Federer Will not Concede French Open Title:
Everyone is talking about Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic right now, but anybody would be a fool to forget about the other large threat at Roland Garros this month – 16-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer. “It’s definitely an interesting time right now that Novak hasn’t lost all season long. It makes it a new, different situation, but for me it doesn’t change a whole lot,” said the Swiss ace. “Right now [Djokovic and Nadal] are playing better than me and better than other players. I feel like everybody can play on all the surfaces these days and that makes it extremely hard to win all these big tournaments.” At 29, Federer has a lot on his plate with a family to look after but he is by no means faded as far as top-class tennis is concerned.
The Dominant Force Dislodges the Immovable Object:
Novak Djokovic continued his unbeaten start to 2011, ending Rafa Nadal’s two-year winning streak on clay in the final of the Mutua Madrid Masters. The Serbian won 7-5, 6-4 at the Caja Magica, racing in to a 4-0 lead in the first set. The Spaniard levelled proceedings but ‘Nole’ showed his new resilient side by again fighting back to take the set. The second started with the Spaniard lobbing his opponent expertly through his legs while running to the back of the court but the magic was not to last as Djokovic closed out the match to seriously put his case forward about taking the No.1 ranking off of Nadal. “I came up against a great player obviously – he’s having a monster year,” said Nadal afterwards. “He was better, you have to accept that.” Djokovic showcased his new found self-belief when he said: “I stepped onto the court today believing I could win. I needed to be aggressive and it was a great match.” If Djokovic wins this week’s Rome Masters and Nadal fails to reach the semi-finals then we will have a new No.1 to cast our eyes over next week. It was Djokovic’s first win over Nadal on clay in ten meetings between the pair on the surface.
Kvitova Shocks Azarenka in Madrid:
Petra Kvitova lifted her third title of the year by shocking Victoria Azarenka 7-6(3), 6-4 in the Madrid Open final. It adds to the titles she took in Brisbane and Paris earlier in the year. The 18th-ranked Czech star dominated the first tiebreak after both players had broken the others’ serve in the first set. Four breaks were seen in the second and with the 21-year-old leading 5-3, she needed two match points to see off the Belarusian’s challenge. “We know each other so it was going to be tough to find the key, but I think it was who will play faster, who will be the more aggressive – and I was the first!” she said afterwards. “It’s nice to win the tournament and to be in the top 10 at the same time, but it’s just a number. I want to improve my game and we’ll see – I don’t want to be only number 10!” Azarenka was quick to praise her opponent’s play: “Petra had such a great week and totally deserved to win today,” she said. “She showed some impressive tennis.”
Injuries Still Rife Among Stars:
Venus Williams has put her French Open participation in doubt after pulling out of next week’s Brussels Open. The 30-year-old has still not been seen since retiring from her third-round match against Andrea Petkovic at January’s Australian Open and her eyes may now be on Wimbledon having signed up for the pre-Slam event at Eastbourne. Meanwhile, David Nalbandian is one definite casualty on the men’s draw saying he is “not right physically” to play. The 2004 and 06 semi-finalist has lost 6kg since getting injured in March and fighting a fever over recent weeks. He hopes to return at Queen’s to prepare for Wimbledon. 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro may also miss out on Roland Garros after revealing he has torn a hip muscle. “The results of my tests showed a tear in the hip,” the Argentine wrote on his Twitter page. “I have already started rehabilitation and I will do all I can to be in Paris.” Ernests Gulbis is still suffering from a respiratory problem that has kept him out of Madrid and Rome. He hopes to have the problem resolved by the Roland Garros kick-off. “Every time a small wind blows it affect me,” Gulbis told The Times of London. “My immune system was not good and this time I had to drink antibiotics for three days and didn’t practice at all. I hope to get a wild card into Nice.” India’s Sania Mirza was continuing her comeback in the Prague Challenger, hoping to maybe make a late push for Paris, but she was forced to withdraw from her first-round match with Aleksandra Krunic after suffering back spasms. “Tried to play today, back was no good, it’s gotta be one of the worse feelings ever to pull out mid-match,” she said on Twitter.
Roddick not Enjoying European Clay Holiday:
Andy Roddick’s miserable start to the 2011 clay season continued with a first-round defeat to Gilles Simon at the Rome Masters. The world No.19 notched a 6-3, 6-3 victory to frustrate the 28-year-old, who a week earlier had suffered a first-round Madrid exit to clay-court debutant Flavio Cipolla. “He moves very well, which you don’t want to see when you are short of matches like I was today, when you are not getting clean hits,” said Roddick. “We soon got into rallies and it became a battle striking the ball in movement, I was coming second sometimes.”
Carlsen calls for Wozniacki to Attack:
After three straight losses to Germans Julia Goerges (twice) and Andrea Petkovic in recent weeks, former Danish star Kenneth Carlsen believes the world No.1 may be playing too defensively against foes who up their game against the top-ranked star. “Caroline has trouble with the likes of Goerges and [Petkovic] when they [are playing their best] and not making so many mistakes,” he said. “When they do, it might look as if Caroline is bombed out. It’s the girls who take the initiative immediately, and you’ll get no peace from Caroline. Most people know that it is the way to beat Caroline, but it is also difficult because she, like Nadal, gets to so many balls and sends them back. We are still talking about small margins, but Caroline might be too defensive and rely too much on her own game, and with good reason, because she beats nine out of 10 opponents that way.”
Li Hoping for Danish Magic:
China’s Na Li has hired Danish Fed Cup captain Michael Mortensen as her new coach after citing that she could not regain her confidence whilst working under husband Jiang Shan, who had coached her to the Aussie Open final. “After the Australian Open I didn’t do well until Madrid,” said Li. “We’re working well together—we have good communication and [Mortensen] is helping me a lot. He’s giving me a lot of confidence and I feel positive on court.”
Kuznetsova Coach Split:
Two-time grand Slam winning-Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova has announced via her official website that her and coach, Spain’s Carlos Cuadrado, have parted ways. She will still work with her other coach, Larissa Savchenko, and her hitting partner Alexander Krasnorutskiy.
Peering in to DC’s Debut:
Washington DC will have its own WTA World Tour event again this summer with the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Tennis Championships taking place from July 25-31. Israel’s most successful player, of both men and women, ever, Shahar Peer, will headline the field in the 32-strong draw which also features Lucie Safarova, Jelena Dokic and rising American stars Melanie Oudin and Sloane Stephens. Stacey Allaster, Chairman & CEO of the WTA, said: “We are thrilled to bring women’s tennis back to the incredible sports fans of the Washington DC area. The Mid-Atlantic Women’s Tennis Championships promises to be a fantastic event featuring some of the best female athletes on the planet. I look forward to this being the first edition of a great tradition of WTA tennis in Washington DC.”
France’s Gael Monfils climbs above Nicolas Almagro to No.9 in the world in this week’s South African Airways ATP World Rankings after last week’s play in Madrid. The Ukraine’s Alexander Dolgopolov returns to the Top 20. Thomaz Bellucci’s first ATP Masters semi-final sees him climb 14 to No.22 in the world, a career best. Andreas Seppi enters the Top 50 while Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, Illya Marchenko and Rainer Schuettler are in to the Top 100. Victoria Azarenka became the top-ranked Belarusian ever in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings on the back of her Madrid finals defeat as she became the new world No.4, a career-best. Maria Sharapova is up to No.8, her best ranking since November 2008, while Petra Kvitova is a career-best No.10 after her win over Azarenka. Julia Goerges makes her Top 20 debut while Czech star Lucie Hradecka enters the Top 50 at No.45. Incidentally, this week is the first in rankings history that there has been no Americans in both the Top 10 of the women’s and the men’s game. Yet American star Andy Roddick refused to accept that tennis in his country was on the way down. “There is no bigger crisis in American tennis than there is in Italian. We’re kind of a victim of our own success over the years in the sport,” he said.
Nadal moves Further Ahead in GOAT Race:
Rafael Nadal’s semi-final victory over Roger Federer at last week’s Mutua Madrid masters means he has moved further ahead of the early-season leader in the 2011 GOAT race. Federer’s semi-final berth earns him 50 points, while Nadal’s final defeat to Novak Djokovic earns him 100. They both also gain an extra 10 points for entering the Rome Masters this week.
Roger: 665, Rafa: 890
Robby Ginepri beat Sam Querrey 6-2 6-4 to win the Indianapolis Tennis Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Nikolay Davydenko beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4 6-2 to win the International German Open in Hamburg, Germany
Dinara Safina won the Banka Koper Slovenia Open in Portoroz, Slovenia, beating Sara Errani 6-7 (5) 6-1 7-5
Andrea Petkovic beat Ioana Raluca Olaru 6-2 6-3 to win the Gastein Ladies in Bad Gastein, Austria
“I have some exciting news to share with you. Late last night, in Switzerland, Mirka and I became proud parents of twin girls. This is the best day of our lives.” – Roger Federer, announcing the births on his Web site and Facebook page.
“The twins certainly come from good tennis stock. If they are half as good as their dad they will still be a potent force on the court.” – Nick Weinberg, spokesman for British bookmaker Ladbrokes on the twin girls one day winning Wimbledon.
“When you have a lot of losses, you start questioning if you can play at this level. It creeps in the back of your mind, so this is definitely a confidence boost for me the rest of the summer.” – Robby Ginepri, after winning the Indianapolis Tennis Championships.
“It’s been a great week for me. Of course, when you are in a final you always want to win but it has been a great week for me.” – Paul-Henri Mathieu, after losing in the Hamburg, Germany, final to Nikolay Davydenko.
“I know I am good enough to beat most players on this level.” – Andrea Petkovic, after reaching her first career WTA Tour final, which she won.
“I played better each match this week. I beat two Top 30 players this week, the best wins of my career. I’m sorry about today: I wish I could have done more, but there’s always next tournament.” – Ioana Raluca Olaru, who lost in the Gastein Ladies final to Andrea Petkovic.
“I am a hundred percent. I mean, if I wasn’t at that point, I certainly wouldn’t be playing.” – Maria Sharapova, who played for the Newport Beach Breakers in a World TeamTennis match against Kansas City.
“There’s always a lot of pressure against Korie (Homan) because I have not lost a set at this tournament since 2000 and of course I have the winning streak.” – Esther Vergeer, after stretching her unbeaten singles record to 364 matches in wheelchair tennis by again beating world number two Korie Homan.
“Andy’s presence really does give a boost to County Week and British tennis in general. It proves to 12-, 13- and 14-year-old children that if the world number three can be bothered to show up and compete for his county, then they can do it, too.” – Ian Conway, captain of the North of Scotland team, on Andy Murray playing an amateur event.
It’s been awhile since Nikolay Davydenko took home the biggest check at a tournament. The Russian won his first ATP World Tour title in over a year when he trounced Paul-Henri Mathieu at the International German Open in Hamburg. Davydenko last appeared in a final at the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai last November, and he hadn’t won a title since Warsaw, Poland, in June 2008. Davydenko also became the first Russian to win in Hamburg.
Until this past week, Andrea Petkovic had a 3-8 lifetime record in WTA Tour-level events, with all three match wins coming at Grand Slam tournaments. That changed in Bad Gastein, Austria, where Petkovic won five straight matches and her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title, the Gastein Ladies, when she stopped Ioana Raluca Olaru. The unseeded German dropped only one set all week, that to seventh-seeded Anna-Lena Groenefeld in the quarterfinals. “It’s the best moment of my career,” Petkovic said. “I hope I can keep playing like this and build on it.” Olaru was also appearing in her first Tour singles final, having upset third-seeded Sybille Bammer, sixth-seeded Magdalena Rybarikova and top-seeded Alize Cornet en route to the title match.
It didn’t take the British bookmakers long. Just a day after their birth, Roger Federer’s twin daughters were given 100-1 odds for either to win Wimbledon. Charlene Riva Federer and Myla Rose Federer are 50-1 to win a Grand Slam as part of the same doubles team and 200-1 to capture the Wimbledon women’s doubles. Andy Roddick, who has lost the Wimbledon final three times to the twins’ father, agreed with the bookies. The American sent a message from his Twitter page, which read: “Wimbledon women’s champs in 2029-2040 … the Federer girls: congrats to the new parents!”
Playing together for the first time, Dmitry Tursunov of Russia and Ernests Gulbis of Latvia won all four matches in third-set super tiebreakers to capture the doubles title at the Indianapolis Tennis Championships. “They’re obviously better as a team, but when there’s a lot of firepower against you, there’s not much you can do,” Tursunov said after the pair beat top-seeded Ashley Fisher and Jordan Kerr 6-4 3-6 11-9 (match tiebreak). Not one to break up a winning pair, the two plan to play together in Los Angeles this week. “It’s kind of like beginner’s luck in poker, so we’ll see how it goes,” Tursunov said. “If we’re having success, it makes sense to continue to play.”
STEPPING IT UP
The knee injury must be better. Rafael Nadal has returned to training for the first time since he was sidelined by tendinitis in his right knee. Nadal is planning on returning to the ATP tour at the Montreal Masters next month. He has been out since losing to Robin Soderling in the fourth round of the French Open, where he was seeking his fifth straight title. The injury also kept him from defending his Wimbledon crown. With Nadal not there, Roger Federer won both Roland Garros and Wimbledon to record his 15th Grand Slam trophy and reclaim the number one ranking.
Leander Paes was named the league’s male MVP as he led the Washington Kastles to their first World TeamTennis Pro League championship. Paes teamed with Scott Oudsema to win the men’s doubles and with Rennae Stubbs to win the mixed doubles as the Kastles downed the Springfield Lasers 23-20. Oudsema beat Springfield’s Raven Klaasen in the men’s singles, while Washington’s Olga Puchkova downed Vania King in women’s singles. King and Liezel Huber captured the women’s doubles. King was named the league’s female MVP.
Cara Black is only 5-foot-6 ( 1.67m) but she stands tall in the tennis record book. The Zimbabwean player is second only to Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova in the number of weeks spent as the number one doubles player in the world. When Black recorded her 125th week at number one spot, she moved past Natasha Zvereva. The 30-year-old first took over the top spot on October 17, 2005, staying there for 16 weeks. She regained the spot on June 11, 2007, before relinquishing it two weeks later to Lisa Raymond. But Black began her third and current stint at number one on July 9, 2007, after winning Wimbledon. Navratilova led the doubles rankings for 237 weeks.
Austria’s national anti-doping authorities are investigating Tamira Paszek after she received a medical treatment for a back injury that allegedly violated doping regulations. Authorities say that during treatment earlier this month, blood was taken from Paszek for enrichment, then later injected back into her, which is not allowed under international anti-doping rules. Paszek said she was not aware that the treatment was possibly illegal until a reporter told her. Paszek then alerted the Austrian anti-doping agency NADA, which began its investigation. The Austrian right-hander has struggled with back problems since last season. She has not played since retiring during her first-round match at Wimbledon.
Argentina’s David Nalbandian and Croatia’s Mario Ancic won’t be playing in this year’s US Open. According to the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the 15th-ranked Nalbandian is still recovering from recent hip surgery, while Ancic is battling mononucleosis. Their spots in the men’s main draw were taken by Ivan Navarro of Spain and Karol Beck of Slovakia.
An injury has caused Li Na of China to withdraw from China’s National Games in Shandong. The 27-year-old said she felt a recurrence of her right knee injury. Li will undergo tests in Beijing to determine whether she will be able to play the North American hard court season, including the US Open. “We have signed up for it and got the visa,” said Li’s husband and coach, Jiang Shan. “If she is OK by then we will go to play.”
John McEnroe seems to be a lightning rod for problems on a tennis court. His World TeamTennis club has been fined for what the league called “unprofessional conduct.” During the men’s doubles match between McEnroe’s New York Sportimes and the Washington Kastles, a shot by Washington’s Leander Paes hit New York’s Robert Kendrick. McEnroe and Sportimes coach Chuck Adams went to Paes’ side of the court and yelled at him. Four points later, Kendrick hit Paes with a serve, prompting more confrontations. The league suspended and fined Adams the next day, then, after reviewing the video and getting the umpire’s report, issued fines on both teams. Kendrick and Kastles player Olga Puchkova received individual fines.
SHORT STICH STAY
Michael Stich’s return to competitive tennis lasted only 62 minutes. The former Wimbledon champion lost his first-round doubles match at the German Open in Hamburg. The 40-year-old Stich, who retired from the sport 12 years ago, and 21-year-old Mischa Zverev were beaten by Simon Aspelin of Sweden and Paul Hanley of Australia 6-4 6-2. Stich won Wimbledon in 1991 and reached the final at both the French Open and US Open. His best ranking was number two in the world. As tournament director of the German Open, Stich gave himself and Zverev a wild card into the tournament. Stich is not the only retired player to make a brief doubles comeback. John McEnroe was 47 when he and Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman won the doubles at San Jose, California. That came 14 years after his previous title.
SAYING AU REVOIR
Nathalie Dechy is calling it a career. The 30-year-old Frenchwoman is expecting a child and wants to devote her time to family life. Dechy reached the Australian Open semifinals in 2005, but is currently ranked 88th in the world. She won two US Open women’s doubles titles, with Vera Zvonareva in 2006 and Dinara Safina in 2007. She also won the French Open mixed doubles in 2007 with Israel’s Andy Ram. Dechy won her only WTA Tour singles title at the Gold Coast tournament in 2003 and reached her career-highest ranking in January 2006 when she rose to 11th in the world. She played for France in the Fed Cup in singles and doubles from 2000 until this year.
STRIKE IT WASN’T
Robby Ginepri had an unusual way of throwing out the game’s first pitch when he was a special guest at the Triple-A baseball game between the Indianapolis Indians and the Durham Bulls. In Indiana where he was competing in the Indianapolis Tennis Championships, Ginepri used his racquet and a tennis ball to serve to the Indians catcher. The umpire called balls on both of Ginepri’s “serves,” but the American was delighted with his performance. “It was very close to a strike,” Ginepri said. “It is quite different to have to serve at a catcher’s glove. The target is just very small.”
SCHOLARSHIPS BY MARIA
Maria Sharapova is continuing to give back. The former world number one has launched the Maria Sharapova Foundation to distribute scholarships among first-year students at Belarusian State University throughout the 2009-2010 academic year. The USD $3,500 scholarships will be available to Belarus residents attending BSU who come from areas formally recognized as affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident. According to the BSU press office, recipients should actively participate in public, research and volunteer activities, and should have a high average grade in their general education school diplomas. It’s not the first time the tennis player has given generously. In February 2007, Sharapova, who serves as a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Development Program, donated USD $100,000 for eight Chernobyl relief projects in Belarus and Ukraine. Sharapova’s father and pregnant mother fled Homyel, a town 80 miles north of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, shortly after the accident in April 1986. She was born in a Siberian city months later.
SUMMER COUNTY CUP
Forget the ranking. Andy Murray took time to compete in the AEGON Summer County Cup, a 115-year-old amateur team tennis competition. With no umpires, line judges or ball-persons, the players call their own lines in the last amateur grass-court competition in the United Kingdom where senior professionals mix with junior players to represent their county in a competitive team environment. It was a huge surprise to the other players and the 300 spectators at Eastbourne when Murray showed up to play for North of Scotland. “Andy has come down to Eastbourne under his own steam, paying for his transport and lunch out of his own pocket,” said North of Scotland captain Ian Conway. “I was surprised and delighted, and his presence has given the rest of the team a huge boost.” While Murray and Owen Hadden won all three of their matches for the North of Scotland, Hertfordshire won the tie 5-4 when Andy’s brother, Jamie Murray, and his partner lost the deciding match 6-3 6-7 (3) 10-8 (match tiebreak).
Esther Vergeer is not slowing down. The Dutch woman won her ninth consecutive women’s wheelchair singles title at the British Open in Nottingham, defeating Korie Homan. Ranked number one in the world, Vergeer stretched her winning streak to 364 matches.
Shingo Kunieda of Japan won the men’s main draw singles, while American David Wagner captured the quad singles titles. Kunieda beat Stephane Houdet for his third successive men’s main draw singles title. Wagner won his second British Open quad singles in three years as he beat world number one and home favorite Peter Norfolk.
Nicole Pratt has been appointed Australian national women’s coach. A former junior Australian Open champion, Pratt will work with Australia’s Fed Cup team and on player development, according to Tennis Australia. Pratt’s highest ranking on the WTA Tour was 35th in the world.
Indianapolis: Dmitry Tursunov and Ernests Gulbis beat Ashley Fisher and Jordan Kerr 6-4 3-6 11-9 (match tiebreak)
Hamburg: Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley beat Marcelo Melo and Filip Polasek 6-3 6-3
Bad Gastein: Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka beat Tatjana Malek and Andrea Petkovic 6-2 6-4
Portoroz: Julia Goerges and Vladimira Uhlirova beat Camille Pin and Klara Zakopalova 6-4 6-2
SITES TO SURF
Los Angeles: www.latennisopen.com/
San Marino: www.atpsanmarino.com/
Los Angeles: www.latennischamps.com/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$700,000 Countrywide Classic, Los Angeles, California, USA, hard
$500,000 Allianz Suisse Open, Gstaad, Switzerland, clay
$450,000 Studena Croatia Open, Umag, Croatia, clay
$100,000 Orbetello Challenger, Orbetello, Italy, clay
$700,000 Bank of the West Classic, Stanford, California, hard
$220,000 Istanbul Cup, Istanbul, Turkey, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$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
Tommy Haas beat Novak Djokovic 6-3 6-7 (4) 6-1 to win the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany
Andy Murray won the AEGON Championships in London, Great Britain, defeating James Blake 7-5 6-4
Magdalena Rybarikova beat Li Na 6-0 7-6 (2) to win the AEGON Classic in Birmingham, Great Britain
Stanislas Wawrinka beat Potito Starace 7-5 6-3 to win the BSI Lugano Challenger in Lugano, Switzerland
Iona-Raluca Olaru beat Masa Zec-Peskiric 6-7 (4) 7-5 6-4 to win the Open GDF Suez de Marseille in Marseille, France
“I’m a long way from winning Wimbledon, but I feel confident. I’ll try and not get too far ahead of myself and focus on my first match there, but if I play my best like I did this week, I’ve got a chance.” – Andy Murray, after winning at Queen’s Club.
“It’s incredible, I can hardly believe it myself when I think of the highs and lows I’ve been through in the last year and a half.” – Tommy Haas, after winning his first grass-court title.
“I was so excited last night after I beat Sharapova I forgot I had a match today.” Li Na, who lost in the final after upsetting Maria Sharapova in the semifinals of the AEGON Classic in Birmingham, Great Britain.
“I still felt like I had many chances in this match, but I have played five matches in the last six days and after that you just hope you wake up with that intensity you need. Against her you need that.” – Maria Sharapova, after losing to Li Na.
“Winning today is the best feeling of my career so far. It’s unbelievable. Just like a dream.” – Magdalena Rybarikova, after winning her first WTA title, the AEGON Classic in Birmingham, Great Britain.
“I had a good week. Playing on the grass, I always have a lot of fun playing here. I feel great. I’ve been working with my coach and trainer, and I know I’m doing the best preparation possible for Wimbledon. I’ll be ready to play and feel great about my chances.” – James Blake, after reaching the final at Queen’s Club.
“A problem a lot of people in this country have is expecting huge things, thinking that it’s just going to happen.” – Andy Murray, concerning the British public hoping he can win Wimbledon.
“I think he’s over the biggest hurdle in his tennis with the French under his belt. Pete Sampras, Boris Becker, John McEnroe, great players, never did. The monkey is off Roger’s back and he’ll play, not with abandon, but with excitement, enjoyment and freedom. He’ll be Wimbledon champion again next month unless someone catches fire like Robin Soderling did against Nadal.” – Rod Laver, on Roger Federer winning the French Open.
“I’ve had good times and bad times. That’s me. That’s how I am. I’m really lucky and I’m happy that the ATP has allowed me to do what I want to do on the court. They’ve been nice to me throughout the years and that’s made it much easier for me to play this way.” – Marat Safin, talking about his career.
“I have now, after a lot of thinking, decided to put an end to my professional tennis career.” – Thomas Johansson, announcing his retirement from competitive tennis.
“There comes a time in every man’s life when he needs to settle down. In my case, again.” – Boris Becker, after marrying Dutch model Sharlely “Lilly” Kerssenberg, his second marriage.
When Andy Murray beat James Blake in the AEGON Championships final, he became the first British player to win at Queen’s Club since Bunny Austin in 1938. “I was quite nervous,” Murray admitted. “People were telling me that no (Briton) had won here for 70-odd years, so that got the nerves going, especially when I was serving for the match.” The fact he won on grass will only increase the belief – and the pressure – that Murray, ranked third in the world, will win Wimbledon. A Brit hasn’t won on the grass courts of the All England Club since Fred Perry did it in 1936.
Magdalena Rybarikova could be called the women’s champion of China. The little-known Slovakian won her first WTA title at the AEGON Classic in Birmingham, Great Britain, stopping China’s Li Na 6-0 7-6 (2) in the final. In the quarterfinals, the 20-year-old Rybarikova upset top-seeded Zheng Jie of China 7-6 (10) 6-4. “I was very nervous in the tiebreak, but she looked more nervous than me, so that helped me concentrate even harder,” Rybarikova said of Li. In the semifinals, Li upset Maria Sharapova, her first victory over the Russian in six career meetings.
Japan’s Kimiko Date Krumm will play at Wimbledon for the first time in 13 years. The 38-year-old Date Krumm was given a wild card into the main draw. Once ranked as high as number four in the world, Date Krumm reached the semifinals in 1996, the last time she played on the grass of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. She retired from her first-round qualifying match at the French Open last month because of a calf injury.
Can Laura Robson match the exploits of Martina Hingis? Thanks to a wild card, Britain’s 15-year-old junior Wimbledon champion will be the youngest player in the women’s main draw since Hingis in 1995. Hingis went on to become number one in the world. Robson is ranked 482nd in the world, but was given a wild card via a clause that allows juniors to be included under “exceptional circumstances.” Others receiving wild cards into the women’s main draw include Elena Baltacha, Alexa Glatch, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Katie O’Brien, Georgie Stoop and Melanie South.
Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 French Open champion from Spain who has been ranked as high as number one in the world, has been given a wild card entry into this year’s Wimbledon men’s draw, along with 2008 Wimbledon and US Open junior champion Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria. Also given wild cards into the men’s singles were Britons Alex Bogdanovic, Daniel Evans, Joshua Goodall and James Ward.
Although he ended up winning the tournament, it didn’t appear in the semifinals that Tommy Haas had a chance of advancing in the Gerry Weber Open. In an all-German semifinal in Halle, Germany, Haas trailed 5-2 in the third set before edging Philipp Kohlschreiber 2-6 7-6 (5) 7-6 (3). A year ago, Kohlschreiber beat Haas in the second round en route to the final at Halle. This year, Kohlschreiber served for the match while leading 5-3 but played a sloppy game. Haas made him pay for it, serving his 15th ace of the day on his third match point. It was the first tournament Haas has won since Memphis, Tennessee, USA, in 2007.
Sweden’s Thomas Johansson, who won the Australian Open in 2002, retired from competitive tennis at the age of 34. Besides his surprising win in Melbourne, where he beat Marat Safin in the title match, Johansson won eight other ATP titles and reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2005, where he lost to Andy Roddick. Last year, Johansson teamed with Simon Aspelin to win the silver medal in doubles at the Beijing Olympics, losing the gold-medal match to Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka.
A 24-year-old man was sentenced to nine months in prison and fined USD $17,200 for rioting outside the Davis Cup match between Israel and Sweden. The Swede was one of 10 people arrested after protesting Israel’s offensive in Gaza. Earlier, an 18-year-old was sentenced to 15 months in prison for rioting. A third man has been acquitted because of lack of evidence.
ST. MORITZ WEDDING
Boris Becker has married for the second time. The German tennis great and Dutch model Sharlely “Lilly” Kerssenberg tied the knot in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Attending the wedding were Becker’s two sons, 15-year-old Noah and 9-year-old Elias. along with Prince Albert of Monaco, supermodel Claudia Schiffer, cyclist Jan Ulrich and his wife Sara, and soccer stars Franz Beckenbaur and Oliver Kahn, among others. The newly-weds had announced their plan to get married when they appeared on a German television show in February.
SITTING IT OUT
Saying he was “overwhelmed” and “exhausted” after winning his first French Open title, Roger Federer pulled out of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, his usual grass-court warm-up for Wimbledon. “I sincerely apologize to the tournament organizers, my competitors, and my fans in Germany. I only hope they will understand that I still feel emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted by the incredible events of the past few days,” Federer said on his Web site.
Before he began his victorious run at the Gerry Weber Open, Tommy Haas withdrew from Germany’s Davis Cup quarterfinal against Spain, saying the clay court matches would put too much strain on his body. Haas, once ranked as high as number two in the world, did not play in the last Davis Cup World Group against Austria after being sidelined with a shoulder injury for much of 2008.
No longer will the Swiss Indoors tournament be held at St. Jakobshalle in Basel, Switzerland. Oh, it will be held at the same venue, but the name of the hall is being changed to Roger Federer Arena. Basel sports director Peter Howald said the city had discussed ways of honoring the new French Open champion, who completed a career Grand Slam and tied Pete Sampras’ record of 14 major singles title with his clay court victory at Roland Garros. Federer is a three-time defending champion of the Swiss Indoors.
The team didn’t last long at all. Ana Ivanovic has broken up with coach Craig Kardon. Ivanovic had hired Kardon, once a coach for Martina Navratilova, in February as a replacement on a temporary basis for Sven Groeneveld. But the Serb, who won Roland Garros last year, continued her fall in the WTA rankings. Once ranked number one in the world, she dropped out of the top ten following her fourth-round French Open loss this year. Ivanovic said she will use a temporary coach when she plays at Wimbledon.
Damir Dokic has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for making death threats against the Australian ambassador to Serbia. “The sentence is inappropriate and we are going to appeal,” said Dokic’s lawyer, Bosiljka Djukic. “We hope that the higher court will annul this sentence.” The father of tennis player Jelena Dokic, Damir Dokic was arrested in early May after he reportedly said he would “attack the ambassador and her husband with a stinger missile.” Police found two hand grenades and 20 bullets in his house for which Dokic had no permit, in addition to seven hunting rifles and a handgun which he owned legally. The alleged threats came after Jelena, once ranked fourth in the world, was quoted in Australia’s Sports & Style magazine describing the torment she endured under her father.
The start of the third-round match at Queen’s Club between Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt was delayed by a bomb threat. Both players stayed on court while officials searched the entire site but found nothing. Roddick and Hewitt were seen laughing and talking with each other during the break in play. Roddick ended up winning the match.
The late Arthur Ashe and his widow, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, will be recognized with the Eugene L. Scott Award by the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum (ITHFM). Presented annually since 2006, the award honors an individual who embodies Scott’s commitment to communicating honestly and critically about the game and who has had a significant impact on the tennis world. “Arthur and Jeanne have used their voices, which have been amplified through the game of tennis, to change the world in so many ways that it’s fitting to present them as one with the Eugene L. Scott Award,” said Christopher E. Clouser, chairman of the ITHFM. “Humanitarians like Arthur and Jeanne are few and far between and we should recognize them for the contributions they have made to help enact change.” The award will be presented at the 29th annual “Legends Ball” on September 11 in New York City. Also being honored will be Rod Laver and the four newest members of the Hall of Fame: Donald L. Dell, Andres Gimeno, the late Dr. Robert Johnson and Monica Seles.
SELLING LIKE HOTCAKES
The 2009 US Open is a hot ticket. The first day of ticket sales to the general public for this year’s final Grand Slam tournament was the second-best opening day in US Open history. With nearly 35,000 tickets sold, it is only the second time that opening day ticket sales topped 30,000 tickets. This year’s total trails only last year’s event. In the six days leading up to the public sale, the US Open pre-sale for American Express members set an all-time sales mark of more than 31,000 tickets.
The Australian Open is continuing to lose sponsors. The latest is Qantas, which is ending its 21-year agreement with the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. In the past few months, the Australian Open has lost several other major sponsors, including Master Card, Garnier and GE Money. Three major sponsors say they will continue, including Kia Motors, Rolex and Lacoste.
The Swedish Tennis Association (STA) has had its fine reduced by the International Federation of Tennis (ITF) Board of Directors. The board agreed to reduce the fine from USD $25,000 to USD $5,000, but upheld the original decision by the Davis Cup Committee not to waive the gross receipts payment of $15,000. The Committee took the action following Sweden’s first-round Davis Cup tie against Israel, which was played behind closed doors in Malmo, Sweden.
Birmingham: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears 6-1 6-4
London: Wesley Moodie and Mikhail Youzhny beat Marcelo Melo and Andrew Sa 6-4 4-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Halle: Christopher Kas and Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Andreas Beck and Marco Chiudinelli 6-3 6-4
Marseille: Tathiana Garbin and Maria-Emilia Salerni beat Timea Bacsinszky and Elena Bovina 6-7 (4) 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak)
Lugano: Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer beat Pablo Cuevas and Sergio Roitman walkover
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$600,000 Ordina Open, s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, grass
$600,000 AEGON International, Eastbourne, Great Britain, grass
$600,000 AEGON International, Eastbourne, Great Britain, grass
$220,000 Ordina Open, s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, grass
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
ATP and WTA
The Championships (first week), Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass
Some random thoughts from a fascinating Roland Garros and the first look forward to the grass…
Roger Federer’s performance in the Roland Garros final against Rafael Nadal was reminiscent of Muhammad Ali’s fight against Larry Holmes. A mismatch from the start, Ali pulled out his tricks but had no answers for the younger, stronger Holmes, and was battered mercilessly. Like Sunday’s final, this was simply a bad match-up, and- to use the age-old explanation- styles make fights. Nadal moves better, defends better, and can control points off the ground (on clay, anyway) better than Federer. Like seeing The Greatest get punched around the ring, it was still surprising to witness Federer looking so vulnerable.
Rafael Nadal did not hit a single ace in the semis or final. He hit only seven aces during the entire two weeks. This serving approach will change on the grass. He will need some free points at crucial moments.
Darren Cahill brought up an interesting point on ESPN about Nadal’s Wimbledon preparation. Instead of rushing across the channel to play the Artois Championships, he should rest for a few days and skip the Queens Club event. Recall that he was spent by the end of Wimbledon last summer, although admittedly he was forced to play five (rain-delayed) matches in the last seven days of The Championships. Had Nadal been fresher, then he would have likely taken the fifth set of last year’s final.
Of course the cynic can offer about one million reasons why Nadal will compete at Queens Club again this year. It is hard to pass up that kind of appearance fee loot no matter how wealthy he has become. To paraphrase Bob Dylan (from “It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry”), don’t say I never warned you if Nadal loses early this week.
It was great to see Bjorn Borg attending matches during the final weekend of Roland Garros. In an interesting on-court interview with his great rival John McEnroe, Borg agreed to play with Mighty Mac in the over-45 doubles next year.
Borg also told McEnroe that this was the first time he had returned to Roland Garros since winning the event in 1981 (beating Ivan Lendl in a five-set final). Evidently Borg forgot that he did television work for NBC Sports in 1983 (interviewing Yannick Noah and Mats Wilandner after their final) and presented the Coupe De Mosquetaires on-court to Gustavo Kuerten in 1997. Guga famously bowed to the great Borg, as though the Swede was royalty. Let’s just presume that Borg’s passing shots were better than his memory!
Ai Sugiyama is preparing to break the all-time record at the All England Club by competing in her 56th consecutive major tournament. She currently shares this record with Wayne Ferreira, who played 56 straight from 1991 to 2004. This is a remarkable strength of will and consistency.
In the For What It’s Worth category… After last year’s epic Wimbledon final, Roger Federer did an interview with a standout former player. Afterwards, this player, off-camera, of course, told his colleague that the Swiss would never win another Wimbledon title. He saw cracks in the armor last summer.
Fingers are crossed that Slazenger has produced livelier balls for this year’s grass court season. It has been disappointing to see men’s professional grass court tennis look like… hard court tennis. If that’s what people really want to see, then the grass should be paved for a more “fair” hard court surface. I would prefer that it retain the traditional allure for attacking players and reward players for net-rushing tactics.
In 1984, there were 64 American men in the singles main draw of Wimbledon. That will never be matched again. I do, however, expect to see several Yanks doing some damage at SW19.
Serena Williams would have been really annoyed with her result at Roland Garros. She will keep the Venus Rosewater Dish in the Williams family’s possession this year.
Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas and Peruvian Luis Horna completed a storybook run to the French men’s doubles title. In the quarterfinals they took out former champions and the top-ranked team in the world, Bob and Mike Bryan. This match received a lot of attention because afterwards the Bryans refused to shake hands with Cuevas, as they were offended by his show of exuberance in the third set tiebreak. As the South American pair raced to a 5-1 lead, Cuevas leaped the net to switch sides- instead of walking around the net post. While it might have been a bit much, hopping the net certainly appeared to be an act of spontaneity on Cuevas’ part. The Bryans have perfected the leaping chest bump, so their reaction seemed a bit harsh.
To offer some context, the Bryan brothers have saved men’s professional doubles. Without them, it might not even exist these days. They carry the weight and responsibility of, literally, preserving this form of the professional sport. Furthermore, they have each distinguished themselves as fierce competitors and gentlemen throughout their storied career. They get it. Therefore, the Bryans deserve some slack. I’ll bet that they wish they had not reacted so strongly during the heat of the moment. I’ll also bet that they are hoping for a rematch against Cuevas and Horna at the Big W.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have much to gain these next months, and Federer much to defend. Pete Sampras finished as the world’s top-ranked player for a remarkable six straight years (1993-98), and Federer’s assault on that record is looking bleaker. Roger will need a “turn back the clock” effort for the remainder of 2008 to avoid relegation to No. 3 in the year-end rankings.
Less than half of the world’s top-ten players will compete in the Beijing Olympics. Keep reading the agate type in your sports sections for listings of injuries, because most of the top players will find them before hopping on a plane for Asia in August. This is as sure as the sun rising in the East.
I always write about making a pilgrimage to beautiful Newport, RI for the Hall of Fame Championships each July. For any fan living or traveling in Europe, please visit Eastbourne. This is a charming coastal town in the south of England, and a wonderful warm-up tournament for The Championships. The honor roll of former champions stands as a “who’s-who” list of Hall of Famers. The grass courts are typically as good as any in the world, and the players love the relaxed environment. In fact, the accessibility to the players is virtually unprecedented in this day and age.
14 April 2008
Maria Sharapova won her first clay court title, downing Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (7) 6-3 in the Bausch & Lomb Championships in Amelia Island, Florida.
“It’s not the way I would have wanted to win.” – Nikolay Davydenko, who won his Davis Cup match when Tomas Berdych retired because of an injury, giving Russia an insurmountable 3-1 lead over the Czech Republic.
“These guys are human.” – United States captain Patrick McEnroe after twins Bob and Mike Bryan suffered only their second loss in 16 Davis Cup doubles matches, falling to Frenchmen Michael Llodra and Arnold Clement.
“It is just a great feeling when you do well for your country. Nothing else matters.” – Leander Paes, who, a day after saying teaming with Mahesh Bhupathi was the “worst mistake of my career,” teamed with Bhupathi to win the doubles against Japan and lift India into the Davis Cup World Group playoffs for the first time in three years.
“It was somewhat like football because representing Argentina is something unique, something which you feel in your skin.” – Guillermo Canas, after teaming with David Nalbandian to beat Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman and Robert Linstedt in doubles.
“What I lived today with my people was very exciting. I gave it all, run all the way to hell and back, and won. That’s why I could not stop the tears.” – A teary David Nalbandian following his 6-4 1-6 4-6 6-4 9-7 win over Robin Soderling to clinch Argentina’s Davis Cup quarterfinal victory over Sweden.
“I had a lot of chances. I missed so many easy shots. I made quite stupid mistakes today.” – Unseeded Dominika Cibulkova, who lost to top-seeded Maria Sharapova 7-6 (7) 6-3 in the final of the Bausch & Lomb Championships.
“I don’t want to be getting (wild cards) into events and taking the place of younger players. That wouldn’t be right.” – Kimiko Date, explaining why she will begin her comeback by playing in satellite tournaments before making a return to the WTA Tour.
Former Austrian doubles player Daniela Klemenschits lost her battle with cancer. She was 25. Both Daniela and her twin sister, Sandra, were diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer in January 2007, forcing them to retire from the WTA Tour. The sisters won 20 titles on the ITF women’s circuit and were ranked in the top 100 of the WTA Tour doubles in 2005.
For the second straight Davis Cup tie, Nikolay Davydenko has not had to finish his tie-winning match. Tomas Berdych twisted his right ankle and retired against Davydenko, giving Russia an unbeatable 3-1 lead over the Czech Republic. In the first round, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic pulled out of his match against Davydenko because of illness, giving Russia a clinching 3-1 lead.
Two exhibition victories over old foes convinced Japan’s Kimiko Date to return to professional tennis at the age of 37. Once ranked in the top five in the world, Date retired in 1996 after reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the Atlanta Olympics. When she beat Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova in an exhibition event in Tokyo, Date, now married, decided to try a comeback on the women’s tour, entering a tournament in Fukuoka, Japan, next month.
A surprise starter, Marat Safin repaid the confidence showed in him by coming back from two sets down for the first time in his career to beat Tomas Berdych 6-7 (5) 4-6 6-3 6-2 64 in the opening match of the Davis Cup tie between Russia and the Czech Republic. The Russian had won only one match this year while Berdych was coming off a semifinal finish at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. It was the first time in his career that Berdych has lost a five-set match.
The Tennis Channel Open is no more. Tennis Channel is selling the rights to its Las Vegas, Nevada, tournament to the ATP. The television network bought the tournament in 2005, when it was played in Scottsdale, Arizona, and moved it to Las Vegas in 2006.
India’s Sania Mirza has undergone arthroscopy wrist surgery that is expected to keep her off the WTA Tour for a month. The world number 31 has struggled with her wrist problem for over a year. The only Indian player to win a WTA Tour event, Mirza was sidelined for two months following knee surgery in March 2007.
STEPPING UP PRESSURE
Beginning in 2009, players will get ATP ranking points for playing in the Davis Cup World Group. Besides earning points for a win, players can get bonus points for winning a certain number of matches throughout the year. The International Tennis Federation and ATP said they made the decision to award points to encourage more top players to participate in the team event.
Felix Mantilla has called it quits. Once ranked in the top 10 in the world, the 33-year-old Spaniard retired a year after returning to the ATP Tour following treatment for skin cancer. In 1997, Mantilla won five tournaments, and the following reached the semifinals at Roland Garros.
Beginning in 2009, the grass-court tournament in Eastbourne, England, will have a combined men’s and women’s field. While Eastbourne has been on the WTA Tour for years, the men will join them after the ATP grass-court tournament in Nottingham, England, folds following this year’s event.
SEAT CHAMPIONS CUP
Two clay court masters – former world number one Marcelo Rios and two-time French Open champion Sergi Bruguera – have a chance at finally meeting on that surface when they compete in the Seat Champions Cup in Barcelona. Rios dominated the senior BlackRock Tour of Champions in 2006, winning six titles, while Brugera won seven senior tournaments last year. Rios has won two of their three previous meetings, but all were on hard courts.
SCORING DAVIS CUP
World Group Quarterfinals
Russia beat Czech Republic 3-2; Argentina beat Sweden 4-1; Spain beat Germany 4-1; United States beat France 4-1
Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 Second Round
Croatia beat Italy 3-2; Netherlands beat Macedonia 4-1; Switzerland beat Belarus 4-1; Slovak Republic beat Georgia 4-1 (Winners advance to World Group playoffs in September)
Americas Zone Group 1 Second Round
Chile beat Canada 3-2; Brazil beat Columbia 4-1 (Winners advance to World Group playoffs in September)
Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Second Round
Australia beat Thailand 5-0; India beat Japan 3-2 (Australia and India advance to World Group playoffs in September)
Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Playoffs
Chinese Taipei beat Kazakhstan 3-2; Uzbekistan beat Philippines 3-2
Europe/Africa Zone Group II First Round
Denmark beat Luxembourg 5-0; South Africa beat Finland 4-1; Algeria beat Hungary 3-2; Monaco beat Greece 3-2; Ukraine beat Egypt 5-0; Ireland beat Morocco 3-2; Cyprus beat Slovenia 3-2; Portugal beat Tunisia 4-1
Americas Zone Group II Relegation Playoffs
Netherlands Antilles beat Bolivia 3-2; Venezuela leads El Salvador 2-1
Asia/Oceania Zone Group II Second Round
China beat Indonesia 3-2; New Zealand beat Kuwait 5-0
Asia/Oceania Zone Group II Relegation Playoffs
Hong Kong beat Lebanon 3-2; Oman beat Pacific Oceania 3-2
SITES TO SURF
Family Circle Cup: www.familycirclecup.com
Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com/
Monte Carlo: http://montecarlo.masters-series.com/1/en/home/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
$370,000 Estoril Open, Estoril, Portugal, clay
$370,000 Open de Tenis Comunidad Valencia, Valencia, Spain, clay
$436,000 U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships, Houston, Texas, clay
$1,340,000 Family Circle Cup, Charleston, South Carolina, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$2,270,000 Monte Carlo Masters, Monte Carlo, Monaco, clay
World Group Semifinals
United States at Moscow, Russia, clay
Spain at Beijing, China, hard
World Group Playoffs
Ukraine at Olbia, Italy, clay; France at Tokyo, Japan, hard; Germany at Buenos Aires, Argentina, clay; Czech Republic at Ramat Hasharon, Israel, hard
World Group II Playoffs
Colombia at Mons, Belgium, hard; Switzerland at Dornbirn, Austria, hard; Uzbekistan at Bratislava, Slovak Republic, clay; Serbia at Zagreb, Croatia, hard
Seat Champions Cup, Barcelona, Spain, clay