French Tennis Federation

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Marion, Misunderstood

Marion Bartoli will be playing her first Fed Cup tie since 2004 this weekend.

The year was 2004. Cesar Millan was yet to be called “The Dog Whisperer.” Ridiculously successful sequels Shrek 2, Spiderman 2 and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban were dominating the box office. The Red Sox were winning playoff games and the Russians were winning slams.

And Marion Bartoli was playing Fed Cup.

As a 19-year-old, Bartoli partnered Emilie Loit in doubles in two separate ties that year; the pairing won their doubles match in a 5-0 semifinal win against Spain, but lost the deciding rubber to the Russian duo of Anastasia Myskina and Vera Zvonareva in the finals. 2004 marked the only time that Bartoli had competed in the national ITF team event in her career.

Until now.

New French Fed Cup captain Amelie Mauresmo announced on Wednesday that Bartoli, along with Alize Cornet, Kristina Mladenovic and Virginie Razzano will be the French squad that will take on Germany in a World Group II first round tie on February 9-10 in Limoges.

Bartoli’s previous point of contention with the French Tennis Federation came from the role, or lack thereof, of her father in Fed Cup ties. Previous Fed Cup captains Loic Courteau and Nicolas Escude, as well as the federation itself, took issue with the fact that Bartoli wanted to be coached by her father during the ties, rather than practice together with the team. The parties involved also questioned the nature of Marion’s relationship with her father.

“In France, they think our relationship is, so to speak, fake, and that in public it’s big smiles and behind the scenes I’m getting pushed around every day,” she once said. “When I try to explain to them that is not the case, they have a hard time to understand.”

More than just the French public and tennis administration have had a hard time understanding the Bartolis. To say that they have gone outside the box in their approach to Marion’s tennis training is putting it mildly. One of the WTA’s more colorful characters, Bartoli’s shadow swings between every point have become her trademark, and she (allegedly) boasts an IQ of 175. She and her antics are always a spectacle on the WTA, no matter where she plays; nonetheless, these things are what endear her to her fans.

Due to her Fed Cup absence, Bartoli was ruled ineligible to compete at the Olympic Games. Three Games have come and gone since Bartoli made a name for herself on the circuit, but it was perhaps the last snub that hurt her the most and may have contributed to this reconciliation. The 2012 London Olympics were held at the site of Bartoli’s greatest career successes, on the lawns of the All-England Club. Without Bartoli, Cornet required an special invitation to compete, as she did not make the cut by ranking; she won a match before falling tamely to Daniela Hantuchova in the second round. Many argued that Bartoli would have been an outside, but no less legitimate, medal contender on the surface.

So the question remains: after nine years, 17 ties and a boatload of conflict, why now? Some detractors will state Bartoli’s chances to represent her country in the Olympics have come and gone; she’ll be 32 when the Olympics in Rio come around in 2016. Others would say she’s selfish for making the concessions, and is only looking to repair her image at home after the 2012 debacle. Both parties remained stubborn throughout this saga, and each holds a share of the blame.

No one can question Marion Bartoli’s patriotism. Despite all the quirks, the results don’t lie; a Wimbledon finalist with wins, among others, over Serena Williams, Justine Henin, Victoria Azarenka and Kim Clijsters in her career, Bartoli’s made the most of what she has. With the crowd behind her, she reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2011, the best performance at that event by a Frenchwoman since Mary Pierce won the title there in 2000 and reached the final again in 2005. All of that success has come with her father by her side, with little support from the national federation.

However, for this tie, Walter Bartoli will not be on site to help Marion prepare for her matches; he will be allowed to attend, but only as a family member. While we may not ever know what was said between Mauresmo and Bartoli over the past weeks, one thing is certain; someone finally understood.

RAFA’S RECORD OF CLAY

Rafael Nadal is unquestionably the king of clay.

The “rey” of clay, so to speak.

Back on May 29, 2006, as documented in the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com), Rafa put himself in the “clay” record books with a win over Robin Soderling, as document below. Soderling, ironically, would play another historic match with Nadal three years later at Roland Garros, handing the Spanish lefty his first career French Open loss in the fourth round.

2006 – Rafael Nadal wins his 54th consecutive match on a clay court, breaking the Open era record set by Guillermo Vilas, defeating Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 in the first round of the French Open in Paris. Nadal is honored for his achievement with an on-court ceremony featuring Christian Bimes, the President of the French Tennis Federation, and Vilas himself, who won 53 straight matches on clay in 1977. Says Nadal of the record, “Obviously, the record is something just extra. It’s something you want. You want to go for it, but the first round in a Grand Slam tournament is always difficult. The first round in any tournament is difficult, but in a Grand Slam, there’s a little more pressure.“ Vilas was not even aware that he held the record for most consecutive clay court victories until weeks before the record was broken. He was, however, well aware of his Open-era records for consecutive victories, regardless of surface (50) and for tournaments won in a year (16) – all accomplished in 1977. Says Vilas, “I’m not sad to lose the minor record, but I’ll be mad if he breaks the others.” Nadal’s streak begins in April of 2005 at the Monte Carlo Open. The streak ends at 81 on May 20, 2007, when Roger Federer beats Nadal in the final of Hamburg, Germany.

The Friday Five: Hang it up Scud

Another comeback for the Scud?

By Maud Watson

Hang it up Scud – My apologies to any Mark Philippoussis fans out there. I don’t personally have anything against the guy, but when I read earlier this week that he’s considering the possibility of yet another comeback to the ATP World Tour, I had to shake my head. He claims his reasons for coming back are twofold: he has “unfinished business,” and he wants the money. The guy needs to face reality. He is struggling to beat Jim Courier and Pat Cash on the seniors tour, and it’s no disrespect to Courier and Cash. They’re great players in their own right, but they’re playing the seniors tour for a reason. If Flipper can’t hang with those guys, how does he ever figure he’ll make it into the Top 100 on the ATP World Tour? Maybe if he’d put the time in earlier in his career (which might have curbed his injuries) and managed his finances better, he wouldn’t be in this situation now. Cut your losses, Scud and move on.

Adieu Roland Garros? – It seems plans for a new center court with a retractable roof at the world’s second Slam event of the year have hit a snag according to French Tennis Federation (FFT) Director General Gilbert Ysern. The Paris mayor’s office is now expressing doubts about the project, mainly due to the opposition of green members within the city council. While the FFT is relatively confident the project will still be able to move forward, Ysern has also stated the FFT is prepared to move from the Roland Garros site if their plans are blocked. Given the historical significance of the site, which hosted the famous 1928 Davis Cup tie between the USA and France, and its ties to the famous French aviator whose name the complex bears, it would be a shame to see the site of the French Championships moved to a new location. That said, in an effort to keep up with the other Majors, as well as a few voices from Spain (a nation that has produced the champion at the French major six of the last 10 years) claiming they now have the facilities to host the clay court Grand Slam event, the FFT must be prepared to take whatever steps necessary. Fingers crossed they reach an agreement with the Paris city council.

Serena Sweeps – As if winning two majors, the WTA Tour Championships, and taking the No. 1 ranking weren’t enough, Serena Williams has managed to add one more accolade to her 2009 season. She has set a new record for most prize money won by a woman in a single season, with $6,545,586. Granted, she did win three of the biggest tournaments of the season, but if her prize money total is any indication, it would seem that the women’s tour is plenty healthy.

Under the Weather – Well, we all knew it was just a matter of time before swine flu hit the tennis community, and it finally did this week in Basel. German Tommy Haas was forced to withdraw from the tournament when he tested positive for the H1N1 virus. With the way things can often travel quickly throughout the locker room, tournament organizers and fans alike will hope this is just an isolated incident, especially with the ATP World Tour Championships just around the corner. And here’s wishing a speedy recovery to Haas, who has put together a great season!

Good-Bye Fred, Hello Adidas – Britain’s Andy Murray is back with a vengeance this week in Valencia, showing little mercy to the opposition in his return from injury. And while Andy Murray is undoubtedly happy to see his game back on track, he has even more to smile about with the new multi-million dollar deal that he just signed with Adidas. Murray will be trading in his Fred Perry duds for the three-striped brand beginning in January. Now wouldn’t it be ironic if he won Wimbledon in 2010?

Vamos Rafa!

Vamos Rafa!

There is no denying that Rafael Nadal is “El Rey de Clay” as the Spanish lefty and world No. 1 eyes his unprecedented fifth straight French men’s singles title. It was on May 29 back in 2006 that Rafa won his record breaking 54th straight-match on clay, beating Robin Soderling in the first round of the French Open. The following documents this event – and others – from the May 29 chapter of the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY by Randy Walker ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com)

2006 – Rafael Nadal wins his 54th consecutive match on a clay court, breaking the Open era record set by Guillermo Vilas, defeating Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 in the first round of the French Open in Paris. Nadal is honored for his achievement with an on-court ceremony featuring Christian Bimes, the President of the French Tennis Federation, and Vilas himself, who won 53 straight matches on clay in 1977. Says Nadal of the record, “Obviously, the record is something just extra. It’s something you want. You want to go for it, but the first round in a Grand Slam tournament is always difficult. The first round in any tournament is difficult, but in a Grand Slam, there’s a little more pressure.” Vilas was not even aware that he held the record for most consecutive clay court victories until weeks before the record was broken. He was, however, well aware of his Open-era records for consecutive victories, regardless of surface (50) and for tournaments won in a year (16) – all accomplished in 1977. Says Vilas, “I’m not sad to lose the minor record, but I’ll be mad if he breaks the others.” Nadal’s streak begins in April of 2005 at the Monte Carlo Open. The streak ends at 81 on May 20, 2007, when Roger Federer beats Nadal in the final of Hamburg, Germany.

1990 – For the first time ever in a major tournament, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds are both eliminated in the first round. Stefan Edberg, the No. 1 seed and reigning Wimbledon champion, is defeated by little-known 19-year-old Spaniard Sergi Bruguera 6-4, 6-2, 6-1, becoming the first No. 1 seed in the 99-year-history of the tournament to lose in the first round. About four hours later, Boris Becker, the No. 2 seed and reigning U.S. Open champion, joins Edberg on the sidelines, losing to little-known Yugoslav Goran Ivanisevic 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. “I say, ‘Bruguera beat Edberg, why cannot I beat Becker,’ you know,” Ivanisevic says. “I say, ‘Come on, (it) is your chance. He is not playing well, he is not confident.’”

1996 – Andre Agassi is defeated in the second round of the French Open by unheralded fellow American Chris Woodruff 4-6, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-2. Agassi, so dejected by the loss, skips the mandatory post-match press conference and is fined $2,000. Says Woodruff of Agassi to the media following the match, “I’d never met him before, and before we went out on the court he said, ‘How ya doing; my name is Andre.’ As if I didn’t know.”Also during the day, Pete Sampras posts one of his most impressive clay court wins, defeating 1993-1994 French Open champion Sergi Bruguera 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 2-6, 6-3 also in the second round. ”This match had a lot of everything,” Sampras says. ”It gives me some confidence that I can play with the Brugueras and whomever, and that’s one thing I haven’t had before coming into this tournament.”

2006 – For the first time in the history of tennis, a major tournament starts on a Sunday as the French Open starts play a day earlier than the traditional Monday start. Former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova saves three match points and comes back from 2-5 down the final set to defeat No. 97-ranked Mashona Washington 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 in the first round in the most exciting match played during the day.

1998 – For the first time in the Open era history of major championship play, a qualifier defeats the defending champion at a major event as 18-year-old qualifier Marat Safin from Russia defeats defeating champion Gustavo Kuerten 3-6, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the second round of the French Open. Safin, ranked No. 114 and playing in his first ever major tournament, defeated Andre Agassi in five sets in the first round. Says Kuerten, ”This year I think I had a chance to go far and try to repeat, but there are many dangerous guys in the way, and today he played hard and he played strong and I couldn’t finish my work. If the other guy has a great day and you don’t have such luck, you can lose to anyone here.” Says Safin, who goes on to win the U.S. Open and become the No. 1 player in the world in 2000, ”I feel bad for Guga because he’s defending champion, but this is tennis life. What can we do? Everybody wants to beat him: a lot of points, money, everything.”

2001 – Pete Sampras avoids an embarrassing first-round loss at the French Open but hangs on to save three match points and defeat No. 250 ranked qualifier Cedric Kauffmann 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 8-6.

2006 – Juan Antonio Marin of Costa Rica loses to Carlos Moya of Spain in the first round of the French Open to drop to a 0-17 career record in Grand Slam tournament play. No man has ever lost as many Grand Slam matches with a victory. Says Marin, “Given my stats, I don’t know if I am going to win. … I’ll keep on trying.:Marin, the only player from Costa Rica to play in a major tournament, never plays another major tournament match.

2000 – Pete Sampras is sent packing in the first round of the French Open, losing 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 8-6 to Australia’s Mark Philippoussis.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I thought I took all the right decisions today

Dinara Safina and Roger Federer

STARS

Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-4 to win the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open men’s singles in Madrid, Spain

Dinara Safina beat Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 6-4 in Madrid, Spain, to win the women’s singles at the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open.

Marc Gicquel beat Mathieu Montcourt 3-6 6-1 6-4 to win the BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France

SAYING

“I thought I took all the right decisions today. In the end it was a perfect game for me. (You) stay positive and I did. I got the win I needed badly.” – Roger Federer, after beating Rafael Nadal.

“There are no positives, there is little to analyze. He broke and broke and I went home.” – Rafael Nadal, after losing to Roger Federer.

“I’m very disappointed I can play this well and still not win a match.” – Novak Djokovic, after losing to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.

“Since I became No. 1 I’m playing better and better.” – Dinara Safina, after winning the Madrid Open women’s title.

“I don’t want anybody telling me all the time what to do. I want to do my own thing. I’m more relaxed, easy going. I’m not worried too much. If it goes my way, fine. If not, I’ll keep trying.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, who hired Larisa Savchenko as her new coach.

“After a few weeks of training I got the hunger back. I felt really good and wanted the challenge to see if I can still be up there (competing on the tour).” – Kim Clijsters, a former top-ranked player who will return to the WTA Tour in August.

“It’s going to be a challenge but she seems really determined. She has the talent and the tennis. I really think she can do it.” – Steffi Graf, on Kim Clijsters rejoining the WTA Tour.

“It is truly a page that has been turned. It was 20 years of my life. Now life is something different.” – Justine Henin, saying she will not follow Kim Clijsters in returning to the WTA Tour.

“Sometimes it’s hard to fully accept change in some respects. It’s an exciting change, it’s an asset for fans and for players.” – Andre Agassi, about the roof over Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court.

“That’s saying something when this is already the best and most famous court in the world, but I’m intrigued to see what level the atmosphere might go to. Given the right scenarios with the right match and players, it could be really something.” – Tim Henman, on the new roof covering Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court.

“The small amounts gambled (and) the absence of influence of the bets on the matches in question.” – The Court of Arbitration for Sport, announcing the reason that the suspension of Mathieu Montcourt for betting on matches has been reduced from eight to five weeks.

SUCCESS AT LAST

Roger Federer ended his five-match losing streak to his top rival when he shocked Rafael Nadal in the final of the Madrid Open. That stretch included the finals at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Calling his first win over Nadal since the 2007 Masters Tennis Cup “very satisfying,” Federer now trails in their head-to-head meetings 7-13. It was the 16th time the two have played for a title, with Nadal winning 11 times. Only Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe have met in more finals among the men: 20. And it was only the second time that Federer has beaten Nadal on clay. The Swiss star is the only player ranked in the top 10 to have ever beaten Nadal on the surface.

SETTLING UP

Organizers of the Dubai Tennis Championships have agreed to pay a USD $300,000 fine assessed against the tournament when Israel’s Shahar Peer was not allowed to enter the country. The WTA Tour board rejected Dubai’s appeal of the record fine, which was more than twice as much as the previous highest. The United Arab Emirates refused to grant Peer a visa just before she was due to arrive at the Dubai tournament in February. The WTA Tour also demanded that any Israeli players who qualify for the 2010 tournament must receive visas at least eight weeks before the tournament. “I just say that it’s a shame that Shahar could not compete in the tournament because she has nothing to do with the politics – she’s a tennis player,” said top-ranked Dinara Safina.

STRAIGHT IN

Emilie Loit and five other Frenchwomen have been awarded wild cards for direct entry into the main draw at this year’s Roland Garros. The French Open begins on May 24 in Paris. Claire Feuerstein, Kinnie Laisne, Kristina Mladenovic, Irena Pavlovic and Olivia Sanchez will be joined by American Lauren Embree and Australian Olivia Rogowska in receiving wild cards from the French Tennis Federation. Given wild cards into the women’s qualifying draw were Chloe Babet, Simona Halep, Florence Haring, Violette Huck, Karla Mraz, Laura Thorpe, Aurelie Vedy and Stephanie Vongsouthi.

STYLISH RETURN

Kim Clijsters made a splash when she helped inaugurate the new roof over Wimbledon’s Centre Court. After Clijsters and Tim Henman teamed up to win a mixed doubles challenge against Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi, Clijsters beat Graf 6-4 and earned a standing ovation from the crowd for the quality of tennis. “I had started practicing again, but I was really out of shape and I didn’t want to embarrass myself,” said Clijsters, who has married and had a child since she retired from the sport. “About four weeks into training I felt I would like to compete again on tour. Since then I have been training really hard.”

SEX AND TENNIS

Anna Kournikova wants to get away from her sexy tennis star image – at least somewhat. The Russian, who works for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Cartoon Network, says she is driven to get kids more involved in sports and exercise. Kournikova began her professional tennis career at the age of 14. And while many think of her as the sexy tennis player, she was ranked as high as eighth in the world in singles and won two Grand Slam tournament doubles titles, partnering with Martina Hingis. While she has not played on the WTA Tour since 2003, Kournikova participates in World Team Tennis and occasionally plays exhibitions. And she hasn’t abandoned modeling. “You’ve got to have some kind of income,” Kournikova said.

SPOT FOR GAUDIO

Gaston Gaudio of Argentina will be playing at Roland Garros again. Gaudio, who won the French Open in 2004, was granted a wild card for this year’s tournament. The 30-year-old right-hander last won a tournament at Kitzbuhel, Austria, in 2005. Once ranked fifth in the world, Gaudio has dropped to 395th in the world rankings.

SIDELINED

It was a doubleheader at the Madrid Open when both Philipp Kohlschreiber and Nikolay Davydenko pulled out of the tournament. Both players said they had injured their left leg and had to withdraw. Kohlschreiber was facing Rafael Nadal in his next match, while Davydenko was scheduled to face Andy Roddick. Both Nadal and Roddick moved into the quarterfinals with walkovers.

SEE, ME TOO

Roland Garros is playing follow the leader, with officials saying the French Open will have a new center court with a retractable roof in place by 2013 or 2014. Wimbledon will have a retractable roof on its Centre Court for the first time at this year’s tournament. The retractable roof-covered stadium in Paris was supposed to be ready for the 2012 Olympics, but it was delayed when France failed to get the Games. Jean Gachassin, president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), said the future of Roland Garros depends on it getting the roof. “The goal is to have an outdoor stadium that can be covered, instead of an indoor stadium that can be uncovered,” said Marc Mimram, the head architect for the project. The Australian Open has two courts with roofs, while organizers of the US Open are considering building a roof over its main court, Arthur Ashe Stadium.

STOP IT

Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf say their names and trademarks are being used on Web sites without their permission. The two, who are married, have filed separate cyber squatting claims in federal court. Agassi claims that the domain names andre-agassi.com, andre-agassi.net and andre-agassi.info have been registered. Graf says steffigraf.com, steffigraf.net and steffigraf.info have been registered without her consent. Both Agassi and Graf are seeking ownership of the domain names.

SUSPENSION SHORTENED

When he finally serves his suspension for betting on matches, Mathieu Montcourt will only miss five weeks on the ATP tour instead of eight weeks. And he will be able to compete at both Wimbledon and the US Open this summer. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) noted the 24-year-old Montcourt bet a total of USD $192 on 36 different tennis events, but none on his own matches or at tournaments where he was playing. Citing “the small amounts gambled (and) the absence of influence of the bets on the matches in question,” the CAS reduced Montcourt ban to five weeks, starting July 6. The Frenchman was a finalist this past week at the BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux where he lost to Marc Gicquel 3-6 6-1 6-4 in Bordeaux, France.

STAYING RETIRED

Just because she has picked up a racquet and hit with longtime coach Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin says she has no plans to un-retire like fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters. “I hasten to add, just to improve my condition and stay healthy,” Henin said of the practice. A year after she surprised the world by retiring while ranked number one in the world, Henin says she still feels the pain of competitive tennis every day. “If it is not the knee, it is the shoulder,” she said. The seven-time Grand Slam tournament champion is now a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, earlier this year visiting eastern Congo, and is appearing on Belgian television in a show titled “12 works of Justine Henin.”

SCRAPPING TENNIS PROGRAMS

In cost-cutting moves, two American colleges have dropped their tennis programs. Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, suspended indefinitely its tennis programs affected 12 student-athletes, seven men and five women, as well as coach Malik Tabet and assistant coach Martha Montoya. Athletic director Ron Prettyman said he had to cut USD $350,000 from his budget. The university says it will honor all scholarships for the 2009-2010 school year for tennis players who want to stay at ISU, while those who want to transfer will be able to play at other schools.

At Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond, Louisiana, the men’s tennis team was cut because of the budget. Officials said the move to drop the 10-player squad was because next year’s proposed state budget calls for chopping millions of dollars from public universities. Southeastern plans to retain men’s tennis coach Jason Hayes, who also oversees the women’s team, which for now will be spared.

The University of La Verne in Southern California won’t drop its women’s tennis team after all. Two weeks after announcing it was dropping the sport temporarily, the women’s program has been reinstated. The biggest problem at the La Verne, California, school – located 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles – was the lack of a facility since the school turned the courts into a parking lot in 2007. But the school worked out a deal to use the facilities at The Claremont Club during the spring, making it possible for the school to keep its program. The men’s tennis program, however, remains on hiatus with no definitive timetable for its return.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Madrid (men): Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Simon Aspelin and Wesley Moodie 6-4 6-4

Madrid (women): Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Kveta Peschke and Lisa Raymond 4-6 6-3 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Bordeaux: Pablo Cuevas and Horacio Zeballos beat Xavier Pujo and Stephane Robert 4-6 6-4 10-4 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Dusseldorf: www.arag-world-team-cup.com/

Kitzbuhel: www.atpkitz.at

Warsaw: www.warsawopen.com.pl/

Strasbourg: www.internationaux-strasbourg.fr/

Paris: www.rolandgarros.com/index.html

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$490,000 Interwetten Austrian Open, Kitzbuhel, Austria, clay

$1,800,000 ARAG ATP World Team Championships, Dusseldorf, Germany, clay

WTA

$600,000 Warsaw Open, Warsaw, Poland, clay

$220,000 Internationaux de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, clay

SENIORS

Grand Champions Brazil, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (first week)

Mondays With Bob Greene: Quite frankly, I’m the best in the world

Serena Williams is the best in the world according to Serena Williams

STARS

Tomas Berdych beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 4-6 7-6 (5) to win the BMW Open in Munich, Germany

Dinara Safina beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 6-2 to win the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, Italy

Novak Djokovic beat Lukasz Kubot 6-3 7-6 (0) to win the Serbia Open in Belgrade, Serbia

Albert Montanes defeated James Blake 5-7 7-6 (8) 6-0 to win the Estoril Open men’s singles in Estoril, Portugal

Yanina Wickmayer beat Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-2 to win the Estoril Open women’s singles in Estoril, Portugal

Yen-Hsun Lu beat Benjamin Becker 6-3 3-1 retired to win the Israel Open 2009 in Ramat Hasharon, Israel

Andrea Petrovic won the GDF Suez Open Romania, beating Stefanie Voegele 6-3 6-2 in Bucharest, Romania

DAVIS CUP

Americas Zone Group 1

(Second Round)

Brazil beat Colombia;Ecuador beat Peru

Asia/Oceania Group 1

(Third Round)

India beat Australia, default; Uzbekistan beat Japan 3-2

Europe/Africa Zone Group 1

(Second Round)

South Africa beat Belarus 5-0

SAYING

“If we are looking at the category of the event (ATP World Tour 250 tournament) it’s not the biggest success I ever had, but it certainly is the most important win for me.” – Novak Djokovic, after winning the inaugural Serbia Open in his hometown, Belgrade.

“It’s hard to say who I would rather face in the final because I didn’t expect to be here either.” – Lukasz Kubot, a “lucky loser” who reached the final of the Serbia Open where he faced Novak Djokovic – and lost 6-3 7-6 (0)

“It was a little bit like Christmas today; I was giving too many presents.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after losing to Dinara Safina in the final at Rome.

“Quite frankly, I’m the best in the world.” – Serena Williams, the day before she lost her first match at the Italian Open to Patty Schnyder.

“It’s great to be number three. I just want to win. The ranking will come when it comes.” – Venus Williams, after losing to top-ranked Dinara Safina.

“I hope this gives me even more proof that I deserve to be there (at the top of the ranking) and it helps me maybe on the big stage to win a Grand Slam.” – Dinara Safina, after beating Venus Williams in the Italian Open semifinals.

“I don’t really have many words to describe the feeling – I’m nearly speechless!” – Yanina Wickmayer, after winning the Estoril Open women’s singles in Portugal.

“To me, she (got) too upset for no reason. It was just one ball in the match.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after Victoria Azarenka lost her concentration as she disputed a call, then lost the next five games and ultimately the match.

“I really tried hard to avoid surgery, but with my doctor and professional team we have decided it is the only solution.” – David Nalbandian, announcing he will undergo hip surgery May 13 in Barcelona, Spain.

“Physically I’m not as strong as I can be, but mentally I’m very tough.” – Nikolay Davydenko.

“Because I am a perfectionist, I had just assumed I would play perfectly all the time, but I have learned that in those times I have to find a way to win and I am much more OK with that.” – Ana Ivanovic.

“Champions do the ordinary things a bit better than anyone else.” – Craig Kardon, who is coaching Ana Ivanovic.

“I played what she liked and she has more power than me. Today was her day, she was the better player, she deserved to win.” – Jelena Jankovic, after losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova.

“It’s nice to seee Americans doing well on clay. We have taken a lot of heat over the years.” – Scott Lipsky, noting an all-American team won the doubles and an American reached the singles final on the clay courts of Estoril, Portugal.

“It’s a fact that there are too many matches, but that’s the way the calendar has been set.” – Rafael Nadal, saying the men’s tennis calendar has too many tournaments after he played 14 matches in three weeks, winning clay-court titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.

SUSPENDED

Richard Gasquet has been suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after testing positive for cocaine. The 22-year-old Frenchman will miss the French Open, which begins May 24 in Paris. Gilbert Ysern, director general of the French Tennis Federation, said the test was considered an in-competition control, meaning Gasquet could be banned for two years if found guilty. Announcing cocaine traces were found in Gasquet’s urine sample at a tournament in Miami, Florida, in March, the ITF said it expects to have a panel in place within 60 days for a hearing. Gasquet says he’s innocent, despite two samples that tested positive. Once ranked as high as number seven in the world, Gasquet reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2007.

SAD HISTORY

The father of Jelena Dokic is serving a 30-day prison sentence after he reportedly made threats against the Australian ambassador to Serbia. Damir Dokic was detained in his home in northern Serbia where police found seven hunting rifles, a gun and two bombs. The Serbian newspaper Blic quoted Dokic as saying he had called the Australian embassy in Belgrade and threatened to “fire a rocket” at the car belonging to the ambassador. Jelena Dokic, who has been estranged from her father since 2002, had been playing in Bucharest, Romania, where she reached the semifinals of the USD $100,000 GDF Suez Open Romania before falling to Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-1 3-6 6-1. In a statement released in London, her agent, Lawrence Frankopan, said: “Jelena is very distressed and saddened by her father’s arrest. … She understands very well the severity of the situation. Obviously, she cannot, in any way, be held responsible for her father’s actions. Jelena remains 100 percent focused on her tennis in preparation for the upcoming French Open.”

SO, TAKE THAT

Patty Schnyder was leading Serena Williams 5-0 in the final set of their Italian Open match when she called her husband/coach onto the court to give her a pep talk. She promptly lost the next game before going on to oust the second-ranked Williams, who a day earlier had proclaimed that she was the top player in women’s tennis despite the WTA Tour rankings. Schnyder’s 6-2 2-6 6-1 victory perhaps shouldn’t be considered that big of a surprise. Although Williams has an 8-4 advantage in their career meetings, Schnyder has won all three times the two have played on clay, including an Italian Open match two years ago.

SURPRISE

When Lukasz Kubot lost in the final round of qualifying to Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty, he had no thoughts about playing for the title of the inaugural Serbia Open in Belgrade. However, Kubot gained entry into the main singles draw as a “lucky loser,” thanks to Belgium’s Steve Darcis pulling out with a shoulder injury. Kubot then made the most of his second chance, becoming the first Polish player to reach an ATP final since Wojtek Fibak in 1983 by beating Serbian wild card Arsenije Zlatanovic, Russia’s Igor Andreev, Belgium’s Kristof Vliegen and Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic. The dream ended in the title match when Kubot fell to home crowd favorite Novak Djokovic 6-3 7-6 (0). However, Kubot wasn’t finished. Making it even a better week, he teamed with Oliver Marach of Austria to win the doubles, beating Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 7-6 (3).

STANDING TALL

Yanina Wickmayer won her first WTA Tour title by defeating Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-2 in the final of the Estoril Open and becoming Belgium’s first Tour singles champion since Justine Henin more than a year ago. Wickmayer, who was ranked 88th going into the tournament, broke her opponent’s serve in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead in the second set. Makarova, also runner-up at the Grand SAR in Morocco the week before, is still seeking her first Tour singles title. In her only previous title match, Wickmayer lost to Kateryna Bolndarenko in Birmingham, England, last year.

SURGERY SET

Saying his right hip is hurting more each day, David Nalbandian has decided to undergo surgery. The decision means Nalbandian will miss “the rest of the season – including all three Grand Slams,” he said. “I feel deeply sad because I won’t be able to play Davis Cup this year.” The surgery was set for May 13 in Barcelona. A Wimbledon finalist in 2002, Nalbandian reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2004 and 2006. The Argentine said he tried other treatment, but it didn’t work out as he and his doctor had hoped. “Unfortunately I have decided to have surgery because I have not felt a substantial improvement in the injury during my training sessions,” Nalbandian said.

STELLAR COMPANY

Lleyton Hewitt has joined Roger Federer and Carlos Moya as the only active players on the ATP Tour to have won 500 matches. The Australian reached the 500-victory plateau in the opening round of the BMW Open in Munich, Germany, when he staved off two match points in beating Philipp Petzschner 6-2 6-7 (2) 7-6 (8). Hewitt increased his match win record to 501 before running into eventual winner Tomas Berdych.

SWINE FLU NO-NO

Two International Tennis Federation (ITF) women’s tournaments in Mexico have been canceled due to the swine flu outbreak. Players who had been accepted for the tournament in Mazatlan this week have been permitted to sign-in as an on-site alternate at any other ITF tournament. And those players entered into next week’s event in Los Mochis can enter another tournament in accordance with the order of priority system. The two tournaments were canceled after the Mexican government suspended all non-essential work in the first five days of May because of the swine flu outbreak.

STILL MISSING

A knee injury will keep Ana Ivanovic from playing in the Madrid Open. However, the Serbian right-hander said she will be ready to defend her French Open title later this month. Ivanovic said her right knee has been bothering her since she and Jelena Jankovic teamed to lead Serbia over Spain in Fed Cup last month. A doctor in Munich, Germany, advised her not to play competitively for a week.

SETTING UP SHOP?

Nikolay Davydenko and Sabine Lisicki could have another career when they finish playing tennis. Before playing their first Estoril Open matches in Estoril, Portugal, the two were taught how to cook the famous Portuguese cake “Pasteis de Belem.” The two players visited the original Casa Pasteis de Belem, founded in 1837, then went into the factory to learn the secret recipe for the cakes. Only the original Pasteis de Belem carry the name, while the cakes are more commonly known in Portugal as Pasteis de Nata. The original recipe was invented by two Catholic sisters in the convent at the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. Beginning in 1837, the cakes were sold to raise money for the monastery, which today is an UNESCO heritage site.

SWEET PAIRING

Jan Henrych and Ivo Minar play on the same team at the Czech Lawn Tennis Club in Prague, but had never played doubles together until the BMW Open in Munich, Germany. They probably are wondering why they waited so long. The two knocked off top-ranked twins Bob and Mike Bryan in the first round and went on to capture the title, upsetting second-seeded Australians Ashley Fisher and Jordan Kerr 6-4 6-4 in the final. “We only decided to play together 30 minutes before the (sign-in) deadline for doubles, and then we saw the draw against the Bryans, so we just went to the court and tried our best,” said the 24-year-old Minar.

SAC STATE STARS

Sacramento State has the best tennis team in the Big Sky Conference, thanks to a lifeline that extends into Eastern Europe. The California school’s top two women and three of its six men’s singles players, including the top player, come from the Belarus. But then so do the Hornets head coaches Slava Konikov (men) and Dima Hrynashka (women). The players include All-American Katrina Zheltova, Maria Meliuk and Kiryl Harbatsiuk. At the Big Sky Conference championships, Zheltova and Harbatsiuk were named most valuable players and Konikov and Hrynashka were selected Coaches of the Year. Sacramento State is not alone in looking abroad for college tennis players. About 43 percent of the ranked women and 64 percent of the ranked men in American collegiate tennis are international players. India’s Somdev Devvarman, playing for the University of Virginia, won the last two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s singles titles.

SCOTT’S WEDDING GIFT

Last weekend was when Scott Lipsky was supposed to be in Miami, Florida, at the wedding of his girlfriend’s twin sister. Instead, he was with fellow American Eric Butorac in Estoril, Portugal, where the two won their first ATP World Tour doubles title, beating Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedet 6-3 6-2 in the final. “The first day I had a flight on Wednesday, we won,” Lipsky said. “We played again on Thursday. I had a flight for Friday evening. We played our semifinal and won. I couldn’t get back for the wedding. I hope I still have a girlfriend.” It was Lipsky’s second doubles title, having teamed with David Martin to win at San Jose, California, in February 2008. Butorac also had won a doubles title earlier, teaming with Rajeev Ram in Channai, India, earlier this year.

SET FOR THE CAPITAL

Washington, D.C., will be the site for this year’s World TeamTennis championship finals. The July 26 competition, being played in America’s capital for the first time, will pit the 10-team league’s Eastern Conference champions against the winners of the Western Conference.

SWITCH AT TOP

John Tobias has been named president of Blue Entertainment Sports Television’s Tennis division. In 2005, Tobias was named by Sports Illustrated as one of the top 30 sports industry executives under the age of 30. He replaces tennis agent Ken Meyerson, who has left the company. BEST Tennis represents more than 100 professional tennis coaches and players, including Victoria Azarenka, Anna Chakvetadze, Caroline Wozniacki, Mardy Fish and Sam Querry. The company also produces tennis events such as the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, and holds television production rights for the US Open, French Open and various US-based ATP tournaments. According to Bob Larson’s Tennis News, Meyerson left to establish a US office for a new company, Lagardere Unlimited, a division of the French media giant Lagardere. Meyerson reportedly is taking a number of tennis players with him, including Andy Roddick.

SHANGHAI STOP

The Qizhong Tennis Center in Shanghai is adding new courts as it gets ready to stage an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in October. The Tennis Center was the site for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup for five years, an event that this year will be held in London. For this year’s tournament, Qizhong’s main stadium roof will be opened, turning it into a 15,000-seat outdoor facility. The Grand Stand Court 2 will accommodate 5,000 spectators, while Court 3 will seat 2,000. Construction of the new facilities is expected to be completed by August. The tournament will be held October 10-18 and will conclude a four-week Asian tour, following stops in Bangkok, Tokyo and Beijing.

SUCCESS, HOPEFULLY

Tanzania figures tennis is the way to go. The government has urged the Tanzania Lawn Tennis Association (TLTA) to focus on international tournaments, including the 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi, India. Bernard Membe, the minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said Tanzania could become known if its athletes do well in international competition. Membe noted that Ethiopia and Kenya are well known because of their success in sports.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Rome: Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai beat Daniela Hantuchovga and Ai Sugiyama 7-5 7-6 (5)

Munich: Jan Hernych and Ivo Minar beat Ashley Fisher and Jordan Kerr 6-4 6-4

Estoril (men): Eric Butorac and Scott Lipsky beat Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt 6-3 6-2

Estoril (women): Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears beat Sharon Fichman and Katalin Marosi 2-6 6-3 10-5 (match tiebreak)

Belgrade: Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 7-6 (3)

Ramat Hasharon: George Bastl and Chris Cuccione beat Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram 7-5 7-6 (6)

Bucharest: Irina-Camelia Begu and Simona Halep beat Julia Goerges and Sandra Klemenschits 2-6 6-0 12-10 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Madrid: www.madrid-open.com/

Bordeaux: www.atp-primrosebordeaux.com

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

Kitzbuhel: www.atpkitz.at

Warsaw: www.warsawopen.com.pl/

Strasbourg: www.internationaux-strasbourg.fr/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$4,500,000 Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open, Madrid, Spain, clay

$110,000 BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France, clay

WTA

$4,500,000 Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open, Madrid, Spain, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$490,000 Interwetten Austrian Open, Kitzbuhel, Austria, clay

$1,800,000 ARAG ATP World Team Championships, Dusseldorf, Germany, clay

WTA

$600,000 Warsaw Open, Warsaw, Poland, clay

$220,000 Internationaux de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, clay

SENIORS

Grand Champions Brazil, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard

25 Years Ago Today: Noah Triumphs!

It was 25 years ago today on June 5, 1983 when Yannick Noah set off the perhaps the biggest celebration in French tennis since the Four Musketeers won the Davis Cup for France for the first time in 1927, by becoming the first man from his nation to win the French Open singles title, defeating Mats Wilander in the final. June 5 is a day of big occurrences in tennis history, as seen below in this exclusive early excerpt from my upcoming book On This Day in Tennis History. To pre-order this book (due out Sept. 1) you can click here for a 39 percent discount.

June 5

1983 – Yannick Noah creates a frenzy of French patriotism at Stade Roland Garros becoming the first Frenchman in 37 years to win the men’s singles titles at the French Open, defeating Mats Wilander 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 in two hours and 24 minutes in a passion-filled final. Noah serves and volleys and chips and charges on the slow red clay court to become the first Frenchman since Marcel Bernard in 1946 to win the French men’s singles title. Noah was discovered at age 10 in the African nation of Cameroon, the birthplace of his father, when Arthur Ashe informs French Tennis Federation President Philippe Chatrier of Noah’s talent after seeing him play – with a tennis racquet carved out of wood – during a U.S. State Department visit to Cameroon. Wilander was attempting to defend the title he won the year before as an unknown 17-year-old, but is unable to hit enough passing shots to fend off the constant net attacks by the dread-locked 23-year-old Noah. Wrote Bud Collins in the Boston Globe, “Perhaps the French will rename that huge monument at Place de l’Etoile and call it Noah’s Arc de Triomphe. The original outlasted a flood, but the current one opened the floodgates of emotion at Stade Roland Garros and washed away not only the Swedish Reign of Terror in the French Open, but also a seemingly impenetrable barrier that has separated French male players from their own title for 37 years.”

1953 – With his bag packed ready for a trip to Cleveland to play in the U.S. Pro Championships, Bill Tilden, regarded by many as the greatest player in the history of the sport, is found dead in his hotel room in Los Angeles at the age of 60. The cause of death for the seven-time U.S. men’s singles champion is a heart attack.

1973 – A in rare major final played on a Tuesday due to bad weather in Paris, Ilie Nastase beats Nikki Pilic 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in 90 minutes to win the French Open for the first time. Said Nastase, “It meant much more to me to win Forest Hills last September because I thought I could never win a major grass tournament. Still, this is an important one.” Less than one hour after the match, Pilic is notified that he is suspended from competing on the circuit for 25 days for refusing to play for Yugoslavia in Davis Cup play, a decision that results in a player boycott of Wimbledon in defense of Pilic. Nastase, however, is one of the few ATP union players who does not honor the boycott.

1977 – Guillermo Vilas routs Brian Gottfried 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 to win his first major singles title in the most decisive French Open men’s singles final in the event’s history.

1982 – Martina Navratilova wins the French Open for the first time in her career, defeating future nun Andrea Jaeger 7-6, 6-1. Following the match, Jaeger accuses Navratilova of illegally receiving coaching signals from her coach, Renee Richards. ”It sort of blew my concentration,” said Jaeger, the 17-year-old American who was in her first Grand Slam final. ”It’s difficult to be playing three people at once. ‘I was trying in the whole first set to deal with it, and I was doing fine. But it was annoying. They’ve done it in other matches. It’s not very good for tennis. ‘She played well and I lost. But it shouldn’t happen. I might win, 0-0, or lose, 0-0, but I want to win by myself or lose by myself.” Said Navratilova, ”This is a shock. All I can say is that I never looked at Renee except for encouragement. Here I have won the final of one of the biggest tournaments in the world. Thank you very much, Andrea. I didn’t have to look up at them. Before I played, I went over the match 20 times with Renee. I could have recited in my sleep what I had to do against her. I didn’t need to look at Renee.”

1988 – In a near flawless display of clay court tennis, Mats Wilander wins the French Open for a third time in his career, defeating French native son Henri Leconte 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 in the men’s singles final. Wilander misses only two of 74 first serves, committs only nine unforced errors and does not hit a volley during the one-hour and 52 minute match.

1990 – Fourteen-year-old Jennifer Capriati becomes the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist in tennis history, defeating Mary Joe Fernandez 6-2, 6-4 in the women’s quarterfinals at the French Open.

1993 – Steffi Graf wins her third French Open women’s singles title and her 12th career Grand Slam singles title, defeating Mary Joe Fernandez 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the French Open women’s singles final.

1994 – Sergi Bruguera wins his second straight French Open men’s singles title, defeating unseeded countryman Alberto Berasategui 6-3, 7-5, 2-6, 6-1 in the men’s singles final.

1999 – Twenty-nine-year-old Steffi Graf claims her 22nd – and final – major singles title, upending Martina Hingis 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the women’s singles final at the French Open. Hingis served for the title leading 6-4, 5-4, but Graf, inspired by the French crowd chanting “STEF-FEE, STE-FEE” breaks Hingis and wins eight of the next 10 games. “It was my greatest victory,” said Graf. “I came here without belief – but the crowd lifted me. At 1-0 in the third I knew the momentum was with me. She got tight. Then at 3-0 I got tight and she almost caught me. It was the craziest match. ‘Quit worrying,’ I told myself. ‘Go for your shots.’ I did.”

2003 – Serena Williams is defeated by Belgium’s Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 in front of a raucously pro-Henin Hardenne crowd in the semifinals of the French Open, ending Williams’ 33-match Grand Slam winning streak. The match is highlighted by an incident in the third-set that would prove contentious and acrimonious between the two rivals for years to come. With Williams serving at 4-2, 30-0 in the final set, Henin-Hardenne raises her hand indicating she is not ready to return serve. Williams serves in the net, then protests, to no avail, to the chair umpire and tournament referee that she should be given a first serve, while Henin-Hardenne says nothing of her gesture. Williams then loses the next four points to lose her service-break advantage and eventually the match. Said Henin-Hardenne, “I wasn’t ready to play the point. The chair umpire is there to deal with these kind of situations. I just tried to stay focused on myself and tried to forget all the other things…It’s her point of view but that’s mine now and I feel comfortable with it….I didn’t have any discussion with the chair umpire. He didn’t ask me anything. I was just trying to focus on playing the returns. She saw me and she served. It was her decision to serve. I just tried to stay focused on the second serve. One point in the match doesn’t change the outcome.”

2005 – Nineteen-year-old Rafael Nadal of Spain fends off a charge from unseeded Mariano Puerta of Argentina to win his first major singles title at the French Open. Nadal wins the title and his 24th consecutive match with a 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1 7-5 decision over Puerta to become the fourth youngest men’s singles champion at Roland Garros. Nadal joins 1982 champion Mats Wilander as the only player to win Roland Garros in his debut.

Mondays With Bob Greene – Rafael Nadal Wins Monte Carlo Masters Series

STARS

Rafael Nadal won his first title of 2008 and his fourth consecutive Monte Carlo Masters, defeating Roger Federer 7-5 7-5.

Nuria Llagostera Vives won both of her singles and teamed up to capture the doubles and lead Spain over China 4-1 and into the Fed Cup World Group finals.

Vera Zvonareva beat Vania King to clinch the Fed Cup World Group semifinals victory as Russia beat the United States 3-2.

Marcelo Rios beat Michael Stich 6-3 6-3 to win the BlackRock Champions Cup in Barcelona, Spain.

SAYINGS

“Winning four times here is unimaginable.” – Rafael Nadal, who became the first player to win four straight titles at Monte Carlo since Anthony Wilding of New Zealand did it from 1911-14.

“He deserves to win. I’m pushing Rafa today, having the feeling I can beat him if I play the right way. That’s the feeling I didn’t have after (Monte Carlo) last year.” – Roger Federer after his 7-5 7-5 loss to Rafael Nadal for the Monte Carlo Masters title.

“I knew I could do it, but there were times when I wondered.” – Robert Dee, who finally won his first professional match after 54 consecutive losses.

“It was my first match on red clay in almost two years. That’s why I was a little nervous at the start of the match.” – Vera Zvonareva, who beat Vania King 4-6 6-3 6-2 to give Russia an insurmountable 3-0 lead over the United States in their Fed Cup semifinal.

“I felt really sorry. I really didn’t want to lose.” – Peng Shuai, after losing 6-4 6-4 to Nuria Llagostera Vives as Spain clinched its Fed Cup semifinal victory over China.

“We knew we could win the tie, but we never expected to win three matches in a row.” – Nuria Llagostera Vives on Spain’s Fed Cup semifinal win.

“It’s not worth it. I’m just 20 years old. Still a lot of time, a lot of tournaments to come.” – Novak Djokovic, on how he felt it was too risky to continue his semifinal match against Roger Federer because of dizziness and a sore throat.

“Physically I was tired. That’s why next week is good. I don’t play any tournament.” – Nikolay Davydenko, who is taking a week off before playing in the Rome Masters.

“It’s still enjoyable. It’s nice to play the tournaments again where I have such great memories of what’s happened in the past.” – Gustavo Kuerten, after losing in the opening round of the Monte Carlo Masters. Kuerten is on a farewell tour which will culminate at the Roland Garros.

“We should have both (Maria) Sharapova and (Svetlana) Kuznetsova in the lineup. I might even have them play doubles together.” – Russian captain Shamil Tarpishchev, talking about who might play for his team at the Fed Cup finals in September against Spain.

SUPER SPANIARD

Rafael Nadal joined Jim Courier as the only players in ATP Masters Series history to win both the singles and doubles at the same event. Nadal beat Roger Federer 7-5 7-5 for the singles title, and teamed with fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo to down Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 6-3 6-3 for the doubles crown. Nadal is the first player to win both titles at Monte Carlo since Ilie Nastase in 1973. Courier won both titles in an ATP Masters Series tournament in 1991 at Indian Wells, California.

SUCCESS – FINALLY

Robert Dee walked off the tennis court a winner after 54 consecutive defeats. The Briton defeated Arzhang Derakhshani of the United states 6-4 6-3 in qualifying for a Futures tournament in Reus, near Barcelona in Spain. Dee’s 54-match losing streak was the worst since Diego Beltranena of Guatemala also lost 54 straight matches between 1997 and 2005, although Beltranena at least managed to win a set. Until his victory over Derakhshani, Dee had played 108 sets – losing them all – since turning pro.

SUCH A PAYDAY

The payout at Roland Garros this year will be more than 15.5 million euros, an increase of more than 2 percent from last year. With equal prize money again awaiting men and women, the champions will each pocket one million euros. The French Tennis Federation (FFT) said the biggest prize money increases are in the wheelchair events where the total prize money available is 60 percent higher than in 2007.

SMOKIN’ SEMIS

When Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko reached the semifinals of the Monte Carlo Masters, it marked the first time since Roland Garros in 2006 that the world’s top four ranked players were in the semifinals of the same tournament. It is the first time since the ATP Rankings began in 1973 that the top four-ranked players were semifinalists at Monte Carlo.

STOPPING THE BOMB

Frenchman Gael Monfils pulled off a unique feat in his 7-6 (8) 6-1 win over huge-serving Ivo Karlovic at the Monte Carlo Masters. Monfils didn’t concede a single ace against the 6-foot-10 Croatian. It was the first time in his career that Karlovic had failed to serve at least one ace in the match.

SITE SENSATIONAL

A record number of visitors checked out the Davis Cup web site as the nations played quarterfinals on April 11-13. The official site of the event, www.daviscup.com, recorded 4,568,701 page views, a 35 percent increase on the quarterfinals weekend in 2007. The total number of visitor sessions also saw a 39 percent rise from the previous year.

SO LONG

Clarisa Fernandez, who upset Kim Clijsters en route to the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2002, is calling it quits because of knee injuries. The lefthander from Argentina played her first professional tournament at an ITF event in Buenos Aires in 1997. She was ranked as high as number 26 in the world before undergoing surgeries in 2004, 2005 and 2007.

SEEKING HELP

Donald Young, the youngest player ranked in the ATP Top 100, will work out at Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida. It is one of the first examples of the USTA Elite Player Development’s new collaborative approach with top coaches and private academies in a bid to develop the next generation of American champions. The USTA also announced that three top junior prospects – 12-year-old Sachia Vickery, 12-year-old of Victoria Duval and 9-year-old Alicia Black – will be working with Bollettieri.

STAYING HOME

Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish, two of America’s top three players, will skip the Beijing Olympics, opting instead for a U.S. Open tuneup event. Roddick will defend his title and Fish will join him at the ATP Washington Classic, which will be played August 9-17 opposite the Olympic men’s tennis tournament. Fish was a silver medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

SPANISH SHOCKER

Spain being in the Fed Cup final is no surprise. Peng Shuai losing three matches and Spain crushing China 4-1 in the semifinal at Beijing are shockers. Peng was the highest ranked singles player in the competition, ranked number 68 in the world. She and Sun Tian Tian are ranked ninth in the world in doubles. Instead, Nuria Llagostera Vives won three matches, teaming with Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the doubles, while Carla Suarez-Navarro, ranked number 132 in the world, beat Peng in straight sets.

SHARAPOVA READY

Russia will have Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova for its Fed Cup final against Spain in September. Sharapova made her Fed Cup debut against Israel in February and won both of her singles matches to lead Russia to a 4-1 quarterfinal victory. Svetlana Kuznetsova led Russia to a 3-2 win over the United States in semifinal play. Against Spain, Russia could field both Sharapova and Kuznetsova, who are ranked third and fourth in world, respectively.

SPONSOR

BoscoSport, a Russian sporting goods company, is the new official clothing sponsor of Fed Cup. It will outfit the linespeople and ball kids at all Fed Cup ties. BoscoSport has been the official Russian Olympic team outfitter since the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games and is also the outfitter of the Russian Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams.

SCRIBE

Bud Collins has written a new book about tennis. The writer, historian and Tennis Hall of Fame member has written The Bud Collins History of Tennis, which is due in bookstores later this spring in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, and is available now with internet retailers. Collins’ achievements include being the recipient of the ATP’s 2007 Ron Bookman Media Excellence Award.

SHARED PERFORMANCE

Doubles Champions

Monte Carlo: Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 6-3 6-3.

SCORING FED CUP

World Group Playoffs

Italy beat Ukraine 3-2; France beat Japan 4-1; Argentina beat Germany 3-2; Czech Republic beat Israel 3-2

World Group II Playoffs

Belgium beat Colombia 5-0; Switzerland beat Austria 3-2; Slovak Republic beat Uzbekistan 5-0; Serbia beat Croatia 3-2

SITES TO SURF

Barcelona: www.opensabadellatlantico.com

Munich: www.bmwopen.de

Fes: www.frmt.ma/

Prague: www.pragueopen.cz

Rome: www.internazionalibnlditalia.it

Berlin: www.german-open.org

Boston: www.championsseriestennis.com/boston2008

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP

$824,000 Open Sabadell Atlantico 2008, Barcelona, Spain, clay

$370,000 BMW Open, Munich, Germany, clay

WTA TOUR

$145,000 Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem, Fes, Morocco, clay

$145,000 ECM Prague Open, Prague, Czech Republic, clay

SENIORS

$150,000 Outback Champions Cup Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,270,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Qatar Telecom German Open, Berlin, Germany, clay

SENIORS

BlackRock Tour of Champions Rome, clay

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