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Hingis Plays First WTA Match, Federer Plays First Match in Japan, Koubek DQed – On This Day in Tennis History

From the October 4 chapter of the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com)

1994 – Future world No. 1 Martina Hingis of Switzerland, two weeks past her 14th birthday, makes her professional debut with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Patty Fendick in the first round of the Zurich Indoors. The Hingis debut comes after a celebrated junior career where she becomes the youngest player to win a major junior title at age 12 at the 1993 French Open and earning the world No. 1 junior ranking the next year with wins at the junior French and Wimbledon. Says Hingis of her debut match, “The first time is always difficult. But I didn’t have anything to lose, and I enjoyed it toward the end especially.” Hingis goes on to lose to Mary Pierce of France 6-4, 6-0 in the next round.

2007 – Austrian Stefan Koubek is disqualified from his second-round match with Sebastien Grosjean at the Metz Open in France when he uses inappropriate language in an argument with tournament referee Thomas Karlberg. With Koubek leading 5-7, 7-6, 4-2, the Australian left-hander argues with Karlberg over the ruling to replay a point due to a linesperson being unsighted and missing a call. Says Karlberg, “On the first point of the seventh game, on Grosjean’s serve, a Koubek forehand close to the baseline gave a 0-15 advantage to Koubek, but the umpire realized Grosjean was in the way of the line judge, who was therefore unable to judge the point. In this case, the rule is to replay the point. Koubek disagreed and asked for the supervisor’s intervention. He did not want to accept the rules and used strong language. I told him the match was over and asked the umpire to announce it.”

2007 – Roger Federer plays his first ever match in Japan, defeating Serbia’s Victor Troicki 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3) in the first round of the AIG Japan Open in Tokyo.

1986 – Pat Cash wins 16 of 20 games played and defeats Tim Mayotte 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in the completion of a rain-postponed match to give Australia a 2-0 lead over the United States in the Davis Cup semifinals in Brisbane, Australia. Mayotte begins play leading Cash 6-4, 1-2. Cash the pairs with John Fitzgerald in the doubles match, and nearly puts away the Americans by an insurmountable 3-0 margin, but darkness postpones their match with the ad-hoc U.S. doubles team of Ken Flach and Paul Annacone, with the Aussies leading 10-8, 6-1, 5-7. Annacone, in his Davis Cup debut and what ultimately becomes his only Davis Cup playing experience, substitutes for an injured Robert Seguso.

US OPEN DARLING MELANIE OUDIN BACK ON TRACK?

Is Melanie Oudin, the darling of last year’s U.S. Open, finally back on track? The 18-year-old Georgian busted out of a six-match losing streak to be the heroine of the U.S. Fed Cup team’s 4-1 upset win over France over the weekend.

Oudin beat France’s Julie Coin 7-6 (3), 6-4 on indoor clay in Lievin, France to clinch victory for the United States and send Captain Mary Joe Fernandez’s squad into the semifinals against Russia in April in the United States.

Oudin gave the USA a 2-0 lead on Saturday when she beat Pauline Parmentier of France 6-4, 6-4.

Since her celebrated run to the quarterfinals of the 2009 US Open, Oudin has registered only a paltry 1-6 record, losing her last six matches entering this Fed Cup series. Her two match wins against France was her best win streak since she beat in succession at the US Open Russians Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova, before losing to eventual finalist Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the quarterfinals. Her U.S. Open success earned her media opportunities on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” among others but not many more match victories.

Will her inspired effort in France lead to more success on the WTA Tour?

Seventeen-Year-Old Roger Federer’s First ATP Match Victory

From the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY, it was on Sept. 30, 1998 that Roger Federer registered his first career victory on the ATP Tour. Who was his first victim who undoubtedly is a great trivia question answer at the dinner table or cocktail party? The answer is Guillaume Raoux, the spectacled Frenchman, who lost to a 17-year-old Federer in the first round of the ATP event in Toulouse, France. The following is the book excerpt from ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com) that summarizes the now historic match.

Seventeen-year-old Roger Federer defeats Guillaume Raoux of France 6-2, 6-2 in the first round in Toulouse for his first ATP singles match victory. Rene Stauffer, in his book The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection, ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) summarizes Federer’s achievement, “Yet, before the chase for the year-end No. 1 junior ranking reached its decisive phase, the unexpected happened. Federer achieved his first great breakthrough on the ATP Tour. With a ranking of No. 878, he traveled to Toulouse, France at the end of September and, to his own surprise, advanced through the qualifying rounds to progress into the main draw of the tournament. In only his second ATP tournament, the 17-year-old registered an upset victory over No. 45-ranked Guillaume Raoux of France—his first ATP match victory—allowing the Frenchman just four games. In the next round, Federer proved this win was not a fluke by defeating former Australian Davis Cup star Richard Fromberg 6-1, 7-6 (5). In the quarterfinals—his sixth match of the tournament including matches in the qualifying rounds—Federer lost to Jan Siemerink 7-6 (5), 6-2, with a throbbing thigh injury hampering him during the match. The Dutchman was ranked No. 20 and went on to win the tournament two days later, but Federer was also handsomely rewarded. He received a prize money check for $10,800 and passed 482 players in the world rankings in one tournament—moving to No. 396.”

Clijsters Crashing Party at US Open

NEW YORK – Kim Clijsters may be like a bull in a china shop, crashing through the US Open party, but she no longer feels like an elephant.

Three months after giving birth to her daughter, Clijsters, then retired, went onto a tennis court to hit with a friend and former player, Caroline Maze.

Clijsters Crashing Party at US Open
Clijsters Crashing Party at US Open

“That was a big mistake because I was so frustrated after that,” Clijsters remembered. “Because in my mind I still knew how to step forward, step back, move to the side. But the connection from the brain to the body wasn’t really – there was nothing there.

“So I had a good feeling when the ball was coming towards me, but just moving was absolutely terrible. I felt like an elephant sometimes just trying to move.”

Playing in her third tournament since ending a two-year retirement, Clijsters is moving just perfectly, thank you. With an easy 6-2 6-4 victory Tuesday over China’s Li Na, Clijsters grabbed a spot in the women’s semifinals with her 12th consecutive victory on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Her next hurdle will be defending champion Serena Williams, who advanced with a 6-4 6-3 victory over 10th-seeded Flavia Pennetta of Italy.

“She’s a really good player,” Williams said of Clijsters. “She plays tough. She plays hard. Now it’s like a totally different level because shed has absolutely nothing to lose. … I think that’s when you can play your ultimate best tennis.”

In men’s fourth-round play Tuesday, 16th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia shocked No. 2 Andy Murray of Great Britain 7-5 6-2 6-2; No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina brushed aside No. 24 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 6-3 6-3 6-3; No. 11 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile knocked off No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 3-6 6-3 7-6 (3) 6-4; and third-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain stopped No. 13 Gael Monfils of France 6-7 (3) 6-3 6-1 6-3.

The last time Clijsters played in the US Open, in 2005, she won the women’s singles, beating Mary Pierce of France. Injuries and then retirement, marriage and motherhood kept her away from New York until this year.

She also didn’t play here in 2004 because of injuries. The last time she lost at Flushing Meadows was to fellow Belgian Justine Henin in the 2003 championship match.

Not even Clijsters could imagine her implausible run to the US Open semifinals when she decided to return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. But she surprised even herself by her success in tournaments at Cincinnati and Toronto leading up to the year’s final Grand Slam event.

“I definitely didn’t have that idea, you know, or that thought in my head now,” she said. “But like I said before, something switched with me after Toronto where I felt like, OK, I can, you know, compete with these girls. Because that was obviously a big question in my mind.

“So I am surprised that I’m sitting here talking to you right now, but I’m very happy and, you know, flattered that I get to do that.”
Because of her time away from the tour, Clijsters will have no computer ranking until after her third tournament back – the US Open. She was given a wild card into the tournament and has become the first unseeded player to reach the semifinals at Flushing Meadows since Elena Dementieva in 2000.

Li, China’s top player, wasn’t surprised by the play of the Belgian right-hander.

“I saw her when she came back in her first tournament,” Li said. “I knew she was at a high level. She’s much stronger than other girls, so I knew if she was going to come back it must be a strong comeback.”

It was much too strong for Li, who did break Clijsters’s serve to knot the score 4-4 in the second set. But Li then made four unforced errors and Clijsters quickly wrapped up the victory and a spot in the semifinals.

She is attempting to become the third mother to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open Era, behind Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong. At the age of 26, Clijsters was the youngest of the four quarterfinalists in the bottom half of the draw: Li, Williams and Flavia Pennetta are all 27.

In the top half, Kateryna Bondarenko, at 23, is joined by two 19-year-olds, Caroline Wozniacki and Yanina Wickmayer, and 17-year-old Melanie Oudin. They play their quarterfinal matches on Wednesday.

“You don’t really think about the age or anything,” said Clijsters, the mother of 18-month-old Jada. “Unless like now that I’m older I look back and I’m like, ‘Wow, they’re young.’ … They look at things in a different way when they get to a Grand Slam because it’s so new.

“That’s something I think in the beginning is really good for them. But I think as they progress and they make a name on tour, I think that that will change. The pressure will gradually start to build in a little bit.

“But, you know, it’s great what they’re doing here. It’s fun to watch for me, as well.”