By Lisa-Marie Burrows
Andy Murray is still one of the main topics of discussion on TV and in the newspapers (particularly the British ones!) after his epic battle against defending US Open champion, Novak Djokovic on Monday night, after a grueling five set match that lasted almost 5 hours that boasted exquisite rallies in each of the 5 sets played.
Ivan Lendl, the coach of Murray since January 2012, has admitted that Andy Murray and his ‘Slamless’ situation very much remind him of himself when he was younger and competing on Tour, but the comparisons do not end only there…
Andy Murray has become more known for his tough mentality as he has for his great physicality. Yes, there have been moments on the tennis court where he has admitted that his mind let him down (e.g. most famously during the Wimbledon final this year against Roger Federer where he could have been up 2 sets to 0) but as his tennis has developed, so has his mental toughness and ability to win attitude.
This is also comparable to the attitude displayed on court by Ivan Lendl. He too played in an era alongside tennis greats such as John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg and experienced some crushing defeats at the hands of them, but just as Murray has done, he never gave up and always believed that he could win. Like Lendl, Andy Murray has learnt from his painful losses.
Pressure in their prime
Throughout his career, the Olympic champion has frequently single-handedly shouldered the weight and expectation from the British public to do well, win tournaments, knock out the top 3 three players in the world and win a Grand Slam. Not much to ask of a young player in their early twenties? Now at 25-years-old, Murray seems to be able to deal with that pressure and has finally answered the call and hopes of many after his victory at the US Open.
Ivan Lendl as a coach and player has been a good influence on Murray as he can relate to the pressure and strain which Andy Murray has been under. He too had experienced it at a very young age and having lost to Connors, Borg and Wilander, he admitted that he did not know how to play against the big players in his prime and it was something that he learnt to do.
Fitness vs fatigue
Andy Murray did not have an easy start early on his career, having been criticized heavily for his personality, his mentality, for having a low first serve percentage, he was also targeted about his fitness. He experienced cramping during long matches in his early twenties and he knew that in order to compete at the top level, against the top players of the world, he had to become physically stronger as well as mentally stronger and this was also the case for Ivan Lendl. Like his coach had to when he was younger, Murray has spent hours at the gym and during training he has become increasingly stronger and has trained hard to keep his endurance levels up to sustain his energy levels during long matches – which have paid off extremely in recent years. Murray continues with his same demanding regime on the practice courts and in the gym today.
Fifth time lucky
Ivan Lendl could relate to Andy Murray and his sorrow after yet another Grand Slam final defeat at the hands of Roger Federer at Wimbledon this year, as he too experienced crushing losses and lost four Grand Slam finals before winning in his fifth appearance, à la Andy Murray. After his quartet of heartbreaking defeats, Lendl went on to win another eight Grand Slams and if history really does repeat itself, who knows if and when Andy Murray will lift another major title – or eight?
It took 5 sets for Ivan Lendl to win his first Grand Slam in Roland Garros against John McEnroe and he rallied back from a two set deficit to secure his victory, whereas for Andy Murray at the US Open, he also needed 5 sets to lift his first major but he needed to rally back after losing the third and fourth sets before sealing the championship title in the penultimate set.
The strangest thing of it all is that during their encounter, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic equalized the record for the longest final of all time played at the US Open after their 4-hour and 54 minute battle and they equaled the record of – yes you guessed it – Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander in 1988 which saw Lendl win after 4-hours and 54 minutes too.
Andy Murray has now laid his demons to rest, as his coach had after finally winning that elusive Grand Slam that he was so desperately chasing and yearning for. I just hope that now the talented Scot has got time to enjoy this momentous occasion he relishes it immensely before another dreaded question starts to beckon…. ‘Andy, do you think you can win more majors?’
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
On Tuesday it was only the second day of the US Open main draw action in New York, but yesterday served up some fantastic round one matches which entertained for hours and thrilled the audience.
The three five set matches involving Juan ‘Pico’ Mónaco vs Guillermo García-Lopez, Fabio Fognini vs Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Alexandr Dolgopolov vs Jesse Levine may not have featured the infamous rivalries between the top guys that we have been so accustomed to seeing, but last night at Flushing Meadows, audiences both at home and on site were treated to matches worthy of that caliber.
The matches that took place between the players mentioned above showed the spirit and the fight of a toe-to-toe match reminiscent of the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
On Grandstand Argentine and No.10 seed Juan Mónaco had an extremely tough first round opponent against Spain’s Guillermo García-Lopez who proved to be more than a handful for Mónaco. The Argentine took the advantage quickly as he led by two sets and 4-1 up in the third, but García-Lopez had other plans – he was not giving up that easily.
In a match that was played with as many highs and lows as a roller coaster and with such determined grit from both players, you would not have thought it was a first round match, the way the players fought and with such heart, you would have been forgiven for being fooled into thinking it was a Grand Slam final and they were fighting for the trophy, not a place in the second round.
Mónaco and García-Lopez fought against their nerves and against each other as it clearly meant so much to them to win. They ventured into the all-important fifth set tiebreak, after Mónaco broke back twice in the set from the brink of defeat and stopped the Spaniard from serving out the match. With a Davis Cup atmosphere on the tennis court and football style chants heavily in the favour of the Argentine with ‘Olé, olé, olé, olé, Pi-co, Pi-co,’ the match was there for the taking and it all boiled down to who could hold their nerve and the realization suddenly dawned that one of them was going to win… but also that one was going to lose and it would be a painful loss.
The joy and jubilation belonged to Guillermo García-Lopez after playing a very solid tiebreak, releasing his heavily weighted forehand continuously and used his well placed serve to give him the upper hand. After his 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(6), 7-6(3) victory a very relieved and emotional García-Lopez sat in his chair with a tear in his eye, whilst Mónaco visibly annoyed and understandably upset quickly exited the court.
Up next for García-Lopez is Fabio Fognini of Italy who was also involved in an epic five-set encounter against Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France. The Italian will be equally as tired going into his second round match against the Spaniard as he too was on court for nearly four hours with his 3-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 comeback victory against the Frenchman and will be relieved of the day off to recover from that match.
It was during the key moments that Fognini was able to withstand the pressure and contained his fraught emotions to claw his way back into the match. As match point dawned on the Italian, the atmosphere around the court was raucous with expectation and disbelief with what Fognini was about to achieve. The Italian was clearly delighted with the turnaround of the match, but visibly tired too, as he and his weary legs exited the court knowing that he had finally booked his place into the second round.
Alexandr Dolgopolov found himself caught up in a difficult opening round against home country hopeful, Jesse Levine on court 17. The first two sets did not go as planned for the Ukrainian who played some loose service games which proved to be costly as he was suddenly staring at defeat after losing the first two sets.
At the start of the third set, Dolgopolov was quickly broken again and found himself 0-4 down and two games away from packing up his belongings and leaving New York. As Levine became tight, Dolgopolov began his revival and battled his way back into the match. Despite facing a heavily partisan crowd, Dolgopolov kept his composure to break back and take the third set 6-4 and stamped his authority in the fourth set by taking it 6-1.
Eyebrows were raised at his comeback and it was evident that Levine was disappointed with the renaissance that Dolgopolov was bringing to the court. Eventually the Ukrainian won 3-6 4-6 6-4 6-1 6-2 and he will now play Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the second round.
There was so much entertainment and drama in one evening and we are still only in the early stages of the tournament, but it shows that for all of these players, it does not matter whether it is the first round or the final, they will fight for the win – yesterday they were the comeback kings. Their matches may not have been pretty, but a win is a win and they will be happy to take it all the same and improve ready for their next battles.
After the matches feelings of being emotionally, mentally and physically drained were evident – and that was just me! I don’t know how the players do it!
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
The US Open is the final Slam of the year and it is rapidly approaching! The atmosphere at Flushing Meadows is unique, fun and home to some of the most interesting, intriguing counters likely to be seen and draws in an audience from all over the world. There are many reasons to love this Slam whether you are there to enjoy it in person or in the comfort of your own home and here are a few top examples as to why the US Open is one of the best tournaments of the year.
New York is the home of fashion and where else would you see tennis players showcasing some of their most daring or eye-catching outfits but at the US Open? Over the years many of the players have been discussed as much for their fashion and apparel as they have for their tennis. Many have opted for traditional, summery styles for the final Slam of the year, whilst others have dared to bare their extraordinary and unique outfits and made an unforgettable fashion statement. Who can forget some of the styles of Serena Williams, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Andre Agassi over the years? Serena has a strong body, strong mind and is not afraid to make a strong fashion statement as she stepped out onto the tennis court at the US Open in 2002 wearing a snug and tightly fitted black cat suit which was arguably more daring than any other WTA player had worn before at Flushing Meadows.
Arthur Ashe Kids Day
Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day is an annual tennis/children’s event that takes place in the end of August at the United States Tennis Association at Arthur Ashe Stadium. (USTA) Center in Flushing Meadows. This event also begins the U.S. Open, which officially starts one day later. This event is also televised on the following day for many to enjoy who are not there to experience it firsthand. It is a celebration of the memory of Arthur Ashe, who died of AIDS in 1993, and of his efforts to help young people through tennis. Tennis greats that have appeared annually at Arthur Ashe Kids Day include Venus and Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, and Anna Kournikova, who play to entertain the children and families and to raise money for charity.
The home of thrilling matches:
The Arthur Ashe stadium is known for hosting some of the most exciting, nail biting matches out of all of the Grand Slams and over the years, through history, there have been many which have taken centre stage and thrilled audiences around the world. Here are two examples of the most recent, well-documented matches that have are truly memorable and have been enjoyed by many:
The Williams sister final in 2001: The Williams sisters have both experienced plenty of success in the world of tennis and even today they have continued to push their boundaries – particularly with their health – to achieve the dizzy heights of success in tennis. In the 2001 final the two popular sisters were in an all-American battle against each other and the match was all about Venus. Serena could not trouble her older sister, who cruised to win in straight sets.
Novak Djokovic fights back from the brink of defeat in 2011: In the semi finals last year, Novak Djokovic was dangerously close to elimination in the last four against Roger Federer. The Serb survived a pair of match points en route to his nail biting defeat over Federer, before continuing with his onslaught of the Tour when he defeated Rafael Nadal in the final to be crowned champion.
The possibility of an upset:
This year has been the Olympic year and now more than ever, many of the tennis players have admitted that they are feeling fatigued both mentally and physically and there has been a sea of withdrawals at the Masters 1000 Series tournaments in Toronto/Montreal and Cincinnati this year where many have fallen at the first hurdle, much earlier than planned and those who have remained have confessed that they are feeling the pinch from a jam-packed 2012 calendar with back-to-back tournaments. Coming into the US Open, it may come as no surprise to witness some upsets on the ATP and WTA Tours as some top players have had very limited match practice coming into the Slam and others are fighting off injury. Who knows what surprises we may see in some of the early stages of the tournament?
The US Open over the years has attracted many of the top celebrities to its courts to soak up the sunshine, enjoy the buzz and watch the fantastic tennis action taking place. Many have relished the opportunity to watch live matches from singers, to actors, to reality TV stars and models. In recent years Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Kim Kardashian and Bradley Cooper are a few examples of many A-list celebrities who have attended the tournament.
It’s New York!
The US Open is held in one of the most fashionable, fun and vibrant cities in the world, where many flock to especially to watch the tennis. It is a mecca for those who enjoy shopping, city life and a spot of some fantastic tennis to boost. Who could not enjoy being in New York during the tennis fortnight? The late night matches that commence on the Arthur Ashe Stadium create an atmosphere like no other – the crowd are into the matches, they are very vocal and being situated close to the bar certainly helps the crowd to cheer on their favourites and create that infamous party atmosphere that lights up the stadium!
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
Kim Clijsters has enjoyed an illustrious career in tennis – dampened by injuries, but nonetheless, she has enjoyed many successes on the court. She is a firm fan favourite, always enthusiastically supported wherever she competes and is popular with her fellow players. Could an Olympic victory tempt her to decide not to halt her career just yet, or could it be the perfect way for the former world No.1 to bow out of competitive tennis for the second time?
Kim Clijsters is a four-time Grand Slam champion, who made her final Wimbledon appearance in July after 14 years of competing as a junior and a senior at the event. This week she is back on the grass courts of the Olympics, representing Belgium and hoping to add an Olympic medal to her list of achievements and victories.
Clijsters admitted earlier this year that she is retiring for the second time due to her age and not for family reasons:
“I have no regrets. I’m too old to play the game that I want to play physically. It’s not for family reasons; it’s down to the physical side. I’ve put my body through enough strain and everything.”
It has been a tough 2012 for the 29-year-old, who missed the French Open due to a hip injury and battled to recover from an abdominal injury in time for Wimbledon, but this week she is proving that she is beginning to find her feet at the All England Lawn Tennis Club and would love to build on her semi-final appearances in 2003 and 2006.
Many would love to see her win an Olympic medal – a fitting way to remember her final year on Tour, to add her to many wonderful achievements during her career – and here are a few of those many moments she will undoubtedly cherish:
Winning her first Grand Slam title in 2005: Kim Clijsters won her first Grand Slam title in 2005 on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows in New York against Mary Pierce. This was the first time she had won a Grand Slam and it was her first appearance in a Grand Slam final since missing out on the trophy in 2004 in Australia. Clijsters had a difficult year in 2004 and was happy to have recovered so well after her operation to remove a cyst from left wrist, which saw her miss Wimbledon and the US Open the previous year.
Back-to-back US Open titles in 2009 and 2010: Clijsters has always felt very comfortable on the hard courts and in New York she found her feet and showed her best tennis during a year which proved to be a sensational comeback season for the Belgian. Clijsters won the US Open in New York in extraordinary fashion – she had only played three previous hard court events before entering the Grand Slam and participated as an unranked wildcard defeating Caroline Wozniacki in the final.
In 2010 Clijsters battled against a left and right foot injury, which forced her to withdraw from Roland Garros, but in August whilst fighting off her injury demons, the former world No.1 lifted the trophy at Flushing Meadows for the third time after defeating Vera Zvonareva in the final.
‘Aussie Kim’ happy to be crowned champion at the Australian Open: Kim Clijsters has always been fondly welcomed at the Australian Open and many of the Aussies accepted her as one of their own after her long relationship with Australian tennis player Lleyton Hewitt. She reached the finals in 2004 but was unable to lift the trophy, but after returning to competitive tennis once again, she finally got the Grand Slam win she so desperately seeked in Melbourne and ‘Aussie Kim’ was happily crowned champion.
After this year when Kim Clijsters eventually retires, it will be a sad day for her supporters, team and fellow players as her kind and sporting nature on and off the court will be missed. Right now though for Kim Clijsters, she will not be thinking about putting down her racquet for the last time, she will be completely focused on picking it up again tomorrow to continue her assault on the Olympics and the impending, final hard court season ahead.
From the USTA announcing that Arthur Ashe will be inducted into the US Open Court of Champions to Midland, Mich., being named the “Best Tennis Town” in America to WTA CEO and Chairman Stacey Allaster issuing an apology to world No. 1 Dinara Safina for the late notice on moving her match at the US Open, these stories caught the attention of tennis fans and insiders this week.
The USTA announced on Monday that Arthur Ashe, the first African American men’s singles champion at the US Open and the famed ambassador to tennis, will be inducted on Thursday into the 2009 US Open Court of Champions at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York. Former President Bill Clinton will participate in a ceremony to commemorate the tennis legend. “Arthur Ashe is one of the greatest champions to ever compete at the US Open and we are proud to honor his remarkable legacy,” said Lucy Garvin, Chairman of the Board and President of the USTA. “Arthur was a great humanitarian and his legacy and his performance helped the tournament become one of the world’s premier sporting events.”
The USTA has named the city of Midland, Mich., the “Best Tennis Town” in America after nationwide voting. Midland earned a $100,000 grant to be used towards community-wide tennis programming and/or facility enhancements. Second place Ojai, Calif., earned $50,000, while Independence, Kan., earned $25,000 for finishing in third place.
On Monday, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour CEO and Chairman Stacey Allaster said the USTA has issued an apology to world No. 1 Dinara Safina for the late notice on moving her third round match against Petra Kvitova from Arthur Ashe Stadium to Louis Armstrong Stadium due to the day session being extended because of the Andy Roddick vs. John Isner five-set match. “It was really the process,” Allaster said. “[The USTA] should have notified Dinara, our players, much earlier in the process of what was going to happen. They’ve apologized for that.”
Also on Monday, Allaster announced that the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournament in Dubai will be canceled in 2010 if the country doesn’t grant a visa to Israeli Shahar Peer, who was not allowed to participate in the tournament this year because her visa was denied because she is from Israel.
Lastly, Allaster said Sony Ericsson WTA Tour lost only one of its 51 title sponsors in 2009. The Tour also cut back on its player withdrawals by 36 percent this year, which was a major past problem.
The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour announced last week that the Premier-level Los Angeles Open in Carson, Calif., will be moved in 2010 to the La Costa Resort & Spa and will be renamed the San Diego Open. The Malaysia Classic in Kuala Lumpur and e-Boks Danish Open in Copenhagen will also be added to next year’s tournament schedule.
Lleyton Hewitt has hired former Australian doubles specialist Nathan Healey as his full-time coach. Hewitt’s previous coach, Tony Roche, left his coaching duties to take a position at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in Paris.
The 29th Annual Legends Ball will take place on September 11 at the Cipriani in New York City. Racquets signed by Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova , a hitting session with Jim Courier and VIP ticket packages to three of the Grand Slam tournaments will be some of the items auctioned off to benefit the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
World Team Tennis has named Bill Mountford as Senior Vice President. Mountford, who started at WTT in November 2008, will oversee staff in marketing, communications, pro league and recreational league and will be based in New York City. Before joining WTT, Mountford held positions at the Lawn Tennis Association in Great Britain and the USTA as the Director of Tennis at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Last Saturday evening at the US Open, the USTA paid tribute to tennis legend Pancho Gonzalez during a ceremony to celebrate the 60 year anniversary of his second consecutive victory at the U.S Championships. “The USTA is proud to celebrate the life and legacy of such a great champion as Pancho Gonzalez,” said Lucy Garvin, the USTA President and Chairman of the Board. “Pancho was a true pioneer in the sport of tennis and this tribute will shed light on the importance of Pancho Gonzalez to the game and its history.”
The USTA announced that they have extended its contract with DecoTurf through December 2014. DecoTurf has been the official surface of the US Open for the last 31 years. “We are thrilled to extend our contract with DecoTurf for six years,” said Jim Curley, Chief Professional Tournaments Officer of the USTA. “The US Open and DecoTurf are a natural partnership, providing the most recognized tennis court surface at one of the world’s most prestigious tennis tournaments.”
Alan Schwartz, former USTA President and CEO, was inducted into the Tennis Industry Hall of Fame. Schwartz is the creator of the National Tennis Rating Program (NTRP).
17-year-old rising American player Jordan Cox, who will soon turn pro, has agreed to a three-year international contract with Babolat to use its racquet and strings. The contract is set to begin in January 2010.
Many of the top tennis professionals were seen wearing Oakley sunglasses during their matches at the 2009 US Open. Croatian Ivo Karlovic and Serbian Janko Tipseravic were among the men wearing Oakley sunglasses throughout the US Open, while world No. 15 Samantha Stosur, Elena Baltacha, Rossana de Los Rios, Anastasia Rodionova and Yaroslava Shvedova were the women spotted wearing Oakley’s.
World No. 36 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has dropped Patrick Mouratoglou as her coach.
Austrian player Tamira Paszek will not be punished by accidently breaking an anti-doping rule when receiving back treatment during a tournament earlier this year. The Austrian anti-doping agency said she is free to compete on the Sony Ericsson Tour once she is fit enough to play since she was not to blame because of the incident.
Italian Simone Bolelli, who was suspended 10-months by the Italian Tennis Federation for skipping a tie against Latvia, will return to play for the Italy Davis Cup team in the World Group playoff against Switzerland on September 18-20.
NEW YORK – Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were the headliners Friday on Day 5 of the US Open Tennis Championships.
But who is Josselin Ouanna or some of the others who were playing second-round men’s matches at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center?
Pablo Cuevas, for example? Daniel Koellerer, for another? Thomaz Bellucci? Denis Istomin? Paul Capdeville?
Whoever they are, two of them are in the third round of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament.
By beating Cuevas 3-6 6-2 6-1 6-4, Koellerer increased his paycheck to at least $48,000 for his week. He also earned the third-round slot to go up against sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro. Del Potro advanced with a 7-6 (6) 6-3 6-3 win over Jurgen Melzer of Austria.
“I love to play here,” del Potro said of the hard courts at Flushing Meadows. “I like the surface. I like the city. I like everything here, the crowd, the stadium not too big. I always dream with this moment. It’s my favorite.”
Also grabbing a spot in the third round was Istomin, a right-hander from Uzbekistan who outlasted Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador 2-6 6-4 46 7-5 7-6 (4) in a marathon battle that lasted four hours, 48 minutes, the longest match in the tournament this year so far.
A native of Austria, the 26-year-old Koellerer used quarterfinal appearances in Acapulco, Mexico, and Kitzbuhel, Austria, to improve his ATP ranking to 61st in the world, giving him direct entry into the US Open. He has career wins over Argentina’s David Nalbandian and Alberto Martin of Spain, but most of his success has come on the minor league Challenger and Futures circuits.
Three times Istomin has received the “Asian wild card” into the Australian Open. His next match will be Istomin’s first third-round appearance in a Grand Slam tournament.
In one of the most inspiring matches of the tournament, a jubilant American Taylor Dent won a battle of serve-and-volleyers, edging Ivan Navarro of Spain 6-4 5-7 7-6 (1) 7-5 7-6 (9).
After he hit a backhand down the line to close out the match, Dent commandeered the umpire’s microphone and thanked the boisterous Grandstand crowd.
“You are unbelievable,” Dent said.
So was he.
Dent had undergone three back surgeries and was told by doctors that he may not walk again. Now 28, he has not only returned to tennis, but proved he can win again.
“A select few get to play professional sports,” Dent said. “It’s all just gravy right now. I can’t ask for anything more, come out here and play the sport I love.”
The fans loved it too, chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A” as Dent circled the cozy Grandstand court, giving high fives to the crowd before sticking around and signing autographs.
Next up for the right-hander will be second-seeded Andy Murray, who advanced with an easy 6-2 3-67 6-0 6-2 win over Capdeville, a 26-year-old from Chile.
“Murray’s tough,” Dent said. “We’ve played twice before and he beat me both times. I’m going to go out and try to give him everything I’ve got.”
Ninth-seeded Gilles Simon eliminated Brazilian qualifier Thomaz Bellucci, who reached the second round at Flushing Meadows a year ago. The score was 6-3 6-2 6-4.
Ouanna, playing in his first US Open, was ousted by 11th-seeded Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-4 6-7 (5) 6-3 6-4. The qualifier from France reached the third round at the French Open earlier this year and has a career win over Marat Safin.
Jose Acasuso of Argentina knocked off 18th-seeded David Ferrer of Spain 6-3 3-6 1-6 7-5 7-6 (4). Julien Benneteau of France ousted No. 30 Viktor Troicki 6-1 3-6 6-1 6-0.
Among the other winners on the men’s side Friday were No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 13 Gael Monfils, No. 16 Marin Cilic, No. 17 Tomas Berdych, No. 24 Juan Carlos Ferrero, and No. 32 Nicolas Amagro.
The women played third-round matches Friday with only one upset as No. 26 Francesca Schiavone of Italy eliminated No. 8 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.
Other winners included three former US Open champions, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters. Others who advanced to the fourth round were No. 7 Vera Zvonareva, No. 10 Flavia Pennetta, No. 18 Na Li, and No. 22 Daniela Hantuchova.
Clijsters, who won the US Open in her last appearance at Arthur Ashe Stadium in 2005, next takes on Venus Williams, who won America’s premier tennis tournament in 2000 and 2001.
“It’s something I already look forward to now,” Clijsters said. It’s these kinds of matches that make it very special.
“It’s obviously going to be very tough as well. I think she’s been a little bit up and down in her match, but I think overall when she has to bring it, she’s been able to bring it.”
Caroline Wozniacki beat Elena Vesnina 6-2 6-4 to win the women’s singles at the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Fernando Verdasco beat Sam Querrey 6-4 7-6 (6) to win the Pilot Pen men’s singles in New Haven
Tatjana Malek won the EmblemHealth Bronx Open, beating Kristina Barrois 6-1 6-4 in The Bronx, New York, USA
“Now it’s my time. It’s my turn to win some tournaments. I just feel I’ve had a great year. I’m so happy that it’s my name coming up a lot of times now.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after successfully defending her Pilot Pen Tennis women’s singles championship.
“I never got a chance to go back there to defend my title in 2006 because I was injured with my left wrist and then pregnant in 2007. So while this does feel like a new beginning, I am looking forward to walking through those gates again for the first time in four years.” – Kim Clijsters, who won the US Open in her last appearance at the year’s final Grand Slam tournament.
“I am number three in the world, and the number three in the world should have a chance to win, no?” – Rafael Nadal, on his chances to win the US Open.
“I have to take it as a positive that I will have more time to get ready for the Open. It’s been a really busy summer for me so I’ll just take advantage of these (early losses) and keep training and preparing for the Open.” – Venus Williams, talking about early exits from her last two tournaments.
“I’m recharged. I know I can play and move well and compete with the top players as good as I was, if not better. The US Open is my main goal.” – Jelena Jankovic.
“With every tournament I feel physically I’m getting better and getting a good sense of the court, but it’s still a work in progress. I’d like to forget I was gone for a long time but you have to put things in perspective.” – Maria Sharapova, noting her chances of winning the US Open this year are slim.
“This year I equaled my best result in Australia (last 16), did two rounds better than I ever did at the French (quarterfinals) and got further than I have done at Wimbledon (semifinals). So now the slam is the last thing I need to do. I believe that I can do it.” – Andy Murray, saying he’s one of the favorites to win the US Open.
“Andy’s not under the radar anymore and that’s probably a good thing. Now that the expectations are there I think he’s ready to handle it. He is definitely one of the six guys capable of winning.” – Brad Gilbert, speaking about Andy Roddick.
“One of the important things he has over everyone, and he has it more than any other player I’ve seen since (Jimmy) Connors, is his love for the sport. Real love. He loves to be out there, to be around tennis, everything about it.” – John McEnroe, talking about Roger Federer.
“I’ve never had a normal life, so I don’t know what a normal life means.” – Fabrice Santoro, who, playing in his 20th season on tour, will retire after the US Open.
“I just look to be prepared for the Open. This is my first important thing for me is to just get there and be prepared for a fight.” – Flavia Pennetta.
“I think I’ve learned, especially in the last year, that it’s a lot simpler than I realized, playing professional tennis. There are no secrets. You got to do what you do well and you have to bring that to the table every day.” – Rajeev Ram, who won his first ATP Tour title earlier this summer…
“I don’t think I am going to do anything special because it is my last Grand Slam. I am not planning it. But you never know what can happen. I know I am not going to win, there is no chance. So we will just see.” – Marat Safin, the 2000 US Open champion who will retire at the end of this year.
“For the next year or so I’m not going to put any pressure on myself. I just want to stay healthy and enjoy my tennis.” – Katarina Srebotnik, whose US Open appearance is her first tournament in 10 months because of injuries.
“She was just playing with me like a pussy cat, one corner to other corner. In the second set I started to be more aggressive and I started serving a lot better.” – Elena Vesnina, after her three-set semifinal win over Amelie Mauresmo in New Haven.
“I elected to go with disaster control and the high powder-puff. Everyone asks did you bounce it. I just threw it over the catcher.” – Andy Roddick, talking about throwing out the first pitch at a New York Yankees baseball game.
“I contemplated things like whether I would be able to accept myself for not being on the level that I was in my teens, twenties, and when I was 25; whether I would be able to accept losing, moreover be able to accept a losing streak. I did spend a lot of time contemplating about this. Yet, after I made my decision to be back on court again and challenge myself, I haven’t really thought about it.” – Kimiko Date Krumm, who returned to the WTA Tour after a 12-year retirement.
“It makes for something special. You sit in the players’ lounge and you wait. It doesn’t rain so often here so I don’t think they should change anything.” – Dinara Safina, saying she thinks something might be lost if a roof is installed over Arthur Ashe Stadium and there were no rain delays to sit though.
“I’ve peeked at the draw and seen where some of the qualifying spots are. I’d love to play a Federer or Nadal or a Roddick. We’ll see. I just want to play in there.” – Michael Yani, who at age 28 qualified for his first US Open, pointing at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Twice Andre Agassi closed out the US Open by winning the men’s singles. This year, he is the headliner on opening day, being honored for “giving back.” In 1994, the year he won his first US Open title, Agassi established the Andre Agassi Foundation, which is dedicated to transforming public education in Las Vegas, Nevada. As part of the Opening Night celebration, the USTA is recognizing the 40th anniversary of the National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL), which was founded in 1969 by Arthur Ashe, Charlie Pasarell and Sheridan Snyder as a network of community tennis organizations seeking to develop the character of young people through tennis and education. Besides Agassi, others honored on opening night include Mia Hamm, David Robinson and Doug Flutie.
Andre Agassi’s autobiography, “Open,” will be published in November. The eight-time Grand Slam singles champion writes about his start in tennis, his relationship with his father and his failed marriage to actress Brooke Shields.
SAM THE MAN
There could be a USD one million dollar payday in Sam Querrey’s future. By winning the US Open Series, the American has a chance to earn a bonus of between USD $15,000 and $1 million, according to how he finishes in the US Open. Querrey reached the final of the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, before falling to Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-4 7-6 (8).
The US Open wants players and their entourages to be careful about what they post on the social networking site Twitter. Signs at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center warn that Twitter messages could violate the sport’s anti-corruption rules. The signs say tweeting is not allowed on court during matches and warns about using Twitter away from the court, saying information about players, weather, court conditions, status, outcome or any other aspect of an event could be determined as the passing of “inside information.” The warnings say they apply to players, coaches, agents, family members and tournament staff.
Because of tropical storm Denney, the semifinals of the Pilot Pen tournament in New Haven, Connecticut, were moved indoors. After waiting in vain most of Friday for the steady rain to cease, the women’s semis were switched from a 13,000-seat stadium to an indoor college court where only 300 fans were able to be squeezed into the building and leaned over a balcony that overlooked the court or stood on adjacent courts. There, Caroline Wozniacki beat Flavia Pennetta and Elena Vesnina downed Amelie Mauresmo. The men’s semis followed suit Saturday morning, with Sam Querrey stopping Jose Acasuso and Fernando Verdasco defeating Igor Andreev. Both finals were played outdoors late Saturday as the storm finally subsided and the hard courts were dried.
SITTING IT OUT
Dominika Cibulkova won’t be able to match her French Open performance at this year’s final Grand Slam tournament. The semifinalist at Roland Garros pulled out of the US Open because of a rib injury. Her withdrawal allowed Alberta Brianti of Italy to move into the main draw, while Agnes Szavay becomes the number 32 seeded player.
SORE BUT THERE
Several players are nursing injuries as they begin their US Open run. Marion Bartoli retired from her match at the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, because of a left thigh strain. A hand injury forced Agnieszka Radwanska to retire before the third set of her match in New Haven. And Nikolay Davydenko needed a doctor to look at his right wrist midway through his quarterfinal final loss to Sam Querrey in the Pilot Pen men’s singles. Davydenko said his wrist became sore from the force of Querrey’s serves hitting his racquet. Sabine Lisicki, who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, will play in the US Open.
India’s Sania Mirza received acupuncture treatment on her right wrist before heading to New York and the US Open. The 22-year-old underwent wrist surgery in April 2008, but the problem flared up again at the Beijing Olympics, forcing her to miss the last year’s US Open. She had reached the semifinals of a challenger event in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, when she again felt pain in her right wrist. So she flew home to Hyderabad, India, to get treatment. “I’m much better now, but not absolutely pain-free,” she said.
Katarina Srebotnik is making her comeback at the US Open. She was ranked as high as number 20 in the world in singles and number four in doubles, and had posted victories over Serena Williams at Roland Garros and Svetlana Kuznetsova at the US Open a year ago. But pain in her Achilles tendon and a shoulder injury forced her off the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour for 10 months. It’s called the luck of the draw, and for Srebotnik it’s bad luck. Her first-round opponent will be 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova.
Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic has denied deliberating taking a banned substance. The 25-year-old tested positive for a derivative of the banned stimulant pseudo ephedrine following a Davis Cup quarterfinal match against Argentina in July. “I have never consciously taken a banned substance,” said Minar, who is ranked 66th in the world. “This is why I rejected the accusation of doping in my reaction sent to the ITF.” Minar cited an injury when he withdrew from this year’s US Open.
SERENA, THE AUTHOR
Serena Williams says she is telling all in her autobiography, “Queen of the Court,” which is going on sale during the US Open. Serena says it was important for her to give an honest account of her life because she has not been as open as she should have been since the shooting death of her sister, Yetunde Price. She said that while she told the press injuries kept her from playing, she was also beset by depression because of a delayed reaction to Tunde’s death. Serena says three things got her out of her depression: seeing a therapist, going to Africa where she began a school, and winning the 2007 Australian Open over Maria Sharapova. “It opened up a lot of doors I left closed to the public and to myself,” Serena said of writing the book.
SENSITIVITY COURSE ALUMNI
Brydan Klein promises to be on his best behavior after completing a racial sensitivity course. The former Australian Open junior champion was banned for six months and fined USD $10,000 by the ATP after making a racial slur against a black South African player during a tournament in England in June. The 19-year-old Klein has a history of clashes with officials, having been suspended from the Australian Institute of Sport for repeated on-court misbehavior. Ranked 223rd in the world, Klein said he has apologized to fellow player Raven Klaasen for the slur. He also said he cannot afford to slip up again. “I’m definitely on my last warning,” he said. “This has been a step back for me and it hasn’t been a nice experience.”
John McEnroe has always been a big man in New York City, but this is ridiculous. A 100-foot high by 35-foot wide (30.48m by 15.24m) banner of McEnroe hangs on the side of Madison Square Garden promoting prostate cancer screening guidelines. McEnroe’s father was diagnosed with the illness in 2006 but is now doing well. Now 50 years old, the younger McEnroe says he knows many men his age are reluctant to get screened for cancer for the same reason they don’t like to ask for directions: they may view it as a sign of weakness.
Billie Jean King and actor Alec Baldwin will be the spokespeople for the expanded environmental initiatives at the National Tennis Center named in her honor. The two will join the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in encouraging US Open fans and others to help preserve the environment. Expanded 2009 initiatives will include a site-wide recycling effort placing more than 500 recycling receptacles across the 42 acres of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. There also will be on sale an exclusive organic t-shirt designed by two-time US Open champion Venus Williams.
Venus Williams has been named to the first Power List of O, the Oprah Magazine. Selecting “20 remarkable visionaries who are flexing their muscles in business and finance, politics and justice, science and the arts,” the magazine picked Venus Williams as “The Power of Female Strength.” Noting her Grand Slam and Olympics medals as well as her voice in the lobbying effort to win equal prize money for female players, the magazine said: “Both on and off the court, Venus Williams embodies a perfect marriage of power and grace. In the singular artistry of her play, we see that beauty and brawn aren’t mutually exclusive.”
The US Open logo – a flaming tennis ball – accounts for about 42 percent of all sales at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Sarah Cummins, the USTA’s managing director for merchandising, told Bloomberg News that clothing, hats and other gear bearing the US Open logo brought in almost USD $14 million during the two-week tournament last year.
When James Blake debuts his new Fila line of clothes at the US Open, he will be thinking about his father. The logo on Blake’s new clothing is “TR,” and the line is called Thomas Reynolds, the first and middle names of his late father, who died in 2004. Fila will help capture the lessons instilled in James by his father through print ads and through hang tags on the line. While Blake will be wearing the clothes on a tennis court, there are plans for the Thomas Reynolds brand to be on golf, fitness and leisurewear as well. “I wanted to be part of something that wouldn’t necessarily have to always be tied to me and be more about the spirit that father embodied,” Blake said.
Following her third hip surgery, Jamea Jackson is retiring from the women’s tour and will become assistant tennis coach at Oklahoma State University. The 22-year-old from Lafayette, Louisiana, USA, will also be a student at OSU. Jackson was a member of the United States Fed Cup team.
STANDING FOR OFFICE
John Alexander’s new game is politics. The former tennis player and commentator has joined the Liberal Party and is running for a seat in the Australian parliament. Alexander is an advocate for preventive health and believes the decline of public tennis courts and other facilities in Australia has contributed to childhood obesity and health problems. He said he joined the Liberal Party at the invitation of a friend, who told him he would be more effective in securing change by trying to be part of a government. Ranked as high as eighth in the world, Alexander was the youngest player to represent Australia in Davis Cup. He played Davis Cup from 1968 to 1980 and has been captain of Australia’s Fed Cup team.
The US National Championships, known since 1968 as the US Open Tennis Championships, is the second oldest of the four Grand Slam tournaments and is the only one to have been played each year since its inception in 1881. This is the 129th version of America’s premier tennis event and has been played on three different surfaces: grass, clay and hard court. The tournament has been held on hard court at Flushing Meadows since moving from Forest Hills in 1978. The only major sporting event in the United States older than the US Open is the Kentucky Derby, which began in 1875.
New Haven (men): Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer beat Bruno Soares and Kevin Ullyett 6-4 7-6 (3)
New Haven (women): Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Iveta Benesova and Lucie Hradecka 6-2 7-5
The Bronx: Anna-Lena Groenfeld and Vania King beat Julie Coin and Marie-Eve Pelletier 6-0, 6-3
SITES TO SURF
US Open: www.usopen.org
Kim Clijsters: www.kimclijsters.be/
Roger Federer: www.rogerfederer.com/en/index.cfm
Rafael Nadal: www.rafaelnadal.com/nada/en/home
Serena Williams: www.serenawilliams.com/
Venus Williams: www.venuswilliams.com/
Andy Roddick: www.andyroddick.com
Andre Agassi Foundation: www.agassiopen.com/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
ATP and WTA
US Open (first week), New York, New York, USA, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
ATP and WTA
US Open (second week), New York, New York, USA, hard
$120,000 Genoa Open Challenger, Genoa, Italy, clay
By TennisGrandstand.com Staff
President Obama gaffed at Wednesday’s Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony honoring 16 global citizens, including tennis legend Billie Jean King. In describing King’s illustrious playing career, Obama talked of King’s “12 Grand Slam titles, 101 doubles titles and 67 singles titles.” King’s total number of “major” titles actually stand at 39, including a record 20 at Wimbledon. In defense of Obama, King won 12 singles titles at Grand Slam tournaments, but King was well known if not best known for dominating all events at the majors, including winning “triple crowns” (singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles in the same year) at Wimbledon in 1967 and 1973 and the U.S. Championships in 1967. According to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, King also won an additional 37 singles titles in the “amateur” era of tennis (pre-1968).
In a video after the ceremony shown on the MSNBC television show “Morning Joe,” King joked that Obama got her stats wrong but said with class that it was “adorable.” Joked MSNBC commentator Mike Barnicle of Obama undercutting King’s credentials, “It’s the first time he has come under the numbers.” The video of Obama’s remarks and Billie Jean’s reaction can be seen here -
King’s bio from THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS is excerpted here….
Billie Jean King
United States (1943—)
Hall of Fame—1987
The fireman’s daughter, Billie Jean Moffitt King, began blazing through the tennis world in 1960 when she first appeared in the U.S. women’s rankings at No. 4. She was 17. For more than four decades she has continued as a glowing force in the game—the all-time Wimbledon champion, frequently the foremost player, a crusader in building the female professional game (enhancing the game as a whole), remaining relevant to sport today, an inspiration to millions. The Flushing Meadows home of the U.S. Open was named the USTA / Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 2006.
Born Nov. 22, 1943, in Long Beach, Calif:, Billie Jean, a 5-foot-4 1/2, 130-pound right-hander, was named for her father, Bill Moffitt, a Long Beach fireman and an enthusiastic athlete, though not a tennis player. Her brother, Randy Moffitt, became a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. She developed on the public courts of Long Beach and first gained international recognition in 1961 by joining 18-year-old Karen Hantze for a surprising triumph in the Wimbledon women’s doubles over Aussies Margaret Smith (Court) and Jan Lehane, 6-3, 6-4. Unseeded, they were the youngest team to win it. That was the first of 20 Wimbledon championships, making King the record winner at the most prestigious tourney, sharing it since 2003 when her friend Martina Navratilova caught up. Centre Court was her magic garden from the first time she saw it in 1961.
In 1979, she got the 20th at her 19th Wimbledon, the doubles, in the company of Navratilova (over Betty Stove and Wendy Turnbull, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2). She won her last major, the U.S. doubles, in 1980, beside Martina, over Pam Shriver and Stove. Elizabeth Ryan’s 19 Wimbledon titles (between 1914 and 1934) were all in doubles and mixed doubles. King won six singles, 10 doubles, and four mixed between 1961 and 1979, and in 1979 lengthened another Wimbledon record by appearing in her 27th final, the doubles. Ryan was in 24 finals. Of all the men and women to compete at Wimbledon only Navratilova played more matches (279) than King’s 265, of which B.J. was 95-15 in singles, 74-12 in doubles, 55-14 in mixed. She won 12 singles titles at major championships (one Australian, one French, six Wimbledon and four U.S.)
In her initial singles major final, Wimbledon in 1966, she beat three-time champ Maria Bueno of Brazil, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, She followed up by beating Ann Jones of Britain in 1967,6-3, 6-4 and Judy Tegart (Dalton) of Australia, 9-7, 7-5, in the first “Open” Wimbledon in 1968. In 1967, she took her first U.S. singles over Jones, but the most rousing of the four was 1974, a pyrotechnical performance from two assault-minded dolls, over Evonne Goolagong of Australia, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. Probably her most memorable Wimbledon match was a loss, the record 46-game 1970 final to Court 14-12, 11-9. Neither let up in attacking, even though both were playing hurt.
Billie Jean’s has been a career of firsts. In 1968, she was the first woman of the Open era to sign a pro contract to tour in a female tournament group, with Rosie Casals, Francoise Durr and Jones, the women’s auxiliary of the NTL (National Tennis League), which also included six men. (A few women before King had turned pro to make head-to-head barnstorming tours, notably Suzanne Lenglen in 1926.)
In 1971, B.J. was the first woman athlete over the 100-grand hurdle, winning $117,000. During that memorable season, she played 31 tournaments in singles, winning 17, and 26 in doubles, winning a record 21. She had a match mark of 112-13 in singles, a record number of wins, and 80-5 in doubles. Overall, it added up to 38 titles on 192 match wins, both records. Imagine how many millions such a campaign would be worth today.
In 1973, Billie Jean engaged in the widely ballyhooed “Battle of the Sexes,” defeating 55-year-old ex-Wimbledon champ Bobby Riggs, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, a nationally-televised lallapalooza that captured the nation’s fancy and drew a record tennis crowd, 30,472, to Houston’s Astrodome.
In 1974, she became the first woman to coach a professional team containing men when she served as player-coach of the Philadelphia Freedoms of World Team Tennis, a league she and her husband, Larry King, helped establish. As a tribute to her, Elton John composed and recorded Philadelphia Freedom. Traded to the New York Apples, she led that team to WTT titles in 1976-77 as a player.
Ten years after Riggs, BJK was to establish a geriatric mark herself, winning Birmingham (England) over Alycia Moulton, 6-0, 7-5. At 39 years, five months, she was the oldest woman to take a pro singles title.An aggressive, emotional player, Billie Jean specialized in serve-and-volley tactics, aided by quickness and a highly competitive nature. She overcame several knee operations to continue as a winner into her 40th year. As a big-match player, she was unsurpassed, excelling in team situations when she represented the U.S. In nine years on the Federation Cup team, she helped the U.S. gain the final each time, and take seven Cups by winning 51 of her 55 singles and doubles. In the Wightman Cup against Britain, she played on only one losing side in 10 years, winning 21 of her 26 singles and doubles.
Outspoken on behalf of women’s rights, in and out of sports—tennis in particular—she was possibly the most influential figure in popularizing professional tennis in the United States. She worked tirelessly to promote the Virginia Slims tour during the early 1970s when the women realized they must separate from the men to achieve recognition and significant prize money on their own. With the financial backing of Virginia Slims, the organizational acumen of Gladys Heldman and the salesmanship and winning verve of King, the women pros built an extremely profitable circuit.
Only two women, Margaret Smith Court (62) and Navratilova (59) won more majors than King’s 39 in singles, doubles and mixed. In regard to U.S. titles on all surfaces (grass, clay, hard court, indoor), King is second at 31 behind Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman’s 34. But Billie Jean is the only woman to win on all four, equaling Tony Trabert, and Art Larsen, the only men to do so. King and Casals were the only doubles team to win U.S. titles on all four surfaces. She won seven of her major doubles with Casals, her most frequent and successful partner.
Between 1963 and 1980, Billie Jean was in the world’s Top 10 18 times, including five times as No. 1(1966-67-68, 71, 74) and four times as No. 2 (1970, 73, 75, 77). She held her last world ranking, No. 13, at age 40 in 1983.
She greatly aided Owen Davidson of Australia in making his mixed doubles Grand Slam in 1967 with two partners. King and Davidson won the French, Wimbledon and U.S. after he took the Australian with Lesley Turner. She scored three major triples, winning the singles, doubles and mixed at Wimbledon in 1967 and 1973, and at the U.S. in 1967, and won the longest singles set played by a woman (36 games) in a 1963 Wightman Cup win over Christine Truman, 6-4, 19-17.
Billie Jean’s major swan song occurred at 39 in 1983 at Wimbledon, a semifinal finish (her fourteenth), losing to 18-year-old Andrea Jaeger, 6-1, 6-1. Seven years later she played a cameo role in the Boca Raton, Fla., tourney, winning a doubles match with 13-year-old pro rookie Jennifer Capriati.
In a career encompassing the amateur and Open eras, she won 67 pro and 37 amateur career singles titles, 101 pro doubles. She reached 38 other pro singles finals and had 677-149 singles W-L record as a pro. Her prize money: $1,966,487. Divorce ended her marriage. A founder and ex-president of the WTA, she remains active in World Team Tennis as an officer, formerly commissioner. She returned to her USTA roots in 1995 as captain of the Federation Cup team, having been player-captain in 1965 (a loss) and 1976 (a win). She guided the U.S. team to three Cups (1996, 1999, and 2000). As U.S. women’s Olympic coach, she mentored Lindsay Davenport, Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez to gold medals in 1996, as well as Venus and Serena Williams to golds, and Monica Seles to a bronze in 2000.
MAJOR TITLES (39)—Australian singles, 1968; French singles, 1972; Wimbledon singles, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1975; U.S. singles, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974; French doubles, 1972; Wimbledon doubles, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1979; U.S. Doubles, 1964, 1967, 1974, 1977, 1980; Australian mixed, 1968; French mixed, 1967, 1970; Wimbledon mixed, 1967, 1971, 1973, 1974; US. Mixed, 1967, 1971, 1973, 1976. OTHER U.S.TITLES (18)—Indoor singles, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1971, 1974; Clay Court singles, 1971; Hard Court singles, 1966; Indoor doubles, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1975, with Casals; 1979, with Navratilova; 1983. with Sharon Walsh; Clay Court doubles, 1960, with Darlene Hard; 1971, with Dalton; Hard Court doubles, 1966 with Casals; Indoor mixed, 1966, 1967, with Paul Sullivan (USA) FEDERATION CUP–1963-64-65-66-67,76-77-78-79,25-4 singles, 27-0 doubles: WIGHTMAN CUP—1961-62-63-64-65-66-67, 70, 77-78, 14-2 singles, 7-3 doubles SINGLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS—Australian (17-4), French (21-6), Wimbledon (95-15), U.S. (58-14).
NEW YORK -Like every other tennis fan, Roger Federer is playing a waiting game.
The superstar from Switzerland is only one step away from a record fifth consecutive US Open victory, but he has neither idea when that match will be played nor who he will be playing against.
Looking like the Federer of old, he rushed through his semifinal Saturday to beat third-ranked Novak Djokovic 6-3 5-7 7-5 6-2.
Tropical Storm Hanna arrived in New York City as predicted, halting the other semifinal between sixth-seeded Andy Murray and the world’s top-ranked player, Rafael Nadal. Murray, playing in a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time, was leading 6-2 7-6 (5) 2-3 when rain halted play.
US Open officials said the semifinal will resume on Sunday, weather permitting, with the final being played late Monday afternoon.
The women’s final between Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic was pushed back to Sunday night. It originally was scheduled to be played in primetime on Saturday.
Nadal, seeking to become the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to win Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open in the same year, is also playing in the semifinals of America’s premier tennis tournament for the first time.
Federer, meanwhile, is comfortable on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and on Saturday he showed the game that has taken him to 12 Grand Slam tournament men’s singles titles, second only to Pete Sampras.
“I have been struggling on hard court,” said Federer, who has yet to win a hard court title this year. “I have no problems admitting that. But here it hasn’t been a struggle because I played well on clay and on grass, so maybe that’s why I’m more emotional.”
Against Djokovic, he was almost perfect.
“The way I played the first set was the key moment,” Federer said. “I had a feeling he was looking a little weary, a little bit tired. … I think I broke his will as well when I got the third set. I think he let his head hang a little bit.”
Twenty-five minutes after they started, Federer had taken the opening set, breaking her Serbian opponent in the fourth game. His big serves set up his devastating ground game, allowing him to control points.
“In the important moments he served it out really well,” Djokovic admitted. “He didn’t give me a chance because he really served well, so I wasn’t able to get in the point.”
Federer didn’t have pressure on his service games until the second game of the second set. By then, Djokovic had begun hitting his ground strokes with more power, moving Federer from side to side on the baseline until he found an opening.
After Djokovic, the reigning Australian Open champion, leveled the match by winning the second set, he led the third set 2-1.
That’s when Federer raised his game another notch, ripping off the next five games.
“I definitely had moments during today where I thought, `This is how I would like to play every time,” said Federer, who finished with 20 aces and only one double-fault. “It was a very nice feeling to get that feeling back.”
Now he waits for the title match, whenever that might be.
“One more match is all I need,” Federer said.
There is no doubt that Andy Roddick and 2004 silver medalist Mardy Fish are feeling justified in skipping the Olympics. They are among four of the eight quarterfinalists who did not travel to Beijing. Neither Juan Martin del Potro nor Gilles Muller qualified at the entry deadline. Another, Andy Murray, was dismissed in the first round of the Olympics – so he had additional days to recover for “the world’s toughest tournament.”
The Big Three of Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic, who continue to show they are a cut above the field, are the only players who went the distance in Beijing and are still standing in Flushing. Consider their collective Olympic experiences to be the handicap that will bring them back to the field. Each has looked vulnerable at times throughout the tournament, and has admitted to running on fumes at this point.
This trend is less telling on the women’s side. The best two-of-three set format for women is more welcoming for such a hectic, demanding, grueling schedule.
I have always advocated that the men play best-of-three at the majors (like they used to do at the US Open from 1975-78) until the quarterfinals. During the latter rounds, the full “championship distance” is appropriate. In the preliminary rounds, the longer matches are too taxing on the players. It has a wearing affect, and thus the level of play is compromised at the end of the event. The fans are rarely engaged throughout long five-setters. Oh, well. By the way, the player who is ahead after three sets (either 3-0, obviously, or 2-1 in sets), wins well over 90% of the time.
It has been great to see the net-rushing, serve and volley tactics at this US Open. Federer, Fish, and Muller have been racing forward frequently. The other five players have also demonstrated a willingness – and comfort level – in doing so. Why is this? For one, players are increasingly forced to block back the huge serves. These blocked or chipped returns are easy balls to volley with authority. On second serves, players are often receiving from well behind the baseline (sometimes much further back in dealing with kicking second serves than on the harder, flatter first serves), and compromising this territory makes it more inviting for players to serve and volley. Finally, the surface (as hard as it may be on joints) is easy to plant and change directions on. It has been enjoyable to observe these tactical changes, as contrasts make for better viewing.
If the US Tennis Association wishes to support doubles, and doubles at the professional level, then it ought to start the tournament on Sunday (and not Monday). The extra – or 15th – day would allow more of the world’s top players to consider playing the team event.
Supposing it was a 15-day event, the top singles seeds would be scheduled in approximately the following manner: Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, Labor Day Monday, Wednesday or Thursday, Super Saturday, and Final Sunday. The increased off days might entice at least some of the top players to participate in doubles. Thank heavens for the Bryan brothers, because the other teams in the quarterfinals at this year’s US Open are virtually unrecognizable among even hard core tennis aficionados. The prize money for doubles is already stratospheric at the Open- greater than at any other event in the world. It would be better for the sport if the world’s truly best players were competing.
Furthermore, the first Sunday (day and evening) session(s) would showcase some of the world’s most famous players, and allow our sport to reach a weekend audience on the best day for televised sports. Wimbledon’s stubborn refusal to play on the middle Sunday is laughably archaic. This would be yet another opportunity for the US Open to lead the way forward.
If Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic or Andy Roddick or Roger Federer were assured of extra days of rest between singles matches, it is conceivable that they would opt to enter doubles, as they do occasionally during ATP Tour events. Andy Murray did this year. John McEnroe famously used his doubles efforts as, essentially, practice for his singles matches. Roger Federer has attributed his rediscovered comfort in attacking the net to his having won Olympic gold in doubles.
Obviously, an additional Sunday session(s) would mean increased revenues for the USTA. More importantly, it would assure that the US Open becomes a three-weekend, two-week event-and thus increased exposure for our sport. The success of the pre-tournament Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day underscores how effective this plan could be. There is no doubt that the US Open management team would create a bonanza of an experience. Fingers crossed.
By the way, the grounds at the USTA/Billie Jean King National Tennis Center have never looked better. I have heard the word “magic” to describe how the nation’s largest public tennis facility shines during the tournament. It is a wonderful place to be – even when not watching matches – for anyone who enjoys tennis, sports, people-watching, eating, going on dates or family outings, or simply getting some sun. Well done.
The crowds at the US Open are demanding, but they are also more sophisticated about tennis than virtually anywhere else. At the All England Club, punters are respectfully church-like quiet, even on the field courts for preliminary round mixed doubles matches. At the Open, people are boisterous, opinionated and talkative. When a match reaches a crucial juncture, a surprising hush come across the massive stadium, and this heightens the drama. At Roland Garros, the French are known to whistle and jeer even their own players. On changeovers, they frequently engage in the wave (hard to imagine, but the wave makes Paris feel like being in Pittsburgh’s old Three Rivers Stadium in the early 1980′s!). At the US Open, people are busy watching themselves on the big screens during changeovers and, like weekenders in the Hamptons, apparently happy to be there. It remains the greatest place in the world to watch tennis.
What is the Federer Effect? Players have gotten betterer. Igor Andreev was another example. If Roger Federer wants to regain his place atop the rankings, he needs to get faster, stronger, and even more versatile. He raised the bar for everybody, now he needs to keep up with the same pace of improvement. He also needs someone to remind him that he is Roger Federer. Paul Annacone did this so successfully with Pete Sampras near the twilight of Sampras’ career. When you are an all-time great champion, it is fair to have a certain swagger.
Lastly, by writing this paragraph I am hoping to reverse-jinx it so that it does not occur… My biggest concern is that one of the finalists will not be fit to finish the Championship match due to an injury brought on by the brutal summer schedule. There. By writing about it, it cannot happen. Enjoy the high drama!