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THE YEAR THAT WAS: 2009 IN REVIEW

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.

Comebacks:

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.

Israeli Tennis:

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

Death And Federer’s Vienna

Roger Federer

This week, the ATP World Tour visits Vienna, Austria for the Vienna Trophy championships. While Roger Federer is not in the field this week, the event has been very important to him. Vienna was the site of Roger Federer’s first ever ATP World Tour semifinal back in 1999 when as an 18-year-old, he defeated Vince Spadea, Jiri Novak and Karol Kucera before losing to Greg Rusedski. In 2002, Federer won a very emotional final against Novak 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 to win his first tournament since the death of his childhood coach Peter Carter. In 2003, his last visit to the event, Federer won the title over Carlos Moya for his 10th career ATP World Tour final. Fittingly, Federer dedicated the 2002 tournament victory to Carter. “I dedicate this title to him,” he said with glistening eyes at the award ceremony, wrote Rene Stauffer in the book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com). Stauffer re-counts the death of Carter and the emotional toll it took on Federer in this exclusive book excerpt below.

South Africa was always a special place for Roger Federer. He held a South African passport since birth and became endeared to his mother’s native country. He routinely traveled there with his family when he was little. “South Africa is a haven for him away from the world of tennis to find fresh inspira­tion,” his mother explained once. “It has a certain openness to it. You grow up with a lot of space in South Africa, which is something different compared to the narrowness of a mountain landscape. South Africans are more open, less complicated. Roger had taken on these characteristics.”

Meanwhile, Federer acquired a valuable piece of property along the pic­turesque Garden Route on the western coast of South Africa at the luxurious Pezula Resort. After the exhausting 2000 season, Federer vacationed in South Africa, where he went on safari with his godfather, Arthur Dubach, a work colleague of Federer’s father during his work days in South Africa. They even experienced a rare site for tourists—a group of leopards killing and eating a gazelle.

In the early afternoon on August 2, 2002, the announcement came over the Swiss news agency Sportinformation—“Davis Cup Captain Carter Killed In Car Crash.” According to the story, the accident occurred in South Africa where he was vacationing with his wife Silvia. There was no further informa­tion. The bad news was then updated with the report that a second man died in the accident.

What really transpired during this belated honeymoon between Peter and his wife was not immediately known. Carter was driving in a Land Rover in the vicinity of the Krueger National Park on August 1, Switzerland’s national holiday. The accident occurred in the Phalaborwa area, about 450 km north of Johannesburg. The vehicle where Carter was a passenger and which friends and his wife were apparently following, was reported to have gone out of control due to a defective tire. The car then crashed into a river bed and rolled over.

The news reports were contradictory. At first, it was announced that Carter died in the evening and later that both passengers were killed instantly. According to initial reports, it was Carter who was driving at the wheel. Later, it was reported that a friend of Carter’s was driving the car and later that a native South African was behind the wheel. The Limpopo police spokesperson in South Africa then issued the statement: “Carter and the driver, a South African, were killed instantly when the roof of their vehicle was crushed in.”

Silvia Carter explained what really happened. “My husband was in the car with a very good friend of ours. We were driving ahead of them and they were following behind us. The vehicle did not have a defective tire. Our friend had to swerve to avoid a minibus that was heading directly at them. Such risky passing maneuvers are unfortunately a daily occurrence in South Africa. In order to avoid a frontal collision, he pulled off onto the ‘accident lane.’ The fateful thing was that a bridge was coming and they had to pull back onto the tarred lane. The speed as well as the difference in surfaces—the natural surface and the tarred surface—that the wheels had to deal with spun the Land Rover. It broke through the bridge railing and landed about three meters below on its roof.”

Federer received the shocking news courtside at the Tennis Masters Series event in Toronto. He was never so upset in his life. Carter was a good friend and the most important coach in his career.

Although Federer lost already in the first round in Toronto, but was still playing in the doubles tournament partnering with Wayne Ferreira, ironical­ly, a South African. The mood was grim for the third-round doubles match, which Federer and Ferreira lost to Joshua Eagle and Sandon Stolle. Federer played the match wearing a black armband in honor of Carter. His eyes were red. He nonetheless announced after the doubles loss that he was prepared to give an interview. “We spent a lot of time together, since I was a boy,” Federer said of his relationship with Carter. “I saw him everyday when I was a boy. It’s terrible…He died so young and unexpectedly.” Federer said that the two always had a connection and they were born under the same Zodiac sign—he was born on August 8, the coach one day later. “Peter was very calm but he was also funny with a typical Australian sense of humor. I can never thank him enough for everything that he gave to me. Thanks to him I have my entire technique and coolness.”

Carter watched Federer play for the first time when Roger was a kid in the 1990’s and exuberantly told his parents in the Barossa Valley in Australia that he had discovered a gigantic talent who could go a long way. He worked with him for all but two years until 2000 and led him to his storied success in the world junior ranks as well as to a top 50 world ranking. After Federer chose Lundgren as his private coach, Carter remained a coach with the Swiss Tennis Federation and took up responsibilities in promoting new talent in men’s tennis. He married Silvia von Arx from Basel in May of 2001.

Carter was the players’ favored choice as Davis Cup team captain for a long time. However, when his wife suffered from lymph node cancer, Carter put his coaching duties on hold until Silvia’s recovery was certain. Since Carter was not a Swiss citizen with a Swiss passport, he was not permitted, as Davis Cup captain, to sit with the players on the court or assume the role as the “official” Davis Cup captain. However, the International Tennis Federation, agreed to recognize him as a Swiss citizen and as the official Davis Cup cap­tain as soon as he acquired a resident permit, which he was scheduled to receive in September of 2003. Carter led the team only once, in February of 2002 in Moscow.

Federer left Toronto for Cincinnati where, like in Paris, Wimbledon and Toronto, he lost in the first round. He couldn’t concentrate. He no longer had confidence in his game and tennis was no longer fun. His thoughts were with Peter Carter. “When something like this happens,” he said, “you see how really unimportant tennis is.” He pulled the emergency brake. He withdrew from the doubles event in Cincinnati and pulled out of the next week’s event in Washington, D.C., and flew home to Switzerland.

The funeral took place on August 14, 2002 on a warm summer’s day in the Leonhard Church in Basel. About 200 people were in attendance to bid farewell, among them many familiar faces in the tennis world. Carter’s friend from his youth, Darren Cahill, who was now coaching Andre Agassi, was also present. The simple ceremony, accompanied by music, was conducted by the same clergyman who married the Carters a year before. Silvia Carter gave a brief, touching speech, as did a friend who came from Australia, Davis Cup physiotherapist Caius Schmid and Christine Ungricht, the President of Swiss Tennis. “He was such a great person,” she said. “Why him? Why does it always happen to the best?”

Federer’s parents were also inconsolable. Carter formed a link to their son over the years. He informed them about everything concerning Roger when they were traveling together. “It was the first death Roger had to deal with and it was a deep shock for him,” his mother said. “But it has also made him stronger.”

Federer left the church with a sense of grief that he never before experienced in his life. “Any defeat in tennis is nothing compared to such a moment,” he explained weeks afterwards. “I usually try and avoid sad events like this. It was the first time that I’d been to a funeral. I can’t say that it did me good but I was close to him in thought once again and I could say goodbye in a dignified setting. I feel somewhat better now, especially in matters concerning tennis.”

Mondays With Bob Greene: I’m Recharged

Caroline Wozniacki

STARS

Caroline Wozniacki beat Elena Vesnina 6-2 6-4 to win the women’s singles at the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, USA

Fernando Verdasco beat Sam Querrey 6-4 7-6 (6) to win the Pilot Pen men’s singles in New Haven

Tatjana Malek won the EmblemHealth Bronx Open, beating Kristina Barrois 6-1 6-4 in The Bronx, New York, USA

SAYING

“Now it’s my time. It’s my turn to win some tournaments. I just feel I’ve had a great year. I’m so happy that it’s my name coming up a lot of times now.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after successfully defending her Pilot Pen Tennis women’s singles championship.

“I never got a chance to go back there to defend my title in 2006 because I was injured with my left wrist and then pregnant in 2007. So while this does feel like a new beginning, I am looking forward to walking through those gates again for the first time in four years.” – Kim Clijsters, who won the US Open in her last appearance at the year’s final Grand Slam tournament.

“I am number three in the world, and the number three in the world should have a chance to win, no?” – Rafael Nadal, on his chances to win the US Open.

“I have to take it as a positive that I will have more time to get ready for the Open. It’s been a really busy summer for me so I’ll just take advantage of these (early losses) and keep training and preparing for the Open.” – Venus Williams, talking about early exits from her last two tournaments.

“I’m recharged. I know I can play and move well and compete with the top players as good as I was, if not better. The US Open is my main goal.” – Jelena Jankovic.

“With every tournament I feel physically I’m getting better and getting a good sense of the court, but it’s still a work in progress. I’d like to forget I was gone for a long time but you have to put things in perspective.” – Maria Sharapova, noting her chances of winning the US Open this year are slim.

“This year I equaled my best result in Australia (last 16), did two rounds better than I ever did at the French (quarterfinals) and got further than I have done at Wimbledon (semifinals). So now the slam is the last thing I need to do. I believe that I can do it.” – Andy Murray, saying he’s one of the favorites to win the US Open.

“Andy’s not under the radar anymore and that’s probably a good thing. Now that the expectations are there I think he’s ready to handle it. He is definitely one of the six guys capable of winning.” – Brad Gilbert, speaking about Andy Roddick.

“One of the important things he has over everyone, and he has it more than any other player I’ve seen since (Jimmy) Connors, is his love for the sport. Real love. He loves to be out there, to be around tennis, everything about it.” – John McEnroe, talking about Roger Federer.

“I’ve never had a normal life, so I don’t know what a normal life means.” – Fabrice Santoro, who, playing in his 20th season on tour, will retire after the US Open.

“I just look to be prepared for the Open. This is my first important thing for me is to just get there and be prepared for a fight.” – Flavia Pennetta.

“I think I’ve learned, especially in the last year, that it’s a lot simpler than I realized, playing professional tennis. There are no secrets. You got to do what you do well and you have to bring that to the table every day.” – Rajeev Ram, who won his first ATP Tour title earlier this summer…

“I don’t think I am going to do anything special because it is my last Grand Slam. I am not planning it. But you never know what can happen. I know I am not going to win, there is no chance. So we will just see.” – Marat Safin, the 2000 US Open champion who will retire at the end of this year.

“For the next year or so I’m not going to put any pressure on myself. I just want to stay healthy and enjoy my tennis.” – Katarina Srebotnik, whose US Open appearance is her first tournament in 10 months because of injuries.

“She was just playing with me like a pussy cat, one corner to other corner. In the second set I started to be more aggressive and I started serving a lot better.” – Elena Vesnina, after her three-set semifinal win over Amelie Mauresmo in New Haven.

“I elected to go with disaster control and the high powder-puff. Everyone asks did you bounce it. I just threw it over the catcher.” – Andy Roddick, talking about throwing out the first pitch at a New York Yankees baseball game.

“I contemplated things like whether I would be able to accept myself for not being on the level that I was in my teens, twenties, and when I was 25; whether I would be able to accept losing, moreover be able to accept a losing streak. I did spend a lot of time contemplating about this. Yet, after I made my decision to be back on court again and challenge myself, I haven’t really thought about it.” – Kimiko Date Krumm, who returned to the WTA Tour after a 12-year retirement.

“It makes for something special. You sit in the players’ lounge and you wait. It doesn’t rain so often here so I don’t think they should change anything.” – Dinara Safina, saying she thinks something might be lost if a roof is installed over Arthur Ashe Stadium and there were no rain delays to sit though.

“I’ve peeked at the draw and seen where some of the qualifying spots are. I’d love to play a Federer or Nadal or a Roddick. We’ll see. I just want to play in there.” – Michael Yani, who at age 28 qualified for his first US Open, pointing at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

S’WONDERFUL

Twice Andre Agassi closed out the US Open by winning the men’s singles. This year, he is the headliner on opening day, being honored for “giving back.” In 1994, the year he won his first US Open title, Agassi established the Andre Agassi Foundation, which is dedicated to transforming public education in Las Vegas, Nevada. As part of the Opening Night celebration, the USTA is recognizing the 40th anniversary of the National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL), which was founded in 1969 by Arthur Ashe, Charlie Pasarell and Sheridan Snyder as a network of community tennis organizations seeking to develop the character of young people through tennis and education. Besides Agassi, others honored on opening night include Mia Hamm, David Robinson and Doug Flutie.

Andre Agassi’s autobiography, “Open,” will be published in November. The eight-time Grand Slam singles champion writes about his start in tennis, his relationship with his father and his failed marriage to actress Brooke Shields.

SAM THE MAN

There could be a USD one million dollar payday in Sam Querrey’s future. By winning the US Open Series, the American has a chance to earn a bonus of between USD $15,000 and $1 million, according to how he finishes in the US Open. Querrey reached the final of the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, before falling to Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-4 7-6 (8).

SHHHHH!!

The US Open wants players and their entourages to be careful about what they post on the social networking site Twitter. Signs at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center warn that Twitter messages could violate the sport’s anti-corruption rules. The signs say tweeting is not allowed on court during matches and warns about using Twitter away from the court, saying information about players, weather, court conditions, status, outcome or any other aspect of an event could be determined as the passing of “inside information.” The warnings say they apply to players, coaches, agents, family members and tournament staff.

SEMFINAL SWITCH

Because of tropical storm Denney, the semifinals of the Pilot Pen tournament in New Haven, Connecticut, were moved indoors. After waiting in vain most of Friday for the steady rain to cease, the women’s semis were switched from a 13,000-seat stadium to an indoor college court where only 300 fans were able to be squeezed into the building and leaned over a balcony that overlooked the court or stood on adjacent courts. There, Caroline Wozniacki beat Flavia Pennetta and Elena Vesnina downed Amelie Mauresmo. The men’s semis followed suit Saturday morning, with Sam Querrey stopping Jose Acasuso and Fernando Verdasco defeating Igor Andreev. Both finals were played outdoors late Saturday as the storm finally subsided and the hard courts were dried.

SITTING IT OUT

Dominika Cibulkova won’t be able to match her French Open performance at this year’s final Grand Slam tournament. The semifinalist at Roland Garros pulled out of the US Open because of a rib injury. Her withdrawal allowed Alberta Brianti of Italy to move into the main draw, while Agnes Szavay becomes the number 32 seeded player.

SORE BUT THERE

Several players are nursing injuries as they begin their US Open run. Marion Bartoli retired from her match at the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, because of a left thigh strain. A hand injury forced Agnieszka Radwanska to retire before the third set of her match in New Haven. And Nikolay Davydenko needed a doctor to look at his right wrist midway through his quarterfinal final loss to Sam Querrey in the Pilot Pen men’s singles. Davydenko said his wrist became sore from the force of Querrey’s serves hitting his racquet. Sabine Lisicki, who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, will play in the US Open.

India’s Sania Mirza received acupuncture treatment on her right wrist before heading to New York and the US Open. The 22-year-old underwent wrist surgery in April 2008, but the problem flared up again at the Beijing Olympics, forcing her to miss the last year’s US Open. She had reached the semifinals of a challenger event in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, when she again felt pain in her right wrist. So she flew home to Hyderabad, India, to get treatment. “I’m much better now, but not absolutely pain-free,” she said.

STARTING OVER

Katarina Srebotnik is making her comeback at the US Open. She was ranked as high as number 20 in the world in singles and number four in doubles, and had posted victories over Serena Williams at Roland Garros and Svetlana Kuznetsova at the US Open a year ago. But pain in her Achilles tendon and a shoulder injury forced her off the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour for 10 months. It’s called the luck of the draw, and for Srebotnik it’s bad luck. Her first-round opponent will be 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE?

Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic has denied deliberating taking a banned substance. The 25-year-old tested positive for a derivative of the banned stimulant pseudo ephedrine following a Davis Cup quarterfinal match against Argentina in July. “I have never consciously taken a banned substance,” said Minar, who is ranked 66th in the world. “This is why I rejected the accusation of doping in my reaction sent to the ITF.” Minar cited an injury when he withdrew from this year’s US Open.

SERENA, THE AUTHOR

Serena Williams says she is telling all in her autobiography, “Queen of the Court,” which is going on sale during the US Open. Serena says it was important for her to give an honest account of her life because she has not been as open as she should have been since the shooting death of her sister, Yetunde Price. She said that while she told the press injuries kept her from playing, she was also beset by depression because of a delayed reaction to Tunde’s death. Serena says three things got her out of her depression: seeing a therapist, going to Africa where she began a school, and winning the 2007 Australian Open over Maria Sharapova. “It opened up a lot of doors I left closed to the public and to myself,” Serena said of writing the book.

SENSITIVITY COURSE ALUMNI

Brydan Klein promises to be on his best behavior after completing a racial sensitivity course. The former Australian Open junior champion was banned for six months and fined USD $10,000 by the ATP after making a racial slur against a black South African player during a tournament in England in June. The 19-year-old Klein has a history of clashes with officials, having been suspended from the Australian Institute of Sport for repeated on-court misbehavior. Ranked 223rd in the world, Klein said he has apologized to fellow player Raven Klaasen for the slur. He also said he cannot afford to slip up again. “I’m definitely on my last warning,” he said. “This has been a step back for me and it hasn’t been a nice experience.”

STANDING TALL

John McEnroe has always been a big man in New York City, but this is ridiculous. A 100-foot high by 35-foot wide (30.48m by 15.24m) banner of McEnroe hangs on the side of Madison Square Garden promoting prostate cancer screening guidelines. McEnroe’s father was diagnosed with the illness in 2006 but is now doing well. Now 50 years old, the younger McEnroe says he knows many men his age are reluctant to get screened for cancer for the same reason they don’t like to ask for directions: they may view it as a sign of weakness.

SPOKESPEOPLE

Billie Jean King and actor Alec Baldwin will be the spokespeople for the expanded environmental initiatives at the National Tennis Center named in her honor. The two will join the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in encouraging US Open fans and others to help preserve the environment. Expanded 2009 initiatives will include a site-wide recycling effort placing more than 500 recycling receptacles across the 42 acres of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. There also will be on sale an exclusive organic t-shirt designed by two-time US Open champion Venus Williams.

STRONG VENUS

Venus Williams has been named to the first Power List of O, the Oprah Magazine. Selecting “20 remarkable visionaries who are flexing their muscles in business and finance, politics and justice, science and the arts,” the magazine picked Venus Williams as “The Power of Female Strength.” Noting her Grand Slam and Olympics medals as well as her voice in the lobbying effort to win equal prize money for female players, the magazine said: “Both on and off the court, Venus Williams embodies a perfect marriage of power and grace. In the singular artistry of her play, we see that beauty and brawn aren’t mutually exclusive.”

SUCCESS

The US Open logo – a flaming tennis ball – accounts for about 42 percent of all sales at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Sarah Cummins, the USTA’s managing director for merchandising, told Bloomberg News that clothing, hats and other gear bearing the US Open logo brought in almost USD $14 million during the two-week tournament last year.

SPIRITED CLOTHES

When James Blake debuts his new Fila line of clothes at the US Open, he will be thinking about his father. The logo on Blake’s new clothing is “TR,” and the line is called Thomas Reynolds, the first and middle names of his late father, who died in 2004. Fila will help capture the lessons instilled in James by his father through print ads and through hang tags on the line. While Blake will be wearing the clothes on a tennis court, there are plans for the Thomas Reynolds brand to be on golf, fitness and leisurewear as well. “I wanted to be part of something that wouldn’t necessarily have to always be tied to me and be more about the spirit that father embodied,” Blake said.

STEPPING DOWN

Following her third hip surgery, Jamea Jackson is retiring from the women’s tour and will become assistant tennis coach at Oklahoma State University. The 22-year-old from Lafayette, Louisiana, USA, will also be a student at OSU. Jackson was a member of the United States Fed Cup team.

STANDING FOR OFFICE

John Alexander’s new game is politics. The former tennis player and commentator has joined the Liberal Party and is running for a seat in the Australian parliament. Alexander is an advocate for preventive health and believes the decline of public tennis courts and other facilities in Australia has contributed to childhood obesity and health problems. He said he joined the Liberal Party at the invitation of a friend, who told him he would be more effective in securing change by trying to be part of a government. Ranked as high as eighth in the world, Alexander was the youngest player to represent Australia in Davis Cup. He played Davis Cup from 1968 to 1980 and has been captain of Australia’s Fed Cup team.

STEADY SHOW

The US National Championships, known since 1968 as the US Open Tennis Championships, is the second oldest of the four Grand Slam tournaments and is the only one to have been played each year since its inception in 1881. This is the 129th version of America’s premier tennis event and has been played on three different surfaces: grass, clay and hard court. The tournament has been held on hard court at Flushing Meadows since moving from Forest Hills in 1978. The only major sporting event in the United States older than the US Open is the Kentucky Derby, which began in 1875.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

New Haven (men): Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer beat Bruno Soares and Kevin Ullyett 6-4 7-6 (3)

New Haven (women): Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Iveta Benesova and Lucie Hradecka 6-2 7-5

The Bronx: Anna-Lena Groenfeld and Vania King beat Julie Coin and Marie-Eve Pelletier 6-0, 6-3

SITES TO SURF

US Open: www.usopen.org

Kim Clijsters: www.kimclijsters.be/

Roger Federer: www.rogerfederer.com/en/index.cfm

Rafael Nadal: www.rafaelnadal.com/nada/en/home

Serena Williams: www.serenawilliams.com/

Venus Williams: www.venuswilliams.com/

Andy Roddick: www.andyroddick.com

Andre Agassi Foundation: www.agassiopen.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

US Open (first week), New York, New York, USA, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

US Open (second week), New York, New York, USA, hard

ATP

$120,000 Genoa Open Challenger, Genoa, Italy, clay

USTA Launches New Programming And Fan Enhancements For 2009 US Open

Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf

FLUSHING, N.Y., August 20, 2009 – The USTA announced today a series of expanded fan enhancements and programming for the 2009 US Open. This year’s Opening Night ceremony will celebrate athletes who “give back” with a special appearance by Andre Agassi and other notable athletes.  Other on-court ceremonies during the tournament will pay tribute to Arthur Ashe and Pancho Gonzalez.  New features at the US Open this year include the recently opened USTA Indoor Training Center that will host an array of US Open activities, hundreds of hours of US Open programming on new cable broadcasters ESPN2 and Tennis Channel, and for the first time a live reveal show of the US Open Draw on ESPNews.

Other fan enhancements include the return of SmashZone, the premier interactive fan experience in tennis, and the return of wheelchair tennis to the US Open.  The USTA will host its first-ever Family Day at the US Open, with reserved family courtside seating in Louis Armstrong Stadium.  Also at the 2009 US Open, the country’s Best Tennis Town will be announced on-site, and the nighttime order of play will be reformatted so the men take the court before the women during some evening sessions.  Instant replay also has been added to the Grandstand, meaning the US Open will now feature the system on all three primary show courts.

The US Open Welcomes ESPN and Tennis Channel: ESPN2 will make its debut as the lead cable broadcaster for the US Open, providing approximately 100 hours of TV coverage and more than 260 hours of coverage on its signature broadband network ESPN360.com. The US Open also will have a major presence on ESPN, ESPN.com, ESPN International, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Mobile Properties. All action on televised courts will be presented in High Definition.  Tennis Channel will provide “round the clock” coverage of the US Open in 2009, with nearly 250 hours of planned total coverage.  In addition to live match coverage, Tennis Channel will bring fans up-to-speed with post-match highlight shows and next-day preview shows.

Special Opening Night Ceremony: A ceremony celebrating athletes who “give back” will feature two-time US Open champion Andre Agassi, soccer’s Mia Hamm, quarterback Doug Flutie and former San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson.  The special ceremony on Arthur Ashe Stadium court also will include an appearance by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and featuremusical performances by Grammy winner Rob Thomas and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The O’Jays.  The ceremony will be televised live on ESPN2.

Pancho Gonzalez Tribute: On Saturday night, September 5, special guests including actor Benjamin Bratt will host a tribute to former U.S. National Champion Pancho Gonzalez on-court in Arthur Ashe Stadium.  The tribute will celebrate Gonzalez on the 60th anniversary of his second consecutive victory at the U.S. Championships and will include a video presentation highlighting Gonzalez’ life and tennis career.  Gonzalez family members, as well as a number of former players and Hispanic community leaders, will be in attendance.

Arthur Ashe Court of Champions Induction: Arthur Ashe will be inducted into the US Open Court of Champions in a ceremony held Thursday evening, September 10.  In 1968, Ashe won the first US Open of the Open Era.  An amateur at the time, Ashe became the first African-American man to win the US Open.

25th Anniversary of Super Saturday: On Saturday, September 12, the USTA pays tribute to the first official “Super Saturday,” which took place 25 years ago.  The US Open stands alone among the four majors by packaging the Men’s Singles Semifinals and the Women’s Singles Final on the second-to-last day (and evening) of the event.  The first Super Saturday was the biggest blockbuster of them all, featuring some of the greatest names in tennis—including Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, and Martina Navratilova—with all four matches on Center Court (including the men’s seniors match) going to the limit.

Live US Open Draw Reveal Show on ESPNews: For the first time ever, the US Open draw will be unveiled live from Bristol, Conn., airing uninterrupted on ESPNews from 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 27.  Defending champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams will join USTA President and Chairman of the Board Lucy Garvin for a viewing ceremony at The TimesCenter in Manhattan.  ESPN anchor Chris McKendry will host with Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez analyzing the draw.

Live Online Streaming: USOpen.org, the official website of the US Open, will offer the most extensive live streaming in the history of the event, airing all matches within the ESPN and Tennis Channel broadcast television windows. Streaming up to five matches simultaneously, US Open.org will make more than 150 matches available for free within the United States.  Live streaming also will integrate live match stats updates, fan commenting and picture-in-picture capabilities.

US Open Bracket Challenge: The 2009 US Open Bracket Challenge will make its debut, allowing fans to fill out the US Open brackets online to win prizes.  With separate competitions for the men’s and women’s singles draws, the participants compiling the most bracket points in each draw by the end of the tournament will win a trip to the 2010 US Open.  Prizes will be awarded to the second through 10th place finishers as well.  The challenge can be accessed at USOpen.org and will go live following the US Open draw unveiling ceremony, aired live on ESPNews on Thursday, August 27.

USTA Indoor Training Center: The new 245,000-square-foot indoor building near the East Gate is a state-of-the-art training facility that opened in November and will house the fan-friendly SmashZone, USTA Membership, the Heineken Light Lounge and other activities during the 2009 US Open.  Featuring 12 tennis courts, locker rooms, a fitness center and a full-service pro shop, the new building increases year-round access for tennis players to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the world’s largest public tennis facility.

Family Day: The US Open is holding its first-ever Family Day on Tuesday, September 1. Parents accompanied by children 14-and-under can sit together in reserved courtside seating in Louis Armstrong Stadium.  The day’s activities will feature contests, giveaways, special entertainment attractions and autograph sessions. An exclusive family breakfast, located in the Corporate Hospitality Pavilion in the Indoor Training Center, is also available as an add-on package with a previously purchased September 1 day session ticket.

SmashZone: The premier fan interactive attraction in tennis, SmashZone will return to the 2009 US Open after a three-year hiatus.  Located in the Indoor Training Center, the 20,000-square-foot interactive experience features the QuickStart Tennis play format (tennis scaled to size for kids) on two courts, as well as on “Center Court” where there will be revolving programming each day, including special guest appearances, games, contests and exhibitions. Other activities include a Fast Serve Cage, “American Express Challenge a Pro,” “The Training Zone,” a state-of-the-art electronic backboard, “You Call the Shots” where fans can become sports broadcasters, and tennis video games.

American Express “Challenge a Pro:” Using interactive GreenScreen technology, fans are invited to “virtually” play against tennis pros Sam Querrey or Caroline Wozniacki on-site at the US Open “SmashZone.”  A unique digital video is captured and then sent to the participant via text, MMS or email, which can also be shared with family and friends and posted to their social networks.

American Express “Rally Experience:” All tennis fans on-site will be able to take their passion for tennis into the gaming world by simultaneously engaging in a virtual tennis match using their mobile phone as a controller with pro players Shahar Peer and Gael Monfils.  American Express will donate $1 to the USTA Serves Foundation for every participant that plays throughout the US Open event, up to $10,000.  Players and Open attendees can watch as the number of participants is tracked along with the time of each play on a giant LED screen located in the heart of the Open.

Best TennisTown: On September 6, the much-anticipated winner of America’s Best Tennis Town will be announced on-court in Arthur Ashe Stadium.  Representatives from the finalist cities of Independence, Kan.,Midland, Mich., and Ojai, Calif., will attend the US Open, with the winner receiving $100,000 for tennis programs in its local area. The nationwide call required towns to self-nominate via application form and submit a five-minute video highlighting the community’s passion for tennis. Ten cities were chosen as semifinalists and then voted on by the general public.

Kids Nightly Anthems: An instant tradition from the past two US Opens, children selected from auditions at the US Open Casting Call held at Radio City Music Hall in early June will perform in Arthur Ashe Stadium.  Out of the 225 children who tried out, 15 were selected to perform. The performers hail from the New York metro area, Philadelphia,Florida, Tennessee, and New Jersey.  Two singers have performed in all three US Opens and two sisters from Brooklyn, N.Y., will take the stage together.

Record Prize Money: The 2009 US Open purse will top $21.6 million, marking the third consecutive year that the tournament’s prize money has increased by $1 million. Both the men’s and women’s US Open singles champions will earn a record $1.6 million with the ability to earn an additional $1 million in bonus prize money based on their performances in the Olympus US Open Series. The top three men’s and top three women’s finishers in the Olympus US Open Series will together earn up to an additional $2.6 million in bonus prize money and be crowned at the US Open, which provides a potential total payout of $24.2 million.

Instant Replay on Grandstand: The Chase Review electronic line calling system makes its debut on Grandstand, giving the US Open instant replay on all three primary show courts.  In 2006, the US Open became the first Grand Slam tournament to use electronic line calling technology, which serves as an officiating aid while increasing the excitement for in-stadium fans and TV viewers.

The Return of Wheelchair Tennis: Wheelchair tennis returns after a 2008 absence due to the Paralympic Games in Beijing. The world’s finest players will take to the courts, as eight men and eight women will compete in the Wheelchair Division in singles and doubles, while four players will take part in the Quad Division in singles and doubles (non-gender specific). Play starts on Thursday, September 10, and runs through Sunday, September 13, with a 33 percent increase in prize money over the 2007 competition. Rules of wheelchair tennis are the same as able-bodied tennis, except that the ball can bounce twice.

New Nighttime Play Format: Breaking the tradition of putting the men’s match in the second half of the nightly doubleheaders, in 2009 there will be a new gender-equality policy under the lights. This year, some evening sessions will start with a men’s match followed by a women’s match.

New Champions Invitational Format: The US Open Champions Invitational returns for its fourth year with a new design—players will compete in the popular World TeamTennis format.  Players will be divided into three four-person teams, with each team playing a total of two matches from Wednesday, September 9, to Saturday, September 12.  Each match consists of one set each of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.  As in past years, each of the players invited for 2009 is either a past Grand Slam singles champion or finalist.  This year’s invitees include Tracy Austin, Mary Joe Fernandez, Goran Ivanisevic, Hana Mandlikova, Todd Martin, Ilie Nastase, Stan Smith, Guillermo Vilas and Mal Washington, among others.  The team captains will be Pat Cash, Billie Jean King and Ivan Lendl.

Heineken Light Lounge: Adults are invited to visit the Heineken Light Lounge, located in the front of the Indoor Training Center.  Fans can relax and enjoy a Heineken in the lounge featuring the Heineken Wisdom Wall and the EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis game on the Nintendo Wii system.  Limited edition US Open-Heineken merchandise will be available.

US Open Gallery – International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum: Each year since 1999, the US Open Gallery features a display from the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum.  This year’s exhibit is themed, “The Grand Slam: Tennis’ Ultimate Achievement” and showcases the Grand Slam achievement in singles, doubles, mixed doubles and on the junior level.  The exhibit will display trophies, photos and artifacts from historic calendar-year Grand Slams, including Rod Laver’s in 1969, Steffi Graf’s in 1988, the doubles Slam of Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver in 1984, as well as Stefan Edberg’s junior Grand Slam in 1983.  The US Open Gallery is open daily and located in the southwest corner of Louis Armstrong Stadium.

US Open Tennis Auction: The US Open will host the first major tennis auction in North America, featuring a wide variety of tennis memorabilia including Bobby Riggs’ “Sugar Daddy” jacket from the historic 1973 Battle of the Sexes with Billie Jean King, trophies won by the legendary Bill Tilden and assorted racquets used by Jimmy Connors.  The auction, hosted by the prestigious Guernsey auction house, will take place on Friday, September 11, at 2:00 p.m. and Sunday, September 13, at 11:00 a.m. in the Indoor Training Center.  Bidding can take place in person or live at auctioneers.com and guernseys.com. A portion of the proceeds benefit USTA Serves, the philanthropic entity of the USTA.

Green Initiatives: The USTA is expanding its efforts this year at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in order to ensure that the US Open will register as little impact on the environment as possible.  The NTC grounds will feature 500 recycling bins and all paper products will be made with 30 percent post-consumer waste.  Hybrid vehicles will make up 52 percent of the Lexus player transportation fleet (up from 30 percent in 2008) and Constellation Energy, the US Open’s energy provider, will supply Renewable Energy Certificates to offset the US Open’s electricity consumption.  A reusable tote bag and organic T-shirts, including one designed by Venus Williams, will be sold on the grounds and a fan awareness campaign which includes player PSAs; an additional PSA from Alec Baldwin will run throughout the tournament.

Happy Birthday Roger Federer!

Happy Birthday Roger Federer!

Happy Birthday Roger Federer! The six-time Wimbledon champion – and new father – turns 28 Saturday, August 8 and will play his first tournament since his epic win over Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon final from July 5 this week in Montreal. Rene Stauffer, the author of the acclaimed Federer biography “The Roger Federer Story: Quest for Perfection” ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) takes a look at the time when Roger was only a glimmer in his parent’s eye and his very early years in this exclusive book excerpt entitled “From Kempton Park to Basel.”

The village of Berneck is situated in the northeastern corner of Switzerland in the St. Gall Rhine valley, where the Alpine foothills are kissed by the famed Foehn winds and the inhabitants speak a rough dialect of German. The people of this village feel a closer association to Austria and its Vorarlberg state—lo­cated just on the other side of the Rhine—than they do Switzerland’s major cities of Zurich, Bern or Geneva. A few kilometers to the north, the Rhine flows into Lake Constance, where the waters comprise the borders between Switzerland, Austria and Germany.

Roger’s father, Robert, grew up in Berneck as son of a textile worker and a housewife. At the age of 20, he left the area and followed the course of the Rhine and arrived in Basel, a border city in the triangle between Switzerland, Germany and France and where the Rhine forms a knee joint and flows north out of the country. Basel is where some of the world’s most important chemical companies are headquartered and Robert Federer, a young chemi­cal laboratory worker, found his first job at Ciba, one of the world’s leading chemical companies.

After four years in Basel, Robert Federer was seized by wanderlust, and in 1970, he decided to emigrate and pull up stakes from Switzerland. It was a coincidence that he chose South Africa, but also due to formalities. Among other things, he could get an emigration visa with relative ease in the country dominated by Apartheid. It was also a coincidence that he found a new job with the same employer he had in Switzerland, Ciba. The chemical company, along with several other foreign companies, was located in Kempton Park, an extended suburb of Johannesburg near the international airport.

It was in Kempton Park where he met Lynette Durand, who came to work for Ciba as a secretary. Afrikaan was the spoken language on her family’s farm—she had three siblings; her father was a foreman and her mother was a nurse—but Lynette went to an English school and her intention was to save money as quickly as possible and to travel to Europe. She preferred England, where her father was stationed during World War II.

Robert Federer is a modest and unpretentious man who usually remains in the background. He prefers to observe and listen quietly and then to steer things in the direction desired. He is small of stature with a prominent nose and he has a distinct mustache. He is athletic, strong, quick-witted, funny, cosmopolitan and easy-going. Nothing characterizes him better than his ringing laughter that draws his eyes into narrow slits and raises his bushy eye­brows. Despite his affability, he knows how to defend himself when crossed. He is realistic but decisive. A female portrait painter once described him as being “caustic, having the bite of a bear.”

Lynette, the charming 18-year-old secretary with the piercing eyes, in­stantly made a favorable impression on Robert Federer when he saw her in the company cafeteria in 1970. They met and eventually became a couple. Robert took Lynette to the Swiss Club in Johannesburg to introduce her to his new hobby—tennis. The young woman, who used to play field hockey, was instantly enthused about the sport and began to play regularly. The couple had a wonderful time in South Africa—Apartheid hardly affected them.

Robert Federer cannot really explain why they moved to Switzerland in 1973. “You had this feeling of being a migratory bird,” he said. Back in Basel, he often asked himself why they didn’t stay in Africa, especially because his consort admitted to having difficulty with the confines of Switzerland and the narrow mentality of its people. “But one learned quickly to adjust,” she said. The couple married and a daughter, Diana, was born in 1979. Twenty-months later, Lynette Federer then bore a son, on the morning of August 8, 1981 in Basel’s canton hospital. He was named Roger because it could also be pronounced easily in English. Roger’s parents, even in the first hours of his life, felt that one day it could be beneficial for their son to have a name that was easy to pronounce in English.

The name Federer was already familiar in Berneck before 1800, but it is ac­tually an extremely uncommon clan name in Switzerland. The most famous Federer up to that point was Heinrich Federer, a priest turned poet who died in 1928. In 1966, on his 100th birthday, he was immortalized on a Swiss postage stamp.

In the 1970s, the Ciba Company that Robert and Lynette Federer continued to work for in Switzerland sponsored a tennis club in Allschwil, a suburb of Basel, and the Federer family soon became regular players. Lynette displayed a great talent for the sport with her greatest triumph coming when she was a member of the Swiss Inter-club senior championship team in 1995. She loved tennis so much that she soon became a junior tennis coach at the club. She later became involved in the tournament organization at the Swiss Indoors, the ATP tournament in Basel, working in the credential office.

Robert Federer was also a committed tennis enthusiast and was a region­ally-ranked player. He and his wife would later more frequently hit the golf course, but at the time, tennis still came first. Lynette often took her son to the tennis courts. Young Roger was fascinated by balls at a very young age. “He wanted to play ball for hours on end—even at one-and-a-half years old,” his mother recollected. His skill was plainly apparent: He could hardly walk but he managed to catch larger balls. Little Roger hit his first tennis ball over the net at three-and-a-half years old. At four, he could already hit twenty or thirty balls in a row. “He was unbelievably coordinated,” his father gushed.

The Federer family was neither rich nor poor, just solid Swiss middle class. Roger grew up in a townhouse with a yard in a quiet neighborhood in Wasserhaus in Münchenstein, a suburb of Basel. Impulsive and ambitious, he was not an easy child. “Defeats were total disasters for him, even at board games,” his father remembered. He was “a nice guy” in general “but when he didn’t like something, he could get pretty aggressive.” Dice and game board pieces sometimes flew through the living room.

Even as a little boy, his mother said, he always did as he pleased and at­tempted to push limits, whether it involved teachers at school or his parents at home or with sports. “He was very vibrant, a bundle of energy, and was sometimes very difficult,” said Lynette. When forced to do something he didn’t like, Roger reacted strongly. When bored, he questioned it or ignored it. When his father gave him instruction on the tennis court, Roger would not even look at him.

Roger was a popular boy, always friendly, not arrogant, well-behaved—and very athletic. He tried skiing, wrestling, swimming and skateboarding but it was sports that involved balls that especially fascinated him. He played soccer, handball, basketball, table tennis, tennis and, at home, he even played badminton over the neighbor’s fence. He always had a ball with him, even on the way to school. One of his idols was Michael Jordan of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. He was outdoors every free minute he could mus­ter. Work in the classroom that required concentration and sitting still wasn’t his thing. He was not an ambitious student at school and his grades were mediocre.

Robert and Lynette were the ideal parents for a sports fanatic like Roger. They let him run free when he wanted to but didn’t force him. “He had to keep moving, otherwise he became unbearable,” Lynette said. She and her husband emphasized taking up various kinds of sports. They took him to a local soccer club called Concordia Basel at an early age so that he would learn to interact with teammates and become a team player.

His mother, however, declined giving her son tennis lessons. “I considered myself not to be competent enough and he would have just upset me anyway,” she said. “He was very playful. He tried out every strange stroke and certainly never returned a ball normally. That is simply no fun for a mother.”

For hours, Roger hit tennis balls against a wall, a garage door, in his room against a wall or even against the cupboard in the house. Pictures and dishes were not safe and his sister’s room wasn’t spared either. “Things would some­times break,” Roger admits today. Diana didn’t have an easy time with her brother and was forced to put up with the antics of her rambunctious younger brother. “He would always come around shouting when I was with my friends or he would pick up the receiver when I was on the phone,” Diana said. “He really was a little devil.”

As is the case for siblings of the highly-talented, it wasn’t easy for Diana to stand in her brother’s shadow. Whenever the family went out together, Roger became more and more frequently the center of attention. Lynette took her aside once: “Diana, it’s no different for you than for your mother,” she told her daughter. “Many people talk to me but the topic is always your brother.”

Diana, an aspiring nurse, only occasionally watched her brother’s matches. For example, at the 2005 Masters Cup in Shanghai, she and her mother left the stadium in mid-match to go on a vacation to South Africa. Diana is proud of her brother but prefers not being in the limelight and doesn’t assiduously follow every detail of his career. For example, when she watched Roger play Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic at the Swiss Indoors in Basel in 2005, she had no idea that Berdych had surprisingly defeated her brother at the Athens Olympics one year earlier, dashing his dreams of an Olympic medal.

Newport Beach Breakers Clinch Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League Playoff Berth With 21-20 Supertiebreaker Win Over Rival Sacramento At Breakers Stadium At Newport Beach Country Club

World Team Tennis

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., July 19, 2009 – The toughest games to win in tennis are typically the ones that close out a match or, in Sunday’s instance with respect to the Newport Beach Breakers, the games that clinch an Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League playoff berth. For Breakers coach Trevor Kronemann, there is no better money player and closer in World TeamTennis history than Ramon Delgado.

Thus, the Breakers’ WTT playoff-clinching celebration ensued in dramatic fashion as reigning WTT Male MVP Delgado rallied his team with a final-set victory in regulation and one-game overtime and Supertiebreaker wins that capped a 21-20 victory over the rival Sacramento Capitals at Breakers Stadium at Newport Beach Country Club.

The Breakers (8-4) clinched the Western Conference’s final playoff spot with the four-match season sweep of Sacramento. The Breakers last made the playoffs in 2006, the last of three consecutive years in which the team reached the WTT Finals. The Breakers last won the King Trophy (WTT championship) in 2004.

“Once again, Ramon is just unbelievable in this format,” Kronemann said. “Amazing. Absolutely amazing. At some point, you’re a skeptic and you wonder how many times he can come back. Now I’m a believer. I’ve been around World TeamTennis for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s the greatest World TeamTennis player that’s ever played. He skipped the Davis Cup to play WTT this year. We recognize that and we want to do it for him, too.”

The Breakers will play at the Springfield Lasers (11-0), WTT’s only perfect team, in the WTT playoffs’ Western Conference final on July 24. The teams met in Springfield on July 6 as the Lasers pulled off the second-largest comeback in WTT history, rallying from a 20-12 deficit heading into the final set and emerging victorious, 22-21 in a Supertiebreaker. Springfield then topped the Breakers two days later at Breakers Stadium, 22-17 in overtime.

“We were up eight games. I don’t think we do anything different,” Kronemann said. “If they run the table and go 14-0, all the pressure is on them. We want to redeem ourselves. It’s going to come down to who wants it more.”

Down 16-14, the match was left on the racket of Delgado, the only holdover from the Breakers’ 2004 WTT title team who had already beaten Michael Chang, Sam Querrey and Andre Agassi over the past week. Facing Sacramento’s Sam Warburg, Delgado fended off two break points and won three consecutive points, capped by an ace, to win the first game of the set. Warburg fought off three set points-against to force a tiebreaker, which Delgado controlled and won, 5-1.

Delgado’s win forced overtime on Warburg’s serve, which was broken by Delgado at deuce (also Sacramento’s match point with no-ad scoring) with a running forehand down the line past the charging Warburg. Tied 20-20, the Breakers played their third Supertiebreaker of the season. Delgado again proved too good for Warburg and clinched the Breakers’ playoff berth with a 7-3 Supertiebreaker triumph.

“I am really stressed out there. Really nervous. Really anxious. At least it looks like I am in control out there,” Delgado said. “I think (the win over) Querrey was a real turning point for me. Querrey gave me the confidence, and when I am playing like this, I feel like I can compete with anybody in World TeamTennis. My priority is to beat Springfield and then go to (Washington) D.C. (for the WTT finals).”

Trailing 15-9 after Sacramento (5-7) won the first three sets of the match by 5-3 scores, the Breakers’ comeback attempt began with Julie Ditty and Marie-Eve Pelletier in women’s doubles. The tandem stormed through Sacramento’s Coco Vandeweghe and Angela Haynes to win 5-1 – the set highlighted by Ditty returning three consecutive reflex volleys, the last of which broke Sacramento to increase their set lead to 4-1.

“We knew we had to perform well tonight,” said Ditty, the first-year Breakers player. “We took it to them. You have to have positive energy out here.”

Knowing it had to win to keep its playoff hopes alive against a Breakers team that won 11 of the 15 sets through the teams’ first three meetings this season, Sacramento was all business from the start as Capitals coach Wayne Bryan (father of Mike and Bob Bryan, the world’s No. 1 men’s doubles team) led the cheers.

Wimbledon mixed doubles champion Mark Knowles and Irvine’s Angela Haynes broke the service of the Breakers’ Kaes Van’t Hof and Ditty at 3-3 – the Breakers double-faulted on game-point at deuce – and captured a close first set in mixed doubles, 5-3.

Then, 17-year-old Vandeweghe, the niece of ex-UCLA and NBA standout Kiki Vandeweghe, avenged an earlier women’s singles loss this season to Pelletier and put together her best set of tennis of the team’s four season matchups in a 5-3 singles win. Again, the set was tied 3-3 before Vandeweghe broke Pelletier and closed out the set with a big first serve.

The Breakers dropped the match’s middle set, 5-3 in men’s doubles, a set typically owned by Delgado and Van’t Hof and typically dropped by Sacramento. Before Sunday, Sacramento sported the worst men’s doubles win percentage in WTT while the Breakers’ dynamic duo had won nine of their last 10 sets and was WTT’s top doubles team (53-of-89 games won, 60%).

Results:

Mixed Doubles – Mark Knowles/Angela Haynes (S) def. Kaes Van’t Hof/Julie Ditty (NB), 5-3

Women’s Singles – Coco Vandeweghe (S) def. Marie-Eve Pelletier (NB), 5-3

Men’s Doubles – Sam Warburg/Knowles (S) def. Ramon Delgado/Van’t Hof (NB), 5-3

Women’s Doubles – Ditty/Pelletier (NB) def. Haynes/Vandeweghe (S), 5-1
Men’s Singles – Delgado (NB) def. Warburg (S), 5-4 (5-1 tiebreak)

Overtime – Delgado (NB) def. Warburg (S), 1-0

Supertiebreaker – Delgado (NB) def. Warburg (S), 7-3

Final: Newport Beach Breakers 21, Sacramento Capitals 20 (STB)

Limited tickets are available for the Newport Beach Breakers Series Finale Presented by HOM Real Estate Group – Tuesday, July 21 against John McEnroe and the WTT Eastern Conference champion New York Sportimes (9-3) and Wednesday, July 22, in which Maria Sharapova will play for the Breakers against the Kansas City Explorers. Tickets are $60 for general admission or $45 for the top three rows, and can be purchased by calling 714/352-6301 or visiting www.newporteachbreakers.com.

The Breakers encourage the community to drop off old, unused cell phones at Breakers Stadium on July 21 and July 22 to support soldiers needing cell phones overseas through the Wounded Warrior Project, which raises awareness, program funds and aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women. All used cell phones will be collected at the Wounded Warrior Project expo booth on-site. Each cell phone donated will grant one entry to win a trip to the 2009 Smash Hits on Dec. 8 in Baton Rouge, LA. The Smash Hits is Elton John and Billie Jean King’s annual event that raises money for the fight against HIV and AIDS.

The Breakers are in their third year of operation under the auspices of Hoag Hospital Foundation, which has been granted the rights to manage the Breakers through 2009 by WTT with profits from the team’s season operations benefiting Hoag Hospital. Breakers Stadium (capacity 2,000) is located at Newport Beach Country Club along Pacific Coast Highway, with views overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Breakers supporters can congregate online and expand the team’s fan base through the team’s official fan pages on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/pages/Newport-Beach-CA/Newport-Beach-Breakers/73887254402?ref=ts), MySpace (www.myspace.com/newportbeachbreakers) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/nbbreakers). Register to become a fan or follower of the Breakers at each fan page and use them to meet and chat with new friends and tennis fans and stay up to date on all team and player information related to the Breakers.

About Newport Beach Breakers
The Newport Beach Breakers are one of 10 nationwide teams that make up the World TeamTennis (WTT) Pro League and are co-owned by WTT founder Billie Jean King. In July 2009, the Breakers will play seven home matches at Breakers Stadium at Newport Beach Country Club, and will be managed by Newport Beach-based Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian through the 2009 WTT season. Profits from the team’s operations for the season will go towards Hoag Hospital Foundation, the Breakers’ primary beneficiary. Hoag Hospital’s expert involvement with professional sports also extends to its organization of the PGA Champions Tour’s Toshiba Classic held annually in March. For tickets, sponsorship and more information, visit www.NewportBeachBreakers.com or call 714/352-6301.

DELGADO OUTDUELS CHANG, NEWPORT BEACH BREAKERS BEAT SACRAMENTO FOR THE THIRD TIME, 22-16, IN ADVANTA WORLD TEAMTENNIS PRO LEAGUE ACTION AT BREAKERS STADIUM AT NEWPORT BEACH COUNTRY CLUB

Michael Chang

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., July 11, 2009 – A titanic clash between two Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League Western Conference playoff contenders reached the ultimate climax at the midpoint of the season when reigning WTT Male MVP Ramon Delgado and 1989 French Open champion and International Tennis Hall of Famer Michael Chang took the court with second-place in the conference on the line.

For the second consecutive night, Delgado beat Chang in men’s singles, and for the third time this season, the Newport Beach Breakers stymied the Sacramento Capitals and strengthened their hold on second place in the West with a 22-16 victory at Breakers Stadium at Newport Beach Country Club.

At the season’s midpoint, the Breakers (5-2) lead the Capitals (3-3) by 1½ games for second in the West and remain 1½ games behind the Springfield Lasers (6-0), WTT’s only unbeaten team. A night after Delgado beat Chang 5-4 in Sacramento, Delgado closed out tonight’s match with a 5-1 set over Chang.

The Breakers holding a slim 17-15 lead heading into the final set, the intensity and shot-making Delgado and Chang exhibited over the final set of men’s singles was a notch above anything seen at Breakers Stadium this season. Chang may have retired from the ATP Tour in 2003, but the grunting and fist-pumping returned Saturday night.

Each player dug deeper and raised their game. Serves and baseline winners were crisper than anything each had hit earlier in their doubles set. All groundstrokes were fiercely chased down, whether or not they were returned. In the end, it was Delgado who reigned supreme as his groundstrokes moved Chang side to side and were hit too well and too deep. The two shook hands at the match’s end after a hard-fought set.

“There’s definitely respect there,” Breakers coach Trevor Kronemann said. “Kaes (Van’t Hof), on the bench, said it to me perfectly when he said this is as close to a WTT rivalry as it gets. Ramon continues to be the World TeamTennis stud that he has been and will be.”

Added Delgado, who was 1-1 vs. Chang on the ATP Tour: “It was very intense. To me, it’s an honor to play against him. I practiced with him last week and it was great. He’s a legend and a great champion. I was happy with the score. Against him, I wanted a bigger lead (going into the final set). I have some tough matches coming up; I’ve got Robert Kendrick. I’ve got Andre Agassi. But I’m feeling good. If I feel like this, I think I can compete against anybody.”
2-2-2
BREAKERS DEFEAT SACRAMENTO FOR THE THIRD TIME THIS SEASON, 22-16

The Breakers hosted their first marquee player of the season Saturday with Chang, an Orange County resident and former World No. 2. Chang partnered with Mark Knowles in men’s doubles to win the third set, 5-4, and pull the Capitals within 14-10 after three sets. Chang, 37, made his WTT debut Friday in a defeat to the Breakers and has enjoyed his WTT experience these past two nights.

“It’s great. I had a fun time last night, although we got munched pretty bad,” Chang said. “It’s nice to be back playing close to home. This is really my backyard. I’m not from the home team, but I feel like I’m a hometown player here. It’s been a fun format. Takes a little bit of getting used to. But it’s nice to play in a team format, which is something, obviously, we don’t get a chance to see that much out on tour, other than playing Davis Cup or maybe a couple other events. Obviously, now being retired, I have a little more flexibility on my time schedule. Billie Jean has been asking me for a long time to be able to come out and play World TeamTennis.”

The Breakers, which won eight of the ten sets played in the teams’ first two meetings, got off to a first-set victory for the first time at home this season through its new mixed doubles combination of Newport Beach native Kaes Van’t Hof and Breakers first-year player Julie Ditty, who entered the mixed doubles lineup for the first time Friday night at Sacramento. The Breakers tandem triumphed 5-3 in the set against Irvine’s Angela Haynes and Knowles, who won the mixed doubles championship at Wimbledon last week.

As Ditty has taken over mixed doubles duties, teammate Marie-Eve Pelletier has assumed the women’s singles role for the Breakers and improved to 2-0 in her singles sets this season after downing 17-year-old Coco Vandeweghe, niece of former UCLA basketball and NBA standout Kiki Vandeweghe, 5-2. On Friday, Pelletier took a singles set from Sacramento’s other female player, Haynes.

“You’ve got to make decisions and we’re lucky it’s kind of worked,” Kronemann said. “We’re just looking for that positive energy, that fire. It’s a confidence issue and Marie-Eve has played very good singles the last two nights. We’ve got a team, and it’s cohesive and it’s working.”

Haynes and Vandeweghe followed up the Chang-Knowles doubles win in the third set with a rally of their own, winning the last four games to take the fourth set, 5-3, trim the Breakers’ lead to 17-15, and set the stage for a Delgado-Chang, fifth-set showdown.

Results:
Mixed Doubles – Kaes Van’t Hof/Julie Ditty (NB) def. Mark Knowles-Angela Haynes (S), 5-3
Women’s Singles – Marie-Eve Pelletier (NB) def. Coco Vandeweghe (S), 5-2
Men’s Doubles – Michael Chang/Knowles (S) def. Ramon Delgado/Van’t Hof (NB), 5-4 (5-2 tiebreak)
Women’s Doubles – Haynes/Vandeweghe (S) def. Ditty/Pelletier (NB), 5-3
Men’s Singles – Delgado (NB) def. Chang (S), 5-1
Final: Newport Beach Breakers 22, Sacramento Capitals 16

The Breakers’ next home match is at 7:05 p.m. Friday, July 17 against Andre Agassi and the Philadelphia Freedoms. The July 17 match is sold out, but a limited amount of tickets for the Breakers’ final three home matches of the season – July 19 vs. Sacramento, July 21 vs. New York Sportimes, and July 22 vs. Kansas City – and team information can be obtained at www.NewportBeachBreakers.com or by calling the ticket sales office at 714-352-6301.

Meanwhile, the Breakers hit the road for three matches in three days, beginning with a Monday meeting in New York against John McEnroe and the Sportimes. On Tuesday, July 14, the Breakers play against Serena Williams, last week’s Wimbledon women’s singles champion, and the Washington Kastles in Washington D.C. On Wednesday, July 15, the Breakers play at the St. Louis Aces.

The Breakers are in their third year of operation under the auspices of Hoag Hospital Foundation, which has been granted the rights to manage the Breakers through 2009 by WTT with profits from the team’s season operations benefiting Hoag Hospital. Breakers Stadium (capacity 2,000) is located at Newport Beach Country Club along Pacific Coast Highway, with views overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

3-3-3
BREAKERS DEFEAT SACRAMENTO FOR THE THIRD TIME THIS SEASON, 22-16

Breakers supporters can congregate online and expand the team’s fan base through the team’s official fan pages on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/pages/Newport-Beach-CA/Newport-Beach-Breakers/73887254402?ref=ts), MySpace (www.myspace.com/newportbeachbreakers)
and Twitter (www.twitter.com/nbbreakers). Register to become a fan or follower of the Breakers at each fan page and use them to meet and chat with new friends and tennis fans and stay up to date on all team and player information related to the Breakers.

About Newport Beach Breakers
The Newport Beach Breakers are one of 10 nationwide teams that make up the World TeamTennis (WTT) Pro League and are co-owned by WTT founder Billie Jean King. In July 2009, the Breakers will play seven home matches at Breakers Stadium at Newport Beach Country Club, and will be managed by Newport Beach-based Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian through the 2009 WTT season. Profits from the team’s operations for the season will go towards Hoag Hospital Foundation, the Breakers’ primary beneficiary. Hoag Hospital’s expert involvement with professional sports also extends to its organization of the PGA Champions Tour’s Toshiba Classic held annually in March. For tickets, sponsorship and more information, visit www.NewportBeachBreakers.com or call 714/352-6301.

About Advanta WTT Pro League
The 34th season of the Advanta WTT Pro League runs July 2-26, concluding with the Advanta WTT Finals on July 26 in Washington, D.C., where teams battle for the coveted King Trophy.

WTT is well known for introducing innovative elements to tennis including instant replay, co-ed format, multi-colored courts, cumulative and no-ad scoring, on-court coaching, Supertiebreakers and names on the back of players’ shirts.

Team matches consist of five events, with one set each of men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles. The first team to reach five games wins each set. A nine-point tiebreaker is played if a set reaches four-all. One point is awarded for each game won. If necessary, Overtime and a Supertiebreaker are played to determine the winner of the match.
Advanta is the title sponsor of the Advanta WTT Pro League.  Official Advanta WTT Pro League sponsors for the 2009 season include DecoTurf, FirmGreen Energy, GEICO, Turfer Athletic and Wilson Racquet Sports. The United States Tennis Association is a minority owner and promotional partner of World TeamTennis. WTT and the USTA are teaming up on number of initiatives, including development of the youth market through junior team tennis programs.

For more information on the Advanta WTT Pro League, visit www.wtt.com.

Another Croatian Surprise?

Bob and Mike Bryan

Croatia stands just one win away from a third incredible win over the United States in Davis Cup play. Croatia, in fact, is the only nation the United States has never beaten in Davis Cup play and it will remain as such unless James Blake and Mardy Fish can sweep Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic in Sunday’s reverse singles. On Saturday, Bob and Mike Bryan defeated Roko Karanusic and Lovro Zovko 6-3, 6-1, 6-3, cutting the Croatian lead from 2-0 to 2-1.

After losing to Croatia 3-2 in the opening round of the 2003 competition, the United States was again upset by Croatia in the first round in 2005, despite the United States having Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and the Bryan twins on the squad. That 2005 upset – a match that was ultimately the Davis Cup swan song for Agassi – is documented below.

The day after returning back in New York after the 2004 Davis Cup Final in Sevilla, Spain, where the U.S. lost 3-2 to the Carlos Moya/Rafael Nadal led Spanish team, U.S. Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe called into the nationally-syndicated morning radio and MSNBC cable show “Imus in the Morning,” where host Don Imus and his sports reporter Sid Rosenberg had been ridiculing McEnroe for the final round loss to Spain – or as Imus described “a team of leaf blowers and cab drivers.” McEnroe was introduced onto the program as the “tennis terrorist” in that he had embarrassed the United States to the largest degree.

After taking the playful ribbing, McEnroe told “the I-man” and gang that he wanted to have a serious reflection on the Davis Cup Final, stating that he felt proud in the way that he and his team represented the United States in Spain and that the conduct and sportsmanship displayed by his team “had restored a little respect for our country in a part of the world where the U.S. is not looked upon in the most positive way” in reference to Spain’s recent objection to the foreign policy of the United States, most notably the war in Iraq.

“Next year,” Pmac then boasted. “We’re going to bring back the Cup I-man.”

Imus, quick with the retort, then stated, “When the authorities find you, they’re going to ask that you give it back.”

The United States had drawn a first round home tie against Croatia and the USTA selected The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles, as the site of the contest. Los Angeles is a town that like stars and while the U.S. Davis Cup team did have a star in Andy Roddick, the one star that it was missing was one Andre Agassi.

McEnroe had always kept Agassi in the loop as far as Davis Cup goes since taking over as captain and, after asking him to play in the Final against Spain, sensed that Agassi was considering a return to Davis Cup in 2005. McEnroe began to push the buttons again at the Australian Open, where Agassi first addressed his possible comeback after his second round romp over Rainer Schuettler.

“I’m going to have this discussion with Patrick, just because he’s made the effort to want to have conversations with me about it, so I’ll be respectful of that,” said the 34-year-old Agassi. “But it’s just two-fold. I have a lot of regret not playing because it’s one of the best memories of my career, playing Davis Cup, not to mention playing with another generation of guys that have such a good fellowship and team camaraderie together. To experience that would be a great feeling. But the other side of the coin is really what my decision has come down to in the past, which is what can I really do. I’ve never been a big fan of being halfway playing at your convenience. It’s always been something I haven’t respected a whole lot in the past when it’s come to that for others. The decision I had to make is not an easy one and it hasn’t been easy, but it’s something I’ll discuss with him.”

A few days after Agassi’s quarterfinal loss to Roger Federer, McEnroe phoned Agassi at his home in Las Vegas and offered to sit down with him in person en route back to New York after the Australian Open. Agassi told McEnroe he was still hung up on the year-long commitment that he expected he would have to give to Davis Cup. On Monday January 31, McEnroe arrived in Los Angeles from Melbourne and stopped off in Carson for a media luncheon to promote the USA vs. Croatia tie. McEnroe then revealed to the gathered guests and media that he was en route to Las Vegas that evening to meet with Agassi.

”I think (Agassi) finds that right now, it’s hard for him to commit to every match because of his family and his responsibilities and because he is going to be 35 and it’s a little taxing on him,” McEnroe told the assembled press. “My job is to alleviate his fear that we don’t necessarily have to have him play ever match… I don’t need to hear from Andre ‘I’m going to play every match.’ My feeling is, let’s see how it goes. Let’s get you to play in the first round and let’s see what happens and take it from there.”

McEnroe tagged his chances at “less than 50-50” before boarding the AmericaWest Airlines flight to Las Vegas. “I don’t have any expectation other than I hope he says yes,” said McEnroe. “I have to field the best team I can and I have to exhaust all possibilities. If that means getting on a plane and sitting down with him face to face, than that’s a small price to play for trying to get him to join up.”

McEnroe met Agassi and his coach Darren Cahill for a two-and-a-half hour dinner at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. The three reminisced about Davis Cup stories of old, talked of the passion of the current group of Davis Cuppers and addressed the concerns and issues that Agassi had with committing to Davis Cup. McEnroe later said he told Agassi, “Don’t cut off your options by saying it’s all or nothing, because to me it’s not. We’ve never had a year where we’ve had the same four guys every match. It’s too unrealistic for that to happen, with injuries, with different surfaces, with schedules, you name it.” McEnroe said he, the team and the tennis industry in general would not hold it against him if he could not commit for every match in 2005.

Two days later, after consulting with others in his inner circle – most notably his wife Steffi Graf -  Agassi phoned McEnroe to tell him to count on him to be in Carson. Agassi then called all the members of the team – Roddick, the Bryan twins and Taylor Dent (who would travel to Carson as the “fifth” player on the four-man team and would have been the No. 2 singles player had Agassi not decided to play) – to get their approval on his returning to the team. On Monday, February 7, McEnroe made the Agassi news public in a conference call with the media.

“We’re going to take it one match at a time,” said McEnroe in explaining Agassi’s commitment to the team. “It’s not just this match. It’s not every match. I think it’s a case-by-case basis situation. He’s not coming back simply to play because it happens to be the week before Indian Wells. At the same time, I didn’t ask him to say, “Are you going to play every match?’ I understand where he is in his career, personally, professionally with all the different things on his plate. We will take it one step at a time…To me, it doesn’t make any sense to say to him, ‘Listen, you’ve got to play every match.” Things happen, things come up, whether it’s injuries, whether it’s having a tough major, whether it’s not having a tough major and maybe wanting some extra matches. I think you have to take all those things into account and understand that Andre is going to make the decision based on a variety of factors.”

Two days later, Agassi first addressed his return to Davis Cup following his first round win over xx in San Jose, Calif.

“What had a big influence on me was the camaraderie I saw last year,” said Agassi. “They’ve built a great team and are a part of something I never got to experience. I played Davis Cup with guys who were fighting to be the best in the world and everyone had a sense of their own goals…This group of guys really seems to look out for each other. I respect and admire it a lot.”

Agassi again addressed his absence from Davis Cup for five years, citing the demanding schedule and the difficultly in committing to potentially four ties during a calendar year, especially at age 34 with a wife and two children.

“I had gotten to a point that I didn’t have enough to give anymore when it came to the full goal of winning the Cup,” said Agassi. “I did it for 12 years and wasn’t convinced I could do it anymore and accomplish the things I needed to stay out here for the last few years. I never respected those guys who played at their convenience and didn’t play all times. Patrick was the first captain to show a strong sense of understanding and support in knowing it’s not realistic for me to play every tie.”

Roddick was estactic at the news and struggled to stay composed when Agassi reached him by phone while Roddick was in his car in driving several of his buddies around his hometown of Austin. Said Roddick, “I told him I was excited he was on board and then hung up the phone and started screaming.”

While the Agassi hype was substantial, insiders were paying close attention to the progress of the Croatian team. Ivan Ljubicic, who had almost single handedly defeated the United States in Zagreb two years prior in the first round, was fast becoming the hottest player on the circuit. Entering Davis Cup week, he posted three straight final round appearances in Marseille, Rotterdam and Dubai – the latter two losing to world No. 1 Roger Federer in three tight sets. Ancic had reached the semifinals of Marseille (losing to Ljubicic) and Rotterdam (losing to Federer) and had reached his second career ATP singles final in Scottsdale, Ariz., the week before Davis Cup. With Ljubicic and Ancic boasting a bronze medal in men’s doubles from the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the Bryan twins would also face a stern test. Cautioned Ancic, “In Davis Cup, there are many surprises.” Croatian Captain Niki Pilic, who also captained Germany to Davis Cup victories over the United States in 1985, 1987 and 1989, echoed the sentiment of his young charge. “In Davis Cup,” he said, “there are no rules.”

To add to the intrigue of the first round tie, Roddick suffered a scare during his quarterfinal win over Robby Ginepri at the ATP event in Memphis, spraining his ankle just two weeks before the start of the tie. Roddick chose to default his semifinal match with Kenneth Carlsen of Denmark rather than risk further injury that would jeopardize his form for the tie with Croatia.

“The repercussions of this injury won’t just affect me, but they’d affect my teammates it would affect me playing for my country as well,” said Roddick. “That’s a lot of responsibility that I have to take into consideration.”

Gavin Rossdale of the rock band “Bush” and the husband of rock star Gwen Stefani pulled the ceremonial chip at the Davis Cup draw ceremony at The Home Depot Center that placed Andre Agassi against Ivan Ljubicic in the opening rubber of the best-of-five match series. Roddick would follow against Ancic, while the Bryan twins would face Ancic and Ljubicic in Saturday’s doubles contest. Whether it was nerves, discomfort with the cool, blustery conditions or Ljubicic’s game, Agassi showed distress and tentativeness as his return to Davis Cup began at 1 pm Los Angeles time on Friday, March 4. There was no swagger in the legend’s step or game as Ljubicic swept the first set 6-3. Agassi got out of his funk in the second set, taking a 5-2 lead, but faltered when serving for the second at 5-3 and was skunked 7-0 in the second set tie-break to go down two-sets-to-love. The eventual 6-3, 7-6 (0), 6-3 loss marked only the third time that Agassi has been dismissed in straight sets in 36 Davis Cup singles matches.

His anger and displeasure was apparent on his face as he briskly left the court for the U.S. team locker room where his Head tennis racquet was tendered to multiple fragments scattered throughout the locker room within minutes.

“Today was one of those days,” said a dazed Agassi in the post-match press conference. “I just never got settled and never got comfortable. It was just frustrating. You’re trying hard to figure things out and sometimes you wonder if you’re just trying too hard…I was useless to be quite honest, as far as being clear on what was going on out there.“

Said McEnroe, “Everybody gets nervous playing Davis Cup – even Andre Agassi.”

Down 0-1, the match virtually sat on the shoulders of Roddick against Ancic, who quickly bounced upon the tentative Roddick taking the first set 6-4 as panic began to set in among the American hopefuls.  The second set marked the start of “the street fight” as Roddick’s trainer Doug Spreen would later describe the Roddick swagger and attitude, that translated the match into a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory for the American – tying the first day’s play at 1-1.

‘I’m not going to lie, I was really tight during the first set today,” admitted Roddick. “I’m happy because I was able to dig down…I think this was a big steppingstone for me.”

The Bryans entered the pivotal doubles match on Saturday having not lost a set in Davis Cup play in their previous five matches. However, the twins from Camarillo, Calif., knew that Ljubicic and Ancic were by far the best team they had faced in Davis Cup play.

Jumping like a pair of Mexican jumping beans, the Bryans were quick out of the blocks to take the first set 6-3 in just 27 minutes, but Ljubicic and Ancic would stay tight in the second set, forcing a tie-break. The Bryans would hold three set points, including one of Mike Bryan’s serve at 7-6, but were unable to deliver what would be a near lethal two-sets-to-love blow. They surrendered the second set tie-break – and their first ever set in Davis cup play – 10 points to eight and gave new life to Ancic and Ljubicic. As the Croatians gained in confidence, the Bryans appeared drained and dismayed. As the sun dripped below the Pacific Ocean just xx miles away, conditions became cooler and slower, helping Ljubicic and Ancic close out the final two sets for the vital 3-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4, 6-4 win and the 2-1 lead for Croatia heading into the climatic third day.

Former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson entered the U.S. team locker room to try and cheer up the Bryan twins. “You guys think you are going to win every match you play?” a jovial Jackson told the Bryans as one must of wondered whether Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O’Neal received the same speech after losing an NBA game. Jackson’s words could not take the sting out of the loss for the Bryans, who for the first time tasted Davis Cup defeat in front of their father and numerous friends and family from Southern California

“We’ve had a lot of disappointing losses, but this ranks pretty high,” said Mike Bryan. “It hurts.”

McEnroe’s posture still exuded confidence. After all, the United States was still favored to win the final two singles matches – Roddick against Ljubicic in the fourth rubber and Agassi against Ancic in the fifth rubber. Roddick held a 5-1 career record with Ljubicic, having won the last five meetings, while Agassi’s experience and aura would make him the clear favorite against the 20-year-old Ancic, who had lost to Agassi in their only previous meeting.

“If there are two guys you want to roll out down 2-1, we’ve got the two guys we want,” said McEnroe. “I’m extremely confident that they’re both going to play well. Andre’s been in this position before and Andy’s been in a position where he’s had to win a match. These are the two guys we want to bring out. This is our best team. It’s our one-two punch. We’re playing at home. They’re going to have to play with a little more pressure on them now. Up until now, I think they’ve been able to sort of swing away and been the underdogs and go for their shots. If they can do that, if Ljubicic can do that against Agassi, the Bryans and Roddick, than that’s too good. But we’ll see if he can.”

Roddick and Ljubicic would battle in the fourth rubber of the tie – Ljubicic, like in 2003, trying to shut the door on the Americans – while Roddick trying to stave off elimination, a position he had been in on two other occasions without success – against France in 2002 and Spain in 2004.

After splitting the first two sets, the epic – and pivotal – third-set tie-break ensued with neither Roddick or Ljubicic willing to give the other the two-sets-to-one lead. Roddick jumped to a 4-1 lead and held three set points throughout the 24 point tie-break – tying the longest tie-break in U.S. Davis Cup history. However, Roddick’s inside-out cross court forehand at 11-12 landed wide giving Ljubicic the fourth set. The two players would again go toe-to-toe in a tie-break in the fourth set, with Ljubicic fighting off four set points before double faulting at 7-8 on the fifth-set point to give Roddick the set and square the match at two-sets apiece. The momentum appeared to be with Roddick, but he was not able to capitalize. Ljubicic ran off with the first eight points of the fifth set, breaking Roddick at love in the first game of the fifth set and cashing in on an insurance break in the fifth game of the final set. Three game later, Ljubicic closed out the crushing 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (11), 6-7 (7), 6-2 victory in three hours and 57 minutes.

Roddick and McEnroe slumped on their courtside seating while Ljubicic, Ancic, Pilic and the rest of the Croatian delegation danced and sang on the court with handfuls of Croatian fans in the audience waving flags and rejoicing in the historic first round upset. It marked the first time in 105 years of Davis Cup that the United States was eliminated in the first round on home soil.

Ljubicic would become one of only two players to win three live rubbers against a U.S. Davis Cup team on two occasions – joining Mexico’s Raul Ramirez who turned the trick against the United States in the 1975 and 1976 Davis Cup campaigns.

In all, Ljubicic labored for a total of eight hours and 44 minutes over 12 sets over the weekend. His career record against the United States in Davis Cup play now stood at 6-0 – with only Laurie Doherty of Great Britain holding a better record against the U.S. with a 10-0 record in matches against the U.S. in 1902, 1903, 1905 and 1906.

“I have no words, really,” said Ljubicic. “To beat Andre, the Bryans and Roddick in three days….it is amazing.”

Roddick was crushed, irritable, devastatingly angry and disappointed. He slumped in front of the microphone in the interview room and was asked to share how he was feeling.

“Probably not in words you would understand,” he slurred. “It’s tough to describe. Really, really bad….There’s no worse feeling than losing a match in Davis Cup in our sport, especially when your teammates are counting on you.”

“It hurts a lot,” said McEnroe, who spoke with the press after coaching Bob Bryan to a three-set win over Roko Karanusic in the dead-fifth rubber that made the final verdict a 3-2 win for Croatia. “After getting to the final last year, starting off at home with our best team, it’s disappointing.”

Monica Seles – Head of the Class

Monica Seles is the head of the class

Monica is “head of the class” of the 2009 group of inductees in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She won nine major singles titles in her career – including four titles at the Australian Open. Her classmates are super agent Donald Dell, former French Open champion Andres Gimeno and Dr. Robert “Whirwind” Johnson. Bud Collins, himself a 1994 inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and the author of the definitive tennis encyclopedia THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, summarizes Seles and her career in this excerpt from his book.

How could anybody stop her? An all-time prodigy, a unique No. 1 with her double-barrelled fusillades—both hands on both sides—Monica Seles was a 19-year-old tearing up tennis until that fateful day in Hamburg, April 30, 1993. An allegedly demented German spectator, Guenther Parche, stopped her, struck her down with a knife in the back as she sat beside the court on a changeover.

The quarterfinal match against Maggie Maleeva ended at that abrupt moment, and so did tennis for a kid who seemed des­tined to be the greatest of all. She had won eight majors (three French, three Australian, two U.S.). After taking the U.S. of 1992 over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 6-3, 6-3, she was the youngest ever to hold seven of them (18 years, eight months), undercutting Maureen Connolly by three months. (Curiously, Connolly, who wound up with nine, had been cut off, too, as a teenager, in a traf­fic accident.) Breaking Steffi Graf’s four-year hold on the No. 1 ranking in 1991, Seles had held off Steffi in her last major appear­ance before her stabbing, to win the Australian, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

But putative assassin Parche intervened, claiming he knifed Seles to restore Graf to preeminence, a story the Seles family doubted. It was 28 months before Monica was seen on court again. The psychological damage had been more severe than the physical. She, like everybody else—except, apparently, the judge in Parche’s trial and re-trial—wondered why he was not incarcer­ated. “He’s still out there walking the streets,” she worried.

Attempting to put it behind her, Monica re-emerged in August 1995, beating Martina Navratilova in an exhibition at Atlantic City, content with the co-No. 1 ranking with Graf granted her by the WTA. Then acting as though nothing had changed, she was back in business—electrifyingly so. Opponents at the Cana­dian Open in Toronto acted as though they were seeing a ghost. They were—a ghost of championships past—as she marched to the title on a loss of no sets, 12 games in five matches, ripping Amanda Coetzer in the final, 6-0, 6-1.

On to the US Open, where she’d won 14 straight matches. The opposition continued to melt until the final, where Graf ended the streak at 20, fitter in the third set, 7-6 (8-6), 0-6, 6-3. At 6-5 in the tie-breaker, Monica groused at a call of fault on her bid—a frac­tion wide—for a set-point ace. She lost her composure momen­tarily, and may have missed the title by a smidgen of an inch.

Her return to Australia, where she’d never been beaten, was triumphant. She won Sydney from match point down over Lind­say Davenport, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3, then the Open (Graf was absent) over Anke Huber, 6-4, 6-1, a ninth major title. However, after that, the 1996 season didn’t go as well as she and her fans had hoped. Knee and shoulder injuries were bothersome. Her conditioning was suspect; she pulled out of several tourneys. Though she did win three more tournaments and help the U.S. regain the Federa­tion Cup, there was disappointment at the French and Wimble­don. Jana Novotna clipped her Paris streak of 25 in the quarters, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3. More painful perhaps was losing the last four games and a second-rounder at the Big W to an unknown Slovak, No. 59 Katerina Studenikova, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. “I’m playing too defensively, not attacking the ball the way I used to,” Monica said accurately. She was a finalist again at the U.S. Open but was pushed around by a charged-up Graf whose superior quickness showed, 7-5, 6-4.

Seles, a left-hander who has grown to nearly six feet, was born Dec. 2, 1973, of Serbo-Hungarian parentage, at Novi Sad in what was then Yugoslavia. Getting her started, her father, Karolj Seles, a professional cartoonist and keen student of the game, drew faces on the balls for her to hit. He and her mother, Esther, felt her future lay in the United States They moved to Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy at Bradenton, Fla., in 1986 when Monica was 12, and headmaster Nick oversaw her early development. Papa took over the coaching again at their Sara­sota residence until his death in 1998. Monica became a U.S. citizen in 1995.

Monica sounded the alarm in 1989 as a 15-year-old by spoil­ing the last final of Chris Evert’s illustrious career in. Houston, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. “She’s the next,” exulted an overwhelmed witness, his­torian Ted Tinling. Soon after, “Moanin’ Monica” took her bubbly grimacing-and-grunting act to Roland Garros to show Parisians noisy tennis nouvelle: rip-roaring groundies, bludgeoned from. anywhere in a baseball switch-hitting style (the backhand cross-handed). She constantly went for winners, seemingly off-balance and out-of-position but buoyed by excellent footwork and antici­pation. Graf barely escaped in the semis. But she wouldn’t a year later, in the final, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4. Seles became a major player. She bounded into the world’s Top 10 in 1989 (No. 6) and was there through 2002, 13 years, (except for non- ranked 1994): No. 2 in 1990; No. 1 in 1991-92; No. 8 in 1993; co-No. 1 in 1995; co-No. 2 in 1996; No. 5 in 1997; No. 6 in 1998; No. 4 in 1999-2000; No. 10 in 2001; No. 7 in 2002.

For two-and-a-half years Monica was nearly invincible as the titles piled up and her ball-impacting shriek—“Uhh-eee!”—was heard across the globe. She charmed the public with girlish elan and mystified people by vanishing before Wimbledon in 1991 and then resurfacing to win the U.S. Open. She may have been psyched out of a 1992 Grand Slam when complaints about the grunting from Wimbledon victims, Nathalie Tauziat and Martina Navratilova, (leading to a warning from the referee) muted her in the final, where she was destroyed by Graf, 6-2, 6-1. Still, she was the first to win three majors in successive years since Mar­garet Court (three and four, 1969-70), a feat equaled by Graf in 1995-96. Among her souvenirs was the 1991 U.S. final, when at age 17, she defeated Navratilova, 34, a singular generation gapper, 7-6 (9-7), 6-1. Her brightest seasons of 10 singles titles each were 1991 (winning 74 of 80 matches) and 1992 (70 of 75).

At the close of 2003, after 12 pro seasons, and portions of two others, she had played 177 tournaments and won 53 singles titles with a 595-122 won-loss record (.836); 180-31 in the majors (.861). She has also won six doubles titles with a 89-45 won-loss record and earned $14,891,762 in prize money. She won a singles bronze at the 2000 Olympics, and won her last title, Madrid over Chanda Rubin 6-4, 6-2, in 2002. She was inactive after 2003, and announced her retirement in 2008. An exemplary figure who has coped well with much adver­sity, including several injuries, she was not the player she might have been, yet is clearly, constantly upbeat, saying, “Tennis will never end for me because I love it so much. When my profes­sional career is over I will continue to play all my life.” Monica has put an indelible signature on the game with her style, per­sona and championships, a woman doubtless on a journey to the Hall of Fame.

MAJOR TITLES (9)—Australian singles, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996; French singles, 1990, 1991, 1992; US. singles, 1991, 1992.

FEDERATION CUP—1995-96, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002

SINGLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS— Australian (43-4), French (54-8), Wimbledon (30-9), U.S. (54-10).

Roger Federer vs Andy Roddick…revisited

Roger Federer vs Andy Roddick revisited

Swiss journalist and author Rene Stauffer chronicles in detail three of the most important matches between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick in his definitive Federer biography THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION (New Chapter Press, $24.95, www.rogerfedererbook.com), the first U.S.-published book on the Swiss tennis champion. In the 2004 Wimbledon final, a coach-less Federer sustained a Roddick surge to win his second Wimbledon title – and his third Grand Slam tournament title. At Wimbledon in 2005, Federer dominated Roddick to win his third Wimbledon title and his first Grand Slam tournament title with his father Robert Federer in attendance. In the 2007 Australian Open semifinals, Federer played one of the greatest matches of his career to throttle Roddick 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 en route to his third Australian Open. The book excerpts that chronicle these matches are featured below.

2004 Wimbledon Final – Federer def. Roddick 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-4

On a rainy, bitterly cold Fourth of July, Federer played Roddick, who not only was in his first Wimbledon final on his country’s Independence Day, but on the birthday of his older brother John. Roddick clearly emerged as a solid No. 2 in the rankings behind Federer and took the identity of Federer’s primary challenger, especially on grass. The head-to-head between the two stood at 5-1 in the favor of Federer, who unlike the year before in his semifinal match with Roddick, was now considered the heavy favorite.

But Roddick and his coach Brad Gilbert both did their homework. Roddick played with an intensity that was palpable all the way to the top rows of Centre Court. Roddick’s power game dominated the early stages of the match as his brutal groundstrokes and lighting serve gave him the first set 6-4. The second set turned into a inexplicable rollercoaster ride—Federer took a 4-0 lead and had a point for 5-0, but lost two service games in a row and allowed Roddick to square the set at 4-4. But the tennis gods were in Federer’s favor. At 6-5, a let court winner gave him a set point. A gorgeously played running cross court forehand winner on the next point gave Federer the set.

The defending champion, however, was still unable to seize complete control of the match. In the third set, he trailed 2-4 when the heavens intervened as rain forced a temporary suspension in the action. The delay lasted 40 minutes and—as strange as it may sound—proved to be a pivotal moment in the match.

The rain stoppage also provided the Australian Pat Cash enough time on the BBC TV coverage of the match to make another false prediction—he wouldn’t bet any money on Federer winning the match. But Federer returned to the court as a man transformed and with a new tactic. As Cash used to do with much success, Federer rushed the net with greater frequency and began to win more and more points in that position. He won the third set in a tiebreak and was able to fend off six break points in the fourth set, before he broke Roddick’s serve at 4-3 without losing a point. In just a matter of minutes, Federer was again the Wimbledon champion.

It was 5:55 pm local time in Great Britain when Federer sank to his knees and rolled onto his back having once again won the greatest title in tennis. The sun, meanwhile, came out from the clouds, and like the year before, showered the award ceremony in sunshine. As with the ceremony in 2003, the tears flowed. “At least this time I managed to hold them back a bit during the award ceremony,” he remarked. “I’m even happier than last year.”

He admitted how surprised he was at Roddick’s aggressive and solid play. Federer said he himself made the decision during the rain delay in the third set to change tactics and to play more serve and volley. Of this, he said, he was proud. “Coach Federer is satisfied with Federer the tennis player,” he quipped.

2005 Wimbledon Final – Federer def. Roddick 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-4

Federer unleashed a storm against Roddick at the start of the match—winning the first set in 22 minutes—a glaring difference to the previous year when the American dominated him from the start. In the second set, after the two players exchanged early breaks, Federer dominated the tie-break, taking it 7-2 to take a two-sets-to-love lead.

Although it was barely drizzling, Wimbledon officials ordered a suspension of play after the second set. Most of the spectators stayed in their seats, including Robert Federer, who watched his son play live in a Grand Slam final for the first time. While wife Lynette sat in the players’ box alongside Roche and Mirka Vavrinec, Robert sat on the complete opposite side of Centre Court.

Robert Federer didn’t have good memories of Wimbledon and it required courage for him to even venture to Centre Court to watch his son. His memories from his last visit to the All England Club in 2002 were still vivid—when he sat in the Players’ Box and expected to see his son roll through an easy first-round win over Croatia’s Mario Ancic. Instead, he witnessed “Rotschi” suffer one of the most bitter defeats of his career. Robert considered himself to be bad luck since then. His son finally convinced him to come. “Forget it! If I lose, then it certainly won’t be because of you,” Roger told him.

Robert Federer followed his son’s first two Wimbledon victories at home in Switzerland. When British reporters caught up with him afterwards, he explained that somebody had to look after the family cat. In 2005, he decided to come to Wimbledon from the beginning as a test. Most British reporters sitting only a few meters away from him in the Centre Court stands did not recognize him behind his sun glasses. The Sun actually ran a story about him, but the man in the photo associated with the story was not even him, but Federer’s physiotherapist Pavel Kovac.

Robert Federer was still nervous during the rain delay, even if his son’s two-sets-to-love lead calmed his nerves. “Even the points that Roger loses he plays well,” he said during the intermission. “I’ve always told him that he has to play aggressively and follow through with his strokes—anything else won’t work.”

Neither the short break—nor the supposed “jinx” presence of his father—could prevent Federer from winning his third Wimbledon title. After 101 minutes of play, an ace sealed his 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory. He fell to the ground and, as before, the tears flowed. Federer became the eighth man in history—and only the third player since World War II—to win three-straight Wimbledon singles titles. The other two to turn the “hat trick” in the last 50 years were Björn Borg and Pete Sampras, but Federer resisted the comparisons. After all, the Swede won Wimbledon five straight years and Sampras won seven times in eight years. What Federer didn’t say and perhaps wasn’t even aware of was the fact that his achievement in winning his three Wimbledon titles was, in fact, more dominant than the first three titles won by both Borg and Sampras. Borg gave up nine sets in the process while Sampras surrendered 11 sets. Federer, by contrast, lost only four sets.

Federer was at a loss for words for his near perfect performance in the final. “I really played a fantastic match—one of my best in my life,” he said. “I was playing flawless. Everything was working.”

Of the 35 grass court tennis matches Andy Roddick played over the last three years, he only lost on three occasions. All three losses were to Roger Federer. “His performance this year was clearly better than last year’s,” said Roddick after his third-straight Wimbledon loss to Federer. “If I had played as well as today last year I probably would have won.”

For a third year in a row Federer was the indeed the answer to the question “Guess Who is Coming To Dinner?” His guests for the Wimbledon Champions Dinner were Tony Roche and Robert Federer. Both men beamed with pride. The Wimbledon victory was very important to them as well.

“To me, Wimbledon is the greatest tournament in the world,” said Roche, happy that he stayed in Europe with Federer for the grass season. “Playing against such a great opponent as Roddick in a Wimbledon final and playing at the level that he did—it can’t get any better than that. On a scale from one to 10, that was a 10.”

The Wimbledon champion was glad that his father was able to be with him at this special moment.

“He still gets upset if I miss a backhand or a forehand,” he said to journalists the morning after his victory. “But I’ve learned to deal with this in the meantime because I know that he doesn’t know as much about tennis as I used to think.”

2007 Australian Open – Federer def. Roddick 6-4, 6-0, 6-2

Spurred by new coach Jimmy Connors, Roddick’s career was back on the up-swing. In addition to his runner-up showing at the US Open, Roddick won the Tennis Masters Series event in Cincinnati and after his strong performances against Federer in the US Open final and Shanghai, as well as his exhibition victory over the Swiss at the Kooyong Classic, many speculated that Roddick was on Federer’s heels. The hype increased when the two faced each other again in the Australian Open semifinals. Roddick lost 12 of the 13 encounters with Federer but the longer this losing streak continued, the greater the likelihood that Federer would eventually stumble and lose to Roddick. In what many people predicted would be an upset victory for Roddick  turned into one of the bitterest days of the American’s tennis career. Federer pulled off a masterpiece—one of the best matches of his career. He trailed 3-4 in the first set and then rolled off 15 of the next 17 games and won the semifinal match 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 in 83 minutes. “It was almost surreal,” Federer said. “I’m shocked myself at how well I played.” The statistics were incredibly lopsided as Federer hit as many winners in the match as Roddick won points.

Federer hit 45 winners to Roddick’s 11, while he won 83 points to Roddick’s 45. Federer also out-aced Roddick 10 to four, never lost his serve, and converted all seven break-point chances on Roddick’s serve. At one point, Federer won 12 straight games to take a 3-0 lead in the third set. The signature shot in the match came on the opening point of the fourth game of the second set. Roddick unleashed a fierce forehand from short range that landed close to the baseline. Rather than getting out of the way of the rocket forehand, Federer leaned left into the ball and hit a reflex backhand half-volley that traveled cross-court for a winner.

“Darling, you are a maniac,” Mirka told Federer after returning from his day’s work to the locker room. Two-time Grand Slam winner Rod Laver, who witnessed the flawless display of tennis, also showed up in the locker room and congratulated the victor. “Roger played fantastic,” said Laver. “He used all the strokes there were and Andy was a little frustrated. The only thing you could do is go to the net, shake hands and say, ‘That was too good.’”

Roddick’s post-match press conference was one of the most difficult of his career, but the American took the defeat like a man and was at least able to treat the humbling defeat with some humor. “It was frustrating. You know, it was miserable. It sucked. It was terrible. Besides that, it was fine,” he said. Federer, he said, deserved all the praise that was being bestowed on him.

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