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From Grassroots to Boardrooms: Ray Benton is a Statesman for the Game

TCCP/JTCC Chief Ray Benton ©Steve Fogleman


by Steve Fogleman, Special for Tennis Grandstand

When I arrived at the Tennis Center at College Park to speak with its CEO, Ray Benton, he was finishing up a lesson with former U.S. Congresswoman Jane Harman. He’d agreed to speak with me after the practice and he was still stretching when our conversation began. I admit that at first I was bemused by the notion of a crossroads of politics and tennis. You don’t see that every day. But for tennis statesman Ray Benton, it was business as usual. He’s as comfortable on court with children as he is in the halls of power in Washington. Legendary House Speaker Tip O’Neill used to repeatedly insist that all “politics is local”. Witnessing the VIP lessons he’s giving and the expansive, state-of-the-art tennis training facility he’s managing (largely funded by the former Chairman of the US Export-Import Bank), you realize that Benton is the embodiment of O’Neill’s mantra. Benton’s career arc has taken him from local to national to international and now, to some degree, back to local tennis. With that breadth of experience, he brings with him the uncanny ability to cultivate a major-league presence even in the deepest of grassroots tennis.

His office substantially resembles the International Tennis Hall of Fame in miniature. The walls of his paper-piled workspace are adorned with posters and photos from tennis events from the last forty years. With all of his energy, it is difficult to believe he is 71. He still competes in senior tournaments “when my body’s working”, he said.

Benton is an Iowa native who moved to Washington in 1971. He started playing the game at 15 and “really took to it right away”. Later, he spent two years with the Iowa Hawkeye team in Big Ten play. While attending college, law school and a year of business school, he worked in the summer as the tennis pro at Dubuque Country Club in Dubuque, Iowa. He was brought in to start a tennis program at a “golf wacko club where tennis was a nuisance”. It had “two broken-down courts and 35 tennis playing club members”. He was up for the challenge, and within a few years, Benton had installed six lighted courts, attracted 500 players and even trained 20 state-ranked juniors there. “That’s when I figured out maybe I should be in the business”.

Even after he was drafted and sent to Fort McClellan in Anniston, Alabama in 1966, he managed to stay active in the game, serving as head pro at the Gadsden and Anniston Country Clubs and varsity coach for Jacksonville State University in Alabama. He then spent a couple of years in Colorado running that state’s Youth Tennis Foundation and putting on professional events before Washington called. Then, Benton’s call to DC came to Denver. Through Dubuque.

“As I was finishing business school, a guy I knew from Dubuque had hit it big, Bob Lange. He invented the plastic ski boot. I went into business with him to develop the first plastic tennis racquet. We had a prototype and I suggested that we have a tournament in Denver. And in order to get any American players there, I had to talk to the Davis Cup captain named Donald Dell. We worked together and a year later, I moved here.”

Dell was looking for partners in a law firm that would eventually morph into sports management company ProServ years later. During his early days in Washington, he also served as the first National Executive Director of the National Junior Tennis League.

From DC, the firm represented big names in tennis like Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Tracy Austin. They also managed top athletes throughout the world of sport, including Michael Jordan, Boomer Esiason, Dave Winfield and Payne Stewart. Yet the firm’s focus stuck with tennis for an important reason.

Mark McCormick started IMG and based it around golf and Donald started ProServ around tennis. After all, he was the Davis Cup captain and Stan Smith and Arthur Ashe were on his team.

As a law firm, we couldn’t solicit clients. We could write a letter to a company saying ‘I’m writing on behalf of Arthur Ashe to see if you might have interest’. We couldn’t put out a promotional brochure for Arthur, so we started the company Proserv. It was an affiliated marketing company to the law firm. When our firm split in ’83, Donald and I kept the name ProServ and made it the major identity.

During the nineties, Benton founded the Worldwide Senior Tennis Circuit. He secured more than $35 million in corporate sponsorships at a time when interest in tennis had started to wane. He also saw the events as more than a tournament, but an “entertainment event” with theme nights, contests and celebrity matches.

After spending most of the last decade doing marketing consulting for clients like the ATP, the PGA, the Vic Braden Tennis Academy and national mentoring advocacy group MENTOR, he was hired as the CEO of the Tennis Center at College Park. Once again, politics and tennis intersected, as banker and Clinton Administration appointee Kenneth Brody needed someone to market the tennis facility he had built in College Park. And he went straight to Benton to market it.

So, now that this writer knows he’s talking to the right person for the question, is DC a tennis town?

It is, but it needs to regain the stature it once had, and not only Washington, but many other area of the country. Tennis is totally a bottom-up sport. The great majority of energy comes from the grassroots. And that’s what advances tournament play, pro play, collegiate play. Frankly, I think we got lazy in this sport. We had so much momentum, so much success and great stars and I think the leaders of tennis, everyone became deluded that tennis was driven by Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. And the fact of the matter is in the days of Connors, Borg and McEnroe, participation in tennis in the United States decreased. We didn’t develop the next generation of Nick Bollettieris, of Vic Bradens or Dennis Van Der Meer or Peter Burwash. Who are the biggest names of teaching pros these days? Still those guys. If I asked you that same question 35 years ago, you’d have the same answer.

Benton’s approach to bringing the game back is simple. “A kid should be introduced to tennis the same way they should be introduced to basketball, which is they should have fun, be on a team, and compete the first day. And then they get hooked on the fun. And when they improve, then you offer them instruction. How many kids would play basketball if they were required to take three weeks of dribbling lessons and two weeks of shooting lessons before they were allowed to play the game? You’d have a lot fewer basketball players, wouldn’t you?”

He’s already building JTCC for the future. “You need leadership from the bottom. We’re going into schools now. We have a program called “Game On”. We’re trying to spread this game as far and wide as we can. We’re working with Prince George’s County Parks. We’ll have five sites in the summer. I see a lot more highly-ranked kids. I see a lot more inner city stuff. Five years from now, I see a much larger percentage of our kids coming from the inner city. I see considerable expansion here. We can expand. We’ve got room.”

As far as accolades the Tennis Center and the Junior Tennis Champions Center have received recently, he’s not wasting any time basking in the glory. “Attention is fine, but substance is what counts. We were very under marketed when I got here. There’s no question about that. One of the main reasons to get your name out is to attract the best athletes and do fundraising, because we’re a non-profit. We depend on it.”

Benton is audibly proud of the hundreds of kids who have been a part of the program. When he talks about the JTCC talent, it’s as if he is the proud grandfather of all of them. You almost expect him to have a photograph of every one of them in his wallet. “Denis Kudla is #184 in the world right now. There are only one or two players younger than him who are ranked higher. Mitchell Frank is excelling at Virginia. Trice (Capra) is at Duke. Skylar Morton graduated from here in three years and is playing very well, #3 or 4 at UCLA. She should be a senior in high school.”

Then there’s the next class of Junior Champions. After we spoke about Riverdale’s FrancisTiafoe and Reisterstown’s Yancy Dennis, he was more than ready to talk up the local girls climbing the ladder. ”We have a girl named Elizabeth Scotty, who’s 10 and 16th in the country in under 12s. We are really strong in the 14 girls, including three girls from Baltimore, NadiaGizdova (Columbia, MD), Raveena Kingsley (Parkton, MD) and Jada Robinson (Reisterstown, MD). And next week, we’ll have a girl that is as good as any of them. Usue Arcornada. She’s coming with (longtime JTCC Coach) Frank Salazar. She’s originally from Argentina, but grew up in Puerto Rico. And she is a tiger.”

 

Steve Fogleman is a Baltimore, MD-based attorney when not covering tennis. He manages the website Tennis Maryland and can be followed on twitter @TennisMaryland for further updates.

Nadal Expects to play London, Federer and Murray Call for Longer Winter Break, Wozniacki on Player Council

Rafael Nadal

*World No. 1 Rafa Nadal expects to be fit for the ATP Tour Finals in London despite pulling out of the Paris Masters this week with injury. “I am not worried at all about London,” said the Spaniard. “It was not an easy decision [to pull out of Paris] because Paris is a special city for me. But I have played all the season’s Masters and Grand Slams. I will be back to practice soon, before next Sunday.” Nadal had an awful experience at the o2 Arena last year, being eliminated at the Group Stage without taking a single set. “I’m going to do all in my hands to play well there,” said the man who has won this season’s French Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles.

“It’s my goal to improve the image of last year in London.” The full interview, in which he discusses his latest injury, can be seen at the BBC Tennis site.

*Roger Federer is calling for the current four-week ATP Tour winter break to be increased to six to protect players from possible burnout. This debate has been going on for years as more and more tournaments crop up on the circuit and there have even been mentions of a possible fifth Grand Slam in Asia to dip in to the Eastern market. “I think it’s time we shifted back a bit and we get a proper off-season,” said the 29-year-old before he went in to battle at Paris this week. “Four weeks is just not enough. I think six is much better as you can take two weeks off… practise three, four weeks which is a lot for us in our world.” Federer has also this week firmly denied he has had any part to play in the IMG betting scandal surrounding many sports currently. IMG executive Ted Forstmann is accused of betting millions on sporting events including the 2007 French Open final with Federer lost to Rafa Nadal. “I reached out to him and told him I want to know everything about it, how this came about,” Federer told the New York Times. “And he’s been, you know, nice enough obviously to tell me from his side and has been very open in the press already. So that’s OK.”

*Andy Murray is another calling for a longer break. He believes the current length of the tour will curtail many players’ careers before their time. “There’s no time for you to take a break to get rid of an injury,” The British No. 1 told The Sun newspaper. “Instead players end up playing through it and that actually shortens careers. There should be fewer mandatory tournaments because you get punished so much for being injured and I don’t think that’s fair.” Recent examples of Murray’s points are 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro and Serena Williams.

*World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki will replace the outgoing Patty Schnyder on the WTA Players’ Council. She joins the Williams sisters, Franchesca Schiavone, Akgul Amanmuradova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands as the players’ representatives.

*American Taylor Dent has become the latest star to announce their retirement from professional tennis. The Newport Beach native staged an amazing comeback in 2009 from a debilitating back injury for which he was nominated for the 2009 Comeback Of The Year award after climbing nearly 800 ranking slots to finish the year at No. 76 in the world. “I had the privilege to compete at the highest level for 12 years, see places in the world I would have never been able to see without tennis, and meet people along the way that have become lifelong friends,” said 29-year-old Dent.

“I am looking forward to spending more time with my family, especially with my wife Jenny [Hopkins, former tennis pro] and our son Declan. I want to continue to stay active in the tennis industry and I am excited to explore opportunities in the world of tennis that my full tournament schedule never allowed me to do.” 38-year-old doubles specialist Martin Damm has also announced his retirement from the sport due to poor results coupled with his age. He will now coach American starlet Ryan Harrison.

*World No. 4 Andy Murray has said it is “a possibility” that he may play on without a full-time coach if he feels happy with his current form and set-up. The British No. 1 has not had a full-time coach since parting ways with Miles McLagan in July but has been working closely with former world No. 2 Alex Corretja in that time. “I just have to decide to see what to do next year,” said the 23-year-old. “If I like the way things are going and I feel like I’m improving, then I’m not scared of playing some tournaments on my own, trying out being on my own for a little bit. But I need to make sure I’m improving. If I’m not improving, then I’m not going to keep just trying to make it work without a coach.” You can read, or watch, the full interview including Murray’s views on his recent form at the ATP website.

*Italy became the sixth nation to win three or more Fed Cup titles with their victory over the USA in San Diego. Understandably, Flavia Pennetta was on cloud nine. “It’s amazing to win a match like this,” Pennetta said of her victory over Coco Vandeweghe in their singles rubber. “I was feeling really good on the court and I think all of the team is very happy now. It’s amazing to be here. This will be with me all my life so it’s really nice and really exciting.”

*The Bryan brothers clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking in doubles with a 6-3, 3-6, 10-3 victory over long-time rivals Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic at the Swiss Indoors Basel on Sunday. It was title number eleven for 2010 and they now have a 11-0 record in finals this year. They have achieved this feat once before (2007) and have the chance in either Paris or London to take a career-record twelfth title of the season.

*Pat Rafter has outlined Plan A in bringing Davis Cup success to Australia: healing the very public rift between Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic. It began at Wimbledon 2009 when Tomic and his father and coach, John, snubbed requests by Hewitt to be his hitting partner. It then exploded last summer when Hewitt questioned whether Tomic was ready for Davis Cup play. With many seeing Tomic, 18 last month, as the future of Aussie tennis, Rafter is keen to heal the damage. “I think after the Australian Open would be a nice time for us all to sit down. Both boys have to agree,” Rafter told the HeraldSun. “I spoke to Bernard recently and we had a really good conversation with both him and his father. That’s been a great thing. Obviously he is really important to us. He’s a great player, a great talent and he’s got a good opportunity of making it. He’s someone, with me being Davis Cup captain, who will definitely come into the fray.” For a great interview including Rafter’s views on Aussie tennis and how kids should have “more mongrel” on the tour, as he puts it, check out the Herald/Sun website.

*Former world No. 20 Katarina Srebotnik has announced her retirement from singles tennis to focus fully on the WTA doubles tour. The 29-year-old Slovenian suffered badly with injuries throughout 2009 and so has decided to focus on her more prosperous doubles exploits. In January 2008 she reached No. 3 in the world in doubles and she hopes to recapture some of that form in her twilight years. “I practiced very hard in the off-season in 2009 to prepare to play my best in singles and doubles in 2010. My career goal was always to do well in both,” Srebotnik said. “Because I was still doing very well in doubles, I used my special ranking in singles at bigger events, so I could play doubles there too.” Speaking about the end of her singles career she said: “I was in a situation. I was No. 228 and couldn’t even make the qualies of the US Open. Everything was pointing to a new direction.” You can read the full interview at the WTA website.

*The Paris surface has received a thumbs up from many of the top stars this week. Check out their views at Tennis.com.

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.”

Tennis World Mourns Jack Kramer Loss

Jack Kramer

The tennis world mourns the death of Jack Kramer, who passed away at age 88 Saturday night in California. Bud Collins, the Hall of Fame journalist and television personality, summarizes the incredible tennis career of one of the game’s all-time greats in his book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, excerpted below.

Jack Kramer

The impact of John Albert “Jake” Kramer on tennis has been fourfold: as great player, exceptional promoter, thoughtful inno­vator and astute television commentator.

Kramer, born Aug. 1, 1921, in Las Vegas, Nev., grew up in the Los Angeles area. He achieved international notice in 1939 as a teenager when he was selected to play doubles, alongside Joe Hunt, for the U.S. in the Davis Cup finale against Australia. At 18, Kramer was the youngest to play in the Cup title round, although John Alexander of Australia lowered the record to 17 by play­ing in 1968.

Kramer and Hunt were the golden boys out of Southern Cali­fornia, their careers intertwined. Joe beat Jake, at Forest Hills in 1939, where they were both losing semifinalists the following year. Both were to go to sea during World War II, Jake in the Coast Guard, Joe in the Navy, and to receive leaves to play again in the U.S. Championships of 1943, where they collided in the final. Hunt won, barely, sprawling on the court with cramps as Kram­er’s last shot flew long. Kramer, who’d had a bout with food poi­soning, laughed later, “If I could’ve kept that ball in play I might have been a champ on a default.” Hunt was killed 17 months afterwards in a military plane crash.

Because of the war, Jake had to wait three years to return to Forest Hills. He then rose to prominence as a splendid cham­pion, so dominant that he was voted fifth on a list of all-time greats selected by a panel of expert tennis journalists in 1969. The powerful right-hander was the leading practitioner of the “big game,” rushing to the net constantly behind his serve, and frequently attacking on return of serve. His serve took oppo­nents off the court, setting them up for the volley, as did his crushing forehand.

A blistered racket hand probably decided his gruelling fourth-round defeat by cunning lefty Jaroslav Drobny, and pre­vented Jake from winning the first post-war Wimbledon. But he came back awesomely in 1947, the first to win in shorts, making short work of everybody. Whipping doubles partner Tom Brown in 48 minutes, 6-1, 6-.3, 6-2, he lost merely 37 games in seven matches, the most lopsided run to the championship.

Brown had been his 1946 U.S. final-round victim, 9-7, 6-3, 6-0, another one-sided excursion for Jake, a crew-cut blond whose goal was to reclaim the Davis Cup that he and Hunt failed to clinch in 1939. In December, he and good buddy Ted Schroeder—the U.S. doubles champs of 1940—were members of a highly-talented team that captain Walter Pate took to Austra­lia for the challenge round. Every man—those two plus Brown, Frank Parker, Gardnar Mulloy, Bill Talbert—thought he should play. Pate picked Ted and Jake to do it all, controversial until the pals paralyzed the favored Aussies on opening day. Schroeder overcame John Bromwich, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 0-6, 6-3 and Kramer nailed Dinny Pails, 8-6, 6-2, 9-7. Together, they grabbed the Cup by flatten­ing the team that had beaten Hunt and Kramer in ‘39: Bromwich and Adrian Quist, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.

The following summer, Jake and Ted repelled the Australian challenge for the Cup at Forest Hills. Then Kramer closed out his amateur career memorably by overhauling Parker in the U.S. final. He lost the first two sets, and was in danger of losing out on a lucrative professional contract as well as his champion­ship. Counterpunching, he won, 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-0, 6-3, and set off in pursuit of Bobby Riggs, the reigning pro champ. Kramer, who had lost only two matches in 1946, dropped but one (to Talbert) in 1947, winning eight of nine tournaments on 48-1, closing his amateur life with a 41-match rush, and 18 singles titles.

Kramer knocked Riggs off the summit by winning their odys­sey of one-nighters throughout the U.S., which was the test of professional supremacy of that day. Their opener was a phenom­enon: New York was buried by a blizzard that brought the city to a stop, yet 15,114 customers made it on foot to the old Madison Square Garden on Dec. 27, 1947, to watch Riggs win. But Bobby couldn’t keep it up. Kramer won the tour, 69-20, and stayed in action while Riggs took over as the promoter and signed Pan­cho Gonzalez to challenge Kramer. Nobody was up to Kramer then. He bruised the rookie Gonzalez 96-27 on the longest of the tours. Kramer made $85,000 against Riggs as his percentage, and $72,000 against Gonzalez.

In 1952, Kramer assumed the position of promoter himself, the boss of pro tennis, a role he would hold for over a decade, well past his playing days. Kramer’s last tour as a principal was against the first man he recruited, Frank Sedgman, the Aussie who was tops among amateurs. Kramer won, 54-41. An arthritic back led to his retirement as a player, but he kept the tour going, resurrecting one of his victims, Gonzalez, who became the strongman.

One of the shrewdest operators in tennis, Kramer was looked to for advice when the Open era began in 1968. He devised the Grand Prix for the men’s game, a series of tournaments lead­ing to a Masters Championship for the top eight finishers, and a bonus pool to be shared by more than a score of the leading players. The Grand Prix, incorporating the most attractive tourna­ments around the world, functioned from 1970 until 1990, when the ATP Tour took over the structure. In 1972, he was instrumental in forming the ATP (Association of Tennis Pros), the male play­ers’ union, and was its first executive director. His role as leader of the ATP’s principled boycott of Wimbledon in 1973 made him unpopular in Britain for a time. Nevertheless, it was a landmark act, assuring the players the right to control their own destiny after being in thrall to national associations until then. Later, he served on the Men’s International Professional Tennis Council, the worldwide governing board.

For more than 20 years, Kramer served as a perceptive ana­lyst on tennis telecasts in many countries, notably for the British Broadcasting Corporation at Wimbledon and for all the Ameri­can networks at Forest Hills, and at other events, second to none. He ranked in the U.S. Top 10 five times between 1940 and 1947, No. 1 in the U.S. and the world in 1946 and 1947. Kramer won the U.S. Pro title in 1948 over the defender, Riggs, 14-12, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, and the world pro title in 1949 over Riggs, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

Kramer, winner of 13 U.S. singles and doubles titles, was named to the Hall of Fame in 1968. His son, Bob Kramer, con­tinues the family’s tennis interests as director of the Los Angeles ATP tourney.

MAJOR TITLES (10)—Wimbledon singles 1947: U.S. singles, 1946, 1947; Wimbledon doubles, 1946, 1947: U.S. doubles, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1947; U.S. mixed, 1941.

OTHER U.S.TITLES (6)—Indoor singles, 1947; Pro singles. 1948; Pro doubles, 1948, 1955, with Pancho Segura; Indoor doubles, 1947, with Bob Falkenburg; Clay Court doubles, 1941, with Ted Schroeder. DAVIS CUP—1939, 1946-47, 6-0 singles, 1-2 doubles.

SIN­GLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS—Wimbledon (10-1), U.S. (24-5)

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.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Venus is one of the greatest champions ever

Sam Querrey

STARS

Marion Bartoli beat Venus Williams 6-2 5-7 6-4 to win the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California, USA

Sam Querrey beat Carsten Ball 6-4 3-6 6-1 to win the Countrywide Classic LA Tennis Open in Los Angeles, California, USA

Nikolay Davydenko beat Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3 6-0 to win the Studena Croatia Open in Umag, Croatia

Thomaz Bellucci won his first ATP title, the Allianz Suisse Open, beating Andreas Beck 6-4 7-6 (2) in Gstaad, Switzerland

Vera Dushevina beat Lucie Hradecka 6-0 6-1 to win her first WTA Tour title, the Istanbul Cup in Istanbul, Turkey.

Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. beat Pablo Andujar 6-4 6-2 to win the Trofeo Stefano Bellaveglia in Orbetello, Italy

SAYING

“Venus is one of the greatest champions ever. That’s what I practice for, to play her. To beat her is even better.” – Marion Bartoli, after beating Venus Williams to win the Bank of the West Classic.

“She didn’t give me much of a chance. I might have been able to win a few more points, but not the match.” – Elena Dementieva, after losing to Venus Williams in the semifinals.

“It’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest win of my career. We don’t always play our best tennis every single day. Maybe she didn’t play her best and I played very well.” – Samantha Stosur, after beating Serena Williams in the Bank of the West Classic.

“I’m going to go home, relax, and do some fitness. Ultimately it would good for me and I need to work with my mom on some things. I want to figure out what to do with my singles career.” – A joking Serena Williams, following her loss to Samantha Stosur.

“When I was done (with my career), I felt I’d put up some numbers no one would touch. Little did I know Roger would surpass me in seven years.” – Pete Sampras, who saw his men’s record 14 Grand Slam tournament titles eclipsed by Roger Federer.

“To be number one, you should be complete, and if you are number one you have to be beating the Williams sisters. I’m one of the rare players who has a positive record against the Williams sisters.” – Jelena Jankovic, who is 5-4 against Venus and 3-4 against Serena.

“It’s another one I can’t believe. Sandra Day O’Connor, hello. Tutu. Ted. I was overwhelmed when I heard it. What about Milk man? I was so excited for the community. I think it’s the first time the LGBT community has been acknowledged. It’s another breakthrough.” – Billie Jean King, who will be one of 16 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“When I was 7, I said, ‘Mom, I know I’m going to do something great with my life.’ She said, ‘That’s all right, just get the dishes done.’” – Billie Jean King, whose 87-year-old mother, Betty Jean Moffitt, will accompany her to the White House when she receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“I really don’t know why I play so well here. Three wins and one final, and each time with a different Czech partner, which is also strange. I don’t know why but I hope it continues.” – Michal Mertinak, after teaming with Frantisek Cermak to win the doubles at Umag, Croatia.

“Before the tournament if someone came and told me I’d play the final of singles and win the doubles, I’d have said they were joking. I’m very happy with my week.” – Lucie Hradecka, who reached the Istanbul Cup final in both singles and doubles.

SO DESERVING

Billie Jean King is the recipient of yet another honor. She is one of 16 people who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama later this month. The medals are the first to be awarded by Obama and represent the country’s highest honor for a civilian. Besides King, other honorees include Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, gay rights activist Harvey Milk, Race for the Cure founder Nancy Brinker, physicist Stephen Hawking and civil rights activist Reverend Joseph Lowery. . Former US Representative and football quarterback Jack Kemp, who died in May, will receive a posthumous award. Among her many other accomplishments, King is a global mentor of a joint WTA and UNESCO program to promote women’s equality in sport.

SOUTH AMERICAN SUCCESS

When Thomaz Bellucci captured the Swiss Open in Gstaad, he became the first Brazilian to win an ATP tournament in nearly five years. The last Brazilian champion was Ricardo Mello at Delray Beach, Florida, USA, in September 2004. Bellucci, a qualifier, beat Andreas Beck in the final. But he proved he belonged there by eliminating top-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka and third-seeded Igor Andreev on his way to the title match. Bellucci is the fifth player to claim his first ATP World Tour title this season. The Bellucci-Beck matchup was the first ATP final between two left-handers since January 2008 when Michael Llodra and Jarkko Nieminen contested the title in Adelaide, Australia.

SEASON-ENDING INJURY

Britain’s Anne Keothavong is out for the rest of the season after injuring her left knee. She damaged her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus during a doubles match in the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California, USA. The injury occurred when Keothavong ran into a fence chasing a shot during her match. “Of course I’m disappointed to be out for the rest of the season but I’ll continue to work with my team and look forward to coming back next season,” Keothavong said.

STANFORD DOINGS

For Marion Bartoli, the Bank of the West Classic victory was redemption for Wimbledon. Bartoli won her first WTA Premier Tour title by upsetting Venus Williams 6-2 5-7 6-4 in the championship match at Stanford, California, USA. In their only previous meeting, Bartoli lost to Williams in the 2007 Wimbledon final. It was the second straight year Bartoli has been in the Stanford final, and her first title on American soil. Williams, making her first appearance at the event since 2005, reached her seventh final in eight appearances at Stanford, where’s she won twice, her last coming in 2002. Venus lost for just the third time in her last 15 matches, but she has not won an outdoor hard court tournament in the United States in seven years.

SUCCESSIVE WINS

For the first time in his career, Nikolay Davydenko has won consecutive tournaments. This time the ninth-ranked Russian crushed Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3 6-0 in the final of the Studena Croatia Open in Umag, Croatia. The week before, Davydenko won in Hamburg, Germany. It was his 16th ATP World Tour title in his 21st final, the sixth best record among active players. And the win increases Davydenko’s chances of qualifying for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, to be held in London, England. Last year, when the season finale was held in Shanghai, China, Davydenko reached the title match where he lost to Novak Djokovic.

SIDELINED

A foot injury will keep Svetlana Kuznetsova on the sidelines this week. The French Open champion pulled out of the LA Women’s Tennis Championships because of the injury. That still leaves the Los Angeles event with 10 of the world’s top 15 women in the field, including the defending champion, top-ranked Dinara Safina.

SWEET SWISS

Swiss pair Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer needed a wild card to enter the Allianz Suisse Open in Gstaad, Switzerland. They came away with the doubles title, defeating defending champions Jaroslav Levinsky and Filip Polasek 7-5 6-3 in the final. The two had a rough road to the title match, also knocking out second-seeded Michael Kohlmann and Sebastien Prieto in the quarterfinals and third-seeded Yves Allegro and Horia Tecau in the semifinals. The 27-year-old Chiudinelli won his first ATP World Tour doubles title on his second final in Gstaad. He and Jean-Claude Scherrer were runners-up in 2006.

SPONSORED

It didn’t take long for Kim Clijsters to have to go to the bank. The former top-ranked player has signed a sponsorship agreement with Adecco SA, the world’s largest supplier of temporary workers. The Zurich, Switzerland-based company is becoming the “official sponsor” of the 26-year-old Belgian. Clijsters, who had a baby last year, will play her first WTA Tour match in two years when she takes to the court in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, on August 10. She will play the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada, the week after that before heading to New York and the US Open, which starts August 31. It will be Clijsters’ first US Open since she won the Grand Slam tournament in 2005.

SUCCESS, FINALLY

Sam Querrey finally has a title to call his own. The hard-serving American ended a string of final-round frustrations by winning the LA Tennis Open title with a 6-4 3-6 6-1 victory over qualifier Carsten Bell. It was Querrey’s third straight final and fourth of the season – but his first title. “I didn’t want to lose three finals in a row,” said the 21-year-old, who lives in Santa Monica, California, not far from where the LA Tennis Open was contested. Seeded sixth in Los Angeles, Querrey had lost in the final in New Zealand in January and the last two weeks at Newport, Rhode Island, and Indianapolis, Indiana. Querrey became the fifth player to reach the finals in four events this season, joining Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. It was his second career ATP title. Ball had never won a match on tour before the LA Tennis Open.

STARTING COMEBACK

Australian Alicia Molik is planning on ending her retirement and returning to the WTA Tour. “I’m loving being back … and enjoying training,” Molik said. “I’m injury-free and back doing what I love.” Ranked as high as number eight in the world, Molik retired last year after being felled by illness and injuries. She had an inner ear virus that affected her balance. Then she was plagued by leg and arm injuries. “I think I’m still young enough to focus my energies on something that I feel is again challenging,” said the 28-year-old Molik.

STAYING PUT

The Bank of the West Classic is staying right where it is. The tournament and Stanford University have agreed to a three-year contract that will keep the longest-running women-only pro tournament in the world at the Taube Family Tennis Center in Stanford, California, through the year 2012. IMG Senior Vice President Adam Barrett said the WTA adjusted its rules to allow the tournament to continue because of having a long-term sponsor as well as rich tradition. The Taube Family Tennis Center seats just fewer than 4,000, while the new WTA Roadmap rules state Premier tournaments such as the Bank of the West must seat at least 6,000 fans.

STARRING ROGER

Roger Federer reportedly wants to play for Switzerland in its Davis Cup playoff against Italy in September. “Nothing is definite yet, but there’s a good chance that our best players will be there,” said Severin Luethi, part of Federer’s coaching team. Federer missed Switzerland’s 4-1 loss to the United States in the World Group first round because of a back injury. The winner of the Switzerland-Italy playoff tie in Genoa, Italy, on September 18-20 will remain in the World Group next year, while the loser will drop to zonal play. The tie, which will be played on outdoor clay courts, will begin five days after the men’s singles final of the US Open, where Federer is the five-time defending champion. Against Italy, Federer would likely team up with the Stanislas Wawrinka to play singles and doubles. Federer and Wawrinka won the doubles gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.

SUSPENSION POSSIBLE

Austrian Tamira Paszek faces a provisional suspension while officials investigate whether a medial treatment she received for a back injury violated doping regulations. The Austrian anti-doping agency has asked its disciplinary committee to temporarily ban the WTA player. Last month, blood was taken from the 18-year-old for enrichment, then later re-injected in the lower part of her back. Re-injecting one’s own blood is banned under international anti-doping rules. Paszek, who is ranked 59th in the world, alerted the doping agency herself when she learned her treatment might possibly be illegal.

SON OR DAUGHTER?

Boris Becker and his wife, model Sharlely “Lilly” Kerssenberg, are expecting a child. The two were married June 12 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. “Yes, we’re going to be parents,” Becker told the German newspaper Bild. “We are really looking forward to our baby.” It will be the fourth child for Becker, who has two sons, 15-year-old Noah and 9-year-old Elias, with his ex-wife Barbara Feltus, and a 9-year-old daughter, Anna, from an extramarital affair.

SPRINGFIELD RIFLE

Tim Mayotte has been hired as a United States Tennis Association (USTA) national coach. He will facilitate coaching and training programs while working with players in the USTA Player Development program. A native of Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, who was ranked as high as number seven in the world, Mayotte will be based at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, USA. He was a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 1982 and at the Australian Open in 1981.

SENIOR STAR

Graydon Nichols is being inducted into the United States Tennis Association Northern California Hall of Fame. The induction of the 84-year-old farmer highlights a career that has catapulted him to the top of the world in senior tennis. “I never imagined that something like this would be possible for me,” Nichols said. “I was shocked to get a phone call saying that I had been selected.” Nichols has won two world singles titles, the latest at the 2007 World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand. That’s when he ended the year ranked number one in the world in his category. Not only did he go undefeated in 2007, Nichols captained the United States team to the Gardnar Mulloy Cup title, senior tennis’ version of the Davis Cup. He is currently ranked number one in the United States and number four in the world after posting a 13-1 record in 2008.

SAD NEWS

Nancy Reed, a three-time International Tennis Federation Seniors Singles World Champion and pioneer of Seniors Tennis, is dead. Reed won the women’s 40 doubles with fellow American Mary Ann Plante at the very first ITF Seniors World Championships in Brazil in 1981. She went on to win 12 World Championship doubles crowns. She captured her first singles title in Sicily in 1992 in the 55 age category. The next year, she won the 60 age category. Her third and final singles world title came in 1999, but she won the doubles world title in the 75 age category in Turkey last year. She also was a member of the United States team that won the Queens’ Cup in Turkey last October.

SPANKED

HEAD/Penn Racquet Sports has been fined USD $24,780 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for allegedly failing to report the amount of toxic chemicals released by its plant in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. According to the EPA, the sports company failed to report emissions of N-hexane and zinc compounds from its facility to EPA’s annual Toxics Release Inventory for 2007. HEAD/Penn, which is based in Connecticut, manufactures tennis, badminton, and ski equipment, and owns and operates the Phoenix facility. US federal law requires that facilities using toxic chemicals over specified amounts must file annual reports of their chemical releases with EPA and the state. Information from these reports is then compiled into a national database and made available to the public.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Los Angeles: Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan beat Benjamin Becker and Frank Moser 6-4 7-6 (2)

Stanford: Venus Williams and Serena Williams beat Yung-Jan Chan and Monica Niculescu 6-4 6-1

Istanbul: Lucie Hradecka and Renata Voracova beat Julia Goerges and Patty Schnyder 2-6 6-3 12-10 (match tiebreak)

Gstaad: Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer beat Jaroslav Levinsky and Filip Polasek 7-5 6-3

Umag: Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4 6-4

Orbetello: Paolo Lorenzi and Giancarlo Petrazzuolo beat Alessio Di Mauro and Manuel Jorquera 7-6 (5) 3-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Washington: www.leggmasontennisclassic.com/

Segovia: www.teniselespinar.com/

San Marino: www.atpsanmarino.com/

Vancouver: www.vanopen.com/

Los Angeles: www.latennischamps.com/

Montreal: http://www3.rogerscup.com/men/english/home.php

Cincinnati: www.cincytennis.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$1,402,000 Legg Mason Tennis Classic, Washington, DC, USA, hard

$150,000 ATP Open Castilla y Leon, Segovia, Spain, hard

$120,000 San Marino CEPU Open, San Marino, clay

$100,000 Odlum Brown Vancouver Open, Vancouver, Canada, hard

WTA

$700,000 LA Women’s Tennis Championships presented by Herbalife, Los Angeles, California, USA, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$3,000,000 Rogers Cup, Montreal, Canada, hard

$120,000 Internazionali del Friuli Venezia Guilia Tennis Cup Cordenons, Italy, clay

WTA

$2,000,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, hard

SENIORS

Vale Do Lobo Grand Champions CGD, Algarve, Portugal, hard

Gasquet Cleared, Party Kiss Transferred Cocaine

LONDON (AP) — Richard Gasquet escaped a lengthy doping ban Wednesday when the International Tennis Federation ruled that he inadvertently took cocaine.
The 23-year-old Frenchman, who was cleared to resume playing after completing a 2 1/2-month ban Wednesday, convinced an independent anti-doping tribunal that he ingested cocaine by kissing a woman he met at a nightclub in Miami.
The tribunal panel of three lawyers said Gasquet consumed no more than “a grain of salt” of the drug, and a long ban would be an injustice in a case which was “unusual to the point of being probably unique.”
“We have found the player to be a person who is shy and reserved, honest and truthful, and a man of integrity and good character,” the tribunal said in its ruling.
The ITF, which had sought a two-year ban under the terms of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code, was told to impose a retroactive ban of two months, 15 days. The ban ended Wednesday morning, clearing 32nd-ranked Gasquet to resume playing.
Gasquet tested positive in a urine sample in March after he pulled out of the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, with a shoulder injury.
After deciding to withdraw from the tournament he went to a nightclub with friends to see a French DJ perform at a Miami dance music festival, which the tribunal noted was “notoriously associated with use of illegal recreational drugs including cocaine.”
Gasquet told the tribunal hearing held in London last month that he kissed a woman, identified in the ruling only as “Pamela.”
The tribunal said it was likely she had consumed cocaine during the night, though it had no direct evidence.
Gasquet was “on the balance of probability, contaminated with cocaine by Pamela” and, therefore, not significantly at fault for the doping offense, the ruling said.
“We take into account that the amount of cocaine in the player’s body was so small that if he had been tested only a few hours later, his test result would be likely to have been negative,” the tribunal stated.
Gasquet also argued at the hearing that his positive test was given after he had pulled out of the Key Biscayne tournament. Cocaine is a banned drug for athletes in competition.
The tribunal said Gasquet’s rights to practice his profession would be infringed by a one-year suspension, though it was required to find that a doping offense was committed.
It also noted that Gasquet would be banned for life if he tested positive for a banned drug a second time.
The ruling allowed the Frenchman to keep the ranking points and prize money he gained at tournaments in April.
The ITF provisionally suspended Gasquet when the test result was announced in May and he was forced to miss the French Open and Wimbledon. His ranking has since dropped nine places.
The ruling can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport within three weeks.

LONDON (AP) — Richard Gasquet escaped a lengthy doping ban Wednesday when the International Tennis Federation ruled that he inadvertently took cocaine.

The 23-year-old Frenchman, who was cleared to resume playing after completing a 2 1/2-month ban Wednesday, convinced an independent anti-doping tribunal that he ingested cocaine by kissing a woman he met at a nightclub in Miami.

The tribunal panel of three lawyers said Gasquet consumed no more than “a grain of salt” of the drug, and a long ban would be an injustice in a case which was “unusual to the point of being probably unique.”

“We have found the player to be a person who is shy and reserved, honest and truthful, and a man of integrity and good character,” the tribunal said in its ruling.

The ITF, which had sought a two-year ban under the terms of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code, was told to impose a retroactive ban of two months, 15 days. The ban ended Wednesday morning, clearing 32nd-ranked Gasquet to resume playing.

Gasquet tested positive in a urine sample in March after he pulled out of the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, with a shoulder injury.

After deciding to withdraw from the tournament he went to a nightclub with friends to see a French DJ perform at a Miami dance music festival, which the tribunal noted was “notoriously associated with use of illegal recreational drugs including cocaine.”

Gasquet told the tribunal hearing held in London last month that he kissed a woman, identified in the ruling only as “Pamela.”

The tribunal said it was likely she had consumed cocaine during the night, though it had no direct evidence.

Gasquet was “on the balance of probability, contaminated with cocaine by Pamela” and, therefore, not significantly at fault for the doping offense, the ruling said.

“We take into account that the amount of cocaine in the player’s body was so small that if he had been tested only a few hours later, his test result would be likely to have been negative,” the tribunal stated.

Gasquet also argued at the hearing that his positive test was given after he had pulled out of the Key Biscayne tournament. Cocaine is a banned drug for athletes in competition.

The tribunal said Gasquet’s rights to practice his profession would be infringed by a one-year suspension, though it was required to find that a doping offense was committed.

It also noted that Gasquet would be banned for life if he tested positive for a banned drug a second time.

The ruling allowed the Frenchman to keep the ranking points and prize money he gained at tournaments in April.

The ITF provisionally suspended Gasquet when the test result was announced in May and he was forced to miss the French Open and Wimbledon. His ranking has since dropped nine places.

The ruling can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport within three weeks.

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.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Roger Federer sets historic record

Roger Federer set historic record

STARS

Wimbledon

Men’s singles: Roger Federer beat Andy Roddick 5-7 7-6 (6) 7-6 (5) 3-6 16-14

Women’s singles: Serena Williams beat Venus Williams 7-6 (3) 6-2

Men’s doubles: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 7-6 (7) 6-7 (3) 7-6 (3) 6-3

Women’s doubles: Venus and Serena Williams beat Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs 7-6 (4) 6-4

Mixed doubles: Mark Knowles and Anna-Lena Groenefeld beat Leander Paes and Cara Black 7-5 6-3

Boys’ singles: Andrev Kuznetsov beat Jordan Cox 4-6 6-2 6-2

Girls’ singles: Noppawan Lertcheenakarn beat Kristina Mladenovic 3-6 6-3 6-1

Boys’ doubles: Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Kevin Krawietz beat Julien Obry and Adrian Puget 6-7(3), 6-2, 12-10.

Girls’ doubles: Noppawan Lertcheewakarn and Sally Peers beat Kristina Mladenovic and Silvia Njiric 6-1 6-1

Wheelchair women’s doubles: Korie Homan and Esther Vergeer beat Daniela Di Toro and Lucy Shuker 6-1 6-3

Wheelchair men’s doubles: Stephane Houdet and Michael Jeremiasz beat Robin Ammerlaan and Shingo Kunieda 1-6 6-4 7-3 (match tiebreak)

OTHER TOURNAMENTS

Oscar Hernandez beat Tiemurax Gabashvili to win the Nord/LP Open in Braunschweig, Germany

Potito Starace beat Maximo Gonzalez 7-6 (4) 6-3 to win the Trofeo Regione Piemonte in Turin, Italy

Polona Hercog beat Varvara Lepchonko 6-1 6-2 to win the Cuneo ITF Tournament in Cuneo, Italy

SAYING

“It’s not really one of those goals you set as a little boy, but, man, it’s been quite a career. And quite a month.” – Roger Federer, who won his sixth Wimbledon title, and 15th Grand Slam tournament crown, just four weeks after capturing his first French Open title.

“He’s a legend. Now he’s an icon.” – Pete Sampras, talking about Roger Federer after the Swiss star broke Sampras’ Grand Slam tournament victory record of 14 titles.

“Sorry, Pete, I tried to hold him off.” – Losing finalist Andy Roddick, apologizing to compatriot Pete Sampras.

“I’d rather definitely be number two and hold three Grand Slams in the past year than be number one and not have any. I don’t know what to do to be number one. I don’t even care anymore.” – Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon to go along with her 2009 Australian Open and 2008 US Open titles, yet is ranked number two in the world.

“Do I feel invincible? I’d like to say yes, but I really do work at it.” – Venus Williams, after winning her semifinal but before losing the title match to her sister Serena.

“I think I will beat him in a marathon easy.” – Robin Soderling, on meeting Roger Federer in another sport after losing to the Swiss star for the 11th straight time.

“Oh, it is only because he is better than everybody else. That’s it.” – Ivo Karlovic, when asked about Roger Federer’s secret for success.

“I don’t play to break records but it’s great to have them.” – Roger Federer.

“It’s a wonderful achievement. She’s played so well so many times. You know, a lot of the times actually at my expense.” – Venus Williams, on her sister Serena winning an 11th Grand Slam tournament title by beating Venus in the final.

“There’s no easy [way] to losing, especially when it’s so close to the crown. Either way, it’s not easy. ” – Venus Williams.

“One of the first things I noticed was our name on the board, on the big plaque. Now we get it twice. It’s obviously going to be special to come back next year and see that.” – Daniel Nestor, after teaming with Nenad Zimonjic to win their second straight Wimbledon men’s doubles title.

“It’s a game of inches and when you’re playing two guys who are serving close to 130 (mph), and you’re not getting a lot of sniffs on your return, it’s a dice roll. They were the better team today and I have to give them a lot of credit.” – Bob Bryan, on losing the men’s doubles final.

“I was Santa Claus on the court, serving so many double-faults.” – Dinara Safina, after overcoming 15 double-faults to beat Sabine Lisicki in the quarterfinals.

“I wasn’t sure if it’s Serena or Andy Roddick on the other side of the net, 125 mph all the time.” Elena Dementieva, on Serena Williams’ big serves in their semifinal match.

“Venus played as if she had some place to go and she was in a major league hurry to get a great dinner.” – Father Richard Williams, on Venus’ 51-minutes semifinal victory over Dinara Safina.

“I think she gave me a pretty good lesson today.” – Dinara Safina, after losing to Venus Williams in 51 minutes.

“I’m still scared of Serena Williams. I find her very intimidating.” – Laura Robson, a 15-year-old from Britain, talking about the ladies’ locker room at Wimbledon.

“Roof! Roof! Roof!” –Centre Court crowd chanting as the new retractable roof was closed for the first time when a light sprinkle interrupted play.

SETS RECORD

He had to work overtime to do it, but Roger Federer became the first man in history to win 15 Grand Slam tournament singles titles. His record-breaking 15th was the longest men’s Grand Slam final in history at 77 games as Federer outlasted Andy Roddick 5-7 7-6 (6) 7-6 (5) 3-6 16-14. The previous record was 71 games in the 1927 Australian Championships, while the previous Wimbledon mark was 62 games last year when Rafael Nadal beat Federer. The Federer-Roddick battle also was the longest fifth set in a men’s Grand Slam tournament final, breaking the old mark of 11-9 set in 1927 at Roland Garros. Federer served 50 aces, the most he has served in a match and only one behind Ivo Karlovic’s Wimbledon record of 51 aces. Federer’s previous best was 39 aces when he beat Janko Tipsarevic at the Australian Open in 2008.

SISTERS DOING IT

Sisters Serena and Venus Williams tried to take home all of the hardware from Wimbledon. Serena beat Venus in the women’s final, snapping the older sister’s two-year reign at Wimbledon. The two then teamed up to win the women’s doubles for the second time.

SUSTAINING TEAR

Ana Ivanovic will rest for at least a week after she suffered a slight tear in her left thigh during her fourth-round match at Wimbledon. The 2008 French Open champion left the court in tears after the first game of the second set against Venus Williams, who won the first set 6-1. Ivanovic is not scheduled to play again until August 3.

SHUT MY TOP

It took a brief shower, but Wimbledon showed off its new roof. With the crowd shouting “Roof! Roof! Roof!,” the retractable roof over Centre Court was closed for the first time on the second Monday of the tournament. The light sprinkle had halted play during he second set of a match between top-ranked Dinara Safina and 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo. By the time the roof was closed and the match resumed, the rain had stopped. But officials decided to keep the roof shut for the final match of the evening, Andy Murray beating Stanislas Wawrinka in a five-set match that ended at 10:39 p.m., more than an hour later than the previous record. Wimbledon joins the Australian Open as the only two Grand Slam tournaments with roofs. The Australian Open has roofs over its two main courts and plans to cover a third. The French Open plans on having a roof over its center court by 2011, while the US Open is looking into the possibility of covering a court.

SWINE FLU?

Twenty-eight staff members at Wimbledon were asked to stay at home because they were suspected of having swine flu. Two players – Michal Mertinak and Filip Polasek – also showed symptoms of the world-wide ailment. Mertinak withdrew from the second round of the mixed doubles because he was not feeling well. The two players were sharing a hotel room in London. All England Club spokesman Henry O’Grady said that despite the precautions, no one at Wimbledon is known to have swine flu.

SWINGING TOGETHER

India’s Prakash Amritraj and Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi hope their recent play will allow them to form a full-time doubles partnership. In only their third tournament together, Amritraj and Qureshi reached the third round before falling to the fourth-seeded team of Mark Knowles and Mahesh Bhupathi 6-4 5-7 7-6 (3) 6-0. “I’m glad we had these two weeks as a team,” Amritraj said. “I think we should take this partnership forward and we’re definitely a team to be reckoned with.”

STARRING

Women’s tennis is returning to New York’s Madison Square Garden, if only for one night. Four top players will compete March 1 in the second Billie Jean King Cup featuring no-ad scoring, a one-set semifinal and best-of-three final. Serena Williams won the inaugural event earlier this year, besting her sister Venus in the final. The 2008 field also included Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic. This year’s four Grand Slam tournament winners will be invited to participate in next year’s tournament. Serena has won the Australian Open and Wimbledon, while Svetlana Kuznetsova captured the French Open.

SPANISH LOSS

Rafael Nadal won’t be there when Spain’s Davis Cup takes on Germany in a World Group quarterfinal. Nadal, who has been struggling with tendinitis in his knees, was left off the Spanish team, just as he was for last year’s final, which Spain won by defeating Argentina. Spanish captain Albert Costa has named Fernando Verdasco, Tommy Robredo, David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez for the tie that will be played on clay in Marbella, Spain, later this week.

Wimbledon quarterfinalist Ivo Karlovic and Marin Cilic will lead Croatia’s Davis C up team against the United States. Croatia, which won the Davis Cup in 2005, will stage the tie on an indoor clay court in Porec, Croatia. Led by Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick, the American team includes James Black and brothers Bob and Mike Bryan, marking the 12th time in the last 13 Davis Cup contests that the same quartet of players will be together. Croatia has beaten the United States twice in Davis Cup competition.

SUMMER FLING?

Andre Agassi will play World Team Tennis this summer for the Philadelphia Freedoms. He will play at home on July 10 against the Boston Lobsters and at Newport Beach, California, on July 17. While Agassi played World Team Tennis before – for the Sacramento Capitals from 2002-04 – there will be two veterans stars making their WTT debuts. Michael Chang will play for the Capitals, while Kim Clijsters will suit up for two matches with the St. Louis Aces. Clijsters plans to return to the WTA Tour after a two-year retirement. Other stars playing this season include Serena Williams (Washington, DC), Venus Williams (Philadelphia), Maria Sharapova (Newport Beach), Martina Navratilova (Boston) and John McEnroe (New York). WTT is getting a boost this summer from its new partnership with the United States Tennis Association and a new team in New York City. The USTA has become a 25 percent owner of the league in an effort to expand the USTA Junior Team Tennis program.

SPECIAL NIGHT

The Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Award will be awarded by the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum (ITHFM) to Tennis Channel for its ongoing contributions to tennis. The award will be given at the 28th annual “Legends Ball” on Friday, September 11, in New York City. The special night will also honor a host of tennis luminaries, including Rod Laver, who will receive a special Life Trustee Award, and the Hall of Fame Induction Class of 2009: Donald Dell, Andres Gimeno, the late Dr. Robert Johnson and Monica Seles. The Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Award was created in honor of an individual whose passion and generosity for the game of tennis inspired others to contribute to the advancement of the sport. Cullman served as president and chairman of the ITHFM from 1982-88. Previous winners of the award include BNP Paribas, Rolex and Sony Ericsson. Tennis Channel will be covering its first US Open this year. The network also covers Wimbledon, the French Open and Australia Open in high definition, as well as the US Open Series, Davis Cup, ATP Masters series, fEd Cup and top-tier Sony Ericsson WTA Tour championship competitions.

SITTING IT OUT

Anna Kournikova won’t be playing World Team Tennis this season. The Russian star has been sidelined with a wrist injury. A WTT spokesperson said Kournikova made her decision after experiencing pain from tenosvnovitis while practicing for what would have been her seventh season with the league. The St. Louis Aces player has not responded to therapy or a series of cortisone shots. But while she’s unable to play, Kournikova plans to travel with her team to matches in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Springfield and St. Louis.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Braunschweig: Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer beat Brian Dabul and Nicolas Massau 7-6 (2) 6-4

Turin: Daniele Bracciali and Potito Starace beat Santiago Giraldo and Pere Riba 6-3 6-4

Cuneo: Akgul Amanmuradova and Darya Kustova beat Petra Cetkovska and Mathilde Johansson 5-7 6-1 10-7 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Newport: www.tennisfame.com/

Bastad: www.swedishopen.org/

Budapest: www.gazdefrancegrandprix.com/

Pozoblanco: www.tennispozoblanco.com

Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$500,000 Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, grass

$100,000 Open Diputacion Ciudad de Pozoblanco, Pozoblanco, Cordoba, Spain, clay

WTA

$220,000 GDF Suez Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, clay

$220,000 Collector Swedish Open Women, Bastad, Sweden, clay

$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Biarritz, Biarritz, France, clay

DAVIS CUP

World Group Quarterfinals

Czech Republic vs. Argentina at Ostrava, Czech Republic

Croatia vs. United States at Porec, Croatia

Israel vs. Russia at Tel Aviv, Israel

Spain vs. Germany at Puerto Banus, Marbella, Spain

Americas Zone Group 1 Playoff

Peru vs. Canada at Lima, Peru

Americas Zone Group 2 Second Round

Venezuela vs. Mexico at Maracaibo, Venezuela

Dominican Republic vs. Paraguay at San Francisco de Marcons, Provincia Duarte, Dominican Republic

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Playoff

Thailand vs. Kazakhstan at Nonthaburi, Thailand

Korea vs. China at Chun-cheon City, Korea

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 2 Second Round

Philippines vs. Pakistan at Manila, Philippines

New Zealand vs. Indonesia at Hamilton, New Zealand

Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 Playoffs

Belarus vs. FYR Macedonia at Minsk, Belarus

Europe/Africa Zone Group 2 Second Round

Slovenia vs. Lithuania at Otocec, Slovenia

Latvia vs. Bulgaria at Plovdiv, Latvia

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$600,000 Catella Swedish Open, Bastad, Sweden, clay

$600,000 Mercedes Cup, Stuttgart, Germany, clay

$125,000 Bogota, Columbia, clay

WTA

$220,000 Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo, Palermo, Italy, clay

$220,000 ECM Prague Open, Prague, Czech Republic, clay

Wimbledon in New York City

Wii
Anyone in Manhattan this week could have attended Wimbledon – from
Rockefeller Center’s big screen. Food, Wii, talking…and oh yeah,
tennis. If you went to watch that. It was a great event for families
to see.
The crowd thinned out from an earlier match when I went a few days ago,
with people interested in eating the free snacks, getting up every few
minutes. And eating. Eating. I felt like saying, “There’s a game on!
Sit down!” If they wanted to do this a week, it might have made a
better idea to run it during the quarter and semi-finals to peak more
interest. The place would have been packed for a grand Nadal-Federer
showoff!
People were talking among themselves, some about tennis, some about
visiting Rockefeller Center.
Recently, I’ve been fascinated by playing surfaces. I took back
everything I said about court preferences against grass that day. You
could walk around the grass court set up for an exhibition match, and
seeing how the grass ripped up, smelled, looked, etc. I understood why
the surface is unplayable for some on a wet day. I asked someone about
playing on clay the past weekend. It’s supposed to create lots of dust
that makes you cough as you play, make a horrible mess for a few wash
machine cycles, and is generally “gross. Grass is better.” I’m curious
now about the benefits of a grass court experience.
I, of course, grabbed a complimentary strawberries and cream the HSBC
Bank employees insisted was “the same they eat at Wimbledon.” It was
really frozen Cool Whip, not anything I would ask for a load of like the
others, but good fresh strawberries all the same. I guess free food
does that to people.
Over in a corner, the bank had set up about six televisions hooked up to
Wiis. The Wii tennis matches were really interesting for me, having
never played anything on Wii. The last time I remember playing a sports
Nintendo game was on an already old back then Nintendo Entertainment
System in eighth grade. I must have been the single person over 18
trying the Wiis.
The row of TVs had kids with full Lacoste sets I am sure will be
tomorrow’s commentators and tennis fanatics. Not our other row. My
“opponents” were an elementary girl and a high school guy who didn’t
follow tennis much but had probably won Wimbledon in the Wiis they had
at home. The guy was winning at the beginning from having set mine on
right-handed! I made sure to correct that to left – I’m right-handed
and forgot I am left-handed in tennis. I played as Roger Federer. I
felt like being someone who has hair left. The high school guy wanted
to be Ana Ivanovic, and we joked about the reasons for that.
The sport? Oh, right. The person I wanted to win lost that day.
Everything is elevated watching it on a bigger screen. The ties, set
losses, the wanting to egg on your player, is more intense than watching
it in your living room. I really wish people would continue this for
another week to watch the bigger matches.

Anyone in Manhattan this week could have attended Wimbledon – from Rockefeller Center’s big screen. Food, Wii, talking…and oh yeah, tennis. If you went to watch that. It was a great event for families to see.

The crowd thinned out from an earlier match when I went a few days ago, with people interested in eating the free snacks, getting up every few minutes. And eating. Eating. I felt like saying, “There’s a game on!

Sit down!” If they wanted to do this a week, it might have made a better idea to run it during the quarter and semi-finals to peak more interest. The place would have been packed for a grand Nadal-Federer showoff!

People were talking among themselves, some about tennis, some about visiting Rockefeller Center.

Recently, I’ve been fascinated by playing surfaces. I took back everything I said about court preferences against grass that day. You could walk around the grass court set up for an exhibition match, and seeing how the grass ripped up, smelled, looked, etc. I understood why the surface is unplayable for some on a wet day. I asked someone about playing on clay the past weekend. It’s supposed to create lots of dust that makes you cough as you play, make a horrible mess for a few wash machine cycles, and is generally “gross. Grass is better.” I’m curious now about the benefits of a grass court experience.

I, of course, grabbed a complimentary strawberries and cream the HSBC Bank employees insisted was “the same they eat at Wimbledon.” It was really frozen Cool Whip, not anything I would ask for a load of like the others, but good fresh strawberries all the same. I guess free food does that to people.

Over in a corner, the bank had set up about six televisions hooked up to Wiis. The Wii tennis matches were really interesting for me, having never played anything on Wii. The last time I remember playing a sports Nintendo game was on an already old back then Nintendo Entertainment System in eighth grade. I must have been the single person over 18 trying the Wiis.

The row of TVs had kids with full Lacoste sets I am sure will be tomorrow’s commentators and tennis fanatics. Not our other row. My ”opponents” were an elementary girl and a high school guy who didn’t follow tennis much but had probably won Wimbledon in the Wiis they had at home. The guy was winning at the beginning from having set mine on right-handed! I made sure to correct that to left – I’m right-handed and forgot I am left-handed in tennis. I played as Roger Federer. I felt like being someone who has hair left. The high school guy wanted to be Ana Ivanovic, and we joked about the reasons for that.

The sport? Oh, right. The person I wanted to win lost that day. Everything is elevated watching it on a bigger screen. The ties, set losses, the wanting to egg on your player, is more intense than watching it in your living room. I really wish people would continue this for another week to watch the bigger matches.

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