2011 Roland Garros champion Li Na received a hero’s welcome in her hometown of Wuhan, kicking off a two-day exhibition tournament on December 17, 2011 called “Li Na and Friends.” The festivities also feature 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras and former world number number 1 Carlos Moya, as well as 2011 Wimbledon semifinalist and WTA Comeback Player of the Year Sabine Lisicki. The event gave fans a chance to celebrate Li Na’s historic Grand Slam victory and brought tennis to a quickly-growing market in China.
Li’s slump since winning Roland Garros in June seems to have ended as she looked to be in better form this weekend after a month-long training camp in Germany.
“I trained quite solidly and effectively in Germany. I feel much better now compared with the past several months. But how good my form is, I think it will be tested at this tournament … I just want to relax my nerves after the Germany trip. It’s a feedback event for my home fans,” Li said after being greeted at the Wuham Tianhe airport by a cheering home crowd.
The 29-year-old was also nominated for the Laureus “Breakthrough Player of the Year” award on Thursday showing just how far the veteran has come not only in tennis, but in the international world of sports.
The first day of the exhibition featured a square off between Li and Lisicki followed by mixed doubles with Li teaming up with Sampras and Lisicki pairing with Moya. On Sunday, the men will take court for their singles match followed by a reverse mixed doubles match.
After fighting off two match points to defeat Li at this year’s Wimbledon 3-6, 6-4, 8-6, Germany’s Lisicki again praised Li’s mark on tennis.
“I am delighted to have been included in the ‘Li Na and Friends’ event. Li Na and I had one of the best quality matches of Wimbledon 2011 and it is always a pleasure to play a champion — especially a reigning Grand Slam Champion like Li Na who is so friendly and professional, something all of China should be very proud of,” said the 22-year-old.
After growing up watching Sampras on TV, Li shared how starstruck she was upon meeting one of her idols.
“I always admired his skills and play, but only saw him on TV. But during the China Open this year, I met him for the first time outside the locker room, and he said ’Hi, Li Na, I am Sampras. Congratulations for the French Open championship,’” said Li. ”After he was gone, I had to ask myself, ‘Did that really just happen?’”
Likewise, Sampras reciprocated the feelings of mutual respect.
“It’s good to be back,” said Sampras, referring to his third trip to China in three months. “I’m a friend of Li Na now, which is a great honour for me.”
Check out more photos from the exhibition tournament’s press conference in wintery China below. Massive log cake included!
(Sabine Lisicki/Na Li photo courtesy of Lisicki’s Facebook page; Press Conference photos courtesy of IMG; Rest from LiNaAndFriends.com)
By Cynthia Lum
Having the middle Sunday off is the best tradition of the Wimbledon Championship. Every grand slam should do this, but instead the French have added a day so they now have a fifteen day event. This is way too much for any event except the Olympics which has a lot of events rather than just players hitting a yellow ball over a net day after day, for hours and hours.
I started my wonderful Sunday having brunch with friends at Covent Garden, the on to the Tate Modern for the Miro Exhibit. All the museums in London are free which I think is great. I love Joan Miro’s work, the way he reduces everything to a simple arrangement of signs, often on a brilliant blue background reminiscent of the Catalonia sky. Born in Barcelona, he spend his last years in Majorca, the home of both Carlos Moya and Rafael Nadal.
There was also a wonderful photography exhibit about the war in Afghanistan. Irish photographer, John Burke made extraordinary images of the Second Anglo-Alghan War ( 1878-1880). Simon Norfolk who is a contemporary photographer researched Burke’s vantage points and made digital versions from the same or similar locations.
The exhibit makes a powerful statement on the state of the country and the futility of war. For 130 years the Afghan people have endured imperialism and conflict. Yet when you see these images made over 100 years apart nothing has really changed. This is a show that everyone should see. I’m going to try to contact someone at the Tate and see if they have any plans to bring this show to the USA.
It’s a hot day and walking along the river at Southbank I come across this scene.. kids having a lot fun playing in this fountain. I doubt this is what the artist who created the waterworks had this in mind, but it’s looking very tempting on this 90 degree day.
Next, a boat trip down the Themes, shopping at Canary Wharf, and some night photography, which is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening.
Nine PM Monday. The sisters have both hit the dust .. or should I say grass today. Venus bowed out to Tsvetana Pironkova who has never been past the second round of a grand slam, 6-2, 6-3. Over on court one Marion Bartoli who lost to Venus in the 2007 final took out her revenge on Serena, defeating the four-time Champion in straight sets.
That leaves Mardy Fish .. the late bloomer, and the Bryans to carry the stars and stripes for the USA.
The Brits had a big exciting day with Andy Murray reaching the last eight, defeating France’s Richard Gasquet, and to top it off, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were in attendance. The Duchess in a gorgeous white lace number did the royals proud. Kate is a big favorite here and is certainly showing Diana’s flair for fashion, There were more camera’s pointed at her than Murray. Of course she is much better looking .. and most of the photographers are male, so what would you expect?
Feliciano Lopes, better known among the women here as “Deliciano” gave us a huge scare, nearly losing to qualifier Lukasz Kubot, who had won the first two sets, and had two match points in the third, before the tour heart-throb rallied and won in five tight ones. He meets Murray next which could be an interesting. Murray’s mother Judy, is the one who tagged the handsome Spanish with the Deliciano nickname and it’s causing Andy more than a little embarrasment. Commenting to reporters the number four seed, said, ‘I think it’s about time she stopped that nonsense. It’s making me throw up. It’s disgusting.’
Well, Judy, I’m with you, the Spaniard is gorgeous and a really nice guy too, so go for it, have a little fun. Andy apparently doesn’t have the same sense of humor as his Mum or Lopez who doesn’t seem to mind at all.
*Former French Open Champion Carlos Moya has become the latest star to announce their retirement, this time due to persistent foot injuries. “It’s not how I dreamt of ending,” said the former world No. 1 and Australian Open finalist. He also helped Spain win the Davis Cup in 2004 but recently things haven’t been so rosy. “I wanted to say goodbye at one of the big tournaments, the Grand Slams, but that dream wasn’t to be. I am still young for life but for sport, I am already knocking on a bit.”
*Sweden’s Robin Soderling is understandably beaming after picking up his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Paris last week but he was also praising of the man whose dream ended one step too short in the final for the second year running. Home favourite Gael Monfils tasted finals defeat for the second year running having lost to Novak Djokovic in 2009. “I know it’s difficult to lose two finals in a row in this city but Monfils played incredible tennis this week,” said the 26-year-old Soderling. “Of course, winning matches against a lot of good players this week gives me a lot of confidence. Playing in any Masters, when you play the top players of the world, every match can be a Grand Slam final. I think you need to believe in yourself and I think that can make a big change. I’m feeling really good right now.” Soderling is now at a career-high No. 4 in the world.
*The groups have been decided for the ATP World Tour Finals in London starting this weekend. Group A in the singles sees world No. 1 Rafa Nadal paired with Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych and Andy Roddick. Roger Federer, Robin Soderling, Andy Murray and David Ferrer will contest Group B. In the doubles, the defending Champions the Bryan brothers contest Group A with Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes, Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski and Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner. Group B consists of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic, Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach, Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi and Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman.
*Pakistan’s Prime Minister has announced that Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi has been appointed as United Nations Development Project (UNDP) National Goodwill Ambassador. His first task is to help obtain global funds to go towards the victims of the devastating floods across the country which affected twenty million people. “I am honoured to become a Goodwill Ambassador for UNDP in Pakistan,” says Qureshi. “I have been very fortunate in life to pursue my passion for tennis. It is important for me to help people who lost everything because of the floods to get back on their feet.” Full reaction can be seen at the ATP website.
*Roger Federer has targeted a strong finish to the year with victory at the ATP Tour Finals, a competition he has an enviable record of 29-7 at. Federer faced questions about the current state of his mind after squandering five match points during his semi final defeat to Gael Monfils in Paris but the world No. 2 is confident of his chances in London. “I think I have good chances maybe in London for winning,” declared the sixteen-time Grand Slam winner. “I feel good physically. In a way it is a relief that I was able to finish the tournament [in Paris-Bercy] in good physical health. I’m fresh mentally, too. This is the most important thing. Victories are important, but when you’re not fit and when you’re injured, it’s bad. So I think I’m going to recover quite fast after that loss. I feel good. I’m playing well. It was not a bad match [against Monfils]. I’m happy with my performance. Clearly with a victory I would have had big chances of winning the tournament. This is not the case, so now I have to look at the future. I’m going to prepare for London.” The full interview can be seen at the ATP site.
*Czech star Tomas Berdych has said that it was the increased burden of expectation following his Wimbledon finals appearance this year which contributed to his average results over the past few months. “In the past, I entered many matches in the position of a mere challenger, but after Wimbledon, everything changed,” he told the Prague Post. “My opponents became the challengers and were keen on taking the scalp of a top-10 player. Every game was much more difficult for me… [in London] I’ll try to pick up my game and to prove that I did not qualify by accident.”
*The Bryan brothers have announced that they will return to Houston in 2011 to defend their back to back US Men’s Clay Court Championships doubles titles.
*Li Na has taken Gold for China at the Asia Games, defeating Taiwan’s Chan Yung Jan 6-2, 6-1 in the final.
*Venus Williams has said she hopes to be fit in time for the Australian Open. The 30-year-old has been nursing yet another knee injury since her US Open defeat to Kim Clijsters but told AOL Fanbase: “I’m gearing up for Australia. Playing professional tennis is very intense. You have to be as close to 100 percent as possible. So I’m aiming to be 100 percent by January.”
*In the South African Airways ATP World Rankings Robin Soderling has benefitted from his Paris Masters victory by becoming the new world No. 4 at the expense of Andy Murray. Jurgen Melzer, Gael Monfils, Marin Cilic, Nicolas Almagro, Mardy Fish, Sam Querrey and Marcos Baghdatis all climb within the Top 20. Russian Nikolay Davydenko drops 11 places to No. 22 while Michael Llodra jumps 11 to No. 23. The Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov enters the Top 50 and Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko, Germany’s Dustin Brown and Brazil’s Marcos Daniel enter the Top 100.
*The Bondarenko sisters have announced that they will immediately cease representing Ukraine in Fed Cup play. Kateryna has described the move as a “mutual decision” between themselves and Ukrainian tennis authorities. The door has been left open for a future return.
*Tennis Hall of Famer Dennis Ralston has been talking to The Desert Sun about his life since the amputation of his foot back in June due to infection. It’s a touching story, which can be read on their website. “The situation was bleak, not knowing if I would work again,” Ralston said. “I still don’t know, but I hope I still can.”
*After her engagement to lawyer Andreas Bieri broke down back in April, Martina Hingis has announced that she is “…not single anymore.” She is said to be dating fellow horse-riding enthusiast Thibault Hutin.
This week, the ATP World Tour visits Vienna, Austria for the Vienna Trophy championships. While Roger Federer is not in the field this week, the event has been very important to him. Vienna was the site of Roger Federer’s first ever ATP World Tour semifinal back in 1999 when as an 18-year-old, he defeated Vince Spadea, Jiri Novak and Karol Kucera before losing to Greg Rusedski. In 2002, Federer won a very emotional final against Novak 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 to win his first tournament since the death of his childhood coach Peter Carter. In 2003, his last visit to the event, Federer won the title over Carlos Moya for his 10th career ATP World Tour final. Fittingly, Federer dedicated the 2002 tournament victory to Carter. “I dedicate this title to him,” he said with glistening eyes at the award ceremony, wrote Rene Stauffer in the book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com). Stauffer re-counts the death of Carter and the emotional toll it took on Federer in this exclusive book excerpt below.
South Africa was always a special place for Roger Federer. He held a South African passport since birth and became endeared to his mother’s native country. He routinely traveled there with his family when he was little. “South Africa is a haven for him away from the world of tennis to find fresh inspiration,” his mother explained once. “It has a certain openness to it. You grow up with a lot of space in South Africa, which is something different compared to the narrowness of a mountain landscape. South Africans are more open, less complicated. Roger had taken on these characteristics.”
Meanwhile, Federer acquired a valuable piece of property along the picturesque Garden Route on the western coast of South Africa at the luxurious Pezula Resort. After the exhausting 2000 season, Federer vacationed in South Africa, where he went on safari with his godfather, Arthur Dubach, a work colleague of Federer’s father during his work days in South Africa. They even experienced a rare site for tourists—a group of leopards killing and eating a gazelle.
In the early afternoon on August 2, 2002, the announcement came over the Swiss news agency Sportinformation—“Davis Cup Captain Carter Killed In Car Crash.” According to the story, the accident occurred in South Africa where he was vacationing with his wife Silvia. There was no further information. The bad news was then updated with the report that a second man died in the accident.
What really transpired during this belated honeymoon between Peter and his wife was not immediately known. Carter was driving in a Land Rover in the vicinity of the Krueger National Park on August 1, Switzerland’s national holiday. The accident occurred in the Phalaborwa area, about 450 km north of Johannesburg. The vehicle where Carter was a passenger and which friends and his wife were apparently following, was reported to have gone out of control due to a defective tire. The car then crashed into a river bed and rolled over.
The news reports were contradictory. At first, it was announced that Carter died in the evening and later that both passengers were killed instantly. According to initial reports, it was Carter who was driving at the wheel. Later, it was reported that a friend of Carter’s was driving the car and later that a native South African was behind the wheel. The Limpopo police spokesperson in South Africa then issued the statement: “Carter and the driver, a South African, were killed instantly when the roof of their vehicle was crushed in.”
Silvia Carter explained what really happened. “My husband was in the car with a very good friend of ours. We were driving ahead of them and they were following behind us. The vehicle did not have a defective tire. Our friend had to swerve to avoid a minibus that was heading directly at them. Such risky passing maneuvers are unfortunately a daily occurrence in South Africa. In order to avoid a frontal collision, he pulled off onto the ‘accident lane.’ The fateful thing was that a bridge was coming and they had to pull back onto the tarred lane. The speed as well as the difference in surfaces—the natural surface and the tarred surface—that the wheels had to deal with spun the Land Rover. It broke through the bridge railing and landed about three meters below on its roof.”
Federer received the shocking news courtside at the Tennis Masters Series event in Toronto. He was never so upset in his life. Carter was a good friend and the most important coach in his career.
Although Federer lost already in the first round in Toronto, but was still playing in the doubles tournament partnering with Wayne Ferreira, ironically, a South African. The mood was grim for the third-round doubles match, which Federer and Ferreira lost to Joshua Eagle and Sandon Stolle. Federer played the match wearing a black armband in honor of Carter. His eyes were red. He nonetheless announced after the doubles loss that he was prepared to give an interview. “We spent a lot of time together, since I was a boy,” Federer said of his relationship with Carter. “I saw him everyday when I was a boy. It’s terrible…He died so young and unexpectedly.” Federer said that the two always had a connection and they were born under the same Zodiac sign—he was born on August 8, the coach one day later. “Peter was very calm but he was also funny with a typical Australian sense of humor. I can never thank him enough for everything that he gave to me. Thanks to him I have my entire technique and coolness.”
Carter watched Federer play for the first time when Roger was a kid in the 1990’s and exuberantly told his parents in the Barossa Valley in Australia that he had discovered a gigantic talent who could go a long way. He worked with him for all but two years until 2000 and led him to his storied success in the world junior ranks as well as to a top 50 world ranking. After Federer chose Lundgren as his private coach, Carter remained a coach with the Swiss Tennis Federation and took up responsibilities in promoting new talent in men’s tennis. He married Silvia von Arx from Basel in May of 2001.
Carter was the players’ favored choice as Davis Cup team captain for a long time. However, when his wife suffered from lymph node cancer, Carter put his coaching duties on hold until Silvia’s recovery was certain. Since Carter was not a Swiss citizen with a Swiss passport, he was not permitted, as Davis Cup captain, to sit with the players on the court or assume the role as the “official” Davis Cup captain. However, the International Tennis Federation, agreed to recognize him as a Swiss citizen and as the official Davis Cup captain as soon as he acquired a resident permit, which he was scheduled to receive in September of 2003. Carter led the team only once, in February of 2002 in Moscow.
Federer left Toronto for Cincinnati where, like in Paris, Wimbledon and Toronto, he lost in the first round. He couldn’t concentrate. He no longer had confidence in his game and tennis was no longer fun. His thoughts were with Peter Carter. “When something like this happens,” he said, “you see how really unimportant tennis is.” He pulled the emergency brake. He withdrew from the doubles event in Cincinnati and pulled out of the next week’s event in Washington, D.C., and flew home to Switzerland.
The funeral took place on August 14, 2002 on a warm summer’s day in the Leonhard Church in Basel. About 200 people were in attendance to bid farewell, among them many familiar faces in the tennis world. Carter’s friend from his youth, Darren Cahill, who was now coaching Andre Agassi, was also present. The simple ceremony, accompanied by music, was conducted by the same clergyman who married the Carters a year before. Silvia Carter gave a brief, touching speech, as did a friend who came from Australia, Davis Cup physiotherapist Caius Schmid and Christine Ungricht, the President of Swiss Tennis. “He was such a great person,” she said. “Why him? Why does it always happen to the best?”
Federer’s parents were also inconsolable. Carter formed a link to their son over the years. He informed them about everything concerning Roger when they were traveling together. “It was the first death Roger had to deal with and it was a deep shock for him,” his mother said. “But it has also made him stronger.”
Federer left the church with a sense of grief that he never before experienced in his life. “Any defeat in tennis is nothing compared to such a moment,” he explained weeks afterwards. “I usually try and avoid sad events like this. It was the first time that I’d been to a funeral. I can’t say that it did me good but I was close to him in thought once again and I could say goodbye in a dignified setting. I feel somewhat better now, especially in matters concerning tennis.”
Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt will meet in an epic third round match up at the 2009 US Open in a battle of former champions. Rene Stauffer, the author of book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) describes a memorable match-up between the two future Hall of Famers from the 2002 Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, China. The excerpt is below.
In the semifinals, Federer faced Hewitt, who already clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking for a second year in a row. The Australian barely qualified for the semifinals and benefited from Carlos Moya winning a three-hour meaningless match over fellow Spaniard Costa, where a Costa victory would have him reach the semifinals rather than Hewitt. Although Federer lost five of the last seven matches with Hewitt, he reasoned his chances of beating him and winning the first big championship of his career were very attainable.
Federer started his semifinal with Hewitt in furious fashion, taking a 3-0 and a 5-2 first-set lead, but Hewitt ran and fought as if his life were at stake. Hewitt fought off five set points and rallied for a 6-5 lead. Serving for the set, Hewitt staved off another five break points, before capturing the first set 7-5. Federer, however, was not ready to surrender. The second set turned into a wild back-and-forth struggle. Hewitt served for the match at 5-4 and held match point, but Federer broke back for 5-5. After holding serve for 6-5, Federer evened the match by breaking Hewitt’s serve, connecting on his fourth set point of the game.
The Chinese fans went wild—out of their seats, screaming and cheering. In the commentary booth high above the stadium, Heinz Günthardt and Stefan Bürer, the Swiss TV commentary team, described the tension and fast-paced action to the audience back in Switzerland, where it was Saturday morning and many people postponed their weekend shopping to watch the dramatic match with their new sports hero.
As the match extended into a third hour, the breaks seemed to fall in favor of Federer. Leading 4-3 in the final set, Federer held two break points to put him in the position to serve for the match. Both opportunities, however, were lost and Hewitt held for 4-4. Hewitt then subsequently broke Federer’s serve the next game to serve for the match at 5-4. The Australian reached his second match point—and shockingly double-faulted. Federer then broke Hewitt’s serve to square the match at 5-5. Serving with new balls in the next game, Federer committed two consecutive double-faults to allow Hewitt to break him back and gained another opportunity to serve for the match. It took Hewitt another four match points before he finally corralled Federer and advanced to the final with an epic 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 victory. Following the match, Hall of Fame journalist Bud Collins walked into the press room and asked his fellow scribes, “Have you ever seen a better match?”
In the craziest match of his career to date, Federer was aware that he let victory escape from his grasp. “I have no one to blame but myself,” he said to a small group of Swiss journalists who traveled to China. “Luck wasn’t on my side. I blew a big opportunity. That hurts.” A vacation in Phuket, Thailand helped heal the wounds.
Andy Murray beat Juan Martin del Potro 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 6-1 to win the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada
Jelena Jankovic beat Dinara Safina 6-4 6-2 to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Peter Luczak beat Olivier Rochus 6-3 3-6 6-1 to win the Zucchetti Kos Tennis Cup Internazionali del Friuli Venezia in Cordenons, Italy
Greg Rusedski beat Stefan Edberg 6-3 6-4 to win the Vale Do Lobo Grand Champions CGD in Algarve, Portugal
“My smile is back and I’m having fun playing the matches. This is what I missed. I missed this for maybe seven months this year.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning the Western & Southern tournament.
“The number two – maybe it’s because it’s something different – that means maybe a little bit more. But winning a tournament here is still great.” – Andy Murray, who moved ahead of Rafael Nadal and is now ranked number two in the world.
“I’m very happy to be in the final. I lost, but I’m happy. I don’t have to think in the past and now see the future.” – Juan Martin del Potro, who lost to Andy Murray in the final of the Montreal Masters.
“I would love to come back to number one, but the important thing is to play well. The thing that makes me happy is to be competitive (and) to win important tournaments.” – Rafael Nadal, who fell to number three in the world.
“I’m definitely pleased with the level I’ve had … in these four matches.” – Kim Clijsters, who in her first tournament after a two-year retirement reached the quarterfinals at Cincinnati.
“I’m realistic. I know I am not going to win (another title). There is no way. It’s getting tougher and tougher with each tournament. It really gets into you and it’s not easy to play. Every match is a battle. It’s tough not to choke in the important moments. But I want to finish up in a right note. I should enjoy it more. I just want to finish up nice.” – Marat Safin, following his first-round loss to Gael Monfils at the Montreal Masters.
“It happens in tennis, it’s never over until it’s over and it showed today. … I never should have allowed it but it did happen.” – Roger Federer, who led 5-1 in the third set before losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
“I haven’t seen her in two years. That’s the reason I didn’t start well. I was trying to figure out what she was doing instead of playing my game. By the time I figured out her tactics, I was down 0-4. It’s just a really bad draw, I guess.” – Marion Bartoli, who lost to Kim Clijsters in their first-round match.
“I look like I had a kid more than she does. She looks amazing.” – Serena Williams, on how fit Kim Clijsters looked in her return to the WTA Tour following her marriage and birth of a daughter.
“She is the same as she was before. She moves well. You can see she hasn’t been all the time on the tour but she was playing great.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, on Kim Clijsters.
“I was the number one player in the world, and I want to start winning big tournaments again. I just need to start finding my game and start playing better and better and better. But the more I play, the better I get.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning her semifinal match.
“Definitely I want to get a grand slam, no doubt about it. It’s not that I’m number one and I want to stop. There is another goal. I want to win a Grand Slam. I will do my best to win at the US Open. If not, next year I will work even harder to get it.” – Dinara Safina.
“Just walking down to that stadium, the reception that I received, the signs, the pictures and the high-fives going to the matches … I said, ‘You know what? This feels like home. I made the right decision.’” – Monica Seles, recalling the reaction she received from Toronto fans when she returned to tennis following her stabbing.
“I was joking with my coach that now I should probably buy a flat here since it is my fifth title in Canada.” – Mahesh Bhupathi, who teamed up with Mark Knowles to win the doubles at the Montreal Masters.
SECOND IN LINE
Even before he won the Montreal Masters, Andy Murray had surpassed Rafael Nadal as the number two-ranked player in the world. The 22-year-old Scott became the first player to win 50 matches this season as he won his fifth tournament of the year, matching Nadal. Murray is the first British player to win the Rogers Cup, a tournament that once was called the Canadian Open, and becomes the first player other than top-ranked Roger Federer and Nadal to be ranked number two in the world since Lleyton Hewitt on July 18, 2005. The last Briton to reach the Canadian final was Roger Taylor, who lost in 1970 to Rod Laver. Both Federer and Nadal lost in the quarterfinals, while Murray finished the week by beating Argentine’s Juan Martin del Potro 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 6-1 in the title match.
STAYING THE COURSE
Form followed rank at the Montreal Masters. For the first time since the ATP rankings were introduced in 1973, a tour-level event wound up with the top eight ranked players in the quarterfinals. Once there, top-ranked Roger Federer, second-ranked Rafael Nadal and fourth-ranked Novak Djokovic all lost to lower seeded players. The other quarterfinalists were third-ranked Andy Murray, the eventual winner, fifth-ranked Andy Roddick, sixth-ranked Juan Martin del Potro, seventh-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and eighth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko.
SHOWING THE WAY
Flavia Pennetta has made Italian tennis history. The 27-year-old right-hander is the first Italian woman to be ranked in the top ten in the world. Her rise up the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings has come with some well-known victims added to her resume. Pennetta beat Maria Sharapova when she won the tournament in Los Angeles, then followed with a shocking upset of Venus Williams in the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open. After winning 11 matches in 13 days, a visibly tired Pennetta lost in the semifinals at Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, to top-ranked Dinara Safina.
Marriage, a baby and two years away from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour didn’t seem to slow down Kim Clijsters. The former world number one left some highly ranked players in her wake as she reached the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open before finally losing. “I’ll just take each day at a time and try to be as professional as possible whenever I’m playing and we’ll see what happens,” Clijsters said after losing to top-ranked Dinara Safina. “Obviously so far it’s worked. I’ve had some really good results and I feel like my level here has risen.” Less than 18 months after giving birth to her first child, a daughter, Clijsters beat Marion Bartoli, Patty Schnyder and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova before running into Safina. “There’s still a lot of things to work on,” said Clijsters, who owns 34 career singles titles. “I need to keep working on the good things as well.”
Jelena Jankovic has been ranked number one in the world, a fact that had drawn some criticism, seeing that she has yet to win a Grand Slam tournament. But her victory over Dinara Safina in the final of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, was the first time Jankovic had beaten a player ranked number one in the world. She dedicated her victory to her mother, who is at home recovering from surgery. “I dedicate this win to her,” Jankovic said. “I wanted to make her happy. It’s important.”
When Monica Seles returned to tennis following a two-year hiatus caused when a fan stabbed her in the back, she chose the Canadian Open. Seles won the 1995 event, but she was more impressed by the warm reception she received from the fans. One of the newest members of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Seles will participate in an exhibition doubles match in Toronto during the women’s Rogers Cup event. She is being inducted into the tournament’s hall of fame as the only player in the modern era to win four straight Canadian titles, beginning with the 1995 victory. Violet Summerhayes won four straight Canadian titles from 1899 through 1904.
It seems to make no difference as to who Mahesh Bhupathi teams with to win doubles championships. When Bhupathi and Mark Knowles won the Rogers Cup doubles in Montreal, it was the fifth time the Indian right-hander has captured the title – with four different partners. The 35-year-old won in1997 with Leander Paes, in 2003 with Max Mirnyi, in 2004 with Paes, and in 2007 with Pavel Vizner. Bhupathi and Knowles teamed up as a regular pair at the start of the 2008 season. This was the duo’s first title since last October in Basel, Switzerland, although they reached the finals at the Australian Open in January and Barcelona, Spain, in April. Bhupathi has now won at least one ATP World Tour doubles crown every year since 1997.
Chase Buchanan, an 18-year-old from New Albany, Ohio, and 17-year-old Christina McHale from Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, won the 2009 United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Boys’ and Girls’ 18s championships to earn wild cards into the main singles draws at the US Open. McHale also competed in the women’s main draw of this year’s Australian Open after winning the 2008 USTA Australian Open wild card playoff. Buchanan earned a wild card into the 2008 US Open men’s doubles draw by winning the USTA Junior Boys’ 18 doubles title last year.
Tzipi Obziler is finally stepping down from Israel’s Fed Cup team. “This is the right time for me to retire,” she said. “I’m grateful for this wonderful and small country which gave me the opportunity to have a great career.” Obziler played 61 Fed Cup ties for Israel, equaling former teammate Anna Smashnova’s Fed Cup participation record. Obziler has played 90 matches, compiling a 51-39 win-loss record in her 16-year Fed Cup career. She was part of the Israeli team that reached the World Group in 2008 for the first time in the nation’s history. Obziler, however, didn’t completely close the door to her retirement. “If captain Lior Mor decides he wants me on the team and I see that I’m physically capable of playing, than of course I wouldn’t refuse,” she said.
SETS TARGET DATE
Recovering from a serious knee injury, Britain’s Anne Keothavong hopes to be back in action in February. The 25-year-old tore both the anterior cruciate ligament and the meniscus in her left knee when she ran into a fence while playing a doubles match at a tournament in California, USA. Keothavong, Britain’s top player on the WTA Tour, broke into the world’s top 50 for the first time earlier this year. “I hope to be back by February, which is ambitious, but achievable,” she said.
Former world number one Carlos Moya of Spain and Kei Nishikori of Japan have withdrawn from this year’s US Open because of injuries. Moya’s biggest victory came at the 1998 French Open. He has been sidelined for most of this season with a foot injury and his ranking has slipped out of the top 100. Nishikori was the top alternate and would have taken Moya’s spot in the draw, but he also withdrew because of an injury. That means Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador is directly in the main draw of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament.
STOP IT, I SAY
Lleyton Hewitt’s wife has gone to court over a magazine article. The actress wants to know the source of the story that ran last April that implied she was having an affair. New Idea magazine has twice published apologies over the article, titled “Bec’s Other Man,” which pictured Bec Hewitt with whom the magazine identified as a “hunky American fitness trainer” named Minder Mark. The man in the picture actually was Bec’s brother, Shaun Cartwright, who frequently accompanies the family on the tennis circuit.
Montreal: Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles beat Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram 6-4 6-3
Cincinnati: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-3 0-6 10-2 (match tiebreak)
Cordenons: James Cerretani and Travis Rettenmaier beat Peter Luczak and Alessandro Motti 4-6 6-3 11-9 (match tiebreak)
SITES TO SURF
New Haven: www.pilotpentennis.com/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$3,000,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, hard
$2,000,000 Rogers Cup, Toronto, Canada, hard
International Tennis Hall of Fame Champions Cup, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, grass
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$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
Juan Martin del Potro beat Andy Roddick 3-6 7-5 7-6 (6) to win the Legg Mason Tennis Classic title in Washington, DC, USA
Flavia Pennetta beat Samantha Stosur 6-4 6-3 to win the LA Women’s Tennis Championships in Los Angeles, California, USA
Feliciano Lopez won the ATP Open Castilla y Leon in Segovia, Spain, defeating Adrian Mannarino 6-3 6-4
Andreas Seppi beat Potito Starace 7-6 (4) 2-6 6-4 to win the San Marino CEPU Open in San Marino
Marcos Baghdatis beat Xavier Malisse 6-4 6-4 to win the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open men’s singles in Vancouver, Canada
Stephanie Dubois beat Sania Mirza 1-6 6-4 6-4 to win the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open women’s singles in Vancouver, Canada
“We play until the tiebreaker, and then I did the best service of my life.” – Juan Martin del Potro, who hit five of his 19 aces in the tiebreaker to beat Andy Roddick and win his second straight Legg Mason Tennis Classic.
“I kind of forced him to play high-risk tennis, especially with the heat. He was taking big cuts, especially for the last 30, 45 minutes we were out there, and he was connecting.” – Andy Roddick, after losing to Juan Martin del Potro in the final at Washington, DC.
“Every match I improved. I had a great chance in the second set and I took it, that’s why I won.” – Flavia Pennetta, who won the LA Women’s Tennis Championships.
“My whole career I’ve been trying to get to this point. It kind of looks like I’ve done it late, but I don’t worry too much about that. I took a little longer to develop.” – Samantha Stosur, after reaching the final of the LA Women’s Tennis Championships.
“I don’t have fear if I miss that important point. If you don’t take a risk, you don’t gain.” – Fernando Gonzalez, after beating Tommy Haas at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.
“Did I hear the baby? My grandmother in Russia heard the baby.” – Maria Sharapova, after a baby started crying in the first set of her 6-4 (4) 6-4 6-2 victory over Victoria Azarenka at the LA Women’s Tennis Championships.
“I have to give him a lot of credit. He helped turn my mind around. I’m no longer looking at tennis as a matter of life and death.” – Philip Bester of Canada, speaking about his several sessions with sports psychologist Jim Loehr.
”I realized how much I missed it and how it made me sharper, and, in some ways, more focused. Then I realized I wanted it back.” – Ana Ivanovic, talking about the pressure of being number one in the world.
“Maybe some people think it’s too crazy, but I’m enjoying a lot. For me it’s not only for the ranking or always to win the tournament. It’s just to enjoy life.” – Kimiko Date Krumm, on returning to the WTA Tour after her 12-year retirement.
SECONDING THE CALL
After battling through 14 points in the final-set tiebreaker, Andy Roddick and Juan Martin del Potro waited at the net for the replay to tell them if their match was over. Del Potro appeared to win the match with a crosscourt forehand winner, but Roddick challenged the call. “I actually thought it might have been out, and I asked him and he said it might have been out,” Roddick said. “So imagine the disappointment when it wasn’t.” The disappointment was all Roddick’s as del Potro won his second straight Legg Mason Tennis Classic title in Washington, DC, edging Roddick 3-6 7-5 7-6 (6).
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has appealed a ruling that essentially cleared Richard Gasquet, who said he inadvertently took cocaine by kissing a woman in a nightclub. The ITF is appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after an independent tribunal decided to exonerate Gasquet for a positive cocaine test. The Frenchman was allowed to resume playing after serving a 2½-month retroactive ban. The ITF is seeking a two-year ban under the terms of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code.
Tamira Paszek will not be suspended while officials investigate whether medical treatment the Austrian tennis player received for a back injury violated doping regulations. The disciplinary committee of Austria’s anti-doping agency said Paszek can continue to play on the WTA Tour until a verdict is reached in about seven weeks. Last month Paszek had blood taken for homeopathic enrichment, and then re-injected into her lower back. Re-injecting one’s own blood is banned under international anti-doping rules. It was Paszek herself who alerted the doping agency when she learned that her treatment may have been illegal. She hasn’t played a match since retiring in the first round of Wimbledon in June.
Andy Roddick reached another milestone at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC. When the Wimbledon finalist beat fellow American Sam Querrey in a third-round match, it was his 500th career match victory, making Roddick only the fourth active player and the 36th in the Open Era to win 500 matches. Roger Federer – no surprise there – leads the active players with 657 match wins, while Carlos Moya has 573 and Lleyton Hewitt 511.
An elbow injury did what an opponent couldn’t at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC. An injury to his right elbow forced Sweden’s Robin Soderling to withdraw from his quarterfinal match against second-seeded Juan Martin del Potro. Soderling reached the French Open final this year, losing to Roger Federer, then won the Swedish Open in Bastad, Sweden, in his last two tournaments.
After years of paying on consecutive weeks, men and women will compete for the Rogers Cup at the same time but in separate Canadian cities. The men and women take turns playing one year in Montreal, then the next in Toronto. This year, the men will play in Stade Uniprix at Jarry Park in Montreal this week; the women will play at Rexall Centre at York University in Toronto next week. But because of increased international pressure for more combined men’s and women’s tournaments, Tennis Canada will squeeze its two marquee events into the same week beginning in 2011. That’s the only way the Rogers Cup can be played three weeks before the US Open, the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Despite the two tours playing in separate cities, Tennis Canada will be calling it the world’s first “virtually-combined” tournament, melding the two events into one through the medium of television.
On her way to the court to play for the title, Stephanie Dubois noticed the photos of the previous winners of the Vancouver Open. “I visualized myself on that wall with the others,” said Dubois, a native of Quebec, Canada. “I worked very hard for this.” The 22-year-old Dubois made sure her picture will be added to the “winners’ wall” when she became the first Canadian to capture the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open women’s singles title by beating India’s Sania Mirza 1-6 6-4 6-4. The winner didn’t hold serve until 3-2 in the second set, then knotted the match at one set apiece when she cashed in on her sixth set point. “I’m very happy to have won,” Dubois said. “I came here with that objective.”
When he suffered a second-round loss at the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open, Ryan Sweeting had a few choice words to say to the chair umpire. The officials weren’t impressed by his choice of words and instead fined Sweeting USD $1,500 for verbal abuse of a chair umpire. The young American made his expensive speech after losing to Canada’s Philip Bester 6-4 6-3.
SIGN UP, PLEASE
Two tennis stars, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza, have asked cricketers in India to sign the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code despite apprehension about the “whereabout” clause. “Lots of the tennis players had apprehensions early but we are all doing it,” Bhupathi said. The disputed clause makes it mandatory for athletes to disclose their whereabouts three months in advance. Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams are two tennis stars who are the most vociferous critics of the clause, but both have signed it. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) supports its players and has asked the International Cricket Council, a WADA signatory, to explore the possibility of having an anti-doping agency of its own. “It would not be fair to all the other sports and sportsmen of the world to make exceptions to WADA’s rules, and I’m sure any doubts that the cricketers have can be sorted out amicably through consensus before they sign on the dotted line,” Sania said.
Roger Federer posted the first public photo of his twin daughters on the Internet. The Swiss tennis star wrote below the photo on his Facebook account that the girls and mother are “doing great,” and thanks friends and fans for their wishes. Federer and his wife Mirka are each holding a baby in the picture. Charlene Riva and Myla Rose were born July 23. Federer said the photo was taken by his father.
Jane Brown Grimes and John Reese are the 2009 recipients of the prestigious International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum (ITHFM) Chairman’s Award, which recognizes outstanding service by a board member. Brown Grimes opened the ITHFM’s New York office in 1977 and became the Hall of Fame’s executive director in 1981. In 1986 she became managing director of the Women’s Tennis Council, then returned to the Hall of Fame as its president and CEO in 1991, serving until 2000. A board member since 1983, Reese became executive vice president of the Hall of Fame board and later served in a number of positions, including president and CEO, chairman and CEO, and chairman of the executive committee. In 1998, Reese was inducted into the United States Tennis Association’s Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame.
Dinara Safina is the first player to clinch a spot in the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held October 27-November 1 at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex in Doha, Qatar. The world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams from the 2009 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour will compete for the year-ending title and a share of the record Championships prize money of USD $4.45 million. It will be Safina’s second trip to the Championships, having made her debut a year ago. The Russian reached the world number one ranking on April 20. Her 16-match winning streak is the best on the WTA Tour this season. She also has reached the final of the Australian Open and Roland Garros, while gaining a semifinal berth at Wimbledon. “Qualifying for the year-end Sony Ericsson Championships is one of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year,” Safina said. “I’ve accomplished a lot of milestones this season and am thrilled to be the first to qualify for the Championships.”
The United States became the first nation to win three straight World Junior Tennis titles when the 14-and-under girls beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in the final held in Prostejov, Czech Republic. Aneta Dvorakova beat Victoria Duval of Delray Beach, Florida, to begin the title competition. After Sachia Vickery of Miramar, Florida, beat Petra Rohanova 6-4 6-7 (3) 6-2 of knot the tie at one match each, the American doubles team of Duval and Vickery beat Dvorakova and Rohanova 6-2 6-7 (4) 6-1 to clinch the crown. Also on the winning team was Brooke Austin of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Washington: Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt beat Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 7-5 7-6 (3)
Los Angeles: Chuang Chia-Jung and Yan Zi beat Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak)
Segovia: Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin beat Sergiy Stakhovsky and Lovro Zovko 6-7 (4) 6-3 10-8 (match tiebreak)
San Marino: Lucas Arnold Ker and Sebastian Prieto beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 7-6 (4) 2-6 10-7 (match tiebreak)
Vancouver (men): Kevin Anderson and Rik De Voest beat Ramon Delgado and Kaes Van’t Hof 6-4 6-4
Vancouver (women): Ahsha Rolle and Riza Zalameda beat Madison Brengle and Lilia Osterloh 6-4 6-3
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$3,000,000 Rogers Cup, Montreal, Canada, hard
$120,000 Internazionali del Friuli Venezia Guilia Tennis Cup Cordenons, Italy, clay
$2,000,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, hard
Vale Do Lobo Grand Champions CGD, Algarve, Portugal, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$3,000,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, hard
$2,000,000 Rogers Cup, Toronto, Canada, hard
International Tennis Hall of Fame Champions Cup, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, grass
Ten years ago this week, Patrick Rafter was on top of the world. On July 26, 1999 the Aussie hunk and two-time U.S. Open champion reached the career pinnacle by earning the No. 1 ranking on the ATP computer. Rafter’s reign, however, last only one week and he never again attained the top spot in the computer rankings, marking the shortest ever reign as a world’s top ranked player. The following text describes Rafter’s No. 1 ascent and other events that happened in tennis history this week as excerpted from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTOR Y ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com).
1999 – Patrick Rafter of Australia begins his one – and only – week as the world’s No. 1 ranked player, replacing Andre Agassi in the top spot on the ATP computer. Rafter’s curious one-week reign as the No. 1 ranked player is the briefest stint in the top spot of any man or woman. Carlos Moya of Spain ranks No. 1 for only two weeks in March of 1999, while Evonne Goolagong ranks as the No. 1 woman on the WTA Tour for a two-week period in April of 1976 (although not uncovered and announced by the WTA Tour until December of 2007).
1987 – The United States is relegated to zonal competition for the first time in Davis Cup history as Boris Becker defeats Tim Mayotte 6-2, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-2 in the fifth and decisive match as West Germany defeats the United States 3-2 in the Davis Cup qualifying round in Hartford, Conn. The Becker-Mayotte match is called by John Feinstein of the Washington Post as, “the match of their lives,” as Mayotte, who grew up in Springfield, Mass., a 25 miles from the Hartford Civic Center, plays inspired tennis in front of furiously vocal crowd. Says Becker after the epic match, “It was the most difficult match of my life. The circumstances made it hard, the crowd cheering every time I missed a serve made it hard and him playing for two sets like I have never seen him play in his life, it was all very tough. I just had to stay calm — stay calm, be patient and not go mad. If I go mad, I lose the match.” Writes Feinstein, “For Mayotte, this was sweet agony. He miraculously came from two sets down to force a fifth set. He was playing in an emotional daze, carried by the fans, by his teammates, by the circumstances.”
1969 – Nancy Richey is upset in the semifinals of the U.S. Clay Court Championships by Gail Sherriff Chanfreau, 6-3, 6-4 – ending her tournament record winning streak at 33 straight matches over seven years. Chanfreau goes on to win the title, beating Linda Tuero, 6-2, 6-2 in the final.
1986 – Martina Navratilova returns to her native Czechoslovakia and her hometown of Prague in triumph as a member of the U.S. Federation Cup team, clinching the U.S. 3-0 final-round victory over the Czechs with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Hana Mandlikova. “We all did it for Martina,” says Chris Evert Lloyd, whose 7-5, 7-6 victory over Helena Sukova began the U.S. sweep of Czechoslovakia in the final series. “We dedicate this Federation Cup to her.” Says Navratilova of the crowd support she received all week that results in a tearful closing ceremony for the Wimbledon champion and her U.S. teammates. “I wanted to tell them how special it was for me to be here. It exceeded my wildest expectations.”
1946 – In the final of the first French Championship since the conclusion of World War II, Frenchmen Marcel Bernard dramatically defeats fellow left-hander Jaroslav Drobny of Czechoslovakia 3-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 in the men’s singles final. The French have to wait another 37 years before they celebrate another native men’s singles champion when Yannick Noah wins the men’s singles title in 1983. It will be another 59 years before another all left-handed men’s singles final is played at Roland Garros when Rafael Nadal defeats Mariano Puerta in the 2005 final. In the women’s singles final, Margaret Osbourne defeats fellow American Pauline Betz 1-6, 8-6, 7-5.
1991 – Andrei Chesnokov wins the Canadian Open in Montreal, defeating Petr Korda 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the final and promises a high-spirited celebration. Says Chesnokov, “I’m going to New York, I’m going to go to Tower Records, have dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant and, of course, I’m going to get drunk.”
1990 – Michael Chang defeats Jay Berger 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 in the final of the Canadian Open men’s singles final in Toronto. The 24th-ranked Chang’s $155,000 winner’s check puts him in the million-dollar club for career prize money. “It feels good,” says the 18-year-old Chang of his financial achievement. “I think my first priority as far as tennis is concerned is not making money. My priority is to be the best in the world – the best I can be.”
1974 – Jimmy Connors becomes the No. 1 ranked player in the world for the first time in his career at the age of 21, replacing John Newcombe.
2001 – Andre Agassi defeats Pete Sampras 6-4, 6-2 in the final of the Mercedes Benz Cup in Los Angeles, Agassi’s 17th consecutive match victory on hard courts. Identical twins Bob and Mike Bryan of Camarillo, Calif., win their third ATP doubles title in six weeks, defeating Jan-Michael Gambill and Andy Roddick 7-5, 7-6 (8-6).
1928 – France successfully defends its Davis Cup title against the United States as Henri Cochet defeats Bill Tilden 9-7, 8-6, 6-4 clinching the 4-1 victory for France at newly-dedicated Stade Roland Garros in Paris, which is constructed to host the Davis Cup matches. Writes P.J. Philip of the New York Times, “On the central court of the Roland Garros Stadium at Auteuil, that Napoleon of tennis, Big Bill Tilden, met his Waterloo today. In three straight sets, Henri Cochet swept him off the field, holding the Davis Cup for France and writing finis to the world championship career of the most brilliant tennis player of the past decade. It was Waterloo alright.” Tilden’s career was not entirely finished following the loss. He was kicked off the Davis Cup team prior to this famous series for his “professional” writing from tennis events, which U.S. Lawn Tennis Association officials said violated his amateur status. However, due to the huge demand to see Tilden play against the four French “Musketeers” at the newly-constructed Roland Garros Stadium, the French government and French Tennis Federation pressured the USLTA to re-instate Tilden to the team to appease the ticket-buying public. Tilden is, instead, suspended from the U.S. Championships later in the summer, but continues to play high-level amateur tennis through 1930.
1996 – Andre Agassi stages a stunning comeback to advance into the medal round at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, coming back from a 3-5 third-set deficit to defeat Wayne Ferreira of South Africa 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 in the quarterfinal of men’s singles. Ferreira is upset with Agassi’s behavior and profane language that results in Agassi receiving a point penalty in the first game of the second set. Says Ferreira, “I honestly believe he should be kicked off the court for the things he was saying. They were pretty rude and actually the worst I’ve ever heard anybody say. I’m surprised the umpires took it so lightly. If I was sitting in the chair, I probably would have done something different.” Retorts Agassi, “It was about the only way he was going to beat me.” Also advancing into the medal round in men’s singles are Leander Paes of India, who defeats Renzo Furlan of Italy 6-1, 7-5, Sergi Bruguera of Spain, who defeats Mal Washington of the United States 7-6 (8), 4-6, 7-5 and Fernando Meligeni of Brazil, who defeats Russia’s Andrei Olhovskiy 7-5, 6-3
1932 – In what Hall of Fame journalist and historian Bud Collins calls “The Great Cup Robbery,” France defeats the United States in the Davis Cup Challenge Round for the fifth time in six years as Jean Borotra clinches the Davis Cup for France, erasing a two-sets-to-love deficit, a 3-5 fifth-set deficit and four match points to defeat Wilmer Allison 1-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5. Allison holds three match points while leading 5-3 in the fifth set – 40-15 and then with an advantage – but has his serve broken. In the next game, Allison holds another match point on Borotra’s serve. After missing his first serve, Borotra hits a second serve that by all accounts is out – but not called by the linesman. Allison, who did not make a play on the serve, runs to the net to shake hands with Borotra, but stands in disbelief at the non-call. Allison wins only one point in the remainder of the match to lose 7-5 in the fifth set, giving France it’s third point of the series, clinching the Cup.
2005 – Andre Agassi wins his 60th and what ultimately becomes his final ATP singles title, defeating 22-year-old Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-4, 7-5 in 1 hour, 28 minutes to win the Mercedes-Benz Cup in Los Angeles. The title is also the fourth tournament victory at the Los Angeles event for Agassi, who also wins on the campus at UCLA in 1998, 2001 and 2002. “It’s been a dream week for me for sure,” says the 35-year-old Agassi. “I couldn’t have expected to come in here and find my comfort level so early on in the tournament and get better with each match. It’s a great sign.”
Tennis fans have been very amused at the new NetJets television advertisement featured Roger Federer pulled a luggage rack full of all of his Grand Slam tournament trophies to his private jet. Federer indeed leads a jet-set lifestyle that really began to take shape in 2004 – the first year that he won the US Open. The following chapter from the Federer biography THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION by Rene Stauffer ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) – entitled “Setting Records Around The World” – documents a bit of the high-life of Federer and the tail end of his 2004 season.
Following his triumph at the US Open, Roger Federer and his girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec experienced four very exciting and diverse weeks. Arthur Cohn, an Academy Award-winning producer and, like Federer, a native of Basel, invited his friend to celebrate his US Open victory with him in Los Angeles. Roger and Mirka got their first introduction to Hollywood’s glamorous world. They took up residence in a luxury suite in Beverly Hills, went shopping on Rodeo Drive, visited attractions such as the Walk of Fame and met film greats such as Kirk Douglas and Danny de Vito. In between it all, Federer treated his body to hours of relaxation in the spa. Another highlight of this trip was an excursion in a private jet to Las Vegas to take in magician David Copperfield’s show at the Hotel Bellagio. Following the show, Federer met with Copperfield—a meeting of two magicians, one could say.
The jet-set life continued smoothly. Federer then jetted across the Pacific Ocean and the International Date Line and made a stop-over in Hong Kong, where he conducted a media day for the Asian press. The next stop was Bangkok and the Thailand Open. Traveling in a minivan from the tournament facilities to his hotel through the humid, rain-soaked metropolis, Federer explained that he enjoyed moving about in the world of the beautiful, the rich and the famous. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t want to,” he said. “I find getting to know show business exciting. I used to have trouble with the world of red carpets and formal dinners but now I’m having fun. It’s also not difficult for me to talk to other people. There’s always something to say.”
He particularly enjoyed Asia’s hospitality and the enthusiasm of the people—he was also enamored with Asian cuisine. In contrast to the other players at the event, Federer stayed at the Oriental Hotel on the Chao Phraya River, a traditional, colonial-styled structure and the best hotel in the city. Federer, in the meantime, made the conscious decision to avoid the official tournament hotels. He noticed that he could settle down quicker and relax better when he stayed away from the tournament crowd. Hotel rooms were havens where he could recuperate and escape—and he was willing to pay extra dollar for this extra luxury, but as the king of the tennis world, he was still often offered special rates to stay in the best suites in the best hotels. In Paris, it may have been the noble Hotel du Crillon, or the seven star Burj al Arab in Dubai, or the Peninsula in New York.
Federer’s trip to Bangkok ended in success—he won the Thailand Open with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Andy Roddick in a sold-out final in front of 10,000-plus spectators. It was his 12th consecutive victory in a tournament final, tying the all-time record set by Björn Borg and John McEnroe. He received the “Trophy of the King” at the award ceremony from Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya and expressed his gratitude in the country’s customary way, making a slight bow with hands folded over his chest. “I was surprised at how attractive the Princess was. She looked 35,” he said later after a long walk through many hallways accompanied by five bodyguards while retiring to his plain and windowless single dressing room. “She’s supposed to be 55!”
His “jet-set” world tour was now in its sixth week but he did not return directly home after Bangkok. For the third time during the 2004 calendar year, Federer went to Dubai. What nobody knew was that the Australian coach Tony Roche was also in Dubai, on assignment to spend a few days of training with Federer in the initial stages of what later became their fascinating player-coach relationship.
By early October, Federer already won ten titles in the 2004 season. His match record stood at 69-6 and there were still four tournaments remaining on his schedule. Two more important ATP records were within reach—most victories in a season (86) and most tournament titles in a season (12), both set in 1995 by the left-handed Austrian clay courter Thomas Muster. But then, the unexpected happened. Federer withdrew from the event in Madrid because he didn’t feel sufficiently rested after his world tour. He preferred to concentrate his energies on winning the event that was as high on his wish-list as the French Open—the Swiss Indoors. At the tournament’s Monday opening presentation in Basel’s town hall, Federer was in a fine mood, upbeat and told all the assembled media how well prepared he was for the week. However, just a few hours later, he was overtaken during a practice session by what must have been the curse of Basel—he suddenly felt an unusual pain in his left thigh. The pain persisted during his practice session on Tuesday. He hastily underwent a magnetic resonance imaging examination, which revealed a muscle fiber rupture—an injury common for tennis players.
Instead of his long-desired triumph in his hometown, the Swiss Indoors brought him some of the bitterest hours of his career. He showed up at the St. Jakobshalle Tuesday evening—when he was scheduled to make his tournament start—wearing street clothes. He withdrew from the tournament and explained to the media and the public what happened. “I never imagined that it would turn out like this,” he said. “I had made perfect preparations and had a good chance at winning the tournament.”
Federer recovered just in time to travel to Houston in his attempt to defend his title at the Tennis Masters Cup. However, the second year at the Westside Tennis Club was completely different than the previous year. Jim McIngvale—“Mattress Mack”—took last year’s criticisms by Federer and his fellow players to heart and significantly improved the conditions of the tournament. Each of the eight participants now had their own dressing room. The differences between Federer and McIngvale were resolved and the tournament promoter and his wife warmly welcomed the world’s No. 1 player and congratulated him graciously for his impressive 2004 season. Federer finally felt welcome and appreciated in Texas. McIngvale even facilitated for Federer a lunch with former American President George Bush Sr., a self-confessed tennis fan, and his wife Barbara, both residents of Houston. However, there was something that McIngvale could not facilitate with his influence and his deep pocketbook—good weather. Most of the week featured rainy and windy weather, spreading gloom among fans, players and officials and causing long and persistent match delays.
At least Federer was fully recovered from his thigh injury. Six weeks went by since his last tournament competition in Bangkok, but surprisingly, he had little trouble immediately finding his rhythm. Federer negotiated round-robin wins over Gaston Gaudio, Lleyton Hewitt and Carlos Moya to reach the semifinals, where he faced Marat Safin, who was now tutored by Federer’s old coach Peter Lundgren.
The Federer-Safin semifinal was highlighted by the second-set tie-break that lasted 27 minutes and ended 20-18 in Federer’s favor. The 38 points matched the record for the longest tie-break in tennis history—equaling the amount of points Björn Borg and Premjit Lall played at Wimbledon in 1973 and that Goran Ivanisevic and Daniel Nestor played at the 1993 US Open. “Too bad we didn’t break the record,” Federer joked. “We should have made an arrangement to do this.” Federer was in a good mood because even though he blew seven match points, he also fought off six set points and won the match 6-3, 7-6 (18). Interestingly enough, television replays showed that Federer actually won the match on his third match point when leading 10-9, when the TV replay showed Federer was the victim of a bad line call. “I even saw the mark Safin’s shot made and it was out,” he stated. Almost any other player would have frantically protested such an injustice, especially at such a critical point in the match. Federer, however, reacted as if nothing had happened, even though he would have won the match on Safin’s mistake. He remained entrenched in the dog fight and said he intentionally convinced himself that Safin’s stroke probably landed in. “I would have gone nuts otherwise,” he said.
In the other semifinal, Roddick’s game buckled against Hewitt as the American lost the last 20 points of the match, losing 6-3, 6-2. Some cynics actually offered that Roddick may have welcomed defeat to avoid a fourth final-round loss to Federer for the year. Instead, it was now Federer against Hewitt for the sixth time on the season, and for the sixth time, Federer emerged the winner. The 6-3, 6-2 win gave Federer his 13th consecutive victory in a tournament final, breaking the record he previously shared with McEnroe and Borg for most consecutive victories in tournament finals.
As Federer toasted with Champagne in the player’s lounge after his post-match interview with the press, he seemed like anybody who had just ended a normal work week. But on this day, a dream year came to a close. Federer won 11 titles, three Grand Slam tournaments as well as the Tennis Masters Cup. His won-loss record for the year stood at 74-6, marking the best winning percentage since John McEnroe went 82-3 in 1984. His reward was lavish. Just in this week—like the year before in Houston—he set a personal record in prize money winning $1.52 million and raised his season earnings to $6,357,547.
Since his devastating loss to Berdych at the Olympic Games, Federer went undefeated for the remainder of the year. He was now the champion of four Grand Slam tournaments and finished the year as the No. 1 player in the world. Federer still had one more wish before he and Mirka jetted off to the Maldive Islands for some rest and relaxation—“I would like to make time stand still and just enjoy this moment.” But nobody, of course, could fulfill this wish.
Croatia stands just one win away from a third incredible win over the United States in Davis Cup play. Croatia, in fact, is the only nation the United States has never beaten in Davis Cup play and it will remain as such unless James Blake and Mardy Fish can sweep Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic in Sunday’s reverse singles. On Saturday, Bob and Mike Bryan defeated Roko Karanusic and Lovro Zovko 6-3, 6-1, 6-3, cutting the Croatian lead from 2-0 to 2-1.
After losing to Croatia 3-2 in the opening round of the 2003 competition, the United States was again upset by Croatia in the first round in 2005, despite the United States having Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and the Bryan twins on the squad. That 2005 upset – a match that was ultimately the Davis Cup swan song for Agassi – is documented below.
The day after returning back in New York after the 2004 Davis Cup Final in Sevilla, Spain, where the U.S. lost 3-2 to the Carlos Moya/Rafael Nadal led Spanish team, U.S. Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe called into the nationally-syndicated morning radio and MSNBC cable show “Imus in the Morning,” where host Don Imus and his sports reporter Sid Rosenberg had been ridiculing McEnroe for the final round loss to Spain – or as Imus described “a team of leaf blowers and cab drivers.” McEnroe was introduced onto the program as the “tennis terrorist” in that he had embarrassed the United States to the largest degree.
After taking the playful ribbing, McEnroe told “the I-man” and gang that he wanted to have a serious reflection on the Davis Cup Final, stating that he felt proud in the way that he and his team represented the United States in Spain and that the conduct and sportsmanship displayed by his team “had restored a little respect for our country in a part of the world where the U.S. is not looked upon in the most positive way” in reference to Spain’s recent objection to the foreign policy of the United States, most notably the war in Iraq.
“Next year,” Pmac then boasted. “We’re going to bring back the Cup I-man.”
Imus, quick with the retort, then stated, “When the authorities find you, they’re going to ask that you give it back.”
The United States had drawn a first round home tie against Croatia and the USTA selected The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles, as the site of the contest. Los Angeles is a town that like stars and while the U.S. Davis Cup team did have a star in Andy Roddick, the one star that it was missing was one Andre Agassi.
McEnroe had always kept Agassi in the loop as far as Davis Cup goes since taking over as captain and, after asking him to play in the Final against Spain, sensed that Agassi was considering a return to Davis Cup in 2005. McEnroe began to push the buttons again at the Australian Open, where Agassi first addressed his possible comeback after his second round romp over Rainer Schuettler.
“I’m going to have this discussion with Patrick, just because he’s made the effort to want to have conversations with me about it, so I’ll be respectful of that,” said the 34-year-old Agassi. “But it’s just two-fold. I have a lot of regret not playing because it’s one of the best memories of my career, playing Davis Cup, not to mention playing with another generation of guys that have such a good fellowship and team camaraderie together. To experience that would be a great feeling. But the other side of the coin is really what my decision has come down to in the past, which is what can I really do. I’ve never been a big fan of being halfway playing at your convenience. It’s always been something I haven’t respected a whole lot in the past when it’s come to that for others. The decision I had to make is not an easy one and it hasn’t been easy, but it’s something I’ll discuss with him.”
A few days after Agassi’s quarterfinal loss to Roger Federer, McEnroe phoned Agassi at his home in Las Vegas and offered to sit down with him in person en route back to New York after the Australian Open. Agassi told McEnroe he was still hung up on the year-long commitment that he expected he would have to give to Davis Cup. On Monday January 31, McEnroe arrived in Los Angeles from Melbourne and stopped off in Carson for a media luncheon to promote the USA vs. Croatia tie. McEnroe then revealed to the gathered guests and media that he was en route to Las Vegas that evening to meet with Agassi.
”I think (Agassi) finds that right now, it’s hard for him to commit to every match because of his family and his responsibilities and because he is going to be 35 and it’s a little taxing on him,” McEnroe told the assembled press. “My job is to alleviate his fear that we don’t necessarily have to have him play ever match… I don’t need to hear from Andre ‘I’m going to play every match.’ My feeling is, let’s see how it goes. Let’s get you to play in the first round and let’s see what happens and take it from there.”
McEnroe tagged his chances at “less than 50-50” before boarding the AmericaWest Airlines flight to Las Vegas. “I don’t have any expectation other than I hope he says yes,” said McEnroe. “I have to field the best team I can and I have to exhaust all possibilities. If that means getting on a plane and sitting down with him face to face, than that’s a small price to play for trying to get him to join up.”
McEnroe met Agassi and his coach Darren Cahill for a two-and-a-half hour dinner at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. The three reminisced about Davis Cup stories of old, talked of the passion of the current group of Davis Cuppers and addressed the concerns and issues that Agassi had with committing to Davis Cup. McEnroe later said he told Agassi, “Don’t cut off your options by saying it’s all or nothing, because to me it’s not. We’ve never had a year where we’ve had the same four guys every match. It’s too unrealistic for that to happen, with injuries, with different surfaces, with schedules, you name it.” McEnroe said he, the team and the tennis industry in general would not hold it against him if he could not commit for every match in 2005.
Two days later, after consulting with others in his inner circle – most notably his wife Steffi Graf - Agassi phoned McEnroe to tell him to count on him to be in Carson. Agassi then called all the members of the team – Roddick, the Bryan twins and Taylor Dent (who would travel to Carson as the “fifth” player on the four-man team and would have been the No. 2 singles player had Agassi not decided to play) – to get their approval on his returning to the team. On Monday, February 7, McEnroe made the Agassi news public in a conference call with the media.
“We’re going to take it one match at a time,” said McEnroe in explaining Agassi’s commitment to the team. “It’s not just this match. It’s not every match. I think it’s a case-by-case basis situation. He’s not coming back simply to play because it happens to be the week before Indian Wells. At the same time, I didn’t ask him to say, “Are you going to play every match?’ I understand where he is in his career, personally, professionally with all the different things on his plate. We will take it one step at a time…To me, it doesn’t make any sense to say to him, ‘Listen, you’ve got to play every match.” Things happen, things come up, whether it’s injuries, whether it’s having a tough major, whether it’s not having a tough major and maybe wanting some extra matches. I think you have to take all those things into account and understand that Andre is going to make the decision based on a variety of factors.”
Two days later, Agassi first addressed his return to Davis Cup following his first round win over xx in San Jose, Calif.
“What had a big influence on me was the camaraderie I saw last year,” said Agassi. “They’ve built a great team and are a part of something I never got to experience. I played Davis Cup with guys who were fighting to be the best in the world and everyone had a sense of their own goals…This group of guys really seems to look out for each other. I respect and admire it a lot.”
Agassi again addressed his absence from Davis Cup for five years, citing the demanding schedule and the difficultly in committing to potentially four ties during a calendar year, especially at age 34 with a wife and two children.
“I had gotten to a point that I didn’t have enough to give anymore when it came to the full goal of winning the Cup,” said Agassi. “I did it for 12 years and wasn’t convinced I could do it anymore and accomplish the things I needed to stay out here for the last few years. I never respected those guys who played at their convenience and didn’t play all times. Patrick was the first captain to show a strong sense of understanding and support in knowing it’s not realistic for me to play every tie.”
Roddick was estactic at the news and struggled to stay composed when Agassi reached him by phone while Roddick was in his car in driving several of his buddies around his hometown of Austin. Said Roddick, “I told him I was excited he was on board and then hung up the phone and started screaming.”
While the Agassi hype was substantial, insiders were paying close attention to the progress of the Croatian team. Ivan Ljubicic, who had almost single handedly defeated the United States in Zagreb two years prior in the first round, was fast becoming the hottest player on the circuit. Entering Davis Cup week, he posted three straight final round appearances in Marseille, Rotterdam and Dubai – the latter two losing to world No. 1 Roger Federer in three tight sets. Ancic had reached the semifinals of Marseille (losing to Ljubicic) and Rotterdam (losing to Federer) and had reached his second career ATP singles final in Scottsdale, Ariz., the week before Davis Cup. With Ljubicic and Ancic boasting a bronze medal in men’s doubles from the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the Bryan twins would also face a stern test. Cautioned Ancic, “In Davis Cup, there are many surprises.” Croatian Captain Niki Pilic, who also captained Germany to Davis Cup victories over the United States in 1985, 1987 and 1989, echoed the sentiment of his young charge. “In Davis Cup,” he said, “there are no rules.”
To add to the intrigue of the first round tie, Roddick suffered a scare during his quarterfinal win over Robby Ginepri at the ATP event in Memphis, spraining his ankle just two weeks before the start of the tie. Roddick chose to default his semifinal match with Kenneth Carlsen of Denmark rather than risk further injury that would jeopardize his form for the tie with Croatia.
“The repercussions of this injury won’t just affect me, but they’d affect my teammates it would affect me playing for my country as well,” said Roddick. “That’s a lot of responsibility that I have to take into consideration.”
Gavin Rossdale of the rock band “Bush” and the husband of rock star Gwen Stefani pulled the ceremonial chip at the Davis Cup draw ceremony at The Home Depot Center that placed Andre Agassi against Ivan Ljubicic in the opening rubber of the best-of-five match series. Roddick would follow against Ancic, while the Bryan twins would face Ancic and Ljubicic in Saturday’s doubles contest. Whether it was nerves, discomfort with the cool, blustery conditions or Ljubicic’s game, Agassi showed distress and tentativeness as his return to Davis Cup began at 1 pm Los Angeles time on Friday, March 4. There was no swagger in the legend’s step or game as Ljubicic swept the first set 6-3. Agassi got out of his funk in the second set, taking a 5-2 lead, but faltered when serving for the second at 5-3 and was skunked 7-0 in the second set tie-break to go down two-sets-to-love. The eventual 6-3, 7-6 (0), 6-3 loss marked only the third time that Agassi has been dismissed in straight sets in 36 Davis Cup singles matches.
His anger and displeasure was apparent on his face as he briskly left the court for the U.S. team locker room where his Head tennis racquet was tendered to multiple fragments scattered throughout the locker room within minutes.
“Today was one of those days,” said a dazed Agassi in the post-match press conference. “I just never got settled and never got comfortable. It was just frustrating. You’re trying hard to figure things out and sometimes you wonder if you’re just trying too hard…I was useless to be quite honest, as far as being clear on what was going on out there.“
Said McEnroe, “Everybody gets nervous playing Davis Cup – even Andre Agassi.”
Down 0-1, the match virtually sat on the shoulders of Roddick against Ancic, who quickly bounced upon the tentative Roddick taking the first set 6-4 as panic began to set in among the American hopefuls. The second set marked the start of “the street fight” as Roddick’s trainer Doug Spreen would later describe the Roddick swagger and attitude, that translated the match into a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory for the American – tying the first day’s play at 1-1.
‘I’m not going to lie, I was really tight during the first set today,” admitted Roddick. “I’m happy because I was able to dig down…I think this was a big steppingstone for me.”
The Bryans entered the pivotal doubles match on Saturday having not lost a set in Davis Cup play in their previous five matches. However, the twins from Camarillo, Calif., knew that Ljubicic and Ancic were by far the best team they had faced in Davis Cup play.
Jumping like a pair of Mexican jumping beans, the Bryans were quick out of the blocks to take the first set 6-3 in just 27 minutes, but Ljubicic and Ancic would stay tight in the second set, forcing a tie-break. The Bryans would hold three set points, including one of Mike Bryan’s serve at 7-6, but were unable to deliver what would be a near lethal two-sets-to-love blow. They surrendered the second set tie-break – and their first ever set in Davis cup play – 10 points to eight and gave new life to Ancic and Ljubicic. As the Croatians gained in confidence, the Bryans appeared drained and dismayed. As the sun dripped below the Pacific Ocean just xx miles away, conditions became cooler and slower, helping Ljubicic and Ancic close out the final two sets for the vital 3-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4, 6-4 win and the 2-1 lead for Croatia heading into the climatic third day.
Former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson entered the U.S. team locker room to try and cheer up the Bryan twins. “You guys think you are going to win every match you play?” a jovial Jackson told the Bryans as one must of wondered whether Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O’Neal received the same speech after losing an NBA game. Jackson’s words could not take the sting out of the loss for the Bryans, who for the first time tasted Davis Cup defeat in front of their father and numerous friends and family from Southern California
“We’ve had a lot of disappointing losses, but this ranks pretty high,” said Mike Bryan. “It hurts.”
McEnroe’s posture still exuded confidence. After all, the United States was still favored to win the final two singles matches – Roddick against Ljubicic in the fourth rubber and Agassi against Ancic in the fifth rubber. Roddick held a 5-1 career record with Ljubicic, having won the last five meetings, while Agassi’s experience and aura would make him the clear favorite against the 20-year-old Ancic, who had lost to Agassi in their only previous meeting.
“If there are two guys you want to roll out down 2-1, we’ve got the two guys we want,” said McEnroe. “I’m extremely confident that they’re both going to play well. Andre’s been in this position before and Andy’s been in a position where he’s had to win a match. These are the two guys we want to bring out. This is our best team. It’s our one-two punch. We’re playing at home. They’re going to have to play with a little more pressure on them now. Up until now, I think they’ve been able to sort of swing away and been the underdogs and go for their shots. If they can do that, if Ljubicic can do that against Agassi, the Bryans and Roddick, than that’s too good. But we’ll see if he can.”
Roddick and Ljubicic would battle in the fourth rubber of the tie – Ljubicic, like in 2003, trying to shut the door on the Americans – while Roddick trying to stave off elimination, a position he had been in on two other occasions without success – against France in 2002 and Spain in 2004.
After splitting the first two sets, the epic – and pivotal – third-set tie-break ensued with neither Roddick or Ljubicic willing to give the other the two-sets-to-one lead. Roddick jumped to a 4-1 lead and held three set points throughout the 24 point tie-break – tying the longest tie-break in U.S. Davis Cup history. However, Roddick’s inside-out cross court forehand at 11-12 landed wide giving Ljubicic the fourth set. The two players would again go toe-to-toe in a tie-break in the fourth set, with Ljubicic fighting off four set points before double faulting at 7-8 on the fifth-set point to give Roddick the set and square the match at two-sets apiece. The momentum appeared to be with Roddick, but he was not able to capitalize. Ljubicic ran off with the first eight points of the fifth set, breaking Roddick at love in the first game of the fifth set and cashing in on an insurance break in the fifth game of the final set. Three game later, Ljubicic closed out the crushing 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (11), 6-7 (7), 6-2 victory in three hours and 57 minutes.
Roddick and McEnroe slumped on their courtside seating while Ljubicic, Ancic, Pilic and the rest of the Croatian delegation danced and sang on the court with handfuls of Croatian fans in the audience waving flags and rejoicing in the historic first round upset. It marked the first time in 105 years of Davis Cup that the United States was eliminated in the first round on home soil.
Ljubicic would become one of only two players to win three live rubbers against a U.S. Davis Cup team on two occasions – joining Mexico’s Raul Ramirez who turned the trick against the United States in the 1975 and 1976 Davis Cup campaigns.
In all, Ljubicic labored for a total of eight hours and 44 minutes over 12 sets over the weekend. His career record against the United States in Davis Cup play now stood at 6-0 – with only Laurie Doherty of Great Britain holding a better record against the U.S. with a 10-0 record in matches against the U.S. in 1902, 1903, 1905 and 1906.
“I have no words, really,” said Ljubicic. “To beat Andre, the Bryans and Roddick in three days….it is amazing.”
Roddick was crushed, irritable, devastatingly angry and disappointed. He slumped in front of the microphone in the interview room and was asked to share how he was feeling.
“Probably not in words you would understand,” he slurred. “It’s tough to describe. Really, really bad….There’s no worse feeling than losing a match in Davis Cup in our sport, especially when your teammates are counting on you.”
“It hurts a lot,” said McEnroe, who spoke with the press after coaching Bob Bryan to a three-set win over Roko Karanusic in the dead-fifth rubber that made the final verdict a 3-2 win for Croatia. “After getting to the final last year, starting off at home with our best team, it’s disappointing.”