Alisa Kleybanova

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Azarenka Takes Hold of WTA; Federer as Strong as Ever — The Friday Five

Victoria Azarenka wins the BNP Paribas Open

By Maud Watson

Answering the Call

After the 2011 WTA season saw a slew of different winners (including three first-time Grand Slam champions), there was a real question as to whether or not there was a candidate who could muster some staying power at the top of the game.  It would appear that at the start of 2012, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka has emphatically answered that query in the affirmative.  She left Indian Wells with her perfect record intact, and what a run she had in the desert.  After nearly being bounced out in her opening match, she went on a tear.  She allowed only two games to Aggie Radwanska in the quarters, weathered nasty conditions better than Kerber in the semis, and trounced Sharapova in the final.  Her improved abilities to retrieve and improvise, as well as her skill to just outright outwit the opposition on the court have all paid dividends in her success.  Not bad for a player who almost walked away from the sport early last season.  The powers-at-be are surely grateful that she opted to stick it out, as irrespective of what many may think of her controversial shrieking, she is exactly what the WTA has so desperately needed.

Still in the Mix

The newer and arguably more exciting rivalry in men’s tennis may now be that of Djokovic vs. Nadal, but only a fool would discount Federer’s chances of upsetting the apple cart and wrestling big titles from those two.  The Maestro proved as much with his victory at Indian Wells.  It may not have been a major, and he didn’t have to go through both 1 and 2 to hoist the trophy, but this was a huge win for Federer.  He became the first man to win Indian Wells four times, and he tied Nadal for most Masters 1000 titles at nineteen.  But perhaps the most important aspect for the Swiss was that he defeated Nadal en route to the title.  The terrible weather conditions take nothing from the significance of his victory over the Spaniard either.  It is an experience he will look to draw on should they meet again at a slam.  Interestingly, Federer’s run puts him less than a 1000 points behind Nadal.  It’s still a long way to go, and even further to reach the summit of the rankings, but with less to defend than either Djokovic or Nadal, Federer may just find a way to defy the odds, reclaim the top ranking, and add yet another enthralling chapter to his storybook career.

Serving Notice

John Isner may have fallen short at the final hurdle twice this past Sunday, but the towering American served notice to spectators and his fellow competitors that he is going to be a tough customer for anyone on tour.  Isner has shown promise in the past, such as his five-set loss to Nadal in the opening round of Roland Garros last year and his shock defeat of Federer this past February in Davis Cup.  But his definitive breakthrough came when he played the best match of his career to knock out Djokovic in the semis of the BNP Paribas Open last week.  Unfortunately for Isner, his serving wasn’t as stellar in the final against Federer, but it doesn’t diminish what he accomplished.  For his efforts in reaching the final, he earned a spot in the Top 10 for the first time in his career, and with little to defend in the coming months, he’s poised to climb even higher.  Does he have what it takes to win a major?  That’s debatable.  The high level he sustained against Djokovic is most likely the exception rather than the norm, but if he finds himself in the zone and gets some help from the draw, it could happen.  With that serve, nobody should count him out.

A Good Break

Tennis players are always looking to get a break, and the British Government is giving them one.  It comes in the form of a tax amendment amidst several complaints from international sports superstars.  Under the law, foreign athletes are taxed on prize money, appearance fees and their endorsement earnings.  It was enough to convince some to seek their match play elsewhere before competing at Wimbledon.  The British Government has since altered the current rule to include training days, meaning a smaller portion of an athlete’s endorsement earnings would be taxable.  Hopefully this latest move will sway some players back to competing in the British Wimbledon warm-ups once again.

Hello, Goodbye

Miami and the tennis world said welcome back to both Venus Williams and Alisa Kleybanova.  Williams showed no mercy and no rust from a seven-month layoff against Date-Krumm, while Kleybanova had to battle to overcome Larsson in three.  It was great to see them back out and competing once again and an added bonus that they both advanced to the second round.  Unfortunately, tennis fans had to say good-bye to the popular Fernando Gonzalez, who will now go into retirement after his opening round loss to Nicolas Mahut.  The Chilean put forth a valiant effort, saving three match points before ultimately falling in a third set tiebreak.  He was a joy to watch, he will be missed, and here’s to hoping he stays involved with the game.

Comebacks, Smiles and Wins: Tuesday at the Sony Ericsson Open

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Day one of any tennis tournament can be overwhelming. But multiply that by 3 and add two 128-player draw for both the WTA and ATP and you have yourself a full-blown tennis party at this year’s Sony Ericsson Open held in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Although the women’s first round just began today and the men’s will begin tomorrow, there was still plenty of tennis around the grounds for fans to enjoy. From matches, to intense player practices, to fun off-court promotions, there was something in store for every age. The temperature was steady and warm, but the sun made it feel balmier than the 80 degrees that it registered.

Walking the grounds during the first couple of days of a tournament as large as this, you may be surprised to find the atmosphere calm, but therein lies the beauty. In order to see the elite practice, it’s best to come at the very beginning when there aren’t as many restrictions around the site and you have easy access to players.

Having never been to Crandon Park before while the Sony Ericsson Open was in session, the nature and palm trees nearly persuaded me into a vacation attitude. But I had work to do. I entered the media center and situated myself with my laptop, camera, chargers, schedule and personal flatscreen tv — all just steps away from stadium court. As I looked out over the stadium, top Serb Novak Djokovic was basking in the mid-day sun as he practiced against Xavier Malisse. Djokovic’s morning session took a more serious tone while his afternoon session near dusk was more light-hearted in order to please the fans that had converged to watch – which were numerous!

Also spotted were Maria Sharapova working on baseline shots extensively, and countless shirtless men sweating and playing to their hearts’ content on the practice courts. Needless to say, there were also many matches in progress, but the interest by fans was spread evenly between the practice sessions and the matches.

Highlights of the day

Venus Williams: In what turned out to be an emotional day on the WTA tour with the return of both Venus and Alisa (below), the former is back on court and practicing! Need I say more? Well, yes, actually. As wonderful and courageous as she has been, her Sjogren’s is something she will need to manage for the rest of her life. As good as she looks, she was visibly frustrated during her practice session, consistently hitting balls at wrong angles and sending them flying into neighboring courts. One thing is for sure though: she knows when to be fierce on court and when to smile once the work is done.

Alisa Kleybanova: In what has become the story of the day, Kleybanova came back after 10 months of being off the tour due to treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and basically rocked the tennis world off its axis. If you want to talk about a fighter and a strong woman, just use her as the example. She fought off world #64 Johanna Larsson in three mighty sets and afterward couldn’t stop smiling and hugging friends and coaches, and chatting up fans. If you ever needed a feel-good story in tennis, there you have it.

Milos Raonic and Jurgen Melzer: The Canadian in person looks even larger than his 6’5” frame would have you believe. The towering “Missile” is mostly legs though, as his normal-sized Lacoste shorts constantly ride up on his long legs. His left knee though is still alarmingly taped up. This is the same knee that was feared to be a serious injury which forced him to pull out of the Davis Cup. However, I hope the tape job is just precautionary. Melzer, on the other hand, looked great and invoked the same strategy in the practice set as he had used to beat Raonic in Memphis: pull Raonic to the net wide as quickly as possible and pass him into the open court with Raonic on the wrong foot to recover. Worked like a charm.

Bernard Tomic: Where do I begin? Here we have a 19-year-old boy who gets speeding tickets yet has no problem being the only player of a group to stop, bend over to a young fan and sign autographs. One who is constantly bombarded by the media as having a rude or offensive demeanor, yet none of this was seen today. Instead, the focus of why Tomic might be viewed the way he is should fall on his father John (Ivica) who is originally from Croatia. Having myself been born there, I’ve stayed fluent with the language and so had the privilege of watching Tomic’s afternoon practice session on a side court and actually understanding what was being said. And boy, did it not disappoint. John hounded his son nearly the entire time from the chair on court – yelling, pointing, talking, or simply swearing in Croatian at his son’s inabilities. It was quite honestly disturbing and somewhat saddening. Tomic is one of the brightest youngsters on the tour, but to see the background he comes from makes me question how far he will really go before he cracks emotionally. Take away: get yourself a non-relative coach, Bernard.

Sloane Stephens: The young American continues to prove her place in the upper echelons of tennis as today she defeated former top-30 player Sania Mirza in two easy sets, 6-2, 6-4. At the conclusion of the match, fans busted out in a fun rendition of “Happy Birthday!” in honor of Stephens turning nineteen today. She instantly got shy and covered her immensely smiling face. A few minutes later she joked, “Why didn’t you bring me any gifts?!” Touche, Stephens.

Practice Courts C & D: Another personal highlight of mine was these two practice courts. To me, there was no better tennis for your buck than watching the practice sessions that took place there. At any one time, four ATP players and two WTA players would take the court and hit at the same time. Whether it was Marcos Baghdatis and Ivo Karlovic on the same side or Ryan Harrison and Viktor Troicki during another hour, these courts were not short on talent – or laughs! Don’t believe me? Check out the great candid shots of Baghdatis below!

Shirtless Men: Last, but definitely not least, the hot weather tends to bring out shirtless male players. Namely, Janko Tipsarevic, Gilles Simon and Philipp Kohlschreiber. I can’t complain.

The Meaning of a Last Name in Tennis; Berdych as His Own Worst Enemy — The Friday Five

Marko Djokovic (left) and Malek Jaziri (right)

by Maud Watson

Pushing the Limits

In the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Severus Snape once said, “Well, it may have escaped your notice, but life isn’t fair.” Of course, Professor Snape was saying that to the Boy Who Lived, but it pretty much sums up what Dubai tournament officials told No. 1 Arab player Malek Jaziri (ranked No. 104) and the press, as they attempted to justify giving a disputed wildcard to Marko Djokovic (younger brother of Novak and ranked 869) instead. The uproar caused by the decision is only partially justifiable, and it’s most likely strictly due to the fact it involved the younger brother of the current No. 1. The Djokovic family did nothing wrong, having submitted the wildcard request at least a month ago. And as for Novak’s part in getting his brother the wildcard, he’s not the first star player to use his leverage. Many top tier players use their elite status to rake in huge appearance fees, and some, such as Hewitt and Clijsters, have also used leverage to garner wildcards for younger siblings. It’s also not uncommon for tournaments to weigh other factors over actual merit when doling out wildcards. How many French, American, and Australian players have benefited from the reciprocal major wildcard agreement between their home governing bodies that competitors from non-Slam nations can only dream of? And don’t get me started on the number of undeserving British players that have been handed a free pass to play on the most hallowed grounds in the sport. The real fault lies in how poorly tournament officials handled the situation. They previously told Jaziri he wouldn’t have to play the qualifying event only to pull the rug out from under him in the 11th hour by giving the wildcard to the younger Djokovic. Had it been handled more professionally, Jaziri may not have been as disgruntled. And yes, the extremely low ranking of Marko Djokovic does suggest officials were pushing the limits. Then again, had it been awarded to a local Arab player of the same ranking, would this even be a topic of discussion? I think not.

New Day, New Clay

Come April, France will look to do what Switzerland could not – defeat the United States Davis Cup team on clay. This time it will be an outdoor clay court set in picturesque Monte Carlo. But while the venue will serve as a beautiful locale, it’s still a surprising decision. French No. 1 Tsonga has already stated clay is not his best surface. A quicker hard court would help shorten the long rallies in which Monfils frequently finds himself entangled, not to mention better suit Llodra’s attacking style. The long short of it is that, barring injuries, these are going to be two evenly matched teams no matter what the surface, and the French need to avoid falling into a false sense of security. Playing the U.S. on the red dirt doesn’t mean what it did a decade or so ago.

Own Worst Enemy

Be it counting backwards from 10, taking a few deep breaths, or taking a page out of Frank Costanza’s book and yelling “Serenity now!” (risking insanity later), Tomas Berdych needs to find some way of letting the little things go. On a breakpoint for Berdych to extend the second set into a tiebreak, a Murray serve was initially called out, only to have Hawkeye reverse the call. Mohamed Lahyani then awarded the point to Murray rather than replaying it, infuriating Berdych in the process. It’s understandable that Berdych would rue letting the break point go, especially since he’d already saved multiple match points. But while he got his racquet on the serve, Lahyani was correct in his ruling. The initial out call in no way affected Berdych’s play on it, and yet, the Czech was still ranting about it in his press conference. But this isn’t the first time Berdych has failed to understand the rules and etiquette of the game, and sadly it probably won’t be the last. He needs to learn to stop sweating the small stuff. It doesn’t help his game any, and it certainly won’t win him any fans. With a game as big as his – a game that is capable of earning him a major – it would just be a waste to see it not come to full fruition simply because he can’t get out of his own way.

True Winner

She won’t get a ton of press, because she doesn’t have multiple majors to her name, nor is she known outside tennis circles. All of that aside, the undisputed feel-good story of the week is Alisa Kleybanova’s planned return to WTA competition. The young Russian announced last July that she had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and would be undergoing treatment in Italy. She now says she’s finished her cancer treatment, the doctors are pleased with her health, and she’s anxious to return to action. Stories like this really drive home the point that tennis is just a game, and hopefully she’ll be an inspiration to others. One thing is for certain – win or lose when she returns to the court in Miami later this month, it will go down as a victory.

Leftfield

The worlds of sports and entertainment are never lacking for surprises, and this week was no exception. Who can honestly say that they saw the announcement that Martina Navratilova would be joining the Season 14 cast of Dancing with the Stars coming? There are players I’d love to see take to the dance floor, and others that I can see wanting to join the cast. Somehow the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion didn’t fit either mold. It’s hard to imagine her in a frilly ball gown. But she may just be full of surprises. She’s fit, and she also possesses the work ethic and commitment necessary for success. But it will be interesting to see how easily she takes direction from one of the show’s regular pros, Tony Dovolani, as well as criticism from the judges. Hopefully she proves adept at both. It’s just a fun TV show, but after the Seles debacle a few seasons ago, tennis could do with posting a respectable finish.

Welcome Back Alisa Kleybanova

Alisa Kleybanova Australian Open 2010

There is great news in the tennis world.

The WTA announced on it’s website that former top-20 player Alisa Kleybanova, who has been battling cancer, has resumed her training and will play in the Sony Ericson Open main draw as a wildcard. The tournament, located in Miami, begins on March 19th.

The 22-year-old Russian announced she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last July and has been undergoing successful treatments that finished in December. In her personal statement posted by the WTA, Kleybanova states that her doctors “are happy with [her] health” and that she is “feeling great!”

Read the full statement below:

Hi to all my friends and fans!

It has been a long time since my last message… and now I really want to get back in touch with you and share all the great things and emotions I have!

I finished my treatments in December and a couple of weeks ago I did my last tests in Italy. The treatments were successful, my doctors are happy with my health and I’m feeling great!

I would like to thank the Hospital Gemelli in Rome (Prof. Giuseppe Leone, Dott. Stefan Hohaus and their Team), and the Hospital Silvestrini in Perugia (Prof. Brunangelo Falini, Dott. Flavio Falcinelli and their Team). From the bottom of my heart I want to thank my coach Iulian Vespan, my boyfriend Giacomo, my family and my close friends that were next to me all this time. I will never forget it…

I have started to train and right now I’m in Florida playing tennis again!!! It was physically really hard in the beginning, but it was so emotional that I didn’t want to get off the court :) This is just amazing, I’m working out every day now and enjoying it so much more than before!

More than anything, I’ve missed the competition. For me tennis is not just going on the court and hitting the ball – it’s testing yourself, seeing how good you are, trying new things, trying to improve, trying to win… For me the best part of tennis is the competition and I’m really looking forward to my comeback!

By the way, I just got confirmed my main draw wildcard into the Miami tournament, so I will see you guys really soon!!!

I don’t think I have ever been more excited :) ))

Alisa

Kleybanova has won two WTA Tour titles, at Kuala Lumpur in 2010 and in Seoul in 2008, and was ranked a career-high No. 20 in the world almost exactly a year ago. With her powerful build and groundstrokes, Kleybanova also reached the fourth round at a Grand Slam twice, at the 2008 Wimbledon and 2009 Australian Open.

Kleybanova’s current ranking is No. 167, but she can use injury protected ranking as she returns to the competition she loves. Hopefully this is just the beginning of her success story.

From all of us tennis fans, welcome back Alisa.

(Photos by Getty Images.)

Estoril Open: Women’s top three seeds ousted, Portuguese hopes dashed!

Johanna Larsson

By Luís Santos

It was yet another hot day at the Estoril Open 2011, but heat wasn’t the only thing that was getting to top seed Alisa Kleybanova. The powerful Russian may have escaped an upset in the previous round but she couldn’t handle the in-form Kristina Barrois.

Just like in the second round against Johansson, consistency wasn’t on the menu for Kleybanova today. Despite securing an early 4-1 lead, she lost nine consecutive games as Barrois kept the error count low. Down 4-6 0-4 it was a mere formality until Barrois claimed the upset 6-4 6-2.

Barrois will now meet Johanna Larsson for a place in Saturday’s final. Larsson was quick to claim the first set from Alla Kudryavtseva but had to rally in the second as the going got tighter eventually prevailing 6-2 7-5.
Said Larsson of her win: “In the beginning of the match I was playing really short in the court, but Alla was making some unforced errors during the game so I was able to get away with it. But then in the second she slowed down a little bit and I had to play more balls, so it was more difficult.”

Of her good form on clay lately, she said : “I always really love to play on clay, but my best results have been on hard court,” said Larsson. “Now it’s changing a little bit! I guess it doesn’t really matter on which surface the results are coming, as long as they are coming!”

And finally, when asked about her recent work with former top player Joachim Johansson she concluded (link to article no1): “The coach that I had (Mattias Arvidsson), his wife has just had a baby, so now I have to find another solution. Pim Pim Johansson was also ending his career at the same time and said he maybe wanted to help me, so we met up before I went here and we practiced for two days, and we’ll also practice when I come back home from this week. We’ll see what happens and take it from there.”

Larsson also talked about her welcoming at the Estoril saying : “It’s my first time here but I played Fed Cup indoors just next door. At that time I really liked it here and this week it’s the same. It’s a really nice tournament – the courts, the organization. The only thing is the security; they don’t let you in everywhere!”

Elsewhere in the draw, Monica Niculescu upset hard-hitting and number two seed Jarmila Gajdosova of Australia. Niculescu staged a comeback of her own rallying from a loss in the first to win 5-7 6-4 6-2. She will now meet Spanish claycourter Anabel Medina Garrigues who ended a dark day for seeds defeating number three seed Klara Zakopalova 6-3 7-5.

Over on the men’s draw, all Portuguese hopes vanquished as both João Sousa and Frederico Gil lost to their respective opponents.

Sousa may have had patches of play that were beyond his ranking but number 5 seed Milos Raonic wasn’t fazed. Despite getting broken while serving for the match and allowing a hold from Sousa, Raonic brought his best strokes to close 6-3 6-3.

As for Frederico Gil, there was nothing he could do in the first set as he got steamrolled by the powerful Fernando Verdasco, losing 6-1.

Verdasco never lost steam as he powered into a 5-1 lead in the second set. Gil, however, wasn’t done. The Portuguese staged a comeback as Verdasco squandered a match point up 5-3 on Gil’s serve. The Portuguese would go up 6-5 but once the Spanish went into the tiebreak he never looked back and sealed the victory 6-1 7-6(5).

Verdasco will now face Kevin Anderson who served his way into the quarterfinals by beating Victor Hanescu 6-4 6-2.

Conclusion of men’s second round matches saw Gilles Simon power past Carlos Berlocq 6-2 6-1 and book a meeting with rising star Milos Raonic.

Women’s semifinals get underway tomorrow while the men will start quarterfinal action.

An Estoril Open preview: Milos Raonic, Juan Martin Del Potro and Alisa Kleybanova compete

Juan Martin Del Potro

By Luís Santos

The mens draw

The main draws for the upcoming Estoril Open have been announced. Some exciting match-ups have emerged, especially if you are Portuguese!

Top four seeds in the men’s side got byes, so Soderling, Verdasco, Tsonga and Simon are only second round sightings. Special attention to Fernando Verdasco whose second round opponent may well be Portuguese best Frederico Gil. Verdasco is the clear favorite but Gil was a finalist at the Estoril Open 2010 and is a crowd favorite.

Of his return to the Estoril  Open Gil said: I love to play this tournament so much in front of my friends and family, it is a big motivation and I always try to do my best. I grew up playing here when I was younger, so I know the conditions. I know the pressure and expectation of playing at my home tournament.”

Second man of the Portuguese armada is Rui Machado, who starts against veteran Victor Hanescu.

But for most of us Portuguese tennis fans, all eyes will be on the all-portuguese first round match between Gastão Elias and João Sousa, the hopes of the Portugal tennis scene. No matter what the result will be, we are assured of a Portuguese in the second round.

Other big names to watch at the Estoril this week will be former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro and fast rising star Milos Raonic.

The womens draw

On the women’s side, the field is lead by Russian Alisa Kleybanova who will have a first round tussle with big-hitting Olga Govortsova. Jarmila Gajdosova is the number two seed and starts against Renata Voracova. Rouding out the top four seeds are Klara Zakopalova and Anastasjia Sevastova.

Two former champions grace the draw this year with Jie Zheng and Great Arn both making returns to the Portuguese venue. Arn will open against home hope Maria João Koehler, the number two for Portugal. Koehler has expressed her determination to do well on her home turf so Arn may well have her hands full with the Portuguese wildcard.

Also on the list to watch are Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Elena Vesnina, the number five and six seeds, respectively. Also making a comeback is Casey Dellacqua from Australia.

Be sure to to visit TennisGrandstand daily as Luís Santos brings you the headlines of both men’s and women’s action at the 2011 Estoril Open.

Family Circle Cup: Meet your top 8 seeds

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It’s sometimes easy to forget that tennis players are real people. Theoretically, we all know that tennis players have lives off the court, but since there aren’t usually cameras behind the scenes, we don’t know much about them. Many of the players have allowed fans a little bit of insight into their daily lives by using Twitter, posting photos and updates on where they area and what they’re doing. This is a great way to learn about a player’s personality, but nothing beats talking to a player in person.

Several WTA events provide their media the opportunity to meet the top seeds in an informal environment, where they can ask questions that might not be pertinent in a post-match press conference. This year, the tournament put up a tent and a fence outside the media center and the Top 8 seeds gave up an hour of their time to chat with the press. Each woman sat at a small round table on the lawn and the press could move from table to table as they pleased. Once there were no more questions, each player moved on to do a television interview, a short photo shoot, and finally sign some memorabilia that will later go to charities to be auctioned off. The Family Circle Cup All Access Hour featured Caroline Wozniacki, Samantha Stosur, Jelena Jankovic, Marion Bartoli, Shahar Peer, Nadia Petrova, Yanina Wickmayer, and Alisa Kleybanova.

I’ve never participated in an All Access Hour before, so I didn’t come in with much of a game plan. I waited out on the lawn as Stosur, Petrova, and Kleybanova showed up in a golf cart. Just a minute later Caroline Wozniacki made an impressive entrance, driving her own golf cart right up to the foot of the tent. She looked delighted at the chance to drive. Understandably, Wozniacki was quite popular, so I took a seat at Stosur’s half full table for my first discussion. Based on interviews and press conferences, I’ve always had the impression that Stosur would be laid back and friendly. She didn’t disappoint. The defending champion was all smiles while fielding questions. I asked her if she felt any extra pressure because she won the title last year. She responded with a little laugh, saying, “Oh, I mean, sure, obviously that gets said when you are the defending champion…but at the end of the day, I’d rather be coming here as defending champion than the loser first round.” I had done a little research the night before, to make sure I had all my facts straight. Stosur’s website lists Charleston as her favorite tournament, so I asked her if her reasons went beyond her success at last year’s Family Circle Cup. She told me that, “I enjoyed this tournament even before I won, when I was losing first and second round. Overall all it has to be one of the most player friendly tournaments I think there is on tour, and Eleanor and Bob make it very easy for all of us here. As for Charleston, I really love the city. I mean, if I was going to live somewhere in the States that wasn’t Tampa right now, I’d probably choose here. I really love the city. Everyone’s really nice and it’s always a good week. I came here a week ago. I had nowhere to go after Miami, so I came here. I wouldn’t go to too many tournaments a week before I have to play (laughs).”

After talking to Samantha, I wandered over to Nadia Petrova’s table. I asked her about her priorities in terms of playing singles versus doubles. She told me that singles has always been her priority, but she seems doubles as great practice and often times therapeutic after a tough singles defeat. She said, “it helps me just to keep my motivation, staying in kind of like a happy place because I know I have to come back on court and try to win in the doubles. Like, it makes me kind of to forget whatever happened in the singles.” I thought this was an interesting and very honest perspective on playing doubles. Done with the serious questions, I moved on to some questions about on court fashion. I thought this could have been a touchy subject, but as soon as I asked my question she started laughing and explained her arrangement with Ellesse, her clothing sponsor.

By the time I finished talking with Nadia, I was in a great mood and some space had opened up at Jelena Jankovic’s table. I waited for one of the journalists to finish her questions and then jumped right in. I asked Jelena about her relationship with her new coach, Andrei Pavel. He’s relatively inexperienced when it comes to coaching and a lot of people thought it was a strange decision. Jankovic explained how difficult it is to find a coach, “who can really be with you fulltime on the road, who’s going to dedicate all his time to you and really be focused on the work.” She seemed happy with their arrangement so far and told me that she thought she made a “pretty good choice.” Jankovic was chattier than I expected. She gave a lot of thought to each question and gave long, thorough answers. After I asked my last question, the WTA representative said Jelena could answer one more before moving on to the television portion of the hour, so I moved on to the next player.

I looked around, trying to figure out who I hadn’t spoken with yet. Shahar Peer was sitting with just one journalist so I walked over and took a spot at the table. I was curious how she felt about being the only Israeli traveling to most tournaments. Most players are friends with the other women from their country, so I thought it might be lonely to be the only one. She told me she was used to it because she’s been the only one for quite a while. When I asked her about friends, she said, “Yeah, I mean I do have friends but it’s not like going out for dinner, that is more with my team, with my family, with the travel. That’s the part that obviously I would prefer to have somebody from Israel because it would make it easier.” It must be tough to travel all year with just a coach so it’s understandable that she’d like some other players to keep her company. As far as I knew, Shahar was not travelling with a coach, but when I asked her about the decision, she told me that she had found a new coach. She’s now working with Harold Solomon, a former Roland Garros finalist from the United States. I didn’t feel so bad for the misinformation once she informed me that the partnership had only begun this week. This is their first tournament together.

By the time I finished up with Shahar, who was absolutely lovely by the way, several of the players had already left. The only players still seated were Caroline Wozniacki and Marion Bartoli. It looked like Caroline was wrapping up so I went and sat with Marion. She had a great run at Indian Wells and I was curious whether there’s a letdown the week after such a good performance. She told me that the Indian Wells/Miami leg is particularly tough because of the quick turnaround and that she kind of felt a delayed reaction after Indian Wells. She told me she was fine when she arrived in Miami, but felt more and more fatigued each day.

At this point everything was wrapping up. I’d spoken to five of the eight players and found each conversation enjoyable. There wasn’t a single player that I felt was standoffish or lacked personality. All five of the women I talked to were friendly, they didn’t look like they were in a hurry to get out of there, and almost every conversation included some laughter, which I consider a success. I wish everyone could see the side of the players I saw today.

Mondays With Bob Greene: You just try to first get the ball back

Elena Dementieva wins Rogers Cup

STARS

Roger Federer beat Novak Djokovic 6-1 7-5 to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Elena Dementieva beat Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-3 to win the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada

Pat Cash successfully defended his International Tennis Hall of Fame Champions Cup singles title, defeating Jim Courier 6-3 6-4 in Newport, Rhode Island, USA

SAYING

“It’s been a wonderful summer.” – Roger Federer, winning his first tournament title after the birth of his twin daughters.

“The closest I was going to get to the first-place trophy is now.” – Novak Djokovic, while standing five feet (1.5m) from the crystal bowl that Roger Federer collected by winning the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.

“I returned poorly and served poorly. Against Roger, if you do both of those things, it’s going to be very difficult.” – Andy Murray, after his semifinal loss to Roger Federer in Cincinnati.

“It’s only a number. I hope to be ready in the future to come back to number two or to be in the top position. Number three is a very good number, too.” – Rafael Nadal, who is now ranked number three in the world.

“When you have so many important points and every point is so tough, you have to give 100 percent. It really kills your brain more than physical.” – Alisa Kleybanova, after outlasting Jelena Jankovic 6-7 (6) 7-6 (7) 6-2 in Toronto.

“It’s tough to think about the winner’s circle because you have to take it one match at a time.” – Maria Sharapova, who has returned to the WTA Tour following a nine-month layoff.

“It’s big because it was against Venus.” – Kateryna Bondarenko, after upsetting Venus Williams in an opening round match at Toronto.

“It’s my brain. I know exactly what I have to do, but if I’m not using my brain, I’m not doing the things my coach is telling me.” – Dinara Safina, after losing her second-round match at Toronto.

“It’s difficult to push yourself to play relaxed, even though you know this is the end. But still, you are a player deep inside, so it comes out in important moments, and you want to win no matter what.” – Marat Safin, after winning his first-round match in Cincinnati.

“I’m actually having a competition with myself to see how many errors and double-faults I can make and still win the match in two sets.” – Maria Sharapova, after winning her second-round match in Toronto.

“I’ve already missed a Masters’ event this year when I got married, so I guess that wasn’t an option here unless I wanted to pay everyone off.” – Andy Roddick, on why he played in Cincinnati despite playing the two weeks prior.

“You just try to first get the ball back.” – Roger Federer, when asked the secret of playing winning tennis.

“Depending on the draw, my pick at this point is (Andy) Murray or (Andy) Roddick.” – John McEnroe, forecasting the winner of this year’s US Open men’s singles.

“I think there could be a battle for the number one in the world. That’s what everybody hopes for. This year the tour is very tough and it’s tight at the top. Hopefully that’s what we’ll get to see.” – Andy Murray, on the battle looming at the season-ending ATP World Tour Championships.

“My overhead cost has gone down considerably.” – Brian Wood, a promoter for a tennis exhibition in Asheville, North Carolina, after replacing Andre Agassi and Marat Safin with Rajeev Ram and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.

SETTING THE TABLE?

Elena Dementieva put herself in good company by beating Maria Sharapova and winning the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada. The fourth-seeded Dementieva captured her third title of the year and during the week won her 50th match of the season, something only Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki had done in 2009. The Russian hopes to follow in the footsteps of the last three Toronto winners – Justine Henin in 2003, Kim Clijsters in 2005 and Henin again in 2007. They went on to win the US Open. The gold-medalist at the Beijing Olympics, Dementieva has never won a Grand Slam tournament.

SET FOR US OPEN

Despite not winning a tournament, Rafael Nadal says he’s ready for the US Open. Nadal had not played since suffering an injury at Roland Garros this spring until the past two weeks, in Montreal and Cincinnati. “These two weeks, winning three matches here and two matches (in Montreal), winning five matches and playing seven matches in total, it’s enough matches I think,” said the Spaniard, who has seen his ranking drop from number one in the world to number three during his absence from the court. “We will see how I am physically to play the five-set matches,” he said. “I know when I am playing well I can play at this level. But you only can win against these top players when you are playing your best tennis.”

SERENA’S IN

Serena Williams is the second player to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be played October 27-November 1 in Doha, Qatar. The reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion joins Dinara Safina to have clinched spots in the eight-player field. By winning both the singles and doubles titles at the Australian Open, Serena became the first professional female athlete to surpass USD $23 million in career earnings. She moved past Lindsay Davenport as the all-time prize money leader on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Davenport has earned USD $22,144,735. And because she and her sister Venus Williams have won three doubles titles this year – the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California, USA – the sisters currently rank second in the Race to the Sony Ericsson Championships Doubles Standings.

SCOT SCORES

Andy Murray has qualified for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which will be held November 22-29 in London. The Scot joins Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as the first three singles players to qualify for the elite eight-man event. By winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada, Murray moved up to a career-high number two in the world behind Federer. That snapped the four-year domination of Federer and Nadal at the top of the men’s game. The 22-year-old Murray is the first ATP player to record 50 match wins this year and has won five titles in 2009: Montreal, Doha, Rotterdam, Miami and Queen’s Club in London, where he became the first British champion since Henry “Bunny” Austin in 1938.

SUCCESSFUL DEFENSE

Pat Cash loves grass court tennis. The 1987 Wimbledon champion successfully defended his singles title on the grass courts of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, beating Jim Courier 6-3 6-4 in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. It was Cash’s second career victory in the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for players age 30 and over. Courier, once ranked number one in the world, is still seeking his first professional title on grass.

SHARING A TEAM

If only the Miami Dolphins were as well-known on the football field as their owners. Sisters Serena and Venus Williams are believed to be acquiring a stake in the National Football League team. Musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Marc Anthony recently bought small shared of the team, while owner Stephen Ross forged a partnership with singer Jimmy Buffett.

SKIPPING CINCINNATI

Juan Martin del Potro is paying the price for his success. The sixth-ranked Argentine pulled out of the Cincinnati Masters because of fatigue. Del Potro reached the final of the Montreal Masters one week after winning the tournament in Washington, DC. He played 24 sets in two weeks. Winning seven matches at the US Open would take between 21 and 35 sets over a two-week period.

SKIPPING FLUSHING

Gilles Muller of Luxembourg and Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic won’t be around when the year’s final Grand Slam tournament gets underway in New York’s Flushing Meadow at the end of this month. Muller withdrew from the US Open because of a knee injury. He is best known for upsetting Andy Roddick in the opening round of the US Open in 2005 when he went on to reach the quarterfinals. Muller’s spot in this year’s tournament will be taken by Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay. An injury also has sidelined Minar. With his withdrawal, Rajeev Ram moves into the main draw.

SQUANDERING MATCH POINTS

Brothers Bob and Mike Bryan led 9-4 in the match tiebreak before Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic rallied to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters doubles in Cincinnati. In all, Nestor and Zimonjic saved eight match points before prevailing over the top-seeded and defending champions 3-6 7-6 (2) 15-13. Nestor and Zimonjic won six straight points but failed to convert their first match at 10-9. They were successful on their second match point, improving their record to 44-10 as a team this year and collecting their eighth title of 2009. Both teams have already clinched spots in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which will be held in London in November.

SUBBING

Instead of Andre Agassi and Marat Safin, spectators at a tennis exhibition in Asheville, North Carolina, will instead be watching Rajeev Ram and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo. When only 1,100 tickets had been sold for the 6,000-seat Asheville Civic Center, promoter Brian Wood decided to replace Agassi and Safin. He also dropped the ticket price from a high of USD $200 to a top price of USD $25. The promoter said tickets purchased for the Agassi-Safin match will be refunded. This wasn’t the first change in the program. Originally Safin was to play Novak Djokovic on August 6. When the date was changed to August 28, Djokovic was replaced by Agassi. “We could have canceled altogether or moved forward on a much lower scale, and that’s what we did,” Woods said. “The guys coming are still world class players who play at an extremely high level.”

SPEAKING UP

John McEnroe is covering the airwaves as tightly as he did the court in his playing days. This year Johnny Mac will join the ESPN broadcasting team for its coverage of the US Open. The broadcast will have its own brand of family ties. John will work with his younger brother Patrick, who has been a mainstay at ESPN since 1995. He also will team with ESPN’s Mary Carillo. The two won the French Open mixed doubles in 1977.

STRAIGHT IN

Taylor Dent leads a group of five Americans who have been given wild cards into the main draw of the US Open men’s singles. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) said they have also issued wild cards to Devon Britton, Chase Buchanan, Jesse Levine and Ryan Sweeting, along with Australian Chris Guccione and a player to be named by the French Tennis Association. Dent had climbed as high as 21 in the world before undergoing three back surgeries and missing two years on the tour.

Nine men have been awarded wild card entries into the US Open qualifying tournament, which will be held August 25-28 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Receiving wild card berths into the qualifying are Americans Lester Cook, Alexander Domijan, Ryan Harrison, Scoville Jenkins, Ryan Lipman, Tim Smyczek, Blake Strode and Michael Venus, along with Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.

SHE’S BACK

Australian Alicia Molik is returning to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Once ranked as high as number eight in the world, Molik hasn’t played since losing in the opening round in both singles and doubles at the Beijing Olympics. Molik has asked for a wild card into the US Open where she plans on playing only doubles with American Meghann Shaughnessy. Her future plans call for her playing singles in a low-level International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament in Darwin, Australia, in September. Molik won four of her five WTA titles in a six-month period in 2004-05 before a middle-ear condition affected her vision and balance, forcing her off the tour in April 2005. An elbow injury followed, leading to her announcing her retirement earlier this year.

SRICHAPHAN UNDECIDED

Although he hasn’t played on the ATP Tour since March 2007, Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan says he has not retired from tennis. “I’m not going to quit,” he said. “I just want to be back when I’m really ready.” Srichaphan underwent operations on his wrist in Los Angeles in 2007 and in Bangkok, Thailand, this year. He originally had planned to return to play last year, and then postponed it until the Thailand Open this September. But now he says he may not play in a tournament until 2010.

SITE TO SEE

Tennis Canada is considering combining both ATP and WTA events into one tournament the same week and playing it in both Toronto and Montreal at the same time. Under that plan, each city would stage one-half of the men’s main draw and one half of the women’s main draw. Montreal and Toronto would each stage a final, meaning one of the men’s and one of the women’s finalists would switch cities, making the one-hour trip by private jet. Currently the tournaments are run on consecutive weeks with the men’s and women’s events alternating annually between Montreal and Toronto. This year the ATP tournament was held in Montreal a week ago and won by Andy Murray. Elena Dementieva captured the women’s title in Toronto on Sunday. But the ATP and WTA are pushing for more combined tournaments, a trend that resulted in the creative suggestion by Tennis Canada.

SHOEMAKER SELECTED

David Shoemaker is the new president of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The 36-year-old Shoemaker previously was the Tour’s chief operating officer, general counsel and head of the Asia-Pacific region. The native of Ottawa, Canada, succeeds Stacey Allaster, who was recently appointed the tour’s chairman and CEO. In his new job, Shoemaker will be responsible for the day-to-day operations and business affairs of the tour, tournament and player relations, strategic expansion of the sport in key growth markets; international television and digital media rights distribution, and the tour’s year-end Championships.

STEPPING UP

The ATP also has a new executive. Laurent Delanney has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer, Europe, and will be based in the tour’s European headquarters in Monte Carlo, Monaco. A former agent who managed a number of top players, including Yannick Noah, Delanney joined the ATP’s European office in 1994, serving most recently as senior vice president, ATP Properties, the business arm of the ATP. The 49-year-old Delanney began his career with ProServ, a sports management and marketing agency, and at one time was marketing and publication operations manager for Club Med in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

SHOW AND TELL

The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum’s gallery exhibition at this year’s US Open will be titled “The Grand Slam: Tennis’ Ultimate Achievement.” The exhibit chronicles the accomplishment of the calendar-year Grand Slam as 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of Rod Laver’s 1969 singles Grand Slam and the 25th anniversary of Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver’s 1984 doubles Grand Slam. Among the many stars featured in the exhibit are Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Margaret Smith Court, Steffi Graf, Maria Bueno, Martina Hingis and Stefan Edberg. The exhibition will be on view from August 29 through September 13 in the US Open Gallery.

SUPERB WRITING

The telling of the 2008 epic Wimbledon final between eventual winner Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer earned New York Daily News columnist Filip Bondy a first-place award from the United States Tennis Writers’ Association. The three-judge panel called Bondy’s story “a masterful, compelling account of the greatest match, told with vivid quotes and observations, a deft touch, and a grand sense of tennis history.” Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle, Tim Joyce of RealClearSports.com and Paul Fein, whose work was published by TennisOne.com and Sportstar, each were double winners. The awards will be presented during the USTWA’s annual meeting at the US Open.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Cincinnati: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 3-6 7-6 (2) 15-13 (match tiebreak)

Toronto: Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs 2-6 7-5 11-9 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

New Haven: www.pilotpentennis.com/

Bronx: www.nyjtl.org/tournaments/ghiBronx/index.htm

New York: www.usopen.org

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$750,000 Pilot Pen Tennis, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard

WTA

$600,000 Pilot Pen Tennis Presented by Schick, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard

$100,000 EmblemHealth Bronx Open, Bronx, New York, USA, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

US Open (first week), New York, New York, USA, 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

Charmed, I am sure

jelena-dokic-aussie09a

jelena-dokic-aussie09a

I’ve got to be honest: I never would have thought that the Jelena making the quarterfinals of the 2009 Australian Open would be Dokic and not Jankovic.

The Yugoslav-born Australian, who received a wildcard after winning a qualifying event, has become the Cinderella story of this tournament. She overcame years of depression, injuries, and emotional abuse from her father to reach the final eight. Her scalps along the way: Anna Chakvetadze, Caroline Wozniacki, and Alisa Kleybanova (who took out Ana Ivanovic).

The high-quality fourth-round match between Kleybanova and Dokic ended with a 7-5, 5-7, 8-6 scoreline. She next faces Dinara Safina, who held off two match points to win over 19-year-old Alize Cornet 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. (Cornet had match points serving 5-3 in the third set.)

Lucky charms: Dokic will need all the luck she can get. She’s been pushed to three sets for all her matches so far, and rolled her ankle in the third set against Kleybanova. Will she  be one of the last women standing at Saturday’s final?

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