In a couple of days, the Australian Open will be under way. The ‘Happy Slam’ is not only great for the players, but it has also proven to be the most fan friendly of the four majors. The Aussies have provided us free streaming of the qualifying tournament as well as the draw ceremony and the “Rally for Relief” event will be aired on Tennis Channel (Saturday at 10pm EST.) By the wonder of technology, I was able to stream today’s draw ceremony on my phone and it looks like we’re in for some great tennis in the next two weeks. I’m already preparing myself for some sleepless nights. In case you missed it, or you were just too lazy to check out the draw for yourself, I’ll be breaking it down piece by piece.
First off, Rafa and Roger have won 23 of the last 26 Grand Slam events, so you’d pretty much be crazy to pick anyone else to win. However, if anyone can challenge their dominance, it’s going to happen in Melbourne. Historically, the Australian Open has provided us with a lot of breakthrough performances. The 2008 final was contested between Novak Djokovic and Jo Wilfried Tsonga and the 2005 final between Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt. Every other Slam final for the last five years has included either Federer or Nadal.
Just remember, I’m no Nostradamus and some of my picks may sound a little crazy, but it’s boring if you always pick the better players. Sometimes the mediocre guys rise to the occasion and even the best players have bad days.
Seeded Players: Rafael Nadal (1), Feliciano Lopez (31), John Isner (20), Marin Cilic (15), Mikhail Youzhny (10), Michael Llodra (22), David Nalbandian (27), David Ferrer (7)
Clearly all of the expectations lie on Rafa. He could become the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four Slam titles at the same time, something not even the great Roger Federer has accomplished. Although, Laver was quick to say that this would be impressive, but would not equal his calendar year sweep. Nadal certainly could have drawn a worse quarter, i.e. Andy Murray, but there are a lot of great competitors lurking in here, ready to take away his chance at making history. In round 4, Rafa is likely to face John Isner (or Marin Cilic) who can both be occasionally great, but I definitely like Nadal’s chances. In the quarters he could find Mikhail Youzhny, Michael Llodra, Lleyton Hewitt, or David Ferrer. All of the are dangerous, but Rafa would have to have a pretty off day to lose. Rafael Nadal’s biggest challenge will likely come in the semifinals: Robin Soderling or Andy Murray.
Semi Finalist: Rafael Nadal
Possible Sleeper: Michael Llodra
Best First Round Match: David Nalbandian (27) v. Llyeton Hewitt ***This will be a fight to the death. Given the hometown advantage, I think Lleyton will prevail.
Seeded Players: Robin Soderling (4), Thomaz Bellucci (30), Ernests Gulbis (24), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (13), Jurgen Melzer (11), Marcos Baghdatis (21), Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (32), Andy Murray (5)
A week ago, it was huge news that Robin Soderling would usurp Andy Murray’s place as No. 4, giving him his own quarter of the draw. However, the universe likes a good joke and Murray landed smack at the bottom of Soderling’s quarter. So, things are pretty much the same as they would have been. Robin did catch a (tiny) break by ending up on Rafa’s side of the draw considering his head-to-head with Federer. Speaking of Andy Murray, expectations are high. He made the final last year and hasn’t yet managed to prove himself by winning a major event. Andy’s road the final is tough, probably the worst of any guy in the Top 5. In round 3, he’s likely to face Guillermo Garcia-Lopez who had a great fall season, beating Rafa and winning an ATP title. Then things get really tricky. In round 4, Andy could face Jurgen Melzer, Marcos Baghdatis, or Juan Martin del Potro. Whoever gets there will be tough. Things only get worse because, he will likely see Robin Soderling in the quarters. If he even makes it that far, his prize will be a semifinal meeting with Rafael Nadal. This is no one’s dream draw.
Semi Finalist: Robin Soderling
Possible Sleeper: Juan Martin del Potro, Alexandr Dolgopolov
Best First Round Match: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (13) v. Philipp Petzschner
Semi Final: Robin Soderling d. Rafael Nadal ***Yes, I know I’m crazy, but have you seen how fit Soderling looks and Nadal’s coming off a bout with the flu
Seeded Players: Tomas Berdych (6), Richard Gasquet (28), Nikolay Davydenko (23), Fernando Verdasco (9), Nicolas Almagro (14), Ivan Ljubicic (17), Viktor Troicki (29), Novak Djokovic (3)
Novak Djokovic is thanking his lucky stars tonight. This draw suits him beautifully. His greatest triumph came in Melbourne in 2008 and I’m sure he’s keen to repeat that. To get there, Nole will likely have to go through the huge server, Ivo Karlovic, countryman Viktor Troicki, and either Nikolay Davydenko or Fernando Verdasco. I like his chances, particularly after his triumph over Federer at last year’s US Open. I think Djokovic is more confident in his abilities that he has been since the ’08 AO. However, we all know that Nole’s biggest enemy is heat, and even though his conditioning has gotten significantly better, weather will still play a huge role in his draw.
Semi Finalist: Novak Djokovic
Possible Sleeper: Janko Tipsarevic
Best First Round Match: Viktor Troicki (29) v. Dmitry Tursunov
Seeded Players: Andy Roddick (8), Juan Monaco (26), Stanislas Wawrinka (19), Gael Monfils (12), Mardy Fish (16), Sam Querrey (18), Albert Montanes (25), Roger Federer (2)
Andy Roddick is the unluckiest man in tennis. I’m just going to say it. Of all the people who have been deprived of Grand Slam glory by the genius of Roger Federer, no one has been on the losing end more times than Andy Roddick. I think he’s in great form, making last week’s final in Brisbane, but there’s no way he beats Roger Federer at this year’s tournament. I am looking forward to a Roddick/Federer quarter final though because I love them both. I’m sure everyone is interested to see what Stanislas Wawrinka will bring to this tournament. Regardless of what you think of his decisions, he has definitely re-dedicated himself to tennis and it paid off in the form of winning last week’s tournament in Chennai. The American men really seemed to lose out in this year’s draw. Isner’s got Rafa in the 4th round and Querrey’s got Federer. I think both of them have excellent chances of finally breaking through to a major quarter or semi this year, but it’s not going to be the Australian Open. Federer had a “bad” year last year (only winning one major, making a semifinal, and two quarterfinals) but ended the season on a high note by beating Rafael Nadal to winning the World Tour Finals for the fifth time. He’s the defending champion and I think we’ll be seeing him play a lot of tennis over the next two weeks.
Semi Finalist: Roger Federer
Possible Sleeper: Andrey Golubev
Best First Round Match: Gael Monfils (12) v. Thiemo De Bakker
Semi Final: Roger Federer d. Novak Djokovic ***Fed’s not letting Nole beat him again.
Final: Roger Federer d. Robin Soderling
Stay tuned for my take of the women’s draw.
By Maud Watson
A Familiar Face & a First – When the last ball was struck at the final major of the year, the fans at Flushing Meadows saw two of the game’s biggest stars crowned the victors in what was an historic US Open. On the women’s side, Kim Clijsters secured her third consecutive US Open title, putting on a clinic as the pre-tournament favorite easily brushed aside Russian Vera Zvonareva without even breaking a sweat. Hopefully Clijsters will be able to use this experience and find her way to another major title at one of the other three Grand Slam events. But as great as Clijsters’ championship run was, the bigger praise has to go to Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard had a mediocre summer by his lofty standards, but he saved his best for when it really counted. His win in New York saw him complete the career Grand Slam, and at the age of just 24, he’s the youngest to have accomplished the rare feat. The standout player of 2010, fans can only look forward to seeing what he’ll do for an encore in 2011.
Second Fiddle – While few ever remember those who finished second, it’s worth recognizing the efforts and accomplishments of both US Open singles finalists Vera Zvonareva and Novak Djokovic. Many thought that Vera Zvonareva’s run to the Wimbledon final was a fluke, but her finalist appearance in New York seems sure to suggest that she has officially put it together and is a legitimate threat to win a Slam. As for Djokovic, he’s essentially been the forgotten man for the better part of the year, despite his ranking always being within the top 2-4. With his captivating win over Federer in the semifinals and new-found fighting spirit, he’s reminded the rest of the tennis world that he is a major champion, and a second championship title may not be too far around the bend.
Double the Fun – In what has to be described as the best summer of their careers, the Bryan Brothers ended the Grand Slam season where they began – in the winner’s circle. They took their ninth major doubles title (3 behind the all-time leaders of Newcombe/Roche, and 2 behind Open Era leaders the Woodies) over the highly-praised pairing of Pakistani Aisam-Ul Haq Qureshi and Indian Rohan Bopanna. Still the top-ranked doubles duo, odds are good that they may yet break the record for most majors as a team. On the women’s side, the less known combination of American Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan triumphed in their second straight major, dismissing both of the top two seeded teams en route to the title. So while American fans may be lamenting the state of tennis in the United States, there appears to be plenty to still smile about in the doubles arena.
Best Few have Seen – Many are aware of the multitude of streaks compiled by the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Justine Henin, etc., but even the longest of win streaks by any of these stars pales in comparison to what Dutch player Esther Vergeer has managed to accomplish. The sensational wheelchair tennis star defeated Daniela di Toro love and love to not only win her fifth US Open Championship, but her 396th consecutive match! Her incredible run has done much to continue to raise the profile of this fascinating sport, and if you haven’t had a chance to see it, take the first opportunity that you can to do so. These athletes are truly an inspiration to all.
Raise the Roof – A hurricane wasn’t the culprit this time around, but for the third straight year, the men’s final was postponed to Monday. To make matters worse, Monday’s final suffered yet another lengthy rain delay that forced it to a second television network in the United States, and very nearly a third. Needless to say, there have been further grumblings about the need for a roof. Rumor has it that the USTA is looking at the possibility of building a new stadium with a retractable roof, and tennis enthusiasts around the globe sincerely hope that the USTA will see this through. It can’t afford more of these Monday finals, nor can it afford to lag behind the other majors.
By David Goodman
It was 1998 and I was working for USTA/Eastern as their executive director. Former Eastern junior Justin Gimelstob, a Jewish fella like me, had just won his second straight Grand Slam mixed doubles title with Venus Williams. I said to myself, “Self, how many other Jews have won Grand Slam titles?”
I had to know.
The first players to make my list were fairly easy. Dick Savitt won the 1951 Wimbledon singles title. Ilana Kloss, who I knew as CEO of World TeamTennis, won the 1976 doubles title with Linky Boshoff (the only Linky to ever win a Grand Slam title). Angela Buxton won the 1956 French and Wimbledon doubles titles with the great Althea Gibson. That’s right, an African American and a Jew, playing together because no one else wanted them as partners. “Leben ahf dein kop!” my grandmother would say (“well done!”).
After a little digging, I learned that 1980 Australian Open champion Brian Teacher enjoys lox on his bagels, 1983 French Open mixed doubles champ Eliot Teltscher (with Barbara Jordan) is no stranger to a yarmulke, and two-time doubles champ Jim Grabb (’89 French Open with Richey Reneberg and ’92 U.S. Open with Patrick McEnroe) doesn’t sweat, he shvitzes.
Dr. Paul Roetert, then the head of sport science at the USTA, heard about my budding kosher list and told me that his fellow Dutchman Tom Okker, winner of the 1973 French Open doubles title with John Newcombe and the 1976 U.S. Open doubles title with Marty Riessen, was Jewish. In fact, I later learned that Tom often had troubles against Romanian Ilie Nastase, who would whisper anti-Semitic remarks when passing by on changeovers. That shmeggegie sure had chutzpah.
Back in ’98 I looked up past winners of Grand Slam events and came by Brian Gottfried, who I had met once or twice in his role as ATP President. He’s gotta be Jewish, I thought. His name is Gottfried, for crying out loud. So I called him. I left what had to be one of the strangest messages he’s ever received. I actually asked him what he likes to do when the Jewish high holidays come around. To Brian’s credit, he called back and told me he enjoys spending the holidays with his family and typically goes to the synagogue. Bingo! Another one down.
I honestly don’t remember when Vic Seixas came to my attention, but no matter, I had missed the greatest Jewish tennis player of all time, not to mention one of the greatest mixed doubles players ever. The Philadelphia native won eight mixed doubles titles (seven with Doris Hart), five doubles titles (four with Tony Trabert), as well as singles championships at Wimbledon in 1953 and Forest Hills in 1954. Vic still shleps from his home in California to attend various tennis events around the country. If you see him, give my best to the lovely and talented alter kocker!
So, for the time being my list was done. Until recently. Something told me to dust off the list (or clean the spots off my monitor) and see if any of My People had triumphed in recent years. And lo and behold, the land of milk and honey, the Jewish state itself, the only country in the Middle East without oil, came through. Meet Israelis Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram.
Erlich and Ram won the 2008 Australian Open doubles title, and Ram also has the ’06 Wimbledon mixed (with Vera Zvonareva) and ’07 French Open mixed (with Nathalie Dechy) doubles titles on his shelf. But don’t worry, Shlomo Glickstein, in my mind you’re still the pride of Israeli sports. (In fact, in 1985 Shlomo was one French Open doubles win from making the list himself.)
So that was all, I thought. There were names on the Grand Slam winners lists that sounded good to me. American Bob Falkenburg, Czech Jiri Javorsky and American Marion Zinderstein (Zinderstein? She’s gotta be Jewish!), but I just can’t prove their Hebrewness.
Miriam Hall sounded Jewish, I thought, so I googled her, just as I did the others. There was nothing on the Internet to lead me to believe she was a member of The Tribe, but I did find her 1914 book, Tennis For Girls. Perhaps I’ll get it for my daughters, who will learn that “the use of the round garter is worse than foolish – it is often dangerous, leading to the formation of varicose veins.” Better yet, Miss Hall advised that “… the skirt should be wide enough to permit a broad lunge…”
On second thought, perhaps my kids aren’t old enough for such a detailed how-to book.
Alas, my search brought me to Hungarian Zsuzsa (Suzy) Kormoczy, winner of the 1958 French singles championships. I had found the athlete the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame calls the first and only Jewish woman to win a Grand Slam singles event.
Enter controversy. According to Morris Weiner (pronounced Weener), who wrote an article called “Jews in Sports” in the August 23, 1937 edition of The Jewish Record, Helen Jacobs’ father was Jewish. You know Helen. She owns nine Grand Slam titles, five of which are singles championships (1932-1935 U.S. Championships and 1936 Wimbledon). And while any Rabbi worth his or her tallis would probably argue that the mom had to be Jewish for it to count, I’m with Morris Weiner. Call me a holiday Jew, but Helen is on my list. Besides, according to The Jewish Record’s Weiner (there, I said it), Helen was the first woman to popularize man-tailored shorts as on-court attire. And her 1997 obituary says she is one of only five women to achieve the rank of Commander in the Navy. Happy Hanukkah, Commander Helen.
So, by my count there are 14 Jewish Grand Slam champions who have won a combined 44 Grand Slam titles. And perhaps there are more. Alfred Codman (1900 U.S. Singles Championships)? Helen Chapman (1903 U.S. Singles Championships)? Marion Zinderstein has to be Jewish, don’t you think? The work of a Jewish Grand Slam tennis historian never ends.
David Goodman has worked in the tennis industry for 20 years. He was executive director of USTA/Eastern, Inc., co-founder and CEO of The Tennis Network, executive director of Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education, and Vice President of Communications at Advanta Corp. He has been a World TeamTennis announcer since 2002, and is on the USTA Middle States Board of Directors. If he enters the US Open qualifying tournament in New Jersey later this month, he figures he’ll have to win about 20 matches in order to become the 15th Jewish Grand Slam champion.
Jewish Grand Slam Tournament Winners
Buxton, Angela 1956 French Championships Women’s Doubles (Althea Gibson)
1956 Wimbledon Women’s Doubles (Althea Gibson)
Erlich, Jonathan 2008 Australian Open Men’s Doubles (Andy Ram)
Gimelstob, Justin 1998 Australian Open Mixed Doubles (Venus Williams)
1998 French Open Mixed Doubles (Venus Williams)
Gottfried, Brian 1975 French Open Men’s Doubles (Raul Ramirez)
1976 Wimbledon Men’s Doubles (Raul Ramirez)
1977 French Open Men’s Doubles (Raul Ramirez)
Grabb, Jim 1989 French Open Men’s Doubles (Richey Reneberg)
1992 U.S. Open Men’s Doubles (Patrick McEnroe)
Jacobs, Helen 1932 U.S. Women’s Singles Championships
1932 U.S. Women’s Doubles Championships (Sarah Palfrey Cooke)
1933 U.S. Women’s Singles Championships
1934 U.S. Women’s Singles Championships
1934 U.S. Women’s Doubles Championships (Sarah Palfrey Cooke)
1934 U.S. Mixed Championships (George M. Lott, Jr.)
1935 U.S. Women’s Singles Championships
1935 U.S. Women’s Doubles Championships (Sarah Palfrey Cooke)
1936 Wimbledon Women’s Singles
Kloss, Ilana 1976 U.S. Open Women’s Doubles (Linky Boshoff)
Kormoczy, Suzy 1958 French Singles Championships
Okker, Tom 1973 French Open Men’s Doubles (John Newcombe)
1976 U.S. Open Men’s Doubles (Marty Riessen)
Ram, Andy 2006 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles (Vera Zvonareva)
2007 French Open Mixed Doubles (Nathalie Dechy)
2008 Australian Open Men’s Doubles (Jonathan Erlich)
Savitt, Dick 1951 Wimbledon Men’s Singles
Seixas, Vic 1952 U.S. Championships Men’s Doubles (Mervyn Rose)
1953 Wimbledon Men’s Singles
1953 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles (Doris Hart)
1953 French Championships Mixed Doubles (Doris Hart)
1953 U.S. Championships Mixed Doubes (Doris Hart)
1954 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles (Doris Hart)
1954 U.S. Men’s Championships
1954 U.S. Championships Men’s Doubles (Tony Trabert)
1954 U.S. Championships Mixed Doubles (Doris Hart)
1954 French Championships Men’s Doubles (Tony Trabert)
1955 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles (Doris Hart)
1955 Australian Championships Men’s Doubles (Tony Trabert)
1955 French Championships Men’s Doubles (Tony Trabert)
1955 U.S. Championships Mixed Doubles (Doris Hart)
1956 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles (Shirley Fry)
Teacher, Brian 1980 Australian Open Singles
Teltscher, Eliot 1983 French Open Mixed Doubles (Barbara Jordan)
By Maud Watson
Political Pandemonium – Once again, there was an ugly scene at the WTA Auckland event, as protesters against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians voiced their discontent during Israeli Shahar Peer’s matches. All credit to Peer, however, who managed to block it all out and reach the semifinals before losing to Yanina Wickmayer. Another positive bit of news for Peer is that the WTA has received, in writing, assurances from the UAE that she will be granted a visa to compete in Dubai. For those who remember, Peer was denied the visa in 2009, and the WTA was forced to impose a $300,000 fine on the Dubai event. While things are still far from perfect, it’s nice to see that sometimes sports can rise above politics.
She’s Ba-ack! – The moment tennis fans around the world have been waiting for has arrived as Justine Henin made her official return to tournament tennis at the Brisbane event this week. With the exception of her quarterfinal match in which she was forced to show her true grit and determination to grind out a third set tiebreak win, Henin has crushed the competition en route to the final, including a dominating performance over former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the semifinals. She now faces the current comeback queen and fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in the final. Looks the WTA season has started with a bang!
History Beckons – No, Fabrice Santoro hasn’t caught the contagious comeback bug. He is merely unable to resist the opportunity to etch his name into the record books. The Frenchman affectionately known as “the magician,” who retired at the 2009 Paris Masters event, has changed his mind and opted to play the 2010 Australian Open. By playing at the opening Major of the season, Santoro will become the first player to have competed at the Grand Slam events over the course of four different decades. It’s a great achievement, and I’m sure fans will appreciate the chance to see this crafty player take to the courts as he makes his final curtain call.
Suck It Up – That’s essentially what the ITF will be saying to those players who find themselves wilting under hot conditions or over the course of long matches in all ITF events, which includes the four Slams. I for one was thrilled to read that the ITF was taking a stand on this issue, as it’s been long overdue. It about time those players who put in the time during the off season are allowed to start reaping the benefits of their hard work instead of having to watch a physically weak opponent break the momentum of a match to receive a massage for cramps, and in some cases, unjustly squeak out the win. Now, if we could just get the governing bodies to start enforcing the time rule in between points we’d be in business.
Murray Out Of Davis Cup – Once again, Andy Murray has disappointed the people of Great Britain by stating he will not be representing his country in the upcoming tie with Lithuania. It has to be disappointing for a nation that at one time was one of the top dogs in the tennis world. That said, it is hard to fault Murray when Roger Federer also appears reluctant to represent Switzerland against Spain in early March, with his reason being a scheduling conflict with the regular tour season. This is just another blaring example that shows the ITF needs to do something to change the format of the Davis Cup competition, or else blockbuster matchups such as Switzerland vs. Spain are going to continue to go bust in a hurry.