africa will participate in the Euro/Africa Group II competition being held in Antalya, Turkey. “Our team is in the building stages,” said Stevens, who is now married and goes by the name of Leo-Smith. Besides South Africa, other nations participating in Turkey will be Georgia, Portugal, Turkey, Latvia and Morocco.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Monte Carlo: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Bob and Mike Bryan 6-4 6-1

Charleston: Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Nadia Petrova beat Liga Dekmeijere and Patty Schnyder 6-7 (5) 6-2 11-9 (match tiebreak)

Barcelona: Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Sorana Cirstea and Andreja Klepac 3-6 6-2 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Johannesburg: George Bastl and Chris Guccione beat Michail Elgin and Alexandre Kudryavtsev 6-2 4-6 11-9 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Barcelona: www.barcelonaopenbancosabadell.com/

Sofia: www.bgtennis.bg/

Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com

Estonian Tennis Federation: www.tennis.ee/

Polish Tennis Federation: www.pzt.pl/

Belgium Tennis Federation: www.sport.be/fedcup/2009/belcan/fr/

Tennis Australia: www.tennis.com.au/

Rome: www.internazionalibnlditalia.it/1/default.asp

Stuttgart: www.porsche-tennis.de/prod/pag/tennis.nsf/web/english-home

Tunis: www.tct.org.tn

Rhodes: www.atcrhodes.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$2,645,000 Barcelona Open Banco Sabadell, Barcelona, Spain, clay

$112,000 Bulgarian Open, Sofia, Bulgaria, clay

FED CUP

(April 25-26)

World Group Semifinals

Italy vs. Russia at Castellaneta Marina, Italy, clay

Czech Republic vs. United States at Brno, Czech Republic, hard

World Group Playoffs

Spain vs. Serbia at Lleida, Spain, clay; France vs. Slovak Republic at Limoges, France, clay; Germany vs. China at Frankfurt, Germany, clay; Argentina vs. Ukraine at Mar Del Plata, Argentina, clay

World Group II Playoffs

Belgium vs. Canada at Hasselt, Belgium, clay; Estonia vs. Israel at Tallinn, Estonia, hard; Poland vs. Japan at Gdynia, Poland, clay; Australia vs. Switzerland at Victoria, Australia, grass

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$3,500,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay

$125,000 Tunis Open, Tunis, Tunisia, clay

$110,000 Aegean Tennis Cup, Rhodes, Greece, hard

WTA

$700,000 Porsche Tennis Grand Pix, Stuttgart, Germany, clay

$220,000 Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem, Fez, Morocco, clay

$100,000 Open GDF Suez, Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, clay

$100,000 Soweto Women’s Open, Johannesburg, South Africa, hard

ATP Champions Tour Barcelona – Mantilla Completes Emotional Comeback After Cancer Recovery

Felix Matilla

Felix Mantilla completed an emotional comeback just two years after recovering from skin cancer as he became the first player in history to win an ATP Champions Tour and an ATP World Tour title in Barcelona. In the final of the Champions Cup on Sunday, Mantilla beat Albert Costa 6-4, 6-1.

The Spaniard, who won the ATP title in 1999, was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2006 after undergoing tests on a mole on his back. The former top ten player made a brief comeback before retiring from the game, but went on to win his battle against the disease. Despite being given a clean bill of health, he did not expect to be back playing title-winning tennis in Barcelona.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be playing tennis like this again,” said Mantilla, after completing victory at his maiden ATP Champions Tour event. “When I got my illness, I felt like I was retired and that it was finished. But then they gave me the possibility to come here and to play on the ATP Champions Tour and I thought ‘Why not?’ It’s always nice to play your sport whilst having fun.”

For Mantilla, today’s win was the perfect end to an enjoyable week spent in his home city.

“I have really good memories of this Centre Court here in Barcelona,” said Mantilla, who jumps to No.1 in the South African Airways Champions Tour Rankings. “Today it was a good match and both of us did our best. It’s always special to be here and hopefully I can come back next year to defend my title.”

Although his battle with cancer put a premature end to his career on the ATP Tour, since retiring Mantilla has remained involved in the tennis world. For the past year he has been working for Tennis Australia as a talent-spotter, and he now spends half of the year living Down Under working with young Australian Tennis players.

“I’m really happy that Tennis Australia gave me the opportunity to try and help them,” he said. “I’m working to try and develop clay court tennis in Australia. We’re hoping that the young kids can grow up playing on slower surfaces, because that will help their play on all surfaces.”

In the third/fourth place play-off, Magnus Gustafsson defeated fellow Swede Anders Jarryd 6-7(3), 6-2, 11-9 (Champions’ Tie Break) in a thrilling three-set encounter. Jarryd looked to be dominating his countryman early on, but Gustafsson pulled off a dramatic comeback, eventually saving two match points in the Champions’ Tie Break before clinching the match.

The ATP Champions Tour will now move on to Sao Paulo for the Nossa Caixa Grand Champions, May 21-24 - http://www.atpchampionstour.com/saopaulo.html

To view the week’s results in Barcelona, click here: http://www.atpchampionstour.com/results

For the latest gossip and chat from behind the scenes, click here: http://www.atpchampionstour.com/twitter

ATP Champions Tour Launches New Website

On the eve of the Barcelona tournament, the ATP Champions Tour launched its new, official website, http://www.atpchampionstour.com

The site features a fresh design, more player and tournament information than ever before, and a new interactive FanZone where fans can send questions to their favourite champions, access exclusive video and audio, and test their knowledge of the Champions in a special Quiz.

For the first time, you can also read exclusive Blogs and follow us on Twitter, with tweets from the players during tournaments as well as regular gossip, opinions and tennis chat throughout the year. Everything you could want to know about the Champions Cup ’09 in Barcelona (16-19 April) can be found in Events, such as player field (when available), the Roll of Honour and a guide to the city where the tournament is hosted.

About South African Airways

South Africa’s international flagship airline and the continent’s most awarded carrier, South African Airways is the official airline of the ATP Champions Tour and sponsor of the official rankings. Its modern fleet features a comfortable Economy Class cabin recently reconfigured for extra legroom and a Premium Business Class cabin featuring the airline’s award-winning, lie-flat seat. Complimentary South African wines, inspired cuisine and personal on-demand entertainment for all travellers make the trip to Africa fly by. Built on a venerable 75-year history of bringing the world to Africa and taking Africa to the world, the airline’s network is unsurpassed on the continent – connecting travellers to more than 20 destinations within South Africa and more than 20 cities across Africa. As a recent member to the worldwide Star Alliance, South African Airways is now able to offer its customers 852 destinations in 152 countries and more than 15,500 flights daily.

ATP Champions Tour Barcelona: Pioline Rolls On In The Rain

Cedric Pioline

Cedric Pioline continued where he left off at The Masters Tennis in London last December by ignoring the storm clouds to thrash Michael Stich 6-1, 6-2 at the first ATP Champions event of the year in Barcelona on Thursday.

The weather was the story of the first day’s play. Dark storm clouds hovered over the Real Club de Tenis throughout, causing the start of play to be delayed by nearly three hours. When the rain eventually relented enough for the players to take to the court, it was Pioline, the man who beat Pete Sampras to win the event at the Royal Albert Hall last year, who once again stole the show.

The Frenchman was in imperious form to defeat Stich for the loss of just three games.

“I surprised myself today,” he said. “I didn’t expect to play that good as it was my first match on clay this year. I think I served pretty good and I returned pretty good. I kept the ball in play and he couldn’t stay in the rallies. I didn’t miss too much today and everything worked well.”

Pioline is now unbeaten in five straight matches on the ATP Champions Tour, and the Frenchman admits that he is setting his sights high for the 2009 season.

“I have to finish Number One!” said Pioline, of his intention to top the South African Airways Champions Tour Rankings. “It’s so important for me, it’s my goal.”

Up first on the Centre Court, Albert Costa wasted no time in beating Pat Cash 6-4 6-4 in a match that was played to a soundtrack of rolling thunder and crackling lightening.

Clay court specialist Costa looked in fine form against Cash, striking the ball with the heavy topspin shots that helped win him the French Open title in 2002.

Costa, a native of Barcelona, explained after the match that he always feels at home playing at the beautiful Real Club de Tenis.

“For me this tournament is always very special,” he said “It means a lot so I am so happy to play here. Even though it was tough today with the rain I think it was a good match we had.”

In the two matches played on the Number One Court, Anders Jarryd defeated 1996 Wimbledon Champion Richard Krajicek 6-4, 6-1, and Felix Mantilla beat Sweden’s Magnus Gustafsson 6-1, 6-4.

Matches are played over the best of three sets, with a Champions’ Tie-break (first to 10 points with a clear advantage of two) to decide the winner. After all round-robin matches are complete, the top two players in each group will meet in Sunday’s final.

After Barcelona, the ATP Champions Tour will move on to Sao Paulo for the Nosas Caixa Grand Champions (May 21-24), and after that will arrive in Istanbul for the Legends Cup (June 17-21).

To view the order of play and the round-robin groups, click here.

ATP CHAMPIONS TOUR LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE

With the first event of the year set to start in Barcelona on Thursday, the ATP Champions Tour has launched its new, official website.

The site features a fresh design, more player and tournament information than ever before, and a new interactive FanZone where fans can send questions to their favourite champions, access exclusive video and audio, and test their knowledge of the Champions in a special Quiz.

For the first time, you can also read exclusive Blogs and follow us on Twitter, with tweets from the players during tournaments as well as regular gossip, opinions and tennis chat throughout the year. Everything you could want to know about the Champions Cup ’09 in Barcelona (16-19 April) can be found in Events

, such as player field (when available), the Roll of Honour and a guide to the city where the tournament is hosted.

OTHER INFO

About South African Airways

South Africa’s international flagship airline and the continent’s most awarded carrier, South African Airways is the official airline of the ATP Champions Tour and sponsor of the official rankings. Its modern fleet features a comfortable Economy Class cabin recently reconfigured for extra legroom and a Premium Business Class cabin featuring the airline’s award-winning, lie-flat seat. Complimentary South African wines, inspired cuisine and personal on-demand entertainment for all travellers make the trip to Africa fly by. Built on a venerable 72-year history of bringing the world to Africa and taking Africa to the world, the airline’s network is unsurpassed on the continent – connecting travellers to more than 20 destinations within South Africa and more than 20 cities across Africa. As a recent member to the worldwide Star Alliance, South African Airways is now able to offer its customers 852 destinations in 152 countries and more than 15,500 flights daily.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Andy Murray Fancies His Chances At The AusOpen

Emirates Abu Dhabi Capitala Tennis

STARS

Andy Murray beat Rafael Nadal 6-4 5-7 6-3 to win an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi. Murray beat Roger Federer in the semifinals of the eight-player event.

Emirates Abu Dhabi Capitala Tennis

SAYING

“That’s what I’m aiming for. I worked really hard in November, December to give myself the best chance.” – Andy Murray, talking about his chances to win the Australian Open.

“I’m just not ready to play against the top-class competition in Hong Kong, although I remain hopeful for Australia where I’m the defending champion.” – Maria Sharapova, after withdrawing from a Hong Kong exhibition tournament because she is still recovering from a shoulder injury.

“Ken Rosewall is one of Australia’s sporting legends and without question one of the greatest tennis players of all time.” — Tennis New South Wales president Stephen Healy, on naming the Sydney Olympics stadium the Ken Rosewall Arena.

“I accomplished a lot of my dreams as a player, winning at Roland Garros, and now I’ve managed another one, becoming captain of our Davis Cup team.” – Albert Costa, after being named to the helm of Spain’s Davis Cup squad.

“We have chosen two professionals with a lot of experience and long careers in tennis. The AAT based its decision on the technical and leadership qualities of the two coaches.” — Enrique Morea, president of the AAT, after Modesto Vazquez was picked as Argentina’s new Davis Cup captain and Ricardo Rivera was selected as his assistant.

STERLING START

It hasn’t taken long for Andy Murray to show he should be considered one of the favorites for this month’s Australian Open. Although it was just an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi, the Brit walked away with the USD $250,000 first-place prize after defeating Rafael Nadal 6-4 5-7 6-3 in the final. Murray also beat Roger Federer in the semifinals and James Blake in his opening match. It was Murray’s second straight win over Nadal and the fifth time he has beaten Federer.

SPOT TAKEN

Former Wimbledon semifinalist Jelena Dokic will be playing in this year’s Australian Open after winning a wild card spot in the draw. The 25-year-old Dokic was ranked as high as number four in the world in 2002. But a series of injuries and personal problems, many of them involving her father Damir, saw her ranking drop to 617 in 2006. Last year she won three ITF tournaments and improved her ranking to 179, her highest in four years.

SUPER MOM

Expecting her second child, Lindsay Davenport has taken herself off the WTA Tour indefinitely. The three-time Grand Slam winner learned she was pregnant just a week after agreeing to play in this month’s Australian Open. After returning to the tour following the birth of her first child, Jagger, Davenport won four of her 55 career singles titles. She also has won 37 doubles titles, including Roland Garros in 1996 with Mary Joe Fernandez, the US Open in 1997 with Jana Novotna and Wimbledon in 1999 with Corina Morariu. Her Grand Slam singles titles came at the US Open in 1998, Wimbledon in 1999 and the Australian Open in 2000.

SYDNEY STADIUM

Sydney’s 2000 Olympics tennis stadium has been named in honor of eight-time Grand Slam champion Ken Rosewall. The 10,000-seat stadium at Sydney Olympic Park will now be known as the Ken Rosewall Arena. Rosewall played in four Wimbledon finals during his career, with a 20-year gap between the first in 1954 and the last in 1974. He won four Australian titles, two French titles and two US titles. He turned 74 last month.

SPANISH LEADER

Albert Costa is Spain’s new Davis Cup captain. The 33-year-old replaces Emilio Sanchez Vicario, who stepped down after leading the Spaniards to their third Davis Cup title with a 3-1 win over Argentina. Costa, the 2002 French Open winner, played on Spain’s first Davis Cup winning team in 2000. He will make his debut as captain in a first-round World Group match against Serbia on March 6-8.

STEPPING UP

Little-known Modesto Vazquez is the new captain for Argentina’s Davis Cup team. The 59-year-old Vazquez replaces Alberto Mancini, who led Argentina to the finals in both 2006 and 2008, only to lose both times. Currently the development director for the Argentina Tennis Association (AAT), Vazquez played two Davis Cup ties for Argentina in 1968 and 1970. The AAT also selected Ricardo Rivera to be Vazquez’s assistant.

SET FOR AUSTRALIA

Two Americans have won wild-card spots for the Australian Open. Christina McHale will be making her first main-draw appearance at a Grand Slam tournament, while John Isner played in all four Grand Slam tournaments in 2008, losing to Fabrice Santoro in the first round of the Australian Open. The US Tennis Association and Tennis Australia have a reciprocal agreement to exchange wild-card berths for the US and Australian Opens.

SHARAPOVA HURTING

A shoulder injury is still bothering Maria Sharapova, who will be defending her Australian Open singles crown later this month. The injury forced Sharapova to withdraw from an exhibition event in Hong Kong, where she will be replaced by fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze. Sharapova has not played competitively since pulling out of a tournament in Montreal, Canada, in July following a match in which she double-faulted 17 times. Medical tests found a torn rotator cuff tendon in her right shoulder.

SITE CHANGE?

Upset that a first-round Davis Cup tie was relocated because of security fears, Pakistani tennis officials are demanding USD $60,000 from the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) president Dilawar Abbas said the ITF last month gave his country the option of playing its Group II tie against Oman scheduled for March 6-8 in either Oman or Malaysia. Abbas, denying there are security issues in his country, said the switch will incur losses to Pakistan and the ITF should pay compensation. “If the ITF still wants to switch the tie, we demand it to be played on a neutral venue, either in Singapore or Malaysia and not in Oman,” Abbas said.

SERVING

China’s Peng Shuai has a new coach. She began training with Tarik Benhabiles last month in Florida and will continue to work together fulltime throughout 2009. The 22-year-old Peng had split with former coach Zhang Depei. Benhabiles, who reached a career-high ranking of 22nd in the world and represented France in Davis Cup, ended his playing career in 1992 and coached a young Andy Roddick. He has worked with other players, including Benjamin Becker, Ivo Karlovic and Gael Monfils.

STEFFI THE TARGET

Andre Agassi’s former agent and longtime friend has filed a lawsuit against the tennis star’s wife, Steffi Graf. In the lawsuit, sports agent Perry Rogers charges Graf, herself an inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, owes USD $50,000 to Rogers and his Alliance Sports Management Co. for services outlined in a 2002 agreement. Graf declined to comment. Her husband released a statement saying he was “saddened and disappointed” by the lawsuit. When Agassi and Rogers split last October, both described the parting as friendly.

STAYING PUT

The International Tennis Federation has decided to allow Nigeria to remain in the Euro/Africa Group 3 Davis Cup competition. The ITF initially dropped the African nation to Group 4 when the Nigerian team failed to show up in Bulgaria last March for their tie. But the ITF reversed its decision when it learned that the Bulgarian Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, refused to give visas to the Nigerian team.

STEPPING DOWN

Oded Yaakov has stepped down as captain of Israel’s Fed Cup team, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. However, Yaakov has not ruled out the possibility of coaching the national team again in the future. “When you have the soul of a coach, you’re wired with an element of competitiveness and adrenaline,” Yaakov said. “These are traits that stay with you, and you can’t get rid of them. I’m sure I’ll feel them again, and that’s why I’m not ruling out returning to the [Fed Cup] team sometime in the future.”

SAD NEWS

Former USA Davis Cup captain George MacCall is dead at the age of 90. MacCall directed the American Davis Cup teams in 1965-67 that featured Arthur Ashe, Dennis Ralston and Marty Riessen. He is credited with pushing through a rule that allowed the players to be paid USD $28 a day for expenses. MacCall, who won USA senior titles as a player, organized the National Tennis League in 1967 and signed Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Pancho Gonzalez, Fred Stolle among others. He also signed women players, including Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Ann Jones and Francoise Durr, helping force tennis into the Open Era.

SITES TO SURF

Doha: www.qatartennis.org

Brisbane: www.brisbaneinternational.com.au/

Chennai: www.chennaiopen.org/

Auckland: www.asbclassic.co.nz

Sao Paulo: www.abertosp.com.br/

Sydney: www.Medibankinternational.com.au

Hobart: www.hobartinternational.com.au

Australian Open: www.australianopen.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP

$1,110,250 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Doha, Qatar, hard

$484,750 Brisbane International, Brisbane, Australia, hard

$450,000 Chennai Open, Chennai, India, hard

$100,000 Prime Aberto de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard

WTA TOUR

$220,000 Brisbane International, Brisbane, Australia, hard

$220,000 ASB Classic, Auckland, New Zealand, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$484,750 Medibank International, Sydney, Australia, hard

$480,750 Heineken Open, Auckland, New Zealand, hard

WTA TOUR

$600,000 Medibank International, Sydney, Australia, hard

$220,000 Moorilla Hobart International, Hobart, Australia, hard

Mondays With Bob Greene: Lindsay Davenport Pregnant Again

Stars

Jelena Jankovic and Rafael Nadal have been named Player of the Year 2008 by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Nadal becomes the first Spanish man to be named Men’s World Champion.

Nadal had a dream season in 2008 winning his 4th successive Roland Garros and a first win at Wimbledon in an epic final versus Roger Federer.

Jankovic becomes the first Serbian woman to win the Singles World Champion after she managed to keep top spot in a magnificent year. Jankovic reached her first Grand Slam final at the US Open and won more matches than any other player. She managed to capture 4 titles in respectively Rome, Beijing, Stuttgart and Moscow.

Sponsorships

Volvo Car India has announced that they will be partnering up with the Chennai Open 2009. Volvo will showcase a luxurious Volvo S80 Sedan in a unique fashion. The car will be on the courts of the Chennai Open 2009.

A New Successor

Albert Costa has been named Davis Cup captain for Spain last Thursday. Spain recently won the Davis Cup last month beating Argentina in the finals.

Costa, 33, is the successor for Emilio Sanchez , who stepped down after he led Spain succesfully to its’ third Davis Cup title beating Argentina 3-1.

Albert Costa was part of the team that won the Davis Cup with Spain as a player back in 2000. He has won 12 ATP singles titles including the French Open. Costa agreed to stay on for one year.

“I accomplished a lot of my dreams as a player, winning at Roland Garros and now I’ve managed another one, becoming captain of our Davis Cup team,” said Costa.

Lindsay Davenport is expecting her second child

She intended to play the Australian Open of 2009 but fate decided otherwise. Lindsay Davenport is pregnant with her second child. Davenport gave birth to baby boy Jagger back in 2007 and is said that she and her husband Jon Leach are elated with the news of the second child.

“I am thrilled that Jon, Jagger and I will be welcoming a new addition to our family this coming year,” said Davenport. “Of course this unexpected but exciting surprise now means I will be putting tennis on hold for the foreseeable future.”

Meningitis strikes Nadia Petrova

Nadia Petrova has been forced to pull out of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand. Brenda Perry, tournament director for the ASB Classic, said that it was a shame that Petrova was unable to compete.

“I know she was looking forward to playing the ASB Classic, but in this situation she is obviously in need of medical care and our thoughts go out to her.”

The roof is on fire…again

Wimbledon will hold a small tennis event in May to test the new retractable roof over Centre Court.

“We need to get a capacity crowd of 15,000 people in there to recreate the conditions we encounter during the championships,” Johnny Perkins, a spokesman for the London club.

Former British No.1 Tim Henman is currently helping the club with preparations. An actual lineup of players for the event will be announced later.

The retractable roof took three years to build.

Sites to surf:

ATP Tour: http://www.atptennis.com/

WTA Tour: http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/1/

Women’s Tennis Blog: http://www.womenstennisblog.com/

On the Baseline: http://www.onthebaseline.com/

Mondays With Bob Greene: I am like a machine, fit for every match

STARS

Ayumi Morita beat Ksenia Lykina 6-1 6-3 to win the 2008 Dunlop World Challenge women’s event in Toyota City, Japan

Martin Vassallo Arguello won the Lima Challenger 2008, beating Sergio Roitman 6-2 4-6 6-4 in Lima, Peru

Go Soeda beat Hyung-Taik Lee 6-2 7-6 (7) to win the Dunlop World Challenge men’s singles in Toyota City, Japan

Grega Zemlja beat Martin Alund 6-2 6-1 to win the Abierto Internacional Varonil Ciudad de Cancun in Cancun, Mexico

SAYING

“This was our worst defeat. We had a sinister weekend.” – David Nalbandian, who earned Argentina’s lone point in Spain’s 3-1 Davis Cup victory.

“I think he’s my natural successor. He’s very close to this group of players who are integrated into the nucleus of the team and he’s demonstrated his qualities as a coach by leading Feliciano (Lopez), who has shown notable progression in the last while.” – Emilio Sanchez, on Albert Costa’s prospects for becoming Spain’s Davis Cup captain.

“I am like a machine, fit for every match, and I give my best for all my matches. I have a consistent style of play, which is my major strength and keeps me going. I am fine with the current ATP schedule and love playing tennis, which keeps me going.” – Nikolay Davydenko.

“It goes back to what my dad said: I peaked at 12 years old.” – Jimmy Arias, who in 1980 at the age of 16 became the youngest player to make the main draw of the US Open.

“She will have an opportunity but she will have to earn it.” – Craig Tiley, Australian Open tournament director on Jelena Dokic playing in a wild card playoff for a direct entry into the first Grand Slam tournament of 2009.

SUFFERIN’ SUCCOTASH

His business manager says Jimmy Connors is “extremely disappointed and embarrassed” about an incident that led to the tennis legend being charged with a misdemeanor. Karen Scott says a man tried to pick a fight with Connors and his son before a basketball game between the University of California Santa Barbara and the University of North Carolina. Police asked Connors to leave, but the eight-time Grand Slam tournament champion was arrested after he said he wanted to wait for his son to finish watching the game. Connors was charged with disrupting campus activities and refusing to leave a university facility.

STEPS DOWN

The day after leading Spain to its third Davis Cup championship, Emilio Sanchez Vicario retired as captain of the victorious team. “I will not be there for the tie against Serbia,” said Sanchez, referring to Spain’s first-round tie in 2009. “I started something three years ago and the cycle is now complete with this reward for all the players, and I hope that whoever replaces me can share all the magical moments I have experienced.” The next Spanish captain is rumored to be Albert Costa, the 2002 Roland Garros champion.

SAME IN ARGENTINA

Alberto Mancini apparently is through as coach of Argentina’s Davis Cup squad. He announced his resignation just hours after Spain clinched its third Davis Cup title, defeating Argentina 3-1 in the best-of-five-matches tie. The fifth match was not played. According to reports, Mancini had planned to resign after the final regardless of the outcome.

SCORING MORE

As an incentive to play better, Chinese tennis players will be able to keep more of their winnings. China’s players will keep 70 percent of the money they win, twice the amount they have been able to put into the bank. But the country’s top players, including Li Na and Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie, are eligible to keep even more if they do well at Grand Slams and other big tournaments. In China, the sports associations have paid for coaches, travel and other expenses for the players. In making the announcement, Sun Jinfang, head of the Chinese Tennis Association (CTA), didn’t say if the players would now have to pay for some of their own expenses.

SQUARING OFF

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer could resume their rivalry in their opening 2009 tournament. The world’s top two players are scheduled to play the Qatar Open in Doha, Qatar, which begins January 5. According to Nasser al-Kholiafi, Qatar tennis federation president, the star-filled field will also include Andy Murray and Andy Roddick. The Qatar Open is one of three tournaments that will begin the 2009 ATP season, the others being the Brisbane International in Australia and the Chennai Open in India.

STOPPED

Kimiko Date-Krumm’s latest tournament ended quickly in the singles. Once ranked number five in the world, Date-Krumm lost her second-round match in the 2008 Dunlop World Challenge Tennis Tournament in Toyota, Japan, to Russian wild-card Ksenia Lykina 5-7 7-5 6-3. She did much better in the doubles, teaming with China’s Han Xinyun to reach the final, where they lost to Finland’s Emma Laine and Britain’s Melanie South 6-1 7-5.

SLUITER RETURNS

Dutch tennis player Raemon Sluiter is returning to the ATP tour after a 10-month retirement. He reached his highest world ranking of number 46 in 2003. The right-hander from Rotterdam turned pro in 1996 and earned a little more than USD $1.6 million in his career. Sluiter began his Davis Cup career in 2001 by upsetting Juan Carlos Ferrero as the Netherlands beat Spain and Germany to reach the World Group semifinals before losing to France. He also has a Davis Cup victory over Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen.

SET TO EXPLODE

A live bomb from World War II was discovered when a court at a British tennis club underwent renovation. The bomb was thought to be a piece of old farm machinery and handed to Steve McLean, chairman of the Greenlaw Tennis Club in Berwickshire, who put it in a bin. Six weeks later, he realized it was a bomb and called police. Army bomb disposal experts took the bomb away so it could be detonated safely.

STUMBLE

The first event in a closed tour for Asian players was canceled because of the lack of top players. The Asian Tennis Federation said it was planning a closed Asian Tennis Tour to help Asian players make more money. The first two events were to be held in India in December, a men’s tournament in Pune, followed by a women’s event in Indore. But some of the eight countries who had pledged their participation in the tour ended up nominated their third- or fourth-string players for the tournaments.

SENDS WARNING

John McEnroe hasn’t been quiet about his chances at the BlackRock Masters Tennis championships at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The lefthander, who at the age of 49 is by far the oldest in the eight-man draw, sent a video message to his rivals warning them not to underestimate him. McEnroe’s recent victory in Luxembourg has convinced the American that he can still compete. McEnroe is in a group with American Pete Sampras, Frenchman Cedric Pioline and Britain’s Jeremy Bates. The other group consists of Sweden’s Stefan Edberg, Australian Pat Cash, Britain’s Greg Rusedski and France’s Guy Forget. Jamie Murray, Wimbledon mixed doubles champion in 2007 and the brother of Andy Murray, will play doubles, joining, among others, Peter Fleming, Henri Leconte, Mansour Bahrami, Mark Woodforde and Anders Jarryd. Goran Ivanisevic withdrew from the singles field because he will undergo knee surgery.

SITTING ON TOP

For the third consecutive year, France has more players in the year-ending ATP Top 100 than any other nation. This year, however, Spain has tied France with 14 players in the Top 100. With Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at number six and Gilles Simon at number seven, it is the first time since 1986 that two Frenchmen have been in the year-end Top Ten. Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte did it then. Twenty-nine countries are represented in the Top 100. After France and Spain, Argentina has nine players in the Top 100, followed by the United States with eight, Germany and Russia with seven each, Croatia with five, the Czech Republic and Italy with four each, and Serbia and Belgium with three apiece.

STARS FOR SALE

The Heineken Open has reportedly been forced to shell out record appearance fees in order to land a couple of top players for the tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, beginning January 12. The headliners will be world number eight Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina and former champion David Ferrer of Spain. Tournament director Richard Palmer would not reveal the exact amount of appearance fees he had to pay to get the two, but said it was considerably less than the sums some top 10 players were demanding.

SO HAPPY

Organizers of the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, are smiling these days. Because of the changes in the ATP calendar for 2009, Lleyton Hewitt and the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, have committed to the US Clay Court. The Houston event now doesn’t bump up against Davis Cup competition or a popular clay-court tournament in Europe. And it directly follows the Masters 100 tournament in Miami, Florida. “This is a perfect example of how we’ve improved our prospects of getting some players we probably wouldn’t have had a shot at before,” said Van Barry, tennis director of River Oaks Country Club, site of the tournament.

SERBIAN DREAMS

The decrepit courts of the Milan Gale Muskatirovic Sports Centre in Belgrade, Serbia, will be restored in time to hold an ATP tournament in May. Tennis Masters Cup champion Novak Djokovic and his family are behind the changes, having acquired the ATP event only a few weeks ago. The Serbian government, city of Belgrade and municipality of Stari Grad will jointly pay more than USD $1 million for the venture. The courts also will be used by the Serbian Tennis Federation for Fed Cup and Davis Cup practice as well as university competition. When completed, the complex will have seven courts with seating for 5,000 at the Central Court. The restoration is scheduled to be completed by mid-April, two weeks before the tournament will begin.

SYDNEY CALLING

The Medibank International Sydney 2009 tournament will feature a number of top players, including Serena Williams, Jelena Jankovic, David Nalbandian and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Officials say the competition will be Sydney’s international sporting event of the Australian summer. Also in the field will be Russian Elena Dementieva and Frenchman Richard Gasquet, while Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt will be gunning for his fifth title in the tournament.

STICKING WITH IT

Argentina’s David Nalbandian refuted rumors that he is considering quitting his country’s Davis Cup team because of its loss to Spain. “For me it’s really an honor to represent my country. I’m going to continue defending these colors in the best way possible. For me, playing Davis Cup is the best and I’m upset that people have doubted me.” Nalbandian won the opening singles in the three-day competition, beating David Ferrer. But he and Agustin Calleri lost their doubles match and his “reverse singles” match was never played because Spain had already wrapped up its victory. “We’ve played in two Davis Cup finals in the last three years and I still think we can win it,” Nalbandian said.

SET FOR CHENNAI

India’s two top-ranked singles players, Somdev Devvarman and Prakash Amritraj, have been given wild cards into the Chennai Open tournament scheduled to begin January 5. The third wild card into the main singles draw has been offered to Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic, who will partner India’s Leander Paes in the doubles. India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and his partner, Mark Knowles of the Bahamas, have also entered the tournament. While Paes and Bhupathi are India’s best-known players, neither play singles that much any more.

SAD NEWS

Anne Pittman, who coached Arizona State’s women’s tennis program for 30 years, died in Tempe, Arizona, after suffering a stroke. She was 90 years old. Pittman guided ASU to a 338-71 record from 1954 through 1984 and led the Sun Devils to national championships in 1971, 1972 and 1974. In 1995, she was selected as one of the charter members and only coach into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame. During her tenure, the women’s tennis coach was considered a volunteer position. Pittman refused to retire until funding was approved during the 1983-84 season to make the coach a paid, full-time position.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Toyota (women): Emma Laine and Melanie South beat Kimiko Date-Krumm and Han Xinyun 6-1 7-5

Lima: Luis Horna and Sebastian Prieto beat Ramon Delgado and Julio Silva 6-3 6-3

Toyota (men): Frederik Nielsen and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi beat Chen Ti and Gazegorz Panfil 7-5 6-3

Cancun: Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach beat Lee Hsin-Han and Yang Tsung-Hua 7-5 6-2

SITES TO SURF

London: www.theblackrockmasters.com/

Australian Open: www.australianopen.com/

ATP: www.atptennis.com

WTA Tour: www.sonyericssonwtatour.com

ITF: www.itftennis.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

SENIORS

BlackRock Masters Tennis, London, England, carpet

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