Goran Ivanisevic

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Analyzing Time of Match Between Djokovic-Nadal

Nadal and Djokovic lean over in exhaustion after the Australian Open final

by Matthew Laird

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic contested their third consecutive Grand Slam final at the recently concluded 2012 Australian Open. It was by a wide margin their most competitive and exciting meeting at this stage. There was a great deal of high drama, multiple swings in momentum, and no shortage of stellar shot-making from both players. It was an epic match and will surely be remembered among the most exciting Grand Slam finals of all time. The match also had its place in history assured because it shattered the previous record for the longest Grand Slam final of all time, breaking the previous record set by Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl at the 1988 US Open by nearly an hour.*

It should come as no surprise that the length of the Nadal-Djokovic final, which was seven minutes short of six hours, was not due entirely to the quality of play. Both Nadal and Djokovic are known for their pace of play, which is – not to put too fine a point on it – quite slow. There has been a great deal of discussion recently about the amount of time taken between points, and Nadal and Djokovic are usually at the center of these complaints.

For anyone who may not be aware, there is a rule in both the ITF and the ATP rulebooks that states “play shall be continuous” and that limits the amount of time a server should be allowed between the end of one point and the beginning of the next to either 20 or 25 seconds, depending on which set of rules is being followed during the match (Grand Slam matches take place under ITF auspices). Both Nadal and Djokovic routinely go over this time constraint.

It is difficult for a casual tennis observer to try to figure out whether or not these delays are truly egregious, because the amount of statistical data that we have easy access to is severely limited. We cannot see precisely how much time is expended by each player in between points, how long points take on average, or any number of other stats that would be useful in trying to parse the seriousness of these concerns.

I’ve come up with a simple, blunt method of estimating the amount of time taken between points, using only data that’s available on either the ATP or Australian Open websites. To find the average length of a point, just take the match length and divide it by the total number of points. Granted, this includes the amount of time that the ball was actually in play in addition to the time taken in between points, so it is not as sophisticated a measurement as I would prefer, but it is the best method that I could come up with, given the information available.

Given that there were 369 points played over 5 hours and 54 minutes, the average length of each point in the Nadal-Djokovic final was 57.4 seconds – nearly a minute per point played. This is the longest amount of time per point for any Grand Slam final since the ATP started keeping track of these statistics. To fully understand whether or not that is an unusual stat, more historical data is necessary.

Prior to 2009, the seven slowest finals had all taken place at the French Open, which is as it should be, considering the court conditions at Roland Garros lead to more long, drawn-out rallies than at the other majors. The slowest-played finals up to that point were Nadal-Federer in 2006 and Kuerten-Corretja in 2001, which both took about 47 seconds per point. The fastest-played finals have been at Wimbledon (again, no surprise there), where Sampras-Becker in 1995 took 29 seconds for each point, Agassi-Ivanisevic in 1992 took 27, and Sampras-Ivanisevic in 1998 took 25.5 seconds.

The trend over the last twenty years has generally been towards slower matches. This is partly because the serve-and-volley game has become significantly less common, so that almost all points are decided by baseline rallies, which necessarily take up more time. But I don’t think that fully explains the extent to which the pace of play has dropped.

While the most recent Grand Slam final was the slowest-played on record, it is important to note that the top six slowest are also the six most recent. The 2011 Djokovic-Nadal US Open took 56 seconds per point, their 2010 US Open meeting took 52.4, the 2011 Australian Open between Djokovic and Murray took 51.8, the 2011 Djokovic-Nadal final at Wimbledon took 50.2, and the 2011 French Open between Nadal and Federer took 48 seconds for each point.

Before the 2010 US Open, no Grand Slam final had been ever played at a pace of 50 seconds per point or slower. Since then, all of them except one have. That one involved Roger Federer, who is a very quick player and was able to bring the average down, even though he was playing on the red clay of Roland Garros. The other five finals all involved Djokovic, Nadal, and Andy Murray, all of whom take their time between points.

In all of these finals, there were many long, grinding rallies. All three of the players I just mentioned are fantastic defenders, but I have trouble believing that the rallies in all of these recent finals were so historically lengthy, on average, that they should be solely responsible for the unprecedented slow pace of the last half-dozen Grand Slam finals. It has to come down to the amount of time that these players are taking in between points.

I do not recall a single instance in the final of the umpire giving either Nadal or Djokovic a warning about taking too much time. Honestly, I can’t remember that happening in any of the six most recent finals. This is not a situation like what is happening with grunting in the women’s game, where people are saying that there ought to be a rule to deal with this behavior. There is a rule, it’s just being ignored.

There are some commentators (like Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim) who find the pace of play on the men’s side to be as frustrating as the grunting or shrieking on the women’s side. I think there’s an argument to be made that the time limit as it currently stands is no longer appropriate. The game has gotten significantly more athletically-demanding in the last ten or fifteen years, so perhaps players do need more recovery time between points. However, I do think that the ATP and the ITF should either change the rule or enforce it, because simply ignoring it because the game’s top players flout it so consistently is not an appropriate response.

Mario Ancic: The heartfelt goodbye to tennis

(FILES) A picture taken on December 5, 2

Split, Croatia’s premier clay court Tennis Club in Firule is hugged by a scenic marina on one side and a pebble beach on the other. It’s a quiet setting away from the center of the city encapsulated by Diocletian’s Palace, but contains possibly even more magic than that found within the former Roman Emperor’s walls. Legends such as Goran Ivanisevic and Nikola Pilic have practiced on the clay courts there, and last week another Croat who called Firule home added his name to the ATP Tour’s retirement roll, 26-year-old Mario Ancic.

 

 

Ancic is best known for his rise to World Number 7 back in 2006, but what gives his game strength is that he was the only player to beat Roger Federer — and at Wimbledon, no less — between 2002 and 2008. Having nicknames like “Baby Goran” reflecting his game’s likeness to his mentor Ivanisevic, or “Super Mario” after his missile-like serves, it was hard not to enjoy watching Ancic succeed on-court. He helped Croatia win its sole Davis Cup title in 2005 and teamed up with friend Ivan Ljubicic to take home a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Over the span of his professional career which lasted ten years, Ancic pocketed nearly $4 million dollars.

 

 

Sadly though, after a freak knee injury while jet skiing followed by a separate back injury in 2006, his career never rebounded. At the beginning of 2007 and 2008, he was stricken with mononucleosis which kept him more off the court than on it. The back injury continued to plague him for several years before it forced him to call it quits.

On February 23, 2011, Ancic came full circle as he made the teary announcement about his retirement at the very courts where he hit his first fuzzy yellow tennis ball nearly twenty years ago.

“For the last few years, I have been fighting against all kinds of illnesses. The last back injury was the last straw, it was the product of not playing due to mononucleosis from Krefeld in 2007, frequent breaks and numerous returns. After consulting with experts from Germany, France, the U.S. and Croatia, I came to the realization that my body could no longer follow the rhythm of today’s tennis game. There was no other solution. I have always fought, fallen and risen up, but I’ve always been honest with myself.”

 

 

Speaking to a private newspaper earlier in the week, Ancic also confessed that “it would not be me out there anymore. I knew I would never be 100% fit again, and there was no real answer to it. It would have required a pretty serious operation ever for me to have a chance to recover and I would never have been guaranteed a full motion again … I had to be fair with myself. My mind was fine but my body couldn’t compete.”

Ivan Ljubicic, in a press conference after his first-round match in Dubai last week, expressed his admiration for Ancic.

“Together we achieved so much at such early stages in our careers. It was just incredibly unfortunate to kind of finish it that way. I saw him in Zagreb just a couple of weeks ago. We are in touch all the time. I didn’t bother asking him too much how he was, because I knew the answer. It was not good, not good for the last three years.”

As difficult as it was for Ancic to speak, he praised the people who helped him achieve his greatness.

“I am grateful to God for the talent he gave me, but without the people in Tennis Club Split there would be no ‘me’. I am tremendously grateful to my family, my brother Ivica who was the main reason for my entry into tennis, all my trainers who worked with me from beginning to end, all those who prepared me and cared about my health. I also want to thank my fellow players. I honestly and proudly wore the Croatian representation from the time I was 15 to the last moment that I could play.”

But, fear not, Ancic has prepared for this moment. During his time away from tennis, he was able to finish his law degree from the University of Split in April of 2008 and has already been interning at a law office in Zagreb. His thesis was entitled “ATP Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” where he dealt with the legal foundation and organization of the ATP Tour. It seems that no matter how far he was from tennis, his heart was always craving it.

 

And it seems that the current President of the Croatian Tennis Federation, Radimir Cacic, also understands the impact Ancic has had on Croatian tennis. He invited Ancic to assume the role of President when his own term ends. But Ancic left much to be desired: “I have a challenge in the legal profession, but I always want to be close to the sport. Tennis wasn’t just a sport for me, but a way of thinking. I definitely want to … help our athletes, the future tennis players.”

Ancic concluded with a heartfelt goodbye.

“It will take a long time until I can watch tennis in peace, but time heals all wounds. I knew this moment would come so I was prepared, educated. New challenges now await me. The energy, desire and will I invested in tennis I now want to invest in something new. For me, sport and tennis are a part of life and will always be close. I am leaving peaceful and fulfilled.”

Ancic will bid his final farewell to tennis during Croatia’s Davis Cup meeting against Germany this week.

Check out ATP World Tour Uncovered with Mario Ancic and a few select photos below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tennis Needs a Change

Tennis is a brutal game on the body. Whether you’re a recreational player or a professional player, today’s game is not what it used to be. In recent memory, it seems that not a week goes by before we hear of players sustaining new injuries or having to re-address past injuries. Gael Monfils has suffered innumerable ankle and knee problems. David Nalbandian, Lleyton Hewitt and Tommy Haas all underwent hip surgeries this year alone. Rafael Nadal has experienced not only severe abdominal tears, but knee injuries that kept him from defending his title in Wimbledon last year.

In contrast, take the Champions Tour. While traveling the world and earning fame beyond their grand slammin’ years, retired tennis pros take combat in friendly matches and exhibitions for viewer pleasure. The likes of John McEnroe, Goran Ivanisevic, Mats Wilander and Jim Courier have been staples of this tour and are not likely to go anywhere soon. In fact, while watching some of these players on court, it’s daunting to see that their mentality, physical strength and tennis abilities have only been slighted to a minimal degree. They are not ‘young’ anymore, but they are all still in great shape and playing tennis well into their fifties! Most of the players on the Champions Tour sustained relatively few injuries during their time on ATP Tour, with the exceptions of Jimmy Connors (hips) and Andre Agassi (back). What gives?

John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg at the Champions Cup in Boston on May 1, 2010

How did they stay away from the injury bug while Marcos Baghdatis, Juan Martin del Potro and even Roger Federer can’t? Each player achieved elite status and was pitted against the toughest opponents of their era, so why the injury overload in today’s generation?

I think a better question to ask is: What has changed since then in the game of tennis?

The answer? Plenty. From the advancement in technology affecting racquets and strings, to the increased physicality of the sport, to the never-ending calendar of tournaments and commitments. Often times players laugh when asked about what they did in their ‘off-season.’ An off-season in most sports is several months. For top ATP pros, they’re lucky if they get a couple weeks at the end of the year before hustling back onto a tennis court. Others are plagued by injuries that cut their season short.  Tennis racquet material has also gone from laminated wood to aluminum to heavier carbon fibre composites. Strings have been given a makeover and have allowed players to tighten or loosen their strings to unthinkable tensions putting strain on their wrists, elbow, arms, and shoulders.

More interestingly, the height of the tennis player has increased. During the 80s and 90s, the average height of a top player was hovering around 6′. During the Sampras-Federer era, it was about 6’1”. Now, with John Isner, Sam Querrey, Marin Cilic, Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych leading the next round of elite players, the average has risen to 6’2.5.” We are seeing the optimal height of a tennis player look more like the expected height for a volleyball or basketball team. And with height comes stronger and more angular serves with some guys consistently serving in the 120- to 130-mph range.

American ATP standout, John Isner, measures in at 6′ 9” towering over Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells this year.

This raises questions about how much more physical can tennis get and what other technological advancements could possibly occur to make this game even more harsh on the human body. It’s tough to imagine a player that can retrieve more balls than Nadal, hit faster serves than Roddick or move as quickly as Andy Murray, but the evolution of tennis continues and we’re bound to see players surpass these already-amazing feats.

David Nalbandian, Lleyton Hewitt and Tommy Haas were mentioned at the beginning of this post. What do these three players have in common? They are all long-time veterans of the game and all three required hip surgeries earlier this year. They could be a good indication of where today’s guys will end up in five or ten years: broken down and battered.

I’m afraid one day I’ll wake up in 20 years, excited to go watch a retired pro play at a local venue, only to be disappointed that he can barely move on court because of all the beatings his body took during the pro tour. I wouldn’t be surprised to not see any of today’s top pros going into the Champions Tour or doing exhibition events like they once did.

Something needs to change in the game of tennis to preserve these players’ bodies, but what is it? Is it the scoring setup, the length of the season, technology or a combination of several things? Many players advocate for a shorter season with less necessary event commitments, others think that Davis Cup should be every four years instead of every year, yet others think that nothing needs to change and that the best win because they can balance and organize everything. What’s your take?

NO LAUREUS LOVE FOR ROGER FEDERER: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

And the Award Goes to… – In the aftermath of the Oscars, one of sports’ most prestigious awards, the Laureus Awards, were announced earlier this week. Tennis twice took top honors, with Serena Williams winning for Sportswoman of the Year, while Kim Clijsters took home the prize for Comeback of the Year. The only head scratcher for me was Federer going away empty handed, especially since he essentially had a better season than Serena Williams. That said, track star Usain Bolt, who won Sportsman of the Year, was a deserving candidate, and overall, it was still another great showing for tennis.

Bit of Joy – After the devastating earthquake that caused the tie between Chile and Israel to be delayed by a day, it was host country Chile that gave their home nation something to smile about in the wake of tragedy. Chile ultimately won the tie 4-1. After the win, Chilean star Fernando Gonzales dedicated the victory to his fellow countryman and announced he was going one step further to assist with relief efforts by pulling out of Indian Wells to tour the areas hit hardest by the quake, as well as leading calls to raise aid.

The Good Goran Returns – Much to the delight of up-and-comer Marin Cilic, Goran Ivanisevic has agreed to continue to serve as his part-time coach. He’ll be with Cilic for both the Miami and Madrid Master 1000 events. This is not a permanent change, as Brett is still Cilic’s full-time coach. Given Ivanisevic’s experience, however, there’s no doubt his influence will further enhance the younger Croat’s game and see him continue his climb up the rankings.

Tennis Channel to the Rescue – After a couple years of multiple complaints from viewers, Indian Wells worked out a deal that will see Tennis Channel become the main cable provider for the tournament. It may not be ESPN2, but I was happy to see the network switch. It’s ridiculous that two of the biggest events in tennis, Indian Wells and Miami, should be on a network like Fox Sports that offers a random and small amount of coverage across the United States. It cheats the fans, and in a way, it cheats the tournament. At least this year, there should be a little less hate mail flying around as fans can tune into Tennis Channel to get the coverage they deserve.

Humiliation for Great Britain – It’s no secret that the nation of Great Britain, once a powerhouse in Davis Cup play, has been struggling to find a foothold in the competition.  Particularly in the wake of the retirements of both Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, as well as a lack of participation from current British No. 1 Andy Murray, the people of Great Britain have collectively had to hold their breath with each nerve-wracking tie.  But this past weekend was more than nerve-wracking for the Brits; it was humiliating, as current British Captain John Lloyd “earned” the distinction of becoming the first British captain in 110 years to lose five successive ties, the latest coming at the hands of Lithuania.  Now just a step away from being relegated to the lowest level of the Davis Cup competition, the LTA is reviewing what went wrong against the tiny Baltic nation.  Sources speculate John Lloyd may get the sack, and many, including Boris Becker, are suggesting that Tim Henman is the ideal candidate to replace Lloyd.  I’m not opposed to Henman taking over the helm (though he’s already stated he’s not interested in the position at this time), but I personally think the LTA is missing the point if that’s all that is done.  Even Henman himself has stated it isn’t fair to blame Lloyd or Annacone for Britain’s poor performance.  If the talent isn’t there (or properly developed as the case may be), it’s hard to win a Davis Cup match, irrespective of who’s guiding the ship.

FEDERER-MURRAY TIE-BREAKER HISTORY; BRYANS MAKE HISTORY

Roger Federer and Andy Murray’s third-set tie-breaker in their 2010 Australian Open men’s final was second-longest tie-breaker ever played in major men’s final – only the epic Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe 32-point “Battle of 18-16” tie-breaker 30 years ago in the 1980 Wimbledon final lasting longer. Federer saved off five set points in the third-set tie-breaker in his 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (13-11) victory. The five longest tie-breakers ever in men’s singles finals at Grand Slam tournaments are as follows;

Wimbledon 1980: Bjorn Borg def. John McEnroe 1-6 7-5 6-3 6-7(16) 8-6… Mac saved 7 match points (5 in TB)

Australian Open 2010: Roger Federer def. Andy Murray 6-3 6-4 7-6(11)… Fed saved 5 set points in TB

Wimbledon 2000: Pete Sampras def. Patrick Rafter 6-7(10) 7-6(5) 6-4 6-2… Pat saved 2 set points in TB

US Open 1976: Jimmy Connors def. Bjorn Borg 6-4 3-6 7-6(9) 6-4… Jimmy saved 4 set points in TB

Wimbledon 1998: Pete Sampras def. Goran Ivanisevic 6-7(2) 7-6(9) 6-4 3-6 6-2… Pete saved 2 set points in TB

The first two sets were more one-sided than the score line would suggest, especially the second set when Federer broke Murray’s serve only once, despite a 40-15 and 40-0 lead in two other service games of the Brit. In the third set, Murray broke Federer’s serve for the second time in the match (first one at 0:2 in the first set) and led 5:2, later was two points away from taking the set at 5:3 on serve. In the tie-breaker, Murray had five set points (6:4, 6:5, 7:6, 9:8, 11:10) and saved two match points, at 9:10 in a spectacular way with a passing-shot off of Federer’s drop shot. The Swiss maestro converted his third match point to improve his all-time record 16 Grand Slam triumphs in singles. Federer won fourth Australian Open (2004, 2006-2007) what gives him second place Down Under right after Roy Emerson, who won six times between 1961 and 1967. For Murray, it was the longest tie-break of his pro career, while Federer won three longer tie-breaks (14-12 against Martin Verkerk, 16-14 against David Ferrer and a record 20-18 against Marat Safin).

“I always knew it was going to be a very intense match,” said Federer. “I’m happy I was able to play so aggressively and patiently at the same time because that’s what you got to be against Murray.”

* Murray is now the eighth player in the Open Era with a 0-2 record in Grand Slam finals joining two-time Aussie Open finalist Steve Denton, Wimbledon and Aussie Open finalist Kevin Curren, U.S. and Australian finalist Miloslav Mecir, U.S. and Wimbledon finalist Cedric Pioline, U.S. and Australian finalist Todd Martin, two-time French finalist Alex Corretja and Wimbledon and U.S. Open finalist Mark Philippoussis. There is a strong analogy between Murray, Mecir and Pioline as only these three players have not won a set in a major final, and all three reached finals at two different majors and lost to the same best player on both occasions at three different periods of time:

1986 US Open: Ivan Lendl (1) def. Mecir (16) 6-4 6-2 6-0
1989 Australian Open: Lendl (2) def. Mecir (9) 6-2 6-2 6-2

1993 US Open: Pete Sampras (1) def. Pioline (16) 6-4 6-4 6-3
1997 Wimbledon: Sampras (1) def. Pioline 6-4 6-2 6-4

2008 US Open: Federer (2) def. Murray (6) 6-2 7-5 6-2
2010 Australian Open: Federer (1) def. Murray (5) 6-3 6-4 7-6(11)

“Tonight’s match was a lot closer than the one at Flushing Meadows,” said Murray, comparing his first and second major finals. “I had a chance at the beginning of the match, and I had chances at the end of the match.

* In doubles, the Bryan brothers beat Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 in their record-breaking 16th career major final as a team. The Bryans eclipsed Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde – the Woodies – who reached 15 major finals from 1992 to 2000, according to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS book ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com.) The title was the eighth major for the American identical twins – their fourth in Australia – and leave them four shy of equaling the record set by John Newcombe and Tony Roche for most majors won by a team with 12 titles (four Australian, two French, five Wimbledon and one U.S. title won from 1965 to 1976). Woodbridge and Woodforde won the most major doubles titles by a team in the Open Era with 11 titles (two Australian, one French, six Wimbledon and two U.S. titles).

The Bryans were close to clinch the match in straight sets but wasted a 5:2 lead in the tie-break. The Americans have won four Australian Open titles, which is an Open Era record for a team. The all-time record belongs to Adrian Quist and John Bromwich, who won the Australian title eight times between1938-1950.

* Leander Paes won his 11th career major title when he paired with Cara Black to win the mixed doubles final with a 7-5, 6-3 decision over the Russian-Czech duo of Ekaterina Makarova and Jaroslav Levinsky. Paes won his fifth mixed doubles title in a major – two each with both Black and Martina Navratilova and once with Lisa Raymond. He won six majors in men’s doubles.

* Murray avenged his loss to Marin Cilic from last year’s U.S. Open by defeating his Croatian opponent 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-2 in the Australian Open semifinals. It was the third meeting between the two players in the last four majors but two previous occurred in the fourth round: Murray won in straight sets in Paris, while Cilic did the same thing to Murray in New York, when Murray was seeded No. 2. In Australia this year, the Brit won 10 of last 13 games in the match. “This is the best I’ve played at a Slam,” said Murray. “Obviously the match against Rafa [Nadal] was great. Tonight, the majority of the match was great, as well. Physically I’m going to be fresh for the final. You know, [it] just comes down to who plays the better tennis on the day. It’s my job to do that.”

* Federer did not face break point in his 88-minute 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals. Tsonga had an identical score line (116 minutes) when he won his semifinal two years ago against Rafael Nadal.

* Cilic was the first Croatian to ever reach the semifinals of the Australian Open. Other Croats who reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne were Goran Ivanisevic (1989, 94, 97), Goran Prpic (1991) and Ivan Ljubicic (2006). Cilic was the fifth player in the Open era to win three five-setters en route to the semifinal in Melbourne, after Colin Dibley (1979), Steve Denton (1981), Andre Agassi (1996) and Nicolas Escude (1998). Nicolas Lapentti needed four five-setters to advance to the semis in Australian in 1999.

Federer’s Basel Debut

Federers Basel debut

Roger Federer hits the courts this week in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland for the Swiss Indoor Championships. Roger is the three-time defending champion at the event, but it was, at one time, an elusive title for him as it was not until 2006 that he won his first “hometown” title. Rene Stauffer, the author of the Federer biography THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) details Federer’s first playing experience in Basel in 1998 in this exclusive book excerpt.

In recognition for his results in Toulouse, Federer received a wild card entry into the Swiss Indoors, Switzerland’s biggest tournament, from tour­nament director Roger Brennwald. This tournament guaranteed him a prize money paycheck of at least $9,800. The tournament took place at St. Jakobshalle in Basel’s south side, within walking distance of Federer’s home in Münchenstein. This event, played originally in an inflatable dome in 1970, is one of the most important indoor tournaments in the world that almost every great player has played in. When a virtually unknown Czech player named Ivan Lendl defeated the legendary Björn Borg in the Swiss Indoor final in 1980, it garnered major headlines around the world. The 34th and final duel between John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors took place at the Swiss Indoors in 1991. Future world No. 1 Jim Courier won his first ATP tourna­ment in Basel in 1989. Stefan Edberg won the Swiss Indoors three times and Ivan Lendl won the title twice. Borg, McEnroe, Boris Becker, Vitas Gerulaitis, Goran Ivanisevic, Yannick Noah, Michael Stich, Pete Sampras and Guillermo Vilas are also champions of the event.

For Roger Federer, the Swiss Indoors is like a Grand Slam tournament. The St. Jakobshalle is the place of his dreams, like Centre Court at Wimbledon. In 1994, he was a ball boy at the event, grabbing balls for such players as Rosset, Edberg and Wayne Ferreira, who won the title back then. Now, four years later, he was a competitor in the event. His first-round match was against none other than Andre Agassi. In his youthful hauteur, Federer boldly stated “I know what I’m up against—as opposed to Agassi who has no idea who I am. I am going to play to win.”

But Agassi, the former No. 1 player ranked No. 8 at the time, was without question a larger caliber opponent than what Federer faced in Toulouse. Agassi allowed the hometown boy only five games in the 6-3, 6-2 defeat and said he was not overly impressed by the Swiss public’s new darling. “He proved his talent and his instinct for the game a few times,” the American said kindly. “But for me it was an ideal first round where I didn’t have to do all that much and where I could get accustomed to the new conditions.”

“Shorts Around His Ankles, Underpants In Full View” – On This Day In Tennis History

Jeff Tarango

Fifteen years ago on Oct. 12, 1994, one of the most unusual on-court incidents in the history of tennis happened in Tokyo when American Jeff Tarango “dropped his drawers” on court during his second-round match against Michael Chang. That event, plus others, are outlined below in this excerpt from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com).

1994 – American Jeff Tarango performs one of the most unusual on-court activities in professional tennis, dropping his shorts after having his serve broken in the first game of the third set in his loss to Michael Chang in the second round of the Seiko Championships in Tokyo. Following his serve being broken, Tarango, in the words of Britain’s Daily Record, “pulled his shorts down, raised his arms and waddled to his seat courtside with his shorts around his ankles and his underpants in full view.” Says Tarango, “I felt that I let the match slip away a little bit, and I wanted to make light of it. I had exposed my weakness to Michael.” Tarango, who would famously walk off the court in a third round match at Wimbledon in 1995, retires from his match with Chang with a left forearm injury, trailing 4-1 in the third set. Tarango is given a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct and is fined $3,000. Says Chang, who goes on to lose to Goran Ivanisevic in the final of the event, “I know the ATP has been trying to create a little bit more interest in the game but I don’t know if that is what they had in mind.”

2001 – One hundred and one years after three Harvard students make up the first U.S. Davis Cup team, former Harvard student James Blake makes his Davis Cup debut against India in the Davis Cup Qualifying Round at the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C. Blake, playing in his first Davis Cup match, defeats India’s Leander Paes, playing in his 79th Davis Cup match, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead. Blake also becomes the first Harvard student to play Davis Cup for the U.S. since Titanic survivor Richard Norris Williams in 1926 and becomes only the third African-American man to play Davis Cup for the U.S. – joining Mal Washington and Arthur Ashe. Earlier in the day, Andy Roddick defeats India’s Harsh Mankad 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead.

1998 – Lindsay Davenport ascends to the No. 1 ranking in women’s professional tennis for the first time in her career, taking the No. 1 WTA ranking from Martina Hingis, whom she beat in the U.S Open final the previous month. Davenport holds the No. 1 ranking for 98 weeks in her career.

2003 – Roger Federer wins his 10th career ATP singles title and successfully defends a title for the first time in his career when he defeats Carlos Moya of Spain 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to win the CA Trophy in Vienna, Austria. Says Federer of successfully defending a title for the first time, “I’m over the moon about that.”

1980 – Ivan Lendl needs nearly five hours to defeat Guillermo Vilas 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 in the final of the Spanish Open championships in Barcelona.

Agassi Debuts On Outback Champions Series This Week

Andre Agassi poses with his wife Steffi Graff

NEW YORK, N.Y., October 6, 2009 – Andre Agassi will make his highly anticipated Outback Champions Series debut when he takes on Mikael Pernfors of Sweden Friday night in the opening round of the 2009 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships at Surprise, Ariz.

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America Championships at Surprise runs Thursday through Sunday and will feature a field of eight champion players competing in a single knock-out format event for $150,000 in prize money and ranking points that determine the year-end No. 1 ranked player on the Outback Champions Series.

“It’s great to have an opportunity to get back on the court,” said the 39-year-old Agassi of playing on the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. “That’s the best part of tennis — to be out there and hopefully make a difference in the lives of fans for a couple of hours.”

Agassi is one of only six men in the history of tennis to win all four major singles titles in a career, joining Rod Laver, Don Budge, Roy Emerson, Fred Perry and Roger Federer. He won his first major title at Wimbledon in 1992, defeating Goran Ivanisevic in a dramatic five-set final. He won his first U.S. Open title in 1994, defeating Michael Stich in the final, and his second five years later in 1999, defeating Todd Martin in the championship match. He won four Australian Open titles between 1995 and 2003, while his victory at the 1999 French Open rounded out his career Grand Slam. Agassi ranked No. 1 in the world for 101 weeks during his career. He helped the United States win the Davis Cup in 1990, 1992 and 1995 and won 60 career singles titles from 1987 until he concluded his career at the 2006 U.S. Open. In 1994, Agassi started the Andre Agassi Foundation which is dedicated to transforming public education for underserved youth. He will be the eighth former world No. 1
to compete on the Outback Champions Series, joining Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Pat Rafter, Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander, Thomas Muster and John McEnroe.

Born, raised and still a resident of Las Vegas, Nev., Agassi has had great success playing in the Phoenix, Ariz., area, winning four of his 60 titles in nearby Scottsdale in 1993, 1994, 1998 and 2002.

“Every time I’ve been to Arizona, I’ve loved it,” said Agassi. “I grew up in the desert. As a result, I’ve always felt very comfortable there. Some of my best memories are games played right in Scottsdale.”

Agassi and Pernfors will play their quarterfinal match the evening of October 9. Mark Philippoussis and Wayne Ferreira will open up tournament play on Thursday evening, October 8 at 7 pm with the winner playing the Agassi/Pernfors winner in the semifinals. Rounding out the field in Surprise are Americans Jim Courier, Todd Martin, Aaron Krickstein and Jimmy Arias. The order of play and tournament schedule is as follows;

Thursday, October 8th, 2009
Session #1 – 7:00pm
Quarterfinal #1 – Mark Philippoussis vs. Wayne Ferreira
Followed by Quarterfinal #2 – Jim Courier vs. Aaron Krickstein

Friday, October 9th, 2009
Session #2 – 7:00pm
Quarterfinal #3 – Todd Martin vs. Jimmy Arias
Followed by Quarterfinal #4 – Andre Agassi vs. Mikael Pernfors

Saturday, October 10th, 2009
Session #3 – 12:00pm
Men’s Doubles
Followed by
Semifinal #1 – Winner of Agassi/Pernfors vs. Winner of Philippoussis/Ferreira

Session #4 – 5:00pm
Men’s Doubles
Followed by
Semifinal #2 – Winner of Martin/Arias vs. Winner of Courier/Krickstein

Sunday, October 11th, 2009
Session #5 – 12pm
Third Place Match
Followed by
Championship Match

John McEnroe won the inaugural event in 2008 in Surprise defeating Martin in the final. Ticket, travel and tournament information can be found by visiting www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, defeating McEnroe in the final of the Champions Cup Boston in February. McEnroe won the second event of the year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Courier in the final. Sampras won his second title of the year at the Del Mar Development Champions Cup in Los Cabos, Mexico, defeating Rafter in the final. Courier won his first title of the 2009 season in April at the Cayman Islands, defeating Arias in the final. Pat Cash successfully defended his title on the grass courts at the Hall of Fame Champions Cup in Newport, R.I. in August, defeating Courier in the final. Courier won his second title of the season in Charlotte, defeating Sampras in the final.

Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Agassi, Sampras, McEnroe, Courier and others. To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The Outback Champions Series features seven events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series points that will determine the year-end Champions Rankings No. 1.

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events, corporate outings and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

Philippoussis To Make ATP Champions Debut In London

Mark Philippoussis set to make debut in London

Former Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis is to return to the city that he so nearly conquered when he plays in the AEGON Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall in London, December 1-6.

Philippoussis, who also reached the final of the US Open during his career, will be making his debut on the ATP Champions Tour when he lines up alongside fellow grass-court greats Goran Ivanisevic, Pat Rafter and Stefan Edberg at the season-ending event. For Philippoussis, who beat Andre Agassi on his way to the 2003 Wimbledon final before losing to Roger Federer, it will be an opportunity to renew rivalries and rekindle his relationship with the British public.

“I get goosebumps every time I go to the UK because of the British crowds,” said Philippoussis, who is universally known as ‘Scud’ for the power of his serve.

“The British fans are incredible – they have such a great appreciation for tennis. I’ve always enjoyed a lot of support from them and I hope they are looking forward to seeing me again. I certainly can’t wait.”

Philippoussis has visited the Royal Albert Hall once before back in 2006 when he played a charity exhibition match against Tim Henman, and the Australian is looking forward to experiencing the world’s most unique tennis court for a second time.

“I really can’t wait to play at the Royal Albert Hall again,” he said. “It is one of the prettiest tennis venues I have ever seen, it really is gorgeous. It’s perfect in terms of how close the crowd is to you when you’re playing and the atmosphere that creates.”

Philippoussis will join an eight-man singles line-up that already includes the 2001 Wimbledon Champion Ivanisevic, former World Number One Edberg and two-time Wimbledon finalist Rafter. The AEGON Masters Tennis could give Philippoussis the chance for revenge against Rafter, who beat him in the final of the US Open in 1998.

“I’m so looking forward to seeing all the guys again,” said Philippoussis.

“The line-up is really amazing so every match should be good. I’d love to play against Edberg, and I’m looking forward to seeing Goran again because he’s just a great guy. Then obviously Pat’s a fellow Aussie, so it should be great fun. I just can’t wait to get down there and get out on court.”

The AEGON Masters Tennis runs from the 1st to the 6th of December at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The tournament uses a round-robin format, with all players playing at least three matches each. Each day of the tournament, except the final Sunday, features two sessions – an afternoon session starting at 1pm and an evening session starting at 7.30pm. All sessions will feature a combination of singles and doubles matches. The event is the final tournament in 2009 on the ATP Champions Tour – a circuit of former World Number One tennis players, Grand Slam singles finalists and Davis Cup winners.

For more information, visit: http://www.aegonmasterstennis.com/

For tickets, go to: http://www.aegonmasterstennis.com/tickets.asp

Clijsters Wins US Open Yet Again

Kim Clijsters Wins The US Open

NEW YORK – In a strange way, the US Open women’s singles champion was no surprise. After all, Kim Clijsters was the defending champion.

Yes, she shows up in New York City only every few years, but when she does she walks away with some of the top hardware.

Sunday night, Clijsters defeated Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 6-3 to capture her second Grand Slam tournament title, both coming on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“I’m glad I was able to come back and defend my title,” Clijsters said.

OK, so Serena Williams won the women’s singles in 2008. The same Serena Williams who put on a nasty display of pique that resulted in a point penalty at match point in her semifinals against Clijsters.

But Clijsters won in her last appearance in Arthur Ashe Stadium, in 2005. And the last time she played the US Open before that, in 2003, she lost to fellow Belgian Justine Henin in the title match.

Now she becomes the first wild card entry to win a US Open title and the first to win a Grand Slam singles title since Goran Ivanisevic captured Wimbledon in 2001. And with her daughter Jada in the stands watching mommy play, Clijsters becomes the first mother to capture a Grand Slam singles since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon in 1980.

Winning the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, however, was not in Clijsters’ plans.

“I just wanted to start these three tournaments to get back into the rhythm of playing tennis and get used to the surroundings again,” said Clijsters, who earned USD $1.6 million to go along with the trophy. “So I have to thank the USTA for giving me the wild card to come back here.”

The men’s semifinals were also held Sunday in the rain-delayed US Open. Roger Federer, seeking his sixth straight men’s singles crown at America’s premier tennis event and his third straight Grand Slam title of the year, defeated Novak Djokovic 7-6 (3), 7-5 7-5 after Juan Martin del Potro dominated third-seeded Rafael Nadal 6-2 6-2 6-2. The men’s final will be played Monday afternoon.

After her 2005 US Open victory, Clijsters suffered an injury that forced her to miss the event in 2006. Then she retired in early 2007, got married and gave birth to a daughter.

It was earlier this year that she decided to end her retirement and return to the women’s tour. The US Open was her third tournament, enough now to give her a ranking.

Clijsters was the heavy favorite against the ninth-seeded Wozniacki. They forgot to tell Wozniacki that.

In a series of streaks, Clijsters, who beat sisters Serena and Venus Williams en route to the title match, took the first two games of the final before the 19-year-old Wozniacki, playing in her first Grand Slam tournament final, reeled off the next four games for a 4-2 lead. Clijsters, who had committed a slew of unforced errors, tightened her game considerably and began finding the lines with her shots, especially her inside-out forehand.

The former world number had the firepower, while Wozniacki played a steady game, keeping the ball in play, taking the pace off the ball. Yet when the young Dane served for the opening set at 5-4, Clijsters showed the form that has taken her to six Grand Slam tournament finals. She won the next two games to close out the set.

Wozniacki never gave up, her quickness along the baseline and spirited returning keeping her in the points. But Clijsters also has quickness, and the veteran had much more firepower in her ground strokes.

Clijsters finished with 36 winners and 34 unforced errors. The counter-punching Wozniacki had just 10 winners in the match.

Wozniacki had one advantage over Clijsters on this night. When she accepted the runner-up trophy, she thanked the crowd in three languages: English, Danish and Polish.

Several other titles were determined Sunday.

Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes won the men’s doubles, defeating Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 3-6 6-3 6-2.

Seventeen-year-old Heather Watson of Great Britain defeated Russia’s Yana Buchina 6-4 6-1 to capture the junior girls title, while Australian Bernard Tomic stopped American Chase Buchanan 61 6-3.

Cheng Peng Hsieh of Chinese Taipei teamed with Marton Fucsovics of Hungary to win the junior boys doubles, edging Julien Obry and Adrien Puget of France 7-6 (5) 5-7 10-1 (match tiebreak). The girls doubles was won by Valeria Solovieva of Russia and Maryna Zanevska of Ukraine, 1-6 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak) over Elena Bogdan of Romania and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand.

In the wheelchair competition, Shingo Kunieda of Japan bested Maikel Scheffers of the Netherlands 6-0 6-0 for the men’s singles; and Esther Vergeer blanked fellow Dutch player Korie Homan 6-0 6-0 for the women’s singles.

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