Alex Corretja

Kim Clijsters’ Houdini act – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Flip-Flop

It’s been an exciting week and a half of tennis in Key Biscayne as the second Masters event of the season draws to a close, and for Mardy Fish, there’s been even more to be excited about than his good form. The veteran’s run to the semis will not only take him to a career high ranking of No. 11, but it will also provide him the opportunity to move into the top 10. His upward climb in the rankings, coupled with defending Miami champion Andy Roddick’s early exit, means that Fish will also become the top ranked American for the first time in his career. The real test for Fish will come later this summer when he has a larger amount of points to defend, but it’s great to see that all of his hard work is continuing to pay dividends, even if it’s coming at the latter stages of his career.

9-1-1

If ever there was a player in need of some emergency assistance, it’s Andy Murray. The young Scot suffered yet another devastating blow as he crashed out of Miami in his opening match. You hate saying it about a player Murray’s age with his amount of talent, but he’s definitely reaching a crisis point from which there may be no return. He has split with part-time consultant Alex Corretja (a mutual split), and he is still without a full-time coach. He is said to be in talks with former Grand Slam champion Ivan Lendl, who has expressed interest in trying his hand at coaching Murray. Lendl has never coached an ATP player before, but he should still prove to be a huge advantage to Murray should he ultimately opt to hire him. Lendl had the work ethic, and he also knows what it’s like to watch multiple Grand Slam opportunities go begging before finally breaking through that barrier. It’s hard to imagine a more suitable coach who could teach Murray how to quickly bounce back from such losses, and if Murray is smart, he’ll snatch him up while the offer is still on the table.

Houdini Act

Down 1-5, 0-40 in the third set against Ana Ivanovic, Kim Clijsters’ Miami run appeared to be at an end. But like any great champion, Kim Clijsters continued to fight, keeping the ball in play in the hopes that her game would pick up and her opponent’s would self-destruct. Ivanovic obliged, and several games and five match points saved later, Clijsters was raising her arms in triumph, leaving Ivanovic to toss the racquet and shed a few tears in the locker room afterwards. While Clijsters is to be admired for her perseverance, it’s hard not to feel for Ivanovic. She appears to be getting her game back on track, and a victory over Clijsters would have only accelerated her climb towards the top. Hopefully this heartbreaking loss won’t cause her to take a few steps backwards, as the game could use her presence back in the upper echelons of the sport.

Back in the Mix

Lanky and loud Maria Sharapova has plenty to be proud of this week, as the Russian has finally made her return to the WTA’s top ten with her victory of Andrea Petkovic to reach the Miami final. Sharapova continues to struggle with her serve, but her trademark fighting spirit has helped her pull out some gutsy wins, including a three-and-a-half hour marathon in the quarterfinals. She doesn’t possess the aura that she once did (and may never have that aura again), but as it’s been with so many of the WTA’s previously injured and struggling stars, it’s great to see her back at the top where she belongs, battling for some of the game’s biggest titles.

Baby Blues

In his straight-set loss to Mardy Fish, David Ferrer was annoyed by a crying baby in the crowd, and after losing serve midway through the second set, he reportedly hit a lob in the direction of the crying infant. Rest assured, the lob didn’t land anywhere near the child, and to his credit, Ferrer didn’t blame the crying for his loss, citing instead a bad case of indigestion. Fish was also quick to point out that Ferrer is one of the nicest guys on tour, and that if he had it to do over again, he probably wouldn’t have hit that lob. All this aside, there’s still no excuse for what Ferrer did, but it does raise an interesting question. And that question is, “why are parents bringing such a young child to a tennis match?” A good friend in New York cites this pet peeve every year at the US Open. She is tired of the extremely little kids who don’t understand the protocol of watching a match, and one of the biggest annoyances is a crying baby. It might sound absurd compared to other sporting events, but given the nature of how a tennis crowd is supposed to act, tennis might consider imposing a minimum age requirement for attending a professional tennis tournament. Many of these children may be subjected to stifling heat and humidity, don’t understand what they’re seeing, may be bored, and in the case of babies, will not even remember having attended the event. Their constant movement prior to changeovers, yelling, and crying is not only a distraction to players, but other spectators as well. This is an issue tennis might want to consider tackling (and then maybe it can concentrate on how to better control those unruly fans who are old enough and ought to know better!).

Henin to return this weekend, Murray to continue with Corretja, Gilbert to Help Nishikori

*Justine Henin is to return to action this weekend at the Hopman Cup in Australia having been kept out since Wimbledon with an elbow injury. The former world No. 1 hopes to be able to compete in the Australian Open but fears it may take her up to six months to regain full fitness. “There were concerns about the future of my career,” the 28-year-old Belgian said. “I hope I can build my condition by playing tournaments this year and hope to be really ready around June-July.” 2010 was the seven-time Grand Slam winner’s return from an 18-month retirement and she will hope to add that elusive Wimbledon title to her CV before giving up permanently.

*British No. 1 Andy Murray has confirmed that Spaniard Alex Corretja will remain as his coach for at least the first half of 2011. Corretja, a former world No. 2, took over the role after Murray split with Miles Maclagan back in July. “Andy has taken time out from his busy pre-season fitness training to confirm that the current coaching set-up, with both Alex Corretja and Dani Vallverdu, will continue into the first half of next year,” read a statement on Murray’s official website.

*Brad Gilbert has confirmed that he will work as a consultant to Japanese star Kei Nishikori at fifteen tournaments throughout 2011. Gilbert retired from the tour in 1994 and his since coached Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray on a permanent basis. “I have been working at the IMG Bollettieri Academy for a few years now, helping out Kei and other players,” Gilbert told ATPWorldTour.com.

“I decided to expand my role with Kei to 15 tournaments, but TV work with ESPN will remain my first priority.”

*World No. 8 Jelena Jankovic has begun working with former Romanian world No. 13 Andrei Pavel on a trial basis after lifting only one title in 2010 at Indian Wells. She was being handled by Ricardo Sanchez but they have now parted ways.

*American Wayne Odesnik has had his two-year doping ban overturned after 12 months. He is now free to return to competitive matches from December 29. Whilst entering Australia for last year’s Brisbane International he was stopped by customs and eight vials of the growth hormone HGH were found in his luggage, although Odesnik never tested positive for taking the substance. Whilst at one time being ranked as high as No. 77 in the world, Odesnik was ranked No. 111 when the incident occurred and has now slipped off the rankings altogether.

*Maria Sharapova has reserved a wildcard entry in to the Sydney tournament for if she falls early on in the previous week’s festivities at Auckland. The former world No. 1 is usually pretty lax in her preparations for Melbourne Park but has opted for a more strenuous approach after losing in the first round in 2010.

*Alona Bondarenko has announced she will miss the Australian Open after undergoing the second knee surgery of her career. 2010 semifinalist Jie Zheng will also miss the competition after failing to recover from the wrist surgery she underwent in September. In the men’s draw, Robby Ginepri is set to miss out after he set March as his benchmark to return to the tour after suffering a motorbike accident in November whilst swerving to avoid a squirrel.

*The GB Fed Cup team have announced that teen starlets Heather Watson and Laura Robson are set to compete in next month’s Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 tie in Israel. Watson, 18, was the 2009 US Open junior champion while Robson, 16, won the Wimbledon junior title in 2008 aged just 14. Watson said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have been selected. It’s a dream come true as I’ve grown up watching the competition. I can’t wait to head out to Israel with the girls and give it our all.” Captain Nigel Sears added: “It is the right time for Heather and Laura to try and make it a successful week.”

*Teens the world over were celebrating early Christmas presents after receiving wildcards in to the 2011 Australian Open main draw. Australia’s No. 11 Olivia Rogowska was celebrating after defeating former world No. 4 Jelena Dokic 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 in the final of the Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs. Dokic, though, has since been handed a discretionary wildcard by the Aussie tennis authorities. Marinko Matosevic overcame Peter Luczak in five sets in the men’s final to earn his place and Luczak has also been handed an entry card. Tennis Australia have also handed discretionary wildcards to Matt Ebden and Alicia Molik. In the American equivalent, played at the Racquet Club of the South, Georgia, world No. 444 Lauren Davis, 17, upset No. 113 Coco Vandeweghe, 19, in their final 6-2, 6-2. Ryan Harrison won the male playoffs after overcoming Jack Sock. The French Tennis Federation have awarded their discretionary pass in to the main draw to Virginie Razzano.

*Latest Career Grand Slam achiever Rafa Nadal was voted the 2010 BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year. “For me it’s an honour, thank you very much to the BBC for giving me this award,” said the 24-year-old. “It’s just a dream being in the list of great champions to receive this award.” For reaction and to see the Spaniard collect the trophy visit the BBC Tennis website. Marca.com also named him ‘Spanish Athlete of the Decade’ while elpais.es readers voted him the ‘Spanish Athlete of the Year.’

*The ATP website has interviews with a host of top stars available to read at your leisure including how Andy Roddick and Marcos Baghdathis have prepared themselves for the 2011 season and whether Novak Djokovic can keep up his impressive end to 2010.

*You have until midnight on December 31 to cast your votes in the TennisReporters.net 2010 Tennis Awards so get over there now before it’s too late to have your say on who were the players of the year, which matches really set your fires alight and which stars provide the greatest eye candy.

Coach Changes For Federer and Murray: The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Coach Onboard – One of the two big news stories that broke earlier in the week was that Swiss No. 1 Roger Federer has announced that he’ll be working with American coach Paul Annacone. Paul Annacone is one of the most respected coaches in the sport, and his work speaks for itself. He’s had the experience of dealing with a legend of the game in Pete Sampras, as well as helping a guy discover his best form late in a career as shown in his work with Tim Henman. With the possible exception of someone like a Darren Cahill, it’s hard to imagine a better fit for Federer at this stage in his career. The move also represents just one more signal that Federer is still hungry and is committed to getting back to the top, and he’s not afraid to admit that he may not be able to do it solo. Annacone still has some lingering commitments to the LTA before the two can consider going fulltime, but this has all the makings of another positive turnaround in Federer’s career.

Coach Overboard
– On the opposite end of the coaching carousel is the news concerning Andy Murray and Miles Maclagan. Murray announced that after just less than three years, he is parting ways with Maclagan. Murray explained the reasons behind the split, with most of them stemming from MacLagan and Murray having differing opinions about where he is and how to get to where he wants to be. I’m inclined to see this as a very positive move for Murray, and it’s no disrespect to Maclagan. He’s done a great job with Murray, taking him to two Grand Slam finals and the No. 2 singles ranking. But there’s no doubt that Murray’s career has at best stalled, and at worst, has been in a steady decline since the Aussie Open final, excluding his unexpected run to the semis of Wimbledon. Murray is in no rush to replace Maclagan and will be staying with his part-time coach, former professional Alex Corretja, through the US Open before reevaluating the situation. Sometimes a ball of negative energy, Andy Murray can undoubtedly be a handful to coach, but there’s bound to be a nice selection of coaching candidates willing to harness that emotion and take a talented player like Murray to the next level. Stay tuned…

Fish Flying High – Confident coming off his win in Newport, Fish continued to accumulate the victories with his second straight tournament win in the inaugural ATP event in Atlanta. Battling the competition and searing summer temperatures, Fish hung on to take a third set tiebreak over fellow American John Isner in the final. It’s great to see Mardy’s hard work to get in better shape and bounce back from injury is paying dividends in a relatively short window of time. It’s also good to see him playing it smart, opting to withdraw from singles competition in Los Angeles in order to rest and give his tweaked ankle an opportunity to recuperate (and it’s probably not such a bad thing his attempt to win the doubles was abruptly cut short by the Bryan Brothers). If Fish continues to grow in confidence, he could be a dangerous floater this summer, and with his ranking jumping yet another 14 places after his performance in Atlanta, he may even earn a seed for the final major of 2010.


The Road Back?
– Less publicized over the weekend was former World No. 5 Anna Chakvetadze’s win over Johanna Larsson to win the Slovenia Open. Chakvetadze seems to have predominantly (and understandably) gone in a downward spiral ever since the traumatic robbery experience she and her family endured at their family home in Moscow in late 2007. With her ranking now outside the top 100, Chakvetadze has been a mere shadow of the Top 5 player she once was, but this win in Slovenia may just give the Russian the confidence she needs to get her ranking and her game going in the right direction once again.

Not Hanging it Up…Yet – Earlier in the year, James Blake looked all but ready to retire. He wasn’t enjoying himself on the court, the wheels had come off his game, and he was playing with pain and a lingering injury. Now, after playing without pain and earning a relatively routine win over Leonardo Mayer in his opening match L.A. , Blake is feeling much more positive about his game. His current approach couldn’t be better, setting small goals and just enjoying being out on the court. Blake has always been one of the better sportsmen in the game, and he’s had some great results in his career. Will he get back into the Top 20? Top 50? That’s hard to say, but it’s great to see that Blake may at least be able to go out on a positive note and on his terms when the time comes.

Check World Tennis Magazine’s Interview with James Blake:

Tennis People – Murray And Federer Looking At New Coaches, Del Potro May Make US Open And Golubev Another “Tennis First”

*World No. 4 Andy Murray and coach Miles Maclagan have parted ways after nearly three years working together. Maclagan has always been reportedly uneasy with Murray’s insistence on keeping Alex Corretja as an advisor although the split is reported to be amicable. “I’ve had a great relationship with Miles over the past two-and-a-half years and I want to thank him for his positive contribution to my career,” said Murray. “We have had a lot of success and fun working together.” Maclagan said of the situation: “It’s been a privilege to work with Andy as his coach and I’m happy to have played my part in his career. I also want to thank the team for all their hard work over the years and I will miss working with them and Andy on a day-to-day basis. Andy is a great player and I know he will continue to have the success his talent and hard work deserves.” Murray was No. 11 in the world when the pair began working together in 2007 so the success has been plain for all to see. Murray will work with Corretja until the US Open later this year and then review the situation further.

*In other coaching news, Roger Federer is having a trial period working with former Pete Sampras and Tim Henman coach Paul Annacone. Federer is now ranked No. 3 in the world following being knocked out at the quarter final stage of the past two Slams and he said: “I’ve been looking to add someone to my team and I’ve decided to spend some days with Paul Annacone,” Federer told his official website. “As Paul winds down his responsibilities working for the Lawn Tennis Association, we will explore our relationship through this test period. Paul will work alongside my existing team and I am excited to learn from his experiences.” An LTA spokesperson told BBC Sport: “As outlined in Roger Federer’s statement, Paul will do a number of days with Roger as he winds down his work with the LTA.”

*The USTA is claiming that defending champion Juan Martin Del Potro is “expected” to return from injury at the US Open finals despite missing much of the year since his miraculous win over Roger Federer in the final. The player’s agent, Ugo Colombini, added that: “Del Potro is working and hopefully he will get back soon.” Del Potro has also spoken out saying he will play the Thailand Open starting September 27 so the three parties are offering differing opinions. “I am looking forward to playing the PTT Thailand Open on my return from injury,” said Del Potro. “I really enjoyed myself on my last visit to Bangkok and hope for good results at this year’s tournament.” World No. 1 Rafa Nadal has also been confirmed for the event.

*There has been yet another “tennis first” for 2010 with Andrey Golubev becoming the first player from Kazakhstan to lift an ATP Tour title by defeating the Austrian Jurgen Melzer in Hamburg. “I’m really excited,” he said. “I can’t believe what happens now in Kazakhstan. I’m really, really happy to make a page in the history of the country. I’m a little bit surprised but I believe in my game on all surfaces so that was the key.” A full interview with the beaming champ can be viewed now over at the ATP website.

*The lineup for the Malaysian Open, beginning September 25, is looking very tantalising. World No. 5 Robin Soderling, Nikolay Davydenko (6), Tomas Berdych (8) and David Ferrer (12) are the main draws. Mikhail Youzhny (14), Nicolas Almagro (18), popular Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis (25) and Aussie Lleyton Hewitt (30) will also be big crowd-pullers.

*Two former World No. 1s have been talking about renewed faith in their games in the women’s game this week. Russian Dinara Safina has admitted that: “players aren’t afraid of me anymore,” in an interview with TennisReporters.net. “Now I have to earn back their respect. Now it’s a new time for me,” she continued. “I’m playing well but you need a breakthrough and in many matches I’m playing, I’m just not closing them up. I’m playing better and trying to win matches, but I need to start to cruise and I’m not there yet.” On the same website, the leaner-looking Serb Ana Ivanovic has been speaking in a similar vein. “I’ve been working a lot on foot work drills and that’s been something in my game that’s been lacking,” she said. “I’m better getting into balls into the corners and that’s important. I feel like I got the joy back like when I was 16 or 17 rather than feeling like I have so much pressure on me,” the 22-year-old continued. “I still think I’m very young. It all comes down to pressure because regardless of my ranking I still have a lot of expectations of myself. If I can reduce that it will be a huge step for me.”

*Maria Sharapova has announced that she is finally overcoming her troublesome shoulder problems and is able to serve with her old service motion more easily. “I knew eventually I would go back, I just didn’t quite know when,” said Sharapova, who underwent shoulder surgery in October 2008. “But I knew that if I was going to come back when I did last year, I had to start with an abbreviated motion. I’m just trying to work myself toward the U.S. Open,” she added. “I’m just happy to be back playing.”

*Jelena Jankovic expects to be fit for next week’s event in San Diego despite twisting her ankle in Portoroz. “Unfortunately, in my second round match, I was up 6-1, 2-0 and went running for a ball and twisted my ankle. I had to retire and I haven’t hit since then. I’m still recovering,” said Jankovic on her website. “I came back to Serbia afterwards and have a whole team of doctors helping me get healthy as fast as possible. I’m hoping to leave for San Diego in the next few days. I love it there. That’s where my new house is going to be. Next year in San Diego, I’ll be playing at home.”

*James Blake is now backtracking on the retirement thoughts he had after exiting Wimbledon following a vast improvement in his knee. “I’ve done a complete 180,” Blake was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times. “Wimbledon was a pretty disappointing time. I wasn’t able to train, but now I’m feeling great, the knee is feeling good.”

Bottom of Form

*After the Dane Caroline Wozniacki recently turned 20 years old the mantle of top-ranked teen in the Sony Ericsson WTA rankings falls on the young shoulders of Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The 2006 ITF World Junior Champion took time out of her practice schedule to talk to the WTA website about her life on the circuit. “I was the best in juniors, and then everyone expected me to be the best in the pros quite quickly, which I did also expect,” said the 19-year-old. “But sometimes now I feel juniors doesn’t really matter so much – the real tennis starts after you stop playing those events. It’s a pretty tough step mentally, even for me. You just have to try to handle it and pass it.” You can catch up with the full interview here.

*Former tennis star Roscoe Tanner is reportedly wanted by the authorities once more for failing to pay maintenance on his many children from various relationships. The two-time Aussie Open champ has been in and out of prison over the last decade for various offences and has spent much more time in hiding from the law. A defendant of one of his ex wives said: “Mr. Tanner, I would say, is one of the most difficult people we have ever dealt with, just to comply with basic court orders.” You can see the full report at the American News Channel 9 website.

*In this week’s South African Airways ATP World Rankings Mardy Fish (No. 35, 14 places), Hamburg winner Andrey Golubev (No. 37, 45) and Florian Mayer (No. 40, 14) have all seen great rises in the rankings. Donald Young of the USA enters the Top 100 at No. 99 as does Pablo Andujar of Spain who leaps 19 places to No. 100.

*There are a few career bests in this week’s Sony Ericsson WTA Rankings following last week’s play. After winning in Bad Gastein, Julia Georges entered the Top 50 for the first time at No. 42 while Timea Bacsinszky, Georges’ victim, is now ranked No. 39, within touching distance of her career best No. 37. Portoroz runner-up Johanna Larsson of Sweden also achieved a career-best No. 66 after leaping from No. 84.

*The hottest player on the ATP Tour right now, Mardy Fish, has revealed it was a mixture of fatigue and an ankle injury which forced him to withdraw from the LA Open this week. “Due to fatigue and a sprained ankle in Atlanta, I am not in good shape to play,” the 28-year-old said in an official statement. “I need to rest in order to compete at a high level.”

*American star James Blake has been answering fans’ questions via the new ATP World Tour Facebook page. Giving his views on the perks of being a pro, his favourite female star and Lady Gaga he gives a range of insights in to his lifestyle. You can see the full Q+A at the ATP website.

ATP REVIEW WITH VOO

It was an all-countrymen week in ATP finals. In Marseille the Frenchman Michael Llodra won his fourth career ATP title when he beat his compatriot Julien Benneteau 6-3, 6-4. In Memphis, Sam Querrey won his third career title, winning the All-American final in Memphis, overcoming John Isner 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-3 despite a 2-5 deficit in the second set tie-break. In Buenos Aires, a final resolution turned into an inner Spanish affair as Juan Carlos Ferrero outlasted David Ferrer 5-7, 6-4, 6-3. The 30-year-old Ferrero won back-to-back titles, last week, he

won his 13th career title in Costa Do Sauipe, Brazil. He repeated the feat of his compatriot Tommy Robredo who won Costa Do Sauipe and Buenos Aires last year. The last time within a week all-countrymen finals in three different tournaments ocurred 7.5 years ago (22-29 July, 2002):

Kitzbuhel
Alex Corretja (ESP) def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) 6-4 6-1 6-3
Sopot
Jose Acasuso (ARG) def. Franco Squillari (ARG) 2-6 6-1 6-3
Los Angeles
Andre Agassi (USA) def. Jan-Michael Gambill (USA) 6-2 6-4

Before this week, there have only been three times in the last 20 years where the two singles finalists have played a final in doubles together at the same tournament (Stefan Edberg with Magnus Larsson in Doha 1995, Lleyton Hewitt with Mark Philippoussis – Scottsdale 2003 and Philipp Kohlschreiber with Mikhail Youzhny – Munich 2007). This week it happened in two tournaments as Michael Llodra with Julien Benneteau won doubles final in Marseille, and John Isner paired with Sam Querrey to win in Memphis. Querrey a week earlier won his first doubles title at the SAP Open in San Jose, with Mardy Fish, and has extended his streak to eight doubles wins in a row.

On This Day In Tennis History

Since the tennis world is silent this week, TennisGrandstand.com will fulfill your tennis fix with an excerpt from the new tennis book “ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY.” The book, which makes an excellent holiday gift, is written by tennis historian and sports marketing guru Randy Walker, the former USTA publicity specialist. Here’s some of what happened from November 27 to November 30. For more information on the book, go to www.tennishistorybook.com.

November 27

1973 – Arthur Ashe becomes the first black player to win a title in the apartheid nation of South Africa, winning the doubles title in the South African Open with Tom Okker, defeating Lew Hoad and Bob Maud 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the final. After initially being denied a visa based on his anti-apartheid views, Ashe is permitted to play in the event by the South African government. Ashe requests to tournament officials that the bleacher seating not be segregated during the tournament, but his wishes are not granted. Says Ashe to local reporters, “You can’t integrate the place in one full sweep. It is important to recognize the progress that has been made.” Ashe loses the singles final the day before to Jimmy Connors 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-3. Chris Evert wins the women’s singles title, defeating Evonne Goolagong 6-3, 6-3.

1982 – John McEnroe clinches his fourth career Davis Cup title for the United States as he and Peter Fleming defeat Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte 6-3, 6-4, 9-7 to give the U.S. an insurmountable 3-0 lead over France in the Davis Cup final in Grenoble, France. McEnroe is also on victorious U.S. teams in 1978, 1979 and 1981 – winning the clinching singles point in the fourth rubber in 1978 against Britain and in 1981 against Argentina. Says McEnroe of his title-winning performances, “Each one is different and each one’s nice in its own way. This was one of the best, if not the best, because we beat their team in front of a large crowd and played well, and I played on my worst surface and won the matches. Argentina, when we beat them last year in Cincinnati, was probably the most exciting final I was involved in. This and Argentina were definitely the two biggest.”

November 28

1999 – Pete Sampras wins the year-end ATP Tour Championships for a fifth time, defeating world No. 1 Andre Agassi 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 in the championship match in Hannover, Germany. Agassi had defeated Sampras 6-2, 6-2 in round-robin play earlier in the tournament. Writes British journalist Stephen Bierley, “It was perhaps fitting, given that this was the last major singles tournament of the millennium, that the best player of modern times won it so emphatically.”

1985 – Wimbledon champion and No. 4 seeded Boris Becker loses to Dutchmen and No. 188th ranked Michael Schapers 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6),6-4, 6-3 in the second round of the Australian Open. “I surprised myself at how badly I can play,” says Becker of the grass court loss.

1998 – One day after clinching the year-end No. 1 ranking for a record sixth consecutive year, Pete Sampras is un-gloriously dumped in the semifinals of the ATP Tour World Championships by Alex Corretja of Spain, who defeats the world No. 1 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) after saving three match points. Fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya also advances into the championship match, defeating Tim Henman of Great Britain 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Says Sampras, who hits 50 unforced errors in the loss,  “It’s a tough way to end it. I had mixed emotions, coming so close to winning, being in the final. But the achievement of doing it six years in a row, and the fans giving me a nice ovation, it was a very good feeling. But it wasn’t the way I wanted to end the year.”

2001 – Thirty-year-old Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic begins his six-month service in the Croatian Army. Says Ivanisevic, “Now that I’m in the army, you can all sleep peacefully…I have to do basic drill, but after that they will probably send me to catch (Arab terrorist Osama) bin Laden.”

November 29

1991 – Pete Sampras makes an inauspicious Davis Cup debut, losing to Henri Leconte 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 in the Davis Cup Final in Lyon, France. The 28-year-old Leconte, the former top 10 player ranked No. 159 in the world and recovering from back surgery that threatened his career, plays perhaps the most inspirational tennis match of his career. Says Leconte, “It’s the greatest day of my life, the win of my career. I’ve proved I’m still around.” Says French captain Yannick Noah “He played like I dreamed he would.” Says Sampras, ranked No. 6 in the world of his baptismal Davis Cup appearance, “It’s certainly a different experience.” Andre Agassi’s earlier 6-7, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Guy Forget makes the score 1-1 after the first day of play.

1998 – Alex Corretja rallies from a two-sets-to-love deficit to win the biggest title of his career, defeating fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya 3-6, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-5 in four hours to win the year-end ATP Tour World Championship in Hannover, Germany. Corretja, who lost to Moya in the French Open final earlier in the year, says he used Ivan Lendl’s two-set-to-love comeback win over John McEnroe in the 1984 French Open final as inspiration for his comeback. Says Corretja, “At that time Lendl was my idol. Today I was thinking, ‘Come on, try to do like your idol’ … try to find some energy from somewhere and try to think about your tennis and try to push him to see if he is going to be able to finish in straight sets. Even when I was two sets down, I was still thinking that I could win this match. That’s why I think I won.” Says Moya, “Two sets up, maybe I relaxed a bit. I thought the match was not over. It’s never over when you play against Alex. But I had a really big advantage. I had many chances to beat him, but they went and he started to play better. It’s a big disappointment.”

November 30

1973 -Rod Laver and John Newcombe each win five-set struggles to give Australia a commanding 2-0 lead over the United States, the five-time defending Davis Cup champions, in the Davis Cup Final in Cleveland, Ohio. Twenty-nine-year-old Newcombe beats Stan Smith 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the opening rubber, while 35-year-old Laver defeats 27-year-old Tom Gorman 8-10, 8-6, 6-8, 6-3, 6-1. The loss is Smith’s first-ever defeat in five previous Davis Cup Final appearances and only his second singles loss in 17 previous Davis Cup singles matches in all. Says Smith, “I played tougher matches under tougher conditions, but it’s the best I’ve seen Newk play.” Newcombe, the reigning U.S. Open champion, calls the win, “the toughest five-set match I have won in the last five years.” Laver, playing in his second Davis Cup series in his return to the competition for the first time since 1962, needs 3 hours, 22 minutes to outlast Gorman.

1990 – Andre Agassi wins a dramatic five-set match over Richard Fromberg, while Michael Chang is steady in a straight-set dismissal of Darren Cahill as the United States takes a 2-0 lead over Australian in the Davis Cup Final at the Florida Suncoast Dome in St. Petersburg, Fla.  Agassi, the world No. 4 and a French Open finalist earlier in the year, struggles on the indoor red clay court against Fromberg, playing in his first career Davis Cup match, but barrels through to win 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. Chang, the 1989 French Open champion, has little difficultly with Cahill, a serve and volleyer, winning 6-2, 7-6 (4), 6-0.

2003 – Mark Philippoussis wins perhaps the most courageous and most heroic match of his career, as he clinches Australia’s 28th Davis Cup title, defeating Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 2-6, 6-0 to give Australia the 3-1 victory over Spain on a grass court at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. Philippoussis, playing in his hometown, fights through a torn pectoral muscle that inflicts him with sharp pain with every serve and groundstroke he hits. But spurred on by a screaming crowd of 14,000 supporters, Philippoussis, the losing finalist to Roger Federer earlier in the year at Wimbledon, plays the match as if his life were on the line. “The crowd was incredible,” says Philippoussis after the match. “This is what Davis Cup is all about. There is no way I could have got through without them. It gets you up and numbs the pain because they are so loud.”  Eleanor Preston writing for The Guardian writes that Philippoussis “veered between triumph and disaster before fighting back nerves, fatigue and pain from an injured pectoral muscle to win.”