defending champ

Serena to Miss Big Tournaments, Cincinnati Shapes up, Ivanovic Refused Montreal Wildcard

*Following on from last week’s news that Serena Williams’ foot injury would lead her to miss the entire WTT 2010 season it is now confirmed she will also miss the WTA events in Montreal, Istanbul and Cincinnati. She sustained the injury stepping on broken glass while at a restaurant. She said: “I’m so upset I won’t be able to play in the upcoming events because of this foot surgery. Thank you for all of your support. I can’t wait to get back on the courts.”

*Despite Serena’s absence the field on both the men’s and women’s side at Cincinnati looks fantastic. Rafa Nadal, defending champ Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and John Isner are set to line up for the men. Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic and Maria Sharapova lead the field for the women.

*Ana Ivanovic’s decline continues as she has been refused a wildcard entry in to Montreal next month meaning she will have to play the qualifying tournament. Recent results, including a first-round loss at Wimbledon, have seen her slip outside the Top 60 and this means she misses the cut-offs for the main draw both here and in Cincinnati. Ivanovic, who won her first title in Montreal in 2006, has lost out to local-born Stephanie Dubois as the organiser’s choice for the final wildcard slot, reports The Globe and Mail. “The [tournament’s] thinking is that Dubois, from nearby Laval, is as much of a draw in Montreal as Ivanovic,” says the paper.

*Gail Monfils has been missing from Hamburg this week with the ankle injury he suffered during the Stuttgart final on Sunday. “[M]y ankle is still painful so I’m not gonna play,” he said via Twitter. David Ferrer is also missing with a shoulder injury.

*Having been sidelined since Indian Wells with an ankle injury Sabine Lisicki was all set to return this week at Portoroz but it hasn’t happened. “It’s another bump in the road and I have to stay strong and keep working hard to improve my stability in the ankle so that I can play soon on the tour without risks,” she told her new website.

*Swedish star Robin Soderling really seemed peeved at his loss to Nicolas Almagro in the Bastad final. He refused to acknowledge both the umpire and Almagro after the match which didn’t go unnoticed. Soderling received a warning for smashing his racquet following his dropping of the first set and a points penalty for a similar offence later on. “I bounced the racquet and caught it twice,” Soderling told the Swedish press. “If you’re supposed to give warnings and point penalties for such things, it would be 10 warnings in every match.” According to his Twitter page, he has gone fishing to recover. Hopefully that calms him down a bit.

*Argentinean Eduardo Schwank has entered the top 50 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings this week following the publishing of the new rankings (18/07/10). Jeremy Chardy’s continued injury absence sees him plummet 23 places to No. 73 while Spain’s Daniel Gimeno-Traver climbs 11 to No. 77.

*In the Sony Ericsson WTA Rankings (18/07/10), Justine Henin (12) and Flavia Penetta (13) switch places in the only movement in the Top 28. Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak enters the top 50 while Sybille Bammer drops from No. 48 to No. 70. Lucie Hradecka (CZE, No. 92), Jill Craybas (USA, No. 97) and Ksenia Pervak (RUS, No. 99) all enter the Top 100. Another Czech star, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, is now ranked a career-high 39 after her appearance in the Prague final. Not bad for a player ranked at No. 127 this time last year.

*By winning on the red clay of Italy last week in Palermo, Kaia Kanepi has become Estonia’s first WTA Tour Champion.

*Czech tennis players Radek Stepanek and Nicole Vaidisova married last Saturday at the famed St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Stepanek, 29, has missed most of the season with health problems while Vaidisova, 21, recently retired after losing her form.

Weekly Debrief: McEnroe vs Roddick. Yes You Read That Right!

This week has been exciting for the tennis world with announcements from players, a few Spanish winners sprinkled in between, and a match between Andy Roddick and John McEnroe. Yes, you read that right. Roddick vs. McEnroe. Let’s check out this week’s Top Moments in the Weekly Debrief.

Top Six

1. Thought we were done with the clay court season after Roland Garros? Think again. Two ATP tournaments were in full swing this week. First up, the SkiStar Swedish Open in Bastad saw its winner Nicolas Almagro triumph over defending champ and country hero Robin Soderling in a contested three-set battle. Almagro has proven he is an immense clay court player as he beat Soderling in Madrid in May of this year as well. But don’t expect him to be a big threat at the upcoming US hard court season as his biggest wins have been mostly on clay.

This photo of Almagro hoisting up the winner’s trophy as Soderling watches on is priceless.

2. Over in Stuttgart, Germany, the MercedesCup saw a less-than-stellar final as Gael Monfils was forced to retire against Albert Montanes with an ankle injury he sustained in the first set. Montanes’ name may sound familiar if you happened to catch him sending Federer crashing out of the Estoril Open earlier this spring in Portugal. Montanes not only won his fifth career title and a nice fat check for close to $94,000, but also a new Mercedes convertible, pictured below.

3. Across the Atlantic Ocean, World Team Tennis (WTT) was taking place all over the United States this past week. WTT is a professional coed tennis league that takes place during the summer months and typically lasts three weeks. Although some may argue that WTT doesn’t offer the high-caliber tennis we see at regular season tournaments, it’s nevertheless, a way of attracting fans on a more local-level. It offers intimate settings with tennis stars of old and new showcasing their skills as well as their personalities.

In the most interesting match-up to date, 51-year-old legend John McEnroe playing for the New York Sportime took on 27-year-old Andy Roddick playing for the Philadelphia Freedoms. The event took place just outside of New York City on Randall’s Island, the future site of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy. Roddick himself even asked McEnroe if he could get a scholarship to train there.

Joking aside, Roddick and McEnroe took to the court and played a competitive set that saw Roddick come out on top winning 5-4 (5-4 in a sudden death 9-point tiebreaker). Once a point was in play, Roddick had sufficient problems putting McEnroe away, and McEnroe further exposed Roddick’s inability to pass him with his flat backhand. And while true that this is no five-set encounter, McEnroe’s quickness, precise volleys and pressure he is able to put on an opponent half his age even in today’s game is nothing short of brilliant. To follow WTT news and see if a match is being played in your city, check out: http://www.wtt.com/

McEnroe (white) and Roddick (black) played a WTT match on Randall’s Island, New York.

4. How would you like to go home $1.7 million wealthier? That’s the minimum worth of this year’s US Open winner’s check. That is an increase of nearly 7% from a year ago. With an additional $1 million possible bonus from winning the Olympus US Open Series, singles champions can walk away with a cool $2.7 million. In what amounts to be the biggest payout in tennis history, the tournament also saw an increase of its total purse to top $22.6 million. It’s good to a tennis player!

5. Swiss #2 and former top-10 player Stanislas Wawrinka formed a new coaching partnership with Peter Lundgren this week. Lundgren, himself reaching a ranking of 25 in singles in 1985, also has an extensive coaching resume including Marcelo Rios, Marat Safin, Marcos Baghdatis, and Grigor Dimitrov. Most impressively, he coached Roger Federer to win his first major title at Wimbledon in 2003. Lundgren had this to say on his new pairing with Wawrinka: “When I asked what he wanted help with, he said he wants to return to the top 10. It’s what you want to hear as a coach … I’m going to try to get Stan to become more aggressive.” The two will begin working together at the upcoming Gstaad event next week.

6. And in the most cheerful news of the week, Juan Martin del Potro may be expected to recover from his wrist surgery quicker than anticipated. Del Potro took the US Open by storm last September when he came back from almost two-sets down against Roger Federer to win the title in a tremendous battle. He has been securely planted in the top 10 even while playing only five tournaments since his breakthrough performance in New York last year. The star announced on his new twitter account that a post-surgery medical examination by his doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota showed positive strides: “The doctor is happy with the progress. Now we have to keep strengthening [the wrist] and then be ready for the racquet.”

Del Potro originally stated months ago that he would not be back until at least November, but he is now hopeful that he may be ready in time for Argentina’s Davis Cup semifinal against France in the week after the US Open. There is also speculation that he may even be ready to defend his title in Flushing Meadows: “Davis Cup is a good date for returning to the tour, I hope I can come back sooner,” del Potro stated last week.

That’s it for this week’s Debrief. Just stop by anytime you want a recap of the ATP tour. We’ve got you covered!

RUTHLESS NADAL IS TOUGH OUT AT FRENCH OPEN: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

Defending Champ Out – It’s approximately three months down the road, but Juan Martin del Potro has already ruled out his chances of attempting to defend his US Open title. The Argentine, who recently underwent wrist surgery, stated that if all went according to plan, he should be able to play during the fall season. I sympathize with del Potro but greatly admire his realistic grasp of the situation. He noted that the US Open would always be a special place for him over the course of his career, but that he didn’t want to rush his comeback. He obviously has a good head on his shoulders and recognizes the advantage of his painful decision to skip the last major of the year as a decision that could, and should, pay dividends later. My fingers are crossed we see him make steady progress at the end of 2010 and in full flight come 2011.

King of Clay – Lest there be any doubt, Rafael Nadal added yet another tournament to his already impressive tally of titles, and he did so in ruthless fashion, including a relatively routine straight-sets victory over Roger Federer in the Madrid final. I tip my hat to Nadal for his composure in taking the title in Madrid, because it wasn’t just any ordinary title. His win in Madrid not only saw him become the first player to complete the Masters 1000 clay court hat trick in a single season, but it also saw him surpass Andre Agassi as the all-time Masters 1000 title leader with 18. While I’m not as sold as some on the idea of it not being matter of “if” Nadal will win Roland Garros but “how easily” he’ll win the title, there’s no doubt that it’s going to take something extra special from someone in the field to knock Nadal off course for his fifth French Open victory.

Raising French Hopes – Last week I noted that Justine Henin had suffered a shock early exit in Madrid. Her exit was courtesy of a one Aravane Rezai, and it included a bagel in the third.  After seeing the way Rezai played Venus Williams in the final of Madrid to claim the biggest title of her career, however, I suddenly understand that victory over Henin a little better. Rezai proved she’s got game, she’s developed some composure, and she has been knocking on the door. There’s clearly a difference between a player going on a hot streak as opposed to being the real deal, but Rezai is starting to look more and more like she could be a contender.  And for the nation of France, her potential arrival couldn’t come at a better time.

Head Scratcher – The verdict is out on the case of Wayne Odesnik, and he was given a two-year suspension for being in possession of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). That suspension wasn’t a shock, but what ultimately led to it was. In a statement, Odesnik made in response to the ITF’s verdict, Odesnik said, “The sole reason I was in possession of this banned substance was under doctor’s advice for treatment of a recurring shoulder injury. I was unaware at the time that this would be considered an anti-doping violation.” Odesnik claims that he was planning to apply for a therapeutic use exemption, and that may very well have been the case. But given the controversy surrounding HGH in the world of sports, as well as the number of suspensions the ITF has meted out over the last couple of years, it’s puzzling that Odesnik wouldn’t have done a better job of staying on top of applying for the exemption, particularly since there’s no guarantee it would have been granted.

Royal Presence – As if there wouldn’t already be enough pressure on the one lone Brit capable of making a run to the title on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon, Andy Murray now has extra incentive to find a way out of his slump. Queen Elizabeth II, who last attended Wimbledon when Virginia Wade won the title in 1977, will once again be attending The Championships.  Nationalistic politics and pride aside,  Murray might draw some inspiration from the current reigning monarch who might very well be making her own return to Wimbledon because she sees in Murray a strong possibility of ending the British drought.

AROUND THE CORNER: MIAMI MASTERS

Fresh off from a very intriguing tournament in India Wells, the ATP Tour now heads east to Miami for the next Masters 1000 event – the Sony Ericsson Open. Anyone willing to put money on another Roddick/Ljubicic final? Didn’t think so.

Well for starters the two are paired in the same half of the draw, so a meeting in the finals in Miami is a physical impossibility. I somehow doubt anyone would have guessed the 31 year old Ljubicic would have had such an amazing run in a big event like Indian Wells, and yet he captured his fist Masters Series event by defeating top-level talent like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and then Andy Roddick. A nice feather in his cap as retirement draws nearer, but not something that will be repeated.

Instead look for a big name like Murray (the defending champ) or Djokovic (winner in 2007) to capture the title in Miami.

In the top half of the draw we have world number one Roger Federer who still is shaking off the rust from a month and a half layoff after winning the Australian Open. Federer lost a match against Marcos Baghdatis in the third round at Indian Wells that he led 4-1 in the third set and had several match points as well. That can only be chalked-up to inactivity. Federer might need a bit more time to get back to his usual self out there, so don’t expect a big run in Miami – but don’t count him out either! Federer has a first round bye and then a pretty easy go until a potential fourth round meeting with Tomas Berdych.

Fernando Verdasco and Marin Cilic are two players who could cause Federer some trouble in his quarter of the draw and both will be looking to post a good result for the first time since the Aussie Open. Verdasco is 3-3 since winning in San Jose in February while Cilic has cooled considerably since starting the year with two titles and his first Slam semi-final.

Andy Murray heads up the other quarter in the top section of the draw and it is definitely time that he stepped up his game. After losing his second Slam final to Federer in Australia, Murray tanked in Dubai and was then beaten in straight sets last week against Robin Soderling. I’m not sure why Murray has played such a light schedule in 2010, perhaps he really does spend too much time playing video games. Either way, he is due for a title and what better place to grab one than in the exact spot he did a year ago. Murray’s draw should allow him to advance to the quarters before being tested, perhaps again, by Soderling.

In the bottom half of the draw look for quarter final matches between Tsonga/Nadal and Djokovic/Roddick. Tournament organizers will certainly be hoping for those outcomes. Tsonga has been quiet since the Aussie Open but has a nice section of the draw where his toughest competition will come from Philipp Kohlschreiber and John Isner. Nadal looked fit at Indian Wells and should be able to at least make it through to the quarters here in Miami. A returning David Nalbandian is in his section but the Argentine has a long way to go in his return from injury before being considered a threat. Let’s hope Rafa can stay healthy because the tour is much more interesting when he is in the mix.

Djokovic should advance in his section as should Roddick – although I wonder if the American is due for a slip-up after starting the year so strongly. A guy like Igor Andreev could trouble him in the early-goings.

Enjoy this last hard-court tournament before the clay-court season gets started next week at three European locations. The lead-up to the French Open is just around the corner.