CBS

Mondays With Bob Greene: I Fought For My Country

STARS

Shahar Peer won the GDD-Guangzhou International Women’s Open, beating Alberta Brianti 6-3 6-4 in Guangzhou, China

Melinda Czink beat Lucie Safarova 4-6 6-3 7-5 to win the Bell Challenge in Quebec City, Canada

Evgeny Korolev beat Florent Serra 6-4 6-3 to win the Pekao Szczecin Open in Szczecin, Poland

DAVIS CUP

World Group Semifinals

Czech Republic beat Croatia 4-1 in Porec, Croatia

Spain beat Israel 4-1 in Murcia, Spain

World Group Playoffs

Switzerland beat Italy 3-2, France beat Netherlands 4-1, Sweden beat Romania 3-21, Serbia beat Uzbekistan 5-0, India beat South Africa 4-1, Belgium beat Ukraine 3-2, Ecuador beat Brazil 3-2, and Chile played Austria

Americas Zone

Group I Playoff: Peru vs. Uruguay beat Peru 4-1; Group II Final: Dominican Republic beat Venezuela 3-2

Asia-Oceania Zone

Group I Playoff: China beat Thailand 4-1. Group II 3rd Round: Philippines beat New Zealand 4-1

Europe/Africa Zone

Group I Playoffs: Slovak Republic beat FYR Macedonia 5-1; Poland beat Great Britain 3-2; Group II 3rd Round: Latvia beat Slovenia 3-2; Finland beat Cyprus 3-2

SAYING

“I feel like I was in a 10-round boxing match. Everything hurts.” – Ivo Karlovic, who served a record 78 aces, yet lost his Davis Cup match against Radek Stepanek.

“I fought for my country. It was an amazing game.” – Radek Stepanek, who survived Ivo Karlovic’s record 78 aces to win 6-7 (5) 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) 6-7 (2) 16-14.

“I have to go on holiday badly. I have a problem with my leg. I have a problem with my arm – everything is hurting. And I’ve got to do some babysitting.” – Roger Federer, after helping Switzerland beat Italy and remain in the World Group in 2010.

“I tried everything, but he was particularly good today.” – Potito Starace, who lost to Roger Federer to give Switzerland an insurmountable lead in its Davis Cup playoff against Italy.

“It’s not the way to act – win or lose, good call or bad call, in any sport, in any manner.” – Serena Williams, apologizing for her verbal assault towards a line judge during the US Open women’s final.

“I was very tired after the first two sets, lost the third and the fourth. But then, when I went to the locker room when the fourth set finished, I told my brother I wasn’t going to lose the match. This is the beauty of Davis Cup, the energy of a team and the energy of a country.” – Nicolas Lapentti, whose 6-4 6-4 1-6 2-6 8-6 victory over Marcos Daniel clinched Ecuador’s World Group Playoff tie over Brazil.

“It’s like David against Goliath – and we know who won that one!” – Andy Ram, before Israel played Spain in a Davis Cup semifinal. This time Goliath won.

“I hope it’s the start of something.” – Eyal Ran, Israel’s Davis Cup captain, on his team’s surprising run to the World Group semifinals.

“I hope to come back next year and do better. Unless you win, you can always do better.” – Lucie Safarova, who lost to Melinda Czink in the final of the Bell Challenge.

“I thought they (India) were trying different tactics. I couldn’t understand why he (Mahesh Bhupathi) was serving and staying back.” – Jeff Coetzee, who with his partner Wesley Moodie earned South Africa’s lone point in their Davis Cup tie against India when the Indian doubles team was forced to retire after Bhupathi suffered a groin injury.

“At last we are where we deserve to be.” – Andy Murray, on Great Britain being relegated to Group II in the Euro/Africa Zone after losing its Davis Cup tie to Poland.

SMOKIN’

Ivo Karlovic slammed a record 78 aces yet lost his Davis Cup match against Radek Stepanek in a marathon that lasted one minute short of six hours. Stepanek’s 6-7 (5) 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) 6-7 (2) 16-14 victory gave the Czech Republic a 2-0 first-day lead over Croatia. The Czechs captured the tie 4-1 and advanced to the final against Spain. The 82 games equaled the Davis Cup record since tiebreakers were introduced in 1989, but the elapsed time was well short of two matches played by John McEnroe, against Mats Wilander in 1982 and against Boris Becker in 1987, both of which lasted around 6½ hours. Karlovic wasted four match points in the final set, and there were only five break-point chances in the match. Karlovic obliterated both the men’s record and Davis Cup record for aces, marks he held. He had 55 aces in a loss to Lleyton Hewitt at the French Open in May, and his previous Davis Cup mark was 47, which he shared with Brazil’s Gustavo Kuerten and Switzerland’s Marc Rosset.

SMALL CHANGE?

Apparently apparel company Fila has deep pockets. According to reports, Kim Clijsters was given a significant bonus by her shoe and clothing sponsor for her surprising US Open singles championship. And where companies usually insure these bonuses, CNBC says Fila did not. The bonus is reported to be in the range of USD $300,000, which could buy a lot of shoes for Clijsters’ young daughter. Darren Rovell of SportsBiz says that while it’s standard practice for companies to insure their big incentive bonuses to minimize the risk, Fila didn’t do it with Clijsters since she had played just two tournaments following a two-year retirement. The odds on Clijsters winning were as high as 40-to-1.

STAYING UP

You can excuse Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych if they want to take an extra nap or two. Between them, the Czech duo played for nearly 10 hours on the first day of the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup semifinal against Croatia. But the two then joined forces on the second day to play – and win – their doubles, clinching a spot for the Czech Republic in the final against Spain. On the first day, Stepanek needed one minute less than 6 hours to outlast Ivo Karlovic, and then Berdych was on court for 3 hours 48 minutes to down Marin Cilic in five sets. Together, Stepanek and Berdych needed only 2 hours, 16 minutes to defeat Lukas Dlouhy and Jan Hajek. Stepanek and Berdych are unbeaten together in Davis Cup doubles, improving their record to 5-0, including 3-0 this season.

SINKING BRITS

Even with Andy Murray playing all three days, Great Britain was relegated to Group Two of the Euro/African zonal play when Poland won their Davis Cup tie 3-2. Murray won both of his singles matches, but Michal Przysiezny beat Dan Evans in the decisive singles to give Poland the victory. It is the first time in 13 years that Great Britain has been dropped to the third tier of the world-wide competition. Evans also lost his first-day singles match to Jerzy Janowicz, But Poland’s Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski beat Murray and Ross Hutchins in the doubles.

SURPRISING BELGIUM

When talking about Belgium tennis, most are thinking about the women. The country has produced former number ones Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, the latter winning the US Open earlier this month on her return to the sport following a two-year retirement. But Belgium’s men have also proved their mettle, keeping the country in the World Group for 2010 by besting Ukraine 3-2. And that came despite Belgium losing it’s number one player with an injury just hours before the Davis Cup Playoff began. Olivier Rochus withdrew with a leg injury, but his brother Christophe Rochus joined with Steve Darcis to help Belgium beat Ukraine.

SETTLED SUIT

Zina Garrison has settled the racial discrimination suit she brought against the United States Tennis Association (USTA). A deal was signed on August 27, although its terms were not disclosed. A former Fed Cup captain, Garrison filed her lawsuit in February, saying she was unfairly treated, paid a lower salary than Davis Cup coach Patrick McEnroe while being held to higher standards. As a player, Garrison was the 1990 Wimbledon runner-up, at the time becoming the first black woman since Althea Gibson to play in a Grand Slam tournament singles final. She became the first black captain of the US Fed Cup team when she replaced Billie Jean King in 2004. Spokesman Chris Widmaier said the USTA is happy the case was resolved and looks forward to working with Garrison in the future.

STOP RIGHT NOW

Martina Hingis should stick to tennis and stay away from dancing, at least according to the British public. Hingis became the first celebrity to be ousted from the new BBBC reality talent show, “Strictly Come Dancing.” It’s England’s answer to the American TV show “Dancing With The Stars.” Hingis and her partner Matthew Cutler were in the bottom two when phone votes were added to the judges’ score. They then lost a dance-off against policeman-turned-crime-presenter Rav Wilding and his partner Aliona Vilani. Two years ago, Cutler teamed with Alesha Dixon to win the competition. This year, Dixon, a singer, is a judge on the show.

SERENA SPEAKS

Admitting she lost her cool, Serena Williams has issued an apology for her outburst towards a line judge in her women’s singles final at the US Open. “I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately,” Williams said. “I want to sincerely apologize first to the lineswoman, Kim Clijsters, the US Tennis Association and tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst.” The line judge had called a foot fault on Williams on her second serve, giving Clijsters match point. William, who already had been handed a code violation for racquet abuse, unleashed a tirade towards the line judge, briefly walked away, and then returned for another blast at the official. When chair umpire Louise Engzell asked the line judge what had been said, she called for the tournament referee Brian Earley and eventually ordered a point penalty, the next level of punishment under the code. That gave the match to Clijsters. Williams was fined USD $10,000 for the infraction, and was further penalized USD $500 for the racquet abuse.

SPEAK YE NOT

Saying the “magic” word cost Roger Federer a USD $1,500 fine at the US Open. The Swiss superstar was fined for using a profanity while arguing with the chair umpire during the US Open final. Television microphones picked up the naughty word during the live broadcast of the match. Tournament spokesman said Federer was fined the same amount as two other players – Vera Zvonareva and Daniel Koellerer – for audible obscenities. Daniel Nestor was fined USD $5,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct toward a fan, but the big loser at this year’s final Grand Slam tournament was Serena Williams, who was docked USD $10,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct. She also was fined USD $500 for racket abuse.

SUCCESS

Melinda Czink is finally a winner on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The left-hander from Hungary beat Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic to capture the Bell Challenge in Quebec City, Canada. Playing in her second career final, it was Czink’s first title. “It feels great. I haven’t really processed it year, but I will,” she said. Czink’s first final was somewhat historic. She lost to Ana Ivanovic in the final round of qualifying in Canberra, Australia, in 2005, gained entry into the main draw as a “lucky loser,” then met and lost to Ivanovic in the final, the only known time that has happened.

SAYS YOU, SAYS ME

India has two of the world’s best doubles players. Both are now sidelined with injuries. Leander Paes pulled out of India’s Davis Cup World Group Playoff tie against South Africa because of an injury he sustained during the US Open, where he won the doubles title with Lucas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic and reached the mixed doubles final with Cara Black of Zimbabwe. Mahesh Bhupathi, who lost the men’s doubles with his partner Mark Knowles of the Bahamas, suffered a groin injury during the Davis Cup doubles. The injury forced the Indian doubles team to retire, giving South Africa its lone point in the tie.

SOME KIND OF PROBLEM

Albert Costa has a problem every Davis Cup captain would love to have. Costa has been Spain’s Davis Cup captain for just nine months, but already he faces several decisions that could make him unpopular with several players and their supporters. Costa’s team just swept past Israel 4-1 to return to the final to defend their Davis Cup title. This time they will take on the Czech Republic, which beat Croatia. Costa’s problem. His top two players missed the Israeli tie because of injuries. Does he now name the players who took Spain to the final or go with the two missing players – second ranked Rafael Nadal and ninth-ranked Fernando Verdasco. Of course, there may be no problem. Although injured, both Nadal and Verdasco sat through all three live rubbers on Friday and Saturday, cheering on their compatriots.

SEATS ARE FREE

Admittance to next week’s Vogue Athens Open will be free. The organizers Liberis Publications and Hellenic Tennis Federation decided to open the doors to the public for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event that will be played on the same courts where five years ago the Athens Olympic Games were held. The decision was also made because of the large capacity at the Olympic Tennis Center. All seats are available to anyone, beginning with the qualifying all the way through the final, which will be played on October 4.

STAYING HOME

Juan Martin del Potro’s five-set upset of five-time defending champion Roger Federer had the fans at home turning on their television sets. The men’s final, which was postponed because of rain to Monday, drew a 2.3 rating and 5 share on CBS. That’s up 35 percent from the 2008 final, which was also played on Monday because of rain delays. That was when Federer beat Andy Murray in straight sets. Ratings represent the percentage of all households with televisions, and shares represent the percentage of all homes with TVs in use at the time.

SEEING IS BELIEVING

Things at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center are normal. The US Open set an attendance record this year, just as it has done every year. This year’s attendance was 721,059, slightly more than the previous record of 720,227 set last year. The tournament also set a Week One attendance record of 423,427, including a single-day high of 61,554 for the combined day and night sessions on the first Friday.

SPONSOR

Remember Melanie Oudin, the 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, who reached the quarterfinals of the US Open. Well, she has signed on to be a pitch woman for AirTran Airways Inc., an Orlando, Florida-based company. Oudin became the youngest woman to reach the US Open quarterfinals since Serena Williams did it in 1999. Oudin had victories over fourth-ranked Elena Dementieva, 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova and former US Open champion Maria Sharapova. The youngster is currently ranked 44th in the world and is the third-highest ranked American woman, behind sisters Serena and Venus Williams. AirTran, a low-cost airline, recently took over as the official airline of the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Guangzhou: Olga Govortsova and Tatiana Poutchek beat Kimiko Date Krumm and Sun Tiantian 3-6 6-2 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Quebec City: Vania King and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova beat Sofia Arvidsson and Severine Bremond Beltrame 6-1 6-3

Szczecin: Tomasz Bednarek and Mateusz Kowalczyk beat Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. and Artem Smirnov 6-3 6-4

SITES TO SURF

Bucharest: www.bcropenromania.ro/

Metz: www.openmoselle.com

Hansol: www.hansolopen.com

Tashkent: www.tashkentopen.uz

Saint Malo: www.opengdfsuez-bretagne.com

Bangkok: www.thailandopen.org

Kuala Lumpur: www.malasianopentennis.com/

Athens: www.vogueathensopen.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$650,000 BCR Open Romania, Bucharest, Romana, clay

$650,000 Open de Moselle, Metz, France, hard

WTA

$220,000 Hansol Korea Open, Seoul, Korea, hard

$220,000 Tashkent Open, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hard

$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Bretagne, Saint Malo, France, clay

SENIORS

Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere, Paris, France, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$947,750 Proton Malaysia Open, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hard

$608,500 Thailand Open, Bangkok, Thailand, hard

WTA

$2,000,000 Toray Pan Pacific Open, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$100,000 Vogue Athens Open, Athens, Greece, hard

It must be summertime

We’ve just received word that Andy Roddick will be participating in this year’s Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day, to be held on August 29, 2009. As you know, the annual event kicks off the U.S Open. American Idol Winner Jordin Sparks and comedian Will Ferrell will also be performing and participating at the full-day tennis and music festival. (Other talent include “rising stars”Honor Society and Justin Bieber.)

On the ‘tube: The event will be broadcast on Sunday, August 30 at 12pm EST on CBS. For more information and tickets click here.

USTA, ESPN and Tennis Channel Announce Partnership for US Open and Olympus US Open Series

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., May 12, 2008 – The USTA, ESPN and Tennis Channel today announced a groundbreaking television and multi-platform partnership creating a summer-long “Open Season” for tennis featuring more than 400 national television hours for the US Open and the Olympus US Open Series — an increase of nearly 100 hours. Commencing in 2009, ESPN and Tennis Channel will join CBS, and become the US Open cable television broadcasters for the first time. Under the new deal, the US Open will receive 200 hours of total coverage, an increase of over 50 hours — the most in US Open history. This marks the first time that the Series and the US Open will be carried by the same cable broadcast partner — creating a more consistent TV package for the sport. For 2008, USA Network will remain the US Open’s exclusive cable broadcaster.

For 2009 and beyond, ESPN2 will become the lead cable broadcaster for the US Open and the Olympus US Open Series, broadcasting nearly 200 hours of tennis coverage during the eight-week North American summer tennis season. Tennis Channel, which continues as a Series broadcaster with nearly 150 hours of Series coverage, will now also broadcast more than 60 hours of live US Open coverage. For the first time, Tennis Channel also will broadcast daily US Open preview and highlight shows. CBS Sports will continue to broadcast nearly 40 hours of live US Open coverage — bringing the overall national coverage of tennis during the summer season to more than 400 hours.

The six-year deal will also deliver the US Open across multiple platforms including ESPN, ESPN2, Tennis Channel, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN International, ESPN360 broadband programming, ESPN.com, TennisChannel.com, and ESPN Mobile Properties. In addition, USOpen.org retains all rights to live streaming of US Open matches.

“This completes a five-year process of reinventing the television and digital landscape for the sport of tennis in North America,” said Arlen Kantarian, CEO Pro Tennis, USTA. “Tennis will now be prominently featured for eight straight weeks on ESPN — the premiere destination in sports; Tennis Channel — our sport’s namesake network; and CBS — our longtime network partner. This new partnership will provide more tennis, to more people, in more ways than ever before.”

“Tennis has provided many memorable moments in ESPN history, and to finally acquire the excitement and drama of the US Open is a crowning achievement,” said John Skipper, ESPN Executive Vice President, Content. “The sport is a perfect fit for our growing digital businesses, and fans will know to find the best tennis action all year on ESPN2 and on ESPN360.com.”

“Tennis Channel is proud to now become a long-term partner in one of the greatest spectacles in all of sports,” said Ken Solomon, Chairman and CEO, Tennis Channel. “For us, the US Open and the Olympus US Open Series that leads up to it each summer go far beyond sports, as collectively the ‘Open Season’ represents an unprecedented eight weeks of the best mass appeal content in the world. Our multi-platform broadcast and marketing partnership with the USTA and ESPN, coupled with CBS’ world-class coverage will create significantly greater awareness of professional tennis in the years to come.”

US Open Television Coverage

ESPN’s US Open coverage will include approximately 100 hours, including weekday afternoon coverage and exclusive weekday primetime broadcasts. Tennis Channel will broadcast more than 60 live hours from the US Open, including exclusive primetime broadcasts on Saturday and Sunday evenings of Labor Day weekend. Below is a summary of the schedule and a full US Open TV schedule is attached:

First Week
• ESPN2: Live every weekday from 1-6 pm and primetime from 7-11 pm.
• Tennis Channel: Live every weekday from 11-2 pm; live outer court coverage from 2-6 pm; daily Preview Show from 10-11am; nightly Highlights Show at 11pm followed by encore of matches until 10 am the next morning.

Labor Day Weekend
• CBS: Live coverage from 11-6 pm on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

  • ESPN2: Live coverage on Monday from 7-11 pm.

• Tennis Channel: Live coverage on Saturday and Sunday from 7-11 pm; nightly Highlights Show at 11pm followed by encore of matches until 10 am the next morning.

Second Week/Quarterfinals
• ESPN2: Live Tuesday – Thursday from 11-6 pm and live primetime quarterfinals from 7-11 pm.
• Tennis Channel: Live outer court coverage from 11-6 pm; daily Preview Show from 10-11am; nightly Highlights Show at 11pm followed by encore of matches until 10 am the next morning.

Finals Weekend
• CBS: Live coverage during Finals weekend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including the Men’s Doubles Final, the Men’s and Women’s Semifinals, the Women’s Primetime Final on Saturday night and the Men’s Final on Sunday.
• ESPN2: Live coverage of Women’s Doubles Final at 1 pm Sunday; US Open Wrap-Up Show from 8-10 pm.

US Open Digital and Extended Platforms

The components of this multi-platform deal include cable television, broadband, mobile properties, and Spanish language distribution via ESPN Deportes. Highlights include:

• ESPN360.com, ESPN’s signature broadband network, can present action from all TV courts during ESPN2 windows, plus simulcasts of ESPN2’s coverage, totaling more than 300 hours.
• ESPN.com will provide blanket coverage of the US Open, with the latest news and scores, as well as commentary, photos and daily video news and summaries from ESPN commentators.
• ESPN Mobile Properties will present live action, press conferences and highlights.
• ESPN has the right to display a multi-court mosaic platform during its TV windows.
• Tennischannel.com will have rights to stream live match action on a non-exclusive basis.
• ESPN International, which has been a US Open broadcast partner for several years, will continue to provide US Open broadcasts to Latin America and sub-Sahara Africa.
• USOpen.org also plans to stream US Open matches and will continue to feature exclusive live scoring.

Olympus US Open Series TV Coverage

• ESPN2 will remain the lead broadcaster of the Series and provide nearly 100 hours of consistent live weekly coverage, including back-to-back Men’s and Women’s Finals on Sundays from 3-7 pm.
• Tennis Channel will continue to provide nearly 150 hours of Series coverage, and weekly encore telecasts of Semifinals and Finals.
• CBS will continue to provide live Finals coverage from select Series events.
• Since its launch four years ago, the Series has doubled television viewership, increased event attendance and generated new corporate partners for the sport.
• In 2008, Olympus became the first Series title sponsor, with the Series renamed the “Olympus US Open Series.”
• In total, the 2007 Olympus US Open Series — including the US Open — generated a record 1.7 million attendees, more than 120 million TV viewers, and over 32 million website visits in the 8-week period.

Show Me The Money

I like Rafael Nadal. I really do. But on this one very rare instance, I have to side with the ATP over the young Spaniard.

When asked in Miami whether he was comfortable playing in the United States for two consecutive Masters Series events, Nadal said, “I’m very comfortable in United States, but not for this time. It’s not fair have one month, two tournaments, and after go back to Europe and we have to play three Masters Series on clay.”

What especially irked Nadal was that the schedule was changed to accommodate an American TV network. Since television coverage of the NCAA college basketball tournament would have interfered with broadcasting from the Sony Ericsson Open, Miami was pushed back a week. Consequently, the European clay season was shortened by a week, and the three Masters Series events there have to be played over a four week rather than a five week period.

“Everybody can say about the Olympics. Is not for the Olympics,” Nadal explained. “This year we have that. It’s because these two tournaments are one week later, because you have university or something like this, college basketball. I respect 100% the college basketball. I think it’s very important. I know here it’s very important, the college basketball, because I saw always the American players and the mens in the locker room watching always this. But, well, we can’t have the calendar thinking about the college basketball, no? So we are 100% disappointed about this decision of the ATP.”

Nadal then repeated his statements last week during Davis Cup as reported by Reuters: “The truth is the ATP is making our lives almost impossible. Moving Miami and Indian Wells back because of college basketball is something I understand because it’s very important to them but this is a world tour. We only have three Masters Series events and we have to play them with an important tournament like Barcelona all running together.”

At first glance, Nadal seems to have a legitimate argument. The ATP appears to have put monetary concerns over the welfare of their players, and Nadal and the rest of the players should have a say on the schedule and have every right to use the media to express their concerns and vent their frustrations. Even with the proposed changes for 2009, the schedule is a mess, and the ATP seems determined to lessen the importance of clay as a surface. And forcing the players to play three major tournaments in four weeks does border on insanity.

His frustration over the schedule being changed due to March Madness is also understandable. Should one major sport change their schedule to accommodate television coverage of another major sport? Many Americans can relate to Nadal’s frustrations because they are also tired of having the major TV networks dictate the dates and times of sporting events.

But the reality is that given the position of tennis on the sports popularity ladder in many countries including the U.S., the ATP unfortunately did have to create a calendar that took college basketball into consideration.

Sports are a business. Ticket revenues don’t pay for the costs to run a tournament, including those big fat paychecks that the players get at the end of the tournament. It’s the revenue from television rights fees and the sponsors that pay the bills. And sponsors want their corporate names and logos placed strategically on court so that they are visible on television.

CBS broadcasts the NCAA college basketball tournament, an extraordinarily popular event in the U.S. Tennis is not. CBS is also a business. Their revenues are based on ratings, and decisions made are based on that fact. If Miami had kept their original dates, the men’s final would have conflicted with basketball coverage, and the result would most likely have been no television coverage of the men’s final on a major network.

Tennis must be on TV, especially from such a large tournament as the Sony Ericsson Open. It’s not just merely to be visible to grow the game-it’s a matter of survival to be on TV in today’s sports climate. Tennis in the U.S.-and in many other parts of the world-is fighting for a place in a very crowded sports scene, and the ATP is very aware of that fact.

Nadal obviously has to think about his own career, but the ATP has to make decisions based on what is best for the sport in the host country of this very major tournament, not for what is best for one player or merely the very top players in the game. And note that it is only the top players who complain about the schedule. The guys out of the top 50 have to play every week anyway.

What is odd about Nadal’s comments is that he knew at the beginning of the season that Miami would be moved back and that the clay season would be shortened. If he was so concerned about being tired, why then did he fly all the way to Dubai before Indian Wells? You guessed it: $$$$.

In one way, you can’t blame players like Nadal for taking the money thrown at them by the Dubai tournament organizers. But then one may humbly suggest that these same players not complain that the ATP is making decisions solely for monetary reasons without any concern for the players, and of being tired and being forced to play too many tournaments when they are doing exactly the same thing.

This isn’t the first time a top player has complained about the schedule while at the same time flying to distant lands to compete in tournaments or participate in exhibitions that benefit their wallets.

Nadal’s complaints about the college basketball tournament also seem like a smoke screen. The top European players complain every year about having to spend 4-5 weeks in the U.S. for Indian Wells and Miami, and then again in the summer about having to spend August in America. In their own turn, the American players refuse to cross the pond to spend their entire spring on the clay in Europe and are often no-shows for many of the fall European indoor hardcourt events.

It’s a bit difficult to sympathize with either side: players from other parts of the world, including Latin America, Australia, and Asia, spend months on the road without being able to return home.

Players including Nadal also need to realize that when they complain, the average fan only sees an overpaid athlete who doesn’t appreciate their dream life.

These fans would trade places with the players in a heartbeat. Instead of sitting in a cubicle in an office, forced to listen to an irritating boss, and worrying about the mortgage payments, they could travel around the world and get paid enormous sums of money to chase down a fuzzy yellow ball. And play in cities like London, Paris, Rome, and yes, Miami, places that many fans can’t afford to travel to in a lifetime, let alone all in one year, even in the best of economic times.

Again, I like Nadal. It would be hard not to like the young Spaniard. A likable guy and a true warrior, he’s a player who never lets his fans down. Nadal fights for every point, never conceding defeat, even when down. The game’s own Raging Bull is one of the few top players who reveals his emotions on court, inviting the spectators to share the intense moments of a match along with him.

Everywhere he goes, fans clamor to get his autograph or picture, and far more often than not, he willingly complies. He’s a well brought up kid, polite and unassuming. Normally all business on court, he demonstrates an on court maturity far beyond his age.

Tennis players tend to live in an insular world, a bubble like existence since players are out there on their own, fighting to survive themselves in the game. So someone in Nadal’s entourage should explain the facts of life to him. No, not those facts of life. The business facts of life, particularly the importance of television to tennis.