Bjorn Phau

Federer Opens with NCAA Champ Devin Britton

The 2009 US Open draws have been made! Roger Federer opens with Devin Britton, a wild card entry and the NCAA Champion from Ole Miss, in the first round. Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic are in Federer’s half of the draw and could face off in the quarterfinals, while Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal are in the bottom half of the draw.

Djokovic opens with Ivan Ljubicic. Roddick opens with Bjorn Phau of Germany and could play Dmitry Tursunov of Russia in the second round and John Isner in the third round.

In the bottom half, Rafael Nadal takes on Richard Gasquet of France, coming back from his drug suspension. Nadal could face Juan Martin del Potro in the quarterfinals. Del Potro could face Marat Safin in the second round. Murray faces Ernests Gulbis in the first round and could face Ivo Karlovic in the third round.

Fabrice Santoro, in his final major tournament appearance, faces Juan Carlos Ferrero in the first round. USTA National Junior Champion and Ohio State student Chase Buchanan plays Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the bottom half.

“The bottom half is completely loaded” said Patrick McEnroe on ESPNews broadcast of the draw.

The full men’s draw is available at www.usopen.org.

Sam Querrey Clinches 2009 Olympus US Open Series Men’s Title

August 26, 2009 – Sam Querrey clinched the 2009 Olympus US Open Series men’s title today with a 7-5, 6-3 round of 16 win over Bjorn Phau at Pilot Pen Tennis, the final Series event of the season in New Haven. With the victory, Querrey ties Andy Murray in the Olympus US Open Bonus Challenge men’s standings, but officially wins the overall Series title by virtue of the tie-breaker (greatest number of 2009 Olympus US Open Series matches won in the current year). Juan Martin del Potro finishes the Series in third place.

Since the Olympus US Open Series began in 2004, every Series winner had been, or went on to be, No. 1 in the world rankings. Querrey will now compete for the largest payout in tennis history at the 2009 US Open — $2.6 million ($1.6 million for winning the US Open and a $1 million bonus for winning the US Open and the Olympus US Open Series).

On the women’s side, Elena Dementieva currently holds the lead in the Olympus US Open Series Bonus Challenge women’s standings. Flavia Pennetta can still capture the overall Series title — by winning the Pilot Pen Tennis event at New Haven — while Jelena Jankovic and Marion Bartoli could finish the Series in second or third place.

Querrey and the women’s winner of the Olympus US Open Series will compete for $1 million in bonus prize money at the 2009 US Open. The second and third place finishers will compete for $500,000 and $250,000, respectively.

Rafael Nadal won the 2008 Olympus US Open Series men’s title and Dinara Safina won the women’s title.  In 2007, Roger Federer collected the biggest paycheck in tennis history — $2.4 million — for winning US Open and the Olympus US Open Series. In 2005, Kim Clijsters also captured both the US Open and the Olympus US Open Series, winning $2.2 million — the largest purse in women’s sports history.

Now in its sixth season, the Olympus US Open Series has established itself as a true regular season of hard court tennis, linking 10 summer tournaments to the US Open. In 2008, Olympus became the first title sponsor of the Series. The Olympus US Open Series is also supported by sponsors American Express, Evian and MassMutual Financial Group.

Monfils Stuns Nadal in Doha

DOHA

Gael Monfils stunned Rafael Nadal for the first time in career wit 6-4 6-4 win in 1 hour and 29 minutes. The Frenchman in the three previous meetings against current No. 1 in the world, wasn’t even able to win 4 games in a set.

“I had an almost perfect start to the match and I played well on most points,” Monfils said. “I didn’t allow him to settle down.”

Roger Federer has extended his streak of consecutive winning sets in Doha to  26 (Federer won the Qatar Open in years 2005-06 but didn’t play there in the next two editions) but was very close to lose finally a set. After comfortable lead 6-2 4:1 against Philipp Kohlschreiber, Federer lost the momentum and found himself 1:5 down in the tie-break – Kohlschreiber who was playing amazingly to that point, made an easy backhand error and allowed Federer back into the match. Federer saved three set points in a row (two on return) and booked his place in the semifinal where he meets Andy Murray. Scottish No. 1 enjoyed a smooth passage over Sergey Stakhovsky 6-4 6-2 – Murray beat Stakhovsky after identical scoreline 5 years ago in the final of junior US Open.

BRISBANE

Spanish hero from last year’s Davis Cup final (won decisive rubber against Argentina), Fernando Verdasco continues his run to reach Top 10. Verdasco (currently No. 15) needed three sets to overcome Florent Serra 4-6 6-0 6-3. At 2:2 in the third set, Verdasco saved break point with brilliant forehand lob, serving for the match at 5:3 saved another break point with astonishing backhand half-volley.

“I think the Davis Cup will be in my mind all my life,” he said. “For example when I was playing today and when it was the tough moments I was thinking ‘I can come back – I came back in the Davis Cup, why can’t I come back today?”.

Either from set down came back Radek Stepanek and Richard Gasquet, both after very similar matches – lost first set easily, were two games away from defeat in the second, only to win the third set almost as easily as they lost the first one.

CHENNAI

Former No. 5 in the world, German Rainer Schuettler, exactly one year ago was ranked No. 99 but since last year’s Wimbledon has been on the road to go back to Top 30. In the quarterfinal Schuettler beat fellow German Bjorn Phau 6-2 7-5 despite a deficit of two breaks in the second set.

A two-time U.S. collegiate champion, Somdev Devvarman has notched the biggest success in his short career beating 7-6 6-4 Ivo Karlovic. Devvarman broke Karlovic’s serve once, in the final game of the match thanks to 4 unforced errors of the Croat, the Indian added one great passing-shot in that game. 23 year-old Devverman plays just 5th ATP tournament.

Doha – Quarterfinals

(5)(WC)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. (1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6-4 6-4
(4)Andy Roddick (USA) d. Victor Hanescu 6-3 6-2
(3)Andy Murray (GBR) d. Sergey Stakhovsky (UKR) 6-4 6-2
(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. (8)Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 6-2 7-6(6)

Brisbane – Quarterfinals

Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) d. Kei Nishikori (JPN) 6-3 6-4
(3)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Florent Serra (FRA) 4-6 6-0 6-3
(8)Radek Stepanek (CZE) vs (4)Robin Soderling (SWE) 2-6 6-4 6-3
(7)Richard Gasquet (FRA) vs (2)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 1-6 6-4 6-2

Chennai – Quarterfinals

(8)Marcel Granollers (ESP) d. (WC)Lukas Dlouhy (CZE) 7-5 2-6 6-4
(3)Marin Cilic (CRO) d. (7)Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) 6-4 0-6 6-4
(WC)Somdev K. Dev Varman (IND) d. (4)Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 7-6(4) 6-4
(5)Rainer Schuettler (GER) d. Bjorn Phau (GER) 6-2 7-5

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US Open – Day 1: The Goal Is To Win US Open, no ?

NEW YORK – The fact he’s number one in the world makes no difference to Rafael Nadal.

“I have the same goal,” he said Monday night. “When I was number two, the goal was the same, was win the US Open, The goal wasn’t win the US Open to be number one. The goal is win US Open, no?”

Coming off yet another title – the latest an Olympic gold medal in Beijing – Nadal opened his first Grand Slam tournament as the top-seeded player by beating back pesky qualifier Bjorn Phau of Germany 7 6 (4) 6 3 7 6 (4).

“He played well today, but I didn’t play with normal intensity,” Nadal said of Phau, who has spent a lot of time playing Challenger tournaments and not on the main tour. “Important thing, finally, is to win.”

One top player failed to make it past the opening day of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Tenth-seeded Anna Chakvetadze was ousted by fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 1-6 6-2 6-3.

Phau was a match for Nadal in speed and quickness. And his penetrating shots kept the Spaniard on the run. Still, while Phau matched Nadal with 37 winners each, the German doled out nine more errors than his higher-ranked opponent and continually had to battle to hold his own serve.

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Nadal, on the other hand, held easily and faced only three break points in the match, losing serve just once.

“I am a little bit tired, yes, but it is US Open so I have to try my best here,” Nadal said. “I’m going to try to try my best for sure.”

Playing in only her second US Open main draw, Makarova pulled off the opening day’s biggest surprise by ousting Chakvetadze, who was a semifinalist here last year.

The 20-year-old Makarova, one year younger than Chakvetadze, won only one more point than her opponent. But her points came at the right time as she broke Chakvetadze twice in each of the last two sets.

Also losing her first-round match was Shahar Peer of Israel, who fell to Li Na of China 2-6 6-0 6-1. Peer was seeded 24th.

“She never miss,” Li said of Peer’s first-set play. “And in the second set I just tell myself, `OK, right now you just play your game. Don’t give up.’ I know every first round is tough for the player, so I just try my best.”

Li, who reached the semifinals at the Beijing Olympics, only to lose the bronze medal match, completely dominated after the opening set. She finished with 28 winners, compared to just seven for Peer.

Amira Paszek of Austria surprised 22nd seeded Maria Kirilenko 6-3 3-6 6-4.

In the men’s singes, two seeded players were eliminated.

Feliciano Lopez of Spain, the 27th seed, was beaten by Austria’s Jurgen Melzer in one of the day’s longest matches 4-6 7-6 (5) 6-2 2-6 6-4. And 29th-seeded Juan Monaco of Argentina fell to Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-2 6-2 5-7 6-2.

“It was a great win, I think, because he’s a good player and seeded,” Nishikori said. “I didn’t think I was going to win, so I’m happy of it.”

Mondays With Bob Greene: They Should Have Picked Me In The First Place

STARS

Rafael Nadal beat Nicolas Kiefer 6-3 6-2 in Toronto, Canada, to win the Rogers Cup

Dinara Safina won the East West Bank Classic in Los Angeles, California, by beating Flavia Pennetta 6-4 6-2

Nicolas Devilder beat Bjorn Phau 7-5 6-0 to win the Porsche Open in Poznan, Poland

Sara Errani won the Banka Koper Slovenia Open, defeating Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3 6-3 in Portoroz, Slovenia

Filippo Volandri beat Potito Starace 5-7 6-4 6-1 to win the San Marino Cepu Open in San Marino

SAYINGS

“I win on every surface, no? I win on grass, on hard, on indoor, and on clay, too. So if I am playing my best tennis I can win on every surface, no?” – Rafael Nadal, after beating Nicolas Kiefer to win the Rogers Cup.

“I haven’t changed anything this year. I just try to practice hard every day and the results are starting to come.” – Sara Errani, who won the Slovenia Open for her second title in three weeks.

“The hard court season just started so it is not the end of the world, but I wish I could have started better. I’ve got to regroup and look forward.” – Roger Federer, after losing his opening Roger Cup match to Gilles Simon.

“I was playing like I was in a dream. I just saw the ball and hit it as hard as possible.” – Gilles Simon, after beating Roger Federer 2-6 7-5 6-4 in Toronto.

“Some points were very close and I didn’t make them. I think I shouldn’t look only at my game today, I should see the whole week in general. I think this was a big step forward for me. This is how I have to look at it.” – Nicolas Kiefer, after losing to Nadal in Toronto.

“In one of those super tiebreakers, it’s pretty much anyone ballgame.” – Mike Bryan, who with his brother Bob led the match tiebreaker 6-3 before losing the Toronto final to Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 6-2 4-6 10-6.

“Hopefully my time will come. It’s not the end of the world.” – Jelena Jankovic, whose semifinal loss kept her from gaining the world number one ranking.

“It was a perfect match. I have nothing bad to say. My coach said it was the best match I ever played.” – Dinara Safina, after crushing Victoria Azarenka 6-3 6-1 in a quarterfinal match at Los Angeles.

“Before it was all golf, golf, golf. I probably practice more tennis than golf now.” – Greg Norman, who finished third in the British Open shortly after marrying tennis legend Chris Evert.

“It’s been suspended. The Tour will evaluate the results of the testing period and make a decision as to whether to adopt on-court coaching or not.” – WTA Tour spokesman Andrew Walker.

“I’m for it but they wanted more opinions. The results weren’t convincing enough and some of the younger players don’t know what they want, so we need more time to see how they feel.” – Player Council representative Patty Schnyder on the WTA Tour suspending on-court coaching.

“It’s a little distracting when you have coaches walking on court and most of them are parents. That’s what I didn’t like about it. On the other hand, it worked perfectly for me.” – Nadia Petrova, about the on-court coaching.

STUNNED

Bob and Mike Bryan led 6-3 in the match tiebreak at the Rogers Cup before Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic won the final seven points to capture their third straight doubles title. It was the third time this season the top two doubles teams have clashed, the Bryan brothers winning the Masters Series Rome, with the Canadian/Serbian team capturing the Masters Series Hamburg. It was the first time Nestor had won the Canadian title since 2000. Simonjic’s best previous finish was the quarterfinals two years ago with Fabrice Santoro.

STOPPED

Jelena Jankovic’s bid to become number one in the world was derailed by Dinara Safina in the semifinals of the East West Bank Classic. If she had reached the final, Jankovic would have replaced fellow Serbian Ana Ivanovic as the world’s top-ranked female player. Safina moved up one spot, from ninth to eighth, in the WTA Tour rankings.

STREAKING

No player has been hotter on the WTA Tour lately than Dinara Safina. She was down match point before beating qualifier Alla Kudryavtseva in the round of 16 at the East West Bank Classic. Then she lost a 4-2 opening set lead in the semifinals before winning five of the final six points in the tiebreaker and dominating the second set to knock off Jelena Jankovic 7-6 (3) 6-1. That victory put Safina in her fourth final in her last five tournaments, including the French Open, and she easily won that by beating Flavia Pennetta 6-4 6-2. The Russian moved up in the rankings from number nine to number eight, and she improved her match record to 22-3 since the start of May. Eight of her 22 wins have come against top-ten players.

SHAKY START

Gilles Simon was the latest stumbling block for Roger Federer. The Frenchman upset the world’s top-ranked player 2-6 7-5 6-4 to hand the Swiss player his second straight defeat. It was Federer’s first match since his five-set loss to Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. Federer appeared to be in great shape, winning the first four games of the match before losing to Simon. Then Federer and fellow Swiss Stanislav Wawrinka, preparing for the Beijing Olympics, lost their second-round doubles match to Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes 6-4 6-4.

SWISS CHEESE

With his victory in Toronto, Rafael Nadal is ready to overtake Roger Federer for the world number one ranking. Federer has held the top ranking for a record 234 weeks, but his commanding 1,445-point cushion at the start of this year is now less than 300 points. “Every player wants to be number one,” Nadal said. “I would love to be number one, but I am number two right now. I’m very happy to be number two, because with my titles, with my points, in a normal situation I would have been number one before. … Because if I am number two, it’s because in front of me there is amazing player like Roger.”

STEPPING IN

John McEnroe has come to the rescue of the United States Tennis Association. In March, the USTA prepared a series of commercials to promote the 10-tournament summer season known as the U.S. Open Series. The commercials featured the world’s top players and former player Justin Gimelstob. But Gimelstob unleashed a tirade against former WTA Tour player and model Anna Kournikova, and although he has since apologized, the USTA decided to kill the ads. Along came McEnroe, who shot new footage that was inserted into the existing ads. “They should have asked me in the first place,” McEnroe said. “The U.S. Open has always been close to my heart. I grew up in Queens.”

STRANGE PAIRING

Fans at the Tanga Cement tennis championships in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, complained about one first-round match, charging unfair pairings. Sebastian Mtupili, who is more than 30 years old, beat ten-year-old John Njau 6-0 6-0. Players from Kenya, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Tanzania competed in men’s and women’s singles and doubles, and veterans, but there was no lower age limit for those entering the tournament. The singles winners each received USD $1,000.

SIDELINED

A knee injury is keeping Venus Williams on the sidelines this week. The Wimbledon champion withdrew from the Rogers Cup women’s tennis tournament in Montreal, Canada, because she did not want to risk aggravating the tendinitis in her knee ahead of the Beijing Olympics, according to tournament director Eugene Lapierre. Also pulling out of the tournament was Tatiana Golovin, who has been sidelined since injuring her back at a tournament in Germany in May.

Serena Williams pulled out of the East West Bank Classic in Los Angeles, California, because of her left knee. That came a few days after she withdrew from the semifinals at Stanford, California, with the same injury. “I’m working hard to be ready for the Olympics and U.S. Open,” Serena said.

SWITCHING SPOTS

Who will be seeking gold in tennis at the Beijing Olympics is a work in flux. Mary Pierce withdrew because of injury and was replaced by Amelie Mauresmo, who also withdrew. So Pauline Parmentier will play both singles and doubles for France. Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine will replace the injured Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands.

STRONG COMEBACK

Chung Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung had to rally to win their seventh WTA Tour doubles title. The Taiwanese pair trailed 6-2 4-2 in the final of the East West Bank Classic before fighting back to defeat Eva Hrdinova and Vladimira Uhlrova 2-6 7-5 10-4 (match tiebreak). The top seeded team in the tournament, Chan and Chuang have now won two titles at the Tier II level or above. Their first five titles came at the Tier III and IV level. They won a Tier I event at Rome earlier this year.

SANCHEZ VICARIO TO WAIT

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario will have to wait two years for her latest honor. The Spanish star had to miss her induction into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame when acute gastroenteritis forced her to cancel her plans to travel to Montreal and instead remain in Spain for treatment. Sanchez Vicario, who won the Canadian tournament in 1992 and 1994, retired as a player after the 2002 season and has since become a tennis analyst for Spanish television. She also is tournament director for a women’s event in Barcelona, Spain.

Boris Becker was on hand in Toronto where he was inducted into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame during the men’s event. Becker won the tournament in 1986.

SIGNALS, PERHAPS

When an eight-year-old girl playing her first junior tennis tournament questioned a number of line calls, officials became suspicious. After they checked, Anastasiya Korzh was ejected from the tournament when she was found to be wearing a radio earpiece under her headband, linked by a cord to a receiver under her shirt. Korzh’s father said he was using the earpiece only to help his daughter keep score in the under-10 tournament.

SUSPENDED

No more on-court coaching for players on the WTA Tour. The controversial initiative, which was never used at the Grand Slam tournaments, has been suspended by the women’s tour, which will evaluate the results of the testing period and make a decision whether or not to bring it back.

SOUTHERN-BOUND

Carlista Mohammed of Trinidad and Tobago will be taking a lot of hardware with her when she travels to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she is on a full tennis scholarship. The 18-year-old Mohammed recently won the women’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles titles at the 2008 Evian National Tennis Championships in Trinidad and Tobago. She also won the singles titles at both the Citi-Tranquil and South Open Classifieds tournaments. “It feels really good to be leaving with everything,” said Mohammed, who will be majoring in linguistics with a minor in sports psychology at Southern University.

SINGING HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Eleven tennis players would love to celebrate their birthday with a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. The players who will turn a year older during the Beijing Games, and their birthdays, all in August, are: Roger Federer, Switzerland, Aug. 8; Kateryna Bondarenko, Ukraine, 8; Pepa Martinez, Spain, 12; Nicolas Lapentti, Ecuador, 13; Alona Bondarenko, Ukraine, 13; Lu Yen-Hsun, Chinese Taipei, 14; Robin Soderling, Sweden, 14; Chan Yung-Jan, Chinese Taipei, 17; Liezel Huber, United States, 21; Nicolas Almagro, Spain, 21; and Olga Govortsova, Belarus, 23.

STILL GOING

Kimiko Date-Krumm has continued her amazing return to pro tennis by reaching the finals in singles and doubles at the USD $25,000 Miyazaki tournament in Japan. She won the singles, beating Kyung-Yee Chae of Korea 6-3 6-2, but lost the doubles in a match tiebreak 4-6 6-3 10-7.

Jelena Dokic also was a winner in her latest stop on the comeback trail. She captured a USD $25,000 ITF tournament in Darmstadt, Germany, beating Michelle Gerards of the Netherlands 6-0 6-0 in the final.

SANCTIONED

Frantisek Cermak of the Czech Republic and Michal Mertinak of Slovakia have been suspended and fined by the ATP for betting on tennis matches. Cermak was banned for 10 weeks and fined USD $15,000, while Mertinak received a two-week suspension and a $3,000 penalty. Both were doubles winners earlier this month. Cermak teamed with Roger Wassen to win in Amersfoort, Netherlands, while Mertinak won in Umag, Croatia, with Petr Pala. The ATP said neither player placed bets on his own matches, and the independent hearing officer found no evidence of any intent to affect the outcome of any matches wagered upon.

SAMPRAS SELLS

After dropping his asking price by USD $2 million, Pete Sampras sold his home in Beverly Hills, California. The former tennis star reportedly dropped the price from $25 million to $23 million for the two-story house that has five bedrooms and twelve bathrooms. There is a detached guesthouse, a separate gym and a tennis court. The main house includes a home theater and the master bedroom suite has his-and-hers bathrooms.

SEARCHING FOR DOLLARS

Georg von Waldenfels, head of the German Tennis Federation, told a court that the ATP Tour’s planned tournament restructuring would have a devastating effect on the annual men’s clay court event in Hamburg. The first witness in a federal trial held in Wilmington, Delaware, von Waldenfels said the ATP’s plan to move the Hamburg tournament from May to July and downgrade it to second-tier status would make it difficult to attract top players to Germany since a July date would come when the top players are gearing up for the North American hard court season that leads up to the U.S. Open. The German federation has filed suit claiming the ATP’s tournament restructuring violates antitrust laws by attempting to monopolize player commitments and tournament sanctions in men’s professional tennis.

SMELLY SPOT

The bird carcass causing a stink at a tennis tournament in Vancouver, British Columbia, will be staying right where it is. The dead heron fledgling likely fell out of a nest in the tree and died, dangling several meters (yards) above a path between tennis courts at Stanley Park. City parks board chairwoman Korina Houghton said the bird won’t be removed because doing so could disturb the large colony of endangered great blue heron nesting in the trees above, one of the largest colonies in the Canadian province.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Toronto: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Bob and Mike Bryan 6-2 4-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Poznan: Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer beat Santiago Giraldo and Alberto Martin 3-6 6-3 10-5 (match tiebreak)

San Marino: Yves Allegro and Horia Tecau beat Fabio Colangelo and Philipp Marx 7-5 7-5

Los Angeles: Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung beat Eva Hrdinova and Vladimira Uhlrova 2-6 7-5 10-4 (match tiebreak)

Portoroz: Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual beat Vera Dushevina and Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 6-1

SITES TO SURF

Cincinnati: www.cincytennis.com

Cordenons: www.euro-sporting.it/challenger

Vancouver: www.vanopen.com

Montreal: www.rogerscup.com

Stockholm: www.nordiclightopen.com

Graz: www.stennismasters.at

Segovia: www.teniselespinar.com

Los Angeles: www.countrywideclassic.com

Vale do Lobo: www.grandchampions.org

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$2,450,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, Cincinnati, Ohio, hard

$135,000 Internazionali del Friuli Venezia Giulia, Cordenons, Italy, clay

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

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Rogers Cup, Montreal Canada, hard

$145,000 Nordea Nordic Light Open, Stockholm, Sweden, hard

SENIORS

s Tennis Masters, Graz, Austria, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$525,000 Countrywide Classic, Los Angeles, California, hard

$125,000 Open Castilla y Leon, Segovia, Spain, hard

WOMEN

$100,000 ITF event, Monterrey, Mexico, hard

SENIORS

Vale do Lobo Grand Champions CGD, Vale do Lobo, Portugal, hard

Gabashvili Rolls On While Groenefeld Rebounds

While the top stars are preparing for the grass courts of Wimbledon, the challenger circuit remains on the clay courts. Last week showed one player on the men’s side continuing his prowess on the circuit, while another player on the women’s side took a small step towards gaining back her former top 15 ranking.

After an outstanding 2006 season which saw her reach a career high ranking of No. 14, Groenefeld suffered a nightmare 2007 season that included fitness issues and a high-profile feud with her former coach, Rafael Font De Mora. After taking most of 2008 off, Groenefeld showed that she is serious about getting her game back on track by winning the $75,000 challenger in Zlin, Czech Republic, dispatching Jelena Kostanic Tosic of Croatia 6-3, 4-6 6-1, in the final. The win also puts Groenefeld back in the world’s top 300, with minimal points to defend for the rest of the year.

At the $75,000 challenger in Marseille, France, Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium won her second challenger title of the year with a 7-6, 6-2 win over local favorite Stephanie Foretz of France. The win gives Flipkens the biggest title of her career and propels her just outside of the top 150 in the rankings.

While satellite results normally aren’t mentioned in this column, one result deserves a special accolade. Kimiko Date-Krumm, who reached a career high ranking of No. 4 in 1995, won the first singles title in her comeback at the $10,000 satellite event in Tokyo, Japan. The 37-year-old didn’t drop a set all week, storming through Shiho Akita of Japan in the final with a 6-3, 6-2 win. The win moves Date-Krumm just outside of the top 400 in the world rankings after just four tournaments.

In other results on the women’s side, Masa Zec-Peskiric of Slovenia won the $25,000 event in Campobasso, Italy, while Anna Tatishvili of Georgia won the first pro title of her career at the $25,000 challenger in El Paso, Texas.

On the men’s side, Adrian Ungur of Romania won the first pro title of his career at the $50,000 challenger in Sofia, Bulgaria, rolling over Franco Ferreiro of Brazil in the finals 6-3, 6-0. Ferreiro is still looking for his first title of the year, having lost his other final of the year at the challenger in Florianopolis, Brazil.

At the $35,000 event in Kosice, Slovakia, Lukas Rosol of Czech Republic also won the first challenger title of his career by beating Miguel Angel Lopez-Jaen of Spain with a 7-5, 6-1 victory in the final. The win moves Rosol within a few spots of breaking the top 200 for the first time in his career.

Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia continues to roll on the challenger circuit. The 23 year old won his third challenger title of the year at the $35,000 challenger in Milan, Italy, beating Diego Hartfield of Argentina 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the final. The win moves Gabashvili within striking distance of the world’s top 100, a place he has remained out of for almost a full year now.

The men host the biggest event on the challenger circuit this week as Jiri Vanek of Czech Republic is the top seed at the $125,000 event in Braunschweig, Germany. Eric Prodon takes top billing at the $35,000 in Bytom, Poland, while Bjorn Phau of Germany leads the way at the $35,000 challenger in Recanati, Italy.

Only one challenger will take place on the women’s side this week, as Nina Bratchikova of Russia is the top seed at the $25,000 event in Istanbul, Turkey.

Nishikori Continues to Roll; Mattek Rebounds

The challenger circuit last week featured two flashy young players hoisting up winners trophies. Kei Nishikori’s intelligent game and speed allowed him to prevail in Bermuda, while Bethanie Mattek’s aggressive all court game (and fashion sense) saw her triumph in Alabama.

It’s safe to say that Kei Nishikori won’t be on the challenger circuit for much longer. The 18-year-old from Japan won his first ATP title this year in Delray Beach, Fla., and has now won the $100,000 event in Paget, Bermuda. In the final, Nishikori fought back from 1-3 down in the final-set tiebreak to beat Victor Troicki of Serbia 2-6 7-5 7-6. With the win, Nishikori moved to No. 99 in the rankings and became the first Japanese man to break the top 100 since Shuzo Matsuoka in 1996.

At the $50,000 tournament in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, American Bobby Reynolds won his second challenger event in a row by defeating Igor Kunitsyn of Russia 6-3 6-7 7-5. He also won the tournament last week in Tallahassee, Fla. Reynolds also moves to a new career high ranking of No. 77 with his result.

At the $35,000 event in Cremona, Italy, Eduardo Schwank of Argentina won his first challenger of the year with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Bjorn Phau of Germany. The 22-year-old Schwank is also poised to move into a new career high ranking this week. Despite the loss, this was easily the best result of the year for Phau, who sported a 5-7 record coming into Cremona.

On the women’s side, Mattek of the United States won her first title of the year at the $75,000 tournament in Dothan, Alabama, beating fellow American Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 7-6. Mattek rebounded strongly from her 6-0, 6-0 loss to Maria Sharapova last week by winning the title without the loss of a set. Despite the loss, Lepchenko can take comfort in having another solid week in Dothan; she’s reached the final in three out of the last four years.

Su-Wei Hsieh of Taipei was the heavy favorite to win the $25,000 event in Incheon, Korea, and she didn’t disappoint. The 22-year-old rolled over Yan-Ze Xie of China in the final with a 6-1, 6-1 victory. Hsieh has failed to win a match since coming out of nowhere to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open this year, but finally showed the form that got her to the second week of the first major of the event.

At the $25,000 tournament in Namangan, Uzbekistan, Ksenia Palkina of Kyrgyzstan became the first player from her country to win a challenger title with a 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 win over Maria Kondratieva of Russia. Palkina also reached the quarterfinals of the WTA event in Tashkent last fall.

The challenger circuit will be graced by the presence of a top 25 player this week, as Tatiana Golovin competes at the $100,000 event in Cagnes Sur Mer, France. Stephanie Dubois of Canada is the top seed at the $50,000 event in Charlottesville, Virginia, Evgenia Rodina of Russia takes top billing at the $50,000 event in Makarska, Croatia, and Aiko Nakamura of Japan hopes to satisfy her home crowd at the $50,000 event in Gifu. Events on the $25,000 level in Gimcheon, Korea and Balikpapan, Indonesia will also be contested. On the men’s side, Julien Benneteau of France is the top seed at the $125,000 event in Tunis, Tunisia, and Jiri Vanek of the Czech Republic leads the way at the $75,000 event in his hometown of Prague. Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei is the top seed at the $50,000 event in Lanzarote, Spain, and Italian Flavio Cipolla leads the way at the $35,000 event in Rome, Italy.