Guillermo Canas

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Argentina Could Evade Underdog Status in the Davis Cup Final

Juan Martin Del Potro speaks to the media

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

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

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

A Top 10-Caliber Player of Their Own

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

A Top 15-Caliber Player, Too

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

Fresher Legs

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

The (Good and Bad) Experience Factor

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

Davis Cup in Croatia revisited – Roddick out, Fish in

Andy Roddick is out of the Davis Cup team

What happened the last time the U.S. Davis Cup team traveled to Croatia? Ironically, Andy Roddick was not in the U.S. line-up due to exhaustion and injury following a marathon match at a Grand Slam tournament – as is the case this week following his 16-14 fifth-set loss to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final on Sunday. Back in 2003, it was a wrist injury that placed Roddick off the U.S. team following his 21-19 in the fifth set win over Younes El Aynaoui in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and, like this week in Pec, Croatia, he was replaced in the singles line-up by Mardy Fish. The following is a summary of the last U.S. visit to Croatia back in February of 2003

The pending retirements in 2003 of Pete Sampras and Michael Chang, and the retirement of Jim Courier three years prior caused the U.S. Davis Cup focus to center more squarely on “Generation Next.” With a 33-year-old Andre Agassi still playing, but in retirement from Davis Cup play, and 33-year-old Todd Martin playing what turned out to be his final Davis Cup match at Roland Garros the previous fall, the changing of the guard was to be completed with an away match in the first round of the 2003 competition against Croatia in Zagreb.

However, Captain Patrick McEnroe’s hopes of his Andy Roddick-led youthful charge in 2003 suffered a lethal blow just 10 days before the start of the Croatia tie as Roddick’s exhausting Australian Open campaign had instigated a case of severe tendonitis in his right wrist, preventing his nomination to the team. Roddick’s 4-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, 21-19 quarterfinal win over Younes El Aynaoui of Morrocco in four hours and 59 minutes contributed greatly to Roddick’s condition as did a diving attempt at a volley near the end of the match.

“I didn’t think anything about it then, and the wrist wasn’t really sore after the match,” Roddick told Bill Dwyre with the Los Angeles Times of landing on his right wrist after the diving volley attempt. “I packed up, went off, did my press, and then, when I went to leave, I picked up my big tennis bag and felt this huge pain in my wrist.”

Roddick considered defaulting the Aussie semifinal match to Rainer Schuettler of Germany, but since it was his first sojourn into a Grand Slam semifinal gave it a run. The later the match went, the more the pain affected his play in his 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 loss to Schuettler.

“At the end, it hurt so much to hit my two-handed backhand that I was, pretty much, just releasing my right hand and hitting a left-handed forehand.”
Roddick saw Dr. Norm Zemel of the Los Angeles-based Kerlan-Jobe group, who diagnosed three weeks of rest. “The doctor said it was the most severe case of tendonitis he had ever seen,” Roddick told Dwyre. “I really didn’t know what it was, how bad it was, until I saw the doctor yesterday.”

Without its No. 1 player, U.S. Captain Patrick McEnroe would have to rely on James Blake, Mardy Fish, Taylor Dent and Robby Ginepri to carry load in lieu of Roddick. All four players had been knocking at the door and waiting to burst through and make a mark on their own and follow in Roddick’s lead through to the upper echelon of world tennis. Croatia would be their opportunity to take the stage and shine.

“I’ve said from the time I became captain, it’s time for the younger guys to step up and they have and now it’s time for them to take over,” said McEnroe. “I’m excited about watching the young guns take the responsibility into their hands fully for our Davis Cup quest to bring the Davis Cup back to the U.S… It’s time for them to enjoy this challenge, to take the responsibility of being our team and get us through this match.”

Much of the responsibility would fall on Blake, who would be designated as the No. 1 player for the U.S. with an ATP ranking of No. 24. The 23-year-old – the oldest player in the green American team -  had previously only played supporting roles in Davis Cup play, playing singles behind Roddick in two previous ties – against India in Winston-Salem in 2001 and against France at Roland Garros the previous fall – while also playing doubles only in two other ties.

“It’s a little weird since I definitely feel like I’m still the one learning,” confided Blake. “Just last year, I was the brand new kid and the rookie on the team and now I’m considered the veteran. I’m the oldest member of the team. It’s going to seem a little strange.”

Blake would also be thrown into the spotlight as the draw for the U.S. vs. Croatia tie would be held on February 6 – the 10 year anniversary of the death of Arthur Ashe. The USTA would honor the legacy of Ashe by sewing the embroidery of his name on the left sleeve of the official team uniform for each U.S. team member. Said USTA Chief Executive Arlen Kantarian “The Davis Cup represents one of Arthur’s greatest ideals, to bring people together around the world through sports. On this tenth anniversary of his death, we remember an outstanding player, captain and humanitarian – and inspiration not just for his team, but to our country and the world.”

“I think being African-American, I owe him a great debt of gratitude for being able to deal with the pressures and situations. What I go through now and what anyone goes though is much easier thanks to what he did. It took a great man and great athlete like him to do that and we are so fortunate today to have had him as that role model.”

Ashe’s legacy and reputation to assist in humanitarian causes had clearly rubbed off on Jim Courier, who continued in his role as coach under McEnroe in Zagreb. Courier had been made aware of the significant land-mine problems in Croatia that remained following its war for independence in the early 1990s from Jim Lawrence, the U.S. State Department’s Director of Mine Action Initiatives and Partnerships.

Courier had arranged for the team to visit a de-mining operation on the morning of Tuesday, February 4, but snow and high winds delayed the helicopter ride that would take the team to a coastal region near the city of Zadar, where a major de-mining operation would take place.  In place of the team, the United States Tennis Association sent a group of its officials in their place. USTA Davis Cup Committee Chairmen Warren Kimball and Allen Kiel were so moved by the struggles for the Croatian people to rid their soil of such deadly land mines, that they encouraged and received the financial commitment from USTA President Alan Schwartz, to donate $25,000 to de-mining efforts in Croatia. The U.S. Embassy in Zagreb pledged a matching $25,000 grant. The money was used to clear a mine-field in the village of Mekusje, 30 miles west of Zagreb, where the mine field prevented townspeople from access the town’s local tennis court.

“This is our way of showing support to the people of Croatia, who have been such incredible hosts to our Davis Cup team and USTA contingent this week,” said Schwartz. “It is reassuring to know that the contribution by the USTA and the U.S. government will help the people of Mekusje enjoy the wonderful sport of tennis once again.”

Much of the buzz entering the first round series centered around the status of 2001 Wimbledon champion and Croatian sporting god Goran Ivanisevic. Since his celebrated win at the All England Club in 2001, Ivanisevic had been plagued with injuries and underwent surgery on his left shoulder in May of 2002. Despite not playing only three ATP singles matches in the last year due to the recovery from his surgery, Ivanisevic was determined to make his return against the Americans. He had played in the Heilbronn Challenger level event in Germany the week before Davis Cup, only to withdraw in the second round with tremendous pain in his shoulder.
“I couldn’t do anything, my arm hurt terribly,” Ivanisevic said. “I suffered for 10 months, underwent an operation to feel better and now this…I’ve never felt so miserable….I’ll let him give me 30 injections if that’d help. I’m in such a state that I’d go to Tibet on foot if I knew that would help,” he said. “I’m totally lost.”

Not surprisingly, he was not drawn to play singles against the Americans, but in doubles with Ljubicic. Fish, ranked No. 74 in the ATP rankings, was drawn to face No. 52-ranked Ljubicic to start the tie off, with Blake and Mario Ancic playing the second singles match.

Under a backdrop of a loud, flag-waving jam-packed crowd of 2,800 in the tiny Dom Hall Sportova, which resembled a high school gym than a major sporting arena, Fish and Ljubicic opened the proceedings. Ljubicic, with his future brother-in-law banging a drum to incite the small but overflowing and vocal crowd, took advantage of the fast conditions on the indoor carpet serving with equal abandon on both first and second serve. With Fish showing nerves in his first away Davis Cup action and his first ever Davis Cup singles match, he was tentative on his normally solid return of serve and was unable to hook onto Ljubicic’s blistering serves. Only after 97 minutes – at 1-2 in the third set – was Fish able to look at a break point – only to see it disappear behind a Ljubicic service winner. Of Ljubicic’s 70 service points, 30 were aces, 19 were service winners, while 16 were double faults. Final result, Ljubicic in straight sets by a 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 margin.

“I’ve never played anybody with a serve like that,” said Fish of Ljubicic. “I couldn’t read his serve and I just didn’t have an answer…I’ve never seen a first and second serve like that.”

Blake took the court with the swagger of the team leader and jumped on and dominated Ancic, easily winning the first two sets 6-1, 6-2 before maneuvering through a third set-tie-break to square the matches at 1-1 after the first day of play.

“Davis Cup is a lot of pressure and I think it’s a lot of fun out there,” said Blake. “It’s a great atmosphere out there having a biased crowd. There is going to be pressure in every match, with varying degrees. I went into it looking it as if it was another live Davis Cup rubber.”

While there was little doubt that Fish and Blake would pair in the doubles, there still remained a minor mystery on whether Ivanisevic would take the court the next day.  Said Croatian captain Niki Pilic of Goran’s availability for the Saturday doubles, “I think he will make his decision. I have made my decision already. If he has a good arm, like today (in practice), I think he will play.”

An electric atmosphere greeted Ivanisevic as he strolled onto the court with Ljubicic on Saturday afternoon. The scene, according to Bud Collins of the Boston Globe was of pandemonium. “Horns toot, a drum rat-a-tat-tats, shrill whistles pierce the fetid air, and the checker board flags of Croatia flap everywhere.”

Ivanisevic was playing in only his second complete match since undergoing left shoulder surgery on May 15, 2002. Ivanisevic retired with shoulder pain in the second round of last week’s Heilbronn Challenger in Germany, his first event since April 6, 2002, when he and Ljubicic defeated Guillermo Canas and Lucas Arnold of Argentina in the Davis Cup quarterfinal in Buenos Aires.

The rust showed early for Ivanisevic who struggled with his serves and stumbled on volleys and returns, trying desperately to find his rhythm against the energized Blake and Fish.  Leading two-sets-to-love, Blake and Fish appeared in complete control, until the third set tie-break. With the Croatians leading 4-2 in the tie-break, Fish served up a double fault to put the set on the Croatians racquet with Ljubicic serving at 5-2, but Blake and Fish won both points on Ljubicic’s serve, to cut the lead to 4-5. Blake then served to Ivanisevic, who floated a sitter return, that Fish netted on top of the net, giving Croatia two set points. A bungled volley by Blake then gave Croatia the third set tiebreak. “It was a screwy tiebreaker,” Blake said later.” Hard to believe – on a fast court, and strong servers. But I thought we were OK.” A loose service game by Fish in the first game of the fourth set, cemented the momentum change for the Croatians. At 4-4 in the fifth-set, the Croatians broke Blake at love for a 5-4 lead, with Ljubicic then serving out the incredible 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-4 victory for the vital 2-1 lead.

Wrote Collins of Ivanisevic as the match concluded, “He was beaming ecstatically after hugging Ljubicic at the conclusion of their enthralling 3-hour-4-minute rebound. They leaped, danced, and pitched their rackets into the joyful crowd. Ivanisevic grabbed a microphone to thank the crowd and lead them in a victory song. The essence of the lyrics: “We stomped the Americans!”

Said Ivanisevic, “I knew it was going to be tough because 11 months, I played (one) challenger, but not a match like this. This is Davis Cup. It was really the first time in my life (I was) lost, that you don’t know what you are doing on the court. Nervous, heavy, no ideas. Then (Ivan) was telling me, come on, don’t worry it’s going to come, we need one break, we need something to happen. By the end of the second set, I start to play better and felt it that we were going to be OK. Blake played very good and also Fish, but Blake was the guy who was really pushing. Third, fourth and fifth set, everything open…I had great pain in my elbow, biceps, everywhere, but I said, doesn’t matter what happen, you have to finish this match….

“I was taking painkillers and I said to Ivan, ‘We are going to break Blake in the fifth set’, because he is playing too good, he has to do something wrong, Yesterday, he didn’t do anything wrong and today almost three hours, he didn’t do anything wrong and nobody can do it. And then we had good returns in the last game and it was great….I needed this match. Wimbledon was different. I forgot how to play this kind of match. I was so happy I didn’t what to do, where to go, where to jump. I really need this match. I need to feel, because when you play Challenger and you win a match and nobody is jumping, but when you beat the USA in doubles from two sets to love down and after 11 months without this type of match, you have to be happy. … I knew I play good at the practice. I was very nervous today. Very stiff, very lost, but I knew it would break somewhere and I did it. I started to play well later….volley, return everything was great. Crowd was great…this is crowd this is what you say, when you have home advantage when we have crowd like this and crowd can lift you. Without this crowd, we couldn’t win today….I was so stiff, so tight, so much pressure. I started to feel my serve at the end of the second set. I served the best in the fifth set when I had the most pain. I wouldn’t stop for anything. Even with a broken shoulder I would play, but I think it’s going to fine. Now I can take off for the next five months.”

The match marked the first time since 1965 that an American doubles team has lost in Davis Cup after leading two sets to love. In 1965, Dennis Ralston and Clark Graebner lead Spain’s Luis Arilla and Manuel Santana two sets to love, only to lose 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 11-9 in Barcelona.

Said Blake, “They served great. They kept their heads high. They stayed positive. Goran, I think, got better as the match progressed. He served better than you can expect from someone coming off an eight-month layoff.”

Blake chose his post-match press conference to also vent at some of the Croatian fans in the crowd, who called out during points, in between first and second serves, during serves, during overheads.  “I feel like I was a little disappointed with the lack of class of some of the fans, but some of them might not be tennis fans, so that is possibly to be expected,” said Blake. “It didn’t really have a place in a match that was supposed to about goodwill and friendship between countries. I feel like I was more disappointed with the referee’s decision not to do anything about it and not control the situation when that’s there job and that’s the rule. I don’t think that affected us that much besides one incident of calling out in the middle of a point, which obviously affected concentration during that point. We tried to put that behind us.”

Instead Blake chose to look ahead to the fourth rubber of the series between he and Ljubicic and hopefully a live fifth rubber between Fish and Ancic. “I still see a good chance for me,” said Blake, “and I’d love to give Mardy the chance to be the hero”

On Sunday, Blake withstood the Ljubicic barrage of aces and after losing the first set, stole the second set tie-break and took a 4-2 lead in the third and appeared in complete control of the match. But Ljubicic went on a run of four straight games to win the third set, benefiting from two loose service games from Blake in the eighth and tenth games of the fourth set. Ljubicic carried his momentum to win in four sets-  6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3 -  to clinch the tie for Croatia.
“I thought James was in control, ready to win the third set,” said McEnroe. “Maybe we both relaxed too much. Those were loose games that you can’t play against a guy serving and competing like Ljubicic. You cannot allow yourself to relax for a second. Maybe we both relaxed. Maybe I have look at myself and what I did there. Certainly, James played a loose game and you can’t afford to do that in a match like this, whether it is the Davis Cup pressure or how well Ivan was playing, because he was certainly playing well and doing things that took James out of his rhythm but that was his game plan…My job is to keep my player as a tune to what is happening without making him nervous. Maybe I could have done a better job at that.”

Ljubicic would end the match with 29 aces and 19 service winners in 97 service points. For the weekend, Ljubicic would amass 72 aces, would hold serve 50 of 51 times and only face nine break points during his three matches in joining a elite company of only eight other players to win three live matches against a U.S. Davis Cup team, joining Laurie Doherty of Great Britain (1903), Henri Cochet of France (1928), Frank Sedgman of Australia (1951), Neale Fraser of Australia (1959), Nicola Pietrangeli of Italy (1961), Raul Ramirez of Mexico (1975 and 1976) and Roger Federer of Switzerland (2001).

Blake described the matches as the most emotional match he’s ever played, but put a optimistic spin on the first round loss.

We are going to get a Davis Cup in the next four or five years with Andy, myself, Mardy, Taylor, Robby,” said Blake. “I don’t really make guarantees, because I think it’s kind of silly, but I’m confident that we are going get a Davis Cup in the next couple of years. We’re already extremely strong. We all care about Davis Cup a lot, that’s why this hurts so bad. Together, we are so emotionally high and low after a weekend or an entire week together, I don’t see how other teams can be as excited about Davis Cup as we are, that’s why I feel confident in the fact that we are going to do this together and we are going to come through one of these times.”

McEnroe was obviously disappointed in the loss, which gave him the distinction of being the only U.S. Davis Cup Captain to lose two first round matches during his tenure, but again looked at the long term potential of the team.

“I think that down the road we are going to be a damn good team,” he said. “How far that road is…I certainly thought that we could do it this year and now we are out…

“These guys care a lot. One of the reasons that I’m not dispirited is because of these kids. They care and they are passionate about it. At the end of the day, that’s what it is all about. At the end of the day, that’s what it is all about. Obviously, it’s about winning and losing and I’m disappointed to lose again in the first round. It hurts. This one hurts more than any other one, because I felt like we could go all the way this year, but there is a thin line between doing that and losing in the first round.

“This is a tough atmosphere. These guys have to get burned. There’s no other way around it. Pete Sampras is the greatest player of all time and he went through it. It’s tough to go through it. These guys love it. Taylor Dent said to me in the middle of the match today, when he was playing out there. “You know what? We lost and all, but it’s been such a great week.” That makes me feel that it is worthwhile and that these guys really do care and that if they continue to improve that we will have success down the road.”

Australian Open Days 5 and 6 Roundup

Day 5

In the battle between two former Australian Open champions, Roger Federer (won in 2004, 06-07) knocked out Marat Safin (2005). Safin had his little chance only in the third set. Federer was leading 4:1 in a tie-break with two mini-breaks but lost awhile his concentration after Safin’s foot fault on second serve. The Russian argued with a linesman and moment later was 5:4 up. Federer served very well twice and converted first match point with amazing backhand passing-shot.

“I lost today probably to the better player, one of the greatest ones in the history of tennis,” said Safin. “I really hope for him to be so I can tell the story to my kids that I played with him. I think it’s a nice story.”

Serb Novak Djokovic lost first set in the tournament against the Bosnian-born Amer Delic. There was very close to play a five-set match because at 5:4 (40-15) in the fourth set, Delic had double setpoint on Djokovic’s serve. The defending champion fought off the danger with an ace and lucky netcord that forced Delic to make an error.

“I need some matches like this to feel really what is Grand Slam all about,” said Djokovic.

The 36-year-old Santoro was playing in his 66th Grand Slam championship – the Open Era record amongst male players. In his final match in Melbourne lost to Andy Roddick 3-6 4-6 2-6. Santoro had break point (triple break point in all) only in one game – when Roddick was serving to win the second set. “Respect is an understatement,” Roddick said about the Frenchman. “The longevity he has had is an accomplishment in itself.” “This has always been one of my favorite places” said Santoro who reached in Melbourne his only Grand Slam quarterfinal in singles, three years ago, and won here twice the title in doubles (2003-04).

Day 6

Fernando Verdasco has been in great form since last year’s tournament in St. Petersburg. The Spaniard confirmed his aspiration to be a Top 10 player with a convincing win (6-4 6-0 6-0) over Radek Stepanek. Verdasco was break down at 3:4 and won 15 games in a row since then, and took a revenge for a defeat to Stepanek in the final at the Brisbane Internation two weeks ago.

Verdasco sets up 4th round clash with Andy Murray who won his match in similiar circumstances. The Scott won 11 consecutive games in a 7-5 6-0 6-3 win over Jurgen Melzer.

James Blake extends the lead in matches against his easiest opponent Igor Andreev to 6-0. The American has also the same H2H against Arnaud Clement and Nikolay Davydenko but against Andreev won the most sets, defeated him inter alia in three different Grand Slam tournaments (they have never met only at the French Open).

Fernando Gonzalez prevailed an epic match at the Margaret Court Arena against Richard Gasquet. Gasquet won easily first two sets and had match point in a tie-break of the third set -  risked a backhand return then, and the ball landed on the tape. Gonzalez won third set on 7th setpoint. Gasquet began to struggle with the pain in the right leg and right arm, and lost quickly fourth set but didn’t give up. At the beginning of the fifth set, the Frenchman changed own tactics, attacked more often to the net and builded up the speed of the first serve to play shorter rallies. Despite the pain Gasquet was winning service games comfortably and had his chances to take a decisive break: 4:4 (40-15), 7:7 (40-30), 10:10 (40-30) but experienced in tight matches Gonazalez saved all break points and waited first match point in the 22nd game of the final set. Gasquet saved it with beautiful forehand cross but lost next two points and the match, firstly Gonzalez played a gentle backhand lob, then finished the match with backhand down the line from the baseline. The match lasted 4 hours 9 minutes and both players won 191 points (Gasquet more in the final set (71-67).

“He was playing like a super hero,” Gonzalez said of Gasquet. “I couldn’t do anything. You have to keep fighting and wait for your chances. When we went to the fifth set I feel really good – I feel the favourite for the match.”

Marcos Baghdatis after overcoming Mardy Fish in straight sets became the only unseeded player who advanced to the last “sixteen” but it’s tough to call it a surprise because Baghdatis is a former Australian Open finalist. Baghdatis last year along with Lleyton Hewitt made a record – their match was finished at 4:33 a.m. This time beating Fish, Baghdatis setted up the record of the 2009 tournament – the match was finished at 1 a.m.

Third Round

(1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. Tommy Haas (GER) 6-4 6-2 6-2
(13)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) d. (24)Richard Gasquet (FRA) 3-6 3-6 7-6(10) 6-2 12-10 – 1 MP
(12)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. (17)Nicolas Almagro (ESP) 6-4 6-3 7-5
(6)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Mario Ancic (CRO) 7-6(2) 6-4 6-2
(4)Andy Murray (GBR) d. (31)Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 7-5 6-0 6-3
(14)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. (22)Radek Stepanek (CZE) 6-4 6-0 6-0
(9)James Blake (USA) d. (18)Igor Andreev (RUS) 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1
(5)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. (q)Dudi Sela (ISR) 6-4 6-2 1-6 6-1

(7)Andy Roddick (USA) d. Fabrice Santoro (FRA) 6-3 6-4 6-2
(21)Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) 6-1 6-3 6-2
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) d. (23)Mardy Fish (USA) 6-2 6-4 6-4
(3)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. (LL)Amer Delic (USA) 6-2 4-6 6-3 7-6(4)
(8)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. Gilles Muller (LUX) 6-7(5) 7-5 6-3 7-5
(19)Marin Cilic (CRO) d. (11)David Ferrer (ESP) 7-6(5) 6-3 6-4
(20)Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. (15)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) 4-6 6-1 6-3 6-4
(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. (26)Marat Safin (RUS) 6-3 6-2 7-6(5)

Australian Open Round Two Results

Day 3

The oldest participant of the tournament, 36 year-old Fabrice Santoro amazed the spectators once again overcoming 5-7 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-3 Philipp Kohlschreiber, 11 years in his junior. Santoro wasted triple setpoint in the first set but didn’t collapse and came back from a break down in the second and fourth set. In the fifth set Kohlschreiber at 3:5 saved triple match point with risky shots. After another rally the Frenchman had cramps, got a warning for an extension break between the points, risked a return, went to the net and finished the match with an overhead after 4 hours 5 minutes!

“Today I lost because it was best-of-five, which makes me very mad. Santoro will not win anything more here” stated the embittered German. “I can’t say I have no chance at all for the next round. It’s going to be tough for sure. I will see Friday morning when I wake up how good is my body, how bad is my body” replied Santoro who had played first match in Melbourne before the youngest player in the draw, Bernard Tomic was born.
Less luck in a five-setter had Santoro’s compatriot, Paul-Henri Mathieu who has lost 6th match in career after winning first two sets. This time Mathieu lost to “lucky loser” Amer Delic despite a 4:1 led in the fourth set.
The biggest surprise of the day was made by 25 year-old Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan who didn’t pass earlier second round in a Grand Slam event in 12 attempts. Lu defeated one of the best specialist of those events – David Nalbandian, also in five thrilling sets 6-4 5-7 4-6 6-4 6-2. In the final game of the match Lu fought off six break points before finished his second match point.

“Everybody knows Nalbandian is one of the best backhand players,” Lu said. “So I thought he’s ready for a forehand return. So I just changed my mind and went to his backhand all the time. I served six times to his backhand on break point and I won all the points.”
Former finalist Marcos Baghdatis was losing 3-6 0:4 to the Swede Robin Soderling but managed to win in four sets, Soderling had problems with blisters since the second set.
Australian big hope, 16 year-old Tomic began his first match at Rod Laver Arena saving 6 break points against Gilles Muller. The teenager won surprisingly the first set 6-3 but hadn’t any arguments to defy the powerful opponent in the next three sets. Muller finished the match serving two out of 27 aces.

“He’s played unbelievable. I was lucky to get that first set. He didn’t start serving well” said Tomic.
Player from former Yugoslavia, Maric Cilic and Janko Tipsarevic are the first pair who have played twice this year against each other, similarly, like in Chennai, Cilic lost one set but won the other ones without too much trouble.

Day 4

High-quality match at Hisense Arena played Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Ivan Ljubicic (6-7 7-6 7-6 6-2). The Croat won first set in a tie-break and had his chances in the next two sets which also finished after tie-breaks. Last year’s runner-up Tsonga was forced to save one setpoint in the second tie-break and triple setpoint in the third tie-break, two of those setpoints saved on return playing dropshots what is unusual in those circumstances. Tsonga sets up the meeting with the only qualifier who advanced to the third round, Dudi Sela of Israel.

“Tonight my back was very stiff. But I won, and I’m happy of that. I think I’m playing better than last year. I’m a little bit more confident maybe in my game.” said Tsonga, one of the four seeded Frenchmen in the top half of the draw who won their matches on Thursday. One of them, Gilles Simon was close to lose 0-2 in sets but from 6-7 4:4 (0-40) completely dominated his opponent, big-serving Chris Guccione and even outaced him (14-12).
In the inner Croatian battle between Ljubicic’s compatriots, Mario Ancic ousted in five-sets Ivo Karlovic. Karlovic after this loss becomes a player with the worst five-set record (0-10) in the history of tennis. Karlovic has overcome the retired Austrian Markus Hipfl (0-9 in years 1996-2002).
Talented Ernstest Gulbis has been eliminated in the 2nd round in the 7th consecutive tournament! The young Latvian lost this time to Igor Andreev despite 4:2 up in the 5th set. In the 10th game Gulbis led 40:0 on serve only to lose quickly 5 points ina row without commitment. The Russian similarly like Amer Delic has won both matches in Melbourne this year after five-setters.
Easy wins notched Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, James Blake and Fernando Verdasco – all advanced to the third round winning both rounds without a serious danger in a set.

Second Round

(1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. Roko Karanusic (CRO) 6-2 6-3 6-2
Tommy Haas (GER) d. (q)Flavio Cipolla (ITA) 6-1 6-2 6-1
(24)Richard Gasquet (FRA) d. (WC)Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-3 6-4 6-4
(13)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) d. Guillermo Canas (ARG) 7-5 6-3 6-4
(12)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. Stefan Koubek (AUT) 6-4 6-4 3-6 6-2
(17)Nicolas Almagro (ESP) d. Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-2 7-5 6-0
Mario Ancic (CRO) d. (25)Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 5-7 7-5 4-6 6-4 6-3
(6)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Chris Guccione (AUS) 6-7(5) 6-4 6-1 6-2
(4)Andy Murray (GBR) d. Marcel Granollers (ESP) 6-4 6-2 6-2
(31)Jurgen Melzer (AUT) d. (q)Andreas Beck (GER) 5-7 7-6(7) 6-4 6-3
(22)Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. (q)Michael Berrer (GER) 6-3 6-2 6-7(3) 7-5
(14)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Arnaud Clement (FRA) 6-1 6-1 6-2
(9)James Blake (USA) d. (q)Sebastien de Chaunac (FRA) 6-3 6-2 6-3
(18)Igor Andreev (RUS) d. Ernests Gulbis (LAT) 6-4 6-4 5-7 3-6 6-4
(q)Dudi Sela (ISR) d. Victor Hanescu (ROU) 6-3 6-3 6-2
(5)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) 6-7(4) 7-6(8) 7-6(7) 6-2
(7)Andy Roddick (USA) d. (q)Xavier Malisse (BEL) 3-6 6-2 7-6(1) 6-2
Fabrice Santoro (FRA) d. (32)Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 5-7 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-3
(21)Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Viktor Troicki (SRB) 6-1 6-3 6-0
Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) d. (10)David Nalbandian (ARG) 6-4 5-7 4-6 6-4 6-2
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) d. (16)Robin Soderling (SWE) 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-3
(23)Mardy Fish (USA) d. Simone Bolelli (ITA) 6-4 6-1 7-5
(LL)Amer Delic (USA) d. (28)Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) 1-6 3-6 6-3 7-6(3) 9-7
(3)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 7-5 6-1 6-3
(8)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. (q)Florian Mayer (GER) 6-1 7-5 6-2
Gilles Muller (LUX) d. (WC)Bernard Tomic (AUS) 3-6 6-1 6-4 6-2
(19)Marin Cilic (CRO) d. Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) 6-2 6-3 4-6 6-3
(11)David Ferrer (ESP) d. (q)Dominik Hrbaty (SVK) 6-2 6-2 6-1
(15)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) d. (WC)Brydan Klein (AUS) 6-3 6-4 6-4
(20)Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Brian Dabul (ARG) 6-1 6-1 6-3
(26)Marat Safin (RUS) d. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 7-5 6-2 6-2
(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. (q)Evgueni Korolev (RUS) 6-2 6-3 6-1

Australian Open Round One Results

First round

Day 1

16 year-old Bernard Tomic (No. 768) made the biggest surprise of the first day, eliminating Potito Starace 7-6 1-6 7-6 7-6. Tomic who has been playing just second tournament on the main level (debuted two weeks ago in Adelaide) becomes the youngest player who won a match at the Australian Open (16 years and 103 days), and the second youngest who appearanced in the main draw of this tournament. Tomic’s compatriot Lleyton Hewitt, was 15 years and 337 days old when he lost in the 1997 first round to Sergi Bruguera. Tomic astonished favourable Australian crowd on the Margaret Court Arena holding nerves in tight situations what is characteristic for experienced, much more older players. The Australian prodigy was losing 2:4 in the third set and 1:4 (0-30) in the fourth, saved also two set points at 4:6 in the last tie-break! It’s just fourth case in Australian Open history that a player won a four-setter winning three sets in tie-breaks (previously did it Todd Martin, Max Mirnyi and Marat Safin). “It’s a dream come true to win a first round in my first Grand Slam,” said Tomic. “I’m just thrilled that I could pull off a win today. With the crowd behind me, it was an unbelievable experience”.

In the second round Tomic will face Gilles Muller who survived an epic match with Feliciano Lopez. Muller won 6-3 7-6 4-6 4-6 16-14 after 4 hours 22 minutes. In the final set Muller didn’t face a break point, had break points in three service games of the Spaniard, first match point at 12:11. In the 30th game of the final set, Lopez was broken to love. It’s third longest match in the Australian Open history (Open Era) in terms of games – 72 (the record – 83 games – belongs to Andy Roddick and Younes El Aynaoui since 2003).

Also Lopez’ compatriot and Davis Cup teammate, David Ferrer played very long match but with better end. Ferrer needed almost 4 hours to overcome Dennis Gremelmayr 6-1 6-7 6-1 6-7 6-4. Ferrer wasted set point in both losing sets but converted first match point in the fifth set, and improves his great record in five-set matches to 10-2.

In the next round Ferrer will play the two-time Aussie Open quarterfinalist, Dominik Hrbaty who withstood 39 aces from John Isner (19 aces in the first set!). Hrbaty is playing 300th tournament on the main level. The other veteran, Fabrice Santoro knocked out former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero in four sets, having 100% efficiency at break points (8/8).

The two big favorits in the bottom half of the draw, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic won their matches in straight sets but both were close to drop one set: Federer saved setpoint against Andres Seppi, Djokovic was losing 0:4 and 3:5 in third set against Andrea Stoppini. “I was a break down in two sets. Managed to come back, which is important. As defending champion there is a pressure. But it didn’t affect me today, no. I’m still trying to find the rhythm” said Djokovic.

First match in a Grand Slam evnet for three years has played Taylor Dent. The American came back recently after the 2 1/2 years break, caused by a fractured vertebrae. Dent lost in five sets to “lucky loser” Amer Delic.

Day 2

The main favorite for the title, Andy Murray needed only 45 minutes to advance to the second round. His opponent, Andre Pavel playing first ATP match since February 2008, was forced to withdraw due to a back injury. Pavel announced that he will finish career in Bucharest later this year.

In one of the most anticipated first round clashes, between past Australian Open finalists, Fernando Gonzalez overcame Lleyton Hewitt 5-7 6-2 6-2 3-6 6-3. “I knew it was going to be tough against Lleyton,” said Gonzalez. “He’s a great player, a great competitor. This was the first official match of the year. So I’m happy the way that I did it, and a little bit tired. But it’s fine now.”

Very good form showed the best player in the world Rafael Nadal and last year’s runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Both players won one set 6-0 and hadn’t any problems in the other two stes. “I think I am OK,” said Nadal. “But I was for two months outside of competition, so maybe I need a little bit more matches to get the rhythm.” In the similar style won his match Fernando Verdasco a contender for a Top 10 player.

Victor Hanescu made one of the most impressive comebacks in the Grand Slam history. The Romanian lost first two sets easily (3-6 3-6) to Jan Hernych but managed to win another three (7-6 7-6 8-6) being in each of them on the edge of defeat: Hernych was serving for the match in the third and fifth set, had also one match point on serve in the tie-break of the third set, and another match point at 5:4 in the fourth set on Hanescu’s serve. The match lasted 4 hours 32 minutes, the longest match of this year’s tournament so far.

Also dramatic five-set matches (with the help of good service performance) won former Top 10 players, Ivan Ljubicic (25 aces against Kunitsyn) and Guillermo Canas (22 aces against Kindlmann). First five-set win in sixth trial notched Nicolas Alamgro (28 aces against Massu) who didn’t win a match in Melbourne in four previous attempts. Bad 5-set record (2-7) has improved Igor Andreev too, coming back from a 0-2 deficit against unexperienced young Canadian, Peter Polansky.

First Round

(1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. Christophe Rochus (BEL) 6-0 6-2 6-2

Roko Karanusic (CRO) d. Florent Serra (FRA) 6-3 1-6 6-3 3-6 6-3

Tommy Haas (GER) vs Eduardo Schwank (ARG) 6-3 6-3 6-4

(q)Flavio Cipolla (ITA) d. (29)Dmitry Tursunov (RUS) 4-6 6-2 7-6(7) 7-5

(4)Richard Gasquet (FRA) d. Diego Junqueira (ARG) 6-7(5) 7-6(3) 6-3 6-4

Denis Istomin (UZB) d. Vince Spadea (USA) 6-2 7-5 6-4

Guillermo Canas (ARG) d. (q)Dieter Kindlmann (GER) 3-6 7-5 5-7 6-0 7-5

(13)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) d. Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) 5-7 6-2 6-2 3-6 6-3

(12)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. Martin Vassallo-Arguello (ARG) 6-1 6-3 7-5

Stefan Koubek (AUT) d. Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) 6-3 6-2 6-2

Fabio Fognini (ITA) d. Andrei Goloubev (KAZ) 3-6 7-6(7) 6-4 6-2

(17)Nicolas Almagro (ESP) d. Nicolas Massu (CHI) 6-4 6-4 3-6 5-7 6-3

(25)Ivo Karlovic (CRO) d. Daniel Gimeno (ESP) 6-3 6-4 6-4

Mario Ancic (CRO) d. (q)Wayne Odesnik (USA) 7-5 6-4 4-6 6-2

Chris Guccione (AUS) d. Nicolas Devilder (FRA) 6-4 6-2 6-4

(6)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-4 6-1 6-1

(4)Andy Murray (GBR) d. Andrei Pavel (ROU) 6-2 3-1 ret.

Marcel Granollers (ESP) d. Teimuraz Gabashvili (RUS) 6-4 7-6(3) 4-6 6-0

(q)Andreas Beck (GER) d. Colin Ebelthite (AUS) 7-5 6-1 6-0

(31)Jurgen Melzer (AUT) d. Kei Nishikori (JPN) 7-5 6-2 6-1

(22)Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. Nicolas Lapentti (ECU) 3-6 6-3 6-4 6-4

(q)Michael Berrer (GER) d. Carsten Ball (AUS) 6-2 6-4 6-3

Arnaud Clement (FRA) d. Sergey Stakhovsky (UKR) 6-3 2-6 4-6 6-2 6-1

(14)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-0 6-2 6-2

(9)James Blake (USA) d. (LL)Frank Dancevic (CAN) 6-4 6-3 7-5

(q)Sebastien de Chaunac (FRA) d. Steve Darcis (BEL) 2-6 6-3 0-6 6-2 6-2

Ernests Gulbis (LAT) d. Albert Montanes (ESP) 6-3 6-2 6-3

(18)Igor Andreev (RUS) d. (q)Peter Polansky (CAN) 5-7 3-6 6-4 6-3 6-4

(q)Dudi Sela (ISR) d. (30)Rainer Schuettler (GER) 1-6 6-2 6-4 6-4

Victor Hanescu (ROU) d. Jan Hernych (CZE) 3-6 3-6 7-6(7) 7-6(2) 8-6 – 2 MP

Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) d. Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) 4-6 7-6(3) 7-6(7) 5-7 6-3

(5)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. Juan Monaco (ARG) 6-4 6-4 6-0

(7)Andy Roddick (USA) d. (q)Bjorn Rehnquist (SWE) 6-0 6-2 6-2

(q)Xavier Malisse (BEL) d. Michael Llodra (FRA) 7-6(8) 6-1 6-1

Fabrice Santoro (FRA) d. Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) 6-3 6-2 6-7(5) 6-2

(32)Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) d. Samuel Querrey (USA)

(21)Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Bobby Reynolds (USA) 6-2 7-5 6-1

Viktor Troicki (SRB) d. Alberto Martin (ESP) 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-4

Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) d. Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) 6-3 7-5 6-4

(10)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. Marc Gicquel (FRA) 6-1 4-6 6-2 6-3

(16)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. Robert Kendrick (USA) 5-7 6-4 6-4 7-5

Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) d. Julien Benneteau (FRA) 6-3 7-6(5) 6-2

Simone Bolelli (ITA) d. Kristof Vliegen (BEL) 7-6(5) 7-6(3) 7-5

(23)Mardy Fish (USA) d. Samuel Groth (AUS) 6-7(3) 6-4 7-5 6-0

(28)Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) d. Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) 6-2 4-1 ret.

(LL)Amer Delic (USA) d. Taylor Dent (USA) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-3 6-4

Jeremy Chardy (FRA) d. Marcos Daniel (BRA) 6-4 6-4 6-1

(3)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. (q)Andrea Stoppini (ITA) 6-2 6-3 7-5

(8)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. Michael Zverev (GER) 6-3 6-4 6-2

(q)Florian Mayer (GER) d. (q)Lamine Ouahab (ALG) 6-2 6-1 6-2

(WC)Bernard Tomic (AUS) d. Potito Starace (ITA) 7-6(5) 1-6 7-6(5) 7-6(6)

Gilles Muller (LUX) d. (27)Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-3 7-6(5) 4-6 4-6 16-14

(19)Marin Cilic (CRO) d. Kevin Anderson (RSA) 6-3 6-2 6-7(4) 6-3

Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) d. Oscar Hernandez (ESP) 4-6 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-0

(q)Dominik Hrbaty (SVK) d. John Isner (USA) 7-6(4) 2-6 6-2 7-5

(11)David Ferrer (ESP) d. Denis Gremelmayr (GER) 6-1 6-7(6) 6-1 6-7(4) 6-4

(15)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) d. Ivo Minar (CZE) 6-1 2-6 7-5 7-6(9)

Brydan Klein (AUS) d. (q)Bjorn Phau (GER) 6-4 6-3 4-6 6-3

Brian Dabul (ARG) d. Philipp Petzschner (GER) 6-1 6-2 6-4

(20)Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Robby Ginepri (USA) 6-4 6-4 6-3

(26)Marat Safin (RUS) d. Ivan Navarro-Pastor (ESP) 6-3 6-3 6-4

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) d. Agustin Calleri (ARG) 3-6 7-6(5) 6-2 6-0

(q)Evgueni Korolev (RUS) d. Carlos Moya (ESP) 6-3 6-1 7-6(7)

(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-1 7-6(4) 7-5

Mondays With Bob Greene: Against Djokovic you need to be perfect

STARS

Novak Djokovic beat Nikolay Davydenko 6-1 7-5 to win the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, China

Fabrice Santoro won the PEOPLEnet Cup by beating Victor Hanescu 6-2 6-3 in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine

SAYINGS

“I would put it in the same league as a Grand Slam because the best eight players in the world are participating here. I feel very happy. End up the season the way I started it, with a win in a big event.” – Novak Djokovic, the Australian Open champion who beat Nikolay Davydenko to win the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup.

“Against Djokovic you need to be perfect, also play very fast and very good. That’s what he did, and I didn’t.” – Nikolay Davydenko.

“At the moment it’s Rafa and myself. I really still feel it’s that way because … we’ve played big events on so many occasions. I mean, we still have to play a few more Grand Slam finals. If that’s the case, I’m very happy from my side.” – Roger Federer, after being ousted from the Tennis Masters Cup and failing to reach the semifinals.

“I didn’t feel like I could go out and try to compete and win a tennis match. It’s definitely a tough prospect trying to beat Roger (Federer) with no serve and not being able to move much.” – Andy Roddick, after pulling out of the Tennis Masters Cup with a right ankle injury.

“I don’t know if the injury (resulted) from my fight to be number one because in reality, I didn’t play in any extra tournaments, I only played what I had to for the ranking and I don’t think you can reproach me for that. I didn’t do anything crazy to be No. 1.” – Rafael Nadal.

“Rafa comes in off a very tough year and his body has been warning him for weeks. It’s an acute injury that needs time to recuperate. If he played in Argentina, it could become worse.” – Angel Ruiz-Cotorro, Spanish Davis Cup team doctor, saying Nadal would not play in the Cup final against Argentina.

“It’s disappointing (Rafael) Nadal cannot be with us but we shouldn’t talk about him any more from now on.” – Emilio Sanchez-Vicario, Spain’s Davis Cup captain, as he replaced the world’s top-ranked player with little-known Marcel Granollers.

“It’s always hard to win against Federer. I know that I have to play my best tennis. But in another way, it’s easier for me because I have no question in any head. I just want to give everything, every point to my best tennis to win. It’s easier to play in that way.” – Gilles Simon, after beating Roger Federer in the first match at the Tennis Masters Cup.

“The better you play, the better he plays. He’s quite a unique player and he makes you work hard and runs very well. He’s unusual to play against.” – Roger Federer, about Gilles Simon, who won their opening-round round-robin match at Shanghai.

“I think the umpires are not going to miss me. I’ve been quite tough on those guys.” – Jonas Bjorkman, who retired after 17 years on the ATP tour.

“She will laugh at herself, cry over sad memories, swear if she is angry, be shy about intimate details, and that is why she is a perfect movie hero.” – Film critic Dubravka Lakic, on his documentary on Jelena Jankovic.

“For the first time in my career I feel sad that the season is over.” – Elena Dementieva.

SLICED

After celebrating his Tennis Masters Cup victory by joining his coach, family and a former Miss University in the stands, Novak Djokovic realized he had cut his left hand. He had the trainer apply a bandage before accepting the trophy for capturing the season-ending tournament. Following his victory over Nikolay Davydenko, Djokovic celebrated by tossing two racquets, his wristbands and sweat-soaked shirt into the crowd at Shanghai’s Qi Zhong Stadium. Then he went to the player’s box where he hugged everyone in his entourage. That’s when he noticed his bloody hand. “You don’t feel the pain in the moments of happiness,” Djokovic said.

STRICKENED

After losing his first round-robin match, Andy Roddick pulled out of the Tennis Masters Cup with a right ankle injury. The 26-year-old American said he rolled the ankle during a warm-up drill in practice. He initially hoped treatment would allow him to play his second match, against Roger Federer, but realized during his pre-match warm-up that he couldn’t run or serve well enough. Roddick, who also missed the 2005 Tennis Masters Cup because of an injury, was replaced in the elite eight-man field by Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic.

SEPARATED

When Rafael Nadal was forced to pull out of the Davis Cup final between Spain and Argentina, he was replaced by little-known Marcel Granollers, who will be making his Davis Cup debut. Granollers, who is ranked 56th in the world, will join David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez as Spain attempts to win the famed international Cup for the first time since 2004. Also taking himself out of contention for the Spanish squad was Tommy Robredo.

STRAIGHT TO THE BANK

There’s a whole new look to the career money leaders in women’s tennis. Lindsay Davenport took over the top spot when she won USD $295,412 in 2008, boosting her career total to USD $22,144,715. Although she won both Wimbledon and the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, Qatar, Venus Williams slipped behind her sister Serena, the US Open winner. But Serena and Venus are now second and third on the WTA Tour career earnings list. Serena has pocketed USD $21,961,407, with Venus right behind at USD $21,921,346. For 2008, Serena earned USD $3,852,173 and Venus USD $3,747,565. Steffi Graf dropped from first to fourth on the career earnings list with USD $21,895,277, followed by Martina Navratilova at USD $21,626,089.

SIMON SURPRISE

It didn’t take long for this year’s Tennis Masters Cup to pull off a surprise. Gilles Simon made his debut by shocking four-time champion Roger Federer 4-6 6-4 6-3. It was Simon’s 50th ATP match win of the season, a year that saw the Frenchman break into the Top 10 of the South African Airways ATP Rankings for the first time. Simon has also shown that the opening set is only the beginning of a match. The 23-year-old leads the ATP with 14 match wins after losing the first set. Against Federer, he also was a break down in the second set. “I defeated him once in Toronto, so it was easier to finish the match,” Simon said. “For sure it was one of the best victories of my career.”

SWEDE GOING

Jonas Bjorkman has hung up his racquets. The Swede finished his 17-year tennis career when he and partner Kevin Ullyett failed to qualify for the doubles semifinals at the year-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, China. A Wimbledon singles semifinalist two years ago, Bjorkman won more than USD $14 million over his career as well as three Davis Cup titles with his country in 1994, 1997 and 1998. Although his playing career is over, Bjorkman isn’t leaving the sport. He will be editing a Swedish tennis magazine.

SWEDE COMING

Stefan Edberg is making his Outback Champions Series debut at the Emirates NBD’s The Legends “Rock” Dubai this week. The six-time Grand Slam tournament winner is joining the six-player round-robin field that includes Jim Courier, Sergi Bruguera, Anders Jarryd, Wayne Ferreira and defending champion Paul Haarhuis. Edberg is one of 15 men in the history of tennis to play in all four major singles finals during his career, winning twice at Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open. The stoic Swede lost the 1989 French Open final to Michael Chang in a five-set thriller.

SLOVAKIAN ADDED

Daniel Hantuchova will play in next year’s inaugural Brisbane International tennis tournament. Organizers said the Slovakian star will join French Open champion Ana Ivanovic and reigning Australian Women’s Hardcourt champion Li Na in the field. The Brisbane International will be played at a new tennis center in the Queensland capital from January 4-11 and replaces both the men’s and women’s Australian Hardcourt championships. The Brisbane International men’s draw will feature Novak Djokovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Marcos Baghdatis, Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Mardy Fish.

SPOTLIGHT

A documentary film about Jelena Jankovic has opened in movie theaters in Serbia. The 80-minute film, titled “Jelena’s World,” follows the world’s number one-ranked women’s player during tournaments in Madrid and Berlin, as well as her frequent but brief visits to her hometown Belgrade. The movie’s makers, Talas Film, hope to distribute the film world-wide. Director Tanja Brzakovic said the documentary was borne out of her fascination with Jankovic.

SERENA’s SCHOOL

There’s a school in Kenya named for Serena Williams. The tennis ace was on hand when the Serena Williams Secondary school in the Eastern province district of Makueni was opened. The school was constructed through funds provided by Serena, computer company Hewlett Packard and The Build African Schools Organization, which funds and supports construction of schools in marginalized areas. Since the area does not have electricity, the school’s state-of-the-art computer laboratory runs on solar power supplied by Hewlett Packard. Following the ceremony, Williams paid a courtesy call on Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

SERVING STILL

Andy Roddick is upset over plans to make players turn up for more tournaments next year. However, the hard-serving American refused to blame the rigorous tennis schedule for the ankle injury that forced him to pull out of the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai. “I think too much is asked of us as far as playing eleven months of the year, and now they’re imposing more mandatory tournaments,” Roddick said. “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.” The ATP tour has revealed a 2009 schedule that calls for top players to attend eight of the nine Masters events plus four lower-tier tournaments. That, of course, doesn’t include the four Grand Slam tournaments.

STOPPING STILL

There will be an ATP tournament in Hamburg, Germany, in 2009, despite the legal battle over the future of the event. The German tennis federation (DTB) said the tournament would be held in late July. At the same time, the DTB is appealing a United States court decision that upheld the ATP’s right to downgrade the Hamburg tournament from one in which all of the top players had to compete.

SHOES, ETC.

Lacoste has extended its partnership with the ATP and will be the official apparel and footwear partner of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals until 2013. As part of the restructuring of men’s tennis in 2009, the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals will replace the Tennis Masters Cup as the season-ending tournament with the top eight singles players and top eight top doubles teams. As the exclusive provider of apparel and footwear for the tournament, Lacoste will also continue to dress the lines people and ball kids.

SIGNED UP

Tom Gorman has signed on as the new director of tennis at La Quinta Resort & PGA West in the Palm Springs, California, area. A two-time NCAA All-American Gorman reached the semifinals at the US Open, Wimbledon and the French Open during his long career. He was on the winning American Davis Cup team in 1972 and coached the US women’s Wightman Cup and Federation Cup teams in 1984 and 1985. In 1986, he was named the US men’s Davis Cup coach, a position he held for eight years. Gorman was coach with the Americans won the Davis Cup in 1990 and 1992.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Shanghai: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6 (3) 6-2

Dnepropetrovsk: Guillermo Canas and Dmitry Tursunov beat Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach 6-3 7-6 (5)

SITES TO SURF

Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com

Odense: www.nordeadanishopen.dk/

Helsinki: www.ippopen.net

Macao: www.blackrocktourofchampions.com/3/events/2008/macao.asp

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

DAVIS CUP

(Final)

(Nov. 21-23)

Argentina vs. Spain at Mar Del Plata, Argentina, hard

ATP

$125,000 IPP Open, Helsinki, Finland, hard

WOMEN’S TOUR

$100,000 Nordea Danish Open, Odense, Denmark, carpet

SENIORS

Blackrock Tour of Champions, Macao, China

On This Day In Tennis History Is Latest Book Release From New Chapter Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. – New Chapter Press has announced the publication of its latest book – On This Day In Tennis History -a calendar-like compilation of historical and unique anniversaries, events and happenings from the world of tennis through the yearswritten by Randy Walker, the sports marketing and media specialist, tennis historian and former U.S. Tennis Association press officer.

On This Day In Tennis History ($19.95, 528 pages), is a fun and fact-filled, this compilation offers anniversaries, summaries, and anecdotes of events from the world of tennis for every day in the calendar year. Presented in a day-by-day format, the entries into this mini-encyclopedia include major tournament victory dates, summaries of the greatest matches ever played, trivia, and statistics as well as little-known and quirky happenings. Easy-to-use and packed with fascinating details, the book is the perfect companion for tennis and general sports fans alike and is an excellent gift idea for the holiday season. The book features fascinating and unique stories of players such as John McEnroe, Don Budge, Bill Tilden, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Anna Kournikova among many others. On This Day In Tennis History is available for purchase via on-line book retailers and in bookstores in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. More information on the book can be found at www.tennishistorybook.com

Said Hall of Famer Jim Courier of the book, “On This Day In Tennis History is a fun read that chronicles some of the most important-and unusual-moments in the annals of tennis. Randy Walker is an excellent narrator of tennis history and has done an incredible job of researching and compiling this entertaining volume.” Said tennis historian Joel Drucker, author of Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, “An addictive feast that you can enjoy every possible way-dipping in for various morsels, devouring it day-by-day, or selectively finding essential ingredients. As a tennis writer, I will always keep this book at the head of my table.” Said Bill Mountford, former Director of Tennis of the USTA National Tennis Center, “On This Day In Tennis History is an easy and unique way to absorb the greatest-and most quirky-moments in tennis history. It’s best read a page a day!”

Walker is a writer, tennis historian and freelance publicist and sports marketer. A 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s Marketing and Communications Division, he served as the press officer for the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1997 to 2005 and for the U.S. Olympic tennis teams in 1996, 2000 and 2004. He also served as the long-time editor of the U.S. Open Record Book during his tenure at the USTA from 1993 to 2005.

More information on the book can be found at www.tennistomes.com as well as on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1627089030&ref=name and on myspace at http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=428100548

People mentioned in the book include, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Goran Ivanisevic, Andre Agassi, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Amelie Mauresmo, Anna Kounikova, Jennifer Capriati, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Martina Hingis, Gustavo Kuerten, Svetlana Kuznetsova, James Blake, Wilmer Allison, Mal Anderson, Arthur Ashe, Juliette Atkinson, Henry “Bunny” Austin, Tracy Austin, Boris Becker, Kark Behr, Pauline Betz, Bjorn Borg, Jean Borotra, John Bromwich, Norman Brookes, Louise Brough, Jacques Brugnon, Butch Buchholz, Don Budge, Maria Bueno, Rosie Casals, Michael Chang, Philippe Chatrier, Dodo Cheney, Henri Cochet, Maureen Connolly, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Ashley Cooper, Margaret Court, Jack Crawford, Allison Danzig, Dwight Davis, Lottie Dod, John Doeg, Laurence Doherty, Reggie Doherty, Dorothea Douglass Lambert Chambers, Jaroslav Drobny, Margaret duPont, Francoise Durr, James Dwight, Stefan Edberg, Roy Emerson, Chis Evert, Bob Falkenburg, Neale Fraser, Shirley Fry, Althea Gibson, Pancho Gonzalez, Evonne Goolagong, Arthur Gore, Steffi Graf, Bitsy Grant, Darlene Hard, Doris Hart, Anne Jones, Gladys Heldman, Slew Hester, Bob Hewitt, Lew Hoad, Harry Hopman, Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman, Joe Hunt, Frank Hunter, Helen Jacobs, Bill Johnston, Perry Jones, Bob Kelleher, Billie Jean King, Jan Kodes, Karel Kozeluh, Jack Kramer, Rene Lacoste, Bill Larned, Art Larsen, Rod Laver, Ivan Lendl, Suzanne Lenglen, George Lott, Gene Mako, Molla Mallory, Hana Mandlikova, Alice Marble, Dan Maskell, Simone Mathieu, Mark McCormack, John McEnroe, Ken McGregor, Kitty Godfree, Chuck McKinley, Maurice McLoughlin, Frew McMillian, Don McNeill, Elisabeth Moore, Angela Mortimer, Gardnar Mulloy, Ilie Nastase, Martina Navratilova, John Newcombe, Yannick Noah, Jana Novotna, Betty Nuthall, Alex Olmedo, Rafael Osuna, Frank Parker, Gerald Patterson, Budge Patty, Fred Perry, Nicola Pietrangeli, Adrian Quist, Patrick Rafter, Dennis Ralson, Vinnie Richards, Nancy Richey, Cliff Richey, Bobby Riggs, Tony Roche, Mervyn Rose, Ken Rosewall, Elizbeth Ryan, Gabriela Sabatini, Pete Sampras, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Manuel Santana, Dick Savitt, Ted Schroeder, Gene Scott, Richard Sears, Frank Sedgman, Pancho Segura, Vic Seixas, Frank Shields, Pam Shriver, Stan Smith, Fred Stolle, Bill Talbert, Bill Tilden, Tony Trabert, Lesley Turner, Jimmy Van Alen, John Van Ryn, Guillermo Vilas, Ellsworth Vines, Brian Gottfried, Virginia Wade, Holcombe Ward, Watson Washburn, Mal Whitman, Mats Wilander, Tony Wilding, Helen Wills Moody, Sidney Wood, Robert Wrenn, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan, Todd Woodbridge, Marat Safin, Leslie Allen, Sue Barker, Jonas Bjorkman, Mahesh Bhupathi, Donald Dell, Albert Costa, Mark Cox, Owen Davidson, Pat Cash, Mary Carillo, John Isner, Roscoe Tanner, Vijay Amritraj, Mark Woodforde, Tim Henman, Richard Krajicek, Conchita Martinez, Mary Joe Fernandez, Cliff Drysdale, Mark Edmondson, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Zina Garrson, Roland Garros, Wojtek Fibak, Tom Gullikson, Andres Gimeno, Vitas Gerulaitis, Fernando Gonzalez, Tim Henman, Goran Ivanisevic, Andrea Jaeger, Ivo Karlovic, Richard Krajicek, Petr Korda, Luke Jensen, Murphy Jensen, Rick Leach, Iva Majoil, Barry MacKay, Ivan Ljubicic, Cecil Mamiit, David Caldwell, Alex Metreveli, Nicolas Massu, Todd Martin, Gene Mayer, Thomas Muster, Tom Okker, Charlie Pasarell, Mary Pierce, Whitney Reed, Leander Paes, Renee Richards, Helen Sukova, Michael Stich, Betty Stove, Ion Tiriac, Brian Teacher, Wendy Turnbull,  Richards, Fabrice Santoro, Ai Sugiyama, Patrick McEnroe, Camille Pin, Phil Dent, Jelena Dokic, Mark Edmondson, Gael Monfils, Xavier Malisse, Dinara Safina, Barry Lorge, Stefano Pescosolido, Fabrice Santoro, Roscoe Tanner, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Roger Smith, Erik van Dillen, Gene Mayer, Tamara Pasek, Stefan Koubek, Jie Zheng, Gisela Dulko, Kristian Pless, Chuck McKinley, Marty Riessen, Brad Gilbert, Tim Mayotte, Andrea Petkovic, Klara Koukalova, Bobby Reynolds, Dominik Hrbaty, Andreas Seppi, Christopher Clarey, Casey Dellacqua, Anders Jarryd, Janko Tipsarevic, Nadia Petrova, Christian Bergstrom, Ramesh Krishnan, Emily Sanchez, Marcos Baghdatis, Mark Philippousssis, Wally Masur, Paul McNamee, Daniela Hantuchova, Gerry Armstrong, Younes El Aynaoui, Thomas Johansson, Pat Cash, Lisa Raymond, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Chanda Rubin, Tony Roche, Alex O’Brien, Petr Korda, Karol Kucera, Amelie Mauresmo, Juan Gisbert, Pablo Cuevas, Jim Pugh, Rick Leach, Julien Boutter, Larry Stefanki, Chris Woodruff, Jill Craybas, Sania Mirza, Mike Leach, Maggie Maleeva, Guillermo Canas, Guillermo Coria, Donald Young, Dick Stockton, Johan Kriek, Milan Srejber, Zina Garrison, Slyvia Hanika, Karin Knapp, Laura Granville, Kei Nishikori, Scott Davis, Paul Goldstein, Alberto Martin, Nicolas Kiefer, Joachim Johansson, Jonathan Stark, Jakob Hlasek, Jeff Tarango, Amanda Coetzer, Andres Gomez, Richey Reneberg, Francisco Clavet, Radek Stepanek, Miloslav Mecir, Jose-Luis Clerc, Colin Dibley, Mikael Pernfors, Martin Mulligan,  Robbie Weiss,  Hugo Chapacu, Victor Pecci, Charlie Bricker, Greg Rusedski, Robin Finn, Kimiko Date, David Nalbandian, Goran Ivanisevic, Mikhail Youzhny, Nicole Pratt, Bryanne Stewart, Novak Djokovic, Rennae Stubbs, Corina Morariu, Marc Rosset, Kenneth Carlsen, Kimiko Date, Ryan Harrison, Richard Gasquet, Jimmy Arias, Jim Leohr, Felix Mantilla, Cedric Pioline, Annabel Croft, Brooke Shields, Jaime Yzaga, Slobodan Zivojinovic, Alberto Mancini, Peter McNamara, Andrei Chesnokov, Fabrice Santoro, Bud Collins, Mardy Fish, Sebastien Grosjean, Donald Dell, Petr Kuczak, Magnus Norman, Hicham Arazi, Nduka Odizor, Lori McNeil, Horst Skoff, Karolina Sprem, Ros Fairbank, Linda Siegel, Chris Lewis, Kevin Curren, Thierry Tulasne, Guy Forget, Fred Tupper, Jaime Fillol, Belus Prajoux, Ricardo Cano, Georges Goven, Ray Moore, Charlie Pasarell, Paul Annacone, Tomas Smid, Dmitry Tursunov, Elena Dementieva, Arnaud DiPasquale, Carl Uwe Steeb, Bill Scanlon, Jose Higueras, Jay Berger, Jana Novotna, Bill Dwyre, Lisa Dillman, Sean Sorensen, Paul McNamee, Jiri Novak, Benjamin Becker, Ion Tiriac, Neil Amdur, Tim Gullikson, Jan-Michael Gambill, Taylor Dent, Bryan Shelton, Vijay Amritraj, Martin Verkerk, Brian Gottfried, Carlos Moya, Jacco Eltingh, Adriano Panatta, John Feinstein, Aaron Krickstein, Wilhelm Bungert, Derrick Rostagno, Torben Ulrich, Daniel Nestor, Ray Ruffels, Cliff Drysdale, James Reilly, Andy Murray, Leander Paes, Alicia Molik, Barry MacKay among others.

New Chapter Press is also the publisher of The Bud Colins History of Tennis by Bud Collins, The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection by Rene Stauffer and Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli and the soon to be released title The Lennon Prophecy by Joe Niezgoda. Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press is an independent publisher of books and part of the Independent Publishers Group. More information can be found at www.newchapterpressmedia.com

Ask Bill: Here Comes Taylor Dent

It is great to see Taylor Dent taking his first steps on the comeback trail. He entered $50,000 Challengers in Carson, Calif., last week (losing in three sets to former NCAA champion Cecil Mamiit) and will play Yuba City, Calif., next week. TD is a net-rushing Californian who has been sidetracked for over two years with a career-threatening back injury. In fact, his situation seemed so dire that he began a career as an on-court teaching professional.

Dent applied for, and easily passed, the U.S. Professional Tennis Association certification (his level: Professional 1). The fact that a young man in his mid-twenties who had won four ATP Tour titles would go through the studying, preparation, and two-day certification course along with other aspiring coaches says much about his character. He does not have a sense of entitlement.

I had pegged Taylor Dent to be the best prospect among his American generation, which includes Andy Roddick, James Blake, Mardy Fish, and Robby Ginepri. If Wimbledon had not slowed the grass courts down after the 2001 tournament (and, make no mistake, that formerly slick and uneven surface has played like a high-bouncing, slow hard court ever since) and the Slazenger balls that are currently used do not play like soft melons (and getting seemingly softer every year) then Dent probably would have already had some deep runs at SW19. Along with their penchant for excellence in old-school volleys, he could share this lament with Britain’s Tim Henman as well.

It would be wonderful to see him make a full recovery. If his back can handle the stresses of today’s game, then his mind certainly can. After the injury ordeal that he has been through, facing break points in a third set will not seem nearly as daunting.

My favorite Taylor Dent story was from when he did an appearance for a U.S. Open sponsor during his injury respite. At the time, he could do anything except serve. He participated in a Pro-Am and was the first to arrive and the last to leave. Suffice to say that usually the “pros” in the Pro-Ams do not share this same enthusiasm. He was definitely the star of the day, and left the amateur participants feeling great.

Early in the day, Dent warmed up with one of the summer staff teaching professionals at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and their hitting session drew a small crowd of curiosity seekers. When he was done with his hit, a few of the teaching pros challenged him to try hitting a ball into Arthur Ashe stadium from the outside. To reach the upper deck of the massive stadium, it was probably 250 feet high and 100 feet away from the practice court where he was standing. A few of the teaching pros made attempts first, and failed miserably. Dent was amused. From the middle of court 5, he took a ball and with a smooth swing he generated enough force to loft the ball into the stadium. People looked surprised and gave him the ‘try that again’ look. He took another ball and did it again, perhaps even more easily. He smiled and walked away. There are onlookers from that day who still talk about that feat.

Sam Querrey is training with Gil Reyes, the long-time fitness guru for Andre Agassi. Sudden Sam is already moving better. This is a great career move for a determined American athlete. Querrey’s volleys remain suspect, but the grass courts of Wimbledon have been slowed sufficiently that this weakness will not be as pronounced. He will be a big factor at Wimbledon this summer.

If the US whips Spain on clay in the Davis Cup semifinals, will the media stop with the Americans Cannot Play On Clay theme? They will be underdogs, but it could happen. Every potential member of Captain Patrick McEnroe’s team – including potential members of the practice squad – has had some positive results on this “foreign” surface this spring.

Serena Williams looks fit, for what it’s worth. Aside from maybe her sister Venus, there has never been another player who gives her opponent so little say in the matter. If Serena is playing well, then she wins. It is as simple as that.

Lefty Wayne Odesnik beating Argentine Guillermo Canas in straight sets at Roland Garros was pretty damn impressive. Recall that Canas bullied Federer twice last year on American hard courts. As John McEnroe quipped, Americans are not supposed to dominate Argentines on clay.

In college tennis, it was a great week in the NCAA team tournament for UCLA and Georgia. It is also a dreadful time at Arizona State and Arkansas-Little Rock.

The coverage of the NCAA team tourney on ESPN-U was a welcome sight. The good people of Tulsa, Oklahoma were treated to a special week of team tennis, with the individual singles and doubles tournaments following the team competitions.

Firstly, the good news: Congratulations to coach Stella Sampras Webster, who led the UCLA Lady Bruins to their first-ever NCAA title with a decisive victory over Pac-10 rival California in the finals. Stella’s little brother Pete, a big supporter of the UCLA team, knows more about tennis championships than anyone and he must be so proud of his sister.

Manuel Diaz led his University of Georgia men to their second straight NCAA title. The Bulldogs are the first team to go back-to-back in a decade, and this is the first title UGA has garnered outside of Athens, Ga. Georgia has now won six titles, with Diaz at the helm for four of those. They defeated a game Texas Longhorns squad in a nail-biter of a match.

Sadly, that very same Pac-10 conference that produced the two women’s finalists has suffered the loss of the Arizona State men’s program. ASU announced that it was being cut for budgetary reasons. Also getting unceremoniously dumped was the University of Arkansas-Little Rock men’s program. This really, really sucks.

People lament the fact that foreign-born players are dominating collegiate tennis in this era. Well, maybe. I agree that this is an issue, and I will address it later. It is a secondary issue, however, to the number of programs (especially men’s teams) that are getting euthanized.

These cuts are having a dramatic and negative effect on the number of young children who are getting steered toward competitive tennis. This is understandable. If you are an American parent with an athletic child, or athletic children, and you are choosing a sport that might lead to someday getting financial assistance- or even a scholarship- in college, then tennis is looking like an increasingly crappy option.

Title IX has been brilliant, in so many ways, for young women. It was not (never, ever) created to deny young men equal opportunities.

The colleges and universities that have been dropping tennis programs has become epidemic. The arrogance of athletic directors who justify their decisions by stating that it is based on budgetary concerns is insulting. Lousy football teams cost millions of dollars per season. This bounty includes a massive number of scholarships, remuneration packages for head coaches that are out of proportion with reality, constant stadium and facility upgrades, etc. It is sickening. Collegiate tennis programs cost a mere fraction of the other sports.

Mondays with Bob Greene – The Return of Kimiko Date

14 April 2008

STAR

Maria Sharapova won her first clay court title, downing Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (7) 6-3 in the Bausch & Lomb Championships in Amelia Island, Florida.

SAYINGS

“It’s not the way I would have wanted to win.” – Nikolay Davydenko, who won his Davis Cup match when Tomas Berdych retired because of an injury, giving Russia an insurmountable 3-1 lead over the Czech Republic.

“These guys are human.” – United States captain Patrick McEnroe after twins Bob and Mike Bryan suffered only their second loss in 16 Davis Cup doubles matches, falling to Frenchmen Michael Llodra and Arnold Clement.

“It is just a great feeling when you do well for your country. Nothing else matters.” – Leander Paes, who, a day after saying teaming with Mahesh Bhupathi was the “worst mistake of my career,” teamed with Bhupathi to win the doubles against Japan and lift India into the Davis Cup World Group playoffs for the first time in three years.

“It was somewhat like football because representing Argentina is something unique, something which you feel in your skin.” – Guillermo Canas, after teaming with David Nalbandian to beat Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman and Robert Linstedt in doubles.

“What I lived today with my people was very exciting. I gave it all, run all the way to hell and back, and won. That’s why I could not stop the tears.” – A teary David Nalbandian following his 6-4 1-6 4-6 6-4 9-7 win over Robin Soderling to clinch Argentina’s Davis Cup quarterfinal victory over Sweden.

“I had a lot of chances. I missed so many easy shots. I made quite stupid mistakes today.” – Unseeded Dominika Cibulkova, who lost to top-seeded Maria Sharapova 7-6 (7) 6-3 in the final of the Bausch & Lomb Championships.

“I don’t want to be getting (wild cards) into events and taking the place of younger players. That wouldn’t be right.” – Kimiko Date, explaining why she will begin her comeback by playing in satellite tournaments before making a return to the WTA Tour.

SAD DAY

Former Austrian doubles player Daniela Klemenschits lost her battle with cancer. She was 25. Both Daniela and her twin sister, Sandra, were diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer in January 2007, forcing them to retire from the WTA Tour. The sisters won 20 titles on the ITF women’s circuit and were ranked in the top 100 of the WTA Tour doubles in 2005.

SCARY OPPONENT

For the second straight Davis Cup tie, Nikolay Davydenko has not had to finish his tie-winning match. Tomas Berdych twisted his right ankle and retired against Davydenko, giving Russia an unbeatable 3-1 lead over the Czech Republic. In the first round, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic pulled out of his match against Davydenko because of illness, giving Russia a clinching 3-1 lead.

STEFFI STOPPER

Two exhibition victories over old foes convinced Japan’s Kimiko Date to return to professional tennis at the age of 37. Once ranked in the top five in the world, Date retired in 1996 after reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the Atlanta Olympics. When she beat Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova in an exhibition event in Tokyo, Date, now married, decided to try a comeback on the women’s tour, entering a tournament in Fukuoka, Japan, next month.

SPECIAL SAFIN

A surprise starter, Marat Safin repaid the confidence showed in him by coming back from two sets down for the first time in his career to beat Tomas Berdych 6-7 (5) 4-6 6-3 6-2 64 in the opening match of the Davis Cup tie between Russia and the Czech Republic. The Russian had won only one match this year while Berdych was coming off a semifinal finish at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. It was the first time in his career that Berdych has lost a five-set match.

SELLING OUT

The Tennis Channel Open is no more. Tennis Channel is selling the rights to its Las Vegas, Nevada, tournament to the ATP. The television network bought the tournament in 2005, when it was played in Scottsdale, Arizona, and moved it to Las Vegas in 2006.

SURGERY

India’s Sania Mirza has undergone arthroscopy wrist surgery that is expected to keep her off the WTA Tour for a month. The world number 31 has struggled with her wrist problem for over a year. The only Indian player to win a WTA Tour event, Mirza was sidelined for two months following knee surgery in March 2007.

STEPPING UP PRESSURE

Beginning in 2009, players will get ATP ranking points for playing in the Davis Cup World Group. Besides earning points for a win, players can get bonus points for winning a certain number of matches throughout the year. The International Tennis Federation and ATP said they made the decision to award points to encourage more top players to participate in the team event.

STEPPING DOWN

Felix Mantilla has called it quits. Once ranked in the top 10 in the world, the 33-year-old Spaniard retired a year after returning to the ATP Tour following treatment for skin cancer. In 1997, Mantilla won five tournaments, and the following reached the semifinals at Roland Garros.

SWINGING TOGETHER

Beginning in 2009, the grass-court tournament in Eastbourne, England, will have a combined men’s and women’s field. While Eastbourne has been on the WTA Tour for years, the men will join them after the ATP grass-court tournament in Nottingham, England, folds following this year’s event.

SEAT CHAMPIONS CUP

Two clay court masters – former world number one Marcelo Rios and two-time French Open champion Sergi Bruguera – have a chance at finally meeting on that surface when they compete in the Seat Champions Cup in Barcelona. Rios dominated the senior BlackRock Tour of Champions in 2006, winning six titles, while Brugera won seven senior tournaments last year. Rios has won two of their three previous meetings, but all were on hard courts.

SCORING DAVIS CUP

World Group Quarterfinals

Russia beat Czech Republic 3-2; Argentina beat Sweden 4-1; Spain beat Germany 4-1; United States beat France 4-1

Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 Second Round

Croatia beat Italy 3-2; Netherlands beat Macedonia 4-1; Switzerland beat Belarus 4-1; Slovak Republic beat Georgia 4-1 (Winners advance to World Group playoffs in September)

Americas Zone Group 1 Second Round

Chile beat Canada 3-2; Brazil beat Columbia 4-1 (Winners advance to World Group playoffs in September)

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Second Round

Australia beat Thailand 5-0; India beat Japan 3-2 (Australia and India advance to World Group playoffs in September)

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Playoffs

Chinese Taipei beat Kazakhstan 3-2; Uzbekistan beat Philippines 3-2

Europe/Africa Zone Group II First Round

Denmark beat Luxembourg 5-0; South Africa beat Finland 4-1; Algeria beat Hungary 3-2; Monaco beat Greece 3-2; Ukraine beat Egypt 5-0; Ireland beat Morocco 3-2; Cyprus beat Slovenia 3-2; Portugal beat Tunisia 4-1

Americas Zone Group II Relegation Playoffs

Netherlands Antilles beat Bolivia 3-2; Venezuela leads El Salvador 2-1

Asia/Oceania Zone Group II Second Round

China beat Indonesia 3-2; New Zealand beat Kuwait 5-0

Asia/Oceania Zone Group II Relegation Playoffs

Hong Kong beat Lebanon 3-2; Oman beat Pacific Oceania 3-2

SITES TO SURF

Family Circle Cup: www.familycirclecup.com

Estoril: www.estorilopen.net

Valencia: www.open-comunidad-valencia.com/

Houston: www.riveroaksinternational.com

Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com/

Monte Carlo: http://montecarlo.masters-series.com/1/en/home/

Barcelona: www.openseatbarcelona.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP TOUR

$370,000 Estoril Open, Estoril, Portugal, clay

$370,000 Open de Tenis Comunidad Valencia, Valencia, Spain, clay

$436,000 U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships, Houston, Texas, clay

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Family Circle Cup, Charleston, South Carolina, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP TOUR

$2,270,000 Monte Carlo Masters, Monte Carlo, Monaco, clay

FED CUP

(April 26-27)

World Group Semifinals

United States at Moscow, Russia, clay

Spain at Beijing, China, hard

World Group Playoffs

Ukraine at Olbia, Italy, clay; France at Tokyo, Japan, hard; Germany at Buenos Aires, Argentina, clay; Czech Republic at Ramat Hasharon, Israel, hard

World Group II Playoffs

Colombia at Mons, Belgium, hard; Switzerland at Dornbirn, Austria, hard; Uzbekistan at Bratislava, Slovak Republic, clay; Serbia at Zagreb, Croatia, hard

SENIORS

Seat Champions Cup, Barcelona, Spain, clay

Federer, Nadal go Dubai while Gonzalez goes to Vegas

A comprehensive preview for the tournaments that are being played this week. First up is Dubai that features prominent players such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. And then there is the tournament in Las Vegas. It doesn’t have the starpower of Dubai but it’s still an interesting one feating Fernando Gonzalez among others.

Dubai

What can we really say about this tournament except that money talks. When you have 8 of the top 10 players and a cutoff of 57, this tournament is almost tougher than a Masters Draw, in the sense that the top seeds can face people at the top of the game in the first round. This is no more obvious than at the very top of the draw, where #1 seed and record four-time champion Roger Federer has to open against none other than Andy Murray, ranked #12. With so many fascinating early matchups in this draw, it would take us all day to really do it justice. But here’s a more realistic preview. The toughest opponent in Federer’s quarter is arguably Murray. Should he get past that, he would likely face friend and compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka or #5 seed Nikolay Davydenko in the quarterfinals. Of course, it’s Federer, so it’s hard to see him losing before the semifinals, at least. This is Federer’s first competition since losing in the Australian Open semifinals, and he said today that he is rested, ready to go, and that the break has been good for him.

The second quarter is highlighted by #4 seed David Ferrer against Tommy Haas. Haas had a good run in Dubai last year, making the semifinals before losing to Federer. But considering the bad losses Haas has had since coming back to the tour a few weeks ago in Delray Beach, we see Ferrer winning this one comfortably. This quarter is chock full of solid players who, should they find some form, could produce some upsets; Jarkko Nieminen, Feliciano Lopez, Janko Tipsarevic, and Olivier Rochus are all capable of showing up on the big stages against the very top players. #8 seed Tomas Berdych opens against Gael Monfils, playing his first match since last September, when he retired due to injury.

Things get no easier in the bottom half. #7 seed Richard Gasquet opens against Dmitry Tursunov. Though Gasquet might be the favorite on paper, he is 0-2 against Tursunov, including a loss in their most recent meeting earlier this year in Sydney. Another interesting match in this quarter is last year’s runner-up Mikhail Youzhny against 2002 Dubai champion Fabrice Santoro. Should Youzhny make it through that match, we would likely see an intriguing second round between Youzhny and #3 seed Novak Djokovic. Though this quarter is an excellent one, Djokovic should advance to the semifinal if he has fully recovered from the flu that plagued him during Davis Cup.

And to the final quarter of the draw, where things get no easier. Making a rare appearance overseas when there is a US tournament to pick from, #6 seed Andy Roddick makes his debut in Dubai against 2001 champion Juan Carlos Ferrero. Roddick, however, is 3-0 against Ferrero, all matches on outdoor hardcourt, and should fancy his chances if he is not too jetlagged after the long trip from Memphis. This section contains local wildcard Mahmoud Nader, who isn’t worth mentioning except that he’s so obscure that he doesn’t have a ranking and is not even mentioned on the ITF website. Rounding out the draw is #2 Rafael Nadal, who has a tough opener in Philipp Kohlschreiber. A Roddick/Nadal quarterfinal should be in the cards, and we can hope that should that match come to fruition that Roddick would play better than in their match at Indian Wells last year, which was played under similar conditions.
Las Vegas

In stark contrast to Dubai, Las Vegas’s Tennis Channel Open lacks major starpower but still has a respectable field that includes three top 20 players. And the draw still holds plenty of interesting matches. Right at the top of the draw, #1 seed Fernando Gonzalez, returning after a short injury layoff, will look for revenge against Dudi Sela, who beat Gonzalez last year in Israel in a memorable Davis Cup playoff tie. Surely, the loss still stings for Gonzalez and he will be looking forward to the chance for revenge. Also in this section is American wild card John Isner and #6 seed Michael Llodra, who has already won two titles this year. A quarterfinal between Gonzalez and Llodra would be an interesting contrast in style.

The stronger 2nd quarter of the draw is headed by #3 seed Marcos Baghdatis, who has a tricky opening meeting with always-entertaining Vince Spadea. Right below them is an interesting matchup between two players trying to rebuild their form and ranking – wild card entry Robby Ginepri and Xavier Malisse. Rising star Ernests Gulbis is in this section and Robin Soderling, coming off his two consecutive indoor final appearances, will try to take his sky-high serve toss outdoors to windy Las Vegas.

In the bottom half, the third quarter contains several players who came from the Latin American claycourt swing who will try to get their hardcourt feet before the two masters events coming up. Potito Starace will take on fellow claycourter Carlos Berlocq, and #4 seed Guillermo Canas has an interesting opener against Thomas Johansson.

The bottom quarter has undoubtedly the most interesting first round match of the event – and quite a shame considering the relatively weak field – between defending champion and #2 seed Lleyton Hewitt and last year’s semifinalist (he lost to Hewitt then) Marat Safin. Also in this section, #8 seed Nicolas Kiefer plays only his second event of the year, and the highest ranked American in the draw – Sam Querrey – will try to make an impact.

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