Alona Bondarenko

CONFIRMING THE MYTH OF EASTERN EUROPEAN WOMEN

My name is Stephane Carter. And I am here to inform you that the myth that every Eastern European female tennis player is goodlooking  is actually not a myth. No, it’s a fact. I have been an avid tennis fan for more than 20 years.  And in all those years that I have followed the WTA Tour I have never ever seen a not goodlooking  Eastern European female tennis player.

And to further backup my statement I got the pics to show for it! I am sure you all will agree. If not then I am forced to use my Jedi Mindtrick on you!!

The gallery features Victoria Azarenka, Anna Chakvetadze, Alona Bondarenko and Dominika Cibulkova! Yup, life just doesn’t come better than that. The scans were made from Smash Magazine 2009.

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WHAT’S UP WITH THESE GIRLS?

This year’s Australian Open highlighted once more the stagnant pool of young teenage starlets whose careers have significantly flattened out since hitting the dizzy heights of the women’s game at a young age.

Unfortunately, it was the usual suspects as always. Maria Sharapova, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic; they all crashed out to supposedly lesser opposition once more early on.

Let’s start with Miss Ivanovic. She made headlines in 2007 with a semifinal appearance at Wimbledon before reaching the Aussie Open final in 2008 and then winning the French a few months later, beating Dinara Safina.

She hasn’t won a top-tier title since that year and only made one final in 2009, losing to Vera Zvonareva at Indian Wells in March. Her best Slam results during 2009 were the fourth rounds at both the French Open and Wimbledon.

This year Down Under it was Gisela Dulko who put paid to Ivanovic’s hopes in round two. While Dulko may be no slouch at times, she was unseeded and the result raised a few eyebrows, but perhaps maybe not to those who see Ana as a choker in the majors.

Another early setback has seen the Serbian drop two places to 23 in this week’s WTA rankings.

Jelena Jankovic sprang to prominence around the same time as Ivanovic. Another Serbian, she reached the semifinals of the French Open in 2007 before repeating that feat in 2008 as well as reaching the semis in Australia and the final in the US Open.

Big things were then expected of her, and she even held the world No. 1 spot for a short period, being the year-end No. 1 for 2008.

Unlike Ivanovic, Jankovic won a big tournament title last year beating Safina (she’s appearing a few times too) to lift the Cincinnati title before losing to Maria Sharapova in the final at Tokyo. She too failed to progress past the fourth round at any Slam during 2009.

The third round was this year’s stumbling block for Jelena, going down 2-6, 3-6 to the 31st seed Alona Bondarenko. She remains at No. 8 in this week’s rankings.

Russian Sharapova shot to prominence in 2004 when she won the Wimbledon title age 17, the third-youngest woman to do so. She picked up the US Open in 2006, reached the finals of the French and Australian Opens in 07 and then won Down Under in 2008.

Then she went completely off the boil. That Tokyo victory over Jankovic is only her third since lifting the Australian Open. Some erratic form, stress and some harrowing injuries have stalled the career of a girl who could have matched the likes of Hingis and Seles.

Another labeled as a choker, she was toppled by the unseeded Maria Kirilenko at this year’s tournament and now finds herself ranked No. 16 in the world having only reached the quarterfinals in Paris last year since her last Slam win.

Elena Dementieva is another Russian who has never quite lived up to her billing. Like Jankovic she has never won a Slam but has been widely expected to do so without quite making it.

She was a French and US Open finalist in 2004 before reaching the Wimbledon semis in 2008 and again in 2009. She reached the same stage in Australia last year too. She also picked up Olympic Gold in Beijing in 2008 with Safina again the unlucky loser.

She picked up three WTA titles last year whilst also overcoming this year’s Aussie Open Champion Serena Williams at the warm-up event in Sydney three weeks ago. But the Slam again proved to be her downfall, losing in the second round (although the returning Justine Henin is a formidable opponent).

Safina is continually improving, so it is a little early to add her to this list yet but there are a fair few women who continually flatter to deceive at the Slams each year.

So how refreshing it was to see the likes of Na Li and Jie Zheng of China reach the semifinals before finally succumbing to Serena and Justine respectively.

The sport has for many years been on the rise in Asia and now it looks like the world’s largest growing political powerhouse may be looking at branching out in to the highest echelons of tennis too.

With Justine becoming one of the favorites for the French in April it remains to be seen whether they can match their exploits Down Under. Or even if the lovely ladies looked at above bother to bring their A-Games to the next Slam.

Watch this space.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I’m so happy, I wouldn’t trade this victory for a Grand Slam

STARS

Robin Soderling beat Juan Monaco 6-3 7-6 (4) to win the Catella Swedish Open in Bastad, Sweden

Jeremy Chardy won his first career ATP title, beating Victor Hanescu 1-6 6-3 6-4 in the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany.

Flavia Pennetta beat Sara Errani 6-1 6-2 to win the Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo in Palermo, Italy

Sybille Bammer beat Francesca Schiavone 7-6 (4) 6-2 to win the ECM Prague Open in Prague, Czech Republic

Marcos Daniel won the Open Seguros Bolivar in Bogota, Colombia, defeating Horacic Zeballos 4-6 7-6 (5) 6-4

SAYING

“I’m so happy, I wouldn’t trade this victory for a Grand Slam.” – Robin Soderling, the French Open finalist, after becoming the first Swede to win the Swedish Open since 2000.

“It is the first time I’ve won a title here in Italy. And it’s even more special with my family and friends here watching and supporting me.” – Flavia Pennetta, after winning the Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo.

“I felt the pressure because I knew this would be my first title.” – Jeremy Chardy, after beating Victor Hanescu to win his first ATP title, the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany.

“I like practicing, but I like playing matches better.” – Kim Clijsters, saying she’s rejoining the WTA Tour after a two-year retirement during which she got married and had a baby.

“I’m tired of the tour, tired of staying at hotels and tired of travelling…I’ve had enough now.” – Marat Safin, after his first-round loss at the Swedish Open.

“I still want to win. Especially that title. I like winning that one. I’m used to winning that one.” – Venus Williams, taking little consolation that the Wimbledon women’s singles title remained in the Williams family when she lost the final to sister Serena.

“I thought it would be pretty easy. You play five games, you get to sit down. But it’s highly competitive and a difficult way to tiptoe back into it.” – Andre Agassi, after returning to the sport by playing World TeamTennis.

“Basically, it was a great match, probably one of the greatest World TeamTennis matches ever played, maybe the greatest. All in all, I thought it was a great night.” – New York Sportimes owner Claude Okin, after his coach was suspended following a wild and crazy match that saw two players get hit by batted balls.

SWEDE VICTORY

It was Robin Soderling’s fourth ATP title and his first on clay. But what made his 6-3 7-6 (4) victory over Juan Monaco even sweeter was that Soderling became the first Swede to win the Swedish Open since his coach, Magnus Norman, won in 2000. Soderling, who upset defending champion Rafael Nadal en route to the final of the French Open, was playing in his third ATP final in Sweden. He lost both previous times on the indoor hard court of the Stockholm Open. He wasn’t to be denied this time as he didn’t drop a set on the clay courts of Bastad. Swedish players have won the singles 18 times in the 54-year history of the Swedish Open. Soderling also was in the doubles final, but he and partner Robert Lindstedt lost to Jaroslav Levinsky and Filip Polasek 1-6 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak).

SNOW WHITE

Frenchman Richard Gasquet escaped a two-year ban when an independent panel agreed with him that the reason he tested positive for cocaine was because he had kissed a woman in a Miami, Florida, nightclub who had been using the drug. The panel also ruled that while Gasquet’s test was officially in competition, this was a technicality as he had decided the day before his first match to pull out of the Sony Ericsson Championships. Cocaine is not banned out of competition. Fearing a dangerous precedent, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) sought a mandatory two-year band and may yet appeal the ruling, as may the World Anti-Doping Agency. Gasquet’s test showed traces of a tiny quantity of cocaine, about the size of a grain of salt. Gasquet missed the French Open and Wimbledon, but could return to the tour at the Montreal, Canada, Masters that starts on August 10.

SCHEDULING BLAME

The president of the Russian tennis federation blames his team’s upset Davis Cup loss to Israel on the scheduling of the men’s tour. “The main problem is this murderous calendar,” said Shamil Tarpishchev. “This is not only a big problem for us. Just look at the other top teams like U.S., Spain, Argentina or Germany. It seems like every top team was missing their best players.” Tarpishchev, who had led Russia to Davis Cup titles in 2002 and 2006, said the timing of the World Group quarterfinals coming immediately after the French Open and Wimbledon gave top players almost no time to recover. Russia played without its top two players, Nikolay Davydenko and Dmitry Tursunov. Others missing Davis Cup quarterfinals included American Andy Roddick, Spain’s Rafael Nadal, Argentina’s David Nalbandian, Germany’s Tommy Haas and Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic.

STILETTO

Before President Barack Obama headed to baseball’s All-Star game to throw out the first pitch, he welcomed Wimbledon champion Serena Williams to the White House. “I love President Obama; he has such an unbelievable presence, and he seems to be so normal – and he noticed my shoes,” Williams said. “I think that was the highlight of the whole day, was he liked my shoes.” Serena said she was wearing 5-inch heels and the President wondered if she should be wearing them. “I thought that was kind of funny because he may have been right,” Serena said. “Because it is a job hazard for me, but I insist on wearing them.”

SPANISH TOP

Spain is on top of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Davis Cup Nations Ranking. The Spaniards ended Russia’s 2 ½ -year reign as number one. The United States moved up to second place, followed by Russia. Israel, which upset Russia in the quarterfinals, advanced to a career-high sixth.

STRUGGLING

When Andre Agassi ended his nearly 3-year retirement, he did it all. The 39-year-old played mixed doubles, doubles and singles for the second straight week while competing for the Philadelphia Freedoms in World TeamTennis. Agassi also traded shots with youngsters and bantered with fans as the Freedoms played the Newport Beach Breakers. He teamed with Lisa Raymond to post a mixed doubles victory, but lost in singles to Ramon Delgado and to Delgado and Kaes Van’t Hof in the men’s doubles.

SISTERLY LOVE?

Venus and Serena Williams aren’t the only sisters meeting on the opposite ends of a tennis court. The difference, though, is what part of the week they face each other. In their latest pairing, Serena beat Venus in the Wimbledon final. In Prague, Czech Republic, fifth-seeded Alona Bondarenko was ousted by her unseeded sister Kateryna in the opening round of the Prague Open 6-1 6-3. That snapped a tie and the younger sister now leads in their head-to-head matchups 4-3. In their career head-to-head battles, Serena leads her older sister 11-10. The Bondarenko sisters did team up to win the doubles in Prague, their third doubles title together. They won the Australian Open and Paris indoors last year.

SET FOR THE CAPITAL

Washington, D.C., will be the site for this year’s World TeamTennis championship finals. The July 26 competition, being played in America’s capital for the first time, will pit the 10-team league’s Eastern Conference champions against the winners of the Western Conference.

SHANGHAI STOP

The Qi Zhong Tennis Center in Shanghai is adding new courts as it gets ready to stage an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in October. The Tennis Center was the site for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup for five years, an event that this year will be held in London. For this year’s tournament, Qi Zhong’s main stadium roof will be opened, turning it into a 15,000-seat outdoor facility. The Grand Stand Court 2 will accommodate 5,000 spectators, while Court 3 will seat 2,000. Construction of the new facilities is expected to be completed by August. The tournament will be held October 10-18 and will conclude a four-week Asian tour, following stops in Bangkok, Tokyo and Beijing.

SUSPENDED

New York Sportimes coach Chuck Adams was suspended and fined by World TeamTennis after his team and the Washington Kastles got into heated arguments over players getting hit by shots. The league barred Adams for “violating the World TeamTennis Coaches’ Code of Conduct.” During the melee, Adams went onto Washington’s side of the court to confront a Kastles player. The league said this was “the first p[punishment” for what happened between the two teams. WTT said it “continues to investigate the incident to determine if there will be any additional punishments issued.” During the men’s doubles match, a shot by Washington’s Leader Paes hit New York’s Robert Kendrick, prompting Adams and Sportimes player John McEnroe to yell at Paes. The chair umpire issued a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct against the New York team. Four points later, Kendrick hit a serve that hit Paes as he stood near the net as his partner waited to return serve. Kastles players Olga Puchkova and Rennae Stubbs responded and both drew code violation warnings, Puchkova for yelling at Kendrick and Stubbs for abuse of officials.

SET TO RETURN

Having taken time to get married and have a baby, Kim Clijsters is ready to rejoin the WTA Tour. The 2005 US Open champion, Clijsters reached number one in the world in singles and doubles in August 2003. She also was runner-up at four major tournaments – losing to fellow Belgian Justine Henin at both Roland Garros and the US Open in 2003 and at the Australian Open in 2004 – as she won 34 career singles titles before beginning a two-year retirement. This will be her first US Open since she captured the title. She has been given wild cards to enter tournaments at Mason, Ohio, and Toronto, Canada, before the US Open, which begins its two-week run on August 31. The 26-year-old Clijsters married American Brian Lynch in 2007 and their daughter, Jada, was born in February 2008.

SET FOR MONTREAL

Rafael Nadal is shooting to return to the men’s tennis tour at the Montreal Masters next Month. The Spaniard has been slowing recovering from tendinitis in his knees and plans to resume training this week. He last played at Roland Garros, where he was upset in the fourth round by Sweden’s Robin Soderling. Nadal then was forced to skip the defense of his Wimbledon title. He is the defending champion in Montreal. While he was recuperating, he also lost his number one ranking to Roger Federer, who succeeded Nadal as champion at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.

SUFFERIN’ SAFIN

Marat Safin is looking forward to life free of racquets and balls. The Russian is scheduled to play another eight tournaments before he retires at the end of the year. After losing his first-round Swedish Open match to Nicolas Almagro, Safin said, “I’ve had enough now.” Asked by the Swedish news agency TT if he would be interested in a coaching career, Safin replied: “I am tired of everything that has to do with rackets and balls. I want to do something completely different.”

STICH BACK

Yet another retiree is returning to the courts. However, when former Wimbledon champion Michael Stich snaps his 12-year stint on the sidelines, it will be only to play doubles at the tournament in Hamburg, Germany. Now 40 years old, Stich is the director of the event that is struggling to survive after losing its Masters Series status on the tour. Stich will team with 21-year-old Mischa Zverev, one of Germany’s top prospects. “I’ve been practicing with Mischa in Hamburg for about five years and we got the idea at some point to play doubles at a tournament,” Stich said. “The opportunity has now presented itself and as Hamburg boys we will play before the home fans next week.” Stich upset fellow German Boris Becker to win Wimbledon in 1991. The following year he teamed with John McEnroe to win the Wimbledon doubles.

STAYING HOME

Wimbledon runner-up Andy Roddick will skip this week’s Indianapolis Tennis Championships because of a right hip flexor injury. It’s the same injury that caused Roddick to pull out of the United States Davis Cup team’s quarterfinal at Croatia. Without Roddick, the Americans lost.

SKIPS SUSPENSION

Australia won’t be suspended from Davis Cup for refusing to play in India in May. But while the International Tennis Federation board declined to impose tougher sanctions on Australia, it did say the next Davis Cup tie between the two countries will be played in India. Australia forfeited May’s competition when it refused to send a team to India, claiming security fears. While the board also reversed the Davis Cup committee’s decision that Australia would lose its hosting rights for its next home match, the board upheld a USD $10,000 fine and additional legal costs imposed on the Australian federation.

Spurred by last year’s competition in Argentina, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has decided that Davis Cup finals must in the future be held in major cities. The ITF said Argentina’s use of Uslas Malvinas Stadium in Mar del Plata last November did not meet capacity requirements. Wary of the Spaniards’ dominance on clay, Argentina moved the Cup final to indoor carpet. Spain won the final anyway, 3-1.

Three countries – Albania, Kenya and Zambia – have been promoted from Class C membership to Class B while two others have been dropped as the ITF has reconfigured the Europe/Africa Zone. It now will be Europe Group II and Africa Group III. Mongolia and Antigua and Barbuda are the nations who were dropped.

SWISS AWARD

Roger Federer has been named “Ehrespalebaerglemer,” an award given to outstanding citizens of Basel, Switzerland, the tennis star’s home town. A plaque, unveiled in Federer’s honor, sits alongside those honoring other local heroes in the historic city center of Basel. “It’s a nice honor for me to receive the plaque and I will walk past it, I am sure, just a few more times,” said Federer. “It’s going to be a proud moment, maybe also to show my kids in the future.”

SCOTT TO STACEY

The new chairman and chief executive of the WTA Tour is Stacey Allaster. The native of Canada had served three years as president of the WTA Tour after previously serving as vice president and tournament director of Tennis Canada. Allaster replaces Larry Scott in the top job at the WTA Tour. Scott resigned in March after six years as chief executive to become commissioner of the Pacific-10 Conference of US colleges.

SAD NEWS

Jon Gibbs, a trailblazer in computerized tennis statistics, has died in Verona, New Jersey, USA. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer. A video tape editor for ABC Television before he retired, Gibbs created TenniSTAT, a computer program that enabled a complete printout of every point after a match. At one time TenniSTAT was the official statistics program for the US Open, the WCT Tournament of Champions, the Volvo Masters and the Virginia Slims Championships in New York City, and the US Pro Indoors in Philadelphia. He also provided statistics at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Gibbs had just celebrated his 71st birthday. A memorial service will be held July 26 at Temple Beth Sholom in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. Among his survivors are his wife, Roz, and two sons, Noah and Josh.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Bastad: Jaroslav Levinsky and Filip Polasek beat Robert Lindstedt and Robin Soderling 1-6 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Prague: Alona Bondarenko and Kateryna Bondarenko beat Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-1 6-2

Palermo: Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Mariya Koryttseva and Darya Kustova 6-1 6-2

Stuttgart: Frantisek Cermak and Mischa Mertinak beat Victor Hanescu and Horia Tecau 7-5 6-4

Bogota: Sebastian Prieto and Horarcic Zeballos beat Marcos Daniel and Ricardo Mello 6-4 7-5

SITES TO SURF

Indianapolis: www.tennisindy.com/

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

$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

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$700,000 Countrywide Classic, Los Angeles, California, USA, hard

$500,000 Allianz Suisse Open, Gstaad, Switzerland, clay

Mondays With Bob Greene: It shows how important Andy is for the team

STARS

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

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

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

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

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

DAVIS CUP

World Group Quarterfinals

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

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

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

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

SAYING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SWEET DAY INDEED

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

SHOCKER

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

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

STRIKING GOLD

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

STAR POWER

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

SEEING IS BELIEVING

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

SMILE

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

SOMETHING TO PLAY FOR

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

SPANISH LION

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

SMITTENED

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

SERVING BAN

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

SIDELINED

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

SELECTED

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

SOME HELP NEEDED

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

SAD NEWS

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

SPONSOR

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

SHARED PERFORMANCES

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

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

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

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

SITES TO SURF

Indianapolis: www.tennisindy.com/

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

Stuttgart: www.mercedescup.de/

Prague: www.pragueopen.cz/

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

Portoroz: www.sloveniaopen.si/

Bad Gastein: www.matchmaker.at/gastein/

Los Angeles: www.latennisopen.com/

Gstaad: www.allianzsuisseopengstaad.com/e/

Umag: www.croatiaopen.hr

Stanford: www.bankofthewestclassic.com/

Istanbul: www.istanbulcup.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

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

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

$125,000 Bogota, Columbia, clay

WTA

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

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

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

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

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

WTA

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

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

Mondays With Bob Greene: Federer has the potential to win at Paris and at any site in the world

STARS

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez beat Julien Benneteau 3-6 7-6 (1) 6-3 to win the Interwetten Austrian Open in Kitzbuhel, Austria

Aravane Rezai beat Lucie Hradecka 7-6 (2) 6-1 to win the Internationaux de Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France

Alexandra Dulgheru beat Alona Bondarenko 7-6 (3) 6-3 6-0 to win the Warsaw Open in Warsaw, Poland

Serbia won the ARAG ATP World Team Championship, defeating Germany in Dusseldorf, Germany

Thomas Enqvist beat Fernando Meligeni 7-6(3) 6-3 to win the AOC Grand Champions Brazil in Sao Paulo, Brazil

SAYING
“I know what I have to do, but that doesn’t make it easy.” – Roger Federer, when asked if he could win the French Open.

“Federer has the potential to win at Paris and at any site in the world. He’s showed that throughout his career. But Paris begins with the first round, not the final.” – Rafael Nadal.

“If I continue playing like I’ve been playing for the past three weeks, I have a very good chance (of winning the tournament). I’m really looking forward to it.” – Dinara Safina, on her chances at Roland Garros.

“Any win on the clay is a great win. I know the Americans don’t do well over here, so it’s good to get us on the board.” – Robert Kendrick, after his five-set, first-day win over Daniel Brands.

“To play him on any surface, he’s so dangerous. (He served) a lot of unreturnables.” – Lleyton Hewitt, after surviving a French Open -record 55 aces struck by Ivo Karlovic to win his first-round match.

“I think it is going to be huge and this is respect because Djokovic was not here. And I think we showed that we are a big tennis nation also if Novak is not here with us.” – Janko Tipsarevic, after he teamed with Viktor Troicki and doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic to lead Serbia to the ARAG ATP World Team Championship title.

“A very, very poor match – probably my worst match in the last two years.” – Jelena Dokic, after losing to Romanian qualifier Ioana Raluca Olaru in the first round of the Warsaw Open.

“I have no expectations for the French Open. This is not a time in my career to have expectations.” – Maria Sharapova, after losing a quarterfinal match in her first singles tournament since undergoing shoulder surgery.

“It’s incredible. I’m so happy to win my first title in France.” – Aravane Rezai, the first Frenchwoman to win the Internationaux de Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France, in the tournament’s 23-year history.

“I didn’t expect to win. I don’t know what happened that I was playing so well. .. I had to use every drop of energy I had to win.” – Alexandra Dulgheru, after winning her first WTA Tour title, the Warsaw Open.

“I think it’s my best moment in my career. I played in my first ATP World Tour final and I won.” – Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, after winning the Austrian Open.

SETS RECORD FOR ACES

Ivo Karlovic slammed a record 55 aces yet still lost his first-round Roland Garros match to Lleyton Hewitt 6-7 (1) 6-7 (4) 7-6 (4) 6-4 6-3. The tallest man on the ATP Tour at 6-foot-10 (2.08m), Karlovic shared the previous record of 51 aces with Joachim Johansson. The ATP began keeping records on aces in1991. However, Bud Collins, the Hall of Fame tennis journalist and broadcaster, in his book The Bud Collins History of Tennis, lists American Ed Kauder as the holder of the most aces struck in a match. Kauder fired 59 aces in a 6-2 3-6 9-11 10-8 6-0 first-round loss to Ham Richardson at the US Championships (now US Open) in 1955. According to Collins, Karlovic’s 55 aces stands as the second-most all-time and the most aces in a match at Roland Garros.

SET FOR LONDON

Rafael Nadal is the first player to clinch a spot in the season-ending ATP World Tour finals to be held in London. Nadal is the reigning Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon champion. He will be joined by seven other player sin the November 22-29 event. Despite qualifying for the year-ending event in each of the past four years, Nadal has twice withdrawn from the competition because of injury and has never reached the final. Last year he missed the finale in Shanghai because of tendinitis in his knee. He lost to Roger Federer in the semifinals in 2006 and 2007.

SURPRISE

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise when Alexandra Dulgheru won the Warsaw Open. She rallied from 7-5 4-2 down to win her opening round in qualifying, then won two more matches just to get to the main draw. Ranked 201st in the world, Dulgheru included among her victims Daniela Hantuchova before she beat Alona Bondarenko in her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour final. Dulgheru won the title match in two hours, 52 minutes – exactly the same time it took her to beat Lenka Wienerova in the first round of qualifying.

STOPPED

John Isner’s French Open ended before it began. Isner won a wild card into Roland Garros by winning the USTA wild card tournament in Boca Raton, Florida. But he had to pull out of the French Open because of mononucleosis.

Russia’s Dimitry Tursunov and Croatia’s Mario Ancic are also missing this year’s clay court Grand Slam tournament. Tursunov withdrew because of a heel injury, while Ancic pulled out because of a lack of fitness.

SHARAPOVA BACK

Maria Sharapova played singles in a tournament for the first time in nearly 10 months, reaching the quarterfinals before being stopped by Alona Bondarenko. The three-time Grand Slam tournament winner needed nine match points in her opening match before finally downing Tathiana Garbin in three sets at the Warsaw Open. She beat Darya Kustova in the second round before falling to the eight-seeded Bondarenko. The Russian had surgery for a torn rotator cuff last year and missed the US and Australian Opens as well as the Beijing Olympics. She briefly returned to tournament tennis in March, playing and losing a doubles match in Indian Wells, California. “In these nine months the only thing I’ve accomplished is probably a good pasta carbonara,” she said. “At the end of the day, that’s not my specialty. My specialty is to go out and compete and win Grand Slams.” Sharapova has already next month’s Edgbaston Classic in Birmingham, England, a grass-court warm-up for Wimbledon.

STRICKEN

Japan’s Kei Nishikori has an injured right elbow, forcing him to pull out of the French Open. Nishikori has not played since losing in the opening round at Indian Wells, California, in March. Last year Nishikori became the first Japanese man since 1937 to reach the fourth round of the US Open, and he was later honored as the ATP’s newcomer of the year for 2008. He was ranked as high as number 56, but currently is ranked 117th in the world.

STEFFI AND ANDRE, AGAIN

Their act was so good at Wimbledon, Andre Agassi and his wife Steffi Graf will play another exhibition match – this time at Roland Garros on Saturday, June 6. Sponsored by Longines and in honor of the tenth anniversary of the couple’s 1999 singles championship victories, Agassi and Graf will play on Court 7 with ten young players from around the world.

STEAMED

Lleyton Hewitt is upset over the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) decision to fine Australia USD $10,000 because of the country’s refusal to play a Davis Cup zonal tie in India. Tennis Australia (TA) had asked the ITF to move the Asia/Oceania Zone tie out of Chennai, India, but when the request was denied, the Australians refused to play, forfeiting the round. “The way the ITF went about it was a disgrace in the first place,” said Hewitt. “Australia Davis Cup is pretty disappointed about the way they’ve gone about it.” Under ITF rules, Australia could have been suspended for a year. India feels the ITF has been too lenient with Australia and is seeking a review of the punishment.

STUPIDITY

Jelena Dokic’s father is facing up to eight years in prison after threatening the Australian ambassador in Belgrade, Serbia. Damir Dokic was charged with “endangering security” of the ambassador and unlawful possession of weapons. He was arrested after reportedly saying he would blow up Ambassador Clair Birgin’s car if she did not stop negative articles about him from being published in the Australian mea. Searching his house in northern Serbia, police found rifles and hand grenades.

SINGERS WANTED

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) is seeking youngsters to perform at this year’s US Open. The children – 12 years of age and younger as of September 13, 2009 – will be singing “America the Beautiful” before the night sessions at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

STRAIGHT IN

Taylor Dent has been granted a wildcard for the Pilot Pen Tennis to be held August 21-29 at the Connecticut Tennis Center in New Haven, Connecticut. Dent will join fellow American Mardy Fish and Spaniard Tommy Robredo as players already committed to the US Open hard court warm-up event. Dent has reached a career-high ranking of 21st in the world before undergoing back surgery. When that surgery proved to be unsuccessful, he had spinal fusion surgery and has slowly worked his way back onto the ATP tour.

SUSPENSION SHORTENED

Poland’s Radwanska sisters -Agnieszka and Urzula – along with Daniela Hantuchova have lent their support to Habitat for Humanity and their latest building project in Warsaw, Poland. Due to be completed this September, the Warsaw project will provide new homes and a better future for six families. The three WTA Tour stars joined in with the construction on the latest installment of the “women-only” construction program which is designed to recruit, train and empower women. Besides their financial support, the Radwanska sister gave their match play racquets to Habitat for Humanity Poland for an auction.

STAGE FOR UPSETS

The infamous Court Two at Wimbledon, dubbed the graveyard of champions, will be replaced in time for the 2011 grass-court championships. “The new court (Three), containing enhanced spectator amenities, will be built on the site of old Court Two,” All England Club officials said. The work will start immediately after this year’s tournament and will be completed by May 2011. Several Wimbledon champions were upset on the old Court Two, including Pete Sampras in his last visit to Wimbledon in 2002. A new Court Two will be used for the first time when the Grand Slam tournament begins next month, while the retractable roof over Centre Court will also makes its debut.

SPONSORSHIP GONE

The Australian Open has lost nearly USD $10 million in sponsorship, thanks to the current world-wide financial crisis. Garnier, part of the L’Oreal Group, has become the second major backer to pull out of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. GE Money recently decided against extending its three-year arrangement. Garnier said the beauty products company has recently advised Tennis Australia of its decision not to continue as a sponsor in 2010. A much smaller arrangement between the Australian Open and MasterCard is also over as the sponsorship market continues to tighten locally and internationally.

STANDING TALL

Vera Zvonareva has been named a “Promoter of Gender Equality” as part of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour’s partnership with UNESCO. Zvonareva joins fellow tennis stars Venus Williams, Tatiana Golovin and Zheng Jie as Promoters of General Equality for the program as well as WTA Tour founder Billie Jean King. Zvonareva had her best year in 2008. The 24-year-old enrolled in the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2007 where she is studying for a post-graduate degree in International Relations and Economics.

STRODE ARTHUR ASHE WINNER

The top men’s player on the University of Arkansas’ team, senior Blake Strode, has been named the national recipient of the ITA/Arthur Ashe Award for Leadership & Sportsmanship. Strode beat out nominees from Harvard, Georgia, Toledo, Rice, New Mexico and Pepperdine for the national honor.

SIGNS UP

Alex Bogomolov is the new Touring Professional in Residence for the Napeague Tennis Club in the Hamptons area of Long Island, New York. At one time ranked in the top 100 in the world, Bogomolov will serve as the club’s resident ATP Touring Pro and will be available to Napeague Tennis Club members for private lessons, clinics, and other club events throughout the summer.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Warsaw: Raquel Kops-Jones and Bethanie Mattek-Sands beat Yan Zi and Zheng Jie 6-1 6-1

Strasbourg: Nathalie Dechy and Mara Santangelo beat Claire Feuerstein and Stephanie Foretz 6-0 6-1

Kitzbuhel: Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa beat Andrei Pavel and Horla Tecau 6-7 (9) 6-2 10-7 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Paris: www.rolandgarros.com/index.html

Prostejov: www.czech-open.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (first week)

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (second week)

ATP

$170,000 UniCredit Czech Open, Prostejov, Czech Republic, clay

Mondays With Bob Greene: It’s a great honor to reach the number one ranking

STARS

Jelena Jankovic won the Andalucia Tennis Experience by beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3 3-6 6-3 in Marbella, Spain

Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Florent Serra 6-4 7-5 to win the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca, Morocco

Lleyton Hewitt defeated Wayne Odesnik 6-2 7-5 to capture the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, USA

Caroline Wozniacki beat Aleksandra Wozniak 6-1 6-2 to win The MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA

Rui Machado won the STATUS Athens Open, beating Daniel Munoz-de la Nava 6-3 7-6 (4) in Athens, Greece

Karolina Sprem beat Viktoria Kutuzova 6-1 6-4 to win the Koddaert Ladies Open in Torhout, Belgium

SAYING

“It’s a great honor to reach the number one ranking an
d it is a dream every girl who has ever wanted to play professional tennis shares. It is even extra special for me since my brother Marat was able to reach the number one ranking and I am happy to share this achievement with him.” – Dinara Safina, who took over the WTA Tour’s top spot from Serena Williams.

“This is what all the hard work is for, to play weeks like this and have this kind of feeling at the end. It makes going through the surgery and all the hard work worth it, so it’s good stuff.” – Lleyton Hewitt, who won the US Men’s Clay Championships, his first ATP title in two years.

“I was trying to play my best tennis but the injury prevented me from reaching my top level.” – Serena Williams, after losing to Klara Zakopalova in her first clay-court match of the season in Marbella, Spain.

“This is a great start to the clay-court season, a really good start. I proved I can beat these better players.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after winning the title in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

“I know I have not been playing well the last three months, but this win has given me back the confidence I need.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning in Marbella, Spain.

“When I hit a good shot she hit a good shot back. I feel pretty good about going 3 and 2 with a top 10 player.” – Fourteen-year-old Madison Keys, after losing to top-seeded Nadia Petrova 6-3 6-2 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

“I have to say that we were a bit lucky. In the semifinals we were close to losing and today we made it in the match tiebreak. It is my first title and it feels great.” – Lukasz Kubot, who teamed with Oliver Marach to win at Casablanca, Morocco, their first ATP doubles title in their third final together.

“We’re very happy with the first tournament of the clay court season. We are looking forward to going to Europe and we’re going to be over there for 14 weeks. It’s really important to win a title on the clay and getting your balance and a lot of confidence.” – Mike Bryan, after he and his brother Bob won the doubles at Houston, Texas.

“Before every match I try to isolate myself from everybody with my iPod. It’s like a ritual I have before playing and it’s absolutely necessary for me to listen to one of the songs from the ‘Phantom of the Opera.’” – Rafael Nadal, on how he prepares for a match.

“He kind of forces you into that the way he plays defense. It’s no excuse for some errors, especially the ones I made at key times. If you expect to win matches you have to put that around big points.” – James Blake, after losing to Guillermo Canas 6-4 6-4 in a first-round match at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas.

“In the tiebreak, it’s anybody’s match.” Sania Mirza, who teamed with Chuang Chia-Jung to win the doubles at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, 6-3 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak).

“Mentally, when you lose 10 points in a row you have to tell yourself it’s going to be OK. That’s not easy. Some people can deal with it better than others, and I’m definitely a guy who struggles with staying calm mentally and just playing my game.” – Tommy Haas, who actually lost 11 straight points yet beat Marcel Granollers in three sets.

“I must be doing something right.” – Lleyton Hewitt, noting his career record on clay going into the US Men’s Clay Court Championships was a quite respectable 80-37. He ended up winning the tournament.

SWISS KNOT

Mr and Mrs Federer

Roger Federer and long-time companion Mirka Vavrinec are now Mr. and Mrs. The two exchanged wedding vows in Federer’s hometown of Basel, Switzerland. They first met at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when both were competing for Switzerland. Vavrinec retired from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in 2002. Last month the two announced they are expected their first child later this summer. Federer was full of announcements. After telling of his marriage, he announced he would take a wild card and compete this week in Monte Carlo after earlier saying he planned to skip the event. Federer has reached the final at the last three Monte Carlo tournaments, only to lose each time to Rafael Nadal.

SAFINA ON TOP

Dinara Safina has pulled even with her brother in one respect. She is ranked number one in the world, replacing Serena Williams. The second Russian to be atop the women’s rankings, she is part of the first brother-sister combination to be ranked number one in the world. Her brother, Marat Safin, was ranked number one on the ATP Tour in 2000. Safina is the 19th player to top the women’s rankings. Last year she became the first player to beat three different reigning world number ones in the same season, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic. Safina has won four WTA Tour titles in the last 12 months and finished runner-up five times, including Roland Garros last year and the Australian Open in January.

STRUGGLING

After losing two straight matches and her world number one ranking, Serena Williams has withdrawn from this week’s Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina, citing a left leg injury she originally suffered at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. “I need to give my leg injury time to heal,” she said. Williams was the defending Family Circle Cup champion. Williams lost to Victoria Azarenka in the Miami final, then was upset in Marbella, Spain, by Klara Zakopalova in her first clay-court match of the season

STAYING THE COURSE

It’s been a long time for Lleyton Hewitt, but he finally won his first tournament in two years when he stopped Wayne Odesnik 6-2 7-5 at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas. With his 498th career match victory, the Australian is just two match wins away from joining Roger Federer and Carlos Moya as the only active players with 500 or more victories. Hewitt, who ranks 35th on the career victories list, failed to win a tournament last year for the first time in his career while recovering from hip surgery. Hewitt won the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon the following. Ranked number one in the world in 2001, Hewitt went into the Houston tournament ranked number 88.

SUCCESS AT LAST

Jelena Jankovic finally lifted the champion’s trophy this year following a disappointing start to the season. She lost her number one ranking after losing early at the Australian Open. She then dropped her opening matches at Indian Wells, California, and Miami, Florida, two American hard court events. On the red clay in Marbella, Spain, Jankovic finally got things turned around, beating Carla Suarez Navarro in the title match 6-3 3-6 6-3. For Jankovic, who was down a break early in the third set, this was her 10th career singles title, with half of them coming on clay.

STILL IN THE HUNT

Lleyton Hewitt wasn’t the only one to turn back the clock on the ATP Tour. Juan Carlos Ferrero won the Grand Prix Hassan II tournament in Casablanca, Morocco, his first title since capturing the Madrid Masters in October 2003. That was the year he won Roland Garros and lost the US Open final to Andy Roddick. And 2003 was the year Ferrero was ranked number one in the world. It was Ferrero’s first clay court championship since his victorious French Open run in 2003.

STAYING HOME

An inflamed right shoulder is the reason Victoria Azarenka won’t be playing in this week’s Family Circle Cup. In her last match, Azarenka knocked off Serena Williams to win the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. Williams went on to lose her next match, then also withdrew from the Family Circle Cup with an injury to her leg. “I am really sorry that I have to withdraw from the Family Circle Cup … due to an injury in my right shoulder,” Azarenka said.  “I was looking forward to returning to Charleston and building on the momentum that I have from the past few weeks.”

SWEPT CLEAN

The US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, wasn’t pretty for seeded players. James Blake and Mardy Fish were the top two-ranked Americans and the top two seeds in the field. At least for the first round. For the first time since 2000, the top two seeded players in an ATP tournament failed to advance past the opening round. And until his win over Blake, Guillermo Canas had lost six straight first-round matches this year. That was only the beginning. For the first time since the Open Era began in 1968, no seeded players reached the quarterfinals. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain, ranked 73rd in the world, was the highest-ranked player to make it out of the second round. The eventual winner, Lleyton Hewitt, was ranked 88th when the tournament began.

SENIOR SIGNEES

Goran Ivanisevic and Stefan Edberg are the first two entries for The Masters Tennis event to be played at the Royal Albert Hall in London in December. Six other players yet to be named will join the two Wimbledon champions in the ATP Champions Tour event. At least four of the six to be named will have been either a world number one, Grand Slam singles finalist or a Davis Cup winner in their careers. Ivanisevic played the Royal Albert Hall tournament in 2006, reaching the final, while Edberg played the senior event last year. Ivanisevic missed last year because of a knee injury.

STRENGTH AGAINST STRENGTH

Italy and Russia will battle for the fifth time when they meet in a Fed Cup World Group semifinal April 25-26 in Castellaneta Marina, Italy. The home team has never beaten the Russians in Fed Cup play, losing their last meeting in the 2007 final in Moscow. The last time the two nations met in Italy, in the 2005 quarterfinal, Italy won the first match before losing 4-1. In the last five years, Italy is the only nation other than Russia to win the Fed Cup, defeating Belgium in the 2006 final. That year Belgium eliminated Russia in the first round, the only defeat Russia has suffered in the last five years of the competition.

SWISS CHEESE

There will be a lot of holes in Switzerland’s lineup when it takes on Australia in a Fed Cup World Group II playoff April 25-26 in Victoria, Australia. Missing will be Switzerland’s top two singles players and their captain. Instead, Switzerland will rely on Stefanie Voegele, Nicole Riner and 15-year-old Mateja Kraljevic for the tie, which takes place on grass at the Mildura Lawn Tennis Club. The winning nation will stay in the World Group II for 2010, while the losing nation will drop to zonal competition. Christiane Jolissaint will replace Severin Luthi as captain for this tie. Luthi reportedly will be working with Roger Federer next week.

SIZZLING START

Fourteen-year-old Madison Keys made a successful Sony Ericsson WTA Tour debut by defeating Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia 7-5 6-4 in a first-round match at the MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Keys, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, was given a wild card entry into the tournament. Her only other experience in a professional tournament came at a USD $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, last month. Keys is currently ranked number 37 in the International Tennis Federation World Junior Rankings. Kudryavtseva is number 81 in the world in the WTA Tour rankings. Unfortunately, her first-round victory advanced Keys to a second-round matchup against top-seeded Nadia Petrova, who beat the youngster 6-3 6-2.

SINO SWITCH

China’s top women players opted to leave the state-run system this year and keep their own prize money. So far, the money hasn’t come rolling in as neither Zheng Jie and long-time partner Yan Zi, nor Li Na and Peng Shuai have registered any notable wins. Each of the four players now has her own coaches, does her own scheduling for practices as well as tournaments, and has her own management team – all things that had been done and paid for by the state system in the past. Now, each player must pay their own expenses, including travel and hotels, out of their earnings. “This is a very difficult time for us because a lot of things have changed. We need time to get use to it,” Zheng said. “I hope we can get back in form as soon as possible.”

SISTERS

Serena and Venus Williams aren’t the only sisters battling it out on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine beat her younger sister Kateryna 4-6 6-4 6-3 in the second round of the MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Alona, who is two years older, trailed 1-3 in the second set before winning 11 of the last 15 games. “We have different styles, but we know each other well,” Alona said. “I have to play the long points and she doesn’t.” It was their sixth meeting on the WTA Tour – their first match since 2006 – and each has won three times. Polish sisters Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska are also on the tour, with Urszula beating her older and higher-ranked sister in their lone WTA Tour matchup.

SPONSOR

BNP Paribas has signed a three-year agreement to sponsor both the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour and the Invacare World Team Cup. BNP Paribas already is the title sponsor of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, Fed Cup by BNP Paribas and Junior Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, as well as other tournaments. The company has supported wheelchair tennis in France since 1993.

STARTING UP

The inaugural International Tennis Federation (ITF) Beach Tennis World Championships will be held May 4-6 at the historic Folo Italico in Rome. The competition will be held alongside the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event being played in Rome the same week. Beach Tennis merges the disciplines of tennis and beach volleyball into a single sport and is usually played as doubles on a court of similar size to beach volleyball.

SWINGING

Kelly Gunterman is now the director of tennis at Amelia Island Plantation, a site where Andre Agassi, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Martina Hingis have all won tournaments. Gunterman played tennis in college and has trained and taught with John Newcombe and Peter Burwash.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Casablanca: Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach beat Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley 7-6 (4) 3-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Houston: Bob and Mike Bryan beat Jesse Levine and Ryan Sweeting 6-1 6-2

Ponte Vedra Beach: Chuang Chia-Jung and Sania Mirza beat Lisa Raymond and Kveta Peschke 6-3 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Marbella: Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska beat Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-3 6-3

Athens: Ramirez Junaid and Philipp Marx beat Jesse Huta Galung and Rui Machado 6-4 6-3

Torhout: Michaella Krajicek and Yanina Wickmayer beat Julia Goerges and Sandra Klemenschits 6-4 6-0

SITES TO SURF

Monte Carlo: http://montecarlo.masters-series.com/1/en/home/default.asp

Charleston: www.familycirclecup.com

Barcelona: www.barcelonaopenbancosabadell.com/

Sofia: www.bgtennis.bg/

Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com

Estonian Tennis Federation: www.tennis.ee/

Polish Tennis Federation: www.pzt.pl/

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

Tennis Australia: www.tennis.com.au/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$600,000 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, Monte Carlo, Monaco, clay

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

WTA

$1,000,000 Family Circle Cup, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, clay

$220,000 Barcelona Ladies Open, Barcelona, Spain, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

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

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

FED CUP

(April 25-26)

World Group Semifinals

Italy vs. Russia at Castellaneta Marina, Italy, clay

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

World Group Playoffs

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

World Group II Playoffs

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

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

US Open Day 2: Another Sister Act For Serena Williams

NEW YORK – It was another sister act for Serena Williams, just not with her older sibling Venus this time.

Serena needed only 57 minutes to brush aside Kateryna Bondarenko 6-1 6-4 in an opening-round US Open match Tuesday and begin her bid to return to the top of number one ranking in women’s tennis.

With help from the scheduler, both Williams sisters and both Bondarenko sisters were in action on the second day of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Venus Williams eliminated Australian Samantha Stosur 6-2 6-3 in a night match, while Alona Bondarenko, the older of the sisters from the Ukraine, advanced with a hard-fought 2-6 6-3 6-2 victory over American Jamea Jackson.

Currently ranked third in the world, Serena Williams could take over the top spot if she wins this two-week extravaganza on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The winner of eight Grand Slam tournaments, Williams has not been ranked number one since August 10, 2003. Two years ago her ranking dropped to 140th in the world.

But against Bondarenko, Williams showed the form that made her a champion here at Arthur Ashe Stadium in both 1999 and 2002.

“I am just taking it one match at a time,” said Williams, who admitted she played very well, especially in the opening set. “I’m just happy to have this one over with.”

Williams whipped through the first set in 20 minutes, allowing Bondarenko to hold at 15 only in the fifth game. She didn’t drop a point on her serve until the second set.

Bondarenko, currently ranked 46th in the world, had a lot more success in the second set, but Williams always appeared to be in complete control, ready to close it out on her terms. Serena even put an exclamation on the final point of the penultimate game when she held serve with a perfectly executed forehand lob.

“I was surprised I made it,” she admitted. “I typically don’t make forehand lobs and I never practiced them in five years. I don’t even know why I hit that shot. … That was just the wind, I guess.”

She then broke Bondarenko to close out the victory.

Serena has been displaying the game that once had her dominating women’s tennis. At one stretch, in 2002-03, she won four consecutive Grand Slam tournaments – she called it the “Serena Slam.” Then injuries hampered her play and outside interests occupied her time as she struggled on the court.

Yet she and her sister Venus have always been a threat in any tournament in which they have played. Serena showed that in 2007 when, as an unseeded entry ranked 81st in the world, she powered her way to the title, crushing Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-2 in the final. This year her resurgence has continued as she won three consecutive titles, including the Sony Ericsson Championships in Miami, where she dominated top-ranked Justine Henin in the quarterfinals and beat Jelena Jankovic, currently ranked number two in the world, in the title match.

Another injury, this time to her back, forced her to withdraw from her quarterfinal match at Rome. Yet when Wimbledon rolled around, she stormed into the final without dropping a set before falling to her sister in what arguably was their best head-to-head battle.

Serena reached the quarterfinals of the Beijing Olympics before being ousted by eventual singles champion Elena Dementieva. But she then teamed with sister Venus to win the gold medal in doubles.

“It’s confidence I can take, and I think I did from that because I was really returning and volleying well and I was doing a lot of the things well at the Olympics,” Serena said Tuesday. “I was really confident coming in here.”

Just ask Kateryna Bondarenko.

Alona Bondarenko, at 24 two years older than Kateryna, almost joined her sister on the sideline. But she rallied to win the second set from a hard-hitting Jackson who all of a sudden began spraying her shots everywhere but inside the lines.

In the final set, Jackson and Bondarenko traded service breaks in four straight games before Jackson called for a trainer, who worked on her right leg, an injury that appeared to hamper her movement as she several times just stood on the baseline and watched Bondarenko’s ground strokes sail past her for winners.

Venus Williams had only a few problems in advancing to the second round against Stosur, who is best known for her doubles play. Williams’ powerful strokes for the most part overwhelmed her Australian opponent, and her long legs and arms enabled her to stay in rallies until she either could construct a winner or Stosur made an error.

The Williams sisters met for the US Open title in 2002, a match Serena won. That won’t happen this year. Because of the draw – Serena is seeded fourth, Venus is seventh – if the two do meet it will be in the quarterfinals.