There is no doubt what the biggest story in tennis has been this week. Elena Dementieva, the Russian Ice Queen, has left us almost as abruptly as she arrived.
Dementieva strove to show us that, after Kournikova, Russian women could actually compete at the top of the game and weren’t there to earn the WTA megabucks in sponsorship and marketing campaigns for their pinups.
And compete she did. She never lifted a major and many of her fans claim she is the greatest player of the last generation not to do so. But she does own an Olympic Gold as well as a Silver and that’s more than many could ever hope to achieve.
But we know how well she has done. We have followed her intense battles with Serena Williams over the years and admired her elegance and shot selection as she graced the worldwide courts in search of fame and glory.
What is very intriguing is her decision to hang her racquet up at 29. She is citing motherhood as her new dream. And few can deny her that wish. But this action hasn’t always been the case, and what does it mean about modern sport and the athletes that compete?
It is a well-argued cliché that the tennis tour has evolved in to a physically and mentally demanding money monster which can suck the life out of the most physically astute of athletes. To keep up with the Serenas and the Rogers you have to fight for every available ranking point and, in the case of many players, play through injury for fear of falling too far behind in the tables and the seedings for the major tournaments.
One shocking statistic following the early exits of Fernando Verdasco and Thomas Berdych this week was that they were both competing in their TWENTY SIXTH ATP Tournament of the year. No wonder they looked exhausted.
It makes it almost impossible for a lady chasing the Top 10 in the rankings to spend near enough as much time with her newborn kids as she would like. Kim Clijsters doesn’t play as many tournaments as she used to for this reason. But then she is good enough to play the big guns without as much practice anyway. Many others are not.
It mirrors the fight between career and family women in the twenty-first century and the usual debates over how to juggle work and children arise once more.
But what about the other factors of modern sport? Dementieva reached two Grand Slam finals, two WTA Championships semi finals and was ranked at No. 3 in the world at her peak. She won 16 WTA Titles, a WTA Championships in doubles and amassed a career record of 575-271 (singles) and 152-85 (doubles). A good record, yet not the greatest. How much did she earn for her troubles in her twelve years on the tour? Answer: $14,117,437. And that was just prize money. She would have earned a bucket-load more through endorsements.
The modern sportsman earns so much in their short careers that they can afford to cut their terms short and not have to worry about their futures. This wasn’t the case even fifteen-twenty years ago where only the best of the best could expect to live over-comfortably after retirement, unless they chose to go in to coaching/punditry/another line of work of course.
In sports like American football, rugby, baseball and football, stars earn obscene amounts of money for a day’s work which makes them millionaires at such tender ages. The stories of when players go wrong are endless but it also means that they can almost pick and choose when to play without having to worry about their finances.
As fans we would never dream of finishing early as all we want is to experience being a top tennis pro for as long as possible. But imagine if you’re knees were starting to give you great pain and you were already sitting on $15m. Would you go on?
In recent years we have seen many early retirements in tennis. And the trend goes back too. From Bjorn Borg to Clijsters and Justine Henin we have been robbed of top talent at an “early age” but what does it say of those three that they later returned?
Now we also have Taylor Dent, James Blake, Rennae Stubbs and Lleyton Hewitt talking of possible quits.
Has Dementieva made a rash decision? Will she regret her choices and look to hit the comeback trail in two years’ time? Of course it will be harder for her being in the 30+ threshold by then but just look at Kimiko Date Krumm and you really do have to think twice about it.
It is not just tennis either. In football, top stars like Carlos Tevez have voiced exasperation at having to adapt to foreign cultures so often and all the travelling involved in modern day sport. They have voiced quit sentiments. Eric Cantona left early to become a film star, as did Vinnie Jones, while Ian Wright quit at the peak of his powers to chase a career in British television. Gavin Henson and Danny Cipriani of rugby fame have recently had spells out of the game to spend time with their celebrity families and chase television ventures. While in Formula One Michael Schumacher left and later returned to the sport.
Is this a trend that will continue as the years go by where stars become disillusioned with life in, and then out of, sport? Will we continue to be left shocked at the sudden departures of our favourites and then relieved later on as they announce their return? Will this make the sport more exciting?
It certainly fits in with the “instant gratification needs” of Western Society in these days of post-modern thinking. Jump in, earn a few million, try to win a Slam, move on to something new. Many tennis purists will argue that it undermines the sport and brings in a sort of circus atmosphere and I’d have to say this is probably my thinking too.
I am a hopeless sporting romantic and love the stories of hard graft and achievement against the odds. I love seeing the emersion of the likes of Roger and knowing there is greatness to come. I love the Goran Ivanisevic’s of the wildcard world winning Grand Slams and I love reading up on the stories of the likes of Ernests Gulbis coming from small towns in struggling countries escaping to fame and glory.
Will it ruin tennis? I don’t think so. But it will certainly mean a demise in the long-staying Champions of the Martina Navratilova ilk. Watch this space to see if Elena returns to us. That will give us an indication of if the trend is a bad thing or not.
The International German Open – Hamburg, Germany
The German Open offers European clay-court specialists another opportunity to pad their ranking point totals for the year.
Russian Nikolay Davydenko is seeded first but given his play as of late I wouldn’t expect much in terms of results here. Struggling to find his game after returning from injury, Davydenko was bounced in the first round in Stuttgart last week and is 3-4 since returning from a three month layoff. While Davydenko is the returning champion, he will have considerable difficulty in defending this time around.
Nicolas Almagro is seeded fifth and is always dangerous on red clay. The Spaniard just captured the title in Bastad, his first of 2010, and has a favorable draw here in Hamburg. One knock against Almagro however is that he usually disappoints after a big result. Consistency is lacking and it will be a challenge for him to put together back-to-back titles.
Veterans Juan Carlos Ferrero and Tommy Robredo are both in the draw and have the ability to raise the trophy as does Albert Montanes who won in Stuttgart last week.
Third seeded Jurgen Melzer has performed well at the last two Grand Slams, where he made the semis at Roland Garros and the fourth round at Wimbledon, but then bowed-out 4-6, 1-6 to Montanes a week ago on clay.
Second seeded David Ferrer is my favorite here and performed well in Bastad where he lost just a few days ago in the semi-finals to Robin Soderling in three sets.
The Atlanta Tennis Championships – Atlanta, Georgia
The city of Atlanta gets to host an ATP event for the first time since 2001 when Andy Roddick won his first ATP tournament. Previously this tournament was held on green clay, but returns as a hard-court event leading up to the U.S. Open. The city is no stranger to big tennis events as it hosted the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
Roddick gets a first-round bye and could face Xavier Malisse in the third round. Roddick holds an 8-0 career advantage against the 58th ranked Belgian, who is climbing his way back up the rankings as of late.
If you’re a fan of American tennis you’ll want to keep a close eye on the second quarter of the draw. There you’ll find a quartet of aging American players who will fight for the chance of facing Roddick in the semi-finals.
Twenty-nine year old Taylor Dent gets an opening round match against thirty year old James Blake that should be a crowd pleaser. Blake has dropped out of the top-hundred while Dent is working on moving back towards the top-fifty. Blake is taking his departure from the upper-echelon of the game with much difficulty and has talked recently about how this could be his last year on tour if things do not improve.
Also lurking in this section are twenty-seven year old Robby Ginepri and twenty-eight year old Mardy Fish. I would look to Fish to have the best chance of breaking out of this section of the draw as he won the title in Newport, Rhode Island just over a week ago.
Third seeded Lleyton Hewitt should be able to have a solid run in Atlanta and his presence here indicates to me that he is serious about taking a good run in Flushing Meadows. The veteran from Australia can still hit a good ball and is always a threat when healthy.
In the bottom quarter look for second seeded John Isner to advance quite deep in the draw. I’d imagine that Isner has more than recovered from his epic first-round victory at Wimbledon over Nicolas Mahut. Let’s hope that Isner has found some time to practice around his recent media blitz that included reading the top-ten list on Late Night with David Letterman and winning an ESPY award for greatest record-breaking performance.
All we have been hearing over recent months is negativity surrounding British tennis.
Tales of rotten apples in the barrel, failed youngsters, squandered millions and a country lost in a downward spiral of tennis faux pas which shows no signs of halting but for the increasingly confident performances of lone star Andy Murray.
Yet this week at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships at the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, a name nobody but the staunchest statisticians of British tennis will have been following is making a name for himself in the heat and humidity of east-coast America.
Current world No. 557 Richard Bloomfield will today (Friday) face young American Ryan Harrison in the last quarterfinal with the opportunity to face either American number 5 seed Mardy Fish (remember him from Queens?) or the Canadian Frank Dancevic in the semifinals.
Hang on, a Brit in the semifinals of a tournament other than Andy Murray? Continual sob-story Alex Bogdanovic failed to reach even the main draw here, going down in the final round of qualifying. So just who is this guy?
Richard Bloomfield was born April 27, 1983 in the small village of Alpington, just outside the beautiful Norfolk city of Norwich. He won the British Junior Tennis Championships in 2001, defeating that man Bogdanovic in the final, and picked up the equivalent title in doubles with Ken Skupski, now one half of the promising Flemski partnership alongside Colin Fleming.
He began playing on the senior tour that year and his first full ATP Tournament was the 2003 Wimbledon Championships where he gained a wildcard before losing to Anthony Dupuis in the first round.
In 2006 he reached round two of Wimbledon with a win over Carlos Berlocq which was investigated by authorities over strange betting patterns but no wrong-doing was ever discovered. That year he also reached the semifinals of the ATP Challenger Event at Rennes where he lost to rising French star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
2007 saw him reach his first ATP Challenger final in Wrexham, Wales, where he lost to Michal Prysiezny which saw him rise to a career-high 176 in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings. He then partnered Jonathan Marray to the third round of the 2007 Wimbledon doubles Championships.
His ranking fell considerably over the next couple of years until he qualified for the 2009 Open 13 where he agonisingly lost 6-7, 6-7 to the Italian Simon Bolelli in the first round. Back injuries hampered him and his ranking fell further but then he surprisingly qualified for this year’s Hall of Fame Championships where he is beginning to make a name for himself again.
In reaching the quaterfinals he has recorded his first wins on the ATP Tour since that 2006 Wimbledon Championships and at 27 this will be a welcome boost for a man whose confidence must have been looking at rock bottom.
And hasn’t he done well. He is yet to drop a set. A 7-6 (1), 6-1 first-round win over Belgian Christophe Rochus, brother of Olivier, set up a second-round clash with second seed and world No. 56 Santiago Giraldo which nobody would have expected him to come out of. But this might just be his week. He won 6-3, 7-6 (5) and now marches in to this quarterfinal with Harrison with a renewed vigour and swagger he won’t have been feeling for a long while.
It is high time we had something positive to shout about for Britain and it’s always great to see somebody who looked down and out have a moment in the sun (literally as the temperature gauges out there are showing). If he overcomes Harrison and then Fish/Dancevic then he will be in his first final since 2007, and his first ever on the full ATP Tour. There either Olivier Rochus will be looking to avenge the slaying of his brother Christophe or Argentine Brian Dabul will be looking to put his own name up in lights.
So march on Richard, your country is firmly behind you!
Roger Federer is known for showing his emotions – almost as much as he is for winning major tennis titles. At the 2009 Australian Open, Federer could not hide his disappointment in losing an epic five-set final to Rafael Nadal. Federer began weeping uncontrollably in the post-match ceremony when asked to make his obligatory runner-up speech. The emotional breakdown overshadowed other occasions when Federer shed tears in high visibility moments. One such moment was four years ago today, January 29, 2006, when Federer became emotional after Rod Laver presented him with the Norman Brookes Trophy after beating Marcos Baghdatis in the championship match.
Rene Stauffer, the author of the book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com), documents Federer’s 2006 Australian title – that concluded in tears – in this exclusive book excerpt.
In his six matches en route to the final, Federer lost four sets—more than previously surrendered while reaching a Grand Slam final. The man from Basel, however, was still the overwhelming favorite to win the title when he faced unseeded upstart Marcos Baghdatis—a 200-1 outsider to win the title. The 20-year-old bearded maverick from the island of Cyprus was the major story of the tournament—defeating Andy Roddick, Ivan Ljubicic and David Nalbandian in succession to become an unlikely Grand Slam finalist. Cyprus, a small island nation off the Greek and Turkish coast in the Mediterranean with no tennis history whatsoever, was suddenly stricken with tennis fever as businesses closed and children skipped school to watch his matches. Baghdatis was unseeded, ranked No. 54 in the world and had never won an ATP tournament in his career at the time. To boot, he held an 0-3 record against Federer and Federer had never lost a Grand Slam final—let alone to an unseeded player.
The Melbourne Age newspaper carried the headline “The Wizard And The Apprentice” before the final, but as the match began, the question was which was which. Baghdatis, supported throughout the fortnight by the many Greeks in Melbourne who created a soccer-stadium atmosphere with chants, cheers and flag-waving, continued to play boldly, aggressively and on the offensive—as he had the entire tournament—while Federer struggled, particularly off the forehand side. Federer lost the first set 7-5 and saved two break points to prevent a double-service-break 0-3 deficit in the second set. After he held serve, Federer then broke the Cypriot’s serve in the next game to square the set at 2-2. After the two players exchanged service holds, a stroke of good luck benefited Federer late in the set as an overruled call on set point gave Federer the second set 7-5. The momentum immediately turned in Federer’s favor and the challenge to his supremacy ended. Federer’s 5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2 victory secured him his seventh Grand Slam title—tying him with such legends as Richard Sears and William Renshaw—heroes of the 1880s—as well as John McEnroe, John Newcombe, Mats Wilander and two of four French Musketeers, Rene Lacoste and Henri Cochet.
Federer showed no exuberance as the award ceremony began, but when Rod Laver bestowed the Norman Brookes Trophy upon him, he was overcome with emotions. “I don’t know what to say,” he said at the start of his victory speech, before he fell silent. He barely managed to congratulate Baghdatis and thank his entourage and sponsors. When he mentioned Laver and that the title meant a great deal to him, his voice cracked, just like at his first Wimbledon victory, and he could no longer hold back his tears.
“I was terribly nervous,” Federer told Swiss television commentator Heinz Günthardt after he left the court. “It was an immense burden to be so clearly favored against a newcomer.” With seven Grand Slam titles, Federer began to compete not only against his contemporaries on the other side of the net, but against the ghosts of tennis history, including Pete Sampras and Rod Laver, who was standing next to him on this day.
From the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY, it was on Sept. 30, 1998 that Roger Federer registered his first career victory on the ATP Tour. Who was his first victim who undoubtedly is a great trivia question answer at the dinner table or cocktail party? The answer is Guillaume Raoux, the spectacled Frenchman, who lost to a 17-year-old Federer in the first round of the ATP event in Toulouse, France. The following is the book excerpt from ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com) that summarizes the now historic match.
Seventeen-year-old Roger Federer defeats Guillaume Raoux of France 6-2, 6-2 in the first round in Toulouse for his first ATP singles match victory. Rene Stauffer, in his book The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection, ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) summarizes Federer’s achievement, “Yet, before the chase for the year-end No. 1 junior ranking reached its decisive phase, the unexpected happened. Federer achieved his first great breakthrough on the ATP Tour. With a ranking of No. 878, he traveled to Toulouse, France at the end of September and, to his own surprise, advanced through the qualifying rounds to progress into the main draw of the tournament. In only his second ATP tournament, the 17-year-old registered an upset victory over No. 45-ranked Guillaume Raoux of France—his first ATP match victory—allowing the Frenchman just four games. In the next round, Federer proved this win was not a fluke by defeating former Australian Davis Cup star Richard Fromberg 6-1, 7-6 (5). In the quarterfinals—his sixth match of the tournament including matches in the qualifying rounds—Federer lost to Jan Siemerink 7-6 (5), 6-2, with a throbbing thigh injury hampering him during the match. The Dutchman was ranked No. 20 and went on to win the tournament two days later, but Federer was also handsomely rewarded. He received a prize money check for $10,800 and passed 482 players in the world rankings in one tournament—moving to No. 396.”
Roger Federer is no doubt the King of the US Open. He will be seeking his sixth straight men’s singles title in 2009, equaling the effort by Bill Tilden, who won six straight titles from 1920-1925. The all-time tournament record for consecutive men’s singles titles came when Richard Sears won the first seven U.S. titles, but Sears only had to win one match – the challenge round – to win the last six of his titles.
Roger’s reign in Flushing began in 2004, highlighted by an incredible five-set win over Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals and a decisive “double bagel” over Lleyton Hewitt in the final. Swiss journalist and author Rene Stauffer summarizes Roger’s first US Open title in his book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFederer Book.com), excerpted below.
Federer had little trouble advancing into the quarterfinals, where he faced Agassi, now age 34. After a European summer highlighted by physical problems and unexpected defeats, Agassi found his groove on the American hard courts, defeating both Roddick and Hewitt to win the title in Cincinnati—his first title in over a year. Agassi’s confidence was high.
In one of the US Open’s celebrated night matches, Federer and Agassi battled on Wednesday evening, September 8, and Federer immediately found his rhythm. He was leading 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 when it began raining and play was postponed. The match resumed the following afternoon and the players were greeted with gale force winds—as part of the weather front that swept through New York as a leftover from Hurricane Frances that battered Florida earlier in the week. Federer described the wind swirls as being the worst conditions that he ever played under. “Just five years ago I would have gone nuts playing in such a wind,” he said.
The wind forced Federer to change tactics. He no longer tried to go for winners and display his usual aggressive style, but concentrated on getting the ball and his serves over the net and simply into play—which in the windy conditions was itself a challenge. “I played just like at practice and that was the right recipe,” he said. A 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win over Agassi put him into the semifinals of the US Open for the first time, where he would face an old acquaintance, Tim Henman. The 30-year-old Brit won six of his eight career matches with his Swiss rival, but Federer was a different player than many of the previous matches, with more self-confidence and stamina. As in March in Indian Wells, Federer encountered little resistance with Henman, winning 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 to advance into the championship match at the US Open for the first time.
Awaiting him in the final was another of his past nemeses, Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001 US Open champion. The Australian skipped the Olympic Games, but won the two ATP tournaments played concurrently to the Olympics in Washington, D.C. and in Long Island. Entering his match with Federer, he won his last 16 matches and did not surrender a set in his six-match run to the final.
It only took 17 minutes for Federer to hand Hewitt his first lost set of the tournament, losing only five points in a near perfect execution of tennis. When Hewitt won his first game of the match after Federer led 6-0, 2-0, the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium gave him a standing ovation. Federer continued to be the much stronger player, until a lapse of concentration and a run of errors and missed serves allowed Hewitt to win four straight games after trailing 2-5 in the second set.
“If he had managed to win the second set, it would have turned out to be an entirely different match,” Federer said. “I forced myself to keep positive. I said to myself that I only got this break because I was playing against the wind and I was serving with old balls. When I changed sides, everything actually did go easier.”
Federer held serve at 5-6 to force the tiebreak and won that 7-3. The two-set lead broke Hewitt’s resistance and Federer plowed through the final set 6-0 to win his first US Open championship.
“First I was surprised that Lleyton was no longer getting to the ball,” Federer said of his moment of victory. “Then I was suddenly lying on my back, looking into the sky at the lights of the stadium. I thought, ‘That’s unbelievable.’ Once again I was close to tears.”
Roger Federer’s victory at the 2004 US Open provided new content for the record books of tennis. Statisticians and historians of the game quickly discovered that he was only the second man in the “Open Era” of professional tennis (since 1968) to win a Grand Slam final with two 6-0 sets. The other was the Argentinean Guillermo Vilas, who dominated American Brian Gottfried 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 at Roland Garros in 1977. The last time a player won a final at the U.S. Championships with two 6-0 sets came back in 1884 in only the fourth edition of the U.S. national championship and in the days of tennis infancy.
In the United States, 6-0 sets are referred to as “bagels” with a “double bagel” being considered the bitterest variety when a match is lost 6-0, 6-0. In German-speaking countries, these whitewashes are called a “bicycle.” Although, Lleyton Hewitt was able to force a second-set tie-break against Federer in the US Open final, he was not spared the shame of the “double bagel” or “the bicycle.” The Australian Associated Press (AAP) exaggerated that Hewitt’s loss was “the greatest humiliation in the history of Grand Slam finals.” One reporter in the post-match press conference even had the audacity to ask Hewitt if it was difficult to swallow a “double bagel.”
More importantly in historical significance was that Federer, with his victories at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, became only the fourth man in the Open Era of tennis to win at least three of the four Grand Slam titles in a calendar year. Mats Wilander from Sweden was the last man to manage such a feat in 1988, as did Rod Laver, who won all four Grand Slams in 1969, and Jimmy Connors, who won the Australian, Wimbledon and the US Open in 1974. Don Budge was the first player to win all four major titles in the same year—the Grand Slam—in 1938. The term “Grand Slam” was first coined when American tennis writer Allison Danzig suggested in 1938 that Budge scored a Grand Slam of victories—like a winning bridge player—at the four most prestigious championships of the year.
Laver, a left-hander given the nickname the “Rockhampton Rocket,” even managed to win the Grand Slam twice—once in 1962 as an amateur and again in 1969 as a professional. In Laver’s time, however, this accomplishment had a different value and was less significant than today as three of the four Grand Slam events were played on grass courts, unlike the four different surfaces of today’s game.
In women’s tennis, three players have won the Grand Slam—the American Maureen Connolly (1953), the Australian Margaret Smith Court (1970), as well as Steffi Graf (1988). The German, who married Andre Agassi after her tennis career, also won at the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988 giving her the distinction of winning what is called the “Golden Slam.” Martina Hingis, like Federer, won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open in 1997, narrowly missing the Grand Slam, with her surprising loss to Iva Majoli in the French final preventing her from joining this elite club.
In New York, Federer once again proved his ability to amplify his performance in the final stages of the tournament. He became the first professional player to win all of his first four Grand Slam tournament finals. It was almost equally amazing that in this feat, he lost only one set in his eight matches in the semifinals and finals. In the meantime, Federer’s US Open final marked the 11th straight victory in a tournament final. For Federer, a tournament final proved to be his greatest motivation. His attitude was simple—what’s the use of all the effort and match victories if you ultimately lose in the final? Winners stay, losers go.
The coup at Flushing Meadows transformed him into a sports star on Broadway. The American media celebrated him lavishly and some journalists even asked the question at such a pre-mature stage if he would be the man who would break Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles.
Federer remained grounded and modest in the hour of his greatest achievement in the United States. “I honestly never expected to win the US Open,” he said. “Until a year ago, I always had problems in the United States. The Americans always play with more confidence in their home tournaments than anywhere else. Conditions are difficult with the high heat and humidity.”
But he admitted something else; “I had a strange feeling before the final because everybody was talking about how long it had been since anybody had won his first four Grand Slam finals. I knew that I only had this one chance to do this.” Some were already talking that Federer was in a position to achieve the Grand Slam, but he didn’t allow these musings of grandeur to mislead him. “I would be really happy if I were to win one of the four Grand Slams next year,” he said the day after his US Open triumph during an extended interview session with a select group of journalists. “I know that I have to work hard for each match and for each title. It’s crazy what’s happening to me now. It’s out of this world.”
Federer’s US Open title generously extended his points lead on the No. 1 ranking. His margin between him at No. 1 and Roddick, his next challenger at No. 2, was extended from 1390 points to 2990 points—the equivalent of three Grand Slam titles. It would be impossible for any player to overtake him before the end of the year, even if Federer lost every match for the rest of the year. In the last four years, the year-end Tennis Masters Cup was the final determining tournament to decide the year-end No. 1 player. However, 2004 was not a normal year and thanks to the US Open, the year-end No. 1 was already in the books.
The Monday after the US Open brought Federer to the realization that the clocks tick differently in the American media world. He was chauffeured in a stretch limousine from one television station to another—7:45 am at ESPN’s show “Cold Pizza,” then at 8:30 am to the “CBS Early Show” and then at 9:30 am at “Live with Regis and Kelly,” followed by a photo shoot in Times Square, and a meeting with a select group of print journalists at the Hard Rock Café. At 2:30 pm, he was a guest on John McEnroe’s television talk show, and finally he appeared on the “Charlie Rose Show.” He had to prove his dexterity at ping-pong at two of his television appearances. Many things are possible in the United States, but setting up a tennis court in a television studio is not one of them.
Roger Federer beat Novak Djokovic 6-1 7-5 to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Elena Dementieva beat Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-3 to win the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada
Pat Cash successfully defended his International Tennis Hall of Fame Champions Cup singles title, defeating Jim Courier 6-3 6-4 in Newport, Rhode Island, USA
“It’s been a wonderful summer.” – Roger Federer, winning his first tournament title after the birth of his twin daughters.
“The closest I was going to get to the first-place trophy is now.” – Novak Djokovic, while standing five feet (1.5m) from the crystal bowl that Roger Federer collected by winning the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.
“I returned poorly and served poorly. Against Roger, if you do both of those things, it’s going to be very difficult.” – Andy Murray, after his semifinal loss to Roger Federer in Cincinnati.
“It’s only a number. I hope to be ready in the future to come back to number two or to be in the top position. Number three is a very good number, too.” – Rafael Nadal, who is now ranked number three in the world.
“When you have so many important points and every point is so tough, you have to give 100 percent. It really kills your brain more than physical.” – Alisa Kleybanova, after outlasting Jelena Jankovic 6-7 (6) 7-6 (7) 6-2 in Toronto.
“It’s tough to think about the winner’s circle because you have to take it one match at a time.” – Maria Sharapova, who has returned to the WTA Tour following a nine-month layoff.
“It’s big because it was against Venus.” – Kateryna Bondarenko, after upsetting Venus Williams in an opening round match at Toronto.
“It’s my brain. I know exactly what I have to do, but if I’m not using my brain, I’m not doing the things my coach is telling me.” – Dinara Safina, after losing her second-round match at Toronto.
“It’s difficult to push yourself to play relaxed, even though you know this is the end. But still, you are a player deep inside, so it comes out in important moments, and you want to win no matter what.” – Marat Safin, after winning his first-round match in Cincinnati.
“I’m actually having a competition with myself to see how many errors and double-faults I can make and still win the match in two sets.” – Maria Sharapova, after winning her second-round match in Toronto.
“I’ve already missed a Masters’ event this year when I got married, so I guess that wasn’t an option here unless I wanted to pay everyone off.” – Andy Roddick, on why he played in Cincinnati despite playing the two weeks prior.
“You just try to first get the ball back.” – Roger Federer, when asked the secret of playing winning tennis.
“Depending on the draw, my pick at this point is (Andy) Murray or (Andy) Roddick.” – John McEnroe, forecasting the winner of this year’s US Open men’s singles.
“I think there could be a battle for the number one in the world. That’s what everybody hopes for. This year the tour is very tough and it’s tight at the top. Hopefully that’s what we’ll get to see.” – Andy Murray, on the battle looming at the season-ending ATP World Tour Championships.
“My overhead cost has gone down considerably.” – Brian Wood, a promoter for a tennis exhibition in Asheville, North Carolina, after replacing Andre Agassi and Marat Safin with Rajeev Ram and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.
SETTING THE TABLE?
Elena Dementieva put herself in good company by beating Maria Sharapova and winning the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada. The fourth-seeded Dementieva captured her third title of the year and during the week won her 50th match of the season, something only Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki had done in 2009. The Russian hopes to follow in the footsteps of the last three Toronto winners – Justine Henin in 2003, Kim Clijsters in 2005 and Henin again in 2007. They went on to win the US Open. The gold-medalist at the Beijing Olympics, Dementieva has never won a Grand Slam tournament.
SET FOR US OPEN
Despite not winning a tournament, Rafael Nadal says he’s ready for the US Open. Nadal had not played since suffering an injury at Roland Garros this spring until the past two weeks, in Montreal and Cincinnati. “These two weeks, winning three matches here and two matches (in Montreal), winning five matches and playing seven matches in total, it’s enough matches I think,” said the Spaniard, who has seen his ranking drop from number one in the world to number three during his absence from the court. “We will see how I am physically to play the five-set matches,” he said. “I know when I am playing well I can play at this level. But you only can win against these top players when you are playing your best tennis.”
Serena Williams is the second player to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be played October 27-November 1 in Doha, Qatar. The reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion joins Dinara Safina to have clinched spots in the eight-player field. By winning both the singles and doubles titles at the Australian Open, Serena became the first professional female athlete to surpass USD $23 million in career earnings. She moved past Lindsay Davenport as the all-time prize money leader on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Davenport has earned USD $22,144,735. And because she and her sister Venus Williams have won three doubles titles this year – the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California, USA – the sisters currently rank second in the Race to the Sony Ericsson Championships Doubles Standings.
Andy Murray has qualified for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which will be held November 22-29 in London. The Scot joins Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as the first three singles players to qualify for the elite eight-man event. By winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada, Murray moved up to a career-high number two in the world behind Federer. That snapped the four-year domination of Federer and Nadal at the top of the men’s game. The 22-year-old Murray is the first ATP player to record 50 match wins this year and has won five titles in 2009: Montreal, Doha, Rotterdam, Miami and Queen’s Club in London, where he became the first British champion since Henry “Bunny” Austin in 1938.
Pat Cash loves grass court tennis. The 1987 Wimbledon champion successfully defended his singles title on the grass courts of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, beating Jim Courier 6-3 6-4 in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. It was Cash’s second career victory in the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for players age 30 and over. Courier, once ranked number one in the world, is still seeking his first professional title on grass.
SHARING A TEAM
If only the Miami Dolphins were as well-known on the football field as their owners. Sisters Serena and Venus Williams are believed to be acquiring a stake in the National Football League team. Musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Marc Anthony recently bought small shared of the team, while owner Stephen Ross forged a partnership with singer Jimmy Buffett.
Juan Martin del Potro is paying the price for his success. The sixth-ranked Argentine pulled out of the Cincinnati Masters because of fatigue. Del Potro reached the final of the Montreal Masters one week after winning the tournament in Washington, DC. He played 24 sets in two weeks. Winning seven matches at the US Open would take between 21 and 35 sets over a two-week period.
Gilles Muller of Luxembourg and Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic won’t be around when the year’s final Grand Slam tournament gets underway in New York’s Flushing Meadow at the end of this month. Muller withdrew from the US Open because of a knee injury. He is best known for upsetting Andy Roddick in the opening round of the US Open in 2005 when he went on to reach the quarterfinals. Muller’s spot in this year’s tournament will be taken by Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay. An injury also has sidelined Minar. With his withdrawal, Rajeev Ram moves into the main draw.
SQUANDERING MATCH POINTS
Brothers Bob and Mike Bryan led 9-4 in the match tiebreak before Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic rallied to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters doubles in Cincinnati. In all, Nestor and Zimonjic saved eight match points before prevailing over the top-seeded and defending champions 3-6 7-6 (2) 15-13. Nestor and Zimonjic won six straight points but failed to convert their first match at 10-9. They were successful on their second match point, improving their record to 44-10 as a team this year and collecting their eighth title of 2009. Both teams have already clinched spots in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which will be held in London in November.
Instead of Andre Agassi and Marat Safin, spectators at a tennis exhibition in Asheville, North Carolina, will instead be watching Rajeev Ram and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo. When only 1,100 tickets had been sold for the 6,000-seat Asheville Civic Center, promoter Brian Wood decided to replace Agassi and Safin. He also dropped the ticket price from a high of USD $200 to a top price of USD $25. The promoter said tickets purchased for the Agassi-Safin match will be refunded. This wasn’t the first change in the program. Originally Safin was to play Novak Djokovic on August 6. When the date was changed to August 28, Djokovic was replaced by Agassi. “We could have canceled altogether or moved forward on a much lower scale, and that’s what we did,” Woods said. “The guys coming are still world class players who play at an extremely high level.”
John McEnroe is covering the airwaves as tightly as he did the court in his playing days. This year Johnny Mac will join the ESPN broadcasting team for its coverage of the US Open. The broadcast will have its own brand of family ties. John will work with his younger brother Patrick, who has been a mainstay at ESPN since 1995. He also will team with ESPN’s Mary Carillo. The two won the French Open mixed doubles in 1977.
Taylor Dent leads a group of five Americans who have been given wild cards into the main draw of the US Open men’s singles. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) said they have also issued wild cards to Devon Britton, Chase Buchanan, Jesse Levine and Ryan Sweeting, along with Australian Chris Guccione and a player to be named by the French Tennis Association. Dent had climbed as high as 21 in the world before undergoing three back surgeries and missing two years on the tour.
Nine men have been awarded wild card entries into the US Open qualifying tournament, which will be held August 25-28 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Receiving wild card berths into the qualifying are Americans Lester Cook, Alexander Domijan, Ryan Harrison, Scoville Jenkins, Ryan Lipman, Tim Smyczek, Blake Strode and Michael Venus, along with Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.
Australian Alicia Molik is returning to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Once ranked as high as number eight in the world, Molik hasn’t played since losing in the opening round in both singles and doubles at the Beijing Olympics. Molik has asked for a wild card into the US Open where she plans on playing only doubles with American Meghann Shaughnessy. Her future plans call for her playing singles in a low-level International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament in Darwin, Australia, in September. Molik won four of her five WTA titles in a six-month period in 2004-05 before a middle-ear condition affected her vision and balance, forcing her off the tour in April 2005. An elbow injury followed, leading to her announcing her retirement earlier this year.
Although he hasn’t played on the ATP Tour since March 2007, Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan says he has not retired from tennis. “I’m not going to quit,” he said. “I just want to be back when I’m really ready.” Srichaphan underwent operations on his wrist in Los Angeles in 2007 and in Bangkok, Thailand, this year. He originally had planned to return to play last year, and then postponed it until the Thailand Open this September. But now he says he may not play in a tournament until 2010.
SITE TO SEE
Tennis Canada is considering combining both ATP and WTA events into one tournament the same week and playing it in both Toronto and Montreal at the same time. Under that plan, each city would stage one-half of the men’s main draw and one half of the women’s main draw. Montreal and Toronto would each stage a final, meaning one of the men’s and one of the women’s finalists would switch cities, making the one-hour trip by private jet. Currently the tournaments are run on consecutive weeks with the men’s and women’s events alternating annually between Montreal and Toronto. This year the ATP tournament was held in Montreal a week ago and won by Andy Murray. Elena Dementieva captured the women’s title in Toronto on Sunday. But the ATP and WTA are pushing for more combined tournaments, a trend that resulted in the creative suggestion by Tennis Canada.
David Shoemaker is the new president of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The 36-year-old Shoemaker previously was the Tour’s chief operating officer, general counsel and head of the Asia-Pacific region. The native of Ottawa, Canada, succeeds Stacey Allaster, who was recently appointed the tour’s chairman and CEO. In his new job, Shoemaker will be responsible for the day-to-day operations and business affairs of the tour, tournament and player relations, strategic expansion of the sport in key growth markets; international television and digital media rights distribution, and the tour’s year-end Championships.
The ATP also has a new executive. Laurent Delanney has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer, Europe, and will be based in the tour’s European headquarters in Monte Carlo, Monaco. A former agent who managed a number of top players, including Yannick Noah, Delanney joined the ATP’s European office in 1994, serving most recently as senior vice president, ATP Properties, the business arm of the ATP. The 49-year-old Delanney began his career with ProServ, a sports management and marketing agency, and at one time was marketing and publication operations manager for Club Med in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
SHOW AND TELL
The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum’s gallery exhibition at this year’s US Open will be titled “The Grand Slam: Tennis’ Ultimate Achievement.” The exhibit chronicles the accomplishment of the calendar-year Grand Slam as 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of Rod Laver’s 1969 singles Grand Slam and the 25th anniversary of Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver’s 1984 doubles Grand Slam. Among the many stars featured in the exhibit are Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Margaret Smith Court, Steffi Graf, Maria Bueno, Martina Hingis and Stefan Edberg. The exhibition will be on view from August 29 through September 13 in the US Open Gallery.
The telling of the 2008 epic Wimbledon final between eventual winner Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer earned New York Daily News columnist Filip Bondy a first-place award from the United States Tennis Writers’ Association. The three-judge panel called Bondy’s story “a masterful, compelling account of the greatest match, told with vivid quotes and observations, a deft touch, and a grand sense of tennis history.” Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle, Tim Joyce of RealClearSports.com and Paul Fein, whose work was published by TennisOne.com and Sportstar, each were double winners. The awards will be presented during the USTWA’s annual meeting at the US Open.
Cincinnati: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 3-6 7-6 (2) 15-13 (match tiebreak)
Toronto: Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs 2-6 7-5 11-9 (match tiebreak)
SITES TO SURF
New Haven: www.pilotpentennis.com/
New York: www.usopen.org
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$750,000 Pilot Pen Tennis, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard
$600,000 Pilot Pen Tennis Presented by Schick, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard
$100,000 EmblemHealth Bronx Open, Bronx, New York, USA, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
ATP and WTA
US Open (first week), New York, New York, USA, hard
From Tennis Channel buying ads criticizing Cablevision for not carrying the network to the USTA announcing that Cincinnati will get an upgrade at its tournament site to Monica Seles returning to Canada to play an exhibition match, these stories caught the attention of tennis fans and insiders this week.
Tennis Channel, who has exclusive rights to several of the US Open matches throughout the two week tournament, has purchased between $500,000-$1 million worth of print ads in the New York City area. These ads were created out of dissatisfaction with Cablevision, who tried to place the station on a sports tier. As a result, the Tennis Channel ads encourage customers to purchase DirecTV, Verizon and Dish Network, all of whom will televise the matches.
On Thursday, the USTA and Cincinnati-based Tennis for Charity, Inc., announced a $10 million upgrade towards the Lindner Family Tennis Center that hosts the annual Western & Southern Financial Group Masters and Women’s Open in August. The groundbreaking begins 72 hours after the completion of the this week’s ATP tournament and will include the addition of 750 seats and six luxury suites and upgrades to the players locker room, players lounge and press box.
Monica Seles, the only player in the open era to win four straight Canadian Open titles, returned to Canada on Monday to take participate in an exhibition to mark the start of the WTA Rogers Cup in Toronto. Seles teamed with Canadian player Aleksandra Wozniak, losing 6-3 in to Serena Williams and Martina Navratilova.
Laurent Delanney has been named ATP CEO, Europe.
David Shoemaker has been appointed WTA President, as former President Stacey Allastar will assume the role as WTA CEO.
200,077 tickets were sold at the recently completed ATP Rogers Cup in Montreal, breaking the previous ATP record that they accomplished in 2007 by selling more than 185,000 tickets.
11,976 packed the ground of the ATP Rogers Cup final in Montreal between Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro to watch the match on a big screen TV on the Banque Nationale grandstand court.
Davis Cup dates for 2010 are as follows:
World Group First Round: March 5-7
World Group Quarterfinals: July 9-11
World Group Semifinals and World Group Playoffs: September 17-19
World Group Finals: December 3-5
On August 30 the Grand Slam Tennis Winners exhibition will take place in East Hampton, N.Y. Participants in the event, which will honor Andre Agassi, will include Nick Bollettieri, Murphy Jensen, actor Alec Baldwin, ladies from The Real Housewives of New York City and a grand slam champion to be named later.
Following the Cincinnati tournament this week, Novak Djokovic will begin working with Todd Martin. Djokovic will continue working with his full-time coach Marian Vajda.
In a New York Times article from 40 years ago, the then US Open tournament director, Owen Williams, says that the tournament lost $80,000 due to rain.
Babolat announced that its Pure Storm racquet line will be improved by adding GT Technology. HEAD announced the renewal of its racquet and bag sponsorship contract with Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), which marks 30 years of partnership.
World No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Roger Federer last week in Montreal, has begun playing with the Wilson (K)obra racquet instead of the (K)Blade Tour.