Benjamin Becker

Mixed Fortunes for Swiss in Basel

Roger Federer got his bid to capture a third straight title in Basel off to winning start on Tuesday, but not without a scare. American Bobby Reynolds took the second set in a tiebreaker, but Federer turned things around to prevail 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3 in one hour and 50 minutes.

Fellow Swiss and Olympic doubles gold medalist Stanislas Wawrinka was not as lucky on Monday against Benjamin Becker. The unheralded German, known almost exclusively as the man who beat Andre Agassi in the final match of Agassi’s illustrious career, stunned Wawrinka 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(5). Not only did Wawrinka suffer a setback in his own country, but his Masters Cup hopes were dealt a serious-probably crippling-blow.

In St. Petersburg, seeds Marin Cilic and Dmitry Tursunov are already out after just one match. Nikolay Davydenko, Mikhail Youzhny, and Ernests Gulbis, however, took care of business to reach the second round. Gulbis crushed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in a mere 48 minutes on Tuesday. He could get Madrid champion and No. 1 seed Andy Murray in round two. The Scot faces Viktor Troicki in his opener on Wednesday.

The French favorites, for the most part, are still alive in Lyon. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, however, both needed three sets to advance on Tuesday. No. 1 seed Andy Roddick and fifth-seeded Tommy Robredo are also safely through to round two. Ivo Karlovic, on the other hand, crashed out to Nicolas Lapentti in straight sets just days after reaching the Madrid quarterfinals. The surprise of round one-much to the delight of the French crowd-was wildcard Josselin Ouanna, who stunned Ivan Ljubicic 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 6-4.

The women, meanwhile, are in Linz, Austria and all eyes will be on Ana Ivanovic to see if she can end a dismal season-ending slump before the conclusion of 2008 play. Ivanovic is the No. 1 seed and is joined as a first-round bye recipient by Vera Zvonareva, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Patty Schnyder. So far all eight seeded players are still alive.

Verkerk And El Aynaoui Continue Their Comebacks

Last week on the challenger circuit saw two veteran players defy the odds by winning events in the hopes of reclaiming their former top 15 status, while the world’s No. 1 junior player won her first challenger title on the women’s side.

After losing in the first round of a futures event in February, many could have argued that it would have been time for Martin Verkerk of the Netherlands to hang up his racket. However, the former Roland Garros finalist has refused to quit and his results have improved rapidly. After winning a futures event in Montreal last month, he won the $50,000 event last week in Athens, Greece with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Adrian Cruciat of Romania. The win gives Verkerk a feed-up into the qualifying draw of an ATP event this spring and he will request a wild card into Roland Garros later this month.

Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco is also continuing his improbable comeback this week, prevailing at the $35,000 event in Chiasso, Switzerland with a dominating 7-6, 6-3 win over top-seeded Alberto Martin of Spain. The win moves the 36-year-old back inside the top 250 and with minimal points to defend for the rest of the year, a return to the top 100 by years end is not unlikely.

Other challenger results on the men’s side include Go Soeda of Japan winning at the $75,000 event in Busan, Korea. Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil delighted the local crowd by winning the $35,000 event in Florianpolis. Dawid Olejniczak of Poland won the $50,000 event in Mexico City, Mexico, and Bobby Reynolds of the United States won the $50,000 event in Tallahassee, Florida.

At the $100,000 tournament in Saint Malo, France, Frenchwoman Stephanie Cohen Aloro won the biggest title of her career with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Jelena Kostanic Tosic of Croatia. The 25-year-old took advantage of the rain delay late in the second set, rallying off three straight games from 4-5 down to win the match. Cohen-Aloro moved back into the top 100 this week with this result. Despite the loss, Kostanic has turned her year around in Saint Malo after a disappointing 1-6 record heading into the event.

Bari, Italy hosted a $25,000 event this week, and this year girls champion at the Australian Open, Arantxa Rus of The Netherlands, won the title with a hard fought 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over Alberta Brianti of Italy. In winning her first challenger title, Rus will also receive a feed-up into the qualifying draw of Strasbourg, which will be just the second WTA event of her career.

After dropping down to the satellite tour for much of last year, Soledad Esperon of Argentina is now playing the best tennis of her career. She won her second challenger title in a row at the $25,000 event in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla, routing Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-1. Esperon moves back into the top 200 this week and will contest her first Grand Slam qualifying event in two years at Roland Garros next month. Despite the loss, Karatantcheva has started her comeback from a drug suspension strongly, winning two challenger titles and reaching the finals of two others since January.

The spotlight stays on the men this week as Dudi Sela of Israel is the top seed at the $100,000 event in Paget, Bermuda. Benjamin Becker of Germany leads the way at the $50,000 tournament in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Kevin Anderson of South Africa takes top billing at the $35,000 event in Cremona, Italy.

The Court of (un)Appealing tennis fashion

Robby Ginepri - Ocean Drive Magazine - April 2008

The current issue of Ocean Drive follows up their Maria Sharapova cover story with a fashion spread featuring ATP young guns Robby Ginepri, Donald Young, Ross Hutchins, Benjamin Becker, and Jamie Murray.

They were all photographed wearing some snappy spring suits, and all spoke about their favorite offcourt looks. (Jamie Murray is all about Ted Baker, FYI.)

When asked about the state of fashion in tennis, a few wished for more flexibility and choice (which is good; this means that they’re thinking outside the box). Unfortunately, more than a few of them wanted “longer shorts”. I guess that’s what the dress code is for (thank you, ATP!). Otherwise, they’d all dress like Vince Spadea.

Above, Gineps wears a suit by Neil Bartlett, a floral shirt from Etro, a tie from Marc Jacobs, and penny loafers by Prada. When he’s not playing, he favors jeans and button-downs. He also loves Robert Wayne shoes. When asked if tennis attire could be more fashionable, he responds, “It couldn’t because of the rules governing the design and logos on clothing and shoes.” At least you get to wear those sleeveless tanks, mister.

Donald Young - Ocean Drive Magazine - April 2008

Wristmaster Donald Young is a fan of Gucci and Prada, and favors tennis gear that’s well thought-out and coordinated. “Tennis gear could be more fashionable if the shorts were longer — say, 11 inches — and there were more color options for our outfits.” For this shoot, he wears a shirt by Marc Jacobs, a pinstripe seersucker suit by Prada, and shoes by D&G.

Ross Hutchins - Ocean Drive Magazine - April 2008

Wimbledon native Ross Hutchins wears Diadora on the court but prefers Zara and Abercrombie & Fitch when he’s just hanging out. He calls his oncourt look “slick” and wouldn’t mind seeing tennis fashion become “more flamboyant — funky designs, baggy shorts, and allowing top designer labels to make smart tennis clothing.” Hutchins wears a eersucker jacket and linen slacks by Etro. White shirt by Prada, ring by Luis Morais, and shoes by Vicini.

Benjamin Becker - Ocean Drive Magazine - April 2008

Store owner Benjamin Becker wears Boris Becker during matches but converts to Nike (Air Force 1s) and jeans before and after. Prada suit and tie, Marc Jacobs shirt, Miu Miu shoes.

Jamie Murray - Ocean Drive Magazine - April 2008

The adidas-sponsored Jamie Murray counts Hugo Boss and Ted Baker as his favorite designers. Off the court, fans will likely see him wear “jeans, a funny T-shirt (I have a few up my sleeve), tie, aviator sunglasses, and a hat — it’s the peacock theory!” He’s dressed the best out of the five guys, with a purple cardigan from Ralph Lauren adding some pop to his Etro shirt and D&G suit and slacks.

(photos by Nathan Beckner for Ocean Drive; via ATP)