Gaston Gaudio

Brian Baker’s dream season pushes on

By Kelyn Soong

Brian Baker’s biggest win on the ATP World Tour occurred in the first round of the 2005 U.S. Open, where he upset ninth-seeded Gaston Gaudio.

It would be more than six years and five major surgeries later before Baker would earn another ATP main draw victory.

After breezing through the qualifying rounds, the 27-year-old Baker defeated world No. 84 Sergiy Stakhovsky in the first round of the Nice Open in France and will meet fourth seeded Gael Monfils next.

The win continues the comeback story of the former junior phenom, who earned a USTA wild card into the 2012 French Open by winning the Savannah Challenger in Georgia last month. For Baker, it will be a return to the scene he once commanded.

Back in 2003, Baker reached the Boys’ Singles final at Roland Garros – losing to former top 10 player Stanislas Wawrinka. En route he defeated 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis in the quarterfinals and current world No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals. The tennis world had its eyes on the tall, powerful American.

But injuries and surgeries – left hip, sports hernia, right hip, left hip again and a Tommy John elbow procedure – would rear its ugly head.

By the time Baker was 23, the Nashville, Tenn. native returned home and enrolled at nearby Belmont University, where he worked as an assistant tennis coach. He was majoring in business with a finance concentration and still has one more year to complete.

The degree may have to wait a little longer than planned.

Now world No. 216 and not far off from his career best of No. 172 from November 2004, Baker has jumped more than 200 spots since the beginning of the year.

In a career full of twists and turns, Baker now has the chance to make the biggest splash of them all – mounting a comeback that no one expected.

(Photo of Brian Baker by Kathy Willens, AP)

Argentina Could Evade Underdog Status in the Davis Cup Final

It wasn’t so long ago that players from Argentina dominated the ATP rankings, with Guillermo Canas, Guillermo Coria, Gaston Gaudio, Mariano Puerta and David Nalbandian all spending time in the top 10.

The only one of those players still active today is Nalbandian, and he’s going for something again that he and his compatriots weren’t able to achieve, a Davis Cup title. But the final obstacle to achieving that goal is a longtime tennis powerhouse in its own right: Spain, led by top-five players Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer.

Pulling off the upset against the host nation will be a difficult task for Argentina, but there are some things that could work to their advantage:

A Top 10-Caliber Player of Their Own

Juan Martin del Potro will be leading the singles effort for Argentina. This has been a year to remember for the 23-year-old as he rebounded back from wrist surgery, returning his ranking to the top 15. He’s a force on all surfaces, particularly clay, which the players will be doing battle on this week.

A Top 15-Caliber Player, Too

The likely second singles spot will go to Juan Monaco. “Pico” has been ranked as high as 14 in the world and has a winning record against Ferrer.  All three of Monaco’s career singles titles have come on clay, so surface shouldn’t be a factor. He’s also on one of his best stretches in years: reaching the round of 16 at the U.S. Open, the finals in Valencia and the quarterfinals at the Paris Indoors event.

Fresher Legs

While Nadal and Ferrer were facing the best of the best at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, the Argentine players were able to start preparing for the year’s final event a little earlier. Ferrer was able to win two of his round-robin matches relatively easy, but did have a battle against Tomas Berdych at the 02 Arena. Nadal didn’t advance out of group play, but did go three sets with Mardy Fish and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. With the way Nadal and Ferrer play, any extended matches add more wear-and-tear on their bodies.

The (Good and Bad) Experience Factor

While Argentina has yet to win the Davis Cup, the team has advanced to the finals twice since 2006. Nalbandian and Juan Ignacio Chela were both members of those squads, and have played during years where the team was the odds-on favorite to win the whole tournament. Those two are entering the latter stages of their careers, and more than likely will end them without Grand Slam glory. But they’ve seen almost everything the tour has to offer, and could be a steadying hand when the pressure is on in the final tie of 2011.

From Slam Finals To First Round Losses…In Qualifying; Gaudio, Clement Crash Out

On a scorching Wednesday afternoon, 2004 Roland Garros champion Gaston Gaudio, and 2001 Australian Open finalist Arnaud Clement crumbled in the heat, falling to little-known players in uninspired first round losses.

In front of a standing room only crowd on Court 8, Gaudio struggled to find the timing on his shots, quickly going down 3-0 as the Argentine fells 6-1, 6-4 to Julian Reister of Germany. The No. 167 ranked German, seeking to qualify for his first ever Grand Slam, snapped a four match losing streak with today’s win. Gaudio was competing in his first match on hard courts since the 2007 Nasdaq-100 Open.

Meanwhile, on Court 7, Frenchman Arnaud Clement came within two points of winning both sets of his match against American wildcard Tim Smyczek. The Wisconsin native, a former junior Wimbledon semifinalist, managed to hang tough and grind out a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3) victory. The loss marks the first time that Clement has failed to qualify for a Grand Slam since 1997.

In other men’s results, Juan Pablo Brzezicki of Argentina and American Donald Young also advanced into the 2nd round of qualifying with straight sets victories.

On the women’s side, 2008 junior Wimbledon champion Laura Robson won her first ever pro match at the Grand Slam level. The 15 year old Brit fought off an early first set deficit in defeating French veteran Stephanie Foretz 7-5, 6-1. Two former Grand Slam quarterfinalists also advanced in tough three set matches; Croatian Karolina Sprem defeated Nina Bratchikova of Russia 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, while Sesil Karantancheva of Kazhakstan lost the first seven games of her match before winning 12 straight games in defeating American Abigail Spears 0-6, 6-1, 6-0.

Thursday’s 2nd round matches will see 38 year old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan, making her comeback to pro tennis after retiring in 1996, compete against fellow Japanese player Yurika Sema in the first match of the day on Court 7. Two players who have reached ATP finals in 2009, Somdev DevVarman and Carsten Ball, will be the first two featured matches on Court 13. The final feature match of the day on Court 11 will pit Donald Young against Guilermo Olaso of Spain.

All day sessions start at 11:00 a.m. Second round qualifying matches take place on Thursday, while final round qualifying matches start on Friday. For more information, please visit www.usopen.org

US Open Qualifying Might Be The Best Deal In Tennis

Where can you watch former top 10 players, Grand Slam finalists, and rising stars of the game, all completely free of charge?

The US Open qualifying, that kicked off today at the USTA/Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and runs until Friday, attracts tens of thousands of spectators each year. With free admission and front row access to virtually any match during the week, in addition to the chance to watch top players practice in preparation for the main draw, the qualifying is arguably the best deal in tennis.

This rings even more true this year as the Open qualifying boasts likely its strongest field in tournament history. On the men’s side, 2004 Roland Garros champion Gaston Gaudio of Argentina will become the first Grand Slam champion to compete in US Open qualifying since Pat Cash in 1996. Former Wimbledon semifinalist Xavier Malisse of Belgium, former Australian Open finalist Arnaud Clement and former top 20 player Vince Spadea of the United States are other highlights in the field. Two finalists at ATP events in 2009, Carsten Ball of Australia and Somdev Devvarman of India, will also help round out the draw.

The women’s draw features former top 10 player  Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic, and 38-year-old and former U.S., Wimbledon and French Open semifinalist Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan, who will be competing in Flushing Meadows for the first time since 1996. Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain, part of the No. 3 ranked women’s doubles team with fellow Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues, will be competing in the final singles event of her career as she sets her sights on retirement at the end of the season.

All qualifying sessions start at 11:00 a.m. each day and run until approximately 7:00 p.m. The opening round of qualifying continues through Wednesday, second round matches take place on Thursday, and qualifying round matches will be held on Friday. For more information, visit www.usopen.org

Roger Federer: Setting Records Around The World

Tennis fans have been very amused at the new NetJets television advertisement featured Roger Federer pulled a luggage rack full of all of his Grand Slam tournament trophies to his private jet. Federer indeed leads a jet-set lifestyle that really began to take shape in 2004 – the first year that he won the US Open. The following chapter from the Federer biography THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION by Rene Stauffer ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) – entitled “Setting Records Around The World” – documents a bit of the high-life of Federer and the tail end of his 2004 season.

Following his triumph at the US Open, Roger Federer and his girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec experienced four very exciting and diverse weeks. Arthur Cohn, an Academy Award-winning producer and, like Federer, a native of Basel, invited his friend to celebrate his US Open victory with him in Los Angeles. Roger and Mirka got their first introduction to Hollywood’s glamorous world. They took up residence in a luxury suite in Beverly Hills, went shopping on Rodeo Drive, visited attractions such as the Walk of Fame and met film greats such as Kirk Douglas and Danny de Vito. In between it all, Federer treated his body to hours of relaxation in the spa. Another highlight of this trip was an excur­sion in a private jet to Las Vegas to take in magician David Copperfield’s show at the Hotel Bellagio. Following the show, Federer met with Copperfield—a meeting of two magicians, one could say.

The jet-set life continued smoothly. Federer then jetted across the Pacific Ocean and the International Date Line and made a stop-over in Hong Kong, where he conducted a media day for the Asian press. The next stop was Bangkok and the Thailand Open. Traveling in a minivan from the tour­nament facilities to his hotel through the humid, rain-soaked metropolis, Federer explained that he enjoyed moving about in the world of the beautiful, the rich and the famous. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t want to,” he said. “I find getting to know show business exciting. I used to have trouble with the world of red carpets and formal dinners but now I’m having fun. It’s also not difficult for me to talk to other people. There’s always something to say.”

He particularly enjoyed Asia’s hospitality and the enthusiasm of the peo­ple—he was also enamored with Asian cuisine. In contrast to the other players at the event, Federer stayed at the Oriental Hotel on the Chao Phraya River, a traditional, colonial-styled structure and the best hotel in the city. Federer, in the meantime, made the conscious decision to avoid the official tournament hotels. He noticed that he could settle down quicker and relax better when he stayed away from the tournament crowd. Hotel rooms were havens where he could recuperate and escape—and he was willing to pay extra dollar for this extra luxury, but as the king of the tennis world, he was still often offered special rates to stay in the best suites in the best hotels. In Paris, it may have been the noble Hotel du Crillon, or the seven star Burj al Arab in Dubai, or the Peninsula in New York.

Federer’s trip to Bangkok ended in success—he won the Thailand Open with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Andy Roddick in a sold-out final in front of 10,000-plus spectators. It was his 12th consecutive victory in a tournament final, tying the all-time record set by Björn Borg and John McEnroe. He received the “Trophy of the King” at the award ceremony from Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya and expressed his gratitude in the country’s customary way, mak­ing a slight bow with hands folded over his chest. “I was surprised at how attractive the Princess was. She looked 35,” he said later after a long walk through many hallways accompanied by five bodyguards while retiring to his plain and windowless single dressing room. “She’s supposed to be 55!”

His “jet-set” world tour was now in its sixth week but he did not return di­rectly home after Bangkok. For the third time during the 2004 calendar year, Federer went to Dubai. What nobody knew was that the Australian coach Tony Roche was also in Dubai, on assignment to spend a few days of training with Federer in the initial stages of what later became their fascinating player-coach relationship.

By early October, Federer already won ten titles in the 2004 season. His match record stood at 69-6 and there were still four tournaments remaining on his schedule. Two more important ATP records were within reach—most victories in a season (86) and most tournament titles in a season (12), both set in 1995 by the left-handed Austrian clay courter Thomas Muster. But then, the unexpected happened. Federer withdrew from the event in Madrid because he didn’t feel sufficiently rested after his world tour. He preferred to concentrate his energies on winning the event that was as high on his wish-list as the French Open—the Swiss Indoors. At the tournament’s Monday opening presentation in Basel’s town hall, Federer was in a fine mood, upbeat and told all the assembled media how well prepared he was for the week. However, just a few hours later, he was overtaken during a practice session by what must have been the curse of Basel—he suddenly felt an unusual pain in his left thigh. The pain persisted during his practice session on Tuesday. He hastily underwent a magnetic resonance imaging examination, which re­vealed a muscle fiber rupture—an injury common for tennis players.

Instead of his long-desired triumph in his hometown, the Swiss Indoors brought him some of the bitterest hours of his career. He showed up at the St. Jakobshalle Tuesday evening—when he was scheduled to make his tourna­ment start—wearing street clothes. He withdrew from the tournament and explained to the media and the public what happened. “I never imagined that it would turn out like this,” he said. “I had made perfect preparations and had a good chance at winning the tournament.”

Federer recovered just in time to travel to Houston in his attempt to de­fend his title at the Tennis Masters Cup. However, the second year at the Westside Tennis Club was completely different than the previous year. Jim McIngvale—“Mattress Mack”—took last year’s criticisms by Federer and his fellow players to heart and significantly improved the conditions of the tour­nament. Each of the eight participants now had their own dressing room. The differences between Federer and McIngvale were resolved and the tourna­ment promoter and his wife warmly welcomed the world’s No. 1 player and congratulated him graciously for his impressive 2004 season. Federer finally felt welcome and appreciated in Texas. McIngvale even facilitated for Federer a lunch with former American President George Bush Sr., a self-confessed tennis fan, and his wife Barbara, both residents of Houston. However, there was something that McIngvale could not facilitate with his influence and his deep pocketbook—good weather. Most of the week featured rainy and windy weather, spreading gloom among fans, players and officials and causing long and persistent match delays.

At least Federer was fully recovered from his thigh injury. Six weeks went by since his last tournament competition in Bangkok, but surprisingly, he had little trouble immediately finding his rhythm. Federer negotiated round-robin wins over Gaston Gaudio, Lleyton Hewitt and Carlos Moya to reach the semifinals, where he faced Marat Safin, who was now tutored by Federer’s old coach Peter Lundgren.

The Federer-Safin semifinal was highlighted by the second-set tie-break that lasted 27 minutes and ended 20-18 in Federer’s favor. The 38 points matched the record for the longest tie-break in tennis history—equaling the amount of points Björn Borg and Premjit Lall played at Wimbledon in 1973 and that Goran Ivanisevic and Daniel Nestor played at the 1993 US Open. “Too bad we didn’t break the record,” Federer joked. “We should have made an arrangement to do this.” Federer was in a good mood because even though he blew seven match points, he also fought off six set points and won the match 6-3, 7-6 (18). Interestingly enough, television replays showed that Federer actually won the match on his third match point when leading 10-9, when the TV replay showed Federer was the victim of a bad line call. “I even saw the mark Safin’s shot made and it was out,” he stated. Almost any other player would have frantically protested such an injustice, especially at such a critical point in the match. Federer, however, reacted as if nothing had hap­pened, even though he would have won the match on Safin’s mistake. He remained entrenched in the dog fight and said he intentionally convinced himself that Safin’s stroke probably landed in. “I would have gone nuts oth­erwise,” he said.

In the other semifinal, Roddick’s game buckled against Hewitt as the American lost the last 20 points of the match, losing 6-3, 6-2. Some cynics actually offered that Roddick may have welcomed defeat to avoid a fourth final-round loss to Federer for the year. Instead, it was now Federer against Hewitt for the sixth time on the season, and for the sixth time, Federer emerged the winner. The 6-3, 6-2 win gave Federer his 13th consecutive vic­tory in a tournament final, breaking the record he previously shared with McEnroe and Borg for most consecutive victories in tournament finals.

As Federer toasted with Champagne in the player’s lounge after his post-match interview with the press, he seemed like anybody who had just ended a normal work week. But on this day, a dream year came to a close. Federer won 11 titles, three Grand Slam tournaments as well as the Tennis Masters Cup. His won-loss record for the year stood at 74-6, marking the best winning per­centage since John McEnroe went 82-3 in 1984. His reward was lavish. Just in this week—like the year before in Houston—he set a personal record in prize money winning $1.52 million and raised his season earnings to $6,357,547.

Since his devastating loss to Berdych at the Olympic Games, Federer went undefeated for the remainder of the year. He was now the champion of four Grand Slam tournaments and finished the year as the No. 1 player in the world. Federer still had one more wish before he and Mirka jetted off to the Maldive Islands for some rest and relaxation—“I would like to make time stand still and just enjoy this moment.” But nobody, of course, could fulfill this wish.

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

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: Rafa is playing even more aggressively this year

STARS

Rafael Nadal beat David Ferrer 6-2 7-5 to win the Barcelona Open Banco Sabadell in Barcelona, Spain

Ivo Minar won the Bulgarian Open in Sofia, Bulgaria, beating Florian Mayer 6-4 6-3

Jim Courier beat Jimmy Arias 6-4 6-2 to win The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Legends Championships in Grand Cayman

FED CUP

World Group Semifinals

Italy beat Russia 4-1 at Castellaneta Marina, Italy

United States beat Czech Republic 3-2 at Brno, Czech Republic

World Group Playoffs

Serbia beat Spain 4-0 (doubles abandoned due to rain); France beat Slovak Republic 3-2; Germany beat China 3-2; Ukraine beat Argentina 5-0

World Group II Playoffs

Belgium beat Canada 3-2; Estonia beat Israel 3-2; Poland beat Japan 3-2; Australia beat Switzerland 3-1 (doubles abandoned due to bad light)

SAYING

“The ITF decision has left us with no other option. We cannot send the team. It is extremely disappointing.” – Geoff Pollard, Tennis Australia president, announcing Australia’s Davis Cup will not go to India for its scheduled Davis Cup match.

“I think it’s irresponsible for the ITF to expect us as players to go there and put ourselves on the line in a very, very difficult predicament with the way their social system’s running.” – Todd Woodbridge, who played in an Australian-record 32 ties before he retired.

“It is just irresponsible. Surely some thought must be given to the players’ safety. “John Fitzgerald, Australia’s Davis Cup captain.

“By virtue of its decision not to send a team to compete against India, Australia has forfeited the tie. India is declared the winner and will advance to the Davis Cup World Group Playoffs, scheduled for 18-20 September.” – The International Tennis Federation (ITF), in a statement.

“I never imagined anything like this. To win again here in Barcelona, in my home club and at such an important tournament is incredible.” – Rafael Nadal, following his fifth straight Barcelona title.

“Rafa is playing even more aggressively this year. He has a great rhythm right from the start and it’s very difficult to beat him.” – David Ferrer, after losing to Nadal in the Barcelona Open final.

“Once you’ve won a big tournament, you are more relaxed in tight situations.” – Sabine Lisicki, who won The Family Circle Cup tournament, explaining her Fed Cup victory over China’s Zheng Jie.

“You’ve got to expect things to be tough. I didn’t go into either of these matches thinking it was going to be easy.” – Samantha Stosur, who won both of her singles matches as Australia beat Switzerland in their Fed Cup World Group II playoff.

“It’s amazing to be back in the final. It’s a dream and I am very happy to be part of the dream.” – Francesca Schiavone, who won both of her singles matches as Italy beat Russia in the Fed Cup semifinals.

“It’s unimaginable. What they’ve done is extraordinary. These girls will go down in the history of Italian tennis.” – Corrado Barazzutti, Italy’s Fed Cup captain.

“It’s special because I won. It’s not fun to be in final number 100 and lose because it’s a special day. Winning a title is always a nice thing.” – Daniel Nestor, a winner in his 100th career doubles final.

“It was a battle. Once I turned it on, got some confidence and started playing aggressively, things went in my favor.” – Jim Courier, after beating Jimmy Arias to win a senior event in Grand Cayman.

“We don’t want to see night time tennis and we hope and believe that that the matches would finish in day time hours. But if they don’t finish, we will close (the roof) and finish them.” – Ian Ritchie, All England Club chief executive, refusing to rule out night-time play at Wimbledon.

“It’s always nice to win after being out for so long, but I’m hardly at a level where I can be happy. Tennis is bad business for me, but being away from it is even worse.” – Gaston Gaudio, a former French Open champion who won his first ATP level match in two years.

STAYING HOME

India was declared the winner of next month’s Davis Cup tie when Tennis Australia refused to play in Chennai, India. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) said any decision to sanction Australia will be made in due course. Under Davis Cup rules, Australia could be banned from the competition for 12 months and face a substantial fine. Claiming there was an “unacceptable level of risk” in going to Chennai, Tennis Australia appealed for a change of venue. But the ITF said Chennai was approved by the Davis Cup Committee following a positive report from security consultants. Australia then said it would not send a team, thus forfeiting the match. “The ITF regrets and respectfully disagrees with the decision of Tennis Australia to default its upcoming Davis Cup tie against India,” the ITF said in a statement on the Davis Cup website. In 1987, India forfeited the Davis Cup final when it refused to travel to Sweden because of that country’s policy of allowing South Africans to play tennis in Sweden. Concerns about security on the Indian subcontinent increased after the Sri Lanka cricket team was attacked in Lahore, Pakistan, last month. Last November, terror attacks in Mumbai, India, blamed on Islamic terrorists, killed 166 and injured 304 and forced an international cricket tournament to be moved to South Africa.

SUNDOWN BATTLE?

Now that Wimbledon’s Centre Court has lights, can night matches be far behind. The new retractable roof will be in operation when the tournament is played this summer, guaranteeing play on the show court regardless of the weather. Although the roof is translucent, allowing sufficient light for play in most conditions, 120 lights have been installed so play can continue when it is dark outside. All England Club chief executive Ian Ritchie says there are no planned night sessions at Wimbledon, like at the US Open and Australian Open, but he refused to rule out all night play. “Wimbledon is a daytime, outdoor event and preference is always to play outdoors, and if we can we will prefer to keep the roof open as much as possible,” Ritchie said. “But we need to provide consistent playing conditions for the players, which is why if a match starts with it shut it will finish with it shut.”

STERLING, NOT SO

Wimbledon has increased the prize money for this year’s tournament, but don’t tell the players that. Each of the men’s and women’s champions will receive 13.3 percent more this year than last. But that’s in British pounds. The pound’s weak exchange rate translates to an actual reduction in prize money if it’s counted in US dollars. All England Club chairman Tim Phillips said the tournament was doing what it could to help offset the weakened exchange rates. “Most of the players here don’t bank in sterling,” Phillips said. “We have to be mindful of the fact that a year ago it was $2 to the pound.” The pound has dropped by more than 25 percent against the dollar since last year’s prize money was announced, and has slumped by about 11 percent against the euro.

SWEET WEEK

When Gaston Gaudio beat Diego Junqueira 6-4 3-6 6-4 in the first round at the Barcelona Open, it was his first time he had won a match in nearly two years. The former French Open champion won the Barcelona Open seven years ago. He had to rally from a break down in the final set against Junqueira for his first victory at the ATP level since the 2007 French Open – 23 months ago.

SOME DEBUT

Alexa Glatch couldn’t have done any better in her dreams. Playing in her first Fed Cup, the 19-year-old Glatch won both of her singles matches as the seemingly overmatched United States surprised the Czech Republic and gained a spot in the final against Italy. “This has been unbelievable,” Glatch said after she beat Petra Kvitova 6-2 6-1 to level the best-of-five-match competition at 2-2. Liezel Huber then teamed with Bethanie Mattek-Sands to down Iveta Benesova and Kveta Peschke 2-6 7-6 (2) 6-1 and send the Americans into the final. Glatch, ranked 114th in the world, said her two Fed Cup wins were “definitely the most important” of her career. “I played well overall,” she said. “I really don’t know how I’m doing it.” The Americans played without the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus.

SURGERY CONTEMPLATED

David Nalbandian may need surgery on his right hip. The Argentine star pulled out of the Barcelona Open, complaining of hip pain and allowing eventual winner Rafael Nadal to advance into the semifinals on a walkover. Nalbandian’s doctor in Europe, Angel Ruiz-Cotorro, told an Argentine newspaper that the tennis star would receive three or four days of treatment, including physical therapy and medication, before a decision on whether he will undergo surgery is made.

SWITCHING PLAYERS

Russia has five of the top 10 players in the world, but only two showed up to play Fed Cup against Italy. And that wasn’t enough. The Italians shocked Russia 4-1 as Francesca Schiavone won both her singles matches. That puts Italy in the Fed Cup final for the third time in four years. The Russians won four of the last five Fed Cup titles. Svetlana Kuznetsova, ranked ninth in the world, gave Russia it’s only point, winning her singles match against Flavia Pennetta. Nadia Petrova, ranked 10th in the world, played only doubles, while missing from the competition were top-ranked Dinara Safina, third-ranked Elena Dementieva and sixth-ranked Vera Zvonareva. The latter missed the tie because of an ankle ligament injury. Instead, 22-ranked Anna Chakvetadze and 28-ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova played for Russia – and lost.

SEEKING NUMBER FIVE

Andy Roddick will be going for his fifth Queen’s Club crown when the Wimbledon warm-up tournament is held in London in June. The American won the grass-court title from 2003-05 and again in 2007. Among others in this year’s field are defending champion Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.

SAD NEWS

Irving Glick, the US Open tournament doctor for more than 25 years, is dead at the age of 92. Glick ran the medical department at the US Open until 1991 and served as the International Tennis Federation’s medical representative to the Olympic Games in South Korea in 1988 and Spain in 1992. Glick chaired the US Tennis Association Sports Medicine Advisory Committee in 1989 and helped develop the tennis anti-doping program years before establishing the current World Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees doping control in all Olympic sports. He also was a founding member of the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Medical Committee, which established medical and eligibility guidelines for international wheelchair tennis.

STEPPING UP

Davis Cup teams from Pacific Oceania and Sri Lanka will compete in Asia/Oceania Zone Group II play next year following round-robin matches in Aleppo, Syria, last week. Relegated from Group III to Group IV for next year were Singapore and Tajikistan. In Group IV play, which was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Bangladesh won promotion to Group III for next year.

SPONSOR

IBM has extended its sponsorship of Wimbledon for another five years. The All England Club announced the extension and said it also has signed a new broadcast deal with Star Sports Asia. “In this climate it’s a vote of confidence in Wimbledon,” All England Club chief executive Ian Ritchie said. IBM advises on and helps implement new technologies at the lone grass-court Grand Slam tournament.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Barcelona: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 6-3 7-6 (9)

Sofia: Dominik Hrbaty and David Skoch beat James Auckland and Peter Luczak 6-2 6-4

SITES TO SURF

Rome: www.internazionalibnlditalia.it/1/default.asp

Stuttgart: www.porsche-tennis.de/prod/pag/tennis.nsf/web/english-home

Tunis: www.tct.org.tn

Fez: www.frmt.ma

Rhodes: www.atcrhodes.com

Estoril: www.estorilopen.net

Tennis Australia: www.tennis.com.au/

International Tennis Federation: www.itf.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$3,500,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay

$125,000 Tunis Open, Tunis, Tunisia, clay

$110,000 Aegean Tennis Cup, Rhodes, Greece, hard

WTA

$700,000 Porsche Tennis Grand Pix, Stuttgart, Germany, clay

$220,000 Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem, Fez, Morocco, clay

$100,000 Open GDF Suez, Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, clay

$100,000 Soweto Women’s Open, Johannesburg, South Africa, hard

DAVIS CUP

(April 28-May 3)

Europe/Asia Group III-A, at Istanbul, Turkey: Estonia, Greece, Botswana, Iceland, Luxembourg, Rwanda, Turkey

Europe/Asia Group IV, at Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire: Armenia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Cameroon

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$580,000 BMW Open, Munich, Germany, clay

$580,000 Estoril Open, Estoril, Portugal, clay

$580,000 Serbia Open, Belgrade, Serbia, clay

$100,000 Israel Open, Ramat Hasharon, Israel, hard

WTA

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

$220,000 Estoril Open, Estoril, Portugal, clay

$100,000 GDF Suez Open Romania, Bucharest, Romania, clay