doubles specialist

The Elected Representative: Caroline Wozniacki – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Hanging it Up

After previously stating that he might give it a go in 2011 and see how both his body and ranking held up, American Taylor Dent has decided to officially call it a day on his career. An exciting serve-and-volleyer who reached a career high ranking of No. 21, his career was unfortunately hampered by multiple back injuries. With his wife and young son Declan, Dent will have plenty to keep him busy in retirement, but he’s already expressed interest in staying connected with the tennis world. No doubt that with his charming disposition, he could make a great addition to Tennis Channel’s commentary booth. Another retirement, albeit less publicized, was that of Czech doubles specialist, Martin Damm. You can expect to see him back on the tennis scene right away, however, as he has already announced that he will be coaching American sensation Ryan Harrison. Harrison wowed audiences at the US Open this past summer, and he’ll be looking to utilize Damm’s expertise to take the next step in his budding career.

Prayers Answered

Maybe it was the numerous complaints from fans across the country. Maybe it was a more lucrative deal. Whatever the reasoning behind the switch, American tennis fans will be thrilled to note that the Indian Wells and Miami Masters, two of the largest events in tennis, will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ABC in 2011. This is welcomed news after the two tournaments had previously been aired on the affiliates of Fox Sports, which meant poor, haphazard coverage that led to plenty of hate mail and angry postings. Hopefully the change in carriers will also lead to an increase in viewership, participation, and popularity of the sport in the United States

Repeat Champs

This past weekend, Italy defeated the United States in a repeat of the 2009 final. The title marked Italy’s third championship in just four years. Granted, the United States was fielding a relatively young team that included teenage Fed Cup rookie Coco Vandeweghe, but much credit has to be given to the veteran Italian squad that included both Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone. The victory in particular had to be the icing on the cake for Schiavone, who enjoyed her best season as a professional. Perhaps both of the Italians will be able to channel the positive boost from the Fed Cup title into their play in 2011, much the same way Schiavone did this past year.

London Calling

Tournament organizers and Parisian fans were disappointed when current World No. 1 Rafael Nadal was forced to pull out of the final Masters event of the season, having cited tendinitis in his shoulder. Hopefully the injury is not a result of the tweaks he has made to improve his serve, and Nadal and his camp will be praying it doesn’t become nearly as problematic as his knees. At the very least, Nadal will be doing all in his power to ensure that he is ready for the final tournament of his season, the ATP World Tour Championships in London. He’s yet to add that impressive title to his long list of accomplishments, and after a poor showing at the same event last year, he’ll be looking to make amends at the end of what has been the best season of his young career.

Elected Representative

While much of the United States was focused on its national elections, the WTA had its own election earlier this month. Newly-crowned year-end No. 1 Caroline Wozniaki will be joining the WTA Player Council, replacing Patty Schnyder. In addition to Akgul Amanmuradova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Wozniaki will be joining Schiavone and both Venus and Serena Williams. As Wozniaki’s star has only continued to shine brighter with each tournament she enters, it’s safe to say that hers will be a voice that carries some weight as the Player Council works to continually shape policy and life on the WTA.

Nadals Laughs off “Grand Slam” Talk, Hopman Cup Taking Shape and Commonwealth Success for Australia

*World No. 1 Rafa Nadal has laughed off talk of him winning all four majors in 2011 as “impossible.” Nadal has the last three majors in his pocket and will complete an ‘out of calendar’ Slam if he lifts the Australian Open in January. Only Don Budge and Rod Laver (twice) have lifted all four Slams in the same year and Nadal said of his hopes: “I will try to keep playing well and try to win four titles next year. But the Grand Slam, for me, is impossible.”

*Andy Murray and Laura Robson have confirmed they will once again warm up for next year’s Aussie Open by partnering each other in the Hopman Cup. The pair lost 2-1 to Spain in this year’s final although the reigning Champions aren’t expected to defend their title in 2011. However, Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic are expected to represent Serbia, Serena Williams and John Isner (USA) and Justine Henin (Belgium), Lleyton Hewitt (Australia) and Francesca Schiavone (Italy) will also compete. Tournament Director Paul McNamee said of Murray’s pending return: “He is a rare talent so we are delighted he is coming back.”

*It was a busy time for Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova at the Commonwealth games. She partnered Sally Peer to women’s doubles Gold where they beat fellow Aussies Jessica Moore and Olivia Rogowska in the final. She also took Silver in the mixed doubles (with Paul Hanley) after they lost to Scotland’s doubles specialist Colin Fleming and Jocelyn Rae. The temperamental former Russian left court in tears after failing to land a triple gold. This came after Rodionova beat home favourite Sania Mirza 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(3) in a marathon women’s singles final. Australia and India largely dominated the medals tables which, in full, read:

Event:Medal:Country
Men’s SinglesGoldSomdev Devvarman (India)
SilverGreg Jones (Australia)
BronzeMatt Ebden (Australia)
Men’s DoublesGoldPaul Hanley

Peter Lukzak (Australia)

SilverRoss Hutchins

Ken Skupski (England)

BronzeMahesh Bhupathi

Leander Paes (India)

Women’s SinglesGoldAnastasia Rodionova (Australia)
SilverSania Mirza (India)
BronzeSally Peers (Australia)
Women’s DoublesGoldAnastasia Rodionova

Sally Peers (Australia)

SilverJessica Moore

Olivia Rogowska (Australia)

BronzeRushmi Chakravarthi

Sania Mirza (India)

Mixed DoublesGoldJocelyn Rae

Colin Fleming (Scotland)

SilverAnastasia Rodionova

Paul Hanley (Australia)

BronzeSarah Borwell

Ken Skupski (England)

*Novak Djokovic has a lot on his plate with the Shanghai Masters going on and the ATP Finals in London just around the corner in November. But he already has one eye on Serbia’s historic Davis Cup final matchup against France in December. Speaking at a press conference in Shanghai he said: “Davis Cup is a very unique competition where you get to feel the team spirit that you don’t get to feel that often. We are individuals, so we mostly perform for ourselves. In Davis Cup, it’s about the team; it’s about supporting each other, winning for your country.” He is also confident his beloved Serbia can upset the odds in Belgrade: “We are playing against France, who has much more success and tradition in this competition than us. Great players, but we’re confident we can pull out the win.” For the full interview visit the ITF website.

*Djokovic has also been issuing fighting talk on his chances of future Grand Slam glory to add to the Australian open he lifted in 2008. To date it is his sole Slam, but he is confident of more. “I’m ready. Definitely, I am,” he said at the Rolex Masters in Shanghai on Tuesday. “For the last two years I’ve been ready. If the good day comes, it comes.” Djokovic won his 18th tour-level title at the China Open last week and has now set his sights on higher honours once more. “Right now, emotionally, I’m confident. I’m happy, and looking forward to upcoming challenges. I feel good mentally and physically. I didn’t spend that much energy in Beijing. I’m sure I’ll be fit and ready. I will do my best to get as far as I can in this week.” The full interview is on the ATP site.

*Three-time Grand Slam winners Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic will not play doubles together again next season. The No. 2 seeds will part ways with Nestor teaming up with Frenchman Michael Llodra and Zimonjic aligning to fellow doubles specialist Max Mirnyi. “It think it’s a good move,” Nestor told The Globe and Mail. “It came from him but it’s something I’ve definitely thought about, too.”

*After reaching the semifinals of the China Open last week Shahar Peer rose from No. 18 to No. 13 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings. As well as being a career-high it is also the highest ranking for an Israeli in tennis history. Dane Caroline Wozniacki’s victory in China means she is now the twentieth No. 1 in WTA rankings history. Much has been made of the absence of Serena Williams attributing to Wozniacki’s ascent so the real test for her will be if she stays there once Serena is back on court.

*American Andy Roddick, who retired this week while leading Guillermo Garcia Lopez, hopes to be back competing in two weeks time in Basel, Switzerland. “I’m going to try to go home to Austin,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can to get back for Basel. I think the fact that I still have a shot at London, even after the past year and everything, I think it would be an accomplishment for me.”

*Kim Clijsters is now more confident of featuring in the year-ending WTA Finals in Doha after the pain in her foot which has kept her out of the past few weeks has begun ceasing.

*Roger Federer has been answering questions from his Chinese fans this week. Visit the ATP website to find out what was being said.

*Alicia Molik is running for election to Tennis Australia, joining John Fitzgerald, Wally Masur and six other candidates. If successful, she will be a rarity as an active pro on the board of her country’s tennis association.

*The Bryan brothers brought smiles to the young children unfortunate enough to be spending time at the Shanghai United Family Hospital on Wednesday. They spoke to staff, patients and families while signing autographs and giving insight in to their time on the tour.

*Venus Williams has become the face of new home workout video game EA Sports Active 2 which will use her image for branding in North America. She joins David Beckham whose image is used in Europe and Australia. “Her commitment to healthy living and ability to inspire others makes her a natural fit for EA Sports Active 2,” said Jon Slavet, EA Sports Active’s Vice president.

*It seems Lindsay Davenport and her trainer Todd Norman have got their roles mixed up. Davenport Tweeted on Wednesday: “I’m here working my ass off but my trainer is nowhere to be found.” Norman’s response? “Was getting a foot massage!”

*We all know males can be somewhat competitive. But what happens when tennis stars take to their Playstation consoles for a spot of Pro Evolution Soccer gaming? Tuesday night saw Juan Monaco and Rafa Nadal take on Andy Murray and his friend Dani Vallverdu and there is still some confusion as to who won. Monaco spoke first via his Twitter account claiming a 2-1 win for the Latin duo but Murray thinks otherwise. It appears there is some confusion on the rules between the teams regarding penalty shootouts. Monaco/Nadal seem confident of the win so could it just be sour grapes from Murray. Murray? Couldn’t possibly be… Check the ATP website for a full summary.

Legg Mason Finals: Practice Session Fun; Press Conferences & Analysis of Nalbandian, Baghdatis

It was a gorgeous sunny day here in Washington, DC as I stepped onto the grounds of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic to witness history being made in both the doubles and singles finals.

I arrived before the crowds were allowed in so I got a sneak at a practice session between doubles partners Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek on stadium court before their 12:30pm match. They were focused yet jovial, practicing forehands and backhands before working on their serves and returns. Even though this was their first finals together as a pair in a tournament, they were enjoying the heat and joking with each other. With about 10 minutes to go in their session, Mark Knowles, half of the doubles team they would face shortly in the final, came out. He warmed up by jogging around the court and even remarked to a winner Stepanek sent down the line: “Save that for next week, partner!” I quickly searched my memory and remembered seeing that they were teaming up in this week’s Rogers Cup because his usual partner, Mardy Fish, decided to take a week away from doubles.

Five minutes later, Mardy Fish himself came out, cheerful and talkative. He jogged over to Stepanek’s extra racquet asked to see it and jumped in as a doubles partner to Berdych who was serving. It was 2-on-1 vs. Stepanek. They played a couple intense points while Fish checked out Stepanek’s racquet. It was an enjoyable few minutes as I found myself wishing I had brought my camera from the media tent to tape it. I wasn’t expecting any kind of camaraderie between guys who were about to play each other in an hour! Three of the four players in today’s doubles are singles players and the lone doubles specialist has already reached over 700 career wins. Clearly, these guys know each other well and enjoy the company. It’s always pleasant to see light moments like this as a fan. The doubles fun ended when Stepanek and Berdych played their last volleys. The final shot found Berdych tumble to the ground on his back in fear of Stepanek’s racquet smacking a ball that was only two feet away. He came up laughing. I made the conclusion that as non-expressive as these guys sometime seem on-court, they know how to have fun and enjoy tennis.

The fun was over and it was time for the matches, or was it? I happened to run into a familiar face in the ladies’ restroom about 20 minutes later. In the split-second I had to contemplate whether I would say anything, my mouth worked quicker than my mind and I found myself asking: “Are you Stacey? Mardy’s wife?” She pleasantly responded “Yes” while looking up. I had a quick chat with her and wished her husband good luck in the match. She mentioned that it was very hot in Atlanta two weeks ago when Fish won the singles title. It was her first time there and she wasn’t expecting the humidity. But, as a loving wife, she said “Mardy made it worthwhile.” This brought a tender moment as I once again realized what a great support system means to a player on and off the court.

As I made my way over to the stadium and sat down, I spotted another familiar face in a red official’s t-shirt, the infamous line judge Serena Williams cursed out at last year’s US Open. She was measuring the net and adjusting the height, slumped over it, barely reaching the tape. It struck me that she was quite petite and I was even more surprised then at how well she handled the situation last year. Williams is an intimidating character, especially in the heat of a match, but this line judge held her own.

The doubles teams of Berdych/Stepanek and Fish/Knowles made their way onto the court and the atmosphere became more spirited. Berdych, Stepanek and Fish are normally singles players, but a couple of years ago the ATP changed the formatting of the doubles game. They shortened it with no-ad scoring sets where players could use their singles rank to enter the doubles. This promoted top singles players to showcase their talents in the doubles field encouraging more fan support.

The match got underway and each player’s talents and weaknesses were quickly exposed. While Fish excelled in his backhand return game, Knowles struggled a bit to get into the rhythm. And although Berdych’s net play has improved by playing more doubles, he was still the weaker of the two at the net; Stepanek’s variety and quickness to read the ball well gave them the early break. Fish/Knowles weren’t able to bounce back from this and Berdych/Stepanek took the first set 6-4.

The second set, however, was more hotly contested. At 4-3, deuce, Berdych double-faulted and this inevitably changed the rhythm for the rest of the match. Fish/Knowles held their serve, Berdych became more loose at the net not anticipating balls well and we found ourselves in a second set tiebreaker. Fish then double-faulted on his fourth set point saying to his partner that the sun was “right in my toss” bringing the score to 6-6. Two mistakes by Berdych gave Fish/Knowles the second set, and the match was decided by a 10-point super tiebreaker. Fish/Knowles got off to a quick start and never looked back. They took the match 4-6, 7-6(7), 10-7. This was their second title as a doubles team, Fish’s eighth doubles title and Knowles’ 53rd. All-in-all, it was an excellent doubles match for the championship.

The singles match quickly got underway and featured wildcard David Nalbandian and the #8 seed Marcos Baghdatis. The two players have very similar games: both are baseliners, pressure their opponent’s second serve by standing well inside the baseline and their most accurate shot is their backhand. Nalbandian is known for his great return percentage and Baghdatis for being able to quickly go from a defensive to an offensive position.

From the first couple games, I was getting the sense that Baghdatis was moving gingerly on his left ankle that he tweaked yesterday. He made several errors in the first game dropping his serve, while Nalbandian further responded by blasting winners past Baghdatis to go up 2-0. I recoiled thinking this was quickly going to turn into a beating and I simply hoped that Baghdatis’ ankle would hold out.

As luck would have it, Baghdatis became a little more comfortable with his backcourt lateral movement and began holding his serve. Even though Nalbandian was still more aggressive in his shots, Baghdatis began mixing up the pace making it harder for Nalbandian to keep his rhythm. What made it easier for Nalbandian to beat Cilic the other night was that Cilic hits hard and flat, and Nalbandian easily responds to that. Baghdatis, on the other hand, uses more topspin and changes it up with harder balls and comes into the net more, giving Nalbandian trouble with the pace. Even with this, Nalbandian’s forehand was brutally ‘on’ hitting winners, while Baghdatis was still searching for his game. A few times though, the audience got a spark of Baghdatis’ great talent as he took Nalbandian’s second serve so early, absorbing the pace and placing it deep in the middle catching Nalbandian on his back foot and off-balance. Not to be outdone, Nalbandian at one point stopped a rally midway and challenged a baseline non-call. He was right, the point was his and he gained even more confidence. What’s surprising is Nalbandian’s ability to hit on the run. At 3-2, Nalbandian hit a backhand on the run, followed by a perfectly placed running overhead lob that just nicked the line behind Baghdatis. Even though Nalbandian also has a few extra pounds like Baghdatis, he was moving with relative ease making contact with nearly every ball and demonstrating his physique.

At 4-2, Nalbandian was clearly dictating points, hugging the baseline and forcing Baghdatis further back, making him more defensive and not able to do as much with his shot. At deuce, a backhand error by Baghdatis gave Nalbandian another break opportunity. On the next point, Baghdatis tried to pull Nalbandian wide on both wings, followed a deep down-the-line forehand to the net, and Nalbandian excellently executed a crosscourt backhand passing shot that Baghdatis simply stared at as it went by. Nalbandian had once again broken and served for the set. Two back-to-back backhand returns into the net by Baghdatis gave Nalbandian the set, 6-2.

The second set saw some of the most brilliant tennis all week as both players refueled and showed us their best A-game. The first six games saw four breaks of serve. And yes, there were a few choice double-faults, especially on Nalbandian’s first service game to give Baghdatis a 2-0 advantage, but mostly, it was the pressure each was giving his opponent that made the difference. The shot-making, placement of the ball and strategy from both players was impeccable. In the third game, Baghdatis began not defending as well and in the fourth, Nalbandian seemed to be running out of steam, giving Baghdatis five break opportunities.

If ever there was a point in the match that was the defining moment, it was game four of the second set. Nalbandian double-faulted to give Baghdatis his first break point. A couple of bad errors from Baghdatis took it to deuce as he couldn’t control Nalbandian’s surprisingly heavy second kick serve. At the same time, Nalbandian double-faulted four times in the second set so far and I wondered if he was finally feeling Baghdatis’ pressure or if it was because he hadn’t played in the day yet and the sun was only getting stronger. Nalbandian kept spewing errors giving Baghdatis the opportunity to break, but he could never convert. Both tried problem-solving and finally Nalbandian came out the winner holding his serve. We will never know what could have happened had Baghdatis been able to break and go up 3-1 — it may have been a completely different match. I began to wonder if Baghdatis would be able to hold his serve after such a letdown.

At 2-2 as expected, Baghdatis’ serve goes to deuce. At ad-out, Baghdatis sent a winner down-the-line. Or was it? Nalbandian challenged again, the ball was clearly out, and Nalbandian went up 3-2. In the next game, Baghdatis wins a Hawkeye challenge of his own and breaks Nalbandian on a perfectly placed overhead. Three bad second serve returns by Nalbandian int eh seventh game allows Baghdatis to hold and go up 4-3. At this point, Nalbandian starts asking his camp what to do? He’s known for his aggressive second serve returns, but he couldn’t handle the depth and kick of Baghdatis’ for three in a row. He was stunned and it would be interesting to see how he would respond in his own service game. Nalbandian’s errors begin to pile up before he save two break points and ties the score at 4 a piece.

For the next three games, each player holds their serve at love. But again, not without some Hawkeye challenge drama. Nalbandian fires what seems to be an ace. Baghdatis challenges, but when he walks over to the mark, he nods his head and audibly says “It was good, it was good” before walking over to the ad-court. Surprisingly, the mark was out! Baghdatis, of course, got happy, sprinted back to the deuce side. A beautiful return to Nalbandian’s backhand that was just out of reach, gave Baghdatis a set point. Nalbandian saved it by forcing a wide forehand error from Baghdatis. A few more similar exchanges like this before Baghdatis once again challenged a baseline non-call. As we waited for the replay, Baghdatis stood on top of the line, smiling, staring at it, looking up into the crowd asking if it was in or out, crouching around it and just joking at the matter. It was a very clean shot just inside the baseline, but by this time the line judges were not dependable anymore. Two points later, on a supposed ‘ace’ of Nalbandian’s, Baghdatis challenges again and gets it right! By this time, the chair umpire was furious at the line judges and at Hawkeye. We could hear him softly yelling that he was very unhappy to the chair supervisor on the radio. Eventually, a backhand return by Baghdatis into the net gives Nalbandian the game, and forces a tiebreaker.

At the start of the tiebreaker, I could really hear the Argentine support from the crowd: “Ole, ole, ole, ole, Daveeeeed, Daveeeeed!” He quickly went up 5-1, then held three championship points, before double-faulting. He won on his fourth attempt and was fired up!

As Nalbandian shakes hands with Baghdatis, puts his racquet down and runs over to his team in the corner to congratulate as well, I could once again hear the deafening Ole!’s. By the time Nalbandian got back to his chair, his name was already being added to the banner of past champions. As Juan Martin del Potro won the last two years, Nalbandian kept the Argentine streak to three years in a row in DC.

A few moments later, the trophy ceremony began with Baghdatis first accepting his runner-up glass trophy and check. In his on-court speech, he was gracious, smiling like he had won, and congratulated Nalbandian on a great win: “[David’s] a pain in the ass when he plays good!” The crowd erupted in laughter and cheers for a great competitor.

Nalbandian then took the court, with more singing and was beyond ecstatic with his win. He also thanked the sponsors, volunteers, and fans before giving us this little gem. He pointed up into a particularly rowdy Argentine crowd and said: “Somebody up there said they’ll buy me a drink if I win!” He said that it “looks like I’m in Argentina!” He loves the fan support and making a few extra friends in the process. He also stated that he “enjoys this moment because it’s tough to come back and do this” after all the injuries he’s had and not playing since April. He is $262,000 richer and is tied for first place in the Olympus US Open Series. He is also the first wildcard to win here at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

After both players made their commitments to all the tv crews and commentators, they each made their way to the media for their press conferences. It was once again my chance to hear a player’s perspective on the day’s happenings.

As Baghdatis came in, you would have thought he had won the tournament with his big smile and light demeanor. He said that he couldn’t have been happier with his play in the second set minus not being able to convert in the fourth game. He also knew Nalbandian was “returning good” so a lot rested on his own serve and he felt that he “served really bad” in the first set. He mentioned that he did have “a bit of pain in my leg” and it took some time to get better, but that Nalbandian was the better player today. “If I was serving better, I could win today but I didn’t have that.” When asked if Nalbandian is playing like a guy outside the top 100, Baghdatis quickly said “No, he can beat top 10 [players].” I asked a question about all those Hawkeye challenges that players were getting right. He responded with a smile and said that they both started challenging “even if you saw it out because there was no confidence in the line judges.” Baghdatis then addressed his performance this year versus last: “I will never forget where I came from. I was ranked 150 last year and now I maybe touched top 20 this year. I am looking forward to the future and playing better.”

Nalbandian came in a few minutes later, happy, confident and on top of the world. He again stated that he “played good all week” minus a few select games and that he was very happy with his performance today as well. He felt that he didn’t return well on Baghdatis’ second serve in the second set, but that it was more his ability that let him down than Baghdatis’ placement. “I have to believe in my shots and my game.” When asked whether he was surprised to come back after time off and win his first tournament back he responded: “For sure I didn’t expect to win the first tournament when I came. If I continue to play this good, I’m going to go far for sure.”

Nalbandian’s ranking will jump from #117 in the world to #45, while Baghdatis will climb from #25 to #20. I know that I am looking forward to seeing where Nalbandian falls into the draw at the US Open. He will be a threatening headache for any player if his body holds up.

STOSUR SURGES AT ROLAND GARROS

By Blair Henley

A surging Sam Stosur took out four-time French Open champion and No. 22 seed Justine Henin 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Monday, snapping the Belgian’s streak of 24 straight matches won at Roland Garros.

“My nerves were simply not strong enough today,” Henin explained. “I felt very nervous, very upset, which is normally not the way I am. Maybe today I was feeling some nervous fatigue. Maybe that nervous fatigue prevented me from seeing things in a calmer way.”

After a slow start, 26-year-old Stosur used her heavy groundstrokes to keep her opponent stuck scrambling behind the baseline, and in the third set, Henin’s picturesque backhand was nowhere to be found. She dumped three into the net in the final game.

Stosur, seeded seventh, squandered her first match point with a nervous double fault, but took advantage of a short, bouncing overhead on her second try.

“I just tried to shake it off and tried to have a laugh at myself, not worry about it and get the next one in,” Stosur said of the double fault.

It was so gloomy at Roland Garros Monday that the 26-year-old Australian was forced to remove her signature sunglasses, allowing fans to see the emotion in her eyes as she sealed one of the biggest wins of her career.

“I knew what I had to do,” Stosur said. “I kept going for it and I believed in myself.”

Stosur had more clay court wins this season than anyone else on tour coming into the French Open and she made it to the semifinals here last year, but her win over Henin still was still unexpected. The Australian lost to her earlier this month in Stuttgart.

The Aussie was known primarily as a doubles specialist before she decided to focus on her singles a couple of years ago. She has previously held the No. 1 ranking in doubles, but she entered the singles Top 10 for the first time just months ago.

Serena Williams easily beat No. 18 seed Shahar Peer of Israel 6-2, 6-2 to become the last American standing in the singles draws. She will take on Stosur in the quarterfinals.

It’s safe to say Peer doesn’t like playing the Williams sisters. She has now lost 5 times each to both Serena and Venus.

Tuesday No. 3 seed Caroline Wozniacki will take on No. 17 Francesca Schiavone, No. 5 seed Elena Dementieva will play No. 19 Nadia Petrova.

AROUND THE CORNER: ANDY MURRAY MAKES RETURN TO TENNIS COURTS

Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships

With Venus Williams successfully defending her title this past week, the pressure will now be on Novak Djokovic to accomplish the same feat as the men take to the hard-courts in Dubai. Djokovic is seeded second, but is the top ranked player in the draw, as Roger Federer has withdrawn with a lung infection. This year’s edition has a slightly tougher field than a year ago, so Djokovic will have to be on top of his game in order to repeat as champion.

In the top-half of the draw is Andy Murray who is playing in his first tournament since losing the Australian Open final to Federer almost a month ago. Murray will likely advance to face rising star Marin Cilic in the semi-finals.

The bottom-half is where we can find both Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko who will also be entered in the doubles draw. Djokovic is paired with fellow-Serb Dusan Vemic while Davydenko is teamed with compatriot Igor Kunitsyn. This is a rare treat for fans in Dubai, as these two players do not usually partake in the doubles competition Also in this section of the draw is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who will threaten for the title.

One first round match to note is between eighth seeded Gilles Simon and Marcos “please keep your shirt on” Baghdatis. The winner will likely face Davydenko in the third round.

Absent from Dubai for a second year in a row is American Andy Roddick who withdrew a year ago due to the treatment of Israel’s Shahar Peer. This year scheduling has placed Roddick at back-to-back tournaments in the United States and he likely needs some rest to his shoulder before the Masters Series event in Indian Wells in two weeks time.

Also missing is Israeli doubles specialist Andy Ram, who a year ago was allowed into the United Arab Emirates to compete a week after the Peer incident.

Delray Beach International Tennis Championship:

With only a third of the prize money being offered compared to Dubai, the tournament in Delray Beach has a lower-ranked clientele yet there are still many familiar names floating in the draw this year. Good luck picking a winner from this group, as there are many players who are capable and several who have won this very event in years past.

Leading the group of former Delray Beach champions is number one seed, Tommy Haas. The German veteran has not had any note-worthy results thus far in 2010 so expectations are low. Haas won this event in 2006 but is 3-3 on the year and has failed to advance beyond the third round of any tournament he has entered.

Mardy Fish is the defending champion from 2009 and opens against Christophe Rochus. Despite being unseeded, Fish has a nice section of the draw and could get on a good roll.

Other former champions here include Xavier Malisse (’05, ’07) who opens against fourth seeded Jeremy Chardy, and Kei Nishikori (’08) who is making his return to the ATP Tour after season-ending elbow surgery a year ago. Nishikori opens against third seed Benjamin Becker.

Other names to keep an eye on include seventh seed James Blake who starts the tournament against fellow-American Taylor Dent. Finally an early round match where Blake should be considered the favorite, although Dent’s old-school serve and volley style is capable of giving anyone fits. Big-serving Ivo Karlovic is the tournament’s number two seed and should be counted on to win a few rounds as well.

Abierto Mexicano Telcel:

This week’s clay court stop on the tour is in sunny Acapulco, Mexico, where Nicolas Almagro is the two-time defending champion. Almagro will be looking for his third title in Acapulco in a row, while Tomas Muster has the all-time record of four consecutive wins from 1993 to 1996.

While the draw has not yet been released from the tournament, Fernando Verdasco is listed as the top ranked entry, with Fernando Gonzalez and David Ferrer also in the draw.

FEDERER NEARS EDBERG RECORD; KUBOT SHINES BRIGHT FOR POLAND

* October 13, 1986 – this is the date when Wojtek Fibak, the best player in history of Polish tennis, was a top 100 player for the last time in his long career. Twenty-three years later, on Nov. 16, 2009, Lukasz Kubot became the second player from Poland to rank in the top 100 in the ATP rankings. In the third round at the Australian Open 2010, a doubles specialist Kubot, got a walkover from Mikhail Youzhny (right wrist) and advanced to his first-ever “sweet sixteen” singles appearance at a major. It’s the best result for a Polish player ever in Melbourne. Fibak, a four-time major quarterfinalist, played only once Down Under, reaching the third round in 1978. Kubot, ranked No 86, is the lowest ranked player in the last 16 this year, with Ivo Karlovic being the second-lowest at No. 39. Kubot will play Novak Djokovic Monday.

* “I started to feel it against [first-round opponent] Gasquet in the last set a little bit,” Youzhny said. “The next day was worse and worse little bit,” said Youzhny of his wrist injury. The Russian wasn’t the only player who did not advance due to injury or illness in the third round. Marcos Baghdatis and Stefan Koubek each retired in their matches after the first set. Koubek because of illness (against Fernando Verdasco), Baghdatis due to right shoulder (against Lleyton Hewitt). It was very tough especially for the Cypriot because he had been in great form winning 17 of last 18 matches. For the first time in tournament’s history three players defaulted in the last 32.

* Roger Federer overcoming Albert Montanes 6-3 6-4 6-4 won his 50th match at the Australian Open. In the history of the tournament only two-time champion Stefan Edberg won more matches – 56. But given the precentage, Federer is better – 50 wins, 7 losses (87%), Edberg 56/11 (83%).

* The two tallest guys on the tour (Ivo Karlovic and John Isner) advanced to the fourth round after thrilling four-setters, and lead in the ace department. The Croatian has already served 93 aces (34, 26, 33 respectively), the American 81 (34, 21, 26). Record holder, Joachim “Pim Pim” Johansson served 126 aces in four rounds five years ago.

* Jarkko Nieminen, the greatest player to ever come out of Finland, lost a heart-breaking second-round match, falling to Florent Serra, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7, 5-7. The Finn had two match points in the fourth set, but was unable to convert. Serra’s win was his fifth in a row over Nieminen. The Frenchman reached the third round at the Australian Open for the first time in his sixth attempt, but lost handily to Andy Murray.

* Among the five qualifiers who had played in the second round, only the veteran Stefan Koubek (quarterfinalist in 2002) advanced to the last 32 after beating the other qualifier, Ivan Dodig of Croatia. According to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, the farthest a qualifier has advanced in the Australian Open was the semifinals, Bob Giltinan turning the trick in the (December) 1977 Australian Open. After Koubek’s loss to Verdasco, Giltinan remains in the record book.

* James Blake lost his five-set match to Juan Martin del Potro in the second round despite being a break up at the beginning of the final set. The American’s five-set record has slipped 4-13 in his career, with only Ivo Karlovic holding a worse five-set record among active players. The 30-year-old Blake hasn’t yet won in his career in a match that goes beyond 6-6 in the final set, losing on all five occasions, as outlined below.

4-6 7-5 8-10  to Yaoki Ishii – Australian Open 2000, 2nd rd, qualifying match;
3-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 9-11  to Richard Krajicek – Wimbledon 2002, 2nd rd;
7-6(5) 6-0 6-7(2) 4-6 8-10 to Fernando Gonzalez – Davis Cup 2006, QF;
6-4 5-7 9-11 again (!) to Fernando Gonzalez – Beijing 2008, SF;
4-6 7-6(3) 7-5 3-6 8-10 to Del Potro – Australian Open 2010, 2nd rd

* American Robby Ginepri posted a revealing blog on the USTA’s website – www.usta.com. We encourage you to read the entire blog from Ginepri and other Americans, but here is some of what he said; “It’s been almost five years since I reached the US Open semifinals. It looks like maybe I peaked then. I hate to think that, but at some point you have to be realistic. I have to find a way to enjoy my career again. I ‘m not enjoying the travel grind and living out of suitcases as much any more, and it’s getting to me a little. I spent five weeks in Asia and Russia at the end of the fall, and at the beginning of this year I went to India, which was a very long trip, and then took another long trip to Australia, and I regret doing that. I’ve got to take it one day at a time and see if I can get this thing figured out. Playing healthy is the main thing, as it’s no fun to practice and play matches in pain. I’m a young guy at 27, and I stay fit and do the right things, and if things still aren’t working out, it takes a lot of wind out of your sail.”

Despite Loss, Cancer Survivor Sandra Klemenschits Wins In Grand Slam Debut

It wasn’t the result she was hoping for, but for Austrian doubles specialist Sandra Klemenschits, wins and losses don’t have the same impact anymore.

Playing with Aravane Rezai of France, the pair lost 6-1, 6-2 in the first round to the No. 5 seeds in the women’s doubles draw, Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and Ai Sugiyama of Japan.

“After my illness, I’m just happy to be alive,” said Klemenschits. “We did the best we could against a team that are not just great players, but great people as well.”

Klemenschits used to be a top doubles pairing with her twin sister, Daniela. The pair won 20 doubles titles on the ITF circuit and reached the finals of a WTA event in Istanbul in 2006.

That all radically changed in January of 2007 when both players were diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer, squamous cell carcimona. The chances of survival from the cancer are slim at best.

“It was a complete surprise,” said Klemenschits. “We’re both very healthy people and then all of a sudden, we’re being told that we both are dying.”

The sisters immediately underwent a series of expensive medical treatments in Germany. Lacking insurance, the costs of the treatment threatened to wipe them out financially.

The WTA Tour and its players responded with great generosity, putting together an online auction that raised over $70,000 for their medical treatments. Players including Martina Hingis, Maria Sharapova, and Justine Henin donated items for the auction. Later that fall, when Sugiyama won the doubles title at the WTA event in the Austrian city of Linz, she donated her winnings to their medical expenses.

“It was really special for me to be able to do that,” said Sugiyama. “This is about so much more than results or winning and losing. I’m so happy to see her back on the tour and doing so well. There were a lot of extra emotions running for me in our match today.”

“Sugiyama is one of the most amazing people that I know, but the support of all the other players was so moving as well,” said Klemenschits. “You can’t believe that people are thinking of you like this and doing these things for you.”

Although doctors told both sisters that their prognosis was promising, Daniela ultimately died from her cancer in April of 2008. She died at the same time Sandra was told that her cancer was in remission. Feeling that she needed a distraction, Sandra picked up a racket as soon as she was given the green light by her doctors.

“The first practices was so hard because the cancer wiped away all the power from my body,” said Klemenschits. “But I knew that I needed to do something.”

Three months after the death of her sister, Klemenschits returned to the WTA Tour in July of 2008 at an event in Bad Gastein, Austria. Shockingly, the titles soon began to pile up and Klemenschits returned better than before. Since returning to the tour, Klemenschits has won 8 doubles titles on the ITF circuit, five of them in 2009.

Klemenschits said that she still needs to be checked by her doctors in Austria every two months, but her cancer is still in remission and all signs are promising at the moment.

“Obviously, my perspective has changed after all of this,” said Klemenschits. “You start to think differently because you realize that life is so short. The most important thing for me right now is health, and to just enjoy everything that I’m doing. In the end, the winning and losing doesn’t matter as long as you have your health.”

Klemenschits will return to the ITF circuit in the fall for a series of events in Europe. She said that she hopes to serve as a motivation for people with the same illness as she had.

“The one thing that I would tell people is to be positive mentally and you can beat the cancer,” said Klemenschits. “If you aren’t thinking positive, then you have no chance. You never know what’s going to happen next, so it’s just important to enjoy every minute.”

Austrian Cancer Survivor Klemenschits To Make Grand Slam Debut In US Open

Austrian doubles specialist Sandra Klemenschits, who returned to the tour in July 2008 after overcoming a rare form of abdominal cancer, will make her Grand Slam debut this week at the US Open in the women’s doubles event. Partnering Aravane Rezai of France, they will play Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and Ai Sugiyama of Japan, the No. 5 seeds. The match will take place either on Wednesday or Thursday during the first week of the tournament.

Klemenschits, currently ranked No. 111 in doubles, is a winner of 28 doubles titles on the ITF circuit. 20 of these titles came when she partnered with her twin sister, Daniela. In January of 2007, both Sandra and Daniela were diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer, squamous cell carcimona, forcing them to retire.

Players including Roger Federer, Justine Henin, and Martina Hingis donated items for an online auction in June of 2007, raising over $70,000 for their medical bills. In April of 2008, Daniela Klemenschits died at age 25.

In July of 2008, Sandra Klemenschits announced she had beaten her illness and returned to professional tennis at a WTA event in Bad Gastein, Austria. Since returning to the pro tour 13 months ago, Klemenschits has won eight ITF circuit titles in doubles. She arrives at the US Open having won 10 of her last 11 matches.

The Journeyman: Eric Butorac Snapshot

Eric Butorac, the American doubles specialist currently ranked No. 45 in the world, has made a few visits to Bosse Sports, my club in Boston, where I have taught over the past few months.

When he came to Boston to see his girlfriend, I had the pleasure of giving him a few pointers on his ever-expanding doubles game. The nimble six-foot-three-inch southpaw from Rochester, Minnesota sparred with a few of our juniors; it was great for our club and area for a player of his caliber to come by.

We worked on his returns and volleys, which are parts of his game that Butorac feels he needs to work on to crack the top 20 in the doubles rankings. The NCAA Division III singles and doubles champion in 2003, Butorac grew up playing at his dad’s club in a town an hour and a half from Minneapolis. He partnered with Kevin Whipple to take that collegiate doubles title. He feels that the head coach of his team at Gustavus Adolphus, Steve Wilkinson, is the main reason for his success and why he has been able to make a living playing doubles on the tour. He has won three ATP Tour doubles titles, all with Britain’s Jamie Murray.

Butorac’s career high doubles ranking was No. 30 in February of this year. He recently enjoyed playing doubles with top singles player Andy Murray in Indian Wells. He felt his practices were more intense due to the amount of the fans watching them hit. However, it wasn’t always big stadiums and large crowds for him. He remembers early in his career when traveling included sleeping on park benches, the locker room, and even in his car, all for the chance to pick up ATP ranking points.

“I feel if a player is questioning his doubts on trying to make it on the tour, [he should] go to France and play their money tourneys. That’s how I got started,” said Eric.

He started his career without much sponsorship, also coaching on the side to supplement his traveling expenses.

“I never take this life on the tour for granted, it’s very surreal,” said Eric. He is looking forward to playing doubles with the Australian Ashley Fisher. They originally were set to start the year as a team, but Fisher got injured. They plan on starting their partnership at a challenger in Puerto Rico, then with tour stops in Houston and in Munich and then all the way through Wimbledon. You can follow them on their website, www.bootyandfish.com.

Have a great week and enjoy the tennis in Miami.

The Journeyman

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