Another calendar year about to come to a close means that we can officially turn the page on another exciting year of professional tennis. Truly 2009 was not just an ordinary year in the history of the sport, but one that had fans and media alike talking tennis at great lengths over the past twelve months.
Tennis grabbed the headlines for a variety of reasons – some good, some bad – and captivated us from Rafael Nadal’s first hard-court Grand Slam victory in January to Nikolay Davydenko’s unlikely season-ending triumph at the Tour finals in November. In between we had a comeback like no other from Kim Clijsters in the summer and a meltdown from Serena Williams that made John McEnroe look like a saint. What about December you ask? Well hey, we have to give these guys a break sometime don’t we?
With all the high’s and low’s from the past year it is difficult to focus on just a few, but some certainly stood out more than others.
Roger Federer’s Achievements:
Up until the last Slam of the year in 2008, our boy Roger was getting a lot of flack from people about his performance on the court. No major titles to his credit, a thrashing by Rafa at Roland Garros and losing to the Spaniard again at Wimbledon did not bode well for his attempt at continued domination and his desire to topple the Grand Slam record held by Pete Sampras. Eventually he did win the U.S. Open to salvage some much needed respect and confidence – but could he maintain it in 2009?
Roger responded with authority by making all four Slam finals, finally breaking through at the French Open to complete his career-slam and re-taking Wimbledon in a match for the ages (yeah I know, we said that in 2008 too!) He broke Pete’s record with his 15th major title and also celebrated the year in his personal life with a wedding and the arrival of twins.
He is arguably now the greatest player of all-time and whether he adds to his Slam-total or not, it will be a good while before we even think about his record being challenged. Despite not being named the AP athlete of the year, this guy is as classy a champion as we’ll ever see. He is without a doubt, the tennis played of the year for 2009.
Serena Williams’ Ups and Downs:
On the women’s side the distinction of player of the year goes to Serena Williams. I’m not sure if the word ‘classy’ can be thrown in along with that, but her record at the majors was untouched. Slam victories at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, along with the season-ending championship in Qatar,’ all cemented her status as world number one. And let’s not forget her doubles accomplishments with sister Venus, as the duo won three Slams together and finished the year ranked third overall despite only entering six tournaments.
Negating some of the praise for her tennis achievements was the unfortunate meltdown in her semi-final match at the U.S. Open against Kim Clijsters. Her verbal assault towards a line-judge was completely unacceptable and brought all the wrong kind of attention to the sport in a match that should have been purely about two great and talented tennis players. Foot-fault or not, she was deducted a point according to the rules and as it was on match-point it ended up being the end of the contest.
Take away that one incident – if you can – and everyone would have been singing Serena’s praises for such a fantastic year. Personally I think we can shrug off this ugly heat-of-the-moment outburst and look for Serena to let her play speak for itself in 2010.
Big-name, small-name, older and younger, there were several notable comebacks in 2009. The most impressive no-doubt goes to a certain Belgian player named Kim Clijsters. Clijsters chose a difficult time of the year to return to professional tennis – halfway through the season – and knocked off some tough competition in her first two tournaments back. It was in her third tournament, at the U.S. Open however, that she really showed us what she could do. After more than two years away from the game, Clijsters knocked off both Williams sisters en-route to her second career Grand Slam title. Makes you wonder if a little time away from the game might help some other players seeking to win another major, doesn’t it?
Other returning players worth note include Taylor Dent on the men’s side who overcame a potentially career-ending back injury to jump from 804 to 75 in the ATP rankings. It’s nice to see the affable serve and volleyer back on the court after such a prolonged absence from the game.
Kimiko Date-Krumm showed us that age is but a number when she returned to the court at 38 years old and became the second-oldest player behind Billie Jean King to win a tour event.
Maria Sharapova returned from an injury to her shoulder that kept her away from the game for ten months. While her powerful groundstrokes remain a threat, her serve was a disappointment as she attempted to use an adjusted motion. If she can keep the number of double-faults to a minimum there is no reason why Sharapova cannot return to Grand Slam success. January will mark two years since her last major victory.
A final comeback worth noting is that of Justine Henin. While Henin has yet to play a competitive match, she made her announcement in 2009 and one cannot help but think the success of her fellow-Belgian Kim Clijsters was partially responsible. What a great boost to the women’s game that is already thriving with plenty of big-name appeal.
Andre Agassi’s Revelations:
When eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi left the game in 2006, he exited as a soft-spoken, elder-statesman of the tour and a highly respected ambassador of the sport. It was hard to remember him as the long-haired, Big-mac eating, rock-star Agassi of the 80s or the over-weight, sullen, challenger-level Agassi of 1997. Agassi’s autobiography, Open, reminds us of these times and other dark moments in his tennis career that we never even imagined.
Recreational drug-use, lies to Tour officials about dope tests, and a deep rooted hatred for the game were all shocking admissions that Agassi shares with his readers. How did Agassi’s confession sit with his peers and his fans?
Some, like Martina Navratilova, were quick to condemn him, while others like Andy Roddick stood firm behind him. Most voiced their surprise and disappointment and some applauded his candor. While the manner in which Agassi came clean is somewhat less than perfect, his book sheds much insight into the tortured inner-feelings of one of the sport’s more complex characters.
Many lessons can be learned from his writing such as the pressure tennis parents place on their children, the completely ineffective drug-testing policies the tour’s adhere to and the ability to overcome adversity and triumph through hard work and determination.
It was a year of major tennis accomplishments and disappointments for Israeli tennis players in 2009. The ugly side of sports emerged in February in the United Arab Emirates when politics and racism reared their head in a controversial decision that had everyone talking. Israeli top-forty player Shahar Peer was denied entry into the Emirates despite qualifying for direct entry into the tournament in Dubai. Tournament organizers hid their motives behind so-called fears of security concerns for Peer. In truth, this was just another example of a country that attempts to appear progressive displaying its shallow prejudice.
Sony Ericsson WTA Tour officials mistakenly allowed the tournament to continue despite Peer’s exclusion. Fortunately the situation was corrected in time for the ATP event the following week with Andy Ram playing in the doubles draw. Despite Ram’s entry, American Andy Roddick took a noble stand and refused to play due to the treatment of Peer. A nice gesture of solidarity on his part.
Just when that situation had resolved itself, Israel was once again in the middle of a controversy – this time in Malmo, Sweden, for a Davis Cup tie in early March. Player safety was again cited as the reason why the best-of-five tie would be played with no spectators in attendance. The controversial decision clearly did not help the favored Swedes, as Israel advanced with a surprise 3-2 victory.
Davis Cup would prove to be the saving grace for Israeli tennis in 2009, as the country would defeat a powerful Russian team to get to the semi-finals before bowing out against the eventual champions from Spain. With a roster compiled of unheralded journeymen such as Jonathan Erlich, Harel Levy, Andy Ram and Dudi Sela, Israel made it to their very first Davis Cup semi-final and shocked many along the way. After all of the sensational press they had received earlier in the year, it was a deserving, feel-good story for the Israelis.
Other Notable Events:
– Rafael Nadal’s first-ever loss at Roland Garros versus Robin Soderling. The most shocking loss of 2009 without a doubt and one that would greatly help Federer achieve his missing slam.
– Andy Roddick coming so close to winning his elusive second Grand Slam title. Boy did Andy ever take Roger into extra-innings at Wimbledon in June. He earned some much needed respect after that five set marathon.
– Melanie Oudin’s unexpected run at the U.S. Open where she made it to the quarter-finals. A nice shot-in-the-arm for American tennis that bodes well for the future.
– Drug suspensions and subsequent reversals for Richard Gasquet, Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse. It is time for the ATP and WTA Tour’s to conduct a serious review of how they handle positive drug tests. Gasquet’s excuse that he ingested cocaine from a night-club encounter with someone’s mouth just doesn’t sit right.
– The retirement of former Grand Slam champions Thomas Johansson, Amelie Mauresmo and Marat Safin as well as Fabrice “The Magician” Santoro and Ai Sugiyama
Spain completed a 4-1 victory over Israel in the Davis Cup semifinals on Sunday, as the nations split a pair of dead singles rubbers following the clinching doubles victory for the defending champs on Saturday.
Feliciano Lopez and Tommy Robredo posted a 7-6 (8-6), 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 6-2 win over the Israeli tandem of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram on Saturday to give the Spaniards an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the best-of-five tie.
The decision also rendered Sunday’s reverse singles meaningless.
David Ferrer, who gave Spain its first point with a singles win over Harel Levy on Friday, breezed to a 6-3, 6-1 victory Sunday over Ram for Spain’s fourth point of the weekend.
Levy ensured it would not be a sweep, as he toppled Lopez in the final match, 7-5, 6-2.
Spain won a home Davis Cup tie for the 17th straight time and will try to make it 18 in a row in December when the Czech Republic visits for the Davis Cup final.
The Czechs, who beat Croatia this weekend, will play for the Davis Cup crown for the first time since 1980, when the former Czechoslovakia — led by Ivan Lendl — beat Italy for its lone title.
Spain won this weekend without its top two players, as both Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco sat out. Verdasco had the clinching point last year when the Spaniards won their third Davis Cup crown with a triumph at Argentina.
Israel was playing in the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time.
Rajeev Ram beat Sam Querry 6-7 (3) 7-5 6-3 to win the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, USA
Agnes Szavay won the GDF Suez Grand Prix, beating Patty Schnyder 2-6 6-4 6-2 in Budapest, Hungary
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 6-4 to win the Collector Swedish Open Women in Bastad, Sweden
Julia Goerges beat Ekaterina Dzehalevich 7-5 6-0 in Biarritz, France, to win the Open GDF Suez de Biarritz
Karol Beck won the Open Diputacion Ciudad de Pozoblanco in Pozoblanco, Cordoba, Spain, beating Thiago Alves 6-4 6-3
World Group Quarterfinals
Czech Republic Argentina 3-2; Croatia beat the United States 3-2; Israel beat Russia 4-1; Spain beat Germany 3-2
Americas Zone Group 1 Playoff: Peru vs. Canada; Group 2 Second Round: Venezuela beat Mexico; Dominican Republic beat Paraguay; Netherlands Antilles beat Jamaica; Bahamas vs. Guatemala
Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Second Round Playoffs: Kazakhstan beat Thailand 5-0; Korea vs. China; Group 2 Second Round: Philippines beat Pakistan 3-2; New Zealand beat Indonesia 5-0; Group 2 Playoffs: Hong Kong-China beat Oman 5-0; Malaysia beat Kuwait 4-1
Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 Playoffs: Belarus beat FYR Macedonia 4-1; Group 2 Second Round: Slovenia beat Lithuania 5-0; Latvia beat Bulgaria 4-1; Finland beat Monaco 3-2; Cyprus beat Ireland 3-1; Group 2 Playoffs: Egypt beat Georgia 5-0; Hungary beat Moldova 3-2; Denmark beat Montenegro 3-2; Portugal beat Algeria 5-0
“It’s a beautiful way to celebrate my career. … I wish my dad would have been here today, but I know he’s here in spirit because without him I wouldn’t be sitting here today.” – Monica Seles, on her installation into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
“These days don’t come around very often unless you’re (Roger) Federer or (Rafael) Nadal. There’s definitely pressure. … Winning tournaments is not normal on the tour for 99 percent of us.” – Rajeev Ram, after beating fellow American Sam Querry in Newport to win his first ATP title.
“I’m sorry I spoiled your (birthday) celebrations, but I promise I will buy you something instead.” – Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain, after beating Caroline Wozniacki on the Dane’s 19th birthday.
“For the first time I have absolutely nothing to say, usually I just can’t stop talking, and I started to cry like a little boy.” – Andy Ram, after teaming with Jonathan Erlich to win the doubles and clinch Israel’s first semifinal berth in Davis Cup competition.
“It was a great fight. At the end I was just fighting like a tiger. That was the difference, I think. It wasn’t about the tennis in that match. I was so close to losing.” – Agnes Szavay, after beating Patty Schnyder in the final in Budapest.
“I was so embarrassed to be with them that I called everybody sir. Those players have won Wimbledon, Davis Cup, Forest Hills, French Open, and I have one trophy, Monte Carlo.” – Andres Gimeno, who joined Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad and others on the pro tour before he won his only Grand Slam tournament title, the French Open, in 1972.
“It shows how important Andy is for the team. Being on the No. 2 spot is less pressure than playing on the No. 1 spot.” – James Blake, losing both of his singles matches after being forced to play No. 1 when Andy Roddick pulled out of the United States-Croatia Davis Cup quarterfinal tie with a hip injury.
SWEET DAY INDEED
In a string of circumstances, Andy Roddick’s hip injury may have been the catalyst that led to Rajeev Ram winning his first ATP title. When Roddick pulled out of Davis Cup with the injury, he was replaced by Mardy Fish, the top seed at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island. Knowing he would get a spot in the main draw because of Fish’s leaving, Ram withdrew from his final round of qualifying, then became the tournament’s “lucky loser.” With rain curtailing play on Tuesday and Wednesday, Ram played eight matches over the last three days of the tournament as he became just the third player on the ATP World Tour this year to win both singles and doubles at the same event. He downed fellow American Sam Querrey 6-7 (3) 7-5 6-3 for the singles title, then teamed with Austria’s Jordan Kerr to beat Michael Kohlmann of Germany and Dutchman Rogier Wassen 6-7 (6) 7-6 (7) 10-6 (match tiebreak) in the doubles. Ram, playing in his fist ATP final and ranked 181 in the world, is the lowest ranked player to win a tournament this year. Until the Newport tournament, he had won a total of six career ATP matches.
In the biggest shocker of the Davis Cup weekend, Israel advanced to the semifinals of the World Group for the first time by upsetting Russia 4-1. The Israelis clinched the tie when Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich bested Marat Safin and Igor Kunitsyn to win the doubles and give their side an unassailable 3-0 lead over the two-time Davis Cup champions. “I actually can’t describe how I feel. … I am so proud to be an Israeli today, to be a part of this team, so proud to be part of this sport and Davis Cup tennis, it was a classic tie,” said Israel team captain Eyal Ran. Israel took a surprising 2-0 lead on the opening day when 210th-ranked Harel Levy upset Igor Andreev before Dudi Sela beat Mikhail Youzhny. Israel will take on defending champion Spain in the semifinals on September 18-20.
The other semifinal will pit two other surprising teams against each other. The Czech Republic edged Argentina, last year’s Davis Cup finalists, 3-1, while Croatia defeated the Andy Roddick-less United States 3-2.
The singles winners at the US Open will pocket at least a record USD $1.6 million. The two champions also can earn an additional USD $1 million in bonus prize money, which could help in building a new garage on their home since they will also receive a new 2010 Lexus IS convertible vehicle. The USTA announced that the total US Open purse will top USD $12.6 million, making it the third consecutive year that the prize money has increased by USD $1 million. In addition to the base purse of USD $21.6 million, the top three men and top three women finishers in the Olympus US Open Series may earn up to an additional USD $2.6 million in bonus prize money. And just in case that’s not enough to make ends meet, the US Open winners – like all the other players in the field – will receive per diem payments to help with the cost of accommodations and other expenses during their New York City stay.
Andre Agassi is returning to the US Open. Twice a champion in the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, Agassi will headline the opening night ceremony on August 31 as the US Open celebrates charity work by athletes. Agassi, who began the Andre Agassi Foundation in 1994, ended his 21-year career by retiring at the end of the 2006 US Open. His foundation has a charger school in Las Vegas, Nevada, which graduated its first senior class in June, sending all 34 students to college.
SEEING IS BELIEVING
The marathon Wimbledon final in which Roger Federer outlasted Andy Roddick was the most-watch All England Club men’s final in the United States in 10 years. NBC said an average of 5.71 million people tuned in to watch Federer win his record-setting 15th Grand Slam title, the most since Pete Sampras beat Andre Agassi in the 1999 final. The 3.8 rating and 10 share was the best for a men’s final since Sampras defeat4ed Patrick Rafter in 2000, and surpassed last year’s five-set battle between Federer and Rafael Nadal by nine percent. The fifth set of the Federer-Roddick match was the longest in major final history.
While in Newport, Rhode Island, to attend his colleague Donald Dell’s induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Ray Benton told the story about how he once advised Ivan Lendl that if he showed how much he enjoyed playing tennis it could help the bottom line. Benton, Lendl’s agent, theorized that if the stoic-looking Lendl just smiled and acted happy after he won matches, it would result in the player earning an additional USD $1 million dollars a year in endorsements. Benton said Lendl pondered the idea for a few moments, then said, “It’s not worth it.” Lendl, who won 94 singles titles in his career, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.
SOMETHING TO PLAY FOR
The top mixed doubles team in the Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League will be playing on the big stage come this August. The mixed doubles team that finishes at the top of the WTT Pro League rankings will receive a wild card into the 2009 US Open mixed doubles tournament. More than 50 players are competing in the Advanta WTT Pro League this month for 10 franchises throughout the United States. “World TeamTennis has long featured some of the best players in the world, especially in doubles,” said WTT commissioner Ilana Kloss. “We are very excited to work with the USTA to provide our players with this opportunity to be rewarded for their high level of play.” World TeamTennis matches feature three sets of doubles – men’s, women’s and mixed – along with one set each of men’s and women’s single. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) is a minority owner and promotional partner of World TeamTennis.
Spain reached back into the past to gain a victory in their Davis Cup tie against Germany. When Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer both pulled out of the World Group quarterfinal because of injuries, Juan Carlos Ferrero was added to the team. Then Spanish captain Albert Costa replaced Tommy Robredo with Ferrero in the decisive fifth match, and the former world number one bested Andreas Beck 6-4 6-4 6-4. It was the first time since 2005 against Italy that Spain won a fifth match to determine the outcome of a tie. It was Ferrero that time also who came away victorious. “It’s amazing what I felt on the court today,” Ferrero said. “It’s a long time I didn’t play Davis Cup competition and this tie for me was very special. To come back and play the last point, I felt amazing on the court.”
India’s Sania Mirza is making headlines for reasons beyond her tennis. In the latest incident, two engineering students have been arrested and accused of stalking her. All of this comes as she is being engaged to family friend Sohrab Mirza, whose father owns Universal Bakers chain in Hyderabad, India. The 23-year-old Sohrab is reportedly heading to the United Kingdom to pursue an MBA degree. Police said Ajay Singh Yadva was apprehended as he tried to barge into the tennis player’s house, apparently to profess his love. He was taken into custody when he refused to leave. Yadav’s arrest came a day after another student threatened to commit suicide if the engagement was not called off. Last month, the Andhra Pradesh state government found that a man had secured a white ration card showing Sania Mirza as his wife, complete with photos of the tennis star. White ration cards are meant for people living below the poverty line. The 22-year-old Mirza became the first Indian woman to climb into the top 40 in the rankings. At one time, the Muslim player was assailed by conservative elements of the Indian community for competing in short skirts and sleeveless shirts.
Former junior Australian Open champion Brydan Klein has been banned from the game for six months for racially abusing South African Raven Klaasen during an ATP event in England last month. The 19-year-old Australian also will undergo a racial sensitivity course and was fined USD $10,000 by the ATP. Australian media said Klein called Klaasen a “kaffir” and spat at his coach and another player. Klein earlier had been fined USD $13,290 by Tennis Australia, which suspended him from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and cut off his funding grants. “I sincerely regret my error in judgment in using the language I did and I am deeply sorry for the offense caused,” Australian Associated Press (AAP) quoted Klein as saying in a statement. “I am accepting the ATP’s ruling and am now looking to put the whole incident behind me. I will undergo a racial sensitivity course and am determined to learn from this mistake.” The suspension covers all ATP World Tour and ATP Challenger Tour events. The final two months of the suspension and extra fine will be waived if Klein successfully completes the racial sensitivity training course.
Jelena Dokic’s ailment has been diagnosed as mononucleosis. The illness has plagued Dokic since the end of the French Open. Blood tests taken after she lost at Wimbledon revealed the illness. She was told by doctors to do nothing but rest for at least two weeks. “I am disappointed to have to pull out of a couple of events, but I am also relieved to finally know what was wrong,” said Dokic, who once was ranked as high as fifth in the world before dropping off the tour with personal problems. “It has been so frustrating since the French. My natural work ethic is to get on court and train hard with intensity. I just haven’t been able to do that, and until now I didn’t know why.”
Todd Woodbridge is Australia’s new Davis Cup coach. A 16-time doubles Grand Slam tournament champion, Woodbridge has been appointed national men’s and Davis Cup coach in an expanded full-time role. Tennis Australia made the move in an effort to reverse the country’s flagging fortunes in the competition, which they have won 28 times, second only to the United States. Woodbridge is Australia’s longest serving Davis Cup player and was a member of the 1999 and 2003 Davis Cup winning teams. The country currently has only one player ranked in the top 100 in the world, Lleyton Hewitt. It ended its 2009 campaign by forfeiting a regional group tie against India earlier this year, claiming security concerns on the sub-continent.
SOME HELP NEEDED
Being that tweeting while playing is against the rules, Justin Gimelstob needed help to tweet during his doubles match at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island. Gimelstob would write notes and give them to a ball girl who would run over to the side of the court where another person would post them on Gimelstob’s Twitter account. Some times he would mouth a few comments for the intern to post in between points. Most of the twittering was standard play-by-play recaps. “There’s so much competition for the entertainment dollar,” Gimelstob explained. “Fans want to know what goes on behind the scenes. Fans want to know what goes on in the players’ heads.”
The death of French tennis player Mathieu Montcourt has been attributed to cardiac arrest. Montcourt, who had just begun a five-week ban from tennis for gambling on other players’ matches, was found outside his apartment in Paris after he spent the evening at the home of Patrice Dominguez, technical director of the French Tennis Federation. Ranked 119th in the world, Montcourt was cleared of influencing the outcome of any of the matches he had bet on. He also had been fined USD $12,000 for the offense, which he called ridiculous since he had only bet a total of USD $192.
NH Hoteles has extended its sponsorship of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas for an additional three years. Originally a Spanish brand, NH Hoteles has grown to 348 hotels in 22 countries in Europe, Africa and the Americas. The International Tennis Federation (ITF), in making the announcement, noted that since NH Hoteles joined the Davis Cup family in 2004 as an international sponsor it has added 106 hotel properties to its portfolio.
Newport: Rajeev Ram and Jordan Kerr beat Michael Kohlmann and Rogier Wassen 6-7 (6) 7-6 (7) 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Bastad: Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta beat Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-2 0-6 10-5 (match tiebreak)
Budapest: Alisa Kleybanova and Monica Niculescu beat Alona Bondarenko and Kateryna Bondarenko 6-4 7-6 (5)
Biarritz: Yung-Jan Chan and Anastasia Rodionova beat Akgul Amanmuradova and Darya Kustova 3-6 6-4 10-7 (match tiebreak)
SITES TO SURF
Bad Gastein: www.matchmaker.at/gastein/
Los Angeles: www.latennisopen.com/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$600,000 Catella Swedish Open, Bastad, Sweden, clay
$600,000 Mercedes Cup, Stuttgart, Germany, clay
$125,000 Bogota, Columbia, clay
$220,000 Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo, Palermo, Italy, clay
$220,000 ECM Prague Open, Prague, Czech Republic, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$1,500,000 Bet-at-Home Open, Hamburg, Germany, clay
$600,000 Indianapolis Tennis Championships, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, hard
$220,000 Banka Koper Slovenia Open, Portoroz, Slovenia, hard
$220,000 Gastein Ladies, Bad Gastein, Austria, clay
Marion Bartoli beat Li Na 6-4 6-3 to win the Monterrey Open in Monterrey, Mexico
Lukas Rosol beat Benedikt Dorsch 6-4 4-6 7-6 (3) to win the Internazionali di Bergamo in Bergamo, Italy
Argentina beat Netherlands 5-0 at Buenos Aires, Argentina
Czech Republic beat France 3-2 at Ostrava, Czech Republic
United States beat. Switzerland 4-1 at Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Croatia beat Chile 5-0 at Porec, Croatia
Israel beat Sweden 3-2 at Malmo, Sweden
Russia beat Romania 4-1 at Sibiu, Romania
Germany beat Austria 3-2 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Spain beat Serbia 4-1 at Benidorm, Spain
Americas Zone Group I (First Round)
Colombia beat Uruguay 5-0, Ecuador beat Canada 3-2
Americas Zone Group II (First Round)
Mexico beat Jamaica 5-0, Venezuela beat Netherlands Antilles 4-1, Dominican Republic beat Guatemala 5-0, Bahamas at Paraguay
Asia/Oceania Zone Group I (Second Round)
Australia beat Thailand 3-2, India beat Chinese Taipei 3-2, Japan beat China 5-0, Uzbekistan beat Korea 4-1
Asia/Oceania Zone Group II (First Round)
Philippines beat Hong Kong China 4-1, Pakistan beat Oman 4-1, Indonesia beat Kuwait 3-2, New Zealand beat Malaysia 5-0
Europe/Africa Zone Group I (First Round)
South Africa beat Macedonia 5-0
Europe/Africa Zone Group I (Second Round)
Italy beat Slovak Republic 4-1, Ukraine beat Great Britain 4-1, Belgium beat Poland 4-1
Europe/Africa Zone Group II (First Round)
Lithuania beat Georgia 3-2, Slovenia beat Egypt 5-0, Latvia beat Moldova 5-0, Bulgaria beat Hungary 3-2, Finland beat Denmark 3-2, Monaco beat Montenegro 5-0, Ireland beat Algeria 4-1, Cyprus beat Portugal 3-2
“Perhaps tennis.” – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown suggested after telling Barack Obama he couldn’t compete with the American president in basketball. “I hear you’ve got a game,” Obama replied.
“I want to play the best possible but it couldn’t be today. I couldn’t break his rhythm on this surface.” – Novak Djokovic, playing on clay for the first time since Roland Garros and losing to David Ferrer in the opening Davis Cup match between Serbia and Spain.
“I think it was a wrong decision. I think it maybe can open the door for other countries to make a stupid decision like this one. I think it’s going to be very bad to play without a crowd.” – Israel’s Andy Ram, about the decision to play the Sweden-Israel Davis Cup tie in an empty stadium.
“We are here to play tennis. We are not here to talk about politics or to talk about terror.” -Harel Levy, another member of Israel’s four-man Davis Cup team.
“When you play Davis Cup on home turf you want a full house, and we think it’s too bad that there won’t be.” – Thomas Johansson, Swedish Davis Cupper.
“Yesterday’s doubles poured a lot of power and confidence into my veins.” – Radek Stepanek, who beat Gilles Simon to clinch the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup victory over France.
“It’s probably the worst experience of my life right now ever playing a tennis match. I had two match points in the tiebreak, I had the match in my hands. I wanted to win so badly and that’s why it hurts so much.” – Frank Dancevic, who could have given Canada a victory over Ecuador if he had won.
“Billie Jean King has done so much for the game. She’s really a true legend in the sport. I think this is a really great tribute to her.” – Jelena Jankovic, who participated in a four-player “Tennis Night in America” exhibition in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Following the attack in Pakistan on Sri Lanka’s cricket team, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) canceled a junior tennis tournament scheduled for this month in Karachi, Pakistan. Most of the players signed up for the amateur tournament were between the ages of 13 and 18 and came from Pakistan, but others were from the region, including Thailand, India, Hong Kong and Singapore. Luca Santilli, the ITF manager of junior tennis, said the attack that killed six police officers and injured seven Sri Lankan players was not the only factor in postponing the tournament.
Police fought with demonstrators outside the stadium where the Sweden and Israel were playing Davis Cup. Dozens of anti-Israeli protestors tried to storm the 4,000-seat Baltic Hall in Malmo, Sweden, after about 7,000 people gathered at a downtown square to hear speeches condemning Israel’s offensive in Gaza and urging support for Palestinians. The players found out about the melee after Sweden’s Simon Aspelin and Robert Lindstedt beat Israel’s Andy Ram and Amir Hadad. Ram, who earlier in the week called the decision by Malmo officials to bar the public from the Davis Cup competition “stupid,” praised police after the demonstration. “We knew there were going to be a few thousand people screaming out there,” Ram said. “Inside here we didn’t feel anything. The police did a good job.” Israel advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1987. It was the second time a Davis Cup series was played without fans in Sweden. In 1975, two years after a military coup in Chile led by Augusto Pinochet, Sweden played Chile in an empty stadium in Bastad.
Defending champion Spain’s first-round World Group Davis Cup tie against Serbia was pushed back a day because of strong winds that damaged the stadium in Benidorm, Spain. Gusts up to 60 miles per hour (90 kph) blew off some of the rows of the stands and affected the stability of the 16,000-seat temporary stadium, according to International Tennis Federation (ITF) referee Soren Frienel. When the winds died down, it was Spain that roared, beating Serbia 4-1.
Organizers of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships say they will appeal the USD $300,000 fine imposed on them by the WTA Tour after Israeli Shahar Peer was barred from playing in the women’s tournament. Dubai Duty Free (DDF), the tournament sponsors, say they are will challenge the WTA Tour’s threat to withdraw the sanction of the tournament if all players are not allowed entry into the United Arab Emigrates in the future. Colm McLoughlin, managing director of DDF, said that despite the differences, “In my opinion there is no danger that the tournament will be pulled.”
SECOND TO NICKY
Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes won their doubles match against Chinese Taipei, defeating Yang Tsung-Hua and Yi Chu-Huan 6-4 7-6 (0) 6-7 (2) 6-2. It was the Indian duo’s 23rd consecutive doubles victory in Davis Cup play, extending their record streak. Paes has posted 36 doubles victories, second in Davis Cup history only to Nicola “Nicky” Pietrangeli of Italy, who was on the winning doubles team 42 times.
When twins Bob and Mike Bryan beat Stanislas Wawrinka and Yves Allegro, they became the winningest United States Davis Cup team in history, increasing their record to 15-2. The pair moved past the pairings of John McEnroe and Peter Fleming, who finished with a 14-1 mark, as well as Wilmer Allison and John Van Ryn who posted a 14-2 record by the time they played their last Davis Cup matches in 1936. “We’re just plugging away,” Bob Bryan said. “I truly didn’t know that we were playing for the record at all. It’s great to look at when you retire. When you’re in the heat of the moment, still in the battle, you just want to keep trying to get better and look for ways to improve.”
Women’s tennis returned to New York’s Madison Square Garden after a nine-year absence with what is turning into the usual suspects in a title match: Serena Williams beat her older sister Venus 6-4 6-3 after both won one-set matches against Serbia’s top two players, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic. Venus and Serena have won the last three Grand Slam tournament titles between them. The crowd of 12,026 was clearly on hand to see the Williams sisters, and many of the fans filed out after Serena won the first set of the championship. Before the final, former President Bill Clinton, figure skaters Sarah Hughes and Nancy Kerrigan and race car driver Janet Guthrie participated in a tribute to Billie Jean King, who founded the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973. “She has probably done more than any other woman in the world to empower women and educate men,” Clinton said.
In a measure to battle the effects of the global economic crisis, the ATP is returning around USD $3 million in fees to tournaments around the world. “In these difficult times the ATP has decided to give the tournaments a reduction in tournament fees to help them financially,” a spokesman for the ATP said. The spokesman said the fee reductions would come from ATP resources and would not affect the prize money awarded by the tournaments. A spokesman for the WTA said the women’s tour would not be making similar reductions as it was in a healthy position financially.
Andre Agassi is returning to competitive tournament tennis with his old gang. Agassi will participate in the Outback Champions Series event at Surprise, Arizona, in October. The Outback Champions tour is for players 30 years old and older. Agassi, who will soon turn 39, won eight major singles titles before retiring after the 2006 US Open.
SPONSOR FOR DAVIS CUP
Telefonica has become the official telecommunications sponsor of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The multi-year agreement began with last week’s opening round of Davis Cup as eight World Group ties and 26 Zone Group ties were played in 34 nations. The Spanish company will provide telecommunications expertise at Davis Cup ties around the world and advise the ITF and its member nations on new ways to develop their internet properties. “In a world where technology is one of the true growth areas, we are delighted that Telefonica and its brands have joined Davis Cup,” said ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti.
Anna Kournikova says her recent trip to Haiti was “completely and devastatingly humbling.” Kournikova went to Haiti as part of an awareness-raising mission organized by PSI, a leading global health organization. “What shocked me about Haiti, where 70 percent of the population lives on less than (USD) $2 a day, was just the complete lack of basic human needs, and the amazing amount of disease and sickness that is so prevalent with the population,” Kournikova wrote in her blog. “It was so difficult to see those conditions with my own eyes.”
SUPPORTING A CAUSE
Several top players on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour have pitched in to help raise funds to rebuild areas in Australia that were affected by the recent bush fires. Players from around the world have sent messages of support and donated signed equipment, clothing and money toward aiding the fund-raising. Australian tennis stars Casey Dellacqua, Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs were joined by Daniela Hantuchova, Ana Ivanovic, Dinara Safina, Ai Sugiyama and Serena Williams, all of whom donated items that will be auctioned off to raise money for the Tennis Bushfire Relief Appeal. “Tennis is part and parcel of community life throughout Australia and the sport has a role to play in aiding the recovery of these fire-ravaged communities,” Geoff Pollard, an International Tennis Federation (ITF) vice president and president of Tennis Australia, and Tennis Victoria President David Stobart said in a statement.
Maria Sharapova will play doubles only at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California, according to TennisReporters.net. The web site says Sharapova’s right shoulder still gets fatigued after playing two-out-of-three-set matches for several days in a row and her doctors don’t think it’s a good idea for her to play singles in the next two weeks. The three-time Grand Slam tournament champion hasn’t played since the Canadian Open last August and underwent shoulder surgery in October. She hasn’t played doubles since 2005. At Indian Wells, she will play with fellow Russian Elena Vesnina.
SERGEI’S THE MAN
The name was familiar when Ukraine’s Davis Cup doubles team bested Great Britain. But Sergei Bubka Jr. decided not to following in his father’s footsteps and instead he took up tennis. The younger Bubka and Sergiy Stakhovsky defeated Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins 6-4 3-6 6-3 5-7 6-4 and Ukraine went on to down Great Britain 4-1 in their Europe/Africa Group 1 zonal tie. The elder Bubka was a pole-vaulting great, won an Olympic gold medal and set world records almost every time he competed. But his 22-year-old son has played most of his tennis on the Challenger level and is ranked 269th in the world.
Lindsay Davenport is having a bit of problem getting rid of her house in the prestigious Emerald Bay neighborhood in Laguna Beach, California. The tennis star was asking USD $6,395,000 for her home, but the listing expired without any takers. The five-bedroom house was on the market for 183 days.
Monterrey: Nathalie Dechy and Mara Santangelo beat Iveta Benesova and Zahlavova Strycova 6-3 6-4
Bergamo: Karol Beck and Jaroslav Levinsky beat Chris Haggard and Pavel Vizner 7-6 (6) 6-4
SITES TO SURF
Indian Wells: www.bnpparibasopen.org
Rio de Janeiro: http://championsseriestennis.com/rio2009/
Los Cabos: www.championsseriestennis.com/cabo2009/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$4,500,000 BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, California, USA, hard
$4,500,000 BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, California, USA, hard
Rio Champions Cup, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$4,500,000 BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, California, USA, hard
$125,000 Bancolombia Open, Bogota, Colombia, clay
$125,000 BMW Tennis Championships, Sunrise, Florida, USA, hard
$125,000 Marrakech Challenger, Marrakech, Morocco, clay
$4,500,000 BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, California, USA, hard
The Del Mar Development Champions Cup, Los Cabos, Mexico