Frank Dancevic

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Milos Raonic Leads Canada to an Historic Davis Cup Victory over Spain

Raonic Leads Canada to Davis Cup Win

Milos Raonic won both of his singles matches, including earning the winning point on Sunday, to send Canada into the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas  World Group quarter-finals for the first time in the country’s history this weekend after defeating top-ranked Spain 3-2 at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver.

With Canada entering the Sunday reverse singles with a 2-1 lead following a singles sweep of day one  and a doubles loss on day two, Raonic  clinched victory for his team with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 triumph over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the fourth rubber. The 22-year-old Canadian was in control from the outset, hitting 22 aces and 55 winners. He saved the one break point he faced and broke Garcia Lopez’s on four occasions, including twice in the final set.

“It’s amazing to do everything we’ve done,” Raonic said. “I’ve been a minor part of it for the past few years consistently and to be able to get the win and have this conversation for the first time, it’s pretty amazing. I’m very proud with how I managed everything and how we pulled through.”

Raonic may be grabbing all of the headlines for his clinching win, but Frank Dancevic is the Canadian hero in the eyes of many after he put forth one of the most impressive performances in the history of Davis Cup en route to dismantling Marcel Granollers 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 to give Canada a commanding 2-0 lead after day one. Dancevic was, to put it mildly, in the zone and put his immense natural talent on full display.

“Just walking out on to the court I had goose bumps, and you know that everyone is behind you and that helps you play through tough situations,” Dancevic said. “The crowd was unbelievable, there were certain times when the match was difficult, and they gave me an edge. They motivated me to refocus on the point and I felt like they also put a little pressure on Granollers because the crowd was so behind me today.”

Playing without their biggest stars, This marks the first time since 2006 that Spain, the Davis Cup runner up in 2012 and champion in 2011, has lost a first round tie in World Group. In their first World Group quarter-final appearance, Canada will face Italy in the quarter-finals at home from April 5-7. Italy defeated Croatia 3-2 in the opening round thanks to a win by Fabio Fognini in the decisive fifth rubber.

“It’s a long process when you’re in group one and you’ve got to battle it out in a lot of places and for a spell there we seemed to play on the road so much,” said team Canada captain Martin Laurendeau, speaking of Canada’s journey into the World Group quarter-finals that began years ago. “I think we had a bit of a window a couple of years ago but still we were down 2-0 to Ecuador in 2011, and from there we just turned it around. We play that tie and the next one away and since then we’ve been in Canada and we’ll do that again in April. We’re happy to be in the quarters but we feel like we can keep on going. We’re riding a good wave right now and we’ve got to make the most of it while it lasts.”

The final total attendance for all three days of the tie is 17, 796, which is a new Canadian Davis Cup record.

Up for the Cup! First-Round Davis Cup World Group Preview

Tomas prepares to defend his first Davis Cup title as plenty of intriguing ties await.

Eight first-round Davis Cup ties unfold around the world this weekend.  We discuss the key players and themes that might emerge from each of them.

Canada vs. Spain:  Without any of their top three men, Davis Cup Goliath Spain finds itself at a surprising disadvantage when it travels to the western coast of North America.  Had either Nadal or Ferrer participated in this tie against Canada, the visitors would remain heavy favorites even against a squad spearheaded by Milos Raonic and aging doubles star Daniel Nestor.  Instead, Canada now can rely on two victories from their singles #1 against the overmatched pair of Marcel Granollers and Albert Ramos, forcing Spain to sweep the remaining three matches.  Among those is a doubles rubber that pits Nestor against World Tour Finals champions Granollers and Marc Lopez, who lost three of their four Davis Cup doubles rubbers last year.  If the tie reaches a live fifth rubber, as seems plausible, Spanish champion Alex Corretja might consider substituting Guillermo Garcia-Lopez for Ramos against the net-rushing Frank Dancevic.  Buoyed by their home crowd, though, Canada should find a way to snatch one of the three non-Raonic rubbers and send Spain to the playoff round for the first time in recent memory.

Pick:  Canada

Italy vs. Croatia:  This tie should hinge on home-court advantage and the choice of ground that it entails.  On a fast hard court, the formidable serves of Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig would stifle the less imposing firepower of the Italians.  But Croatia faces Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini on the red clay of Turin, a slow surface where the superior consistency of the hosts should lead them to victory.  The visitors will face the intriguing choice of whether to substitute their singles stars on Saturday for a doubles pairing almost certainly doomed to defeat.  Three straight days of best-of-five matches for Cilic, Dodig, or both would leave them even more vulnerable to the Italian war of attrition, though.  At any rate, the contrast of styles between the fearless first strikes of the Croats and the patient baseline rallying of the Italians should provide entertaining viewing.

Pick:  Italy

Belgium vs. Serbia:  One might see Djokovic’s name on the schedule and automatically checking off the “Serbia” box, but a few flickers of doubt persist.  First, the Australian Open champion may have arrived physically and mentally drained from his recent exploits, and he has struggled against Friday opponent Olivier Rochus throughout his career.  Breaking from a long history of Davis Cup participation, Serbian #2 Janko Tipsarevic cannot step into the breach if Djokovic falters.  That duty lies in the suspect hands of Viktor Troicki, who endured a miserable 2012, and in the aging hands of Nenad Zimonjic, well past his prime despite his many accomplishments.  Serbia thus might find itself in real trouble if they played a team with a notable talent, like Canada.  With just the 32-year-old Rochus and the volatile but unreliable David Goffin barring their path, however, they should advance even if their stars underperform.

Pick:  Serbia

USA vs. Brazil:  Tennis Grandstand will feature more detailed coverage of this tie over the weekend.  For the moment, we will note that Team USA stands in promising position with two serving leviathans on an indoor hard court, complemented by the reigning Australian Open doubles champions.  While Isner did not win a match in January as he struggled with a knee injury, and Querrey did not impress in Melbourne, both should steamroll the harmless Brazilian #2 Thiago Alves.  In the best-case scenario for Brazil, which would feature two victories for their #1 Bellucci, their doubles duo of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares still should fall short against the Bryans.  All of these Americans have played some of their best tennis on home soil and in Davis Cup, including on less friendly surfaces, whereas Brazil has accomplished little of note in this competition recently.

Pick:  USA

France vs. Israel:  Across from one team that often proves less than the sum of its talents in Davis Cup stands a team that typically overperforms expectations at the national level.  Whereas France will bring two members of the top 10 to this tie, Israel can claim no top-100 threat in singles.  The fast indoor hard court should allow the offensive might of Tsonga to overwhelm Dudi Sela and Amir Weintraub, although the latter has developed into a more credible threat over the last several months.  In a tantalizing doubles rubber, a battle of all-stars pits Jonathan Ehrlich and Andy Ram against Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra.  Underdogs in every singles rubber and arguably the doubles too, Israel can hope for an upset only if Gasquet crumbles under the pressure of playing for national pride on home soil as he has so infamously before.  Otherwise, the talent gap simply looms too large.

Pick:  France

Argentina vs. Germany:  Perhaps the most tightly contested tie, this battle on outdoor red clay will unfold in the absence of Del Potro, who would have given the home squad a clear edge.  While Argentina will field a squad of clay specialists, leading Germans Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer have acquitted themselves well on the surafce and should not find themselves at a disadvantage parallel to Croatia in Italy.  Much rests on the shoulders of Juan Monaco, tasked with avoiding the daunting 0-2 deficit after Kohlschreiber likely opens the tie by dismissing Carlos Berlocq.  The top Argentine here enjoyed his best season to date last year but did not start 2013 especially well.  Lurking in the shadows, as he so often does, is long-time Argentine Davis Cup hero David Nalbandian.  Argentina will hope that Nalbandian’s contribution in doubles on Saturday will combine with two Monaco victories to give them the points that they need without reaching a live fifth rubber.  There, one would favor Mayer to overcome both Berlocq and the Argentine crowd.

Pick:  Er, Argentina?

Kazakhstan vs. Austria:  In a tie without a singles star of note, the opportunity beckons for someone to seize the spotlight in a way that he could not at a major.  The most likely candidate to do so would seem Austrian #1 Jurgen Melzer, the only top-100 singles player on either side.  His opponents can produce better tennis than their current rankings suggest, though, and Andrey Golubev already has started the tie in promising fashion with a straight-sets victory over Andreas Haider-Maurer.  The doubles edge probably belongs to Austria with the greater expertise of Alexander Peya and Julian Knowle, specialists who will allow the 31-year-old Melzer to rest for Sunday.  Excluded from the initial lineup is top-ranked Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin, whose absence will force #211 Evgeny Korolev to win a best-of-five match for the hosts to survive.

Pick:  Austria

Switzerland vs. Czech Republic:  While Tomas Berdych is the highest-ranked man in this clash between nearby nations, the most intriguing role goes to opposing #1 Stanislas Wawrinka.  After he came far closer than anyone to toppling Djokovic at the Australian Open, the latter may suffer a hangover in a competition where he has struggled lately.  Moreover, Switzerland leans on Wawrinka to win both of his singles matches and contribute to a doubles victory on the intervening day, an enormous challenge for the sternest of competitors when the last of those matches involves Berdych.  The Czech Republic will not enlist the services of Radek Stepanek, a rare absentee this weekend like Tipsarevic, but singles #2 Lukas Rosol intimidates much more than anyone that Switzerland can throw at him.  In the Federer/Wawrinka era, no Swiss team ever has presented the united front that the defending champions have behind Berdych.  The medium-slow hard court should not trouble the broad-shouldered world #6 unduly.

Pick:  Czech Republic

Powerhouse French too much for Short-Handed Canadians

Photographer: Kyle Clapham

The anticipation had been building for months following the announcement that Vancouver would host its first Davis Cup tie in 20 years. It also just so happened to be the biggest non-Rogers Cup tennis event to be held on Canadian soil in the last decade.

In the end, the Canada-France first round World Group tie lived up to the hype and delivered on expectations despite Milos Raonic being forced to withdraw from the much-anticipated reverse singles match up with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga because of pain in his knee.

Raonic played and won his singles match on Friday, defeating Julien Benneteau in straight sets, putting forth a virtually flawless performance to give Canada it’s only point of the weekend in a 4-1 defeat. Level at 1-1 after Friday’s singles, Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau substituted the in-form Raonic for Vasek Pospisil to play with Daniel Nestor for the crucial doubles point. In the end, the French pair of Benneteau and Michael Llodra played subliminal doubles to secure the second point for France and Canada was dealt a major blow when it was discovered that Raonic had tweaked his knee during the first set which would ultimately keep him out of Sunday’s reverse singles.

Frank Dancevic replaced Raonic against Tsonga in the first match on Sunday and acquitted himself more than admirably, playing inspired tennis that ignited the boisterous crowd at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. Dancevic’s performance, perhaps his best since the former world no. 65 made a surprise run to the quarter-finals o f the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in Montreal in 2007, just wasn’t enough against Tsonga who was also at the top of his game, hitting winners from seemingly everywhere on the court. The World no. 6 posted an impressive 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 win to propel France into the Davis Cup quarter-finals where they will play the United States on home soil. Tsonga said he was disappointed to miss out on the chance to play Raonic in this setting.

“For us it was a good surprise,” said Tsonga. “Milos (Raonic) is a good player, talented, and I was a bit sad to play against another guy, because I think it (would have been) a good confrontation with Milos.”

For his part, Dancevic thrived in his return to the Canadian Davis Cup squad and enjoyed every minute of playing in front of vocal, supportive fans.

“I felt the energy out there and I felt like I had a lot of momentum on my side,” Dancevic said. “I felt like anything could happen … and it came down to just a few important shots by him, especially in the second set. He painted the lines on a few forehands, hit some unbelievable down-line and cross-court one-hand backhands.”

Gael Monfils, who did not play Friday’s singles match against Raonic as originally anticipated, and Vasek Pospisil concluded the tie with an entertaining match that wowed the crowd featured more than one highlight reel shot from the always flamboyant Monfils. The Frenchman defeated Pospisil, Canada’s Davis Cup hero in 2011, 6-4, 6-4.

A total of 15,233 spectators attended the tie over the three days and certainly made themselves heard throughout the weekend and showed why Vancouver is the fastest growing tennis city in Canada. The Canadian team left with many lessons learned as they look ahead to their World Group playoff tie in September, but also proved they belonged among the top 16 Davis Cup countries in the world.

Blooming in to Life Once Again

All we have been hearing over recent months is negativity surrounding British tennis.

Tales of rotten apples in the barrel, failed youngsters, squandered millions and a country lost in a downward spiral of tennis faux pas which shows no signs of halting but for the increasingly confident performances of lone star Andy Murray.

Yet this week at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships at the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, a name nobody but the staunchest statisticians of British tennis will have been following is making a name for himself in the heat and humidity of east-coast America.

Current world No. 557 Richard Bloomfield will today (Friday) face young American Ryan Harrison in the last quarterfinal with the opportunity to face either American number 5 seed Mardy Fish (remember him from Queens?) or the Canadian Frank Dancevic in the semifinals.

Hang on, a Brit in the semifinals of a tournament other than Andy Murray? Continual sob-story Alex Bogdanovic failed to reach even the main draw here, going down in the final round of qualifying. So just who is this guy?

Richard Bloomfield was born April 27, 1983 in the small village of Alpington, just outside the beautiful Norfolk city of Norwich. He won the British Junior Tennis Championships in 2001, defeating that man Bogdanovic in the final, and picked up the equivalent title in doubles with Ken Skupski, now one half of the promising Flemski partnership alongside Colin Fleming.

He began playing on the senior tour that year and his first full ATP Tournament was the 2003 Wimbledon Championships where he gained a wildcard before losing to Anthony Dupuis in the first round.

In 2006 he reached round two of Wimbledon with a win over Carlos Berlocq which was investigated by authorities over strange betting patterns but no wrong-doing was ever discovered. That year he also reached the semifinals of the ATP Challenger Event at Rennes where he lost to rising French star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

2007 saw him reach his first ATP Challenger final in Wrexham, Wales, where he lost to Michal Prysiezny which saw him rise to a career-high 176 in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings. He then partnered Jonathan Marray to the third round of the 2007 Wimbledon doubles Championships.

His ranking fell considerably over the next couple of years until he qualified for the 2009 Open 13 where he agonisingly lost 6-7, 6-7 to the Italian Simon Bolelli in the first round. Back injuries hampered him and his ranking fell further but then he surprisingly qualified for this year’s Hall of Fame Championships where he is beginning to make a name for himself again.

In reaching the quaterfinals he has recorded his first wins on the ATP Tour since that 2006 Wimbledon Championships and at 27 this will be a welcome boost for a man whose confidence must have been looking at rock bottom.

And hasn’t he done well. He is yet to drop a set. A 7-6 (1), 6-1 first-round win over Belgian Christophe Rochus, brother of Olivier, set up a second-round clash with second seed and world No. 56 Santiago Giraldo which nobody would have expected him to come out of. But this might just be his week. He won 6-3, 7-6 (5) and now marches in to this quarterfinal with Harrison with a renewed vigour and swagger he won’t have been feeling for a long while.

It is high time we had something positive to shout about for Britain and it’s always great to see somebody who looked down and out have a moment in the sun (literally as the temperature gauges out there are showing). If he overcomes Harrison and then Fish/Dancevic then he will be in his first final since 2007, and his first ever on the full ATP Tour. There either Olivier Rochus will be looking to avenge the slaying of his brother Christophe or Argentine Brian Dabul will be looking to put his own name up in lights.

So march on Richard, your country is firmly behind you!

Around The Corner: A Newport Preview

With Wimbledon ended it seems odd to have any grass-court tennis left and yet that is exactly what we have in the week ahead in Newport, Rhode Island. A sparse field is set for the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championship but there are a few names worth noting.

Seeded first is American Sam Querrey. After winning the grass-court title at Queen’s Club a few weeks ago, Querrey is the favourite this year to win in Newport. He finished runner-up here a year ago to Rajeev Ram. He opens the tournament against Jesse Levine.

Ram is also back to attempt to defend his title in both singles and doubles where he was victorious in both draws in 2009.

Other notable Americans include 5th seeded Mardy Fish and the 8th seeded Taylor Dent. Fish was beaten by Querrey in the Queen’s Club finals while Dent is always dangerous on a fast surface due to his imposing serve.

Dent is still trying to find his form since returning from a serious back injury that kept him off the tour for two years between 2006 and 2008. After some encouraging results a year ago Dent seems to have stumbled and holds a 4-11 record in ATP events in 2010. Perhaps a return to Newport, where he won in 2002, will help spark his game.

Canadian Frank Dancevic is also coming back from a back injury and is the lone Canuck in the draw in Newport. Dancevic will be trying to round into form as his home tournament at the Rogers Cup in Toronto is merely a month away.

Following this tournament the Davis Cup will resume with the quarter-finals followed by a few clay-court tourney’s in Europe and the start of the summer hard-court swing in North America.

London Showcase Set For Kick-Off: Tennis in the Commonwealth

Andy Roddick

By Leigh Sanders

The final line-up for the ATP World Finals Championship in London, England, next week has been confirmed following the conclusion of the Paris Masters. Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Verdasco secured the last two berths following their performances on the hard courts of Paris. Eight players went in to the week’s play knowing a victory there could secure a place at the prestigious event but after the twists and turns had unfurled Davydenko and Verdasco won through after Robin Soderling and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga failed to advance past the quarterfinals.

However, with Andy Roddick having missed five weeks with a knee problem he has announced that he is unable to participate, allowing Soderling the opportunity to take his place in the event for the first time.

“I have not fully recovered from my knee injury and I won’t be able to compete,” said Roddick. “One of my goals in 2010 will be to qualify for this event again.”

The round-robin stage of the tournament has been drawn (seeds in brackets) and Group A sees career Grand Slam winner Roger Federer (1), Britain’s Andy Murray (4), US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro (5) and Fernando Verdasco (7) vying for qualification. Group B consists of 2009 Australian Open Champion Raphael Nadal (2), the 2008 winner Novak Djokovic (3), Nikolay Davydenko (6) and Robin Soderling (8).

In the doubles at Paris, Polish duo Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski took the final berth at the tournament with an emphatic win over the Bryan brothers in Paris. That victory prevents South African Wesley Moodie and his partner Dick Norman taking part. The round robin groups have also been drawn. Group A sees world No. 1 and No. 2 Daniel Nestor of Canada/Nenad Zimonjic (1), India’s Mahesh Bhupathi/Mark Knowles (3), Frantisek Cermak/Michal Mertinak (5) and Max Mirnyi/Andy Ram (7). Group B will consist of the Bryan brothers (2), Lukas Dlouhy/Leander Paes of India (4), Lukasz Kubot/Oliver Marach (6) and Mariusz Fyrstenberg/Marcin Matkowski (8).

*Great Britain’s Murray crashed back down to earth in Paris following his victory at the Valencia Open last time out. He failed to progress past the third round in Paris, sluggishly going down 6-1, 3-6, 4-6 to Radek Stepanek just sixteen hours after he had seen off James Blake in the previous round in a match that went on till the early hours of last Thursday.

* Daniel Nestor of Canada clinched his ninth doubles title of 2009 with partner Nenad Zimonjic after the pair beat the Spaniards Marcelo Granollers and Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Paris Masters. The world No. 1 and No. 2 have now stretched their rankings lead over the Bryan brothers to 830 points. It follows on from their recent win in the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel. Aussie Jordan Kerr reached the third round with American Travis Parrott before they eventually went down 6-2, 6-4 to the in-form Czech-Slovak partnership of Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak. In the previous round, Kerr/Parrott had halted doubles specialist and fourth seed Leander Paes of India and partner Lukas Dlouhy. The exit of South African Wesley Moodie and Belgian Dick Norman in round two to the eventual finalists Granollers/Robredo means they miss out on a place at the ATP World Tour Finals. Another Aussie, Paul Hanley, and his Swedish partner Simon Aspelin also fell foul of the Spaniards in round three after they had beaten India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles, seeded No. 3, in round two. South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee lost with his partner Marcelo Melo of Brazil in the opening round to the ever-impressive French duo Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

*In this week’s ATP World Tour Rankings for singles (16/11) there was no movement for any Commonwealth tennis star ranked in the Top 100 in the world. India’s Somdev Devvarman climbs two to 122 and Canada’s Frank Dancevic is down nine to 132. Australians Carsten Ball and Chris Guccione also saw falls this week, five and 12 respectively.

*In the doubles rankings (16/11) Canada’s Daniel Nestor extends his lead as the world’s No. 1 but there are no other changes for the other Commonwealth players ranked in to Top 10. Australia’s Paul Hanley is down a place to 28 while his compatriot Jordan Kerr climbs one to 30. Fellow Aussie Ashley Fisher is down two to 43. Despite falling in the singles rankings Carsten Ball is up one to 57 and Chris Guccione drops to 66. Following their recent leaps and bounds up the rankings Britain’s Ken Skupski (3) and Colin Fleming (4) see falls in their rankings. Countryman Jonathan Marray drops one to 92. Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi sees a jump of six and is now ranked at 60. Jeff Coetzee of South Africa sees the biggest fall of all as he drops 12 to 68 while Rohan Bopanna of India climbs five to 90.

*The final WTA rankings for 2009 have been decided following the closing tournaments in Bali and Doha for the top players of the year. There were no Commonwealth players in the Top 10, Australia’s Samantha Stosur the highest ranked at 13. Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak (35) is the only other player in the Top 50. Next up is another Australian, Jelena Dokic, at 57 while Sania Mirza of India is below her in 58. It’s been a bad year for British tennis but Katie O’Brien will be delighted to end the year as British No. 1 as her end of season form sees her end up in 88, one ahead of Elena Baltacha in 89. Anne Keothavong’s long injury sees her drop to 98 in the end-of-season rankings.

*The final doubles rankings or 2009 have also been decided. Australians Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs finish the year joint No. 7 and Sania Mirza of India is the third-highest ranked Commonwealth star at 37. Canada’s Marie-eve Pelletier ends the year ranked 66 while her compatriot Sharon Fichman is 96. British No. 1 Sarah Borwell is at 76. Natalie Grandin of South Africa, ranked No. 78, makes it only seven Commonwealth players in the Top 100 at the end of 2009.

*In a review of the British sporting “crown jewels” which decides which sporting events are to be aired on free-to-air television, it has been decided that Wimbledon should be kept on the list beyond 2017. The review, carried out by the Independent Advisory Panel for Listed Events, always causes arguments between satellite broadcasters and sports authorities but it is no question that the British public will be delighted that the prestigious tennis tournament is kept where everybody can view it without subscribing to satellite providers. The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has already expressed concern at the decision as they believe it hampers investment in tennis. It seems money truly does talk in all sports.

*Australian tennis fans are celebrating the news that former Australian Open finalist and crowd favourite Marcos Baghdatis will return to play the Medibank International Sydney in 2010 alongside Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, Gael Monfils, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka. While at the Brisbane International, Frenchman Gilles Simon has announced he’ll begin his 2010 season by making his tournament debut. Both provide warm ups to the Australian Open.

*Former world No. 8 Alicia Molik of Australia won on her return to court in the first round of the Cliffs Esperance International. After a shaky start she saw of compatriot Monika Wejnert 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

*The All England Tennis Club and the LTA have announced that the 2009 Wimbledon Championships raised a total of £29.2 million which will be invested in to British tennis. The aim this year is to improve tennis facilities throughout the country so that all communities have access to quality coaching and future players coming through the youth ranks will be of a higher calibre. It would also mean that top players like Andy Murray wouldn’t have to seek the level of coaching they require abroad.

*British tennis starlet Heather Watson has qualified for the Tevlin Challenger $50k event in Toronto, Canada, despite losing in the final of the Qualifying Tournament to American Macall Harkins. Two competitors from the main event have withdrawn allowing Watson to progress as a lucky loser.

*British No. 7 Jade Curtis reached the semifinals of the $10k AEGON Pro-Series Women’s singles event in Jersey before going down 4-6, 1-6 to No. 6 seed Matea Mezak of Croatia.

Tennis in the Commonwealth – Katie O’Brien New British No. 1; Alicia Molik Ends Retirement

Andy Murray

By Leigh Sanders

* Andy Murray of Great Britain has picked up his sixth title in 2009 after he defeated Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-2 in the final of the Valencia Open. The top seed was playing his first tournament for six weeks after recovering from a wrist injury and he will be delighted to have returned to the court in such style. Murray broke the Russian early on in the first set and never looked back, taking his fourteenth career title. It serves as perfect preparation for the upcoming ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, later this month. Along the way, he saw off local favorite Fernando Verdasco as well as seeing through a tricky encounter with the Argentine Leonardo Mayer.

*World No. 1 and 2 (doubles) players Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic ended their recent run of early round defeats to win the Davidoff Swiss Indoor doubles championship in Basel. It is the third time Nestor has won here, having done so with long-time partner Mark Knowles in 2003 and 2006. They ended the hopes of Pakistani Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and the American James Cerretani in round two and the final saw them comprehensively beat the formidable Bryan brothers 6-2, 6-3. Australian Paul Hanley was eliminated in the first round with his partner Simon Aspelin of Sweden.

*The doubles is also underway in Paris with huge interest for Commonwealth tennis fans. Canadian Daniel Nestor and his partner Nenad Zimonjic are set to face the French pair Arnaud Clement/Michael Llodra in round two after a first-round bye was given to all seeded teams. India’s Leander Paes and partner Lukas Dlouhy also had a first round bye and line up against Jordan Kerr of Australia and the American Travis Parrott after they defeated Martin Damm and Jonathan Erlich 6-3, 6-4 in round one. Fifth seeds Wesley Moodie (South Africa) and Dick Norman prepare for a second round encounter with Spanish duo Marcel Granollers and Tommy Robredo after they overcame US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro and Fernando Gonzalez 7-6(2), 6-2 in their first round match. Another Aussie, Paul Hanley, and his Swedish partner Simon Aspelin claimed a huge first-round scalp as they overcame the French pairing of Jeremy Chardy/Gilles Simon. They now face the third seeds Mahesh Bhupathi (India) and Mark Knowles (Bahamas) as they enter the action. The only Commonwealth player to taste defeat at the first hurdle was South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee who, with partner Marcelo Melo, went down 3-6, 4-6 to the home-grown pair of Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

*Australia’s Samantha Stosur failed to progress past the group stages of the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions in Bali, Indonesia, after winning one and losing one of her Group B round robin matchups. She was narrowly edged out of her opening encounter 7-6(4), 7-5 by Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. Despite then beating Agnes Szavay, Martinez Sanchez’ victory over the same player condemned Stosur to elimination. The tournament was won by Aravane Rezai of France after Marion Bartoli retired through injury after one set in the final.

*There were Commonwealth representatives in the doubles too at Valencia but they unfortunately saw little success. Ross Hutchings of Great Britain and Australia’s Jordan Kerr fell at the first hurdle while South African Jeff Coetzee and another Australian, Stephen Huss, lost in round two to the eventual champions Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak.

*The race for the final two berths at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, hots up this week as seven contenders battle it out at the Paris Open to secure a place. Nikolay Davydenko is favorite for one slot and his first round 6-2, 6-1 thrashing of German Benjamin Becker means he’ll make it as long as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Robin Soderling or Fernando Verdasco don’t win the tournament. Tsonga looked set to miss the finals after retiring from his first match at Valencia last week with a wrist injury but he’s also through to the second round this week and will face compatriot Gilles Simon. Verdasco’s progress ends the slim qualification hopes of Radek Stepanek and Maran Cilic while Soderling faces Ivo Karlovic for the right to face Davydenko and end the hopes of one of his rivals.

*Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach have become the fifth team to qualify for the doubles at the ATP World Tour doubles Championship. The final three berths will also be decided at Paris this week.

*This week’s ATP World rankings (09/11) sees a two-place drop for Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt who now lies in No. 22. His compatriot Peter Luczak climbs a place to 79 while Canada’s Frank Dancevic (123) is now above India’s Somdev Devvarman (124) after the latter dropped eight places this week.

*The ATP doubles rankings sees no movement in the top 25 ranked players in the world this week (09/11). Below that, Paul Hanley of Australia drops a place to 27 and fellow Aussies Jordan Kerr (31), Ashley Fisher (41), Carsten Ball (58) and Chris Guccioni (62) also see dropped rankings. Rik De Voest (South Africa) drops a place to 47 and Great Britain now occupies 51-3 with Ross Hutchins, Ken Skupski and Colin Fleming while Jonathan Marray continues his climb in to the Top 100 with a nine-rank jump to 91. Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi climbs five to 66 while India’s Rohan Bopanna drops one to 95.

*In this week’s WTA singles rankings (09/11) Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak has dropped a place to 35, seeing her as the highest place Commonwealth player to see a change in their ranking this week. Katie O’Brien now finds herself the new British No. after climbing from 90 to 88 and compatriot Elena Baltacha fell to 89. Anne Keothavong is now ranked 100 and faces dropping out of the top 100 in the World as she continues to recover from injury.

*In the WTA doubles rankings (09/11), Marie-eve Pelletier of Canada climbed a place to 66 while her compatriot Sharon Fichman narrowly hangs on to her top 100 status as she now finds herself ranked 99. Brit Sarah Borwell fell one to 76.

*British No. 5 Dan Evans is through to the second round of the Caversham International AEGON Pro-Series Event in Jersey with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Austrian Martin Fischer. Dan Cox fell at the sword of the top seeded German Florian Mayer in their first round match.

*Former world No. 8 Alicia Molik of Australia has cut short her retirement from tennis after only 12 months and has secured a wild card for the main draw of the 2010 Moorilla Hobart International. She has formerly won two Grand Slams in doubles (France and Australia) and represented Australia in both the Fed Cup and the Hopman Cup.

*Electrical goods giants Panasonic have signed a new three-year deal as the main sponsors of the Australian Open, the Medibank International Series and the Brisbane International which commences in January 2010.

*Former Australian Davis Cup legend Colin Long has sadly passed away aged 91.

Another Megaphotopost of the Sony Ericsson Open

And we keep posting photos of the Sony Ericsson Open. Why? Because we gotta!  We just do.  I was sent this link which led to another and yet another.  No wait, that’s another too much.  But it did send me to a site with a  bunch of photos for us to use for this photopost.

You’ll find the following photos of the following players and celebrities.

Shakira, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Nicolas Almagro, Gilles Simon, Fernando Verdasco, Alejandro Sanz, Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga,  Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Sandy Denton, Bryant McKinnie, Igor Andreev, Tommy Robredo, Gael Monfils, Roger Federer, Alize Cornet, Frank Dancevic, Maria Sharapova, Nadia Petrova, Chad Peddington, Kei Nishikori, Lleyton Hewitt, Venus Williams, Andy Murray, Jarkko Nieminen, Caroline Wozniacki.

Sounds like a busy day at the recreation and PR office to me.

Credit to the Sony Ericsson Open!

Mondays With Bob Greene: Perhaps Tennis

STARS

Marion Bartoli beat Li Na 6-4 6-3 to win the Monterrey Open in Monterrey, Mexico

Lukas Rosol beat Benedikt Dorsch 6-4 4-6 7-6 (3) to win the Internazionali di Bergamo in Bergamo, Italy

DAVIS CUP

World Group

(First Round)

Argentina beat Netherlands 5-0 at Buenos Aires, Argentina

Czech Republic beat France 3-2 at Ostrava, Czech Republic

United States beat. Switzerland 4-1 at Birmingham, Alabama, USA

Croatia beat Chile 5-0 at Porec, Croatia

Israel beat Sweden 3-2 at Malmo, Sweden

Russia beat Romania 4-1 at Sibiu, Romania

Germany beat Austria 3-2 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Spain beat Serbia 4-1 at Benidorm, Spain

Americas Zone Group I (First Round)

Colombia beat Uruguay 5-0, Ecuador beat Canada 3-2

Americas Zone Group II (First Round)

Mexico beat Jamaica 5-0, Venezuela beat Netherlands Antilles 4-1, Dominican Republic beat Guatemala 5-0, Bahamas at Paraguay

Asia/Oceania Zone Group I (Second Round)

Australia beat Thailand 3-2, India beat Chinese Taipei 3-2, Japan beat China 5-0, Uzbekistan beat Korea 4-1

Asia/Oceania Zone Group II (First Round)

Philippines beat Hong Kong China 4-1, Pakistan beat Oman 4-1, Indonesia beat Kuwait 3-2, New Zealand beat Malaysia 5-0

Europe/Africa Zone Group I (First Round)

South Africa beat Macedonia 5-0

Europe/Africa Zone Group I (Second Round)

Italy beat Slovak Republic 4-1, Ukraine beat Great Britain 4-1, Belgium beat Poland 4-1

Europe/Africa Zone Group II (First Round)

Lithuania beat Georgia 3-2, Slovenia beat Egypt 5-0, Latvia beat Moldova 5-0, Bulgaria beat Hungary 3-2, Finland beat Denmark 3-2, Monaco beat Montenegro 5-0, Ireland beat Algeria 4-1, Cyprus beat Portugal 3-2

SAYING

“Perhaps tennis.” – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown suggested after telling Barack Obama he couldn’t compete with the American president in basketball. “I hear you’ve got a game,” Obama replied.

“I want to play the best possible but it couldn’t be today. I couldn’t break his rhythm on this surface.” – Novak Djokovic, playing on clay for the first time since Roland Garros and losing to David Ferrer in the opening Davis Cup match between Serbia and Spain.

“I think it was a wrong decision. I think it maybe can open the door for other countries to make a stupid decision like this one. I think it’s going to be very bad to play without a crowd.” – Israel’s Andy Ram, about the decision to play the Sweden-Israel Davis Cup tie in an empty stadium.

“We are here to play tennis. We are not here to talk about politics or to talk about terror.” -Harel Levy, another member of Israel’s four-man Davis Cup team.

“When you play Davis Cup on home turf you want a full house, and we think it’s too bad that there won’t be.” – Thomas Johansson, Swedish Davis Cupper.

“Yesterday’s doubles poured a lot of power and confidence into my veins.” – Radek Stepanek, who beat Gilles Simon to clinch the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup victory over France.

“It’s probably the worst experience of my life right now ever playing a tennis match. I had two match points in the tiebreak, I had the match in my hands. I wanted to win so badly and that’s why it hurts so much.” – Frank Dancevic, who could have given Canada a victory over Ecuador if he had won.

“Billie Jean King has done so much for the game. She’s really a true legend in the sport. I think this is a really great tribute to her.” – Jelena Jankovic, who participated in a four-player “Tennis Night in America” exhibition in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

SHAMEFUL ACTION

Following the attack in Pakistan on Sri Lanka’s cricket team, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) canceled a junior tennis tournament scheduled for this month in Karachi, Pakistan. Most of the players signed up for the amateur tournament were between the ages of 13 and 18 and came from Pakistan, but others were from the region, including Thailand, India, Hong Kong and Singapore. Luca Santilli, the ITF manager of junior tennis, said the attack that killed six police officers and injured seven Sri Lankan players was not the only factor in postponing the tournament.

STADIUM SLAMMERS

Police fought with demonstrators outside the stadium where the Sweden and Israel were playing Davis Cup. Dozens of anti-Israeli protestors tried to storm the 4,000-seat Baltic Hall in Malmo, Sweden, after about 7,000 people gathered at a downtown square to hear speeches condemning Israel’s offensive in Gaza and urging support for Palestinians. The players found out about the melee after Sweden’s Simon Aspelin and Robert Lindstedt beat Israel’s Andy Ram and Amir Hadad. Ram, who earlier in the week called the decision by Malmo officials to bar the public from the Davis Cup competition “stupid,” praised police after the demonstration. “We knew there were going to be a few thousand people screaming out there,” Ram said. “Inside here we didn’t feel anything. The police did a good job.” Israel advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1987. It was the second time a Davis Cup series was played without fans in Sweden. In 1975, two years after a military coup in Chile led by Augusto Pinochet, Sweden played Chile in an empty stadium in Bastad.

STRONG WINDS

Defending champion Spain’s first-round World Group Davis Cup tie against Serbia was pushed back a day because of strong winds that damaged the stadium in Benidorm, Spain. Gusts up to 60 miles per hour (90 kph) blew off some of the rows of the stands and affected the stability of the 16,000-seat temporary stadium, according to International Tennis Federation (ITF) referee Soren Frienel. When the winds died down, it was Spain that roared, beating Serbia 4-1.

SHAHAR AFTERMATH

Organizers of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships say they will appeal the USD $300,000 fine imposed on them by the WTA Tour after Israeli Shahar Peer was barred from playing in the women’s tournament. Dubai Duty Free (DDF), the tournament sponsors, say they are will challenge the WTA Tour’s threat to withdraw the sanction of the tournament if all players are not allowed entry into the United Arab Emigrates in the future. Colm McLoughlin, managing director of DDF, said that despite the differences, “In my opinion there is no danger that the tournament will be pulled.”

SECOND TO NICKY

Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes won their doubles match against Chinese Taipei, defeating Yang Tsung-Hua and Yi Chu-Huan 6-4 7-6 (0) 6-7 (2) 6-2. It was the Indian duo’s 23rd consecutive doubles victory in Davis Cup play, extending their record streak. Paes has posted 36 doubles victories, second in Davis Cup history only to Nicola “Nicky” Pietrangeli of Italy, who was on the winning doubles team 42 times.

STANDING TALL

When twins Bob and Mike Bryan beat Stanislas Wawrinka and Yves Allegro, they became the winningest United States Davis Cup team in history, increasing their record to 15-2. The pair moved past the pairings of John McEnroe and Peter Fleming, who finished with a 14-1 mark, as well as Wilmer Allison and John Van Ryn who posted a 14-2 record by the time they played their last Davis Cup matches in 1936. “We’re just plugging away,” Bob Bryan said. “I truly didn’t know that we were playing for the record at all. It’s great to look at when you retire. When you’re in the heat of the moment, still in the battle, you just want to keep trying to get better and look for ways to improve.”

STAR POWER

Women’s tennis returned to New York’s Madison Square Garden after a nine-year absence with what is turning into the usual suspects in a title match: Serena Williams beat her older sister Venus 6-4 6-3 after both won one-set matches against Serbia’s top two players, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic. Venus and Serena have won the last three Grand Slam tournament titles between them. The crowd of 12,026 was clearly on hand to see the Williams sisters, and many of the fans filed out after Serena won the first set of the championship. Before the final, former President Bill Clinton, figure skaters Sarah Hughes and Nancy Kerrigan and race car driver Janet Guthrie participated in a tribute to Billie Jean King, who founded the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973. “She has probably done more than any other woman in the world to empower women and educate men,” Clinton said.

SAVING MONEY

In a measure to battle the effects of the global economic crisis, the ATP is returning around USD $3 million in fees to tournaments around the world. “In these difficult times the ATP has decided to give the tournaments a reduction in tournament fees to help them financially,” a spokesman for the ATP said. The spokesman said the fee reductions would come from ATP resources and would not affect the prize money awarded by the tournaments. A spokesman for the WTA said the women’s tour would not be making similar reductions as it was in a healthy position financially.

SWINGING AWAY

Andre Agassi is returning to competitive tournament tennis with his old gang. Agassi will participate in the Outback Champions Series event at Surprise, Arizona, in October. The Outback Champions tour is for players 30 years old and older. Agassi, who will soon turn 39, won eight major singles titles before retiring after the 2006 US Open.

SPONSOR FOR DAVIS CUP

Telefonica has become the official telecommunications sponsor of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The multi-year agreement began with last week’s opening round of Davis Cup as eight World Group ties and 26 Zone Group ties were played in 34 nations. The Spanish company will provide telecommunications expertise at Davis Cup ties around the world and advise the ITF and its member nations on new ways to develop their internet properties. “In a world where technology is one of the true growth areas, we are delighted that Telefonica and its brands have joined Davis Cup,” said ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti.

STUNNED

Anna Kournikova says her recent trip to Haiti was “completely and devastatingly humbling.” Kournikova went to Haiti as part of an awareness-raising mission organized by PSI, a leading global health organization. “What shocked me about Haiti, where 70 percent of the population lives on less than (USD) $2 a day, was just the complete lack of basic human needs, and the amazing amount of disease and sickness that is so prevalent with the population,” Kournikova wrote in her blog. “It was so difficult to see those conditions with my own eyes.”

SUPPORTING A CAUSE

Several top players on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour have pitched in to help raise funds to rebuild areas in Australia that were affected by the recent bush fires. Players from around the world have sent messages of support and donated signed equipment, clothing and money toward aiding the fund-raising. Australian tennis stars Casey Dellacqua, Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs were joined by Daniela Hantuchova, Ana Ivanovic, Dinara Safina, Ai Sugiyama and Serena Williams, all of whom donated items that will be auctioned off to raise money for the Tennis Bushfire Relief Appeal. “Tennis is part and parcel of community life throughout Australia and the sport has a role to play in aiding the recovery of these fire-ravaged communities,” Geoff Pollard, an International Tennis Federation (ITF) vice president and president of Tennis Australia, and Tennis Victoria President David Stobart said in a statement.

SHARAPOVA RETURNS?

Maria Sharapova will play doubles only at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California, according to TennisReporters.net. The web site says Sharapova’s right shoulder still gets fatigued after playing two-out-of-three-set matches for several days in a row and her doctors don’t think it’s a good idea for her to play singles in the next two weeks. The three-time Grand Slam tournament champion hasn’t played since the Canadian Open last August and underwent shoulder surgery in October. She hasn’t played doubles since 2005. At Indian Wells, she will play with fellow Russian Elena Vesnina.

SERGEI’S THE MAN

The name was familiar when Ukraine’s Davis Cup doubles team bested Great Britain. But Sergei Bubka Jr. decided not to following in his father’s footsteps and instead he took up tennis. The younger Bubka and Sergiy Stakhovsky defeated Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins 6-4 3-6 6-3 5-7 6-4 and Ukraine went on to down Great Britain 4-1 in their Europe/Africa Group 1 zonal tie. The elder Bubka was a pole-vaulting great, won an Olympic gold medal and set world records almost every time he competed. But his 22-year-old son has played most of his tennis on the Challenger level and is ranked 269th in the world.

STILL LISTED

Lindsay Davenport is having a bit of problem getting rid of her house in the prestigious Emerald Bay neighborhood in Laguna Beach, California. The tennis star was asking USD $6,395,000 for her home, but the listing expired without any takers. The five-bedroom house was on the market for 183 days.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Monterrey: Nathalie Dechy and Mara Santangelo beat Iveta Benesova and Zahlavova Strycova 6-3 6-4

Bergamo: Karol Beck and Jaroslav Levinsky beat Chris Haggard and Pavel Vizner 7-6 (6) 6-4

SITES TO SURF

Indian Wells: www.bnpparibasopen.org

Bogota: www.bancolombiaopen.com.co/

Sunrise: www.sunrisetennis.com

Marrakech: www.arryadia.com/mtt/2009/marrakech2009/

Rio de Janeiro: http://championsseriestennis.com/rio2009/

Los Cabos: www.championsseriestennis.com/cabo2009/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$4,500,000 BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, California, USA, hard

WTA TOUR

$4,500,000 BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, California, USA, hard

SENIORS

Rio Champions Cup, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$4,500,000 BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, California, USA, hard

$125,000 Bancolombia Open, Bogota, Colombia, clay

$125,000 BMW Tennis Championships, Sunrise, Florida, USA, hard

$125,000 Marrakech Challenger, Marrakech, Morocco, clay

WTA TOUR

$4,500,000 BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, California, USA, hard

SENIORS

The Del Mar Development Champions Cup, Los Cabos, Mexico

Rogers Cup Qualies Day 1

Just got back from day one of the qualifying draw at the Rogers Cup and it was a great day to be a tennis fan. It has been almost a year now since I’ve been able to catch some live tennis action and it was a nice way to ease back into things and get reacquainted with the game up close. Of course, having a press pass for the first time doesn’t hurt either!

I arrived on site around 9:30am local time and found my way from the parking lot to the actual venue. A short ten minute hike later and I was drenched in sweat on this humid July day but ready to begin my exploring of the site and all that the media access would allow me. Putting on the press pass for the first time was like wearing a badge of honor, and it also elicited a few curious looks from fans trying to figure out who I was and why I was fortunate enough to be wearing such a large pass around my neck. Seriously, this thing is huge!

I caught parts of a few different qualifying matches today, mostly the ones with the more familiar names. There were not a lot of well known players in the qualifying draw and I was somewhat surprised given that this is a Masters Series event. I suppose that due to the compressed schedule, many  players that would otherwise be here by now are still in Europe playing in one of the three current tournaments over there. I’d be very impressed if the names, Andrey Golubev, Farrukh Dustov and Alexandre Kudryavtsev ring a bell with any of you out there, because I can honestly say I’ve never heard of them before. And these are some of the round one winners from today!

I checked out one time Grand Slam winner Thomas Johansson who won the Rogers Cup back in 1999. He was taking on local Canadian hope Philip Bester. This match went the distance with Johansson’s experience proving to be too much for the young Bester. Prior to the match I noticed Johansson having an animated discussion with ATP liaison Thomas Schrader about the ranking cutoff used to make the main tournament draw. Johansson is the number one seed in the qualifying draw and I got the impression that he was not impressed to have to go through this pre-tournament process.

I felt bad for players who did not enjoy the privilege of playing on center court today. Just outside the grounds and relatively close to the Grandstand Court and other practice courts was some sort of Reggae festival that had rhythmic music blaring all morning long. A fan on the Grandstand watching Arnaud Clement march to victory against Illia Marchenko stood up between games and yelled at the umpire to, “turn off that damn music and show the players the respect they deserve.” The umpire addressed the crowd after this comment and explained that the neighboring festival was a nuisance that we would all have to put up with.

After leaving that match I moved on to the practice courts. It is always interesting to see who hits with who on the tour. I’m not sure how much thought goes into the practice combinations, but I always enjoy seeing these pairings up close. Mikhail Youzhny was playing a practice set against Paul Henri Mathieu. I was not keeping score, but it seemed to me that Mathieu was getting the best of the Russian on this day. Fortunately still lots of time to work out the kinks. These two were hitting quite hard and the contrast between some of the qualies and these higher ranked pros was obvious.

I noticed another practice court nearby to be packed with fans and it turned out to be recent Wimbledon champ Rafael Nadal was there hitting with Tommy Robredo. After a quick break Nadal took off his shirt and all of the women in the crowd were cheering and whistling right on cue! Nadal did not seem fazed by the attention, however Robredo turned to the crowd and teased them by lifting up his shirt to see what kind of reaction he might get. Everyone got a good laugh out of his light hearted gesture.

The draw ceremony took place promptly at 2pm just outside of Center Court and brought in quite a large gathering of fans and media alike. On hand to help with the draw were Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, and Canadian Frank Dancevic. It was really interesting to see how such a ceremony was conducted and to analyze potential matchups on the spot as they were being announced. They began by placing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s names on opposite ends of the large draw sheet. Then they randomly put the number three and four seeds, Novak Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko into the draw. I had always thought that the number one and four seeds were together, and two and three ended up on the other side, but that is not the case. Although fortunately for Federer, that is exactly how it worked out and he won’t have to see either Djokovic or Nadal until a potential final encounter.

After this, the 5th through 8th seeds were randomly picked and placed into the appropriate slots that received first round bye’s. I prefer when the top seeds have to play from the get-go, but in recent years in Canada this is how they have operated. After the remaining seeds were placed, they allowed fans to come up on stage to select the rest of the players from a big silver cup one by one. Both players participating in the draw ceremony cringed slightly when they realized what they were up against. Gonzalez didn’t seem to mind drawing Julien Benneteau of France in the first round, but did not seem thrilled when he saw that he was in Federer’s section of the draw with a potential third round matchup looming. Dancevic for his part also looked sullen when the name of Mario Ancic was called for his opening match, with the winner to face Djokovic.

Still there is plenty of time left for the players to adjust their practice routine according to who they will face in a few days. For now, everybody is in the hunt and anything can happen. I will be back with more updates from Toronto in the coming days.

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