The World No.1 Rafael Nadal arrived in London in his own unique, but now customary way – as the French Open champion, via the Eurostar from Paris, and just in time to practise on the best grass courts in the world at the AEGON Championships.
At 7pm, he walked into The Queen’s Club with a big smile on his face. In the locker-room, player after player congratulated him on his success at Roland Garros. And then it was time to take to the grass for the first time in 2011.
As he fizzed forehands and backhands over the net, it was difficult to believe that he had just come through a 3 hour, 40 minute final in Paris just a day earlier. The contrast in the way he hit the ball was significant. Groundstrokes that previously looped high over the net and bounced over the heads of his opponents were now being whipped from just above the turf and clearing the net by inches.
“All my career I have loved trying to adapt to this surface,” said Nadal, afterwards. “At the beginning it is tough. The first day is not easy and I did not play very well but I spent more than an hour and a half on the grass and that’s the most important thing. I love to be here in London at Queen’s, and I’m going to try my best.”
Elsewhere, to read about Andy Murray’s first major grass-court practice session, and defending champion Sam Querrey’s first round triumph, click here: http://www.lta.org.uk/fans-major-events/AEGON-British-Tennis-Series/AEGON-Championships/News/2011/Defending-champion-Sam-Querrey-safely-through-to-second-round/
The AEGON Championships will be broadcast live, every day from 6th-12th June, on BBC Television and Eurosport.
For results, draws and the order of play for Tuesday, please go to the official AEGON Championships website: http://www.aegonchampionships.com
By Maud Watson
Defending Champs Out – This past weekend marked the quarterfinals of the 2010 Davis Cup competition and promised plenty of good tennis matchups. But one result few could have seen coming was France’s thrashing of defending two-time champion Spain. Spain has gotten used to dishing out some 5-0 defeats of its own, but unexpectedly found itself on the receiving end of such a defeat as it suffered its first 5-0 loss since 1957. There’s little doubt that this was a disappointing showing for Spain, irrespective of the fact that they were without their No. 1 Rafael Nadal. They have won without him before, and France certainly wasn’t able to field their star players either. It was Spain’s misfortune that they ran into the one team that could match them for depth of players, and congratulations are in order for the nation of France that may be ready to make its first run to the title since 2001.
Coach in the Corner – Peter Lundgren is going to be coaching a man from Switzerland, but this time it isn’t Roger Federer. It’s the number two man for the Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka. This is a great move on Wawrinka’s part, whose results over the course of the past year have been up and down and have seen his ranking slip to outside of the Top 20. Lundgren has had another high profile pupil in Marat Safin, so there’s no doubt he possesses the ability to handle talented players and get their careers going in the right direction. Hopefully he will be able to do the same for Wawrinka by getting him to channel his talent and play within his own boundaries. If so, he could well be headed back to the Top 10.
Back on Track – On the historical grass courts of the Newport Casino, Mardy Fish suddenly found his game and emerged victorious. Fish has been an unfortunate victim of some serious injuries over the course of his career, and he’s also admitted to being more than a little negligent when it came to ensuring he was putting in the time on and off the court to be at his best. But they say it’s never late than never, and nearing his 29th birthday, Mardy Fish may be ready to make a run to the upper echelons of the men’s game, his ranking having jumped 30 places with his victory in the city by the sea. Last year’s Newport finalist appearance turned out to be a catalyst to a great summer for Sam Querrey, and it may bring Fish the same kind of results during the 2010 US Open Series.
Highest Honor – This past Saturday saw the induction of seven new members into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. This induction also had a different feel as it focused on some of the greatest doubles teams of all time (though not the first…see Hewitt/McMillan, Class of 1992), and saw the induction of the first wheelchair tennis player, wheelchair tennis founder and pioneer Brad Parks. Don’t expect this to become a trend at the Hall, but rightfully I think we can expect to see more stellar doubles teams and wheelchair tennis athletes behind the podium during Enshrinement Weekend in the future.
And the ESPY goes to… – Okay, not as prestigious as the Oscars or the Emmys, and personally I think there’s a bit of American bias with these awards, but it is worth noting that tennis was well-represented at the 2010 ESPY Awards. Not surprisingly, Roger Federer and Serena Williams took top honors in the sport of tennis, while Kim Clijsters was named the Comeback of the year. But what was best was seeing that John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut took the cake for best Record-breaking Performance. Again, the quality of the tennis was not the greatest in this match, but a big thank you to those guys for gutting it out for just over 11 hours and putting tennis on the map in a multitude of ways.
The 2010 tennis season is now getting in to full swing with the first Slam of the year, the Australian Open, underway in Melbourne this week.
The usual names are being touted for Grand Slam glory this year but question marks are being placed over the head of Spanish giant Rafael Nadal after his injury ravaged 2009 ended with some pretty poor displays by his own high standards.
The man is one of the few things keeping tennis competitive as his rivalry with Roger Federer has meant R-Fed hasn’t led a Pete Sampras-like domination over the sport this past decade.
Nadal’s native Spain has been in fine form during the “noughties,” lifting the Davis Cup on four occasions in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2009. They had never won the prestigious tournament before.
So is Nadal Spain’s only chance of Grand Slam glory this year? Many would say no.
Juan Carlos Ferrero is a former world No.1 with the French Open title (2003) and a U.S. Open final (also 2003) under his belt. However, 2009 started badly for him with early exits, including the Australian Open, seeing him drop outside the world’s Top 100 for the first time in ten years.
However the grass courts saw a mighty resurgence and only the aggression of Andy Murray halted his progress at the semifinals of the AEGON Championships and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. His ranking climbed from 90 to 37 in a month.
From there he kicked on and looked to be getting back to his best tennis. Age is against him now and this could be his last major push to add to that solitary Slam.
Then there’s Tommy Robredo. The 2009 season was a good one for the Girona boy with career-best-equaling performances at the French, Wimbledon and US Open.
Another clay-court specialist, it is often his performances against the top ten players which let him down. In 2009, it was Andy Roddick who knocked him out in Australia, then Juan Martin del Potro in Paris before Roger Federer ousted Robredo on his way to the US Open final.
But at the Hopman Cup a couple of week’s ago he led Spain to victory with partner Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. It was his dominating play against Britain’s Andy Murray in both their singles and mixed doubles rubbers which got tongues wagging and if he can keep that sort of performance up against the top seeds then the latter rounds of the Slams won’t be far out of reach.
The Spanish youngsters look promising too. The success of eight-time Grand Slam champion Nadal has seen tennis flourish again in the Mediterranean and there are some big hitting youngsters to look out for too.
Nicolas Almagro is looking to build on his quarterfinal appearance at the French in 2008 while Marcel Granollers and Daniel Gimeno-Traver both posted career-best results at three of the four Slams in 2009.
Add David Ferrer, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco to that mix and Spanish fans are rightfully licking their lips at the bevy of talent they have to cheer on throughout the season.
But there is one name in particular that will get the imagination racing and will pull on the heartstrings as they chase one final hurrah.
Along with Roddick, Federer and Lleyton Hewitt he is one of only four stars currently playing to have wracked up over 500 ATP level wins. He graced the final of the Australian Open in 1997 and went on to lift the French in 1998, his only Grand Slam thus far. Ravaging injuries and a loss of form mean he has not reached a quarter final since the 2007 French and US Opens but after taking a hiatus to recover from injured tendons and ischium in his hip Carlos Moya has returned to the tennis circuit.
A hit with fans in all countries his style of play is loved by the male fans while his style and rugged good looks keep the females in tow too.
A first round exit to Janko Tipsarevic at the Chennai Open last week may not have been the return he would have been dreaming of but it takes time to regain that match practice.
How is it looking for the Spaniards in the Australian Open draw (seedings in brackets)?
Ferrer (17) faces a first-round encounter with Federico Gil of Portugal while Verdasco (9) faces home-boy Carsten Ball. Ferrero (23) has to overcome Croatia’s Ivan Dodig while Moya faces Illya Marchenko of Ukraine.
Gimeno-Traver will have to overcome third seed Novak Djokovic if he wants to see the second round while Robredo (16) faces Columbia’s Santiago Giraldo. Almagro (26) and Granollers face Xavier Malisse and Robin Soderling respectively.
In the bottom half of the draw Feliciano Lopez faces Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas while Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka awaits Garcia-Lopez. Second seed Rafael Nadal yesterday (Monday) was the first Spaniard to play and he quickly overcame local boy Peter Luczak 7-6(0), 6-1, 6-4, a good omen?
With thirteen Spaniards overall in the draw there is a high chance of a competitor in the final. And how many betting men are brave enough to go against Nadal? It’s now up to the players to live up to the hype. Watch this space!
It’s official. The US Open will finish on a Monday – at the earliest. For the second year in a row, rain has played havoc to the final weekend of the US Open and has pushed the tournament into a third week. Last year’s men’s final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray, which started at 5 pm on the third Monday of the event, was the first Monday final since 1987, when Ivan Lendl defeated Mats Wilander to win his third straight U.S. title. However, as excerpted from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com), the two most delayed U.S. finals were as follows…
From September 17, 1960 – In the most delayed conclusion to a major tournament in the sport’s history, Neale Fraser of Australia and Darlene Hard of the United States win the singles titles at the U.S. Championships – one week after winning semifinal matches to advance into the championship match. The U.S. Championships at Forest Hills are delayed a full seven days as Hurricane Donna slams New York and soggies up the grass courts at the West Side Tennis Club. Fraser finally defends his 1959 title, defeating fellow Aussie Rod Laver 6-4, 6-4, 10-8, becoming the first repeat men’s winner at Forest Hills since fellow Aussie Frank Sedgman in 1951 and 1952. Hard finally breaks through and wins her first U.S. singles title, upsetting defending champion Maria Bueno of Brazil 6-3, 10-8, 6-4. Fraser and Hard both win semifinal matches on September 10 – Fraser beating Dennis Ralston and Hard beating Donna Floyd – before the rains come. The Fraser-Laver final is a rubber match for the two Aussies, who split their two previous meetings in major finals on the year – Laver winning the Australian title in January for his first major singles title and Fraser turning the tide on “The Rocket” at Wimbledon. Fraser also ends Laver’s 29-match winning streak securing on the Eastern grass court circuit following his loss to Fraser at Wimbledon. Hard finally breaks through and wins her first U.S. title after five previous attempts to win the title. Says Hard, “I never thought I would do it, “ says Hard. “That girl (Bueno) never gives up. She hits winners when she least expects it. It’s been a long time coming. It’s great.”
From September 23, 1938 – After a delay of six days due to a hurricane hitting the New York area, play is resumed at the U.S. Championships at the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills as Don Budge keeps his dream of being the first player to win a Grand Slam alive by beating 1931 Wimbledon champion Sidney Wood 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in the men’s semifinals. Advancing to play Budge in the final is his unseeded doubles partner, Gene Mako, who defeats Australia’s John Bromwich 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in the other men’s semifinal. In women’s singles semifinals, Alice Marble beats Sarah Palfrey Fabyan 5-7, 7-5, 7-5, saving two match points at 2-5, 15-40 in the second set, while Nancye Wynne defeats Dorothy Bundy 5-7, 6-4, 8-6.
NEWPORT, R.I., August 23, 2009 – Pat Cash successfully defended his singles title at the $150,000 Hall of Fame Champions Cup defeating Jim Courier 6-3, 6-4 Sunday in the championship match at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The tournament victory was Cash’s second career title on the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champions tennis players age 30 and over, and earned the 1987 Wimbledon champion $60,000. Cash’s tournament win at Newport last year was also over Courier in the final by the exact 6-3, 6-4 score line.
“I’ve been lucky this week,” said Cash. “I got a few lucky breaks today and you need that to beat these guys, who are all champions. The great thing about this tour, the Outback Champions Series, is that it is serious tennis. We get out there and you can see how hard we’re trying, but it’s also fun,”
Cash is regarded as one of the best serve-and-volley and grass-court players in tennis over the last 30 years. In addition to his 1987 Wimbledon title, Cash was a singles finalist on grass at the 1987 Australian Open. The 44-year-old Australian was the lone Wimbledon singles champion in the eight-player Newport field and was most comfortable on the grass courts at the International Tennis Hall of Fame all week.
“I wouldn’t say I grew up on the grass-court but I have played a lot of grass-court tennis,” said Cash. “It’s natural for me to play this style of game. It’s easy. I don’t have to think about it. I just serve and volley. I’m not smart enough to work out a game tactic against Jim so I just kind of keep serving and running to the net.”
Courier, playing in his 13th career Outback Champions Series final, was seeking the first career professional title on grass courts. However, the 1993 Wimbledon finalist and four-time major tournament champion earned $30,000 with the runner-up showing as well as 800 ranking points that further solidified his No. 1 ranking on the Outback Champions Series.
“If you watched this match at all you could see how difficult it is to return Pat’s serve,” said Courier. “He really spotted his serve beautifully once he got in to the rhythm today and from there I’m struggling because he’s such a beautiful volleyer. If he gets his hands on anything at the net then it seems the point’s over. I felt under pressure because I wasn’t getting to break point on his serve then that’s a lot of pressure on mine. He’s a great champion. He’s obviously a great grass-court champion. You don’t win Wimbledon if you’re not. It’s disappointing because I was hoping to win my first grass-court title.”
In Sunday’s third-place match, Todd Martin defeated Mark Philippoussis 6-3, 6-7(4), 10-6 (Champions Tie-Breaker).
Pete Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, defeating John 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 Patrick Rafter in the final. Courier won his first title of the 2009 season in April at the Cayman Islands, defeating Jimmy Arias in the final. Following Newport, remaining events on the Outback Champions Series will be held in Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).
Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Andre 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 eight 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.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, established in 1954, is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving the history of tennis, inspiring and encouraging junior tennis development, enshrining tennis heroes and heroines, and providing a landmark for tennis enthusiasts worldwide. It was recognized as the sport’s official Hall of Fame in 1986 by the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of tennis. The International Tennis Hall of Fame’s legendary grass courts remain the only competition grass courts available for professional events and exhibitions, while also available for public play. For more information about the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, events and programs, please call 401-849-3990 or log on to www.tennisfame.com
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, private 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.
NEWPORT, RI – Rajeev Ram became the 15th player in the history of the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships to claim his first career ATP World Tour title on the grass courts at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. On Sunday, Ram won his maiden title with a 6-7(3) 7-5 6-3 win over fellow American Sam Querrey.
Ram is the first lucky loser to claim the Newport crown. Initially in the qualifying tournament, Ram entered the main draw when top seed Mardy Fish withdrew on Monday in order to replace Andy Roddick on the US Davis Cup team for a tie against Croatia. No lucky loser had ever advanced beyond the quarterfinals previously in Newport. Ram is the first lucky loser to win on the ATP circuit since Sergiy Stakhovsky won last year in Zagreb.
On the ATP World Tour, Ram is the third player to claim his first career title in 2009, joining Benjamin Becker (‘s-Hertogenbosch) and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (Kitzbuhel). The most recent Newport champion to be claiming his first career title was Robby Ginepri in 2003.
Querrey, who fired a tournament record 80 aces during the week, was in search of his second career title. This is his second runner-up finish of 2009, having lost to Juan Martin del Potro in Auckland in January.
The all-American final was the ninth in Newport history and the first since 2002 when Taylor Dent defeated James Blake. It was the first all-American title match on the ATP since 2007 when Blake defeated Fish in the New Haven final.
Ram is the15th American champion in tournament history, and joins Roddick and Fish as the only American winners on the ATP World Tour in 2009.
Ram later teamed up with Jordan Kerr to defeat Michael Kohlman and Rogier Wassen 67(6) 76(7) 10-6. This was the first time either team was playing together on the ATP World Tour.
Ram is the third player in tournament history to claim both the singles and doubles titles in the same year while Kerr adds to his record haul of Newport trophies by winning the title for the fifth time.
Ram was the 15th player in tournament history to contest both the singles and doubles titles in the same year, and joins Dan Goldie (1987) and John Fitzgerald (1983) as the only three players to win both.
Kerr moves to 18-1 lifetime in Newport, having won the title in 2003 with David Macpherson as well as 2004, 2005 and 2007 with Jim Thomas. His five doubles titles are the most in tournament history, and it ties him with Vijay Amritraj for the most overall (Amritraj won three singles and two doubles titles).
The 2010 Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships will take place July 5-11 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The next event at the venue is the 2009 Hall of Fame Champions Cup Aug. 20-23 featuring Pat Cash, Jim Courier, Wayne Ferreira, Todd Martin, Mikael Pernfors, Mark Philippoussis and Mats Wilander.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of tennis and its champions. For more information regarding the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Hall of Fame Induction Weekend, Tennis Tournaments, Events and Programs, please call 401-849-3990 or visit our website at www.tennisfame.com.