Anne Keothavong

Mondays With Bob Greene: Venus is one of the greatest champions ever

STARS

Marion Bartoli beat Venus Williams 6-2 5-7 6-4 to win the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California, USA

Sam Querrey beat Carsten Ball 6-4 3-6 6-1 to win the Countrywide Classic LA Tennis Open in Los Angeles, California, USA

Nikolay Davydenko beat Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3 6-0 to win the Studena Croatia Open in Umag, Croatia

Thomaz Bellucci won his first ATP title, the Allianz Suisse Open, beating Andreas Beck 6-4 7-6 (2) in Gstaad, Switzerland

Vera Dushevina beat Lucie Hradecka 6-0 6-1 to win her first WTA Tour title, the Istanbul Cup in Istanbul, Turkey.

Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. beat Pablo Andujar 6-4 6-2 to win the Trofeo Stefano Bellaveglia in Orbetello, Italy

SAYING

“Venus is one of the greatest champions ever. That’s what I practice for, to play her. To beat her is even better.” – Marion Bartoli, after beating Venus Williams to win the Bank of the West Classic.

“She didn’t give me much of a chance. I might have been able to win a few more points, but not the match.” – Elena Dementieva, after losing to Venus Williams in the semifinals.

“It’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest win of my career. We don’t always play our best tennis every single day. Maybe she didn’t play her best and I played very well.” – Samantha Stosur, after beating Serena Williams in the Bank of the West Classic.

“I’m going to go home, relax, and do some fitness. Ultimately it would good for me and I need to work with my mom on some things. I want to figure out what to do with my singles career.” – A joking Serena Williams, following her loss to Samantha Stosur.

“When I was done (with my career), I felt I’d put up some numbers no one would touch. Little did I know Roger would surpass me in seven years.” – Pete Sampras, who saw his men’s record 14 Grand Slam tournament titles eclipsed by Roger Federer.

“To be number one, you should be complete, and if you are number one you have to be beating the Williams sisters. I’m one of the rare players who has a positive record against the Williams sisters.” – Jelena Jankovic, who is 5-4 against Venus and 3-4 against Serena.

“It’s another one I can’t believe. Sandra Day O’Connor, hello. Tutu. Ted. I was overwhelmed when I heard it. What about Milk man? I was so excited for the community. I think it’s the first time the LGBT community has been acknowledged. It’s another breakthrough.” – Billie Jean King, who will be one of 16 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“When I was 7, I said, ‘Mom, I know I’m going to do something great with my life.’ She said, ‘That’s all right, just get the dishes done.’” – Billie Jean King, whose 87-year-old mother, Betty Jean Moffitt, will accompany her to the White House when she receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“I really don’t know why I play so well here. Three wins and one final, and each time with a different Czech partner, which is also strange. I don’t know why but I hope it continues.” – Michal Mertinak, after teaming with Frantisek Cermak to win the doubles at Umag, Croatia.

“Before the tournament if someone came and told me I’d play the final of singles and win the doubles, I’d have said they were joking. I’m very happy with my week.” – Lucie Hradecka, who reached the Istanbul Cup final in both singles and doubles.

SO DESERVING

Billie Jean King is the recipient of yet another honor. She is one of 16 people who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama later this month. The medals are the first to be awarded by Obama and represent the country’s highest honor for a civilian. Besides King, other honorees include Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, gay rights activist Harvey Milk, Race for the Cure founder Nancy Brinker, physicist Stephen Hawking and civil rights activist Reverend Joseph Lowery. . Former US Representative and football quarterback Jack Kemp, who died in May, will receive a posthumous award. Among her many other accomplishments, King is a global mentor of a joint WTA and UNESCO program to promote women’s equality in sport.

SOUTH AMERICAN SUCCESS

When Thomaz Bellucci captured the Swiss Open in Gstaad, he became the first Brazilian to win an ATP tournament in nearly five years. The last Brazilian champion was Ricardo Mello at Delray Beach, Florida, USA, in September 2004. Bellucci, a qualifier, beat Andreas Beck in the final. But he proved he belonged there by eliminating top-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka and third-seeded Igor Andreev on his way to the title match. Bellucci is the fifth player to claim his first ATP World Tour title this season. The Bellucci-Beck matchup was the first ATP final between two left-handers since January 2008 when Michael Llodra and Jarkko Nieminen contested the title in Adelaide, Australia.

SEASON-ENDING INJURY

Britain’s Anne Keothavong is out for the rest of the season after injuring her left knee. She damaged her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus during a doubles match in the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California, USA. The injury occurred when Keothavong ran into a fence chasing a shot during her match. “Of course I’m disappointed to be out for the rest of the season but I’ll continue to work with my team and look forward to coming back next season,” Keothavong said.

STANFORD DOINGS

For Marion Bartoli, the Bank of the West Classic victory was redemption for Wimbledon. Bartoli won her first WTA Premier Tour title by upsetting Venus Williams 6-2 5-7 6-4 in the championship match at Stanford, California, USA. In their only previous meeting, Bartoli lost to Williams in the 2007 Wimbledon final. It was the second straight year Bartoli has been in the Stanford final, and her first title on American soil. Williams, making her first appearance at the event since 2005, reached her seventh final in eight appearances at Stanford, where’s she won twice, her last coming in 2002. Venus lost for just the third time in her last 15 matches, but she has not won an outdoor hard court tournament in the United States in seven years.

SUCCESSIVE WINS

For the first time in his career, Nikolay Davydenko has won consecutive tournaments. This time the ninth-ranked Russian crushed Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3 6-0 in the final of the Studena Croatia Open in Umag, Croatia. The week before, Davydenko won in Hamburg, Germany. It was his 16th ATP World Tour title in his 21st final, the sixth best record among active players. And the win increases Davydenko’s chances of qualifying for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, to be held in London, England. Last year, when the season finale was held in Shanghai, China, Davydenko reached the title match where he lost to Novak Djokovic.

SIDELINED

A foot injury will keep Svetlana Kuznetsova on the sidelines this week. The French Open champion pulled out of the LA Women’s Tennis Championships because of the injury. That still leaves the Los Angeles event with 10 of the world’s top 15 women in the field, including the defending champion, top-ranked Dinara Safina.

SWEET SWISS

Swiss pair Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer needed a wild card to enter the Allianz Suisse Open in Gstaad, Switzerland. They came away with the doubles title, defeating defending champions Jaroslav Levinsky and Filip Polasek 7-5 6-3 in the final. The two had a rough road to the title match, also knocking out second-seeded Michael Kohlmann and Sebastien Prieto in the quarterfinals and third-seeded Yves Allegro and Horia Tecau in the semifinals. The 27-year-old Chiudinelli won his first ATP World Tour doubles title on his second final in Gstaad. He and Jean-Claude Scherrer were runners-up in 2006.

SPONSORED

It didn’t take long for Kim Clijsters to have to go to the bank. The former top-ranked player has signed a sponsorship agreement with Adecco SA, the world’s largest supplier of temporary workers. The Zurich, Switzerland-based company is becoming the “official sponsor” of the 26-year-old Belgian. Clijsters, who had a baby last year, will play her first WTA Tour match in two years when she takes to the court in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, on August 10. She will play the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada, the week after that before heading to New York and the US Open, which starts August 31. It will be Clijsters’ first US Open since she won the Grand Slam tournament in 2005.

SUCCESS, FINALLY

Sam Querrey finally has a title to call his own. The hard-serving American ended a string of final-round frustrations by winning the LA Tennis Open title with a 6-4 3-6 6-1 victory over qualifier Carsten Bell. It was Querrey’s third straight final and fourth of the season – but his first title. “I didn’t want to lose three finals in a row,” said the 21-year-old, who lives in Santa Monica, California, not far from where the LA Tennis Open was contested. Seeded sixth in Los Angeles, Querrey had lost in the final in New Zealand in January and the last two weeks at Newport, Rhode Island, and Indianapolis, Indiana. Querrey became the fifth player to reach the finals in four events this season, joining Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. It was his second career ATP title. Ball had never won a match on tour before the LA Tennis Open.

STARTING COMEBACK

Australian Alicia Molik is planning on ending her retirement and returning to the WTA Tour. “I’m loving being back … and enjoying training,” Molik said. “I’m injury-free and back doing what I love.” Ranked as high as number eight in the world, Molik retired last year after being felled by illness and injuries. She had an inner ear virus that affected her balance. Then she was plagued by leg and arm injuries. “I think I’m still young enough to focus my energies on something that I feel is again challenging,” said the 28-year-old Molik.

STAYING PUT

The Bank of the West Classic is staying right where it is. The tournament and Stanford University have agreed to a three-year contract that will keep the longest-running women-only pro tournament in the world at the Taube Family Tennis Center in Stanford, California, through the year 2012. IMG Senior Vice President Adam Barrett said the WTA adjusted its rules to allow the tournament to continue because of having a long-term sponsor as well as rich tradition. The Taube Family Tennis Center seats just fewer than 4,000, while the new WTA Roadmap rules state Premier tournaments such as the Bank of the West must seat at least 6,000 fans.

STARRING ROGER

Roger Federer reportedly wants to play for Switzerland in its Davis Cup playoff against Italy in September. “Nothing is definite yet, but there’s a good chance that our best players will be there,” said Severin Luethi, part of Federer’s coaching team. Federer missed Switzerland’s 4-1 loss to the United States in the World Group first round because of a back injury. The winner of the Switzerland-Italy playoff tie in Genoa, Italy, on September 18-20 will remain in the World Group next year, while the loser will drop to zonal play. The tie, which will be played on outdoor clay courts, will begin five days after the men’s singles final of the US Open, where Federer is the five-time defending champion. Against Italy, Federer would likely team up with the Stanislas Wawrinka to play singles and doubles. Federer and Wawrinka won the doubles gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.

SUSPENSION POSSIBLE

Austrian Tamira Paszek faces a provisional suspension while officials investigate whether a medial treatment she received for a back injury violated doping regulations. The Austrian anti-doping agency has asked its disciplinary committee to temporarily ban the WTA player. Last month, blood was taken from the 18-year-old for enrichment, then later re-injected in the lower part of her back. Re-injecting one’s own blood is banned under international anti-doping rules. Paszek, who is ranked 59th in the world, alerted the doping agency herself when she learned her treatment might possibly be illegal.

SON OR DAUGHTER?

Boris Becker and his wife, model Sharlely “Lilly” Kerssenberg, are expecting a child. The two were married June 12 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. “Yes, we’re going to be parents,” Becker told the German newspaper Bild. “We are really looking forward to our baby.” It will be the fourth child for Becker, who has two sons, 15-year-old Noah and 9-year-old Elias, with his ex-wife Barbara Feltus, and a 9-year-old daughter, Anna, from an extramarital affair.

SPRINGFIELD RIFLE

Tim Mayotte has been hired as a United States Tennis Association (USTA) national coach. He will facilitate coaching and training programs while working with players in the USTA Player Development program. A native of Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, who was ranked as high as number seven in the world, Mayotte will be based at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, USA. He was a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 1982 and at the Australian Open in 1981.

SENIOR STAR

Graydon Nichols is being inducted into the United States Tennis Association Northern California Hall of Fame. The induction of the 84-year-old farmer highlights a career that has catapulted him to the top of the world in senior tennis. “I never imagined that something like this would be possible for me,” Nichols said. “I was shocked to get a phone call saying that I had been selected.” Nichols has won two world singles titles, the latest at the 2007 World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand. That’s when he ended the year ranked number one in the world in his category. Not only did he go undefeated in 2007, Nichols captained the United States team to the Gardnar Mulloy Cup title, senior tennis’ version of the Davis Cup. He is currently ranked number one in the United States and number four in the world after posting a 13-1 record in 2008.

SAD NEWS

Nancy Reed, a three-time International Tennis Federation Seniors Singles World Champion and pioneer of Seniors Tennis, is dead. Reed won the women’s 40 doubles with fellow American Mary Ann Plante at the very first ITF Seniors World Championships in Brazil in 1981. She went on to win 12 World Championship doubles crowns. She captured her first singles title in Sicily in 1992 in the 55 age category. The next year, she won the 60 age category. Her third and final singles world title came in 1999, but she won the doubles world title in the 75 age category in Turkey last year. She also was a member of the United States team that won the Queens’ Cup in Turkey last October.

SPANKED

HEAD/Penn Racquet Sports has been fined USD $24,780 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for allegedly failing to report the amount of toxic chemicals released by its plant in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. According to the EPA, the sports company failed to report emissions of N-hexane and zinc compounds from its facility to EPA’s annual Toxics Release Inventory for 2007. HEAD/Penn, which is based in Connecticut, manufactures tennis, badminton, and ski equipment, and owns and operates the Phoenix facility. US federal law requires that facilities using toxic chemicals over specified amounts must file annual reports of their chemical releases with EPA and the state. Information from these reports is then compiled into a national database and made available to the public.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Los Angeles: Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan beat Benjamin Becker and Frank Moser 6-4 7-6 (2)

Stanford: Venus Williams and Serena Williams beat Yung-Jan Chan and Monica Niculescu 6-4 6-1

Istanbul: Lucie Hradecka and Renata Voracova beat Julia Goerges and Patty Schnyder 2-6 6-3 12-10 (match tiebreak)

Gstaad: Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer beat Jaroslav Levinsky and Filip Polasek 7-5 6-3

Umag: Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4 6-4

Orbetello: Paolo Lorenzi and Giancarlo Petrazzuolo beat Alessio Di Mauro and Manuel Jorquera 7-6 (5) 3-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Washington: www.leggmasontennisclassic.com/

Segovia: www.teniselespinar.com/

San Marino: www.atpsanmarino.com/

Vancouver: www.vanopen.com/

Los Angeles: www.latennischamps.com/

Montreal: http://www3.rogerscup.com/men/english/home.php

Cincinnati: www.cincytennis.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$1,402,000 Legg Mason Tennis Classic, Washington, DC, USA, hard

$150,000 ATP Open Castilla y Leon, Segovia, Spain, hard

$120,000 San Marino CEPU Open, San Marino, clay

$100,000 Odlum Brown Vancouver Open, Vancouver, Canada, hard

WTA

$700,000 LA Women’s Tennis Championships presented by Herbalife, Los Angeles, California, USA, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$3,000,000 Rogers Cup, Montreal, Canada, hard

$120,000 Internazionali del Friuli Venezia Guilia Tennis Cup Cordenons, Italy, clay

WTA

$2,000,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, hard

SENIORS

Vale Do Lobo Grand Champions CGD, Algarve, Portugal, hard

Mondays With Bob Greene: For me Roger is the greatest player ever who played the tennis game

STARS

Caroline Wozniacki beat Virginie Razzano 7-6 (5) 7-5 to win the AEGON International women’s singles in Eastbourne, Great Britain

Dmitry Tursunov beat Frank Dancovic 6-3 7-6 (5) to win the AEGON International men’s singles in Eastbourne

Tamarine Tanasugarn beat Yanina Wickmayer 6-3 7-5 to successfully defend her Ordina Open women’s crown in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

Benjamin Becker beat Raemon Sluiter 7-5 6-3 to win the Ordina Open men’s singles in ‘s-Hertogenbosch

SAYING

“When I start a tournament like Wimbledon, it is to try to win, and my feeling right now is I’m not ready to play to win.” – Rafael Nadal, withdrawing from Wimbledon and becoming only the fourth man in the Open Era to not defend his Wimbledon singles title.

“I love playing here.” – Tamarine Tanasugarn, after winning her second straight Ordina Open singles title at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands.

“That loss exhausted me mentally. I am still trying to recover.” – Novak Djokovic, on his three-set, four-hour loss to Rafael Nadal in Madrid, Spain, in mid-May.

“No girl likes to be compared to another. Ultimately, what we have in common is that we play tennis. I feel flattered that people like the way I look, but it doesn’t help you win points.” – Ana Ivanovic, who is constantly being compared to Maria Sharapova and Anna Kournikova.

“For me Roger is the greatest player ever who played the tennis game. It’s always good to see him play and win and we are going to see so much more of Federer in the future, he is going to win more grand slam tournaments.” – Bjorn Borg, picking Federer to win Wimbledon this year.

“The body of work is phenomenal and now he has got that French Open and I think he can just go on and sip Margaritas for the rest of his life.” – Martina Navratilova, on Roger Federer winning in Paris.

“I can play on grass. I just need time.” – Jelena Jankovic, after losing a first-round match at Eastbourne.

“It’s my first title on grass so that means a lot to me. I wish I could have closed it off a little bit earlier but it doesn’t matter how I won, so that is the main thing and I am happy.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after winning at Eastbourne.

“I am definitely going to try to come out, unless I am going to be on crutches. Even then I will try to come out.” – Dmitry Tursunov, on whether his ankle injury will prevent him from playing Wimbledon.

“On this surface, everything is opposite. For me, it’s too much to change in three days.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, losing her first match on grass after winning the French Open, a clay court tournament.

“It’s been a very surprising week for us because before this tournament we had only won four matches in our whole career on grass. So we’ve managed to double that this week.” – Marcin Matkowski, after teaming with Mariusz Fyrstenberg to win the men’s doubles at Eastbourne.

“We managed to beat the number one seeds and French Open champions in the first round, and then we played better and better as the week progressed.” – Mariusz Fyrstenberg.

“It’s Ralph Lauren, it has a bit of a tuxedo feel but it’s flattering. I’m having a good time with it.” – Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, about the outfit she wore to a pre-Wimbledon player party.

STAYING HOME

Because of his aching knees, Rafael Nadal became just the fourth player in the Open Era to not defend his Wimbledon singles title. Nadal announced his withdrawal after playing two exhibition matches on grass. He lost both, the first to Lleyton Hewitt, the second to Stanislas Wawrinka. “I didn’t feel terrible, but not close to my best,” the Spaniard said. “I’m just not 100 percent. I’m better than I was a couple of weeks ago, but I just don’t feel ready.” Nadal joins John Newcombe (1972), Stan Smith (1973) and Goran Ivanisevic (2002) as the only players who did not defend their Wimbledon titles in the Open Era; in 1973, Smith joined a player’s boycott against the tennis establishment. Nadal has complained about his knees since a fourth-round loss to Robin Soderling at the French Open on May 31 ended his streak of four consecutive championships at Roland Garros. “It’s not chronic,” Nadal said of his knee problems. “I can recover, for sure.”

Frenchman Gael Monfils pulled out of Wimbledon because of a wrist injury. A week earlier, he had pulled out of his scheduled match against Steve Darcis at Queen’s Club.

Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus has withdrawn from Wimbledon due to a knee injury. An Australian Open finalist in 2006, Baghdatis was carried off the court on a stretcher for the second time in nine months after injuring his knee during a match at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. He also was carried off the court on a stretcher last fall at the Open de Moselle in Metz, France, when he hurt his back.


SPOT ON TOP OPEN?

Roger Federer could reclaim the number one ranking by winning his sixth Wimbledon title. The Swiss star held the top spot in the rankings for a record 237 consecutive weeks until Rafael Nadal pushed him down to number two last August. Nadal has withdrawn from Wimbledon because of his injured knees. But anything short of a sixth Wimbledon title won’t be enough for Federer, who could actually be passed in the rankings by Andy Murray. If he became the first Brit to win the men’s singles since Fred Perry in 1936, Murray would move up to number two in the rankings behind Nadal, but no higher.

SICK CALL

Ivan Ljubicic fell heavily in his match at the Eastbourne International, injuring his ankle. Racing to the net to reach a delicate shot by his opponent, Fabrice Santoro, Ljubicic skidded on the grass, fell and cried out while clutching his left ankle. Santoro dropped his racquet and ran to the court-side freezer to get bags of ice, which he then applied to Ljubicic’s ankle while officials summoned the trainer. Ljubicic had won the first set 6-3 but was 2-4 down when he fell.

Marion Bartoli is still in the Wimbledon women’s singles despite suffering a leg injury in the semifinals at the AEGON International tournament in Eastbourne. Bartoli had lost the first set to Virginie Razzano when she asked for a trainer. Her thigh was treated and strapped, but, after losing the first game of the second set to love, she retired from the match.

SLUITER HISTORY

Although he lost the title match, Raemon Sluiter made history by becoming the lowest-ranked player to reach an ATP World Tour final. Ranked number 866 in the world, Sluiter gained entry into the grass-court tournament in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, via a wild card. It was the fourth final for the Dutchman in his career, all coming on his home soil. And when he fell to Germany’s Benjamin Becker 7-5 6-3, Sluiter still was left seeking his first ATP World Tour title. Becker was only the second qualifier to reach a final this season and the first qualifier to win the Ordina Open.

SAFINA SLAYER

There’s something about Tamarine Tanasugarn when she plays the Ordina Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. Just ask top-ranked Dinara Safina. Tanasugarn upset Safina for the second straight year at the grass-court warm-up to Wimbledon. A year ago the veteran Thai player beat Safina in the final. This year, the 32-year-old Tanasugarn stopped Safina in the semis 7-5 7-5 before beating 19-year-old Yanina Wickmayer 6-3 7-5 to retain her championship.

SPORTS RADIO

Aces, a one-hour radio show dedicated to tennis, has begun broadcasting in Toronto, Canada, and on the Internet just in time for Wimbledon. Listeners in t4he Toronto area can tune into FAN 590 AM on the radio, while tennis fans around the world can listen online at www.fan590.com. Rogie Lajoie and Olympic tennis broadcaster Michael Cvitkovic will host Aces, which began by interviewing 10-time Grand Slam tournament singles champion Serena Williams, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour president Stacey Allaster and Toronto Globe and Mail tennis columnist Tom Tebbutt. Aces is currently scheduled for broadcast August 6 and 13.

STARS SHINE IN LONDON

The Ralph Lauren presents the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Pre-Wimbledon Player Party brought out the stars, and not just the tennis variety. Among the players in attendance at the Kensington Roof Gardens were Venus and Serena Williams, Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva, Ana Ivanovic, Anne Keothavong, Jelena Jankovic, Victoria Azarenka, Dominika Cibulkova, Alize Cornet, Anna Chakvetadze, Alisa Kleybanova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Sabine Lisicki and Gisela Dulko. Besides the host, Sir Richard Branson, other celebrities in attendance included Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child fame, as well as Branson’s son, Sam Branson. There was even a royal presence, with Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, attending with her two daughters, the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

SWINGING AWAY

Three former champions, including two-time defending king Fabrice Santoro, will compete in this year’s Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. Also in the field will be Robby Ginepri, the 2003 winner, and 2002 champion Taylor Dent. The ATP World Tour event is the only professional grass-court tournament played in the United States and begins the day after the Wimbledon men’s final.

SENIOR CHAMPIONS

Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier and Michael Chang, three former champions of the LA Tennis Open, will play in featured legends matches at the 83rd annual Los Angeles tournament that begins July 27. Edberg won a gold medal during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics on the same UCLA courts that now stage the LA Tennis Open. He also won the tournament in 1990. Chang captured titles in 1996 and 2000, while Courier won in 1997.

SLUR

Brydan Klein of Australia has been fined USD $13,920 and suspended by Tennis Australia for using a racial slur against his South African opponent, Raven Klaasan, during their qualifying match at the AEGON International in Eastbourne, Great Britain. The ATP tour said in a statement that the 19-year-old Klein has been given the maximum penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and added that it is carrying out a fuller investigation which could result in an additional penalty for aggravated behavior. Tennis Australia said it has suspended Klein from the Australian Institute of Sport Pro Tour Program and could impose further sanctions after an investigation. Klein, the 2007 Australian Open junior champion, called Klaasan a “kaffir” and spat in the direction of Klaasan’s coach and another South African player. Use of the term “kaffir” is illegal in South Africa and is regarded as a gross racial insult, especially to black South Africans. Klassen is one of South Africa’s few black players and has represented his country in Davis Cup. Klein beat Klassen 6-7 (2) 7-6 (3) 7-6 (4) before losing in the second round of the main draw to Janko Tipsarevic.

SWITCH

Bjorn Borg won five consecutive Wimbledons. Now he’s trying to pick the men’s singles champion at Wimbledon for the second straight year. A year ago, Borg picked Rafael Nadal to win the grass-court major, which the Spaniard did. This year, Borg is picking Roger Federer. And he did it before Nadal withdrew from the tournament. “Coming into Wimbledon I think he is relieved in a way that he won Paris, because that was one of his main ambitions, goals to try and win Paris,” said Borg. “So coming into Wimbledon he feels very confident, he has equaled (Pete) Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slams.”

SEEKING HEAVIER PENALTY

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is considering an appeal from India, which is seeking a heavier penalty against Australia for forfeiting last month’s Davis Cup competition. The ITF said the appeal from the All India Tennis Association (AITA) will be discussed at a board meeting on July 15. Australia was fined USD $10,000 after refusing to travel to Chennai, India, for the zonal tie for safety reasons, but the ITF’s Davis Cup Committee decided not to ban Australia from the 2010 competition. India also wants the ITF to rule that the next two ties between the two nations should be played in India. Security for sports teams in the sub-continent had been questioned after the Sri Lanka cricket team’s bus was ambushed in Lahore, Pakistan, in March. That followed militant attacks in Mumbai, India, last November that killed 166 people.

SITTING PRETTY

The global credit crunch hasn’t affected Wimbledon. The 2,500 Centre Court debentures that were offered last month were snapped up at USD $43,830 each. Each debenture holder will receive one Centre Court ticket for every day of the two-week long Championships from 2011 through 2015. “We were heavily over-subscribed,” said All England Club chief executive Ian Ritchie. “We were very pleasantly delighted with the response. With a new roof over Centre Court, play is guaranteed there regardless of the weather.

START ANEW

It is a tournament Amelie Mauresmo would just as soon forget. The former Wimbledon champion squandered five set points in each tiebreak as she lost a quarterfinal match to Ekaterina Makarova 7-6 (8) 7-6 (13) at the Eastbourne International. “It was a very cruel match,” said Mauresmo, who received a warning from the umpire when she vented her frustration by hitting a ball high over a line of trees and into the street. “This one wasn’t for me, I guess.”

SET FOR WIMBLEDON

Could it be that Andy Murray is hoping his clothes will help him duplicate Fred Perry’s success at Wimbledon? Murray will play in a retro outfit at this year’s grass court Grand Slam tournament. The new clothes were designed specifically for Wimbledon by clothing maker Fred Perry. The company said the clothes were inspired by the shirts that Perry designed for clients and friends such as John F. Kennedy and Billie Jean King. Perry, who died in 1995, was the last Briton to win at Wimbledon, capturing three consecutive titles in 1934-36 and completing a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open in 1935. A week ago, Murray became the first Briton to win the grass-court tournament at Queen’s Club since Bunny Austin in 1938.

SURFACE CLAY

It is no surprise that Italy has decided to play November’s Fed Cup final against the United States on clay courts in Reggio Calabria, a city on the southern tip of Italy’s boot-shaped outline. The outdoor event will be held at the Rocco Polimeni club on November 7-8. Even on clay, the Americans are favorites since both Venus and Serena Williams said they hope to play in the final after missing the previous rounds.

SKIPPING DAVIS CUP

When Russia takes on Israel in a Davis Cup quarterfinal next month, Russia’s top player, Nikolay Davydenko, will be missing. Russian team captain Shamil Tarpishchev said he had allowed Davydenko to skip Russia’s first two ties in this year’s competition. The top-ranked Russians will still have Marat Safin, Igor Andreev, Dmitry Tursunov and Mikhail Youzhny for the July 10-12 encounter in Tel Aviv, Israel.

SUCKER-PUNCHED

A 20-year-old UCLA tennis player was in a coma after being punched following a country music concert in Dallas, Texas, USA. Jeffrey Fleming was attending a Rascal Flatts concert with friends when a man hit him. Fleming’s family says he was sucker-punched as he was about to catch a taxi after the concert. The blow knocked Fleming to the ground where his head hit the concrete pavement. The attacker and others ran away.

SOONERS COACH

The new men’s tennis coach at the University of Oklahoma is Andy Roddick’s brother. John Roddick was hired to take over the Sooners team that had been coached for the past 22 years by John Lockwood. Athletic director Joe Castiglione says Roddick has the ability to recruit top players and a reputation for being able to develop them. For the past seven years he has been operating a performance boarding academy for tennis players in Austin, Texas. John also helped coach his brother Andy, who is still ranked in the top 10 in the world.

SPONSOR

The 83rd annual LA Tennis Open in Los Angeles, California, USA, has a new sponsor. The Farmers Insurance Group of Companies has reached an agreement with the Southern California Tennis Association to become the presenting sponsor of the ATP World Tour 250 and Olympus US Open Series men’s event. French Open semifinalist Fernando Gonzalez leads a group of early entrants to the 28-player field. Also entering the tournament are Tommy Hass, Radek Stapanek, Marat Safin, Marcos Baghdatis, Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey. In addition, a special exhibition match will pit Pete Sampras against Safin in a rematch of the 2000 US Open won by the Russian.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Eastbourne (women): Akgul Amanmuradova and Ai Sugiyama beat Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs 6-4 6-3

Eastbourne (men): Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski beat Travis Parrott and Filip Polasek 6-4 6-4

s-Hertogenbosch (men): Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 7-6 (3) 6-7 (8) 10-5 (match tiebreak)

s-Hertogenbosch (women): Sara Errani and Flavia Pennetta beat Michaella Krajicek and Yanina Wickmayer 6-4 5-7 13-11 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Wimbledon: www.wimbledon.org

Cuneo: www.countrycuneo.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

The Championships (first week), Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

The Championships (second week), Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

WTA

$100,000 Cuneo ITF Tournament, Cuneo, Italy, clay

US Open Day 5: Roger Federer Is Not Worried About His Game

NEW YORK – Despite flashes of flaws in his once-perfect game, Roger Federer moved a step closer Friday to his fifth consecutive US Open title.

Federer, playing in his first Grand Slam tournament in more than four years as anything other than as the number one seed, defeated Thiago Alves, a qualifier from Brazil, 6-3 7-5 6-4.

Friday produced yet another big upset in the women’s singles as Katarina Srebotnik knocked off third-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 6-7 (1) 6-3. That came a day after the top seed, Ana Ivanovic, fell to qualifier Julie Coin.

“I think she served better than I did,” Kuznetsova said of Srebotnik. “She served so many aces. I had many chances, especially in the first set, but somehow I overdid it.”

Although Federer has moved into the third round on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center without dropping a set, against Alves he was shaky on his volleys and committed a bundle of unforced errors.

“I wasn’t comfortable at net from the start,” Federer said. “And in the second set, when it got tough, he dug out some shots and everything seemed to go against me on those break points.”

Against his outclassed opponent, Federer hit 54 winners. But he also had 46 unforced errors as he repeatedly missed the mark with his ground strokes and found the net with his volleys.

At times Federer appeared hesitant and his play was sloppy. He was caught in no-man’s land several times, and time and again found the net with his shots. He had problems closing out service breaks, allowing his opponent, a qualifier playing in only his second US Open, to stay around longer than most of the fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium had expected.

But when he needed a point, Federer showed he still is the player who has won 12 Grand Slam tournament titles. He never looked as if he was in trouble, and for the most part he held serve easily, using his well-placed serve to gain easy points.

“I was never really in danger, so it was actually pretty good for me,” he said. “I knew the longer the match would go the more tired he would get, so it was a good match for me.”

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On match point, Federer whipped a half-volley forehand cross-court that landed on the sideline near the far corner. As the tournament’s defending champion raised his hand in triumph and the umpire began to intone “game, set and match,” Alves challenged the call and, smiling broadly, appeared to apologize to Federer for doing so.

The two stood at the net and watched together as a replay showed the ball landed squarely on the line. Federer again waved to the crowd. And again the crowd responded with a cheer.

“After everything I’ve got through already, these are the early round matches, so it will only get better from here,” Federer said. “Yeah, so I’m really happy to be playing well. Everybody’s cheering me on, so it’s a nice feeling.”

Federer says he’s not worried about his game, despite what he reads and hears in the media.

“I guess we’re talking about it today, and if I win the title you forget about it again. That’s usually how it goes,” he said.

Keeping pace with Federer was third-seeded Novak Djokovic, who advanced to the third round with a 7-6 (8) 6-4 6-4 victory over hard-hitting Robert Kendrick. Federer and Djokovic could meet in the semifinals.

Among the other early winners Friday included fifth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, Fernando Gonzalez, Nicolas Almagro and Dmitry Tursunov.

In some of the other women’s singles played Friday, second-seeded Jelena Jankovic stopped China’s Zheng Jie 7-5 7-5 for a spot in the fourth round. She was joined by fifth-seeded Elena Dementieva, a 6-3 6-4 winner over Britain’s Anne Keothavong 6-3 6-4; Li Na of China, who ousted Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova 6-1 4-6 6-2; and Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who eliminated 14th-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-4 6-4.

Mondays with Bob Greene: Nadal Beats Federer in Hamburg

STARS

Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer 7-5 6-7 (3) 6-3 to win the Hamburg Masters in Hamburg, Germany.

Jelena Jankovic defended her Italian Open title by beating Alize Cornet 6-2 6-2 in Rome

Michael Stich beat Marc-Kevin Goellner 6-2 7-6 (4) to win the BlackRock Tour of Champions in Hamburg, Germany.

Eduardo Schwank beat Igor Kunitsyn 6-2 6-2 to win a $132,523 ATP Challenger event in Bordeaux, France.

Gael Monfils beat Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (2) 7-6 (6) to win a $132,523 ATP Challenger event in Marrakech, Morocco.

SAYINGS

“I am happy that I won and that I beat the number one in the world (Roger Federer) and the best player of the year (Novak Djokovic), and that should give me some more confidence for the French Open.” – Rafael Nadal, after beating both Djokovic and Federer en route to winning at Hamburg.

“I wish I could have won today, then I would have an even better feeling.” – Roger Federer, after losing to Nadal in the Hamburg final.

“My goal and dream is to become Number One in the world, and at the moment I think I’m on the right track. If I continue like this, I have a big chance.” – Jelena Jankovic, who beat qualifier Alize Cornet in the Rome final.

“Right now I’m just disappointed. I couldn’t do my best tennis today because of my physical condition, because I was tired because of my six matches before.” -Alize Cornet, who came through qualifying before losing in the final in Rome.

“I think we have a great future … I’m looking forward now to Roland Garros. I think this is a great boost.” – Nenad Zimonjic, who teamed with Daniel Nestor to win the doubles at the Hamburg Masters, beating twins Bob and Mike Bryan in the final.

“I had a lot of great opportunities, and I made a lot of opportunities for myself. But then I made a mistake.” – Venus Williams, after losing to Jelena Jankovic at Rome.

“I really struggled with my intensity today, and obviously that caused a lot of errors. It’s something I have to work on. Now I have ten days to prepare for the French Open.” – Ana Ivanovic, after losing early at Rome.

“I don’t expect this to cause any problems with my preparation for the French. It just happened all of a sudden.” – Serena Williams, who pulled out the Italian Open when her back froze up while warming up for her quarterfinal match.

SAYONARA

In a shocking end to a short but highly successful career, Justine Henin retired from tennis while ranked number one in the world. The 25-year-old Belgian has won seven Grand Slam singles titles in her career and 10 tournaments in 2007. She had been in a slump this year, her last title coming at her home tournament in Antwerp, Belgium, in February. Henin’s retirement came just one year after another Belgian, Kim Clijsters, retired from the sport at the age of 23. Clijsters had won a Grand Slam title and had also reached the number one ranking.


SPECIAL LADY

“I thought long about this. I started thinking about it late last year. I was at the end of the road. I leave with my head held high.” – Justine Henin, announcing her immediate retirement from tennis.

“It is rare that an athlete leaves at the very top of her game in this day and age, but Justine has always played by her own rules.” – Larry Scott, WTA Tour chief executive.

“Justine is an extraordinary player, a special person and a true champion in both tennis and in life.” – Billie Jean King.

“Her victory at the 2004 Athens Olympics was Belgium’s only gold medal at the Games and we are sorry that she won’t be able to defend her title in Beijing.” – Francesco Ricci Bitti, International Tennis Federation (ITF) president.

“It is a new beginning for me. I feel like I already lived three lives. I gave the sport all I could and took everything it could give me.” – Justine Henin.

“I couldn’t imagine deciding out of the blue to retire, especially if I was number one. I would prefer to take a year off if it was all getting too much for me.” – Roger Federer.

“She gave me a world of trouble.” – Serena Williams.

“She’s 25 years old and she’s achieved so much in her career. If I was 25 and I’d won so many Grand Slams, I’d quit too.” – Maria Sharapova.

“I take this decision without the least bit of regrets. It is my life as a woman that starts now.” – Justine Henin.

“It can sometimes be very difficult, many years playing and traveling around the world. Being there, being at the top, can be very difficult. We will miss her.” – Jelena Jankovic.

“She was a great champion. She always challenged herself to play her best tennis no matter what the circumstances. She was just a real fighter.” – Venus Williams.

“(Tennis loses) another champion. She was a great player and she achieved so much. She bought a lot to the women’s game.” – Ana Ivanovic.

“I don’t understand it. She was number one and she retires … Maybe it’s a woman thing. I don’t understand women.” – Goran Ivanisevic.

“It’s a lot of pressure to keep playing at that level. Certain players, like Bjorn Borg, retired early, and you can’t blame them.” – Pat Cash.

“She was one of the most complete players of the last 10 years, winning seven Grand Slams. She was small compared to the other girls, but she had a very complete game. She made up for her size with her tennis.” – Michael Stich.

“At the end of the match in Berlin, (retirement) all of a sudden was there as something evident. I decided to stop fooling myself and accept it.” Justine Henin.

“She never craved fame and money. All she wanted to do was play and win.” – Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin’s coach.

“This is the end of a child’s dream.” – Justine Henin.

SITTING ON TOP

Due to circumstances not of her own making, Maria Sharapova is sitting on top of women’s tennis today. When Ana Ivanovic failed to reach the final of the German Open, the Serb lost her world number two ranking to Sharapova, who at the time had not played since losing a match in April. Then, when Justine Henin shocked the sport by announcing her immediate retirement, Henin was replaced as number one in the world by Sharapova.

SURGES

Rafael Nadal became only the third player since 1990 to win the three ATP Masters Series clay-court tournaments in the same year, joining Gustavo Kuerten and Marcelo Rios, when he defeated Roger Federer in Hamburg, Germany. A year ago, Federer had won Hamburg while snapping Nadal’s 81-match winning streak. This year, Federer took a 5-1 lead in the first set, only to see Nadal win six consecutive games. Federer led the second set 5-2 before Nadal rallied, forcing the world’s number one player into a tiebreak, which Federer won. It was Nadal who jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the third set before finally winning the match 7-5 6-7 (3) 6-3. Since April 2005, Nadal has won 108 of 110 matches on clay.

SIZZLING WEEK

Alize Comet came out of qualifying to reach her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Tier One final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. And while she lost the title match to defending champion Jelena Jankovic, Comet became only the second qualifier to reach a Tour singles final this year. The Frenchwoman, at 18 years, 3 months, had been seeking to become the youngest Tour champion this year. The first female qualifier to reach the final at the Foro Italico in the Open Era, Comet beat third-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova before fifth-seeded Serena Williams withdrew from the quarterfinals with a back problem. Comet then advanced with a semifinal win over sixth-seeded Anna Chakvetadze.

SURVIVE FIRE

Twins Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana of Thailand, with wet towels wrapped around their faces, helped the wife and son of Argentine doubles specialist Lucas Arnold Ker escape a smoky fire that broke out on the third floor of the tournament hotel in Bordeaux, France. The twins, top-seeded in the doubles in the Challenger Series tournament, fell in the quarterfinals to Tomasz Bednarek and Dusan Vemic 6-2 7-6 (5). South Africa’s Rik De Voest fled the fire by crawling on his hands and knees. Argentine Eduardo Schwank, whose room was destroyed in the blaze, lost his passport, equipment, clothes, laptop computer and his Rome Challenger winner’s prize money in the fire. Schwank went on to win the Bordeaux tournament.

SOME WEEK

First, Maria Sharapova reached a compromise with the WTA Tour and did a promotional photo shoot before the Italian Open began. The women’s tour had threatened to fine her $300,000 if she refused. Then the Russian pulled out of the semifinals at Rome because of a strained left calf, but said the injury wouldn’t affect her preparations for the French Open. And, thanks to a series of events, Sharapova wound up the week as the number one player in the world.

SAMPRAS DEBUT DELAYED

Pete Sampras won’t make his debut on the BlackRock Tour of Champions circuit until June 19, one month than originally scheduled. That’s because the senior event in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was changed until next month.

SANIA OUT?

India’s top player, Sania Mirza, may be forced to skip the French Open. Her father, Imran Mirza, said his 21-year-old daughter, currently ranked number 33 in the world, has not yet fully recovered from wrist surgery performed in April. The 21-year-old Sania is expected to return to the tour at the $200,000 DES Classic in Birmingham, England, next month.

STRAIGHT IN

When Anne Keothavong won an International Tennis Federation tournament in Jounieh, Lebanon, she ended up qualifying for Wimbledon. The tournament title boosted Keothavong up to number 104 in the world rankings, enough for her to become the first British woman to automatically qualify for Wimbledon since 1999. “I thought I was going to withdraw from the tournament because of all the problems in Lebanon,” Keothavong said. “I was ready to get on a bus to Syria, but five minutes before I was due on court for my quarterfinal they told us that the border was closed and there was no way out.” The rest is history.

STILL SWINGING

Once ranked as high as number four in the world, Jelena Dokic won her second consecutive tournament on the comeback trail. Dokic beat Patricia Mayr 6-3 6-1 to capture a $25,000 clay-court event in Caserta, Italy. The week before, Dokic won a $25,000 tournament on clay in Florence, Italy.

SWISS FLAG

Roger Federer wants to celebrate his 27th birthday on August 8 by carrying the Swiss flag in the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games. “It’s my birthday on the day of the opening ceremony,” Federer said. “Maybe I will carry the flag again for Switzerland. I’d be very honored.”

SPOTLIGHT UNDER THE LIGHTS

The Australian Open women’s singles final will be played at night starting next year. The men’s singles title match has been a night event since 2005. Defending champion Maria Sharapova says the cooler conditions at night will make for a better match. The U.S. Open women’s singles title match is also held at night.

SPECIAL INVITATION

Ending his career where he won three times, Gustavo Kuerten was given a wild-card entry into this year’s French Open. The Brazilian clay court specialist, once ranked number one in the world, won Roland Garros in 1997, 2000 and 2001. Other wild cards into the men’s draw went to French players Eric Prodon, Olivier Patience, Jeremy Chardy, Adrian Mannarino and Jonathan Eysseric. French players given spots in the women’s draw are Olivia Sanchez, Severine Bremond, Stephanie Foretz, Mathilde Johansson, Youlia Fedossova and Violette Huck. Other wild cards were won by Americans Madison Brengle and Wayne Odesnik, and Australians Robert Smeets and Samantha Stosur.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES

It’s a wonder members of the University of Arkansas women’s tennis team can speak to each other. The Lady Razorbacks include Aurelija Miseviciute of Lithuania, Audrey Bordeleau of Canada, Maryori Franco of Colombia, Ela Kaluder of Croatia, Nanar Airapetian of Germany, Delia Damaschin of Romania, Fien Maes of Belgium, Anouk Tigu of the Netherlands and Melissa Hoffmeister, who comes from Joplin, Missouri, about a 90-minute drive from the campus in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The coach is Michael Hegarty, a native of Australia.

SWITCHING BROADCASTERS

After a 25-year run, the USA Network is losing its US Open cable television coverage to ESPN and Tennis Channel, beginning in 2009. The six-year deal was announced by the U.S. Tennis Association. ESPN now owns TV rights to parts of all four Grand Slam tournaments. The broadcast network rights are still held by CBS, which has a contract through 2011. Besides the US Open, the new contract means ESPN2 will also be the lead cable carrier for the US Open Series, the circuit of hard-court tournaments leading up to the US Open.

SHOWING OFF

Florida drivers may be able to show their love for tennis in the near future. The Florida legislature passed a bill enabling drivers to support tennis through a new specialty license plate. The money raised from the sale of the plates would be used for grants to nonprofit organizations operating youth tennis programs and adaptive programs for special populations of all ages, as well as for building, renovating and maintaining quality public tennis facilities. The tennis plates, with the phrase “Play Tennis” on the bottom, should be available starting October 1.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Doubles Champions

Hamburg: Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor beat Bob and Mike Bryan 6-4 5-7 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Rome: Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung beat Iveta Benesova and Janette Husarova 7-6 (5) 6-3

Bordeaux: Diego Hartfield and Sergio Roitman beat Tomasz Bednarek and Dusan Vemic 6-4 6-4

Marrakech: Frederico Gil and Florin Mergea beat James Aukland and Jamie Delgado 6-2 6-3

SITES TO SURF

Duesseldorf: www.arag-world-team-cup.com

Poertschach: www.atppoertschach.info

Casablanca: www.frmtennis.com

Istanbul: www.istanbulcup.com

Strasbourg: www.internationaux-de-strasbourg.com

French Open (Roland Garros): www.rolandgarros.com/

French Tennis Federation: www.fft.fr/portail/

Maria Sharapova: www.mariasharapova.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP

$1,500,000 ARAG ATP World Team Championship, Duesseldorf, Germany, clay

$576,866 The Hypo Group Tennis International 2008, Poertschach, Austria, clay

$576,866 Grand Prix Hassan II, Casablanca, Morocco, clay

WTA TOUR

$200,000 Istanbul Cup, Istanbul, Turkey, clay

$175,000 Internationaux de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$11,034,805 Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay

WTA TOUR

$10,891,368 Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay

Dokic and Massu Take First Steps to Former Glory

Last week on the challenger circuit, two former top 10 players struggling with injuries and motivation took their first real steps to reclaiming their former glory, while two players on the men’s side continued their hot streaks on the circuit.

Jelena Dokic of Australia has had more than her share of personal problems. The former world No. 4 has defected from her family, switched nationalities several times, and attempted multiple half-hearted comeback attempts. However, it looks like that Dokic is serious this time around after winning her first event in six years at the $25,000 event in Florence, Italy, dominating Lucie Hradecka of Czech Republic 6-1, 6-3 in the final. The win moves Dokic up to No. 325 in the rankings (after just four tournaments) and she has contacted the All England Club for a qualifying wild card into Wimbledon.

At the $75,000 event in Zagreb, Croatia, Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden won her first title of the year by beating former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Severine Bremond of France 7-6, 6-2. The 24-year-old Swede, who has recorded high-profile scalps over Anna Chakvetadze and Marion Bartoli this year, used her aggressive groundstrokes to wear Bremond down throughout the match. Despite the loss, Bremond has been on a hot streak as of late with a 10-4 record on the challenger circuit in her last four events.

At the $50,000 tournament in Jounieh, Lebanon, players had to endure the fighting that has plagued the country, confining them to their hotel rooms and the tennis courts for the week. Anne Keothavong of Great Britain weathered her surroundings and won the first clay court of her career, defeating Lourdes Dominguez-Lino of Spain 6-4, 6-1. The win moved Keothavong up to a career high ranking of No. 102 and allows her direct entry into Wimbledon this summer. The last British player to get direct entry into Wimbledon was Samantha Smith in 1999.

In other results on the women’s side, Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium won the $50,000 event in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. Petra Cetkovska of Czech Republic prevailed at the $50,000 challenger in Bucharest, Romania, and Tomoko Yonemura of Japan won at the $50,000 challenger in Fukuoka, Japan. Ksenia Milevskaya of Belarus won at the $25,000 challenger in Antalya, Turkey, Yan Ze-Xie of China took home the winners trophy at the $25,000 event in Changwon, Korea, and Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia prevailed at the $25,000 event in Irapuato, Mexico.

On the men’s side, it’s been a while since we heard from Nicolas Massu. The former top 10 player and reigning Olympic gold medalist has been struggling with injuries, but took a step in the right direction by winning the $30,000 event in Rijeka, Croatia. His 6-2, 6-2 win in the final over Christophe Rochus of Belgium gives the Chilean his first title in over two years.

Ivan Miranda of Peru is continuing to ride his hot streak on the challenger circuit with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Carsten Ball of Australia at the $50,000 challenger in Tunica, Mississippi. Miranda has now reached the championship round in three of the last four challengers he has played. His experience clearly was a factor against Ball, who was competing in the first challenger final of his career.

Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil is a name that has repeatedly come up in this column, but it’s only a matter of time before he moves to the ATP Tour on a full-time basis. He won his fourth challenger title of the year (and third in a row) at the $42,500 challenger in Rabat, Morocco, rolling over Martin Vasallo-Arguello of Argentina 6-2, 6-2. Expect Bellucci to potentially do some damage at Roland Garros in just a few weeks.

In other results on the men’s side, Andreas Beck won the $42,500 challenger in Dresden, Germany, while Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia won the $30,000 event in Telde, Spain. Jiri Vanek also won the $42,500 event in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Fabrice Santoro of France highlights the challenger circuit this week as the top seed at the $75,000 event in Bordeaux, France, while Gael Monfis of France leads the way at the $75,000 challenger in Marrakech, Morocco. Several $50,000 events will also be contested this week; Robert Kendrick of the United States is the top seed at the one in Bradenton, Florida, Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei will lead the way in New Delhi, India, and Denis Gremelmayr of Germany takes top billing in Zagreb, Croatia. Oscar Hernandez of Spain is top seed at the $42,500 event in Aarhus, Denmark, while Santiago Ventura of Spain is the top seed at the $30,000 challenger in San Remo, Italy.

On the women’s side, Petra Cetkovska of Czech Republic is top seed at the $50,000 event in Saint Gaudens, France. Melanie South of Great Britain leads the way at the $50,000 challenger in Kurume, Japan, Tetiana Luzhanska of Ukraine is the top seed at the $25,000 challenger in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Jorgelina Cravero of Argentina takes top billing at the $25,000 event in Caserta, Italy. Finally, Renata Voracova of Czech Republic is top seed at the $25,000 event in Szczecin, Poland.

Starace Lives Up to Top Billing; Baltacha Breaks Through

The challengers circuit was graced with the presence of a top 50 player on the men’s side who hoped to get an early start to the clay court season, while several women followed up their victories on the challenger circuit last week with repeats this week.

The clay court season is about to get underway next week, but two players have already shown their intentions to leave a mark on it this season. At the $100,000 event in Napoli, Italy, Potito Starace won a nail-biting final in front of his local fans by beating Marcos Daniel of Brazil 6-4 4-6 7-6. Daniel was coming of a win at the $125,000 tournament in Bogota, Colombia last month, and came within two points of the biggest win of his career against the 36th ranked Starace. However, Starace fought back from 5-6 down in the final set and won the last three points of the tiebreak to win his first title of the year. Two other prominent players, French Open finalist Gullermo Coria and Olympic gold medalist Nicolas Massu, took part in the tournament, but failed to get past the first round.

At the $35,000 tournament in St. Brieuc, France, Christophe Rochus of Belgium took the title with a 6-2 4-6 6-1 over Marcel Granollers of Spain. Granollers has had a fine start on the clay this year by winning a challenger event in Morocco and reaching the quarterfinals at the ATP event in Acapulco, Mexico, but ran out of gas in the end against the experienced Belgian. Rochus is a long way from his career high ranking of #38, but winning his first title in three years is certainly a step back in the right direction.

There inevitably comes a time for any good player to graduate from the futures circuit, and it seems that Rui Machado of Portugal has more than worn out his welcome at this level. His win at the $15,000 event in Loja, Spain, is his fifth futures title of 2008.

On the women’s side, British tennis has been in dire straits for almost two decades now. The last woman to be in the top 100 was Samantha Smith in 1999. However, Elena Baltacha demonstrated this week that she might be ready to finally break through at the level. She won her second challenger title in a row, and the biggest of her career, at the $75,000 event in Torhout, Belgium, with a 6-7 6-1 6-4 over Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic. Benesova has also been a hot streak as of late, having won the $50,000 event in Latina, Italy last week. Her characteristically fragile nerves got the better of her though as she was broken in the final set at 4-4, allowing Baltacha to serve out the win.

Magdalena Rybarikova also won her second title in a row at the $50,000 tournament in Patras, Greece, defeating Great Britain’s Anne Keothavong 6-3 7-5 in the final. The win puts her inside of the top 150 for the first time in her career, and with minimal points to defend until late this fall, she looks poised to break through into the top 100 by then.

After struggling with injuries and poor form through 2007, Kristina Barrois of Germany has finally turned her game around. She won her second title in a row at the $25,000 event in Hamburg, Germany, taking the title when Ana Vrljic of Croatia retired with a leg injury after losing the first set 6-2. The win puts Barrois back in the top 200 and guarantees her spot in the qualifying for Roland Garros this spring.

In other challenger news, Betima Jozami of Argentina won the $25,000 event in Civatechia, Italy, and Raquel Kops-Jones of the United States won the $25,000 event in Pelham, Alabama.

The spotlight turns over to the women at the $75,000 event in Monzon, Spain, where American Lilia Osterloh is the top seed. Martina Muller of Germany is the top seed at the $25,000 tournament in Biarritz, France, while Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada hopes to continue her strong form as the top seed at the $25,000 event in Jackson, Mississippi. On the men’s side, professional tennis finally returns to Puerto Rico with former Australian Open finalist Rainer Schuttler playing top seed at the $50,000 event in Humacao. Albert Montanes of Spain is also the top seed at the $35,000 event in Monza, Italy.