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Ivo Karlovic Deserves More Respect

Ivo Karlovic

by Andrew Eichenholz


The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club played host to history in 2003 when Roger Federer won his first of what is currently 17 Grand Slam titles, a men’s tennis record. For Ivo Karlovic, it was the tournament that saw the birth of his career, as the Croat defeated world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in four sets, announcing what was and still is the most feared serve on planet Earth to the tour.

Fast forward nearly 12 years, and the tallest player on tour is still swatting serves here, there and everywhere, as one of the biggest dark horse threats at any tournament he plays in.

Over the years, his opponents from good to bad have all done the same thing: left the court shaking their heads. How could they struggle or lose to that guy?

Onlookers admire Rafael Nadal’s forehand, Novak Djokovic’s backhand and the hands that Bob and Mike Bryan have up at net. Yet, for whatever reason, nobody marvels at the biggest shot at tennis, literally, Karlovic’s serve.

All it takes is a quick peek at the record books. Officially, Karlovic hit the fastest serve in the history of the game at 156 miles per hour in a Davis Cup match. He has hit more than 50 aces in a single match three times. The 6-foot-11 inch giant’s 2007 and 2014 seasons also stack up in second and third on the all-time aces in a season list, respectively.

Yet, almost everybody at some point shows frustration, as if it is ridiculous or unfair that they have to contend with such a weapon. It is a part of the game, and everybody else on tour has the same ability to step up to the line and serve. If Karlovic takes more advantage of starting a point than his opponents, so be it.

What nobody keeps in mind is that Karlovic is not merely a one trick pony. In winning this past week’s Delray Beach Open, an ATP World Tour 250 level event, he did not drop serve once. That is to be expected. What may surprise fans is that en route to his sixth tour title, he broke serve ten times.

But how can he do that if all Karlovic has in his arsenal is a serve?

That is where the common misconception goes astray. “Dr. Ivo,” as many call him, can do more than hit the first ball in a point. The 35-year old, who turns 36 on Saturday, can slice, dice and straight out hit his way past opponents.

Nicolas Mahut is one of the players on tour who still employs the serve and volley, just like Karlovic much of the time. Known for his endless Wimbledon battle with American John Isner, players are able to find ways to get a rhythm on the Frenchman’s serve to hit angled or dipping passing shots. Those same returns against Karlovic would more than likely be intelligently cut off for a deep volley, forcing an even tougher pass.

Being tall is important, but it means nothing if a player does not know the geometry of the tennis court.

How about on return games? Karlovic’s backhand is one of the most criticized shots in the sport. That is because many of those who comment on it see him continuously go to the chip or daggering slice.

“Why doesn’t Dr. Ivo hit over his backhand?”

Well, he does not really have to. When a heavy-and-hard slice spikes down into a court from a 6-foot-11 frame, the height of the bounce will be minimal. Sometimes, forcing an opponent to dig down to his shoelaces just to scrape a ball into the court is more valuable than hitting a standard topspin backhand.

Very few hit that chip as well as the doctor, and he joins another highly-criticized player in Feliciano Lopez as players who use what is thought of as a defensive shot on the attack.

Furthermore, people simply ignore that despite its lack of spin, Karlovic can hit an incredibly penetrating forehand. When it goes in, the shot lands deep in the court with plenty of pace right near the baseline. It is impossible to be aggressive in returning a shot like that, which more often than not leaves him with a sitting duck to put away at net.

So, at an age when most players are retired, if not heading towards it, Karlovic just keeps getting better. He is at No. 23 in the ATP World Rankings, with plenty of room to climb. The best Grand Slam result he had last season in the majors other than the Australian Open was the third round, leaving plenty of ranking points up for grabs.

While everyone continues to count him out, Karlovic’s play on court counts him in, making him a player to watch throughout the season, as the bombs rain down from above.


Serena in hospital dash, Djokovic equals Dubai record and del Potro back to winning ways

Serena In Lung Clot Scare:

Serena Williams was rushed in to hospital for emergency treatment on a blood clot found in her lung, according to People magazine. Her representative, Nicole Chabot, confirmed in a statement to the publication that Williams had indeed been visiting Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles recently and was rushed in on Monday for emergency treatment on a pulmonary embolism discovered over the course of her care. “Monday Serena Williams underwent emergency treatment at Cedars for a hematoma she suffered as a result of treatment for a more critical situation,” Chabot said. “Last week, Serena suffered from a pulmonary embolism [a blood clot in the lungs] which was discovered upon her return to L.A. She had been in New York for doctor appointments for the ongoing issues with her foot.”

Djokovic Makes it Three on the Spin:

Novak Djokovic equalled the record of three straight titles at the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open with an emphatic straight sets victory over Roger Federer in the final on Saturday. The world number three outplayed 16-time Grand Slam winner Federer in a 6-3, 6-3 victory despite trailing 1-3 in the second set. Bouncing back to take the next five games the Serbian showed the same form which saw him overcome his illustrious Swiss opponent in the semi-final at Melbourne Park on the way to his second Australian Open title. The writing was on the wall for Federer in just the third game as Djokovic broke the world number two’s serve before going on to comprehensively take the first set. “I was aware of the challenge that is expected of me on the court, and I was aware of the fact that I need to be on top of my game in order to beat Roger,” said Djokovic. “So the focus was there. I was serving really well, especially the first set. Just the perfect performance overall.” Federer spoke about the two players’ recent rivalry: “We’ve had it kind of come and go in spells a bit against each other. I definitely feel he’s playing well. I thought he was already playing well at the end of last year. We had a couple real close ones. This one has been one of the rather disappointing matches for me against him.”

del Potro back in the Winner’s Circle:

Juan Martin del Potro lifted his first title since the 2009 US Open by overcoming Janko Tipsarevic in the final at Delray Beach. The Argentine won 6-4, 6-4 in what will be a sweet return to form for the man who only played three tournaments in 2010 due to a serious wrist injury. He only entered the tournament as a wildcard and was ranked as low as No. 484 in the world last month. It follows on from two semifinal postings in his last two events at San Jose and Memphis. “I feel completely tired but it’s amazing for me, this comeback,” said Del Potro. “I’m trying to improve my game day by day. Today Janko played better than me I think, but I had a little luck in the important moments. I was playing at night every match and today was a little bit hot for me. I just tried to focus on my serve, especially on my break points.”

Zvonereva Triumphs in Qatar:

Second seed Vera Zvonereva extracted revenge for her finals defeat in Beijing last year by overcoming the world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Qatar Open on the weekend. The Russian took an hour and 49 minutes to see out the victory which ended the Dane’s hopes of back to back titles following her win in Dubai last week. Zvonereva even trailed a break in the second set but turned it round to secure the win in straights. It was her first victory in three Doha finals appearances. “It’s a special moment for me,” said Zvonareva. “I have so many fans here and it’s an unbelievable feeling to come to Doha and win this tournament. It was a tough match and I had to play aggressive and go for my shots.” Wozniacki was very complimentary of her opponent: “I had a great few days but today it was Vera’s day,” she said. “I had my chances but she really played well. I failed to convert several break points. I’m always disappointed to lose but I played a great competitor today. Vera played a great match and a great tournament.”

Raonic in for IW:

Rising Canadian star Milos Raonic has been handed a wildcard for the first ATP Masters 1000 event of the season beginning in Indian Wells on March 7. The BNP Paribas Open is always one of the best tournaments of the year and Raonic will be joined by Americans James Blake and Ryan Harrison, Kei Nishikori of Japan and Australia’s Bernard Tomic in being able to avoid the qualifying campaign. In the women’s game young American starlets Coco Vandeweghe, Christine McHale, Lauren Davis and Sloan Stephens are all in as is returning Indian star Sania Mirza and American seniors Vania King and Jill Craybas.

“Dominance Over,” Says Nadal:

Rafa Nadal believes that the dominance he and rival Roger Federer once shared over the Grand Slams is now over. The pair have amassed 21 major titles since the 2005 French Open but the continued improvements of the likes of Novak Djokovic, Robin Soderling and Andy Murray mean the Top 2 no longer continually face each other in the final. “In 2005, 2006 and 2007, perhaps you could say there was a bit of a monopoly, but it was down to Federer,” he told the Spanish media. “I was also there, but a little less. For sure I think this monopoly ended some time ago. There are many players ready to challenge now.”

Ferrer Halts Almagro Run:

David Ferrer became the first man to defeat Nicolas Almagro in fourteen matches as he successfully defended his Abierto Mexicano TELCEL title in Acapulco. It also prevented Almagro from becoming the first man ever to win three of the Golden Swing South American tournaments in one year. It was a tight affair involving two tie-breakers which Ferrer finally won 7-6 (4), 6-7 (2), 6-2 in order to collect 500 South African Airways ATP Rankings Points and a cheque for $264,000. “It was a very intense match with a lot of rallies in the first and second set; we played a lot of great points,” reflected the 28-year-old. “In the third [set], I think I was better physically and he started making more mistakes. My error was that after coming back and winning the first set, I relaxed in the second and he started attacking a lot more.”

Fish Swimming to Newport:

Mardy Fish has confirmed he will be returning to the International Tennis Hall of Fame this summer to defend the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships he picked up last year. The world No. 15 will be making his ninth appearance in Rhode Island and last year’s title provided the springboard for his excellent late-season run which made him some people’s outside bet for a finals weekend appearance at the US open. That didn’t materialise but the 29-year-old but he will be hoping for a similarly successful 2011. “Newport was a great week for me last year. It was good to see all the work I’d put into training pay off with a title,” said Fish. “The Hall of Fame is a special place to compete and I look forward to returning to the tournament this summer.”

Federer’s Sporting Blacklist:

World No. 2 Roger Federer has declared that while he is an avid fan of many sports, ping pong is the only one he allows himself to play for fear of injuring himself. Skiing, football and squash were all favoured pursuits of the 16-time Grand Slam winner but he fears that taking part in any of them could harm his career should he pick up an injury. “To be quite honest, I do miss [skiing],” he said. “I used to do it up until a few years ago. Last time I skied was in 2008 when I had mono. Came back after the Australian Open, went skiing, and next day I got ill again. So I was like, ‘Okay, it’s a sign for me. No more skiing. That’s a pity, but okay, we’ll do that.’ Soccer I haven’t played much either. I remember when I had the groin issue in Wimbledon. Then I went to Gstaad and I really couldn’t move well. I mean, I won the doubles with [former Russian star Marat] Safin and stuff. But I went to play soccer that whole week as well and couldn’t move at the end. So it was just so silly of me. I did the same with squash as well.”

Nadal “100% Fit” Ahead of Return:

Rafa Nadal has declared he is 100% fit ahead of returning to action for Spain in their forthcoming Davis Cup tie with Belgium this weekend. The world No. 1 has not played since injuring his thigh as he crashed out to David Ferrer in the quaterfinals of the Australian Open. “If I am here it is because, physically, I am 100%,” said the 24-year-old. “I already start to practise a few weeks ago so I’m happy to be back in competition, back in important competition like Davis Cup. And, for sure, it’s a motivation to be back on the team. And sure it’s going to be a difficult confrontation against Belgium.” Nadal has not represented Spain since helping them to their fourth Davis Cup win in 2009.

No-Djo for Defending Champions:

Novak Djokovic has announced via his official website that he will not be participating in the beginning of Serbia’s Davis Cup defence against India this weekend. The statement doesn’t give a reason for the decision but says: “After winning the Australian Open and completing a hat-trick of Dubai Championships titles, Nole is heading to California so he can prepare for a run on US hard courts from March 10 when Indian Wells, the first of the nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, starts. Djokovic is hoping to continue the year strong.” It continues: “Everyone in the Serbian team knows it won’t be the same without Novak, but players, the reigning world champions, are optimistic and believe they will beat India without Nole in the squad.” Meanwhile Sam Querrey will be missing for the United States this weekend with a shoulder problem.

Dulko Not Just a Dual Force:

Gisela Dulko showed that whilst being a dab hand at doubles she can also play for herself by becoming the first Argentinean woman to triumph at the Abierto Mexicano TELCEL in Acapulco on Saturday. She triumphed over the Spaniard Arantxa Parra Santonja. She only dropped eight games in total in three of her matches whilst Laura Pous-Tio was the only lady to take a set off her in the whole Championships at the quarterfinal stage. “Finals are always special and we were both nervous in the first set, but after that I was playing much better,” the pin-up commented. “All of a sudden I started to get a bit nervous again and Arantxa started playing so well. I was three set points down. At the end I ended up winning, so I’m really happy. I love this tournament but I was always struggling here. I felt great this week though, on and off the court. I couldn’t go to the beach too much though, so I’ll try to do that tomorrow morning before I leave.” It is the fourth WTA singles title of her career.

Levy Breaks:

Israeli Harel Levy has retired from tennis aged 32. The former world No. 30 had his career somewhat thwarted by a hip injury since that watershed mark in 2001 but he remained a key component of Israel’s Davis Cup team. “I had the honour to be ranked among the top players in the world and experienced amazing things that were only cut abruptly by my injury,” he said. “I battled my injury hoping for some more success and got it with the Davis Cup team in recent years. Tennis has given me so much, but now it is time for me to dedicate myself to my family.”

Slow Movement in the Rankings Watch:

There was no change at all within the Top 10 of the South African Airways ATP World Tour Rankings but the Croat Marin Cilic was back in to the Top 20 this week. Spain’s Marcello Granollers was back in the Top 50 at No. 49 while Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos is in to the Top 100. Juan Martin del Potro’s win at Delray Beach sees him leap 77 places in the rankings to No. 89. The same can be said for the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings. The Russian Nadia Petrova is the only high-ranking mover as she re-enters the Top 20 from No. 22. her compatriot Vera Dushevina (No. 50) and Spain’s Lourdes Dominguez Lino (No. 48) are in to the Top 50. Gisela Dulko’s title at Acapulco sees her leap from No. 73 to No. 56 in the world while the woman she conquered, Arrantxa Para Santonja, is up 20 to No. 59. The American Jill Craybas (No. 99) and Italy’s Alberta Brianti enter the Top 100.

Roger Careers Ahead in GOAT Race:

While Rafa Nadal awaits this weekend’s Davis Cup tie to return to action Roger Federer has been making good ground in his nemesis’ absence. Reaching the Dubai final last week and losing to Novak Djokovic earned him an extra 100 points to add to his total. With the American hard court season kicking off next week at Indian Wells the next couple of months could be very interesting for the two rivals.

Roger: 440, Rafa: 130


Bryans Brothers

The Bryan Brothers equalled the Open Era doubles record of the Australian Woodies, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodford on Sunday by securing their 61st victory of their careers in the Madrid Masters doubles final. The telepathic twins beat world No. 1 pair, Daniel Nestor and partner Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-4 in a final lasting only 55 minutes. Nestor and his partner were broken twice, with the Americans saving all three break points they faced. The brothers ruthlessly claimed victory on the first match point they gained. Interestingly, all twelve previous meetings between the teams have come in finals, seven of those in Masters events.

Nestor commented, “The Bryans always play us tough…we’ve had some good wins against them but they’ve been too tough this season. Obviously, it’s all about the Slams for us now, and our next big objective is the French Open. We’ll head to Paris now and regroup. We want to be playing our best in a week when the major begins.”

Like the Woodies, the brothers are a left-right combination, which they used to great effect in the final. Bob commented, “That is definitely the best combination…the sun out there today was really bad for a leftie, so we decided to put Mike on a different side. We can use winds to our advantage and the leftie serve is always tougher to break, I think. We feel like our game is pretty comfortable if I make first serves and Mike is such a good returner he keeps us in other guys’ service games.”

The Bryan Brothers have now leapt to the pinnacle of the world doubles rankings overtaking Nestor and Zimonjic as the world No. 1 doubles pair. The impressive brothers began 2010 with their eighth grand slam title at the Australian Open and have already won titles in Delray Beach, Houston and Rome. If they were to become victorious at the French Open in three weeks time, they will break the record held by the Woodies in some style, with a Grand Slam win.

Indeed, they show no sign of relaxing their steely grip on the world doubles tour and will no doubt break the record in impressive style and go on to win even more titles, keeping the doubles tour in the media spotlight for the next generation of tennis players. “We’re still having fun. It never gets old or boring to be travelling the world with your brother,” Mike said. “We love winning titles and sharing the trophies and memories. We don’t want to say, ‘Now that we’ve done this or that, we’re going to retire next year.’ I don’t think we’d find this adrenalin sitting on the couch at home so we might as well soak it up while we can.”

The talented twins have also been enjoying the adrenalin rush of playing in their rock band, The Bryan Bros Band at various concert venues around the world with singer David Baron. They even performed with the Counting Crows in front of 30,000 screaming fans. It seems for the twins, success is like a drug they cannot easily give up. You can download their new album ‘Let it Rip’ on iTunes now. British fans, check out the hilariously awful rap by Andy Murray on one of the tracks, alongside a slighter better Novak Djokovic about signing autographs – it’s well worth a listen and the other tracks are actually pretty catchy!

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at and follow her twitter updates via   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Did I hear the baby? My grandmother in Russia heard the baby

Flavia Pennetta


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.


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.


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









(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



$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

Mondays With Bob Greene: Venus is one of the greatest champions ever

Sam Querrey


Marion Bartoli beat Venus Williams 6-2 5-7 6-4 to win the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California, USA

Sam Querrey beat Carsten Ball 6-4 3-6 6-1 to win the Countrywide Classic LA Tennis Open in Los Angeles, California, USA

Nikolay Davydenko beat Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3 6-0 to win the Studena Croatia Open in Umag, Croatia

Thomaz Bellucci won his first ATP title, the Allianz Suisse Open, beating Andreas Beck 6-4 7-6 (2) in Gstaad, Switzerland

Vera Dushevina beat Lucie Hradecka 6-0 6-1 to win her first WTA Tour title, the Istanbul Cup in Istanbul, Turkey.

Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. beat Pablo Andujar 6-4 6-2 to win the Trofeo Stefano Bellaveglia in Orbetello, Italy


“Venus is one of the greatest champions ever. That’s what I practice for, to play her. To beat her is even better.” – Marion Bartoli, after beating Venus Williams to win the Bank of the West Classic.

“She didn’t give me much of a chance. I might have been able to win a few more points, but not the match.” – Elena Dementieva, after losing to Venus Williams in the semifinals.

“It’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest win of my career. We don’t always play our best tennis every single day. Maybe she didn’t play her best and I played very well.” – Samantha Stosur, after beating Serena Williams in the Bank of the West Classic.

“I’m going to go home, relax, and do some fitness. Ultimately it would good for me and I need to work with my mom on some things. I want to figure out what to do with my singles career.” – A joking Serena Williams, following her loss to Samantha Stosur.

“When I was done (with my career), I felt I’d put up some numbers no one would touch. Little did I know Roger would surpass me in seven years.” – Pete Sampras, who saw his men’s record 14 Grand Slam tournament titles eclipsed by Roger Federer.

“To be number one, you should be complete, and if you are number one you have to be beating the Williams sisters. I’m one of the rare players who has a positive record against the Williams sisters.” – Jelena Jankovic, who is 5-4 against Venus and 3-4 against Serena.

“It’s another one I can’t believe. Sandra Day O’Connor, hello. Tutu. Ted. I was overwhelmed when I heard it. What about Milk man? I was so excited for the community. I think it’s the first time the LGBT community has been acknowledged. It’s another breakthrough.” – Billie Jean King, who will be one of 16 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“When I was 7, I said, ‘Mom, I know I’m going to do something great with my life.’ She said, ‘That’s all right, just get the dishes done.’” – Billie Jean King, whose 87-year-old mother, Betty Jean Moffitt, will accompany her to the White House when she receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“I really don’t know why I play so well here. Three wins and one final, and each time with a different Czech partner, which is also strange. I don’t know why but I hope it continues.” – Michal Mertinak, after teaming with Frantisek Cermak to win the doubles at Umag, Croatia.

“Before the tournament if someone came and told me I’d play the final of singles and win the doubles, I’d have said they were joking. I’m very happy with my week.” – Lucie Hradecka, who reached the Istanbul Cup final in both singles and doubles.


Billie Jean King is the recipient of yet another honor. She is one of 16 people who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama later this month. The medals are the first to be awarded by Obama and represent the country’s highest honor for a civilian. Besides King, other honorees include Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, gay rights activist Harvey Milk, Race for the Cure founder Nancy Brinker, physicist Stephen Hawking and civil rights activist Reverend Joseph Lowery. . Former US Representative and football quarterback Jack Kemp, who died in May, will receive a posthumous award. Among her many other accomplishments, King is a global mentor of a joint WTA and UNESCO program to promote women’s equality in sport.


When Thomaz Bellucci captured the Swiss Open in Gstaad, he became the first Brazilian to win an ATP tournament in nearly five years. The last Brazilian champion was Ricardo Mello at Delray Beach, Florida, USA, in September 2004. Bellucci, a qualifier, beat Andreas Beck in the final. But he proved he belonged there by eliminating top-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka and third-seeded Igor Andreev on his way to the title match. Bellucci is the fifth player to claim his first ATP World Tour title this season. The Bellucci-Beck matchup was the first ATP final between two left-handers since January 2008 when Michael Llodra and Jarkko Nieminen contested the title in Adelaide, Australia.


Britain’s Anne Keothavong is out for the rest of the season after injuring her left knee. She damaged her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus during a doubles match in the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California, USA. The injury occurred when Keothavong ran into a fence chasing a shot during her match. “Of course I’m disappointed to be out for the rest of the season but I’ll continue to work with my team and look forward to coming back next season,” Keothavong said.


For Marion Bartoli, the Bank of the West Classic victory was redemption for Wimbledon. Bartoli won her first WTA Premier Tour title by upsetting Venus Williams 6-2 5-7 6-4 in the championship match at Stanford, California, USA. In their only previous meeting, Bartoli lost to Williams in the 2007 Wimbledon final. It was the second straight year Bartoli has been in the Stanford final, and her first title on American soil. Williams, making her first appearance at the event since 2005, reached her seventh final in eight appearances at Stanford, where’s she won twice, her last coming in 2002. Venus lost for just the third time in her last 15 matches, but she has not won an outdoor hard court tournament in the United States in seven years.


For the first time in his career, Nikolay Davydenko has won consecutive tournaments. This time the ninth-ranked Russian crushed Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3 6-0 in the final of the Studena Croatia Open in Umag, Croatia. The week before, Davydenko won in Hamburg, Germany. It was his 16th ATP World Tour title in his 21st final, the sixth best record among active players. And the win increases Davydenko’s chances of qualifying for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, to be held in London, England. Last year, when the season finale was held in Shanghai, China, Davydenko reached the title match where he lost to Novak Djokovic.


A foot injury will keep Svetlana Kuznetsova on the sidelines this week. The French Open champion pulled out of the LA Women’s Tennis Championships because of the injury. That still leaves the Los Angeles event with 10 of the world’s top 15 women in the field, including the defending champion, top-ranked Dinara Safina.


Swiss pair Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer needed a wild card to enter the Allianz Suisse Open in Gstaad, Switzerland. They came away with the doubles title, defeating defending champions Jaroslav Levinsky and Filip Polasek 7-5 6-3 in the final. The two had a rough road to the title match, also knocking out second-seeded Michael Kohlmann and Sebastien Prieto in the quarterfinals and third-seeded Yves Allegro and Horia Tecau in the semifinals. The 27-year-old Chiudinelli won his first ATP World Tour doubles title on his second final in Gstaad. He and Jean-Claude Scherrer were runners-up in 2006.


It didn’t take long for Kim Clijsters to have to go to the bank. The former top-ranked player has signed a sponsorship agreement with Adecco SA, the world’s largest supplier of temporary workers. The Zurich, Switzerland-based company is becoming the “official sponsor” of the 26-year-old Belgian. Clijsters, who had a baby last year, will play her first WTA Tour match in two years when she takes to the court in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, on August 10. She will play the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada, the week after that before heading to New York and the US Open, which starts August 31. It will be Clijsters’ first US Open since she won the Grand Slam tournament in 2005.


Sam Querrey finally has a title to call his own. The hard-serving American ended a string of final-round frustrations by winning the LA Tennis Open title with a 6-4 3-6 6-1 victory over qualifier Carsten Bell. It was Querrey’s third straight final and fourth of the season – but his first title. “I didn’t want to lose three finals in a row,” said the 21-year-old, who lives in Santa Monica, California, not far from where the LA Tennis Open was contested. Seeded sixth in Los Angeles, Querrey had lost in the final in New Zealand in January and the last two weeks at Newport, Rhode Island, and Indianapolis, Indiana. Querrey became the fifth player to reach the finals in four events this season, joining Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. It was his second career ATP title. Ball had never won a match on tour before the LA Tennis Open.


Australian Alicia Molik is planning on ending her retirement and returning to the WTA Tour. “I’m loving being back … and enjoying training,” Molik said. “I’m injury-free and back doing what I love.” Ranked as high as number eight in the world, Molik retired last year after being felled by illness and injuries. She had an inner ear virus that affected her balance. Then she was plagued by leg and arm injuries. “I think I’m still young enough to focus my energies on something that I feel is again challenging,” said the 28-year-old Molik.


The Bank of the West Classic is staying right where it is. The tournament and Stanford University have agreed to a three-year contract that will keep the longest-running women-only pro tournament in the world at the Taube Family Tennis Center in Stanford, California, through the year 2012. IMG Senior Vice President Adam Barrett said the WTA adjusted its rules to allow the tournament to continue because of having a long-term sponsor as well as rich tradition. The Taube Family Tennis Center seats just fewer than 4,000, while the new WTA Roadmap rules state Premier tournaments such as the Bank of the West must seat at least 6,000 fans.


Roger Federer reportedly wants to play for Switzerland in its Davis Cup playoff against Italy in September. “Nothing is definite yet, but there’s a good chance that our best players will be there,” said Severin Luethi, part of Federer’s coaching team. Federer missed Switzerland’s 4-1 loss to the United States in the World Group first round because of a back injury. The winner of the Switzerland-Italy playoff tie in Genoa, Italy, on September 18-20 will remain in the World Group next year, while the loser will drop to zonal play. The tie, which will be played on outdoor clay courts, will begin five days after the men’s singles final of the US Open, where Federer is the five-time defending champion. Against Italy, Federer would likely team up with the Stanislas Wawrinka to play singles and doubles. Federer and Wawrinka won the doubles gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.


Austrian Tamira Paszek faces a provisional suspension while officials investigate whether a medial treatment she received for a back injury violated doping regulations. The Austrian anti-doping agency has asked its disciplinary committee to temporarily ban the WTA player. Last month, blood was taken from the 18-year-old for enrichment, then later re-injected in the lower part of her back. Re-injecting one’s own blood is banned under international anti-doping rules. Paszek, who is ranked 59th in the world, alerted the doping agency herself when she learned her treatment might possibly be illegal.


Boris Becker and his wife, model Sharlely “Lilly” Kerssenberg, are expecting a child. The two were married June 12 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. “Yes, we’re going to be parents,” Becker told the German newspaper Bild. “We are really looking forward to our baby.” It will be the fourth child for Becker, who has two sons, 15-year-old Noah and 9-year-old Elias, with his ex-wife Barbara Feltus, and a 9-year-old daughter, Anna, from an extramarital affair.


Tim Mayotte has been hired as a United States Tennis Association (USTA) national coach. He will facilitate coaching and training programs while working with players in the USTA Player Development program. A native of Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, who was ranked as high as number seven in the world, Mayotte will be based at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, USA. He was a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 1982 and at the Australian Open in 1981.


Graydon Nichols is being inducted into the United States Tennis Association Northern California Hall of Fame. The induction of the 84-year-old farmer highlights a career that has catapulted him to the top of the world in senior tennis. “I never imagined that something like this would be possible for me,” Nichols said. “I was shocked to get a phone call saying that I had been selected.” Nichols has won two world singles titles, the latest at the 2007 World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand. That’s when he ended the year ranked number one in the world in his category. Not only did he go undefeated in 2007, Nichols captained the United States team to the Gardnar Mulloy Cup title, senior tennis’ version of the Davis Cup. He is currently ranked number one in the United States and number four in the world after posting a 13-1 record in 2008.


Nancy Reed, a three-time International Tennis Federation Seniors Singles World Champion and pioneer of Seniors Tennis, is dead. Reed won the women’s 40 doubles with fellow American Mary Ann Plante at the very first ITF Seniors World Championships in Brazil in 1981. She went on to win 12 World Championship doubles crowns. She captured her first singles title in Sicily in 1992 in the 55 age category. The next year, she won the 60 age category. Her third and final singles world title came in 1999, but she won the doubles world title in the 75 age category in Turkey last year. She also was a member of the United States team that won the Queens’ Cup in Turkey last October.


HEAD/Penn Racquet Sports has been fined USD $24,780 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for allegedly failing to report the amount of toxic chemicals released by its plant in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. According to the EPA, the sports company failed to report emissions of N-hexane and zinc compounds from its facility to EPA’s annual Toxics Release Inventory for 2007. HEAD/Penn, which is based in Connecticut, manufactures tennis, badminton, and ski equipment, and owns and operates the Phoenix facility. US federal law requires that facilities using toxic chemicals over specified amounts must file annual reports of their chemical releases with EPA and the state. Information from these reports is then compiled into a national database and made available to the public.


Los Angeles: Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan beat Benjamin Becker and Frank Moser 6-4 7-6 (2)

Stanford: Venus Williams and Serena Williams beat Yung-Jan Chan and Monica Niculescu 6-4 6-1

Istanbul: Lucie Hradecka and Renata Voracova beat Julia Goerges and Patty Schnyder 2-6 6-3 12-10 (match tiebreak)

Gstaad: Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer beat Jaroslav Levinsky and Filip Polasek 7-5 6-3

Umag: Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4 6-4

Orbetello: Paolo Lorenzi and Giancarlo Petrazzuolo beat Alessio Di Mauro and Manuel Jorquera 7-6 (5) 3-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)




San Marino:


Los Angeles:




(All money in USD)


$1,402,000 Legg Mason Tennis Classic, Washington, DC, USA, hard

$150,000 ATP Open Castilla y Leon, Segovia, Spain, hard

$120,000 San Marino CEPU Open, San Marino, clay

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


$700,000 LA Women’s Tennis Championships presented by Herbalife, Los Angeles, California, USA, hard



$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

Delray Beach Junior tennis: breadsticks, bagels, and Moral Kombat

Only John Butler and his team — the same one who brought us the Volley Girls and courtside graffiti — could have come up with the wildest press release I have ever seen in my short journalism life. I guess the point of the piece is to bring attention to the happenings at the USTA Boys’ and Girls’ 12 Spring National Championships in Delray Beach, Fla (and to not end up in the round file). Lest this story be forgotten, I am doing my part to preserve it on the internets. Whoever you are, Marlena Hall, I would love to pick your brain…

Day 1 of Nationals contests the inner grit of Players’ “Moral Kombat”

Delray Beach—Question: What do you get when you put the upper portion of the number “2”, on top of a breadstick which rests on top of a bagel? Answer: A question mark.

Confused? Watching Keisha Clousing (5) (Wheaton, IL) compete in the USTA Boys’ & Girls’ 12 Spring National Championships hosted by the City of Delray Beach, April 6-12, 2008, against Nikki Kallenberg (Naples, FL), was certainly a conundrum. After winning the first set 6-1, Clousing lost her clout and momentum in the second and couldn’t garner a game. Luckily to the grace of the sport, the rules allowed a ten-minute “recharge” where players could smooth things over with their coaches and parents and figure out the strategy necessary to prevail in the 3rd set. As these little legions prepared to re-enter the battlefield, each player walked on court believing they were going to win, but somewhere along the baseline, confidence was punctured and mental strength was challenged. But it was Keisha Clousing’s coach, Joey McWilliams, who helped “motivate” her to believe this simple, none-pressure packed statement: “Keisha, you are the 5th seed of this National tournament. You need to win this.” And *poof*, Clousing conquered—6-1, 0-6, 6-2.

Ah, now the “breadstick” joke is making sense. Whilst on the topic of food, it seems necessary to speak on Keisha Clousing’s nutritional preparation prior to her Day 1 afternoon victory. Just twenty minutes prior to her match , Keisha felt a roar in her tummy. What was on the menu? Six McNuggets and an ice cream parfait. Perhaps this meal contributed to the slight tardiness to her match, but make no matter, Clousing was calm about her chances. “I can always rely on my serve, especially my placement of it. I’m a good all-court player and like my feel on my forehand and backhand. But if my serve is on, I’m OK,” Clousing swanked. I then asked her what she would advise her opponent [Kallenberg] if she was her coach, she replied, “I’d tell her to stay positive, especially in the third set. She played really well and had the momentum in the second set. I would have made her keep it up.” Healthy comments from a not-so-healthy tournament eater. But for purely positive poise and great mental strength, we have made a ‘healthy choice’ to award you, Ms. Keisha Clousing, as our Day 1 Girls’ 12 Player of the Day!

On a separate pair of chromosomes, two fired-up ‘dura’cells, Benjamin “General” Tso (17) (Lexington, MD) and Andrew Mason (Webster, NY) displayed energizer strength as they kept ‘going and going and going’ all the way to a third set. But as the “General” realized his 17th-seeded flag was potentially under enemy control, he sounded an order to capture the third set which catapulted him to a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 conquest. Tso may have won his ‘flag’ but in the 12s Nationals, an optimistic and self-constructive sense of self when defeated often indicates future success in tournament scuffle. Because Andrew Mason built his temple on a foundation of “Moral Kombat”, we’d like to award him, Andrew Mason, as our Day 1 Boys’ 12 Player of the Day!

A closer look at the courts of Delray Beach


The organizers of the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships love to push the marketing envelope. Sometimes, us fans end up with fashion anthrax; other times, we end up with a love letter, S.W.A.K.


We swooned after seeing photos of the tourney’s show court backdrop; the blue waves were the brainchild of ITC director John Butler. He partnered with Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Hall, who underwrote the fee of trio of artists involved with the project: Doug Hoekzema of Pompano Beach and Angel Mir and Brandon Opalka of Miami.


The waves were digitally designed and printed on vinyl. They then beefed up the mural with airbrushing and painting by hand.


On the court, extending out from the end zone walls from six to ten feet, the artists painted waves directly on the surface. (Take that, Zurich!) The court took three days to prep another three days to paint.

More: See more close-ups of the mural after the cut…

Week 6 Preview: Costa do Sauipe, Delray Beach, Marseille

Costa do Sauipe (Brasil Open)

As expected, the only ATP tournament played in Brazil is full of clay court specialists. Carlos Moya comes back to play there after missing it last year; he is the top seed. He has an interesting first round match against Santiago Ventura, but he’s the favorite to go through to the second round. Agustin Calleri is in his quarter and that should be a great match if both get that far, though the Argentine would have to beat tough guys like Sergio Rotiman and Pablo Cuevas. In the second quarter, Igor Andreev is by far the biggest favorite even though Jose Acasuso’s in the same section. Two Brazilians are also in that same quarter with tough first round matches. Marcos Daniel faces Peter Luczak, who’s played a semifinal at the Brasil Open before and Bellucci faces Nicolas Lapentti.

In the third quarter, Potito Starace’s back after his ban for betting on tennis matches. In the same quarter, we’d have to mention both Fabio Fognini and Gustavo Kuerten, who will open against Carlos Berlocq. In the last quarter, the favorites are second seed Nicolas Almagro, who has a good draw, and Filippo Volandri; both of these players really good on clay. Nicolas Massu and Guillermo Coria are both in this quarter as well.

This year’s tournament should be really interesting, considering it will be the last time the three-time Roland Garros Champion Gustavo Kuerten plays the tournament in his own country. It’s also important to remember that the tournament might be played in another city (São Paulo) in 2009, so it might be the last year for the event in Costa do Sauipe. Also, none of last year’s semifinalists are playing at ths year’s event.

Delray Beach

While Delray Beach is typically the week right after the Australian Open, it was pushed back two weeks this year and instead follows the First Round Davis Cup ties; in fact, the draw is full of players who will be arriving from all corners of the globe.

Headliner and top seed James Blake is already on his way from Austria and will arrive home in Florida to see quite an easy draw. He opens against compatriot Robert Kendrick, but despite the inevitable jetlag, it’s hard to see him not coming through this section of the draw.

In the second quarter, although Dudi Sela is the highest-ranked player and #4 seed, he will be coming off a disappointing Davis Cup tie in Israel and faces potentially formidable competition in Robby Ginepri (if he’s healthy from the neck/back problems that plagued him during the Australian season) and #8 seed Mardy Fish (if he brings his brain down to Delray Beach).

The third quarter of the draw is led by American seeds Sam Querrey and Vince Spadea. It’s likely that the two will play each other in the Quarterfinals.

The fourth quarter is probably the most interesting. Tommy Haas is the #2 seed and makes his first appearance of 2008 after missing the entire Australian season due to his recovery from another shoulder injury. Whether he is 100% fit to play and fully recovered remains to be seen. If he wins, he could face another interesting story in defending champion Xavier Malisse, still coming back from injury after missing most of last year, who has had great success in Delray Beach in years’ past – it is where he was finally able to claim his first ATP Title in 2005 after a dismal record in finals. Malisse has also played two other finals in Delray and has won the doubles title. Florian Mayer will be coming from Davis Cup duties in Germany, giving rising American Donald Young a chance to finally make a splash in an ATP tournament.


Marseille is by far the strongest event of the week, featuring more prize money and a field that includes three top 10 players in Novak Djokovic, Richard Gasquet, and new top 10er Mikhail Youzhny, all coming off of Davis Cup play this weekend.

Novak Djokovic heads the draw but his fitness is in question after retiring in today’s Davis Cup match. If Djokovic is fit, he should make the quarters where he would face the always tough Paul-Henri Mathieu in a very intriguing match. This little section also contains tough Frenchmen Michael Llodra, Marc Gicquel, and defending champion Gilles Simon. In the second quarter, Andy Murray returns after leaving his country high and dry in Argentina due to a “knee injury.” Also in this quarter, 2007 Brazil Open runner-up Juan Carlos Ferrero makes an interesting decision to play indoors instead of in Brasil on his beloved clay, and more tough Frenchmen including Nicolas Mahut and Sebastien Grosjean could be dangerous.

The third quarter of the draw is full of good players and potential title threats. Defending finalist Marcos Baghdatis, whose coach stepped down last week, faces a difficult second round match between either Ivo Karlovic and Feliciano Lopez, which should be an exciting encounter (not). Should Baghdatis make it through to the quarterfinals, he will likely face Youzhny in a rematch of an excellent quarterfinal match at this event last year. However, Youzhny has a tough opener in rising Croatian Marin Cilic, who has posted excellent results this year.

The stars of the fourth quarter are France’s top 2 players – Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who will be looking to meet in the quarterfinals, which would be an interesting rematch of their Australian Open Round of 16 match and quite a big deal in France. But first, Tsonga must get past Mario Ancic, a former top player who is trying to come back from various ilnesses and injuries. Also in this quarter, Robin Soderling returns to the tour after an extended injury break. Soderling will open against tough Fin Jarkko Nieminen, a semifinalist here last year.

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