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Washington Kastles Win 34th Straight Match, Establish New Unbeaten Pro-sports Record

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 9, 2013) Unbeaten. Untied. Unstoppable. And now, unmatched.

The Mylan World TeamTennis’ champion Washington Kastles won their 34th straight match tonight, setting a new professional sports unbeaten record and launching them solidly toward another WTT title.

The Kastles dispatched conference rival Boston Lobsters in a 25-12 victory, sweeping all five sets – with the victory nailed by the duo that has spent the most time on the team, men’s double partners Leander Paes and Bobby Reynolds.

“I’ve been really lucky to have had a great Olympic career and a great Davis Cup career,” said Paes, who remains one of the top doubles players in the world. “And this is exactly like that.”

The record-setting victory also had sweet resonance: the Lobsters were the last team to defeat the Kastles on July 22, 2010, in the final match of the 2010 regular season. There have been four wins in a Super tiebreaker, seven victories by a single game and 10 match points saved during the streak.

“You can’t even dream about making history and breaking a record like this one. But this incredible feat is a testament to the incredible support we have gotten from our community and to the inspiration that our players have drawn from our passionate fans,” said Mark Ein, the Kastles’ owner.

Ein wore the same brown dress shoes he wore when the team captured the 2009 title, the day that Kastles coach Murphy Jensen had all the players put pieces of tape on their shoes to symbolize team unity.

The 34-match Kastles unbeaten streak eclipses the mark set by the NBA 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. Washington has won seven matches by just one game, earned eight overtime victories, and saved 10 match points throughout the course of their historic run.

The Lakers streak was omnipresent in the press kits handed out to the media and, in a touch on unplanned irony, symbolically by one of the Kastles’ public spirited announcer, who revved the crowd on stilts, making him more than 7 feet tall – about the same height as Wilt Chamberlain on that Laker team.

Jeanie Buss of the Los Angeles Lakers, who was involved with World TeamTennis in the 1970s as an executive for the Los Angeles Strings, issued a congratulations statement this evening after the Kastles’ win. The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers won 33 consecutive games, a mark broken Tuesday night when the Washington Kastles posted their 34th consecutive victory.

“Winning 33 consecutive games was an amazing accomplishment by our 1971-72 Lakers team, as evidenced by the fact that no other team has come close to reaching it for over 40 years now. On behalf of the Buss family and the Lakers family, I want to congratulate the Washington Kastles, their players, and our good friends Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss on this milestone accomplishment of theirs.”

The Kastles are a strong favorite to win their third consecutive Mylan WTT title and their fourth King Trophy in five years. Only two other WTT teams have won three or more championships: the Sacramento Capitals, with six, and the Los Angeles Strings, with three. The Kastles are the only WTT team to post a perfect season and the only major sports team in history to have consecutive perfect seasons in 2011 and 2012

“We had an amazing experience that has never happened before,” Kastles coach Murphy Jensen said. “We put a group of characters together, added some spice and made some magic. And there were a lot of people. Dynasty? You can say dynasty, gosh darn right you can.”

“We look at what is in front of us. This is a team that works hard. Winning is a habit and a culture. We never give up and we are tough to beat,” Jensen said.

Veteran Kastles players Paes, Reynolds and Anastasia Rodionova were joined this year by Kevin Anderson and Martina Hingis, who started the winning early Tuesday night.

“Some math or statistics guy did a study as to whether we could do the streak and said we had a better chance of winning the lottery,” Reynolds said. “If you look on the papers, the ranking, that sort of thing, we all (on all the WTT teams) are comparable. But there is something magical about our team. We play for each other, not for ourselves.”

Washington is now 2-0, and in early possession of first place in the Mylan WTT Eastern Conference. Boston, after opening the season defeating conference rival New York Sportimes, is now 1-2. New York is 1-2 and Philadelphia Freedom is 0-2.

The sets:
Men’s Singles – Kevin Anderson (Kastles) def. Amir Weintraub (Lobsters) 5-2
Women’s Doubles – Anastasia Rodionova/Martina Hingis (Kastles) def. Jill Craybas/Katalin Marosi (Lobsters) 5-3
Mixed Doubles – Martina Hingis/Leander Paes (Kastles) def. Katalin Marosi/Eric Butorac (Lobsters) 5-3
Women’s Singles – Martina Hingis (Kastles) def. Jill Craybas (Lobsters) 5-2
Men’s Doubles – Leander Paes/Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) def. Eric Butorac/Amir Weintraub (Lobsters) 5-2

On Wednesday, the Kastles travel to Dallas to play the Texas Wild (formerly the Kansas City Explorers), then return to Kastles Stadium at the Wharf on Thursday against the Springfield Lasers, featuring former world No. 1 and U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick. They finish streak week Saturday on the road against the Sacramento Capitals, the first face off between those two teams since last year’s one point WTT title win by the Kastles.

Roddick said earlier in the week that he was pulling for the Kastles to continue the winning streak so that he and the Lasers will have the chance to stop it. He may get his chance.

Gallery by Camerawork USA

WTA Charleston Wednesday Gallery: Petkovic, Stosur, Robson, Bouchard and more

Genie Bouchard

CHARLESTON, SC (April 4, 2013) — Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy was on hand Wednesday for all the action at the Family Circle Cup. Players on court that day included Andrea Petkovic, Sabine Lisicki, Sam Stosur, Eugenie Bouchard, Laura Robson, Caroline Garcia, Mallory Burdette, Anastasia Rodionova and Ashleigh Barty.

“Unmasking Anastasia:” Rodionova, Tennis’ Cartoon Villain

Known for her brash on-court demeanor, Anastasia Rodionova showed a softer side during a loss to Bethanie Mattek-Sands in Charleston. (photo: Zimbio)

Charleston’s illustrious Family Circle Cup began yesterday, and just off the main stadium, fans were treated to a first round match that had all the drama and suspense of a Saturday morning cartoon. Such an analogy may sound insulting, but in a match between Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Anastasia Rodionova, spectators’ notions of “good” and “evil” were as binary as black and white.

In one corner was Mattek-Sands. With her penchant for knee socks, eye black, and odd fashion choices, the veteran American certainly has the look of a modern-day superhero. Her struggles with injuries and debilitating food allergies have also played a role in endearing herself to the tennis public as she attempts to regain the form that took her as high as No. 30 in 2011.

If Mattek-Sands is the hero, then the Russian-born Australian Rodionova is our unabashed villain. Standing at 5’5”, she has become notorious for her on-court antics and bratty demeanor. A journeywoman who frequents the outer courts of most major tournaments, Rodionova berates umpires and lines people alike for their perceived incompetence and inability to properly officiate her matches. It has been questioned whether those antics have stalled an otherwise promising career; a successful doubles player, Rodionova possesses an all-court game that is often as aggressive as she is.

But to question that is to misunderstand the Aussie entirely. Indeed, she has the propensity to lose her patience, but rarely does that lead to a full-on implosion. In a world where players are concerned with likeability, Rodionova not only embraces, but truly enjoys the villainous role she adopts during matches, and like a WWE wrestler, uses the crowd’s venom against her as fuel for her own fire.

Against Mattek-Sands, she simply refused to be put away in a match that, at three hours, forty-two minutes, was the longest of the year. With the crowd firmly behind the American, Rodionova recovered from a set down to steal the second in a tiebreaker, but quickly fell behind a break in the third. Playing Mattek-Sands tough on break points (she would save 13 of 20 by match’s end), she bounded back to win three games in a row. As our villain was in her glory, our hero was in despair, and called out her husband during the changeover to try and develop a new strategy.

All of this before Rodionova injured her thigh, and here is where the show really began.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nrXHY3LdyU&t=1m54s

For Rodionova, the type who can become enraged by an inconsiderate gust of wind, an injury (and the ineptitude of those attempting to treat her) was simply unacceptable. Dissatisfied with the trainer’s method of alleviating her pain, Rodionova hopped and hobbled away as best she could, throwing a water bottle and gesticulating wildly at the supervisor.

It was as if, after all these years, Rodionova finally had a legitimate excuse for her curmudgeonly behavior, and she planned on making the most of it. When a line call was overturned in her favor, she exclaimed, “Call the freaking ball!” (a veteran move for a player well aware of what counts as an audible obscenity). Holding a match point on the Mattek-Sands serve at 4-5, it would have appeared totally logical for our villain to let out a cackle had she converted.

But she would not convert. The match would go to a deciding tiebreaker (as if it could have ended any other way), and the injury and Mattek-Sands became too much for Rodionova, who faded quickly from 2-2.

From the cartoonish impression many have of Rodionova, one would have expected her to react to this undoubtedly painful loss with a racquet toss or a shriek of disdain: anything in a last-ditch attempt to steal the spotlight. Instead, she reminded us all of her humanity when she met Mattek-Sands at the net in tears. Our hero was gracious in victory, comforting Rodionova as the two approached the umpire.

A lot of this analysis is tongue-in-cheek, but it has been said that parody can be a mirror to the human soul. There is a tendency to turn these athletes, these people, into stereotypes or one-dimensional cutouts based on how they act over the course of a three-hour tennis match. “Mattek-Sands comforted Rodionova because she is always good, and Rodionova yelled at the trainer because she is always evil.”

But just as Mattek-Sands’ jubilation showed us how much the win meant, Rodionova’s tears showed us how much the win would have meant, and before we criticize and name-call, it is essential that we recognize that her desire to win is no less pure (or more offending) than that of a perhaps more subdued rival.

It’s all “Ova” – Day 1 musings from the grounds of the US Open

Anastasia Rodionova at Day 1 of the US Open

By David Kane, Special for Tennis Grandstand

At Wimbledon several years ago, Serena Williams mused that there were so many “-ovas” in the draw that she herself had adopted the Slavic suffix. Indeed, there may not have been a “Williamsova” on the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, but three years later, Serena’s words ring true; it is difficult to navigate between the outer courts without stumbling upon an “ova” or seven. Not just from Russia, though. In fact, the “ovas” quest for world domination has transcended the sport, with players representing countries across the globe. In my rain-interrupted Day One of the US Open, I watched three “ovas” who represented three different countries and stations in the tennis hierarchy (the veteran, the journeywoman, and the champion). For all of their differences, the women did share one thing in common yesterday: victory.

I began my day on Court 7 to watch 19th seeded Russian Nadia Petrova take on Jarmila Gajdosova, who had taken Australian citizenship during her two-year marriage to ATP player Samuel Groth. See what I mean about that world domination? Both had flirted with the upper echelons of the women’s game to various degrees of success; Petrova has been high as #3 with two Roland Garros semifinals, but has become more remembered for her mental fragility and heinous Ellesse dresses in recent years, while Gajdosova rocketed into the top 30 last year only to be derailed by inconsistency and her divorce from Groth. With an “ova,” it is so often their story, and not their baseline game, that makes them so compelling.

Gajdosova, or “Jarka” as she is known to friends and fans alike, has had a rough 2012, losing twice as many matches as she’s won, but had to feel optimistic at the prospects of playing Petrova, who went 0-2 during the US Open Series, punctuated with a second-set retirement only two weeks before. Unfortunately for the Aussie, Petrova’s serve, her signature shot, was on in a way I haven’t seen it in many years. Hitting 15 aces, Nadia held serve with ease and only faced one break point in the first game of the match (which she predictably saved with a big serve). However, things are rarely straightforward for the Russian whom the New York Times once described as “tall, prim and sturdy;” the serve was “on,” but the return and backhand were decidedly “off,” which made for a tense two-set match that culminated in a tiebreaker in the second set upon returning from the two and half hour rain delay. It was in the ‘breaker that Petrova ran away with it as convincingly as she could, and booked a place in the second round.

It was during this match that I took time to analyze the so-called “vocal frustration” and perceived “brattiness” of “ovas” like Nadia. Not a warm player on the court, she didn’t so much celebrate winners so much as she would appear miffed that it had taken her *that* long to get it right. Tennis can be a beautiful game, with swings, according to Mary Carillo, “that defy the imagination.” But ultimately, tennis is a sport, with a winner and a loser. More and more for Petrova and “ovas” like her, success is not winning, but being perfect, and with that kind of pressure, no wonder we’ve seen such disastrous meltdowns from her and her compatriots.

Anastasia Rodionova is a player who doesn’t just desire perfection; she demands it, from herself, the linesmen, and those who come to watch her play. Although only ranked as high as 62 in her career, this attitude has made the Russian-born, Australian naturalized Rodionova infamous among fans. I’ve been watching her play matches at the US Open for a decade, and the reputation isn’t totally unwarranted; on the court, she has two emotions: indignation, and amusement born out of said indignation. On one hand, it’s admirable that Rodionova expects so much from her petite, 5’5” frame. On the other hand, her flat, hard-hitting game is as high risk as I’ve ever seen; when it’s “on,” it’s that poetry in motion Carillo described, but when it’s not (even for a minute), god help us all.

However, “The Rodionova Show” has been much more consistent than controversial since she arrived in Flushing. Fresh off a stint with the Washington Kastles, Rodionova is determined to turn around a disappointing year, even adopting the undefeated Kastle’s motto “Refuse to Lose,” into her tweets. This mentality has translated beyond matches in general; in three qualifying matches, the only player to win more than three games in a set was Caroline Garcia, the young Frenchwoman who nearly beat Maria Sharapova at last year’s French Open. Taking to Court 10 against American Julia Cohen didn’t seem like a tall order on paper, but don’t forget that “Nastya” requires perfect match conditions. Between the fireworks of the US Open Opening Ceremonies and the ghastly shrieks of one inebriated Cohen fan, the first few games looked dicey as the Aussie fell behind an early break.

One would think that a player like Rodionova would balk the notion of rowdy fans cheering her errors. But I was reminded last week of an odd piece of trivia: Anastasia Rodionova is the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist, and beat Sania Mirza in front of the most partisan crowd I’ve ever seen. Rodionova herself seemed to remember her love of playing the villain as well, and steadied herself back into playing the laser-like baseline game that had taken her through qualies, and romped into the second round winning 11 of the final 12 games. It seems foolish to crave for perfection in a sport where one is automatically given at least two tries at a serve, but if perfection is athletic nirvana, Rodionova has come dangerously close to achieving it this week.

Speaking of perfection, I would be remiss in leaving out Petra Kvitova. The 2011 Wimbledon champion made a strong case for being remembered as the player of the year when she won her maiden Slam and ended the season undefeated indoors. But she is another player who has, in the past, been felled by her desire for perfection. Until this summer, the word on Petra was that she couldn’t play on the hard courts of North America. Why? She was allergic. It’s an uncharacteristically “diva” excuse for a most unpretentious young woman, but with a 2-3 record in North America last year, it was hard to argue with the facts. Thankfully, with titles in Montreal and New Haven, the Czech star has concluded that she is not a Lenglen-esque one-continent wonder, and can indeed dominate in the land of the free.

Not without some struggles, though. All those match wins may have been great for Kvitova’s confidence, but they’ve done little to leave her fresh for the last Slam tournament of the year. Against the tattooed Slovak Polona Hercog, Kvitova was often undone by what appeared to be her own exhaustion. She was a step slow, so her perfectly timed groundstrokes were off and she danced on the faultline of losing the first set. For a woman who had only won New Haven two days earlier, disaster (and another early round US Open loss) seemed imminent. But yesterday, the Hard Court Education of Petra Kvitova was on full display. On the shaded Grandstand court, Petra appeared to realize during the tiebreaker that she would not be perfect. That didn’t mean she wasn’t good enough to win the match.

And win, she did. She rediscovered the striking mental fortitude that took her within 70 points of the number one ranking last year, took the tiebreaker, and dominated the second set 6-1. I left the match feeling optimistic about the Czech’s chances this fortnight. Petra wasn’t perfect, true, but how often does one win a Slam because they played perfect tennis? The moment when they hear their name and get to hold the tophy aloft and realize that tournament is “ova” is perfect enough.

David Kane is an avid tennis fan reporting from the grounds of the U.S. Open. You can follow him on Twitter @ovafanboy.

Summer heats up in D.C. with the Washington Kastles tennis team: a win in photos

Washington Kastles team

By Romi Cvitkovic

From a grandmother doing “The Dougie,” to 2011 Washington Kastles’ tennis players receiving commemorative championship rings, to familiar D.C. faces in the crowd like Kastles’ owner Mark Ein, former D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty and current Tennis Channel commentator Brett Haber, there is something in store for every tennis fan during the Washington Kastles’ season at The Wharf in downtown D.C.

Thursday night’s home opener against the New York Sportimes marked the Kastles’ 19th straight win that stretched from last year’s perfect 16-0 season. Returning players Leander Paes,  Bobby Reynolds and Arina Rodionova, along with newcomer Anastasia Rodionova, entertained the crowd with five tight matches and energetic play, that culminated in a 20-18 win.

The evening festivities began with mixed doubles as Anastasia Rodionova and Leander Paes took on the duo of Martina Hingis and Robert Kendrick. Paes, a thirteen time men’s and mixed doubles Slam champion, carried his partner with his deft hands at net to even the score at 4-4. Tennis wouldn’t be tennis without a disputed call, and after a brief discussion with the official by the Sportimes coach, play continued — but the Sportimes had lost their momentum. Paes quickly knocked off four clean winners, including a backhand volley to seal the set, 5-4(1).

Next up was women’s doubles featuring the Rodionova sisters (the “Hot Rods”) taking on Martina Hingis and Ashley Harkleroad (the “Models”). With Hingis, a former World No. 1, and Harkleroad, a former World No. 39, the Rodionova sisters had an uphill battle. But with competitive rallies, good looks, and giggling players, it was difficult not to get energized. Arina’s serve was broken at love with a couple of unforced errors and the “Hot Rods” quickly went down 1-3. They re-grouped and broke back on Hingis’ serve but two games later, the “Hot Rods” were again broken by the “Models”, losing 3-5.

With the Sportimes leading with a score of 9-8, the men’s doubles team of Leander Paes and Bobby Reynolds kicked it into high gear over the tandem of Robert Kendrick and Jesse Witten. Reynolds, a former World No. 46 in doubles, blasted serves while Paes fed off his lead to put away easy volleys. In the blink of an eye, the Kastles’ were up 4-0 on a Sportimes team that was struggling to find their balance. Reynolds, nicknamed “The Closer” for his ability to seal the team win on the final men’s singles matches, did much the same as he served out a 5-0 win in doubles, giving the Kastles’ a 13-9 edge.

Halftime was full of spectator giveaways, quickstart tennis with Paes and Coach Murphy Jensen with two lucky young fans, as well a ring presentation for Rennae Stubbs, who was part of the 2011 Washington Kastles Championship team. The short ceremony had Coach Jensen and Paes praising Stubbs, Paes receiving a kiss from both Stubbs and Jensen(!), and Stubbs commenting on her love of the city of Washington D.C.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Iuvk0jNRQc&hd=1&w=585

After crowd applause and appreciation, the tennis action was quickly underway as Anastasia Rodionova took on Martina Hingis in the women’s singles. As Hingis hit deep into the court, Rodionova responded with wicked backhand winners to even the set out at 2-2. After failing to convert on three break points, Rodionova self-destructed hitting error after error, giving Hingis the set, 5-2.

With the score tightly standing at 15-14 for the Kastles, the concluding men’s singles match between Bobby Reynolds and Jesse Witten had a whole season riding on the outcome. Always the most intense match of the night, it didn’t disappoint as it went the distance with a tiebreaker at 4-4 and a Reynolds fistpump to the crowd. Witten, although deceptively agile and hard-hitting, couldn’t do much to hold back an energized Reynolds who reeled off three winners to go up 3-0 in the tiebreaker. After a Witten error and an unreturnable serve by Reynolds,  the Kastles “Closer” sealed the win, 20-18.

After celebratory handshakes, and exchanges of of hugs and laughs, the Kastles team huddled together on court as any team proud of winning and keeping the steak alive would.

Catch the Washington Kastles this month as they battle for another perfect season! Full schedule and for tickets, click here.

Full gallery below; credit to author.

Fish snaps Isner streak, Serena is back and Ivanovic nervous in loss

Fish Win Snaps Isner Streak:

John Isner’s loss to Mardy Fish in last week’s Atlanta Tennis Championships final, a repeat of the 2010 championship match, was his first in nine matches after his title win previously at Newport. Isner led 6-4 in the second-set tie-breake, but Fish put together a four-point streak to force a decider in which he would ultimately take the title. “In hindsight, I should have served and volleyed on the second serve,” Isner admitted afterwards. “He got it in play and I went for too big of a backhand and missed it by a lot. He played the point well and the next two points, he served two really good serves.” Fish was understandably delighted with the turnaround. “When you’re in that position, it’s almost over,” he said. “I was lucky to get out of it. I stuck some returns and put some balls in play. I played some good points from then on.”

Serena Back on Form:

Serena Williams played her first match on American soil since 2009 yesterday at the Bank of West Classic in California, which resulted in a 6-0, 6-0 double bagel over Anastasia Rodionova. “I’ve always said if I play my best no one can beat me,” she said. “Hopefully I can get back to that level.” She fell as low as 175 in the world rankings during her year out of the sport but now looks set to rise back towards the pinnacle. She dominated from start to finish, losing just five points in six service games and not letting Rodionova convert any of her five game points in the match. She also won all 17 of her 17 first serve points. “I’ve only played about seven matches since coming back – it’s still early on and I’m taking it one day at a time, one match at a time,” Williams continued in her post-match press conference. “I wanted to be more consistent, and I think I did that tonight. I feel good. I don’t think of the match as being easy – I think it was just me being focused. I was out there just trying to do my best.”

Ivanovic Blames Nerves for Morita Loss:

Former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic has said that her shock 3-6, 5-7 first-round loss to Japan’s Ayumi Morita at Stanford was because she was nervous playing in front of new coach Nigel Sears. The pair only began working together last week and Ivanovic said she kept dwelling on the need to impress as she went down. “I just started with a new team and [it] takes time for things to come into place and nerves played a part to impress the new coach, but that’s normal,” she said. “We spoke a lot about things we were working on, but [Nigel said] when you go out there I want you to trust your instincts, but I still thought too much about technical stuff. It’s [a] matter of practicing and doing it over and over until it becomes automatic. A few times I was not aggressive enough and was thinking too much [about] what I had to do.” Meanwhile, Agnieszka Radwanska has admitted she isn’t sure if she will continue with her father Robert as her coach this summer. Robert has coached both Agnieszka and her younger sister Ursula since they started playing, but recently fractions and arguments have become commonplace. “Sometimes it’s good to have a break, especially from someone you’ve been working with for 17 years already and sometimes it’s just too much,” Agnieszka told Tennis.com. “We are going to go with one coach here and then we will see. It’s hard to separate the [roles]. On court he’s still dad and coach and then sometimes he brings tennis off the court and it’s too much. That’s why we are trying to have a break.”

Azarenka Explains Herself:

In an interview with Matt Cronin recently Victoria Azarenka gave some insight in to what makes her tick and what is behind her various behavioural patterns. Talking about her good rapport with the tour, she said: “For me it’s not about having friends, it’s about being civilized and a good person. It’s a matter of being respectful. It’s difficult to deal with other people sometimes because you are in your zone and trying to focus and someone keeps asking you a question and you don’t mean [to respond] in a bad way, it’s just the wrong time.” And talking about the constant interest in her on-court shrieking as she plays, she quipped: “[It’s] just sometimes it gets to such a ridiculous point, that I have no comments about that. It’s funny to me that people spend all this money to measure how loud [the grunting is]. Go give your money to someone else. C’mon.” She also outlined her intention to challenge for the upcoming US Open title in New York, saying: “One of my goals is to go there and win the title, but there a lot of things that have to come together and I have to be really focused on improving my game to get all things together for the big events.”

Ferrer May Miss Rogers Cup:

World No.6 David Ferrer has revealed via his official website that he has suffered a hairline fracture in his left hand, sidelining him for around two-three weeks. This makes him “very doubtful” for the Canadian Masters, which begins August 9 in Montreal. Meanwhile, defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova joins Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova and Kim Clijsters as withdrawals from the San Diego Open next week. “Sorry guys, I have to say I won’t defend my title in San Diego and very sad about it,” the Russian announced on Twitter.

Qureshi Donates Grant to Pakistan Flood Victims:

Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi has donated the $10,000 his foundation received from the ATP Aces for Charity grant program to victims of the flood which ravished his country last year. The district of Thatta in southern Pakistan was almost completely destroyed by the floods and has slowly been rebuilding itself since. The grant will go towards the construction of new housing and other facilities communities need to survive. “I am deeply impressed by the resilience and self-help spirit of the community,” he said on a recent visit to the region.

Dementieva Ties the Knot:

Former Russian tennis beauty Elena Dementieva last week tied the knot with ice hockey star fiancé Maxim Afinogenov. Much of the top Russian talent was on show, including Maria Kirilenko who was in attendance with her long-time partner Igor Andreev. Vera Zvonereva, Dinara Safina, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Vesnina and Vera Dushevina, among others, were also at the star-studded bash. Kirilenko even went as far as saying that it was the greatest wedding she had ever attended. “Elena and her husband were always with the guests,” Kirilenko told Tennis.com. “They were sitting with us, talking on the microphone, they were dancing together. It was unbelievable. Normally when you go to [a] wedding, you are sitting and watching and it’s kind of boring.” Kirilenko also admitted that she had lost out when attempting to catch the bouquet during the customary toss. “All the girls were trying to catch it and then suddenly from somewhere Dushevina came and sprinted and stole it from me,” she joked.

Rankings Watch:

With the big male seeds putting their feet up somewhat since Wimbledon concluded the rest of the tennis world has had a chance to shine over the past few weeks. Spain’s Nicolas Almagro has re-entered the Top 10 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings following his finals appearance in Hamburg last week. France’s Gilles Simon, his conqueror in that match, climbs seven to No.11. Fernando Verdasco re-enters the Top 20, while Kei Nishikori of Japan and France’s Adrian Mannarino are in to the Top 50. America’s Ryan Harrison leaps 26 places to No.94 in the world, and he is joined in the Top 100 by Thiemo de Bakker (No.99) and Stephane Robert (No.98). The big movers in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings this week were also title winners in the previous seven days. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez was the victor at Bad Gastein and as a result she climbs from No.54 in the world to No.39. Anabel Medina Garrigues also climbed after winning Palermo, up to No.34 from No.39. Petra Cetkovska matched her career-best No.49 after reaching the Palermo semis, while Patricia Mayr-Achleitner leapt from No.109 to No.76 after reaching the Bad Gastein final.

Nadals Laughs off “Grand Slam” Talk, Hopman Cup Taking Shape and Commonwealth Success for Australia

Rafael Nadal

*World No. 1 Rafa Nadal has laughed off talk of him winning all four majors in 2011 as “impossible.” Nadal has the last three majors in his pocket and will complete an ‘out of calendar’ Slam if he lifts the Australian Open in January. Only Don Budge and Rod Laver (twice) have lifted all four Slams in the same year and Nadal said of his hopes: “I will try to keep playing well and try to win four titles next year. But the Grand Slam, for me, is impossible.”

*Andy Murray and Laura Robson have confirmed they will once again warm up for next year’s Aussie Open by partnering each other in the Hopman Cup. The pair lost 2-1 to Spain in this year’s final although the reigning Champions aren’t expected to defend their title in 2011. However, Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic are expected to represent Serbia, Serena Williams and John Isner (USA) and Justine Henin (Belgium), Lleyton Hewitt (Australia) and Francesca Schiavone (Italy) will also compete. Tournament Director Paul McNamee said of Murray’s pending return: “He is a rare talent so we are delighted he is coming back.”

*It was a busy time for Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova at the Commonwealth games. She partnered Sally Peer to women’s doubles Gold where they beat fellow Aussies Jessica Moore and Olivia Rogowska in the final. She also took Silver in the mixed doubles (with Paul Hanley) after they lost to Scotland’s doubles specialist Colin Fleming and Jocelyn Rae. The temperamental former Russian left court in tears after failing to land a triple gold. This came after Rodionova beat home favourite Sania Mirza 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(3) in a marathon women’s singles final. Australia and India largely dominated the medals tables which, in full, read:

Event: Medal: Country
Men’s Singles Gold Somdev Devvarman (India)
Silver Greg Jones (Australia)
Bronze Matt Ebden (Australia)
Men’s Doubles Gold Paul Hanley

Peter Lukzak (Australia)

Silver Ross Hutchins

Ken Skupski (England)

Bronze Mahesh Bhupathi

Leander Paes (India)

Women’s Singles Gold Anastasia Rodionova (Australia)
Silver Sania Mirza (India)
Bronze Sally Peers (Australia)
Women’s Doubles Gold Anastasia Rodionova

Sally Peers (Australia)

Silver Jessica Moore

Olivia Rogowska (Australia)

Bronze Rushmi Chakravarthi

Sania Mirza (India)

Mixed Doubles Gold Jocelyn Rae

Colin Fleming (Scotland)

Silver Anastasia Rodionova

Paul Hanley (Australia)

Bronze Sarah Borwell

Ken Skupski (England)

*Novak Djokovic has a lot on his plate with the Shanghai Masters going on and the ATP Finals in London just around the corner in November. But he already has one eye on Serbia’s historic Davis Cup final matchup against France in December. Speaking at a press conference in Shanghai he said: “Davis Cup is a very unique competition where you get to feel the team spirit that you don’t get to feel that often. We are individuals, so we mostly perform for ourselves. In Davis Cup, it’s about the team; it’s about supporting each other, winning for your country.” He is also confident his beloved Serbia can upset the odds in Belgrade: “We are playing against France, who has much more success and tradition in this competition than us. Great players, but we’re confident we can pull out the win.” For the full interview visit the ITF website.

*Djokovic has also been issuing fighting talk on his chances of future Grand Slam glory to add to the Australian open he lifted in 2008. To date it is his sole Slam, but he is confident of more. “I’m ready. Definitely, I am,” he said at the Rolex Masters in Shanghai on Tuesday. “For the last two years I’ve been ready. If the good day comes, it comes.” Djokovic won his 18th tour-level title at the China Open last week and has now set his sights on higher honours once more. “Right now, emotionally, I’m confident. I’m happy, and looking forward to upcoming challenges. I feel good mentally and physically. I didn’t spend that much energy in Beijing. I’m sure I’ll be fit and ready. I will do my best to get as far as I can in this week.” The full interview is on the ATP site.

*Three-time Grand Slam winners Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic will not play doubles together again next season. The No. 2 seeds will part ways with Nestor teaming up with Frenchman Michael Llodra and Zimonjic aligning to fellow doubles specialist Max Mirnyi. “It think it’s a good move,” Nestor told The Globe and Mail. “It came from him but it’s something I’ve definitely thought about, too.”

*After reaching the semifinals of the China Open last week Shahar Peer rose from No. 18 to No. 13 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings. As well as being a career-high it is also the highest ranking for an Israeli in tennis history. Dane Caroline Wozniacki’s victory in China means she is now the twentieth No. 1 in WTA rankings history. Much has been made of the absence of Serena Williams attributing to Wozniacki’s ascent so the real test for her will be if she stays there once Serena is back on court.

*American Andy Roddick, who retired this week while leading Guillermo Garcia Lopez, hopes to be back competing in two weeks time in Basel, Switzerland. “I’m going to try to go home to Austin,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can to get back for Basel. I think the fact that I still have a shot at London, even after the past year and everything, I think it would be an accomplishment for me.”

*Kim Clijsters is now more confident of featuring in the year-ending WTA Finals in Doha after the pain in her foot which has kept her out of the past few weeks has begun ceasing.

*Roger Federer has been answering questions from his Chinese fans this week. Visit the ATP website to find out what was being said.

*Alicia Molik is running for election to Tennis Australia, joining John Fitzgerald, Wally Masur and six other candidates. If successful, she will be a rarity as an active pro on the board of her country’s tennis association.

*The Bryan brothers brought smiles to the young children unfortunate enough to be spending time at the Shanghai United Family Hospital on Wednesday. They spoke to staff, patients and families while signing autographs and giving insight in to their time on the tour.

*Venus Williams has become the face of new home workout video game EA Sports Active 2 which will use her image for branding in North America. She joins David Beckham whose image is used in Europe and Australia. “Her commitment to healthy living and ability to inspire others makes her a natural fit for EA Sports Active 2,” said Jon Slavet, EA Sports Active’s Vice president.

*It seems Lindsay Davenport and her trainer Todd Norman have got their roles mixed up. Davenport Tweeted on Wednesday: “I’m here working my ass off but my trainer is nowhere to be found.” Norman’s response? “Was getting a foot massage!”

*We all know males can be somewhat competitive. But what happens when tennis stars take to their Playstation consoles for a spot of Pro Evolution Soccer gaming? Tuesday night saw Juan Monaco and Rafa Nadal take on Andy Murray and his friend Dani Vallverdu and there is still some confusion as to who won. Monaco spoke first via his Twitter account claiming a 2-1 win for the Latin duo but Murray thinks otherwise. It appears there is some confusion on the rules between the teams regarding penalty shootouts. Monaco/Nadal seem confident of the win so could it just be sour grapes from Murray. Murray? Couldn’t possibly be… Check the ATP website for a full summary.

THE UNICEF OPEN PICTORIAL – PART 2

So more photos are coming in from our photographer at the scene, Ralf Reinecke.  Great shots this time of Benjamin Becker, Anastasia Rodionova and the Henin and Kerber match.

Great photos of one of the best tennis photographers in the world: Ralf Reinecke!

THE UNICEF OPEN PICTORIAL – PART ONE

Photographer Ralf Reinecke is currently attending the UNICEF Open in The Netherlands for TennisGrandstand. This means lots of photos of lots of good players in the next few days.

And I will start off right here with a whole bunch taken yesterday in sunny Rosmalen. Justine Henin, Dominika Cibulkova, Dinara Safina and Anastasia Rodionova and more all feature in this wonderful pictorial!

Thanks Ralf Reinecke and keep ‘em coming!

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