hall of fame tennis championships

Update: Michael Russell Calls Lleyton Hewitt a “Racist” and “Douche Bag”

(July 14, 2013) After his semifinal loss to Nicolas Mahut at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, RI on Sunday, American Michael Russell kept his eyes on center court. Due to rain delays on Saturday, both singles semifinals and the final were forced to be played back to back the following day on adjacent courts.

After winning their respective semifinals, Lleyton Hewitt took the court against Mahut to battle for the grass court title at 2:30pm on Sunday. After serving for the match, up 7-5, 5-4, Hewitt ended up losing the set and the match, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 to the Frenchman.

Afterward, Russell unexpectedly took to his personal Facebook page for an aggressive rant and name-calling session against the Aussie, calling him a “douche bag and a racist.”

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 7.36.16 PM

The “side court 1″ comment is in reference to both semifinals being played side-by-side simultaneously, where Hewitt versus John Isner was on center court, and Russell versus Mahut was on court 1.

Though Russell somewhat explains what he meant by the “douche bag” comment, there was nothing to allude to the “racist” comment whether on Facebook or during the week’s happenings in Newport.

However, this isn’t the first time Hewitt has been called a racist.

During a second round match between Hewitt and James Blake at the 2001 US Open, Hewitt was called for two foot faults in the fourth set. The line judge happened to be black, and during a changeover, Hewitt had a conversation with the chair umpire regarding what many perceived to be a race issue.

“I’m only being foot-faulted on one end … Look at him, look at him and you tell me what the similarity is,” said a heated Hewitt on court.

When questioned in his post-match press conference about seemingly comparing the umpire’s and Blake’s skin color as the reason for his outburst, Hewitt firmly denied it was a race issue. “No, I didn’t say that to the umpire.”

“It was a conversation with me and the umpire,” Hewitt continued. “I come from a multi-cultured country, I’m not racial at all … There was nothing racial said out there at all. If people took it in the wrong way, then I apologize because it wasn’t meant to be in that way.” Blake publicly gave him the benefit of the doubt “because it’s in competition.”

However, the stigma stuck and the Aussie received continued backlash — one that seems to have extended to present day with Russell’s comments some 12 years later. The strange thing is though, Hewitt went on to defeat Albert Portas, Tommy Haas, Andy Roddick, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Pete Sampras to win his first Slam, the 2001 US Open.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo2Uc9ldzWk

UPDATE: Michael Russell went on Facebook and Twitter late Sunday to debunk it was him posting these comments to his Facebook account, instead claiming it was his “publicist.” However, while saying he “NEVER posts directly on Facebook” but “ONLY” uses Twitter linked to his Facebook account, the first post below is clearly in opposition to that statement. Moreover, as seen in the screencap above, the person apparently posting in Russell’s stead commented that “I have been on tour for over 15 years.” Now, why would a publicist state that if indeed it was the publicist? Furthermore, Russell’s wife Lilly “liked” several of the comments within the now-deleted rant.

Regardless of what happened here or who is to blame, it was not a smart move for a guy generally well-liked on the Tour, and one who has been quite outspoken about the need of restructuring the ATP.

Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 12.51.12 AM Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 12.51.16 AM Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 12.51.18 AM

(h/t to @prashantsport on Hewitt video)

French Davis Cup Celebrations, New ITHF inductees and Serena to Miss WTT Season

*French Davis Cup captain Guy Forget was full of praise for his players following their shock win over Spain in the Davis Cup quaterfinals last weekend. Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau defeated Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez in the doubles rubber to give France an unassailable 3-0 lead in the tie. The win is the country’s first victory over Spain since 1923. “It’s magical,” he told France 3 television. “They pulled for each other. I hope it’s just the start of a long story for that squad. They were just great and I hope they will play with the same faith in September.” You can see the full interview and Davis Cup roundup at the BBC Tennis website.

*The 2010 Induction Ceremony took place at the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum during the finals weekend of the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships and inductees Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, the notorious ‘Woodies,’ have been speaking of their delight at the honour of entering the prestigious Hall of Fame. “This is an amazing day for the Woodies,” said Woodforde, during the rain-swept ceremony. “I don’t know if any of us said we’re just going to be doubles players. We just excelled on the doubles court a little more than we did on the singles. As much as we would have loved to win more in the singles titles, we did in doubles.” The pair amassed an incredible 11 major doubles Championships and 61 doubles titles in all, a record only equaled by the Bryan brothers recently, with a lifetime record of 508-137. “I think we won our fourth tournament we played together,” added Woodbridge. “It was close on average to every fourth tournament we won the next 10 years. That’s pretty good business. I figured if I could team up with Mark we’d do well together. We did better than well, we did bloody great.”

*On the women’s side of the game, the legendary doubles team of Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva were also inducted this weekend. They won 14 doubles Grand Slams together and ended up the year’s best team on four occasions (1993-95, 1997). “I don’t think as an athlete you ever make that a goal, it just sort of happens,” beamed Fernandez. “It’s a proud moment for me and my family and it’s also a proud moment for 4 million Puerto Ricans that are proud to have Puerto Rico represented in the Tennis Hall of Fame.”

*There is little movement in the Top 50 this week in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings but Mardy Fish’s first grass tournament win in Newport has seen him leap 30 places to No. 49 in the world. Recent good performances for The Czech Jan Hajek (11 places, No. 83), Argentine Brian Dabul (14, No. 91) and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo of Spain (16, No. 94) have seen them all rise considerably. Britain’s Richard Bloomfield jumped 260 spots to No. 292 in the world following his Newport finals appearance.

*In the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Rankings Venus Williams reclaims the No. 3 slot from Caroline Wozniacki while Arevane Rezai enters the Top 20 following her win in Bastad last week. Spain’s Arantxa Parra Santonja jumps from No. 52 to No. 46 and Simona Halep (Romania, No. 96) and Pauline Parmentier (France, No. 97) enter the Top 100.

*Serena Williams is set to miss the entire World Team Tennis season with a foot injury, reports the Washington Post. She was meant to team up with sister Venus for the Washington Kastles this year but the injury has put paid to those plans. “I’m very disappointed that I won’t be able to play in the WTT matches this season,” Williams said in an official statement. “It is always such a fun experience and I love interacting with the fans in the cities that I don’t often have the opportunity to play in during the rest of the year.”

*Briton Richard Bloomfield is the latest pro to blast the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) following his incredible run to the semifinals of last week’s Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, RI. The 27-year-old has jumped 260 places to 292 in the world and was quick to criticise Britain’s governing body for their lack of support afterwards. “I think it needs a real shake-up,” he said before revealing the only contact he’d had from the LTA following his run was from current Davis Cup captain Leon Smith. “I got a text off Leon and that was about it. Leon is Davis Cup captain so he’s obliged to do stuff like that.” He also went on to slam the current funding policy from the LTA: “They keep on changing it,” he said. “Just have a good solid system where everybody knows if you win this tournament you get a certain amount, if you don’t then you don’t get anything. Then you know where you stand, whereas at the moment it’s a little bit up and down what you get.”

*British Davis Cup captain Leon Smith praised the spirit of his young team after their 5-0 whitewash of Turkey saved them from relegation to the bottom tier of Davis Cup play. He was also quick to reinforce the point that world No. 4 Andy Murray was welcome to return to Davis Cup play whenever he so wishes. “When he wants to come back of course we’ll love that because he’s one of the world’s best players and any team would love to have Andy Murray in it,” he said. “We’re all friends with [him], we’ve all got close relationships with him, and that positivity is something that we enjoy.”

*Czech female star Iveta Benesova spoke of her relief following her first win in two months in her home tournament the ECM Prague Open this week. The No. 68 in the world was not long ago her country’s leading lady but since winning her second WTA title at Fes in May she has won only two matches. “I am happy to win like this,” said Benesova. “It wasn’t a simple match, I really had to fight. I know I have talent but I need to work harder. I want to be ranked in the 20s again.” You can see how the rest of the Czech hopefuls got on at the WTA site.

*French newspaper L’Equipe is reporting that Richard Gasquet will return from his current back/rib injury at Gstaad in two weeks’ time.

*Sweden may continue their trend of bringing former stars out of retirement for Davis Cup play if current injuries and losses of form continue. This time Thomas Johansson is the former player talking of a cameo. “It’s tempting, but I don’t know if my body can go five sets,” he said. “[But I am] training hard.”

*Spaniard Rafa Nadal was left in floods of tears following his country’s victory over The Netherlands in Sunday’s FIFA World Cup Final and even led the celebrations alongside the Spanish team and the Spanish Royal Family on the team’s return to Madrid. Nadal had been at the match in South Africa and in the changing room after the game even took his trademark “bite” out of the golden trophy. “I cried like a baby,” he told Spanish newspaper Marca. “We have to celebrate for a whole year, because this is unbelievable. It is very difficult to repeat this.”

Blooming in to Life Once Again

All we have been hearing over recent months is negativity surrounding British tennis.

Tales of rotten apples in the barrel, failed youngsters, squandered millions and a country lost in a downward spiral of tennis faux pas which shows no signs of halting but for the increasingly confident performances of lone star Andy Murray.

Yet this week at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships at the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, a name nobody but the staunchest statisticians of British tennis will have been following is making a name for himself in the heat and humidity of east-coast America.

Current world No. 557 Richard Bloomfield will today (Friday) face young American Ryan Harrison in the last quarterfinal with the opportunity to face either American number 5 seed Mardy Fish (remember him from Queens?) or the Canadian Frank Dancevic in the semifinals.

Hang on, a Brit in the semifinals of a tournament other than Andy Murray? Continual sob-story Alex Bogdanovic failed to reach even the main draw here, going down in the final round of qualifying. So just who is this guy?

Richard Bloomfield was born April 27, 1983 in the small village of Alpington, just outside the beautiful Norfolk city of Norwich. He won the British Junior Tennis Championships in 2001, defeating that man Bogdanovic in the final, and picked up the equivalent title in doubles with Ken Skupski, now one half of the promising Flemski partnership alongside Colin Fleming.

He began playing on the senior tour that year and his first full ATP Tournament was the 2003 Wimbledon Championships where he gained a wildcard before losing to Anthony Dupuis in the first round.

In 2006 he reached round two of Wimbledon with a win over Carlos Berlocq which was investigated by authorities over strange betting patterns but no wrong-doing was ever discovered. That year he also reached the semifinals of the ATP Challenger Event at Rennes where he lost to rising French star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

2007 saw him reach his first ATP Challenger final in Wrexham, Wales, where he lost to Michal Prysiezny which saw him rise to a career-high 176 in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings. He then partnered Jonathan Marray to the third round of the 2007 Wimbledon doubles Championships.

His ranking fell considerably over the next couple of years until he qualified for the 2009 Open 13 where he agonisingly lost 6-7, 6-7 to the Italian Simon Bolelli in the first round. Back injuries hampered him and his ranking fell further but then he surprisingly qualified for this year’s Hall of Fame Championships where he is beginning to make a name for himself again.

In reaching the quaterfinals he has recorded his first wins on the ATP Tour since that 2006 Wimbledon Championships and at 27 this will be a welcome boost for a man whose confidence must have been looking at rock bottom.

And hasn’t he done well. He is yet to drop a set. A 7-6 (1), 6-1 first-round win over Belgian Christophe Rochus, brother of Olivier, set up a second-round clash with second seed and world No. 56 Santiago Giraldo which nobody would have expected him to come out of. But this might just be his week. He won 6-3, 7-6 (5) and now marches in to this quarterfinal with Harrison with a renewed vigour and swagger he won’t have been feeling for a long while.

It is high time we had something positive to shout about for Britain and it’s always great to see somebody who looked down and out have a moment in the sun (literally as the temperature gauges out there are showing). If he overcomes Harrison and then Fish/Dancevic then he will be in his first final since 2007, and his first ever on the full ATP Tour. There either Olivier Rochus will be looking to avenge the slaying of his brother Christophe or Argentine Brian Dabul will be looking to put his own name up in lights.

So march on Richard, your country is firmly behind you!

RAJEEV RAM WINS HIS FIRST CAREER ATP WORLD TOUR TITLE

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.