By Maud Watson
The New Fraulein Forehand? – A couple of weeks ago I criticized Serb Ana Ivanovic for appearing to disrupt the balance by focusing on too many off court activities while her tennis career was in a fast downward spiral. Today I must applaud her for once again seeking a full time coach, and a good one at that. Ivanovic has hired Steffi Graf’s former coach Heinz Gunthardt. Granted, each individual player has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, but given the champion player that Steffi Graf evolved into under the tutelage of Gunthardt, there’s reason to believe that Ivanovic may soon find her game back on track.
Career Resurrected – Nearly 7 years ago, Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero was on top of the world. He’d won Roland Garros, reached the finals of the US Open, and achieved the No. 1 ranking. Then, a bad bout of chicken pox and other miscellaneous injuries saw his ranking fall off the map. Nearly the forgotten man, it would be 6 years before he’d break his title drought with a tournament win at Casablanca in 2009. After a shaky start to 2010, El Mosquito has won Brasil and Buenos Aires back-to-back and has put in a good showing in Acapulco. His ranking is now in the top 20, with a realistic chance of being inside the top 10 for Roland Garros. It’s nice to see his hard work pay off, and maybe, just maybe, he’ll add another Slam to his resume before he hangs up the racquet.
Shakin’ with Shakira – While allowing his knee to recuperate, Rafael Nadal had a bit of fun making it on the small screen. The famous Spaniard teamed up with Colombian pop sensation Shakira to shoot a steamy music video for her new single Gypsy, which will be out this coming April. Don’t let too many tongues start wagging, however. Both are in long-term relationships and deny that there is anything going on between the two of them.
Cautious Federer – It’s rare to see the Swiss maestro pull out of an event due to injury or illness, but that’s exactly what Roger Federer was forced to do at Dubai this week. The 16-time Grand Slam winner is suffering from a lung infection. He hopes to be back at Indian Wells, but he’s making no promises. You can’t argue with Federer’s cautious approach. After all, part of what has allowed him to build such a stellar legacy is his relative good health and lack of injuries over the course of his career. That doesn’t happen by accident. He’s nearly always been excellent in setting his schedule and recognizing when his body needs to rest. This time is no exception.
Tomic Makes the Team – Due to a combination of his improving results and Hewitt’s unavailability for Davis Cup duty, Aussie Bernard Tomic has now become the youngest player to be named to an Australian Davis Cup squad. There’s no doubt that Tomic has the talent to make it to the top, but his attitude and meddlesome father have caused him more than his share of troubles in his young career. Perhaps a dose of maturity and a good showing for his adopted homeland will do much to improve his image and serve as a springboard to greater success.
From the Austrian Postal Service launching a commemorative Roger Federer stamp to the Andre Agassi Foundation raising $8 million during the Grand Slam for Children event in Las Vegas to former top-ranked doubles player Ai Sugiyama retiring from professional tennis to Li Na signing with IMG to tennis icon Jack Kramer being remembered at a memorial service at Starus Stadium at UCLA to John Isner and Melanie Oudin agreeing to team up in January to represent the United States in Hopman Cup, these stories caught the attention of tennis fans and insiders this week.
According to a report by AFP, the Austrian Postal Service will launch a commemorative stamp honoring Roger Federer and his record 15 Grand Slam singles titles. About 400,000 Federer stamps will be issued.
The Andre Agassi Foundation’s Grand Slam for Children event raised $8 million over the weekend in Las Vegas. The Engelstad Family Foundation also pledged another $7.5 million to Agassi’s Foundation over a five year period.
Ai Sugiyama of Japan has retired from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour following a first round defeat to Nadia Petrova at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. Sugiyama was honored on court during a special ceremony put on by WTA Tour officials and players to honor her remarkable career, which included speeches by her regular doubles partners Daniela Hantuchova and Katarina Srebotnik. Throughout her career, Sugiyama won six singles titles, 38 doubles titles and earned more than $8 million in tournament prize money.
Li Na, the highest ranked Chinese player ever on the WTA Tour, has signed a representation deal with IMG. “We are very pleased to have Li Na as an IMG client,” said Max Eisenbud, the Senior Vice President of IMG.
Tennis legend and the first executive of the ATP Tour Jack Kramer was remembered on Saturday during a memorial service at the Los Angeles Tennis Center on the campus on UCLA. Hundreds of people were in attendance during the service, as former WTA Tour star Pam Shriver and Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Dwyre acted as hosts of the ceremony. Barry MacKay, Tracy Austin, Donald Dell, US Open tournament director Jim Curley and former player Charlie Pasarell were among the speakers during the service.
John Isner and Melanie Oudin will represent the United States at the Hopman Cup from January 2-9, 2010 in Perth, Australia.
The inaugural Maria Sharapova South American Tour will take place from November 29 to December 4 and will feature the former Grand Slam singles champion and Argentine Gisela Dulko. The tour will feature exhibition matches between the players in San Paulo, Brazil on November 29, Santiago, Chile on December 2 and Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 4. Fashion shows, charity appearances and tennis clinics for the local children will also be a part of the three-city exhibition series.
The USTA and Levy Restaurants, the official restaurateur of the US Open, combined to donate more than 21,000 pounds of unused food from the US Open to City Harvest. City Harvest, which is based in New York City, is a food rescue organization that feeds people in need of food. “We are very thankful to the USTA and Levy Restaurants and for this generous donation,” said Jilly Stephens, the Executive Director at City Harvest. “Our long-standing partnership with the US Open demonstrates their commitment to helping us feed hungry New Yorkers.”
AEGON signed a five-year deal until 2013 to become the title sponsor of the prestigious Masters Tennis at Royal Albert Hall in London and will now be called the AEGON Masters Tennis. The tournament has featured former Wimbledon champions such as Pete Sampras, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. “We are delighted to welcome AEGON as our new title sponsor,” said Peter Worth, the Senior Vice President of IMG.
Defending US Open champion Kim Clijsters has announced her 2010 tournament schedule. Clijsters will play at Brisbane, Australian Open, Fed Cup, Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, French Open, Eastbourne/Rosmalen, Wimbledon, Cincinnati, Montreal, US Open, Beijing and possibly the year-end championships in Doha.
The 2010 Davis Cup World Group opening round ties have been announced:
Spain vs. Switzerland
France vs. Germany
Russia vs. India
Sweden vs. Argentina
Croatia vs. Ecuador
Serbia vs. United States
Chile vs. Israel
Belgium vs. Czech Republic
Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu has signed a sponsorship deal with Lagardere.
Romanian Andrei Pavel officially retired from the ATP World Tour following a straight sets loss to Pablo Cuevas in his hometown tournament last week in Bucharest. Pavel, who lives in the United States, will continue to be the captain for the Romanian Davis Cup team and has plans to open a tennis academy in Arizona.
Argentine tennis player Sergio Roitman has announced that he will retire from the ATP World Tour at the conclusion of the Copa Petrobas Challenger tournament in Buenos Aires. Roitman reached a career high ranking of No. 62 in October 2007 and has won more than $1.2 million in tournament prize money. “It is a strange moment for me, but the time has come for me to leave professional tennis,” said Roitman.
A lawsuit filed against Frenchman Richard Gasquet has been dismissed in Parisian courts stating no finding whether he took cocaine or if somebody else was responsible.
A Serbian court has confirmed that Jelena Dokic’s father has been sentenced to 15-months in prison for threatening to kill the Australian Ambassador to Serbia.
The Tennis Industry Association (TIA) is set to launch the website, www.playtennis.com. The website is designed to allow people to join the sport, learn more about tennis and get on a system to become a frequent player. “PlayTennis.com will be the first step,” said TIA President Jon Muir. “We’ll get key messaging out there through this site. It’s a wonderful opportunity for all stakeholders to get behind.”
Nine tennis professionals earned the distinction of Master Professional by the USPTA. The nine honorees were honored during the recent USPTA World Conference on Tennis at the Marriott Resort, Golf Club and Spa in Marco Island, Fla. Only about one percent of the 15,000 USPTA members have achieved the Master Professional merit.
Cory Ross of Littleton, Colo., won the men’s open division $30,000 USPTA International Championships on Thursday in Marco Island, while Marina McCollom of West Des Moines, Iowa won the women’s open division title.
Robert Greene Jr., of Rangeley, Maine, who is the Director of Tennis at the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch, N.H., earned the USPTA’s Alex Gordon Award for the Professional of the Year.
The 7th week of the ATP Tour is coming up and so here is another preview. The preview includes Buenos Aires (Argentina), ABN Amro in Rotterdam (Netherlands), San Jose (USA).
The South American claycourt swing heads to Buenos Aires this week and all the usual suspects are there to try to win this title. Three of the top four seeds are hometown players looking to claim their first title of the year – #4 seed Juan Ignacio Chela especially will be looking to turn around an abysmal start to the year but faces a very tough opener in Santiago Ventura. We will have to wait and see if this is one of the weeks #1 seed David Nalbandian decides to care about tennis (though we’d like to think he’d care at his home tournament), and it is #2 seed Juan Monaco’s first tournament back after a pretty serious ankle injury that dashed his hopes for a title two weeks ago at Vina del Mar; he also faces a tough opener in Agustin Calleri. Also joining the party and poised to make deep runs are this week’s Brasil Open finalists Nicolas Almagro and Carlos Moya, depending on how they rebound physically. Filled with claycourters and possible upsets, it’s really impossible to know how this one might turn out.
Despite losing world #3 Novak Djokovic before the draw was made, this tournament is clearly still the strongest of the week, as it boasts half of the world’s top ten (in fact, all eight seeds are in the top 20) and 125 ranking points more than Buenos Aires or San Jose. This means there are no easy draws, evidenced by the fact that #1 seed Rafael Nadal must open against tough Dmitry Tursunov right away in the first round and a potential second round with Lleyton Hewitt. In the very same first quarter of the draw, Marcos Baghdatis faces no easy task in first round opponent and indoor monster Robin Soderling.
Headed by #4 seed and defending champion Mikhail Youzhny and #7 Juan Carlos Ferrero, this quarter is easily the weakest of the four, and Youzhny is the obvious favorite to make it through to the semis from this section, but Ferrero should not be counted out either. This quarter is not without dangerous floaters, though. Gilles Simon or Feliciano Lopez could make for a tricky second round match for Youzhny, and while not his favorite surface, the fact that Tommy Robredo is ranked 19 in the world and is unseeded just shows just how strong this draw is.
The third quarter of the draw is where things really get interesting. Fresh off his uh, challenger win this week, last year’s finalist Ivan Ljubicic sees himself unseeded and thus will have his hands full – very full – with #5 seed Tomas Berdych in the first round. Right next to them in the draw is perhaps the funniest-looking match on the ATP tour with pint-sized Olivier Rochus taking on the giant Ivo Karlovic. #3 Ferrer’s draw to the quarterfinals appears to be a fairly smooth one, but he cannot overlook Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber.
In the final quarter of the draw, #6 seed Andy Murray, fresh off his Marseille win, should make it through to the quarterfinals, where he’d also be favored against #2 seed Nikolay Davydenko. Also lurking in this quarter is Michael Llodra, who could be a formidable player indoors if he gets his serve-volley game working, and local players Robin Haase and Raemon Sluiter, who announced that he is making this Rotterdam event his last ATP appearance.
What can we really say except that this is Roddick’s tournament to lose (which means he probably will). Stopped by Andy Murray the past two years in the semifinals and champion the two years after that, Murray’s decision to play the European indoor swing, as well as Ivo Karlovic’s, conbined with the absence of Fernando Gonzalez, leaves this tournament Roddick’s for the taking. Whether he will take it, we will have to wait and see. He faces lucky loser Chris Guccione, a late replacement Vince Spadea, in the first round and could face Delray Beach champ Kei Nishikori in what would be a most intriguing second round. At the bottom of the draw, James Blake will have to rebound quickly from the disappointment of losing the Delray Beach final and could face Robby Ginepri again, if Ginepri makes it there (he opens in a rematch of last week’s match against Michael Russell).
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this event is something not even related to the tournament draw at all. Tomorrow night, Pete Sampras will play an exhibition against Tommy Haas and the following night, the entire US Davis Cup team will be present with the trophy itself, which is making a stop in San Jose, for a nice celebration.