Eduardo Schwank

The Magic of Davis Cup

Tennis is known as a gentlemen’s sport, a well-mannered game where spectators are expected to be on their best behaviour at all times. Other sports are highlighted by audience chants of “DE-FENSE!”, breaking out in song and creative team encouragements. Tennis is all about quiet, please.

Tennis etiquette is thrown out the window for one event during the year, adding a dimension to the sport that is both exciting and refreshing. Davis Cup, the only team event on the tennis calendar, embodies passion, team spirit, national pride and is the ultimate physical and mental test. It brings out the best in players regardless of their ranking and propels them to dig deeper than they ever thought possible.

Everything that makes Davis Cup so special was on display this weekend during the final between two tennis powerhouses, Spain and Argentina, in Seville. On paper, it seemed Spain had a distinct advantage given that they had their hometown fans and the king of clay, Rafael Nadal on their side. The Spaniards jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Friday and seemed well on their way to another Davis Cup title. David Nalbandian, Argentina’s Davis
Cup stalwart, teamed with Eduardo Schwank to cut the deficit in half after a masterful performance in Saturday’s doubles rubber. Argentine hopes rested on the shoulders of Juan Martin Del Potro who had to recover from a gruelling five set loss to David Ferrer on Friday to try and pull off a monumental upset against Nadal to keep the tie alive for his country.

The much-anticipated duel certainly lived up the hype and captured all that is magical about Davis Cup during more than four hours of tennis bliss. Del Potro came out like a man on a mission to take the opening set and get an early break in the second. Urged on by the Spanish faithful, Nadal turned the matched around as Del Potro seemed to tire with each passing point. Trailing two sets to one and down a break in the fourth with both of his thighs heavily wrapped, the Argentine somehow found another gear. He pummelled forehands, played inside the baseline and found himself serving for the fourth set. But, the final momentum shift of the match went the way of Nadal and his tenacious defense. The Spanish hero once again played the part as he hit a forehand winner down the line on match point to allow his country to taste Davis Cup glory once again.

The fourth set, in and of itself, was something to behold. The compete level on every point was remarkable. Play was halted on several occasions because fans for both teams broke into spontaneous chanting and applause. Emotions were high, the fist pumping was fierce and the celebrations were incredibly heartfelt. Seeing grown men break down in both tears of joy and anguish showed just how much it means to play for your country.

Over the past few years, the Davis Cup format has come under heavy scrutiny and rightfully so. The competition may be difficult to follow, but this year’s final reminded us all that is right about this one-of-a-kind tennis event that can be experienced in nations around the world.

Argentina Stays Alive with Doubles Victory – Live from the Davis Cup

by Stephanie Neppl

The Argentinean fans seemed to have known something the rest of us didn’t before the start of today’s do-or-die doubles match in the Davis Cup Final in Seville, Spain.

David Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank needed to defeat Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez in order to keep Team Argentina’s hopes alive. So as the crowd waited for the ceremony and match to begin, the Argentinean fans in particular were extremely energized and vocal. Perhaps it was their way of blessing the stadium and court so things would go in their favor.

And they certainly did. The Argentinean duo played near perfect tennis. Nalbandian in particularly served very well and came up with huge serves whenever he was in danger. Schwank also was solid and very much stepped up to the challenge of ensuring at least one of Sunday’s singles matches still mattered.

The Spanish team, on the other hand, was largely abysmal. For every one of Verdasco’s scorching winners there were five bad misses. Lopez’s net play was tight and erratic. Nothing the team tried seemed to work. Their shot selection, their court coverage – neither were good enough. Verdasco was certainly the most emotional player on the court, and he used a  lot of energy reacting to his play. He frequently tried to get the Spanish crowd to make some noise and help them get into the match but the latter never happened.

After losing the first set, the Spaniards went down a double break. The Spanish players on the sidelines were still and quiet as Verdasco and Lopez went down 6-4, 6-2.

In the third set, the Argentines again broke early but midway through the set it seemed as tho the Spaniards might make a match of it. Up a break, Nalbandian served and faced several break points. Each time the break point was forced, Verdasco tried to pump up his partner and the crowd. Each ad point, Nalbandian served big and Lopez missed the return.  The short-lived threat to pull even was gone and the Spaniards would go down in straight sets.

After Friday night’s exciting five-set match between David Ferrer and Juan Martin Del Potro, it didn’t seem as if the crowd in the Estadio Olímpico de Sevilla could get any louder. But in the first set of today’s doubles match, it did. Both the teams’ supporters seemingly got into a chant fest after just a few games. Neither would stop blowing horns, pounding drums or singing until the other stopped and neither did, even though play was being disrupted. Team captains Albert Costa and Tito Vazquez spoke with chair umpire Carlos Ramos and assumedly tried to see what could be done. Often, points would begin amidst all the chatter while in other points fans threw out whatever distraction they could during a player’s serve and the teams just got on with it.

So now it’s up to Juan Martin Del Potro to try and keep Argentina’s hopes of its first Davis Cup alive. After last night’s heartbreaking five-set loss to David Ferrer, it’s going to be a huge challenge for him to recover enough emotionally and physically to tackle Rafael Nadal on clay.

Stephanie Neppl is in Seville, Spain covering the Davis Cup Finals as a guest contributor for Tennis Grandstand. She is the author of the website I Have a Tennis Addiction and you can follow her on twitter @StephInNZ for further updates.

Australian Open Days 5 and 6 Roundup

Day 5

In the battle between two former Australian Open champions, Roger Federer (won in 2004, 06-07) knocked out Marat Safin (2005). Safin had his little chance only in the third set. Federer was leading 4:1 in a tie-break with two mini-breaks but lost awhile his concentration after Safin’s foot fault on second serve. The Russian argued with a linesman and moment later was 5:4 up. Federer served very well twice and converted first match point with amazing backhand passing-shot.

“I lost today probably to the better player, one of the greatest ones in the history of tennis,” said Safin. “I really hope for him to be so I can tell the story to my kids that I played with him. I think it’s a nice story.”

Serb Novak Djokovic lost first set in the tournament against the Bosnian-born Amer Delic. There was very close to play a five-set match because at 5:4 (40-15) in the fourth set, Delic had double setpoint on Djokovic’s serve. The defending champion fought off the danger with an ace and lucky netcord that forced Delic to make an error.

“I need some matches like this to feel really what is Grand Slam all about,” said Djokovic.

The 36-year-old Santoro was playing in his 66th Grand Slam championship – the Open Era record amongst male players. In his final match in Melbourne lost to Andy Roddick 3-6 4-6 2-6. Santoro had break point (triple break point in all) only in one game – when Roddick was serving to win the second set. “Respect is an understatement,” Roddick said about the Frenchman. “The longevity he has had is an accomplishment in itself.” “This has always been one of my favorite places” said Santoro who reached in Melbourne his only Grand Slam quarterfinal in singles, three years ago, and won here twice the title in doubles (2003-04).

Day 6

Fernando Verdasco has been in great form since last year’s tournament in St. Petersburg. The Spaniard confirmed his aspiration to be a Top 10 player with a convincing win (6-4 6-0 6-0) over Radek Stepanek. Verdasco was break down at 3:4 and won 15 games in a row since then, and took a revenge for a defeat to Stepanek in the final at the Brisbane Internation two weeks ago.

Verdasco sets up 4th round clash with Andy Murray who won his match in similiar circumstances. The Scott won 11 consecutive games in a 7-5 6-0 6-3 win over Jurgen Melzer.

James Blake extends the lead in matches against his easiest opponent Igor Andreev to 6-0. The American has also the same H2H against Arnaud Clement and Nikolay Davydenko but against Andreev won the most sets, defeated him inter alia in three different Grand Slam tournaments (they have never met only at the French Open).

Fernando Gonzalez prevailed an epic match at the Margaret Court Arena against Richard Gasquet. Gasquet won easily first two sets and had match point in a tie-break of the third set –  risked a backhand return then, and the ball landed on the tape. Gonzalez won third set on 7th setpoint. Gasquet began to struggle with the pain in the right leg and right arm, and lost quickly fourth set but didn’t give up. At the beginning of the fifth set, the Frenchman changed own tactics, attacked more often to the net and builded up the speed of the first serve to play shorter rallies. Despite the pain Gasquet was winning service games comfortably and had his chances to take a decisive break: 4:4 (40-15), 7:7 (40-30), 10:10 (40-30) but experienced in tight matches Gonazalez saved all break points and waited first match point in the 22nd game of the final set. Gasquet saved it with beautiful forehand cross but lost next two points and the match, firstly Gonzalez played a gentle backhand lob, then finished the match with backhand down the line from the baseline. The match lasted 4 hours 9 minutes and both players won 191 points (Gasquet more in the final set (71-67).

“He was playing like a super hero,” Gonzalez said of Gasquet. “I couldn’t do anything. You have to keep fighting and wait for your chances. When we went to the fifth set I feel really good – I feel the favourite for the match.”

Marcos Baghdatis after overcoming Mardy Fish in straight sets became the only unseeded player who advanced to the last “sixteen” but it’s tough to call it a surprise because Baghdatis is a former Australian Open finalist. Baghdatis last year along with Lleyton Hewitt made a record – their match was finished at 4:33 a.m. This time beating Fish, Baghdatis setted up the record of the 2009 tournament – the match was finished at 1 a.m.

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Third Round

(1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. Tommy Haas (GER) 6-4 6-2 6-2
(13)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) d. (24)Richard Gasquet (FRA) 3-6 3-6 7-6(10) 6-2 12-10 – 1 MP
(12)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. (17)Nicolas Almagro (ESP) 6-4 6-3 7-5
(6)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Mario Ancic (CRO) 7-6(2) 6-4 6-2
(4)Andy Murray (GBR) d. (31)Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 7-5 6-0 6-3
(14)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. (22)Radek Stepanek (CZE) 6-4 6-0 6-0
(9)James Blake (USA) d. (18)Igor Andreev (RUS) 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1
(5)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. (q)Dudi Sela (ISR) 6-4 6-2 1-6 6-1

(7)Andy Roddick (USA) d. Fabrice Santoro (FRA) 6-3 6-4 6-2
(21)Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) 6-1 6-3 6-2
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) d. (23)Mardy Fish (USA) 6-2 6-4 6-4
(3)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. (LL)Amer Delic (USA) 6-2 4-6 6-3 7-6(4)
(8)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. Gilles Muller (LUX) 6-7(5) 7-5 6-3 7-5
(19)Marin Cilic (CRO) d. (11)David Ferrer (ESP) 7-6(5) 6-3 6-4
(20)Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. (15)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) 4-6 6-1 6-3 6-4
(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. (26)Marat Safin (RUS) 6-3 6-2 7-6(5)

Australian Open Round Two Results

Day 3

The oldest participant of the tournament, 36 year-old Fabrice Santoro amazed the spectators once again overcoming 5-7 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-3 Philipp Kohlschreiber, 11 years in his junior. Santoro wasted triple setpoint in the first set but didn’t collapse and came back from a break down in the second and fourth set. In the fifth set Kohlschreiber at 3:5 saved triple match point with risky shots. After another rally the Frenchman had cramps, got a warning for an extension break between the points, risked a return, went to the net and finished the match with an overhead after 4 hours 5 minutes!

“Today I lost because it was best-of-five, which makes me very mad. Santoro will not win anything more here” stated the embittered German. “I can’t say I have no chance at all for the next round. It’s going to be tough for sure. I will see Friday morning when I wake up how good is my body, how bad is my body” replied Santoro who had played first match in Melbourne before the youngest player in the draw, Bernard Tomic was born.
Less luck in a five-setter had Santoro’s compatriot, Paul-Henri Mathieu who has lost 6th match in career after winning first two sets. This time Mathieu lost to “lucky loser” Amer Delic despite a 4:1 led in the fourth set.
The biggest surprise of the day was made by 25 year-old Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan who didn’t pass earlier second round in a Grand Slam event in 12 attempts. Lu defeated one of the best specialist of those events – David Nalbandian, also in five thrilling sets 6-4 5-7 4-6 6-4 6-2. In the final game of the match Lu fought off six break points before finished his second match point.

“Everybody knows Nalbandian is one of the best backhand players,” Lu said. “So I thought he’s ready for a forehand return. So I just changed my mind and went to his backhand all the time. I served six times to his backhand on break point and I won all the points.”
Former finalist Marcos Baghdatis was losing 3-6 0:4 to the Swede Robin Soderling but managed to win in four sets, Soderling had problems with blisters since the second set.
Australian big hope, 16 year-old Tomic began his first match at Rod Laver Arena saving 6 break points against Gilles Muller. The teenager won surprisingly the first set 6-3 but hadn’t any arguments to defy the powerful opponent in the next three sets. Muller finished the match serving two out of 27 aces.

“He’s played unbelievable. I was lucky to get that first set. He didn’t start serving well” said Tomic.
Player from former Yugoslavia, Maric Cilic and Janko Tipsarevic are the first pair who have played twice this year against each other, similarly, like in Chennai, Cilic lost one set but won the other ones without too much trouble.

Day 4

High-quality match at Hisense Arena played Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Ivan Ljubicic (6-7 7-6 7-6 6-2). The Croat won first set in a tie-break and had his chances in the next two sets which also finished after tie-breaks. Last year’s runner-up Tsonga was forced to save one setpoint in the second tie-break and triple setpoint in the third tie-break, two of those setpoints saved on return playing dropshots what is unusual in those circumstances. Tsonga sets up the meeting with the only qualifier who advanced to the third round, Dudi Sela of Israel.

“Tonight my back was very stiff. But I won, and I’m happy of that. I think I’m playing better than last year. I’m a little bit more confident maybe in my game.” said Tsonga, one of the four seeded Frenchmen in the top half of the draw who won their matches on Thursday. One of them, Gilles Simon was close to lose 0-2 in sets but from 6-7 4:4 (0-40) completely dominated his opponent, big-serving Chris Guccione and even outaced him (14-12).
In the inner Croatian battle between Ljubicic’s compatriots, Mario Ancic ousted in five-sets Ivo Karlovic. Karlovic after this loss becomes a player with the worst five-set record (0-10) in the history of tennis. Karlovic has overcome the retired Austrian Markus Hipfl (0-9 in years 1996-2002).
Talented Ernstest Gulbis has been eliminated in the 2nd round in the 7th consecutive tournament! The young Latvian lost this time to Igor Andreev despite 4:2 up in the 5th set. In the 10th game Gulbis led 40:0 on serve only to lose quickly 5 points ina row without commitment. The Russian similarly like Amer Delic has won both matches in Melbourne this year after five-setters.
Easy wins notched Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, James Blake and Fernando Verdasco – all advanced to the third round winning both rounds without a serious danger in a set.

Second Round

(1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. Roko Karanusic (CRO) 6-2 6-3 6-2
Tommy Haas (GER) d. (q)Flavio Cipolla (ITA) 6-1 6-2 6-1
(24)Richard Gasquet (FRA) d. (WC)Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-3 6-4 6-4
(13)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) d. Guillermo Canas (ARG) 7-5 6-3 6-4
(12)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. Stefan Koubek (AUT) 6-4 6-4 3-6 6-2
(17)Nicolas Almagro (ESP) d. Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-2 7-5 6-0
Mario Ancic (CRO) d. (25)Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 5-7 7-5 4-6 6-4 6-3
(6)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Chris Guccione (AUS) 6-7(5) 6-4 6-1 6-2
(4)Andy Murray (GBR) d. Marcel Granollers (ESP) 6-4 6-2 6-2
(31)Jurgen Melzer (AUT) d. (q)Andreas Beck (GER) 5-7 7-6(7) 6-4 6-3
(22)Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. (q)Michael Berrer (GER) 6-3 6-2 6-7(3) 7-5
(14)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Arnaud Clement (FRA) 6-1 6-1 6-2
(9)James Blake (USA) d. (q)Sebastien de Chaunac (FRA) 6-3 6-2 6-3
(18)Igor Andreev (RUS) d. Ernests Gulbis (LAT) 6-4 6-4 5-7 3-6 6-4
(q)Dudi Sela (ISR) d. Victor Hanescu (ROU) 6-3 6-3 6-2
(5)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) 6-7(4) 7-6(8) 7-6(7) 6-2
(7)Andy Roddick (USA) d. (q)Xavier Malisse (BEL) 3-6 6-2 7-6(1) 6-2
Fabrice Santoro (FRA) d. (32)Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 5-7 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-3
(21)Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Viktor Troicki (SRB) 6-1 6-3 6-0
Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) d. (10)David Nalbandian (ARG) 6-4 5-7 4-6 6-4 6-2
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) d. (16)Robin Soderling (SWE) 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-3
(23)Mardy Fish (USA) d. Simone Bolelli (ITA) 6-4 6-1 7-5
(LL)Amer Delic (USA) d. (28)Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) 1-6 3-6 6-3 7-6(3) 9-7
(3)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 7-5 6-1 6-3
(8)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. (q)Florian Mayer (GER) 6-1 7-5 6-2
Gilles Muller (LUX) d. (WC)Bernard Tomic (AUS) 3-6 6-1 6-4 6-2
(19)Marin Cilic (CRO) d. Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) 6-2 6-3 4-6 6-3
(11)David Ferrer (ESP) d. (q)Dominik Hrbaty (SVK) 6-2 6-2 6-1
(15)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) d. (WC)Brydan Klein (AUS) 6-3 6-4 6-4
(20)Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Brian Dabul (ARG) 6-1 6-1 6-3
(26)Marat Safin (RUS) d. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 7-5 6-2 6-2
(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. (q)Evgueni Korolev (RUS) 6-2 6-3 6-1

Australian Open Round One Results

First round

Day 1

16 year-old Bernard Tomic (No. 768) made the biggest surprise of the first day, eliminating Potito Starace 7-6 1-6 7-6 7-6. Tomic who has been playing just second tournament on the main level (debuted two weeks ago in Adelaide) becomes the youngest player who won a match at the Australian Open (16 years and 103 days), and the second youngest who appearanced in the main draw of this tournament. Tomic’s compatriot Lleyton Hewitt, was 15 years and 337 days old when he lost in the 1997 first round to Sergi Bruguera. Tomic astonished favourable Australian crowd on the Margaret Court Arena holding nerves in tight situations what is characteristic for experienced, much more older players. The Australian prodigy was losing 2:4 in the third set and 1:4 (0-30) in the fourth, saved also two set points at 4:6 in the last tie-break! It’s just fourth case in Australian Open history that a player won a four-setter winning three sets in tie-breaks (previously did it Todd Martin, Max Mirnyi and Marat Safin). “It’s a dream come true to win a first round in my first Grand Slam,” said Tomic. “I’m just thrilled that I could pull off a win today. With the crowd behind me, it was an unbelievable experience”.

In the second round Tomic will face Gilles Muller who survived an epic match with Feliciano Lopez. Muller won 6-3 7-6 4-6 4-6 16-14 after 4 hours 22 minutes. In the final set Muller didn’t face a break point, had break points in three service games of the Spaniard, first match point at 12:11. In the 30th game of the final set, Lopez was broken to love. It’s third longest match in the Australian Open history (Open Era) in terms of games – 72 (the record – 83 games – belongs to Andy Roddick and Younes El Aynaoui since 2003).

Also Lopez’ compatriot and Davis Cup teammate, David Ferrer played very long match but with better end. Ferrer needed almost 4 hours to overcome Dennis Gremelmayr 6-1 6-7 6-1 6-7 6-4. Ferrer wasted set point in both losing sets but converted first match point in the fifth set, and improves his great record in five-set matches to 10-2.

In the next round Ferrer will play the two-time Aussie Open quarterfinalist, Dominik Hrbaty who withstood 39 aces from John Isner (19 aces in the first set!). Hrbaty is playing 300th tournament on the main level. The other veteran, Fabrice Santoro knocked out former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero in four sets, having 100% efficiency at break points (8/8).

The two big favorits in the bottom half of the draw, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic won their matches in straight sets but both were close to drop one set: Federer saved setpoint against Andres Seppi, Djokovic was losing 0:4 and 3:5 in third set against Andrea Stoppini. “I was a break down in two sets. Managed to come back, which is important. As defending champion there is a pressure. But it didn’t affect me today, no. I’m still trying to find the rhythm” said Djokovic.

First match in a Grand Slam evnet for three years has played Taylor Dent. The American came back recently after the 2 1/2 years break, caused by a fractured vertebrae. Dent lost in five sets to “lucky loser” Amer Delic.

Day 2

The main favorite for the title, Andy Murray needed only 45 minutes to advance to the second round. His opponent, Andre Pavel playing first ATP match since February 2008, was forced to withdraw due to a back injury. Pavel announced that he will finish career in Bucharest later this year.

In one of the most anticipated first round clashes, between past Australian Open finalists, Fernando Gonzalez overcame Lleyton Hewitt 5-7 6-2 6-2 3-6 6-3. “I knew it was going to be tough against Lleyton,” said Gonzalez. “He’s a great player, a great competitor. This was the first official match of the year. So I’m happy the way that I did it, and a little bit tired. But it’s fine now.”

Very good form showed the best player in the world Rafael Nadal and last year’s runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Both players won one set 6-0 and hadn’t any problems in the other two stes. “I think I am OK,” said Nadal. “But I was for two months outside of competition, so maybe I need a little bit more matches to get the rhythm.” In the similar style won his match Fernando Verdasco a contender for a Top 10 player.

Victor Hanescu made one of the most impressive comebacks in the Grand Slam history. The Romanian lost first two sets easily (3-6 3-6) to Jan Hernych but managed to win another three (7-6 7-6 8-6) being in each of them on the edge of defeat: Hernych was serving for the match in the third and fifth set, had also one match point on serve in the tie-break of the third set, and another match point at 5:4 in the fourth set on Hanescu’s serve. The match lasted 4 hours 32 minutes, the longest match of this year’s tournament so far.

Also dramatic five-set matches (with the help of good service performance) won former Top 10 players, Ivan Ljubicic (25 aces against Kunitsyn) and Guillermo Canas (22 aces against Kindlmann). First five-set win in sixth trial notched Nicolas Alamgro (28 aces against Massu) who didn’t win a match in Melbourne in four previous attempts. Bad 5-set record (2-7) has improved Igor Andreev too, coming back from a 0-2 deficit against unexperienced young Canadian, Peter Polansky.

First Round

(1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. Christophe Rochus (BEL) 6-0 6-2 6-2

Roko Karanusic (CRO) d. Florent Serra (FRA) 6-3 1-6 6-3 3-6 6-3

Tommy Haas (GER) vs Eduardo Schwank (ARG) 6-3 6-3 6-4

(q)Flavio Cipolla (ITA) d. (29)Dmitry Tursunov (RUS) 4-6 6-2 7-6(7) 7-5

(4)Richard Gasquet (FRA) d. Diego Junqueira (ARG) 6-7(5) 7-6(3) 6-3 6-4

Denis Istomin (UZB) d. Vince Spadea (USA) 6-2 7-5 6-4

Guillermo Canas (ARG) d. (q)Dieter Kindlmann (GER) 3-6 7-5 5-7 6-0 7-5

(13)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) d. Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) 5-7 6-2 6-2 3-6 6-3

(12)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. Martin Vassallo-Arguello (ARG) 6-1 6-3 7-5

Stefan Koubek (AUT) d. Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) 6-3 6-2 6-2

Fabio Fognini (ITA) d. Andrei Goloubev (KAZ) 3-6 7-6(7) 6-4 6-2

(17)Nicolas Almagro (ESP) d. Nicolas Massu (CHI) 6-4 6-4 3-6 5-7 6-3

(25)Ivo Karlovic (CRO) d. Daniel Gimeno (ESP) 6-3 6-4 6-4

Mario Ancic (CRO) d. (q)Wayne Odesnik (USA) 7-5 6-4 4-6 6-2

Chris Guccione (AUS) d. Nicolas Devilder (FRA) 6-4 6-2 6-4

(6)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-4 6-1 6-1

(4)Andy Murray (GBR) d. Andrei Pavel (ROU) 6-2 3-1 ret.

Marcel Granollers (ESP) d. Teimuraz Gabashvili (RUS) 6-4 7-6(3) 4-6 6-0

(q)Andreas Beck (GER) d. Colin Ebelthite (AUS) 7-5 6-1 6-0

(31)Jurgen Melzer (AUT) d. Kei Nishikori (JPN) 7-5 6-2 6-1

(22)Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. Nicolas Lapentti (ECU) 3-6 6-3 6-4 6-4

(q)Michael Berrer (GER) d. Carsten Ball (AUS) 6-2 6-4 6-3

Arnaud Clement (FRA) d. Sergey Stakhovsky (UKR) 6-3 2-6 4-6 6-2 6-1

(14)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-0 6-2 6-2

(9)James Blake (USA) d. (LL)Frank Dancevic (CAN) 6-4 6-3 7-5

(q)Sebastien de Chaunac (FRA) d. Steve Darcis (BEL) 2-6 6-3 0-6 6-2 6-2

Ernests Gulbis (LAT) d. Albert Montanes (ESP) 6-3 6-2 6-3

(18)Igor Andreev (RUS) d. (q)Peter Polansky (CAN) 5-7 3-6 6-4 6-3 6-4

(q)Dudi Sela (ISR) d. (30)Rainer Schuettler (GER) 1-6 6-2 6-4 6-4

Victor Hanescu (ROU) d. Jan Hernych (CZE) 3-6 3-6 7-6(7) 7-6(2) 8-6 – 2 MP

Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) d. Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) 4-6 7-6(3) 7-6(7) 5-7 6-3

(5)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. Juan Monaco (ARG) 6-4 6-4 6-0

(7)Andy Roddick (USA) d. (q)Bjorn Rehnquist (SWE) 6-0 6-2 6-2

(q)Xavier Malisse (BEL) d. Michael Llodra (FRA) 7-6(8) 6-1 6-1

Fabrice Santoro (FRA) d. Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) 6-3 6-2 6-7(5) 6-2

(32)Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) d. Samuel Querrey (USA)

(21)Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Bobby Reynolds (USA) 6-2 7-5 6-1

Viktor Troicki (SRB) d. Alberto Martin (ESP) 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-4

Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) d. Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) 6-3 7-5 6-4

(10)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. Marc Gicquel (FRA) 6-1 4-6 6-2 6-3

(16)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. Robert Kendrick (USA) 5-7 6-4 6-4 7-5

Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) d. Julien Benneteau (FRA) 6-3 7-6(5) 6-2

Simone Bolelli (ITA) d. Kristof Vliegen (BEL) 7-6(5) 7-6(3) 7-5

(23)Mardy Fish (USA) d. Samuel Groth (AUS) 6-7(3) 6-4 7-5 6-0

(28)Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) d. Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) 6-2 4-1 ret.

(LL)Amer Delic (USA) d. Taylor Dent (USA) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-3 6-4

Jeremy Chardy (FRA) d. Marcos Daniel (BRA) 6-4 6-4 6-1

(3)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. (q)Andrea Stoppini (ITA) 6-2 6-3 7-5

(8)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. Michael Zverev (GER) 6-3 6-4 6-2

(q)Florian Mayer (GER) d. (q)Lamine Ouahab (ALG) 6-2 6-1 6-2

(WC)Bernard Tomic (AUS) d. Potito Starace (ITA) 7-6(5) 1-6 7-6(5) 7-6(6)

Gilles Muller (LUX) d. (27)Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-3 7-6(5) 4-6 4-6 16-14

(19)Marin Cilic (CRO) d. Kevin Anderson (RSA) 6-3 6-2 6-7(4) 6-3

Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) d. Oscar Hernandez (ESP) 4-6 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-0

(q)Dominik Hrbaty (SVK) d. John Isner (USA) 7-6(4) 2-6 6-2 7-5

(11)David Ferrer (ESP) d. Denis Gremelmayr (GER) 6-1 6-7(6) 6-1 6-7(4) 6-4

(15)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) d. Ivo Minar (CZE) 6-1 2-6 7-5 7-6(9)

Brydan Klein (AUS) d. (q)Bjorn Phau (GER) 6-4 6-3 4-6 6-3

Brian Dabul (ARG) d. Philipp Petzschner (GER) 6-1 6-2 6-4

(20)Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Robby Ginepri (USA) 6-4 6-4 6-3

(26)Marat Safin (RUS) d. Ivan Navarro-Pastor (ESP) 6-3 6-3 6-4

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) d. Agustin Calleri (ARG) 3-6 7-6(5) 6-2 6-0

(q)Evgueni Korolev (RUS) d. Carlos Moya (ESP) 6-3 6-1 7-6(7)

(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-1 7-6(4) 7-5

Tennis As Usual: Hey Marat, You Won the Match

Marat Safin stole the show in Moscow, where most of the tennis action is taking place this week since both men and women are competing at the Kremlin Cup. As usual, Safin made headlines for something other than his play. After securing a break with opponent Noam Okun serving to stay in the match at 4-5 in the third set, Safin walked over to his chair thinking it was time for just another changeover. Little did Safin know that the match was over. Umpire Carlos Bernardes kindly informed the Russian that he had won and Safin finally walked up to the net to exchange both a handshake and a laugh with Okun.

Also advancing in Moscow on Tuesday were No. 1 seed Nikolay Davydenko, Robby Ginepri, and Serbs Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki.

Flavia Pennetta made the most noise on the women’s side with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 upset of Venus Williams. The crowd, however, had to be more enthusiastic about a host of Russians making it to the second round. Russian winners included Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva, and Daniela Hantuchova.

Seeds also tumbled at the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy in Vienna, where No. 1 seed Stanislas Wawrinka fell to Philipp Petzschner in a third-set tiebreaker and No. 7 Gilles Simon bowed out to Eduardo Schwank, also in three sets. Fellow Masters Cup hopeful Fernando Gonzalez, on the other hand, survived Simone Bolelli after dropping the first set.

On the ATP Tour, however, the day really belonged to long-lost Joachim Johansson. The big-serving Swede, who had not played competitively in exactly one year, came out of retirement this week to take part in the Stockholm Open and he thrilled the crowd by winning his first match on Tuesday night over Nicolas Mahut. “Pim-Pim” fired 20 aces in just two sets en route to a 7-5, 7-6(5) victory.

In round two Johansson will face top-seeded David Nalbandian, a 6-1, 6-1 winner over Bobby Reynolds. Other seeded players who safely moved through were No. 2 Mario Ancic, No. 5 Rainer Schuettler, and No. 6 Jose Acasuso. Jonas Bjorkman, who is retiring at the end of 2008, was not as fortunate as his countryman Johansson. The veteran lost his first-round match to Juan Monaco in straight sets.

Jelena Dokic Shows Her Intent to Make it Back

Last week on the challenger circuit, winning streaks continued on both the men’s and women’s sides. Several players have won consecutive challenger titles, making it clear that they’re serious about going into the draw at the French Open, which starts next week.

After limiting herself to just nine events in the last two years, it looks like Jelena Dokic of Australia is serious about making a comeback in 2008. The 25-year-old won her second challenger title in a row at the $25,000 event in Caserta, Italy, rolling over Patricia Mayr of Austria in the final with a 6-3, 6-1 victory. Dokic moves back into the top 300 with this result and was granted a main draw wildcard into the WTA event held this week in Strasbourg, France.

Petra Cetkovska of the Czech Republic is rolling into Roland Garros with as much confidence as a player could hope for. The 23-year-old won her second challenger title in a row at the $50,000 tournament in Saint Gaudens, France, with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain. Cetkovska has enjoyed a fine year on the clay, reaching the quarterfinals at a WTA event in Fes, Morocco, in addition to two main draw wins during the South American swing on the WTA Tour. With the right draw, Cetkovska is definitely a candidate to win a couple of rounds at the French Open next week.

American tennis has a new promising hope to look out for after teenager Chelsey Gullickson won the first challenger title of her career at the $25,000 event in Raleigh, North Carolina. She won the title with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 win over fellow American Lauren Albanese. The 17-year-old is still listed as an amateur player, but may soon be rethinking her decision about whether or not to turn pro. Despite the loss in the finals, Albanese has all but eradicated her nightmare start to 2008, having lost her first ten matches of the year.

In other results on the women’s side, Barbara Zahalova Strycova of the Czech Republic won her third challenger title of the year at the $25,000 event in Szczecin, Poland, while teenager Kai-Chen Chang of Taipei won the first challenger title of her career at the $50,000 event in Kurume, Japan.

On the men’s side, Eduardo Schwank of Argentina is a name which has often come up in this column, which may mean that his time on the challenger circuit will soon be coming to an end. He won his third challenger title in a row at the $100,000 event in Bordeaux, France, overwhelming Igor Kunitsyn of Russia with a 6-2, 6-2 routing in the final. Schwank now moves into Roland Garros as a long-shot candidate to reach the second week.

Gael Monfils of France lived up to his billing as top seed at the $100,000 challenger in Marrakesh, Morocco, winning the title with a 7-6, 7-6 victory over Jeremy Chardy of France. Despite the loss, Chardy has been a consistent performer on the challenger circuit this year and has been granted a main draw wild card into the French Open as a result.

After losing in the finals of his last two challenger events, Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei finally broke the streak at the $50,000 event in New Delhi, India, prevailing over Brendan Evans of the United States with a 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 victory. Lu’s strong performances on the challenger circuit this have helped move him back inside the top 100 this year and into a new career high ranking.

In other results on the men’s side, Jesse Levine of the United States won the $50,000 event in Bradenton, Florida, while Daniel Gimeno of Spain prevailed at the $50,000 tournament in Aarhus, Denmark. Diego Junqueira of Argentina took home the winners trophy at the $30,000 event in San Remo, Italy, while Christophe Rochus of Belgium won the $50,000 tournament in Zagreb, Croatia.

The challenger circuit will remain fairly quiet this week with qualifying for the French Open starting on Tuesday. Yen-Hsun Lu takes top billing at the second $50,000 challenger in New Delhi, India, while Danai Udomchoke is the top seed at the $35,000 event in Fergana, Uzbekistan. On the women’s side, Maria Kondratieva of Russia is top seed at the $25,000 event in Moscow, Russia, while Chin-Wei Chan of Taipei is the top seed at the $25,000 tournament in Nagano, Japan.

Mondays with Bob Greene: Nadal Beats Federer in Hamburg

STARS

Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer 7-5 6-7 (3) 6-3 to win the Hamburg Masters in Hamburg, Germany.

Jelena Jankovic defended her Italian Open title by beating Alize Cornet 6-2 6-2 in Rome

Michael Stich beat Marc-Kevin Goellner 6-2 7-6 (4) to win the BlackRock Tour of Champions in Hamburg, Germany.

Eduardo Schwank beat Igor Kunitsyn 6-2 6-2 to win a $132,523 ATP Challenger event in Bordeaux, France.

Gael Monfils beat Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (2) 7-6 (6) to win a $132,523 ATP Challenger event in Marrakech, Morocco.

SAYINGS

“I am happy that I won and that I beat the number one in the world (Roger Federer) and the best player of the year (Novak Djokovic), and that should give me some more confidence for the French Open.” – Rafael Nadal, after beating both Djokovic and Federer en route to winning at Hamburg.

“I wish I could have won today, then I would have an even better feeling.” – Roger Federer, after losing to Nadal in the Hamburg final.

“My goal and dream is to become Number One in the world, and at the moment I think I’m on the right track. If I continue like this, I have a big chance.” – Jelena Jankovic, who beat qualifier Alize Cornet in the Rome final.

“Right now I’m just disappointed. I couldn’t do my best tennis today because of my physical condition, because I was tired because of my six matches before.” -Alize Cornet, who came through qualifying before losing in the final in Rome.

“I think we have a great future … I’m looking forward now to Roland Garros. I think this is a great boost.” – Nenad Zimonjic, who teamed with Daniel Nestor to win the doubles at the Hamburg Masters, beating twins Bob and Mike Bryan in the final.

“I had a lot of great opportunities, and I made a lot of opportunities for myself. But then I made a mistake.” – Venus Williams, after losing to Jelena Jankovic at Rome.

“I really struggled with my intensity today, and obviously that caused a lot of errors. It’s something I have to work on. Now I have ten days to prepare for the French Open.” – Ana Ivanovic, after losing early at Rome.

“I don’t expect this to cause any problems with my preparation for the French. It just happened all of a sudden.” – Serena Williams, who pulled out the Italian Open when her back froze up while warming up for her quarterfinal match.

SAYONARA

In a shocking end to a short but highly successful career, Justine Henin retired from tennis while ranked number one in the world. The 25-year-old Belgian has won seven Grand Slam singles titles in her career and 10 tournaments in 2007. She had been in a slump this year, her last title coming at her home tournament in Antwerp, Belgium, in February. Henin’s retirement came just one year after another Belgian, Kim Clijsters, retired from the sport at the age of 23. Clijsters had won a Grand Slam title and had also reached the number one ranking.


SPECIAL LADY

“I thought long about this. I started thinking about it late last year. I was at the end of the road. I leave with my head held high.” – Justine Henin, announcing her immediate retirement from tennis.

“It is rare that an athlete leaves at the very top of her game in this day and age, but Justine has always played by her own rules.” – Larry Scott, WTA Tour chief executive.

“Justine is an extraordinary player, a special person and a true champion in both tennis and in life.” – Billie Jean King.

“Her victory at the 2004 Athens Olympics was Belgium’s only gold medal at the Games and we are sorry that she won’t be able to defend her title in Beijing.” – Francesco Ricci Bitti, International Tennis Federation (ITF) president.

“It is a new beginning for me. I feel like I already lived three lives. I gave the sport all I could and took everything it could give me.” – Justine Henin.

“I couldn’t imagine deciding out of the blue to retire, especially if I was number one. I would prefer to take a year off if it was all getting too much for me.” – Roger Federer.

“She gave me a world of trouble.” – Serena Williams.

“She’s 25 years old and she’s achieved so much in her career. If I was 25 and I’d won so many Grand Slams, I’d quit too.” – Maria Sharapova.

“I take this decision without the least bit of regrets. It is my life as a woman that starts now.” – Justine Henin.

“It can sometimes be very difficult, many years playing and traveling around the world. Being there, being at the top, can be very difficult. We will miss her.” – Jelena Jankovic.

“She was a great champion. She always challenged herself to play her best tennis no matter what the circumstances. She was just a real fighter.” – Venus Williams.

“(Tennis loses) another champion. She was a great player and she achieved so much. She bought a lot to the women’s game.” – Ana Ivanovic.

“I don’t understand it. She was number one and she retires … Maybe it’s a woman thing. I don’t understand women.” – Goran Ivanisevic.

“It’s a lot of pressure to keep playing at that level. Certain players, like Bjorn Borg, retired early, and you can’t blame them.” – Pat Cash.

“She was one of the most complete players of the last 10 years, winning seven Grand Slams. She was small compared to the other girls, but she had a very complete game. She made up for her size with her tennis.” – Michael Stich.

“At the end of the match in Berlin, (retirement) all of a sudden was there as something evident. I decided to stop fooling myself and accept it.” Justine Henin.

“She never craved fame and money. All she wanted to do was play and win.” – Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin’s coach.

“This is the end of a child’s dream.” – Justine Henin.

SITTING ON TOP

Due to circumstances not of her own making, Maria Sharapova is sitting on top of women’s tennis today. When Ana Ivanovic failed to reach the final of the German Open, the Serb lost her world number two ranking to Sharapova, who at the time had not played since losing a match in April. Then, when Justine Henin shocked the sport by announcing her immediate retirement, Henin was replaced as number one in the world by Sharapova.

SURGES

Rafael Nadal became only the third player since 1990 to win the three ATP Masters Series clay-court tournaments in the same year, joining Gustavo Kuerten and Marcelo Rios, when he defeated Roger Federer in Hamburg, Germany. A year ago, Federer had won Hamburg while snapping Nadal’s 81-match winning streak. This year, Federer took a 5-1 lead in the first set, only to see Nadal win six consecutive games. Federer led the second set 5-2 before Nadal rallied, forcing the world’s number one player into a tiebreak, which Federer won. It was Nadal who jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the third set before finally winning the match 7-5 6-7 (3) 6-3. Since April 2005, Nadal has won 108 of 110 matches on clay.

SIZZLING WEEK

Alize Comet came out of qualifying to reach her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Tier One final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. And while she lost the title match to defending champion Jelena Jankovic, Comet became only the second qualifier to reach a Tour singles final this year. The Frenchwoman, at 18 years, 3 months, had been seeking to become the youngest Tour champion this year. The first female qualifier to reach the final at the Foro Italico in the Open Era, Comet beat third-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova before fifth-seeded Serena Williams withdrew from the quarterfinals with a back problem. Comet then advanced with a semifinal win over sixth-seeded Anna Chakvetadze.

SURVIVE FIRE

Twins Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana of Thailand, with wet towels wrapped around their faces, helped the wife and son of Argentine doubles specialist Lucas Arnold Ker escape a smoky fire that broke out on the third floor of the tournament hotel in Bordeaux, France. The twins, top-seeded in the doubles in the Challenger Series tournament, fell in the quarterfinals to Tomasz Bednarek and Dusan Vemic 6-2 7-6 (5). South Africa’s Rik De Voest fled the fire by crawling on his hands and knees. Argentine Eduardo Schwank, whose room was destroyed in the blaze, lost his passport, equipment, clothes, laptop computer and his Rome Challenger winner’s prize money in the fire. Schwank went on to win the Bordeaux tournament.

SOME WEEK

First, Maria Sharapova reached a compromise with the WTA Tour and did a promotional photo shoot before the Italian Open began. The women’s tour had threatened to fine her $300,000 if she refused. Then the Russian pulled out of the semifinals at Rome because of a strained left calf, but said the injury wouldn’t affect her preparations for the French Open. And, thanks to a series of events, Sharapova wound up the week as the number one player in the world.

SAMPRAS DEBUT DELAYED

Pete Sampras won’t make his debut on the BlackRock Tour of Champions circuit until June 19, one month than originally scheduled. That’s because the senior event in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was changed until next month.

SANIA OUT?

India’s top player, Sania Mirza, may be forced to skip the French Open. Her father, Imran Mirza, said his 21-year-old daughter, currently ranked number 33 in the world, has not yet fully recovered from wrist surgery performed in April. The 21-year-old Sania is expected to return to the tour at the $200,000 DES Classic in Birmingham, England, next month.

STRAIGHT IN

When Anne Keothavong won an International Tennis Federation tournament in Jounieh, Lebanon, she ended up qualifying for Wimbledon. The tournament title boosted Keothavong up to number 104 in the world rankings, enough for her to become the first British woman to automatically qualify for Wimbledon since 1999. “I thought I was going to withdraw from the tournament because of all the problems in Lebanon,” Keothavong said. “I was ready to get on a bus to Syria, but five minutes before I was due on court for my quarterfinal they told us that the border was closed and there was no way out.” The rest is history.

STILL SWINGING

Once ranked as high as number four in the world, Jelena Dokic won her second consecutive tournament on the comeback trail. Dokic beat Patricia Mayr 6-3 6-1 to capture a $25,000 clay-court event in Caserta, Italy. The week before, Dokic won a $25,000 tournament on clay in Florence, Italy.

SWISS FLAG

Roger Federer wants to celebrate his 27th birthday on August 8 by carrying the Swiss flag in the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games. “It’s my birthday on the day of the opening ceremony,” Federer said. “Maybe I will carry the flag again for Switzerland. I’d be very honored.”

SPOTLIGHT UNDER THE LIGHTS

The Australian Open women’s singles final will be played at night starting next year. The men’s singles title match has been a night event since 2005. Defending champion Maria Sharapova says the cooler conditions at night will make for a better match. The U.S. Open women’s singles title match is also held at night.

SPECIAL INVITATION

Ending his career where he won three times, Gustavo Kuerten was given a wild-card entry into this year’s French Open. The Brazilian clay court specialist, once ranked number one in the world, won Roland Garros in 1997, 2000 and 2001. Other wild cards into the men’s draw went to French players Eric Prodon, Olivier Patience, Jeremy Chardy, Adrian Mannarino and Jonathan Eysseric. French players given spots in the women’s draw are Olivia Sanchez, Severine Bremond, Stephanie Foretz, Mathilde Johansson, Youlia Fedossova and Violette Huck. Other wild cards were won by Americans Madison Brengle and Wayne Odesnik, and Australians Robert Smeets and Samantha Stosur.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES

It’s a wonder members of the University of Arkansas women’s tennis team can speak to each other. The Lady Razorbacks include Aurelija Miseviciute of Lithuania, Audrey Bordeleau of Canada, Maryori Franco of Colombia, Ela Kaluder of Croatia, Nanar Airapetian of Germany, Delia Damaschin of Romania, Fien Maes of Belgium, Anouk Tigu of the Netherlands and Melissa Hoffmeister, who comes from Joplin, Missouri, about a 90-minute drive from the campus in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The coach is Michael Hegarty, a native of Australia.

SWITCHING BROADCASTERS

After a 25-year run, the USA Network is losing its US Open cable television coverage to ESPN and Tennis Channel, beginning in 2009. The six-year deal was announced by the U.S. Tennis Association. ESPN now owns TV rights to parts of all four Grand Slam tournaments. The broadcast network rights are still held by CBS, which has a contract through 2011. Besides the US Open, the new contract means ESPN2 will also be the lead cable carrier for the US Open Series, the circuit of hard-court tournaments leading up to the US Open.

SHOWING OFF

Florida drivers may be able to show their love for tennis in the near future. The Florida legislature passed a bill enabling drivers to support tennis through a new specialty license plate. The money raised from the sale of the plates would be used for grants to nonprofit organizations operating youth tennis programs and adaptive programs for special populations of all ages, as well as for building, renovating and maintaining quality public tennis facilities. The tennis plates, with the phrase “Play Tennis” on the bottom, should be available starting October 1.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Doubles Champions

Hamburg: Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor beat Bob and Mike Bryan 6-4 5-7 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Rome: Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung beat Iveta Benesova and Janette Husarova 7-6 (5) 6-3

Bordeaux: Diego Hartfield and Sergio Roitman beat Tomasz Bednarek and Dusan Vemic 6-4 6-4

Marrakech: Frederico Gil and Florin Mergea beat James Aukland and Jamie Delgado 6-2 6-3

SITES TO SURF

Duesseldorf: www.arag-world-team-cup.com

Poertschach: www.atppoertschach.info

Casablanca: www.frmtennis.com

Istanbul: www.istanbulcup.com

Strasbourg: www.internationaux-de-strasbourg.com

French Open (Roland Garros): www.rolandgarros.com/

French Tennis Federation: www.fft.fr/portail/

Maria Sharapova: www.mariasharapova.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP

$1,500,000 ARAG ATP World Team Championship, Duesseldorf, Germany, clay

$576,866 The Hypo Group Tennis International 2008, Poertschach, Austria, clay

$576,866 Grand Prix Hassan II, Casablanca, Morocco, clay

WTA TOUR

$200,000 Istanbul Cup, Istanbul, Turkey, clay

$175,000 Internationaux de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$11,034,805 Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay

WTA TOUR

$10,891,368 Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay

Date-Krumm Makes Inspirational Comeback in Gifu

Last week on the challenger circuit, a former top 5 player and the only college graduate mother on tour recorded impressive results, while two players on the men’s side broke into the top 100 for the first time this week with their tournament wins.

Twelve years after competing in her last professional singles event, Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan returned to the tour this week at the $50,000 challenger event in Gifu, Japan. The 37-year-old, who reached a career high ranking of No. 4 in the world, accepted wild cards into the qualifying draw of the singles event and main draw of the doubles event. Date surprised everybody by coming through qualifying and storming through to the finals of the singles draw. In Sunday’s championship match against Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, she was up a set and 4-2 before Tanasugarn prevailed 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. However, Date won the doubles event with fellow Japanese player Kurumi Nara. Date will also play in the singles and doubles draws of the $50,000 event in Fukuoka, Japan next week.

At the $100,000 challenger in Cagnes Sur Mer France, Viktoria Kutuzova of Ukraine finally lived up the expectations placed on her as a can’t miss junior prodigy, winning the biggest event of her career with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Maret Ani of Estonia. The win also places Kutuzova back in the top 150.of the rankings. Despite the loss, Ani has been riding a hot streak as of late, having reached the semifinals of the WTA event in Estoril, Portugal last week.

At the $50,000 event in Charlottesville, Virginia, Alexis Gordon of the United States won the first title of her career with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Olga Puchkova of Russia. The 25-year-old Gordon is currently in her debut year on the tour, having finished college at the Univ. of Florida in May of last year. She also took time off in college to give birth to her daughter, Imani, who’s now three years old. Gordon moves up to No. 374 in the rankings this week and she says that her goal is to make the cut-off for the qualifying at the Australian Open next year.

In other challenger results on the women’s side, Stephanie Vogt of Liechtenstein won the $50,000 event in Makarska, Croatia and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand won the $25,000 event in Balikpapan, Indonesia. Jarmila Gajdosova of Slovakia won the $25,000 event in Gimcheon, Korea, and Augustina Lepore of Argentina won the $25,000 tournament in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico.

On the men’s side, Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil won the biggest title of her career at the $125,000 challenger in Tunis, Tunisia, beating Dusan Vemic of Serbia 6-4, 6-4 in the final. This is Bellucci’s third challenger title of the year and propelled him into the world’s top 100 for the first time in his career.

At the $75,000 event in Prague, Czech Republic, Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic beat fellow countryman Lukas Dlouhy 4-6 6-2 6-4 in the final. This was the first all-Czech final in the tournament’s history.

Stephane Bohli of Switzerland won the title at the $50,000 event in Lanzarote, Spain with a 6-3, 6-4 over Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei. This is the first challenger title for Bohli, having lost in all four of his previous finals. Lu has been a strong competitor on the challenger circuit this year, reaching the finals of a challenger in Busan, Korea last month and winning the title in Waikoloa, Hawaii last January.

At the $35,000 event in Rome, Italy, Eduardo Schwank of Argentina won his second challenger title in the tow with a 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 win over Eric Prodon of France. The win also moves Schwank into the top 100 for the first time in his career.

Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden leads the way next week as the top seed at the $75,000 event in Zagreb, Croatia. Lourdes Dominguez-Lino is the top seed at the $50,000 challenger in Jounieh, Lebanon, and Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium takes top billing at the $50,000 event in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. Challenger events will also be contested next week in Bucharest, Romania, Fukuoka, Japan, Antalya, Turkey, Florence, Italy, Changwon, Korea and Irapuato, Mexico.

On the men’s side, Donald Young is the top seed at the $50,000 challenger in Tunica, Mississippi. Michael Berrer of Germany is the top seed at the $42,500 event in Dresden, Germany, Sergio Roitman of Argentina takes top billing at the $42,500 challenger in Ostrava, Czech Republic, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez leads the way at the $42,500 challenger in Rabat, Morocco. Challenger events will also be contested next week in Rijeka, Croatia and Telde, Spain.

Nishikori Continues to Roll; Mattek Rebounds

The challenger circuit last week featured two flashy young players hoisting up winners trophies. Kei Nishikori’s intelligent game and speed allowed him to prevail in Bermuda, while Bethanie Mattek’s aggressive all court game (and fashion sense) saw her triumph in Alabama.

It’s safe to say that Kei Nishikori won’t be on the challenger circuit for much longer. The 18-year-old from Japan won his first ATP title this year in Delray Beach, Fla., and has now won the $100,000 event in Paget, Bermuda. In the final, Nishikori fought back from 1-3 down in the final-set tiebreak to beat Victor Troicki of Serbia 2-6 7-5 7-6. With the win, Nishikori moved to No. 99 in the rankings and became the first Japanese man to break the top 100 since Shuzo Matsuoka in 1996.

At the $50,000 tournament in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, American Bobby Reynolds won his second challenger event in a row by defeating Igor Kunitsyn of Russia 6-3 6-7 7-5. He also won the tournament last week in Tallahassee, Fla. Reynolds also moves to a new career high ranking of No. 77 with his result.

At the $35,000 event in Cremona, Italy, Eduardo Schwank of Argentina won his first challenger of the year with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Bjorn Phau of Germany. The 22-year-old Schwank is also poised to move into a new career high ranking this week. Despite the loss, this was easily the best result of the year for Phau, who sported a 5-7 record coming into Cremona.

On the women’s side, Mattek of the United States won her first title of the year at the $75,000 tournament in Dothan, Alabama, beating fellow American Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 7-6. Mattek rebounded strongly from her 6-0, 6-0 loss to Maria Sharapova last week by winning the title without the loss of a set. Despite the loss, Lepchenko can take comfort in having another solid week in Dothan; she’s reached the final in three out of the last four years.

Su-Wei Hsieh of Taipei was the heavy favorite to win the $25,000 event in Incheon, Korea, and she didn’t disappoint. The 22-year-old rolled over Yan-Ze Xie of China in the final with a 6-1, 6-1 victory. Hsieh has failed to win a match since coming out of nowhere to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open this year, but finally showed the form that got her to the second week of the first major of the event.

At the $25,000 tournament in Namangan, Uzbekistan, Ksenia Palkina of Kyrgyzstan became the first player from her country to win a challenger title with a 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 win over Maria Kondratieva of Russia. Palkina also reached the quarterfinals of the WTA event in Tashkent last fall.

The challenger circuit will be graced by the presence of a top 25 player this week, as Tatiana Golovin competes at the $100,000 event in Cagnes Sur Mer, France. Stephanie Dubois of Canada is the top seed at the $50,000 event in Charlottesville, Virginia, Evgenia Rodina of Russia takes top billing at the $50,000 event in Makarska, Croatia, and Aiko Nakamura of Japan hopes to satisfy her home crowd at the $50,000 event in Gifu. Events on the $25,000 level in Gimcheon, Korea and Balikpapan, Indonesia will also be contested. On the men’s side, Julien Benneteau of France is the top seed at the $125,000 event in Tunis, Tunisia, and Jiri Vanek of the Czech Republic leads the way at the $75,000 event in his hometown of Prague. Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei is the top seed at the $50,000 event in Lanzarote, Spain, and Italian Flavio Cipolla leads the way at the $35,000 event in Rome, Italy.