Fernando Meligeni

Mondays With Bob Greene: US Olympic Team Struggles

STARS

Juan Martin del Potro won the Austrian Open in Kitzbuhel, Austria, by beating Jurgen Melzer 6-2 6-1

Gilles Simon beat Dmitry Tursunov 6-4 6-4 to win the Indianapolis Tennis Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana

Fernando Verdasco captured the ATP Studena Croatia Open by beating Igor Andreev 3-6 6-4 7-6 (4) in Umag, Croatia

Albert Montanes downed Steve Darcis 1-6 7-5 6-3 to win the Dutch Open Tennis in Amersfoort, Netherlands

Aleksandra Wozniak beat Marion Bartoli 7-5 6-3 and won the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California

Pauline Parmentier won the Gastein Ladies 08, beating Lucie Hradecka 6-4 6-4 in Bad Gastein, Austria

Goran Ivanisevic won the inaugural Turkcell Legends Cup in Istanbul, Turkey, defeating Fernando Meligeni 6-4 6-4

Mara Santangelo beat Jelena Kostanic Tosic 6-3 6-1 to win the Circolo Tennis Biella in Biella, Italy

DAVIS CUP

Americas Zone

Group IV: Costa Rica and Haiti are promoted to America Zone Group III in 2009

Europe/Africa Zone

Group II Playoffs: Finland beat Luxembourg 3-2; Hungary beat Greece 5-0; Egypt beat Morocco 3-2; Slovenia beat Tunisia 4-1 (winners promoted to Group I in 2009)

Group II: South Africa beat Denmark 5-0; Monaco beat Algeria 5-0; Portugal beat Cyprus 5-0; Ukraine beat Ireland 3-1 (winners meet September 19-21)

SAYINGS

“It’s another dream for me. In two weeks I played ten matches and won all of them. This week I didn’t lose a set.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after winning his second straight tournament.

“I’ve always dreamt about winning an ATP title. This moment is very special for me.” – Albert Montanes, who snapped a nine-year drought by capturing his first ATP tournament title in Amersfoort, Netherlands.

“I don’t know what’s happening. I guess I make them run too much or something.” – Aleksandra Wozniak, a qualifier from Canada who won the Bank of the West Classic. Her semifinal opponent, Serena Williams, retired in the second set with a knee injury, while her opponent in the final, Marion Bartoli, had a sore left hip and was limping badly late in the match.

“It was hurting in practice … and during the match it was getting worse. After I got off the court it was really swollen. I’m not sure how long it’ll take to heal.” – Serena Williams, who retired from her semifinal match at the Bank of the West Classic with a left knee injury.

“It’s really disappointing for me. I was able to play some really great tennis to be able to be in the final.” – Marion Bartoli, after a sore left hip hampered her play in the Bank of the West Classic final.

“It was a perfect week. It was a very difficult week because of all the rain, but when you have a tougher week like this, the victory is much bigger.” – Pauline Parmentier, who won the Gastein Ladies, her second WTA Tour singles title.

“It makes me feel old. But it is great to come back so many years and establish a consecutive run I can be proud of. It’s fun to be part of such a great sport for so long.” – Patty Schnyder, who will be competing in her 50th Grand Slam tournament at this year’s U.S. Open.

“Serena is an athlete who transcends the sport a little bit. She has world-wide popularity. She’s the Williams sister I can beat. I didn’t want to play Venus.” – Patty Schnyder, who is 3-7 against Serena Williams and 0-9 against Venus.

“We were unlucky at the French Open and unlucky at Wimbledon, but we’re going to learn from those losses. The Slams are what we play for.” – Liezel Huber, after she and Cara Black won their sixth doubles title of the year at the Bank of the West Classic.

“She is Serena Williams. I didn’t have much to lose. I pretty much gave it all. I don’t think she really expected me to play that well.” – Michelle Larcher de Brito, a 15-year-old who won the first set before Williams won the match 4-6 6-3 6-2.

“I just tried to put the ball inside. Nothing more. I don’t know why I lost the second set and won the third set 6-love.” – Gilles Simon, after beating Benjamin Becker 7-5 3-6 6-0.

“In tennis anyone can win a match. Last year everyone here thought it would be (James) Blake and (Andy) Roddick in the final. Instead it was me and (Canadian) Frank Dancevic.” – Dmitry Tursunov, at the Indianapolis Tennis Championships, where he lost in this year’s final to Gilles Simon.

“I blew it. I feel bad for the team because we were winning so big.” – John McEnroe, who lost in both singles and doubles and his New York Sportimes World Team Tennis squad fell to the Washington Kastles 18-17 in overtime.

“I heard you wanted me to play doubles here, but you never asked me. I would have, so that’s your bad.” – Brad Gilbert, to Seascape head tennis pro Rick Kepler about playing in the Comerica Challenger in Aptos, California.

“She’s going to get a taste of what green grass is like on the golf course rather than at Wimbledon.” – Greg Norman, talking about his new wife, Chris Evert, as he prepared to play in the British Open golf championships, where he finished tied for third.

STILL STANDING

Aleksandra Wozniak was still standing when the rest of the field limped off the court at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California. “I just keep playing aggressive and doing what I needed to do to win,” said Wozniak, who became the first Canadian to win a WTA Tour singles title in 20 years by beating Marion Bartoli 7-5 6-3 in the final. Wozniak, a qualifier, won her semifinal when top-seeded Serena Williams pulled out with a knee injury while trailing in the second set. In the final, Bartoli was slowed by a sore left hip and was limping badly late in the match. The last Canadian to win a WTA title was Carling Bassett in 1987. Wozniak became the third qualifier to win a tournament this year and the first to do it in a Tier II tournament, one with more than USD $600,000 in prize money.

STRUGGLING

The United States women’s Olympic tennis team will go hobbling into Beijing. Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport both withdrew from the East West Bank Classic with right knee injuries, and Serena Williams retired from her semifinal match at the Bank of the West Classic with a swollen right knee. Venus hasn’t played a tournament since defeating sister Serena and winning her fifth Wimbledon title earlier this month. Davenport’s injury has caused her to withdraw from four tournaments in seven weeks. All three say they plan on playing in Beijing.

SKIPPING THE OLYMPICS

Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, Stefan Koubek of Austria and Karin Knapp of Italy are among the latest withdrawals from the Beijing Olympics because of injuries. Tsonga will be replaced by Michael Llodra, Chris Guccione of Australia will take Koubek’s place, and Mara Santangelo will replace her Italian teammate in the women’s singles at Beijing.

SET FOR FLUSHING

When Roger Federer begins the drive for his fifth consecutive US Open men’s singles title, Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal will also be in the chase. The field will include three other former US Open champions: Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin. Federer is attempting to become the first player in the Open Era to win five straight US Opens and become the first to win that many in a row since Bill Tilden won six US Championships from 1920-25.

Five past champions have entered the US Open women’s singles – Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport and Svetlana Kuznetsova. The reigning French Open champion, Ana Ivanovic, heads a group that includes 99 of the top 100 women. Only Akiko Morigami of Japan, who is ranked number 98 in the world, did not enter the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Morigami recently underwent knee surgery.

SECOND STRAIGHT

Juan Martin del Potro liked his first ATP title so much he went right out and won a second. The 19-year-old Argentine won his first career tournament at Stuttgart, Germany, beating Richard Gasquet in the final. Then he zipped through the field at Kitzbuhel, Austria, downing local favorite Jurgen Melzer 6-2 6-1 in the title match of the Austrian Open. Del Potro becomes just the second player this year to win ATP tournaments in consecutive weeks. Rafael Nadal has done it twice. Melzer was the first Austrian to reach the Kitzbuhel final since Thomas Muster was runner-up to Albert Costa in 1995.

SUCCESS, FINALLY

When Albert Montanes beat defending champion Steve Darcis 1-6 7-5 6-3 at Amersfoort, Netherlands, it was the first time the Spaniard had won an ATP tournament in nine years on the tour. Ranked 63rd in the world, Montanes was in his fourth career final, all coming on clay courts.

STAYING PUT

Rogers Communications Inc. will continue to be the title sponsor for the Rogers Cup in both Toronto and Montreal at least through 2011. Tennis Canada and Rogers Communications announced a three-year renewal of the title sponsorship, which began in 2000 with the WTA Tour event. Rogers Cup is now the name for both the men’s and women’s events in Canada, with the two rotating between Toronto and Montreal annually. This year the men are in Toronto and the women in Montreal. Rogers Communication is also involved in grassroots tennis in Canada.

SUPER TEEN

Alexandra Krunic of Serbia made her debut in professional tennis a winning one. The 15-year-old entered the USD $10,000 International Tennis Federation Women’s Circuit event in Prokuplje, Serbia, as a wild-card entry. She completed the week by defeating qualifier Tanya Germanlieva of Bulgaria 6-4 6-1 in the final to claim the title, having dropped just one set in the tournament.

SET FOR BEIJING

Devin Mullings has been playing tennis for Ohio State, where he just finished his junior year. At the Beijing Olympics, he will be representing his country, the Bahamas, where he will be playing doubles with one of the top doubles players in the world, Mark Knowles. “He’s won the French Open and the U.S. Open in doubles. And he’s been to the Olympics, so that’s a huge thing for me to be able to use his experience during the matches,” Mullings said of Knowles. “I just want to compete well. It would be great to win a few rounds or get to the medal stages.”

SUSPENDED

The NCAA suspended Texas Southern University’s tennis program and placed the school’s athletic programs on probation for four years. The school got a jump on the NCAA by dropping its tennis program and firing tennis coach Alberto Rojo Jimenez, the 2006 Southwestern Athletic Coach of the Year, and athletic director Alois Blackwell. The NCAA report said that TSU’s tennis team was struggling until Jimenez started recruiting international players, many whom he promised full scholarships. According to the NCAA, Jimenez knowingly provided USD $19,000 in impermissible aid to 22 players to help cover their tuition, fees and other expenses.

SELECTED

Jane Brown Grimes, the current United States Tennis Association (USTA) president and chairman of the board, heads a class of six inductees into the USTA Middle States Hall of Fame. The inductees’ contributions to the sport of tennis will be celebrated at the 2008 Hall of Fame Induction dinner and auction set for October 24 in Mendenhall, Pennsylvania. Besides Brown, who represents the USTA on the Grand Slam Committee and on the International Tennis Federation’s Fed Cup Committee, other inductees are Edward D. McQuillin, Rose Weinstein, George K. Wills, Ann Paley Hoffmann and Wallace F. Johnson. Hoffmann and Johnson are being inducted posthumously.

SIGHTS ON BEIJING

Seven of the top ten singles players signed up to play doubles at the Rogers Masters in Toronto. With the Beijing Olympics close at hand, Roger Federer will team up with fellow Swiss Stanslas Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal will join forces with fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo, Nikolay Davydenko and fellow Russian Igor Andreev will pair up, as will Great Britain brothers Andy and Jamie Murray. The doubles draw in Toronto will also include the top five ATP doubles teams.

SENIOR VEEP

Peter Johnston has landed on his feet. Just three months after his 15-year career at Tennis Australia ended, Johnston has taken a senior management position with the WTA Tour. He will be the women’s tour’s senior vice president of competition and member relations and will be based in Florida.

SERVE CHAMPION

Jerica Coley, who just finished the 10th grade in St. Petersburg, Florida, is the first female winner of the First Serve National Student Athlete Competition. Academic grades and results at junior tennis tournaments were tabulated to come up with the top male and female First Serve Student Athletes of the Year, with each receiving USD $5,000 scholarships and a trip to the US Open to meet their favorite players. Julian Haerie of St. Petersburg, was the top male in the first year of competition. Coley’s scholarship funds were a gift from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

SCHEDULE READY

Davis Cup in 2009 will be played March 6-8, with the World Cup quarterfinals set for July 10-12, the semifinals September 18-20 and the final on December 4-6. The 2009 Fed Cup competition begins February 7-8 with the semifinals April 25-26. The final of the women’s competition will be held November 7-8. The International Tennis Federation will hold the draw for the 2009 first-round pairings September 23 in Madrid, Spain.

SEARCHING FOR DOLLARS

James Blake has begun the Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Research Fund to support cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City. Blake said his goal was the raise USD $1 million in the next year through various fundraising initiatives, including a charity tennis exhibition, the J-Block merchandise program and individual and corporate contributions. The fund is named in memory of the player’s father, Thomas Blake Sr., who died of gastric cancer in 2004. To date, the fund has raised more than USD $500,000.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Kitzbuhel: Victor Hanescu and James Cerretani beat Lukas Arnold Ker and Olivier Rochus 6-3 7-5

Indianapolis: Ashley Fisher and Tripp Phillips beat Scott Lipsky and David Martin 3-6 6-3 10-5 (match tiebreak)

Amersfoort: Frantisek Cermak and Rogier Wassen beat Jesse Huta Galung and Igor Sijsling 7-5 7-5

Umag: Michal Mertinak and Petr Pala beat Carlos Berlocq and Fabic Fognini 2-6 6-3 10-5 (match tiebreak)

Stanford: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Elena Vesnina and Vera Zvonareva 6-4 6-3

Bad Gastein: Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka beat Sesil Karatantcheva and Natasa Zoric 6-3 6-3

SITES TO SURF

Toronto: www.rogerscupmen.com

Poznan: www.porscheopen.pl

San Marino: www.atpsanmarino.com

Los Angeles: www.eastwestbankclassic.com

Portoroz: www.sloveniaopen.sl

Cincinnati: www.cincytennis.com

Cordenons: www.euro-sporting.it/challenger

Vancouver: www.vanopen.com

Montreal: www.rogerscup.com

Stockholm: www.nordiclightopen.com

Graz: www.stennismasters.at

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$2,615,000 Rogers Cup, Toronto, Canada, hard

$100,000 Porsche Open, Poznan, Poland, clay

$100,000 San Marino CEPU Open, San Marino, clay

WTA Tour

$600,000 East West Bank Classic presented by Herbalife, Los Angeles, California, hard

$145,000 Banka Koper Slovenia Open, Portoroz, Slovenia, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,615,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, Cincinnati, Ohio, hard

$135,000 Internazionali del Friuli Venezia Giulia, Cordenons, Italy, clay

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

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Rogers Cup, Montreal Canada, hard

$145,000 Nordea Nordic Light Open, Stockholm, Sweden, hard

SENIORS

s Tennis Masters, Graz, Austria, clay

Istanbul Title Catapults Ivanisevic To No.1

Goran Ivanisevic won the inaugural Turkcell Legends Cup in Istanbul, Turkey to take his first BlackRock Tour of Champions title of 2008 and jump to No.1 in the South African Airways Champions Tour Rankings.

A capacity crowd generated an electric atmosphere for the final, which Ivanisevic won 6-4, 6-4 against Fernando Meligeni of Brazil.

The match was closer than the scoreline suggested, but the Ivanisevic serve was the deciding factor.  In the first set, the two players exchanged breaks of serve before Ivanisevic took the decisive advantage at 4-4. Meligeni kept fighting in  the second set and made the match competitive, but again Ivanisevic broke the Meligeni serve and from then on the outcome was never in doubt.

“I played really good today and I really had a great time,” said Ivanisevic.

“It’s been such a well-organised tournament and everybody has been so welcoming and kind. I’m really grateful to play here and I hope the tournament exists next year and I hope to be here. I’m happy to be number one (in the rankings), that’s really nice. But there’s still a lot of tournaments and a lot of competition between now and then but if I play like this then it’s definitely possible (that I could finish the year No.1).”

Meligeni was disappointed to lose, but not surprised, having lost all of his three meetings with Ivanisevic on the ATP circuit.

“Always when I play Goran it’s very tough and he served unbelievably and put me under a lot of pressure,” said Meligeni.

“I think it was a good match and it was fun but I was under pressure all the time and he was definitely the deserving winner today, he played better. It’s an honour for me to be playing here and competing with these guys on the circuit.  This week has been unbelievable with great hospitality and a great welcome here in Istanbul. I would love to have the chance to come back.”

In the 3rd/4th place play-off, Cedric Pioline defeated Thomas Muster 4-6, 7-5, 11-9 (Champions’ Tie Break).

Next, the BlackRock Tour of Champions moves on to two of the most popular and long-standing tour-dates –  Graz, Austria for the s Tennis Masters (July 29 – August 2) and then Algarve, Portugal for the Vale do Lobo Grand Champions CGD (August 5-8).

These are exciting times for the Tour, with former World No.1’s Pete Sampras Sao Paulo, London),  Stefan Edberg (Paris, London) and Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Eindhoven) all joining the circuit for World No.1’s, Grand Slam finalists and Davis Cup winners in 2008.

The 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang  and 1996 Wimbledon finalist Malivai Washington also announced that they will join Kafelnikov at the AFAS Tennis Classics in Eindhoven, October 2-5.

Ivanisevic, Muster, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Pat Cash, Marcelo Rios and Michael Stich will also be back in action as the year progresses.

To go inside the Borg/McEnroe rivalry and watch an exclusive video, click here: http://www.blackrocktourofchampions.com

RESULTS – SUNDAY, 20 JULY, 2008

Cedric Pioline d. Thomas Muster 4-6, 7-5, 11-9 (Champions’ Tie Break)

Goran Ivanisevic d. Fernando Meligeni 6-4, 6-4

FINAL GROUP STANDINGS

GROUP A

Matches won/lost (sets)

Fernando Meligeni                              3-0 (6-0)

Cedric Pioline                     2-1 (5-3)

Sergi Bruguera                    1-2 (3-4)

Alladin Karagoz                   0-3 (0-6)

Matches won/lost (sets)

GROUP B

Goran Ivanisevic                  3-0 (6-1)

Thomas Muster                    2-1 (5-3)

Pat Cash                                               1-2 (2-5)

Andrei Chesnokov                              0-3 (2-6)

BLACKROCK TOUR OF CHAMPIONS POINTS ALLOCATION

Winner –                400 points

Finalist –                250 points

3rd place –            200 points

4th place –            125 points

5/6th place –         80 points

7/8th place –         60 points

SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS 2008 TOUR OF CHAMPIONS RANKINGS (after six events)

POS.       PLAYER                                                PTS

1              Goran Ivanisevic                  660

2              Michael Stich                        650

2=           Marcelo Rios                        650

4              Anders Jarryd                       525

5              Thomas Muster                    515

6              Pat Cash                                               420

7=           Pete Sampras                      400

7=           Cedric Pioline                 400

9              Fernando Meligeni                              375

10=         Mikael Pernfors                   330

10=         Marc-Kevin Goellner (WC)                330

12           Henri Leconte                      240

13=         Chris Wilkinson (WC)         200

13=         Jaime Oncins                       200

15           Sergi Bruguera               160

16=         Jeremy Bates (WC)             125

16=         Albert Costa                          125

18=         Magnus Larsson                  80

18=         John McEnroe                      80

18=         Andrei Cherkasov                               80

21=         Bjorn Borg                                             60

21=         Carl Uwe Steeb                   60

21=         Jaime Yzaga                                        60

21=         Alladin Karagoz (WC)        60

21=         Andrei Chesnokov                              60

WC denotes Wild Card.

The BlackRock Tour of Champions Calendar 2008

Belfast, Northern Ireland – February 21-24   (Tennis Legends) – Champions: Anders Jarryd; Runner-up: Mikael Pernfors

Barcelona, Spain – April 24-27 (Champions Cup ’08) – Champion: Marcelo Rios; runner-up: Michael Stich

Rome, Italy – May 10-11 – Champion: Thomas Muster; runner-up: Goran Ivanisevic

Hamburg, Germany – May 14-17 (BlackRock Tennis Classic)

Champion: Michael Stich; Runner-up: Marc-Kevin Goellner

Sao Paulo, Brazil – June 19-22 (Nossa Caixa Grand Champions Brasil)

Champion: Pete Sampras; Runner-up: Marcelo Rios

Istanbul, Turkey – July 17-20

Champion: Goran Ivanisevic; Runner-up: Fernando Meligeni

Graz, Austria – July 29-August 2 (s Tennis Masters)

Algarve, Portugal – August 5-8 (Vale do Lobo Grand Champions CGD)

Paris, France – September 18-21 (5e Trophée Jean-Luc Lagardère)

Luxembourg, Luxembourg – September 25-28

Eindhoven, Netherlands – October 2-5 (AFAS Tennis Classics)

Budapest, Hungary – October 9-12

Frankfurt, Germany – November 13-16 (klarmobil.de Champions Trophy)

Brussels, Belgium – November 20-23

London, UK – December 2-7 (BlackRock Masters Tennis)

OTHER INFO

BlackRock is a premier provider of global investment management, riskmanagement and advisory services to clients around the world. The rebrand from the Merrill Lynch Tour of Champions to the new BlackRock Tour of Champions,

stemmed from the merger between BlackRock and Merrill Lynch Investment Managers on the 29th September 2006. This merger united the predominantly US fixed income institutional heritage of BlackRock with that of Merrill Lynch

Investment Managers’ award-winning global retail equity franchise.

BlackRock is one of the world’s largest publicly traded investment management firms. At December 31, 2007, BlackRock’s assets under management (AUM) was US$1.357 trillion. The firm manages assets on behalf of institutions and individuals worldwide through a variety of equity, fixed income, cash management and alternative investment products. In addition, a growing number of institutional investors use BlackRock Solutions(r) investment system, risk management and financial advisory services. Headquartered in New York City, as of December 31, 2007, the firm has approximately 5,500 employees in 19 countries and a major presence in key global markets, including the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. For additional information, please visit the Company’s website at www.blackrock.com.

South Africa’s international flagship airline and the continent’s most awarded carrier, South African Airways is the official airline of the BlackRock Tour of Champions. Its modern fleet features a comfortable Economy Class cabin recently reconfigured for extra legroom and a Premium Business Class cabin featuring the airline’s award-winning, lie-flat seat. Complimentary South African wines, inspired cuisine and personal on-demand entertainment for all travellers make the trip to Africa fly by. Built on a venerable 72-year history of bringing the world to Africa and taking Africa to the world, the airline’s network is unsurpassed on the continent – connecting travellers to more than 20 destinations within South Africa and more than 20 cities across Africa. As a recent member to the worldwide Star Alliance, South African Airways is now able to offer its customers 852 destinations in 152 countries and more than 15,500 flights daily.

For the Latest News, Features and Updates from the BlackRock Tour of Champions: www.blackrocktourofchampions.com

and for further information:

www.blackrockinternational.com/tourofchampions

Saying “#*!& You!” To A Chair Umpire And Other Summer Tennis Tales

The week after a Slam, there are many tournaments on the calendar and they all offer exciting opportunities to have fun.  The second week of Wimbledon in 1991, I headed north to play singles in a challenger in Bristol, England. I played the former NCAA doubles champion out of USC and Davis Cupper from Zimbabwe Byron Black, and won 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. The grass was ok, and the people were very friendly.  I went down in the second round to Steve DeVries, the pigeon-toed Northern Californian doubles specialist 6-4, 6-2. In doubles, I played with the San Diegoan Scott Patridge and we went out to Nduka Odizor – “The Duke of Odizor” – of Nigeria and his partner Michiel Schapers of the Netherlands. Michiel is a bright tall Dutchman, who was hard to get a lob over.

One of the tour stops after Wimbledon is the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I, also on grass. I played doubles with Patrick Bauer one year, and I remember after losing to Maurice Ruah and the Bahamian Roger Smith, I headed to the locker room where I had a few Miller Lite’s.  They were the sponsor of the tourney, and they were not less filling. One year, I played doubles with the Miami Hurricane and great guy Michael Russell, who famously had match point on eventual champion Gustavo Kuerten one year at Roland Garros. We lost a tight match to the Finn Liukko and the Dutchman Wessels 6-4, 7-6 .

Gstaad is tourney held in the Swiss Alps just after Wimbledon. Fans can flock to the event and get a glimpse of Swiss cows – similar to the one Roger Federer famously was given after winning Wimbledon in 2003. Players can parasail off of the mountains, go river rafting, and it is where I proposed to my ex-wife (may that marriage rest in peace!) I played doubles one year with my brother-in-law Tobias Hildebrand. We were the last team to get in, and unfortunately I embarrassed the whole family by getting defaulted in our match for saying – “(expletive that rhymes with duck) You!” to the umpire. The umpire couldn’t believe what I just said, and asked again what I said to him. “F*** You” was my response again.  All the emotion of trying to win a match a family member obviously got to me.  I was defaulted immediately and fined. I had a great run there in doubles in 1996 with the gregarious South African player who knows everybody Gary Muller.  He was a true friend, looking out for me and securing deals for team tennis for me in Germany.  We would play together on the Bundesliga team of Weiden, where we reached the final losing to the Paul Haarhuis-led team from Halle. In Gstaad, we beat Pimek/Talbot, and Mohr/Strambini before losing to  the Czech duo of Novak/Vizner in two breakers.

Another delightful event is held each year in Palermo, Italy.  I arrived there and went on my morning run, and really took in the city.  The place can become a sort of Alcatraz if one is not careful.  The pool at the courts was always full, and the Spaniards who usually dominated the tournament would frolic around the edge.  One time, a Spanish coach was climbing up the high dive, and slipped at the top rung and came sliding down.  Luckily, he didn’t get hurt, but it was the event of the day.  I played with 2001 Wimbledon doubles champion Donald Johnson, and we beat the brother’s Haygarth – Brent and Kirk. We went down to the Olympic silver medalist from 1996 Neil Broad and Greg Van Emburgh 6-4, 6-4.

Last, but for sure not least, the Swedish Open played on the western coast of Sverige (Sweden) is a wonderful event to watch. In 1997, I teamed up with Fernando Meligeni of Brazil and we took out Andersson and Timfjord of Sweden before getting crushed by Haygarth and Van Emburgh. The place was never asleep, people carousing 24 hours a day, cruising around town and getting ice creams on hot days.  Pepe’s Bodega sponsored a volleyball tournament, and I felt like Karch Karaly for a moment. My wife pulled me out of the place by my hair, much to my chagrin.  I played there at the end of my career with Martin Rodriguez of Argentina. He didn’t speak much English, so it was like being on the best date of your life. We had a tough three-setter with the kids from up the road, Simon and Johan. They won and another week ended with a loss – as most do for players on the ATP Tour. I’m living in the past, hoping for a bright future…

Muster Seperates Sampras From Rios Final

A former World No.1 stands in the way of a former World No.1 reaching the final where another former World No.1 will be waiting – it is what the BlackRock Tour of Champions is all about.

Pete Sampras and Thomas Muster both topped the ATP rankings in the 1990’s, and they will face each other in the final round-robin match at the BlackRock Tour of Champions event in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Saturday. If Sampras wins, a mouth-watering final clash with Marcelo Rios surely awaits.

Boths Sampras and Rios have won their two group matches to-date, with Sampras serving and volleying his way past Marc-Kevin Goellner for a 6-3, 6-4 victory on Friday, and Rios crushing Jaime Oncins 6-2, 6-1.

“I was happy with my level of play today,” said Sampras.

“I definitely felt a bit more comfortable out there, serving and volleying more than yesterday. I also feel more adapted to the court. I have a tough match tomorrow against Muster that I will be looking to win to reach the final on Sunday.”

The American won nine of his eleven meetings against Muster during their careers, and will head into their round-robin clash as the favourite. Muster has been struggling this week. He lost 6-3, 6-3 to Brazil’s Fernando Meligeni on Friday, and said:

“I was not hitting the ball well. I think it has to do with the altitude of Sao Paulo. But Fernando played a great match and deserved to win.”

Rios, meanwhile, was in irresistable form, and now needs to defeat Jaime Yzaga to reach the final.

“I’m getting used to the court and I believe I played better than yesterday. I just hope I can play like this tomorrow and advance to the final,” he said.

For the latest results and reports: http://www.blackrocktourofchampions.com/

For a video review of each day: http://www.grandchampions.com.br/

And to see what Sampras thinks of Roger Federer’s chances of winning a sixth straight Wimbledon, click here

RESULTS, FRIDAY 20TH JUNE, 2008

Andrei Cherkasov d Jaime Yzaga 6-3, 6-2

Fernando Meligeni d Thomas Muster 6-3, 6-2

Marcelo Rios d Jaime Oncins 6-2, 6-1

Pete Sampras d. Marc Goellner 6-3, 6-4

LATEST GROUP STANDINGS

GROUP THOMAZ KOCH

Pete Sampras                      2-0 (4-1)

Marc Goellner                      1-1 (2-2)

Fernando Meligeni              1-1 (3-2)

Thomas Muster                    0-2 (0-4)

GROUP CARLOS KIRMAYR

Marcelo Rios                        2-0 (4-0)

Jaime Oncins                        1-1 (2-2)

Andrei Cherkasov               1-1 (2-2)

Jaime Yzaga                                         0-2 (0-4)

ORDER OF PLAY, SATURDAY 21ST JUNE, 2008

17h00

Andrei Cherkasov vs. Jaime Oncins

18h30

Fernando Meligeni vs. Marc Goellner

20h00

Jaime Yzaga vs. Marcelo Rios

21h30

Pete Sampras vs. Thomas Muster

SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS 2008 TOUR OF CHAMPIONS RANKINGS (after four events)

POS.       PLAYER                                                PTS

1              Michael Stich                        650

2              Anders Jarryd                       525

3              Marcelo Rios                        400

4              Pat Cash                                               340

5=           Thomas Muster                    330

5=           Mikael Pernfors                   330

7              Goran Ivanisevic                  260

8              Marc-Kevin Goellner (WC)                250

9              Henri Leconte                      240

10=         Chris Wilkinson (WC)         200

10=         Cedric Pioline                 200

12=         Jeremy Bates (WC)             125

12=         Albert Costa                          125

14=         Sergi Bruguera               80

14=         Magnus Larsson                  80

14=         John McEnroe                       80

17=         Bjorn Borg                                             60

17=         Carl Uwe Steeb                   60          

WC denotes Wild Card.

The BlackRock Tour of Champions Calendar 2008

Belfast, Northern Ireland – February 21-24   (Tennis Legends) – Champions: Anders Jarryd; Runner-up: Mikael Pernfors

Barcelona, Spain – April 24-27 (Champions Cup ’08) – Champion: Marcelo Rios; runner-up: Michael Stich

Rome, Italy – May 10-11 – Champion: Thomas Muster; runner-up: Goran Ivanisevic

Hamburg, Germany – May 14-17 (BlackRock Tennis Classic)

Champion: Michael Stich; Runner-up: Marc-Kevin Goellner

Sao Paulo, Brazil – June 19-22 (Nossa Caixa Grand Champions Brasil)

Istanbul, Turkey – July 17-20

Graz, Austria – July 29-August 2 (s Tennis Masters)

Algarve, Portugal – August 5-8 (Vale do Lobo Grand Champions CGD)

Paris, France – September 18-21 (5e Trophée Jean-Luc Lagardère)

Luxembourg, Luxembourg – September 25-28

Eindhoven, Netherlands – October 2-5 (AFAS Tennis Classics)

Budapest, Hungary – October 9-12

Frankfurt, Germany – November 13-16 (klarmobil.de Champions Trophy)

Brussels, Belgium – November 20-23

London, UK – December 2-7 (BlackRock Masters Tennis)

OTHER INFO

BlackRock is a premier provider of global investment management, riskmanagement and advisory services to clients around the world. The rebrand from the Merrill Lynch Tour of Champions to the new BlackRock Tour of Champions,

stemmed from the merger between BlackRock and Merrill Lynch Investment Managers on the 29th September 2006. This merger united the predominantly US fixed income institutional heritage of BlackRock with that of Merrill Lynch

Investment Managers’ award-winning global retail equity franchise.

BlackRock is one of the world’s largest publicly traded investment management firms. At December 31, 2007, BlackRock’s assets under management (AUM) was US$1.357 trillion. The firm manages assets on behalf of institutions and individuals worldwide through a variety of equity, fixed income, cash management and alternative investment products. In addition, a growing number of institutional investors use BlackRock Solutions(r) investment system, risk management and financial advisory services. Headquartered in New York City, as of December 31, 2007, the firm has approximately 5,500 employees in 19 countries and a major presence in key global markets, including the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. For additional information, please visit the Company’s website at www.blackrock.com.

South Africa’s international flagship airline and the continent’s most awarded carrier, South African Airways is the official airline of the BlackRock Tour of Champions. Its modern fleet features a comfortable Economy Class cabin recently reconfigured for extra legroom and a Premium Business Class cabin featuring the airline’s award-winning, lie-flat seat. Complimentary South African wines, inspired cuisine and personal on-demand entertainment for all travellers make the trip to Africa fly by. Built on a venerable 72-year history of bringing the world to Africa and taking Africa to the world, the airline’s network is unsurpassed on the continent – connecting travellers to more than 20 destinations within South Africa and more than 20 cities across Africa. As a recent member to the worldwide Star Alliance, South African Airways is now able to offer its customers 852 destinations in 152 countries and more than 15,500 flights daily.

For the Latest News, Features and Updates from the BlackRock Tour of Champions: www.blackrocktourofchampions.com

and for further information:

www.blackrockinternational.com/tourofchampions