Alex O’Brien

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Mondays With Bob Greene: I have never said I would boycott tournaments in India

STARS

Marin Cilic beat Mario Ancic 6-3 6-4 to win the PBZ Zagreb Indoors in Zagreb, Croatia.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won the SA Tennis Open in Johannesburg, South Africa, beating Jeremy Chardy 6-4 7-6 (5)

Fernando Gonzalez beat Jose Acasuso 6-1 6-3 to win the Movistar Open in Vina del Mar, Chile

Michael Berrer defeated Alexandre Kudryavtsev 6-3 6-4 to win the KGHM Dialog Polish Indoors in Wroclaw, Poland

FED CUP

(First Round)

World Group

Italy beat France 5-0, Russia beat China 5-0, Czech Republic beat Spain 4-1, United States beat Argentina 3-2

World Group 2

(Winners advance to playoffs April 26-27)

Slovak Republic beat Belgium 4-1, Germany beat Switzerland 3-2, Serbia beat Japan 4-1, Ukraine beat Israel 3-2

SAYING

“Before the tournament I was wishing that I would make the final here. That wish came true and especially today I played really well. It’s a really nice feeling to win here at home.” – Marin Cilic, who won the PBZ Zagreb Indoors by beating fellow Croatian Mario Ancic.

“To me, (this decision) is unacceptable. There are no limits anymore in the behavior a player can have with an umpire. It is unbelievable.” – Amelie Mauresmo, after Italy’s Flavia Pennetta gave the umpire the finger during their Fed Cup match in Orleans, France.

“I lost control of myself. It’s the first time it happened to me.” – Flavia Pennetta, who received a verbal warning and a USD $2,000 fine for her obscene gesture during her Fed Cup match against Amelie Mauresmo.

“I disagree with the top players talking on shortening the season because they have a choice to play in tournaments. Perhaps they can shorten their season of playing in selective tournaments.” – Vijay Amritraj, a former ATP president and player, disagreeing with Rafael Nadal’s demand for a shorter season.

“I have never said I would boycott tournaments in India. All I said was I don’t want to play in this meet. As a tennis player I’m allowed a week off if I’m tired.” – Sania Mirza, on not playing Fed Cup for India.

“When I was younger, I had a dream of being a tennis player and I have managed to keep the dream going. It’s the same for these small kids. The important thing is for them to realize their dreams.” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while coaching youngsters at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Soweto, South Africa.

“I am happy with the way I have handled matches mentally this week. I didn’t play well, but you have to win even if you don’t play well. I won the key points, so I am happy with that.” – Jelena Dokic, after leading Australia to a spot in the Fed Cup World Group II playoffs.

“I’m really thrilled that I was able to pull the third win off and help my team get through this tie. It was amazing atmosphere, amazing energy out here and the crowd was really behind me the whole time.” – Jelena Jankovic, who teamed with Ana Ivanovic to lead Serbia over Japan 4-1 and a spot in the World Group playoffs.

“The only thing I can have in my mind is ‘This is me.’ This is how I am. At zero-four, zero-five, it doesn’t matter, I’m still there. I was also a set and a break down in the second – so that’s it.” – Israel’s Shahar Peer, who rallied from a 0-4 deficit in the final set to beat Alona Bondarenko and force the Fed Cup tie into the decisive doubles match, which Ukraine won.

“The bank and beef business is where I put my energies now. There’s still a scoreboard, but it’s just not public.” – Alex O’Brien, the 1999 US Open men’s doubles champion and the latest inductee into the Texas Panhandle Hall Sports Hall of Fame.

“Obviously the title is great, but what I am happier about is the way we have played and the way we have glued so far because it doesn’t always work so well when you have a new partner.” – Martin Damm, after teaming with Robert Lindstedt to win their second ATP title in their first year as teammates.

“We wanted it to come down to the doubles. When Liezel’s on the court I feel really confident every single time.” – US team captain Mary Joe Fernandez, on Liezel Huber spearheading the doubles victory that gave the United States a come-from-behind 3-2 Fed Cup victory over Argentina.

SURFACE A NO-NO

Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal is calling for playing fewer tournaments on hard courts – the surface on which both the Australian and US Opens are contested. “This surface – hard court surface – is tougher than grass or clay for the body, and all the time we are playing more on this surface,” said Nadal. “In my humble opinion, we have to change that a bit more.” Nadal’s previous Grand Slam tournament wins have come on clay at Roland Garros and grass at Wimbledon. “When I say this, I think about the best for the players and for the future,” Nadal said. “It’s not possible to have a lot of injuries on tour like this. So we have to try to change something.”

SOWETO CLINIC

While playing in South Africa, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga took time to coach children at a Soweto tennis center that had been built with money from Arthur Ashe. “I have African blood, so … I am happy to help sport in Africa and especially to improve the tennis,” the Frenchman said. “It was great what Arthur Ashe did and these sort of clinics are really important. This is the school of life and I am very happy to be able to help improve sport in Africa.” Tsonga’s father, Didier, was born in Congo. Joining Tsonga at the clinic were South African doubles specialists Jeff Cotzee and Wesley Moodie. The Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre was built in 1976 with funds donated by the first black man to win the US Open and Wimbledon. It was refurbished in 2007 and construction is underway to increase the number of courts from 10 to 16 and build a new clubhouse and grandstand.

SHARAPOVA STILL OUT

The shoulder injury she suffered last August is still bothering Maria Sharapova. The Russian withdrew from the Paris Open this week and the tournament in Dubai next week. Once ranked number one in the world, Sharapova’s ranking had dropped to number 17 in last week’s Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings. The 21-year-old Russian was not able to defend her Australian Open title last month, the second straight Grand Slam tournament she has missed. She also skipped the US Open last year.

SPEAKING WITH HANDS

Flavia Pennetta spoke with her hands, and that got the French quite upset. Pennetta reacted angrily when the umpire overruled a backhand passing shot that had been called in, giving Amelie Mauresmo a match point in their Fed Cup encounter. Pennetta reacted angrily to the call and received a verbal warning and a USD $2,000 fine. Alize Cornet, who watched the incident on television, said, “I must admit I was very shocked by Flavia’s behavior. Showing the middle finger is the worst possible insult, especially on a sports court.” Pennetta said it was the first time she “lost control” like that. The Italian came out on top, however, as Mauresmo double-faulted the match point, then proceeded to lose to Pennetta.

SURGING DOKIC

Jelena Dokic teamed with Samantha Stosur to lead Australia to the Fed Cup World Group II playoffs in April for the right to join the top 16 countries in next year’s Fed Cup. The Australians clinched the Asia/Oceania Zone I playoff as Dokic won all three of her matches in the competition held in Perth, Australia. Casey Dellacqua and Rennae Stubbs played doubles as Australia, the only team able to call on three players in the world’s top 100, swept all four ties, winning all 12 matches that were played.

While Australia moved up, India, playing without its top player, Sania Mirza, was winless in the competition, losing to Taiwan 3-0 in the relegation tie. India will drop to Asia/Oceania Zone Group II next year and will be replaced in Group I by Kazakhstan.

Estonia and Poland advanced to the World Group II playoffs by winning their Europe/Africa zonal groups. Estonia downed Belarus 2-0, while Poland beat Great Britain 2-1. Luxembourg and Bulgaria were relegated to Europe/Africa Zone Group II after losing to Austria and Bosnia & Herzegovina, respectively.

In the Americas Zone Group I, Canada defeated Paraguay for a spot in the World Group II playoffs. Puerto Rico and Bahamas were relegated to Americas Zone Group II for 2010.

STILL SINGLE

Jelena Jankovic denied recent reports that she and Mladjan Janovic, a water polo player from Montenegro, were considering marriage. The two have been dating since the Beijing Olympic Games. “I’m still young to get married,” Jankovic said. “My career is still in the first place in my life and I want to devote myself to it. Of course I want to have a family one day, but not for now.” Janovic also denied any wedding plans.
“Jelena and I love each other,” he said, “but it is still too early for marriage. When I decide to get married, I will first tell my family and friends, not the whole world.”

SAYS “I DO”

Jarmila Gajdosova and Samuel Groth, who reached the second round of the mixed doubles competition at the Australian Open, are now married. The couple met in 2007 at the Australian Institute of Sports in Canberra while training. Gajdosova, a native of Bratislava, Slovakia, will assume her husband’s surname and compete on the WTA Tour as Jarmila Groth. She is currently ranked number 90 in the world, while her husband is ranked number 284.

SISTER POWER

Kateryna and Alona Bondarenko were forced to play doubles to give Ukraine a narrow 3-2 victory over Israel in a Fed Cup World Group II tie. The sisters, who won the 2008 Australian Open doubles, were not scheduled to play doubles against Israel. But Shahar Peer beat both sisters, giving Israel a 2-1 lead. In her match against Alona, Peer trailed 0-4 in the final set before winning 4-6 7-5 6-4. Kateryna then was stretched before beating Tzipi Obziler 6-1 4-6 6-0, making the doubles the clinching point. So the sisters went back onto the court and beat Peer and Obziler 6-3 6-2, advancing Ukraine into the World Group playoffs in April.

SERBIAN POWER

With a record Fed Cup crowd watching, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic powered Serbia into the World Group playoffs for the first time. A crowd of 15,118 showed up on opening day and Jankovic and Ivanovic, both ranked in the top 10 in the world, crushed their Japanese opponents in straight sets. Serbia had an insurmountable 4-0 lead in the best-of-five-matches competition when Japan’s Rika Fujiwara and Aiko Nakamura won the doubles when Jankovic and Ivanovic retired with the match tied after two sets. It was the first time Serbia had played a Fed Cup tie at home.

STRANGE VICTORY

Branko Horvat, the tournament director of the PBZ Zagreb Indoors, says he received a death threat after Croatian Antonio Veic upset heavily favored Argentine Guillermo Canas. The e-mail Horvat received reportedly said: “This was your last tournament. I’m bankrupt because of you.” Anti-corruption authorities in Australia investigated the betting, but reported nothing unusual. Veic, who was wild-carded into the tournament, pulled off another surprise in the second round by beating Evgeny Korolev of Russia. Veic finally fell to eventual tournament champion Marin Cilic.

SEEN, SOMEWHAT

So what if Iran lost every match in its Asia/Oceania Group II Fed Cup competition. It was the first time in 37 years that Iran had fielded a women’s team. Their participation came after the International Tennis Federation (ITF) accepted their team uniform, a modified burka that allowed the players to observe their religious beliefs. When Shadi Tabatabaei, the team’s oldest player at 32, lost 6-2 6-1 on the final day, it was the first time in the three-day competition that Iran had won even a game in singles. Tabatabaei is the only member of the team not living in Iran, having earned Masters and PhD degrees at the University of Colorado and practiced at Nick Bollettieri’s tennis academy in Florida. She has played for Iran before, but only in the World Muslim Games held every four years in Tehran. The Fed Cup team was selected from approximately 500 women who are playing tennis in Iran.

STILL WINNING

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has denied an appeal by a former men’s tennis coach at Texas Christian University (TCU) over violations of telephone contact rules with international players. Joey Rive argued that there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude he made 105 improper calls to recruits from 2002 to 2006. Rive also said the NCAA erred in classifying the violations as major. TCU reported the violations and was placed on two years’ probation a year ago. Rive resigned in 2006 when the allegations became public.

SI, SI

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has begun a full-service Spanish-language version of its Fed Cup website. The new website, www.fedcup.com/es, will provide Spanish-speaking fans with current news and information in their own language. It also will feature original content in Spanish from ties around the world. Last year the ITF launched a Spanish version of its Davis Cup website.

SERENA TOP PICK

No surprise here. Serena Williams was the top pick in the World Team Tennis marquee draft. The winner of the last two Grand Slam tournament women’s singles titles, Serena will return to the Washington Kastles, who enter their second season in the 10-team summer league. She will play four matches, one at home in Washington, DC, and road matches at Philadelphia, Boston and Randall’s Island in New York City, the new home of the New York Sportimes. Also selected in the draft were Venus Williams (by Philadelphia), John McEnroe (Sportimes), Anna Kournikova (St. Louis), Michael Chang (Sacramento), Bob and Mike Bryan (Kansas City) and Martina Navratilova (Boston). The season runs July 2-26. The coed league, co-founded by Billie Jean King, enters its 34th season. Navratilova will play a league-record 20th season. Last month, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) became a minority owner of the WTT.

SAMPRAS IN MEXICO

Pete Sampras will return to the Outback Champions Tour next month when he joins the six-player field at the Del Mar Development Championship Club in Los Cabos, Mexico. Sampras, playing in Mexico for the first time in his professional career, will face two of his biggest rivals, Jim Courier and Patrick Rafter. He beat Courtier to win his first Wimbledon title in 1993 and topped Rafter in 2000 to win his seventh and final Wimbledon crown. The Del Mar Development Champions Cup, which will be played at the Palmilla Tennis Club, is a first-year event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over.

SELECTED TO HALL

Alex O’Brien is the 148th inductee into the Texas Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame. O’Brien won high school state championships in doubles and singles, three NCAA team titles as a four-time All-American at Stanford, the 1996 Pilot Pen International singles, 13 ATP Tour doubles titles, and the 1999 US Open men’s doubles with Sebastien Lareau, where they beat India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes. He played for the United States in Davis Cup competition five times and was on the US doubles team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. O’Brien currently is CEO of Littlefield Ranch, which sells prime steaks nationally, and president of The Bank of Commerce of Amarillo, Texas.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Zagreb: Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt beat Christopher Kas and Rogier Wassen 6-4 6-3

Vina del Mar: Pablo Cuevas and Brian Dabul beat Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak 6-3 6-3

Johannesburg: James Cerretani and Dick Norman beat Rik De Voest and Ashley Fisher 6-7 (7) 6-2 14-12 (match tiebreak)

Wroclaw: Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana beat Benedikt Dorsch and Sam Warburg 6-4 3-6 10-8 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Rotterdam: www.abnamrowtt.nl/

San Jose: www.sapopentennis.com/

Costa Do Sauipe: www2.uol.com.br/tenisbrasil/brasilopen/

Paris: www.opengdfsuez.com

Pattaya City: www.pentangelepromotions.com

Marseille: www.open13.fr/

Buenos Aires: www.copatelmex.com/

Memphis: www.rmkchampionships.com/1/home/

Dubai: www.dubaitennischampionships.com

Bogota: www.copacolsanitas.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$1,877,000 ABN AMRO World Tennis, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, hard

$600,000 SAP Open, San Jose, California, USA, hard

$562,500 Brasil Open, Costa Do Sauipe, Brazil, clay

WTA TOUR

$700,000 Open GDF Suez, Paris, France, carpet

$220,000 PTT Pattaya Women’s Open, Pattaya City, Thailand, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

576,000 Open 13, Marseille, France, hard

$600,000 Copa Telemex, Buenos Aires, Argentina, clay

$1,226,500 Regions Morgan Keegan Championships, Memphis, Tennessee, USA, hard

WTA TOUR

$2,000,000 Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, Dubai, United Arab Emigrates, hard

$220,000 Regions Morgan Keegan Championships & the Cellular South Cup, Memphis, Tennessee, USA, hard

$220,000 Copa Colsanitas, Bogota, Colombia, clay

The Journeyman: Open Season

Mark Keil, scribes this week on the final major of the year: the US Open.

It really has been great writing about my past tournament experiences. This nourishes my ego immensely and thank you for staying tuned.

In 1991, I played with Francisco Montana of Miami. Francisco was an All-American out of the University of Georgia. An All American is a player who play’s collegiate tennis and qualifies as one of the 64 best player’s in Division I university tennis in the year-end season individual championships. There are probably around 175 school’s that play Division I. If the player is seeded in singles, or gets to the round of 16 in the event, he get’s a plaque proclaiming his status.  If a player get’s to the quarterfinals in the 32-team doubles event, he also becomes a member of the team. Francisco was a stellar junior player, and once beat Jim Courier 6-0, 6-0 in the Orange Bowl.  He had more hitches in his serve than a Nebraska trailer park. We lost to Steve DeVries, the All-American out of Cal-Berkeley and the current Bryan brother’s coach David MacPherson.

The next time I competed at the Open I played with Stefan Kruger and we beat Danie Visser of South Africa and Laurie Warder of Australia 6-4,7-6.  Visser was a crafty lefty, who had tremendous success in doubles.  His partner Laurie was a scratch golfer.  Staying at the Open is always fun. I would always try and stay where Patrick Rafter was staying, usually the Hotel Elysse.  It was great to hang out in the lobby’s Monkey Bar and check out the female’s trolling.

In 1994, I played with Rikard Bergh, nicknamed “the Liar” for always telling fibs.  He was cool, in that the year we played together I signed up with a partner, but he called me and told me we were not high enough to get in. He said if I played with him, we could squeak in.  So we got in, and beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov and David Rikl, Wade McGuire and Jeff Tarango and got a chance to play for a quarterfinal spot.  We faced Tom Nijssen and Cyril Suk.  In the third set we got hooked by the umpire Steve Ulrich, on a deep lab that landed out for us to go up a break in the third.  Ulrich is by far the worst chair umpire ever.  We lost 7-6, 4-6, 3-6. 

In 1995,  I played with Peter Nyborg and we lost to the NCAA doubles champions from Ole Miss Ali Hamadeh and Mahesh Bhupathi  6-7, 3-6.  In those days, the collegiate champion in singles and doubles would get a wild card into the main draw.  Now, only if American’s win the event, do they receive one, and I don’t think that applies to the doubles anymore.  The next year I played with Matt Lucena, the two-time college doubles champion with two different partners. We beat Brett Hansen-Dent and T.J. Middleton 6-4, 6-4.  Hansen-Dent got to the finals of the NCAA’s in singles once for the Trojans of USC.  We beat another SC boy Brian MacPhie and his partner Michael Tebbutt the next round.  They both had wicked lefty serves.  We lost to Sebastien Lareau and Alex O’Brien after that. O’Brien won the singles, doubles, and team title for Stanford in 1992. 

In 1998, Doug Flach and I lost to Macphie and Patrick McEnroe 6-7, 4-6.  Papa Mac was watching, and I felt like I was in a rerun episode of Johnny Mac playing Bill Scanlon and I was the ballboy.  In my final match at the US Open, I teamed up with Luis Lobo of Argentina. At that time, he was at the end of his career, and was coaching Marcelo Rios as well as playing doubles on the tour.  We defeated Garcia-Roditi and lost to Lareau and O’Brien again.

Enjoy the tennis on TV, or if you have the gumption, head to the Open and watch it live!

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