There was a lot different about the US Open 100 years ago than it is today. For starters, it was not called the U.S. Open, but the “Nationals” in the era before tennis was professional. It was also held on grass courts in the quiet, quaint confines of the Newport Casino in Newport, Rhode Island, the modern-day home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. But the 1913 U.S. Nationals in Newport was the scene of the unfolding of what some call the greatest story in the history of the sport.
A year earlier in 1912, Dick Williams was en route to the United States from Europe to enroll in Harvard when he survived the sinking of the Titanic in incredible fashion, enduring the night in the frigid North Atlantic water while hanging onto a collapsed lifeboat. Seventeen months later, fresh off leading the U.S. Davis Cup team to victory against Britain, Williams reached the final of the modern-day US Open. Williams played U.S. Davis Cup teammate Maurice McLoughlin in the U.S. singles final on August 26, 1913 – 100 years to the day of the start of the 2013 U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows.
Lindsay Gibbs narrates the singles-final run of Williams 100 years ago in her book TITANIC: THE TENNIS STORY ($12.95, New Chapter Press, available here: http://www.amazon.com/Titanic-Tennis-Story-Lindsay-Gibbs/dp/1937559041/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377217682&sr=8-1&keywords=Titanic+The+Tennis+Story) in this book excerpt.
Nevertheless, later that month, just a few days off the boat, he went into the 1913 Nationals at Newport … believing that it was his year and that he could earn that trophy. He knew what he was doing this year. Nothing was a surprise to him. He was a stronger player, more used to his public profile and a better man than he had been a year ago. He could close his eyes and see himself holding that trophy. He could feel the waves of closure flowing through his body, making everything worth it.
He had a close match against Gustave Touchard in the second round that almost cost him an early exit from the tournament, but just like in the Davis Cup match against Dixon, he was able to dig deep and take the fifth set 7-5. It didn’t hurt that when Touchard was serving at 4-3, 40-30 in the final set he was called for a foot fault, after which, rattled, he double faulted and then really blew his stack. Still, for Dick a victory was a victory. He was sure he could carry the momentum to win the title.
Aside from a close four-setter in the fourth round against William Johnston, the Californian with the big Western topspin forehand, Dick had an easy time after Touchard, making it all the way to the final, where of course his new friend and teammate Maurice McLoughlin waited for him. Mac was trying to win the title for the second year in a row and continue his run as the best player in the country. For Dick, the championship had special symbolic value. He yearned to finish the journey he started sixteen months earlier when he boarded the Titanic with his father.
After having played against each other almost every day for the past three months, both players knew each others’ game as well as their own. Dick was able to handle the forceful serves of his Davis Cup teammate like no one else and often dictated play off his own racket. After losing a hard-fought first set 6-4, Dick continued his aggressive play and was able to steal the second set 7-5 – becoming the first player to secure a set from Mac at the tournament. The tennis was some of the most dazzling play that the Newport fans had ever seen. After some tense play early in the third set, the match was up for grabs. As the crowd grew louder and louder after every point and they started to move in between points, leaning on the edge of their seats to see every shot, Dick started to struggle. He tried to focus in, to block the world out with his tennis like he had been doing for the past year and a half, but it wasn’t working. The clapping began to sound like the ship breaking into two. Cheers sounded like cries. The memories he was trying so hard to block out came crashing down on him at one of the worst times possible. Mac took control of the match mid-way through the third set and eased to a four-set victory 6-4, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1. “The California Comet” had another trophy for his shelf and Dick had to wait another year for another chance.
By Maud Watson
The results may have been lost in the anticipation of Indian Wells, but last weekend saw some noteworthy victories on the ATP World Tour. Kevin Anderson broke hearts after saving match points against Roddick before dismissing Isner and ultimately winning the Delray Beach title over Australian qualifier Matosevic. Anderson hasn’t done enough to warrant being considered a dark horse at any of the bigger events, but the 6’8” South African has proven more than capable of playing the spoiler. Meanwhile, David Ferrer added to his case for being considered an outside chance to take the title at Roland Garros or any of the lead-up Masters 1000 events by securing his third consecutive title in Acapulco with his victory over Verdasco. He certainly has the game and tenacity to give anyone trouble, but as always, it’s questionable whether he has the mental fortitude to play his best when it really counts. A player who has exhibited plenty of mental fortitude over the years if Federer. He continued his good run of form, defeating Andy Murray in the final of Dubai to show he has more than enough game left to win another major or two. Hopefully these results will translate into a growing mental confidence, because while Djokovic, Murray , and especially Nadal will always pose a potential problem to him, his biggest hurdle seems to be between the ears.
It’s not every day a losing finalist garners much attention, but Andy Murray deserves it after his run to the Dubai final last week. In his quarterfinal match against Berdych, he squandered multiple match points and got down a break point before clawing his way across the finish line. Then in the semifinals, after blowing Djokovic away the first set and a half, he found himself in a position to serve it out, only to be broken and see Djokovic level things at 5-5. It appeared to be shades of the Australian Open semis all over again. This time, however, Murray held his composure and broke the Serb to still seal the deal in two sets. Though he fell shy against Federer, there’s little doubt that this tournament marks a turning point in his career. He’s keeping his temper relatively in check, and he’s bouncing back from the lows in matches much quicker. Whether or not he’s capable of managing this at a Slam remains to be seen, but his performance in Dubai could move some back towards once again asking the question “when,” not “if” Andy Murray will win a major.
Roger Federer is getting more vocal, and his latest complaint is that time violations are not enforced properly. Personally, I’m in agreement with Federer. It’s up to the chair umpires to use their best judgment, as there will be occasions where an excessive amount of time is warranted. But when excessive time is taken merely as a mind trick against an opponent or a stall tactic to gather wits before a big point, it needs to stop. The same goes for those who have long rituals between points, especially if it holds up an opponent’s serve. But what is most interesting about Federer’s comments is that he chose to single out Nadal. It would have been preferable for Federer to leave out names, but it’s still not on par with Nadal’s comments about Federer back in January. Federer is, after all, stating a fact. Nadal has been the highest profile offender of this rule for a number of years, but for all intents and purposes, Djokovic is right there with him. Given Federer’s history with Djokovic, it’s surprising he wouldn’t name him, too. Then again, perhaps it’s Federer laying the groundwork for should he meet Nadal in the semis of Indian Wells, hinting that Rafa should pick up the pace or be prepared for Federer to ask the chair umpire to work on him. And maybe, just maybe, their rivalry is no longer the love fest it once was.
Off into the Sunset
Shortly after Fernando Gonzalez calls it a career, Croat Ivan Ljubicic will be doing the same after the Monte Carlo Masters. Often referred to as “a poor man’s Federer,” Ljubicic was always fun to watch and a dangerous floater at any event. His presence on the circuit will be greatly missed, but it sounds like he won’t be straying too far from the game. We all look forward to what he’ll bring to the table as he looks to serve the sport in other ways.
Chalk another one up for Brazil, as the South American nation is set to see another one of its own enter the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten, a three-time winner of Roland Garros who shocked many when he won the Tennis Masters event in Lisbon to finish 2000 as the No. 1 ranked player in the world, will take his place among the legends this coming July. He’s a deserving addition, and congratulation to him for this honor.
(Photo via AP)
by Maud Watson
In a field that contained among others the fastest man in the world, an international soccer star, and a 7’0” German NBA power forward, it was Novak Djokovic who took home the top honor as he was named the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year. The award represented hard-earned recognition for the outstanding season he had in 2011, and it also marked the sixth time in eight years that the prestigious award went to a male tennis player. Djokovic’s win has brought more favorable press to the sport, and with the men’s game in particular looking stronger than ever, this can only be great for the future of tennis. Well done to the current No. 1, and with his title in Australia, it may not be too premature to suggest he’s building a case to repeat for the award in 2013.
Between an epic Aussie Open final, growing buzz about the Olympics, and that ever popular topic of “grunting” in women’s tennis, Yannick Noah’s unfounded accusatory remarks regarding alleged Spanish doping were all but forgotten. At least they were, until French television channel Canal+ aired an episode of Les Guignols (The Puppets) featuring a life-size puppet Nadal relieving himself into his gas tank, which allowed him to break speed limits before finally being stopped by cops. A message then appeared on screen that all but blatantly stated Spanish athletes only succeed in sports because they cheat. The skit is clearly coming out now, because Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador has been handed a two-year ban and stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title for doping. Les Guignols is also a satirical program, so ordinarily such an episode might have been begrudgingly laughed off by Spaniards. But in the wake of Noah’s comments, the Spanish Tennis Federation, whose logo also appeared in the skit, is taking legal action. Subsequent similar-themed skits have also prompted the government of Spain to look into taking legal action. Ironically, the ones who might be the worse for wear in all of this are the French sporting organizations and athletes, such as the French Tennis Federation and French players, who hopefully won’t be left where they were after Noah’s remarks – holding the bag and offering apologies.
A Total Farce
Not surprisingly, we’re starting to see some of the game’s top stars sign up for Davis and Fed Cup duty, and it’s not because they’re feeling a strong patriotic calling. It’s 2012, and it’s an Olympic year. It really is a joke watching players suddenly become available, which is why the ITF should either look at abolishing the requirements altogether, or maybe the Olympics should return to just being for amateurs. After all, it’s not as though these tennis players don’t already compete at the highest levels of international competition week in and week out, with their successes indirectly benefiting their home countries. A change to the current system would also help alleviate potential politics from being played. Sure, there isn’t much grumbling when Federer or Murray answer their country’s call, as they’re from nations that most likely won’t be in a position to field a full Olympic roster. But then there are countries like the United States where talk of including both Williams Sisters on the Olympic team has already sparked talk of a potentially ugly situation if what some consider a more deserving candidate gets left off the roster. The Olympic qualification system is flawed no matter how you slice it, and the ITF should revisit it along with the Davis and Fed Cup formats.
No official announcement has been made, but news that well-known tennis coach Nick Bollettieri won’t be among the Hall of Fame Class of 2012 has spread fast. Personally, I’m not a fan of the Hall of Fame’s classification system. It’s possible to recognize contributors without putting them on the same plane as players, and the Masters Category should only be used for those whose careers coincided with the “Americans only” induction rule that wasn’t abolished until 1975 (if a player’s career achievements aren’t good enough to get them inducted within 20 years of retirement, why are they suddenly sufficient 21+ years later?). But all that aside, under the Hall of Fame’s current system, it seems ludicrous to not have Bollettieri as part of the mix. Then again, there have been plenty of other questionable inductions in the past (Chang getting the nod the same year Bruguera and Stich did not comes to mind), so Bollettieri shouldn’t be too broken up about it. People know what he’s contributed, even if the Hall of Fame voters fail to recognize it.
Former Spanish tennis player Arantxa Sanchez Vicario may have just one-upped Andre Agassi when it comes to shocking book revelations. News broke that the former No. 1 is estranged from her family, that she is basically broke, and is accusing her parents of mismanaging her funds. It paints a very different picture from the loving family we saw when she was inducted into the Hall of Fame almost five years ago. There are two sides to every story, and it appears that these revelations may only get uglier. Hopefully they will be able to reconcile their differences, not only because it would be a shame to see anything serve as a deterrent to Arantxa and her brothers continuing to serve the sport, but most importantly because given the state of her father’s health, it’s what that family needs most.
‘Rafa Slam’ in Tatters:
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal saw his chances of lifting his fourth straight Grand Slam crushed as his left hamstring and a ferocious David Ferrer combined to end the 24-year-old’s dreams at the quarterfinal stage of the Australian Open. It almost echoed the scenes from last year’s Championships where Nadal retired at the same stage whilst trailing Andy Murray due to a damaged knee. “This is a difficult day for me,” said Nadal post-match. “For respect to the winner and to a friend, I prefer to talk about the match. Today I can’t do more than what I did; he played at a very high level. I don’t have to tell you what I felt on the court, but it is obvious I did not feel at my best. I had a problem with the match at the very beginning and after that, the match was almost over.” The 28-year-old Ferrer, who did exceptionally well to concentrate among all the drama, added: “This is one big victory for me, but it’s not like a victory really. He was playing with injury and I had luck. But I played my game.”
Agassi to Join International Tennis Hall of Fame:
The International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, has announced that Andre Agassi will be inducted in the ‘Recent Player’ category for 2011. The announcement was made at his Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas. The 40-year-old is one of the most well-liked athletes in world sport and held the No. 1 ranking in tennis for 101 weeks. He won 60 career titles including four Australian Opens and two French Opens as well as one French Open and one Wimbledon title. He won a then record of 17 ATP Masters Events (now Rafa Nadal has 18) and also won the year-ending Championships in 1990. He has two Davis Cup wins to his name as well as an Olympic Gold medal from Atlanta. He is a true American legend and a passionate, if at times enigmatic, ambassador for tennis, and his wife is former tennis star and 2004 Hall of Fame inductee Steffi Graf. “During his 20-year career Andre Agassi recorded some of the most incredible achievements in tennis,” said Hall of Fame Chairman Christopher Clouser. “The energy and excitement that he personally brought to the game inspired generations of players. Today, he continues to inspire people around the world as a dedicated philanthropist, and, therefore, it was only appropriate that we share this news at the school where so many young people benefit from his generosity. Andre is a true champion of the game, and we are delighted to honour him for his contributions and achievements with induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.” Agassi was understandably delighted with the accolade: “I’m truly honoured to be recognized alongside the greatest players of tennis,” he said. “My tennis career afforded me the opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives and it was truly special to share this exciting moment with the students of Agassi Prep.” Further inductees will be named at a later date.
Schiavone wins marathon tie:
Italian Francesca Schiavone overcame the Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 in the longest ever women’s match at a Grand Slam. The mammoth encounter lasted four hours and 44 minutes which beat the previous record of four hours and 19 minutes set by Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and Regina Kulikova at Melbourne Park last year. “It is a fantastic moment for me,” said sixth seed Schiavone of her round of 16 victory. “It is one of the most emotional moments of my life. I just told myself to keep going, do it with the heart and go for it. When you’re in a situation like this, every point is like a match point. You have to keep going. You know that physically you’re tired. Mentally just keep going.” Two-time Aussie Open quarterfinalist Kuznetsova said that it got to the point where she didn’t know what the score was anymore or who was meant to be serving.
Wozniacki Lies to Hopping Mad Journalists:
World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki was forced to apologise to journalists after lying about how she obtained a large scratch on her shin following her fourth round victory over Anastasija Sevastova. She told journalists that a baby kangaroo had lashed out at her while walking through a park rather than that she had slipped on her treadmill because “the story sounded better.” Several news organisations then led with the story. “I’m sorry,” the 20-year-old told reporters, including Bloomberg. “I really didn’t mean to. I promise if I make a joke like this, I’ll make sure to clarify it before I leave. I didn’t think that it was going to spin this way. I heard that to get the story pulled back again was quite a bit of work. So I just thought I would come back and apologize.” This came three days after the Dane had rattled off a series of elaborate answers to what she called “predictable questions” when she heard that some journalists found her media appearances boring. The full kangaroo transcript can be read on The Ticker at Tennis.com.
Dolgopolov At Home with the Stars:
He may have been bettered by world No. 5 Andy Murray in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal but nothing should be forgotten about Alexander Dolgopolov’s mesmerising five set thriller with the Swedish star Robin Soderling in the previous round. The match lasted only two hours and 46 minutes despite going the distance and Dolgopolov was understandably delighted with his performance. “The first set I was struggling, and a break down in the second,” he said after the match. “I came back somehow and started to play better and better with every set. I’m really happy I’m through to the quarter-final. But [it] is going to be like a completely different match. I need to forget about this match and go into the next round. I mean, it’s a good run, and you can make it even better.” The Ukrainian, who says his ambition is to be world No. 1, also revealed an interesting upbringing that has helped ground him on the professional circuit. His father, Oleksandr, is a former pro who has also coached the French Open finalist Andrei Medvedev. Whilst travelling around with his dad he often mixed with the pros and regularly mixed with the likes of Thomas Muster and Marc Rosset. “I met pretty much all the players,” he recalled. “When there’s a kid on tour, all the players try to play with him. I had a nice time.”
Multi-Lingual Federer in it for the Long Haul:
Roger Federer is well known as an accommodating star that always has time for talking to the media. Just as well really, for the 16-time Grand Slam Champion has to participate in press conferences to accommodate journalists fluent in only one of the four languages he speaks. That means when he is finished in English he has to repeat the same press conference again in Swiss, German and then French. Federer joked after his victory over compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka: “Sometimes I wish I never told anybody I learned French.” He then added that he was proud to have learnt another language which lets him connect to different people. He said it’s all part of “what I have to do in the tennis world.” He went on to say: “…it comes at a cost, sure, but I don’t mind it. I try to have fun with it. I have almost, I don’t want to say characters, but I have different humour in all the different languages, which is kind of fun for me, too. Getting to know myself through different languages is actually quite interesting for me.”
Clijsters Ticks Off Woodbridge:
It was all in jest but there was no denying the uncomfortable stance of Aussie legend Todd Woodbridge as Kim Clijsters’ chided the former doubles star on-court for texting a fellow pro stating he believed her to be pregnant with child number two. For the full extent of Todd’s embarrassment, check out the video over at the Los Angeles Times website.
Nole Need for Warning:
Novak Djokovic says he didn’t deserve the coaching violation he received during his fourth round victory over Nicolas Almagro as he believes it was just a knee-jerk reaction from his frustrated coach over a missed forehand. “I missed a forehand and then I turn to my coach—you always make as a player an eye contact with your team,” Djokovic told ESPN. “There was not any intention of me asking for advice from my coach. Okay, maybe he did show me some signals of how I should hit my forehand—it was more out of frustration. Maybe the umpire was right to give me a code violation for that but I think it was wrong because he should have told me, he should have given me a pre-warning…’Listen, your coach is giving you signals that he shouldn’t do, it’s against the rules.’ I would say, ‘Yeah, sure, next time he does it you give me a warning. But not right away, it wasn’t the right time.”
Zvonereva Blocks Out Home Troubles:
It may have seemed a million miles away from sunny Melbourne but the suspected suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport last weekend would undoubtedly been a cause of concern for the Russian stars competing at the Aussie Open. No. 2 seed Vera Zvonereva sported a black ribbon in memory of those killed in the attacks during her quarterfinal victory over Petra Kvitova and was asked how she was coping. “You’re calling back home and making sure everyone is okay, the people that you know. You know, I just tried to put it away. It happened. It is terrible. But, you know, you try to move on.”
Another Record for R-Fed:
The 2011 Aussie Open has seen Roger Federer draw level with Jimmy Connors’ record of reaching 27-straight Grand Slam quaterfinals. The 16-time Grand Slam Champion will probably not have very high odds on him making that record his own, injury permitting, at Roland Garros later this year.
Playing Through the Pain:
Spaniard Fernando Verdasco has announced that he played his entire Aussie Open campaign with a fractured bone in his ankle. He said he plans to speak to his doctor about whether: “…to keep playing or stop to take time off for the bone.” He also said that surgery is “the last option.”
New Direction for Dinara:
Fallen Russian star Dinara Safina has parted with her coach Gaston Etlis following her humiliation at the hands of Kim Clijsters in Melbourne. “[F]ollowing the Australian Open, my coach and I mutually decided to part ways,” the 24-year-old wrote on her official website. “I will keep you posted when I decide on a new coach.”
King for a Day:
Vania King has been named as Venus Williams’ replacement for the USA’s upcoming Fed Cup quarterfinal against Belgium. Captain Mary Jo Fernandez has named King, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Melanie Oudin and Liezel Huber as her team.
Acasuso Is In:
Organisers of the Copa Claro have announced that the Argentine Jose Acasuso has received the first wildcard in to the tournament to be held at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club between February 12-20. The 28-year-old is a two-time finalist having lost to Gustavo Kuertan in 2001 and David Nalbandian in 2008. It will be his first tournament in a year having been suffering with a left knee injury since the 2010 Movistar Open in Chile.
Is Venus A Fading Star?:
Stephanie Myles of Postmedia News has written a very interesting article about whether Venus still has the dominating presence she so-thrived on for much of her career when she dominated the sport with younger sister Serena. While Serena is still a vastly feared opponent Venus’ increasingly injury-threatened calendar has seen her play less and less over recent years, having not played at all since September before the Open. It can be viewed over at the Montreal Gazette website. Alternatively, head over to the Fox Sports site for Matt Cronin’s view on the subject.
Rafa Limps on in GOAT Race:
It was such a sad sight to see Rafa Nadal struggling to play against compatriot David Ferrer in Melbourne. And falling at the quarterfinal stage means he gains himself only 50 points in the race between him and Roger Federer to see who has the better year. With R-Fed still going in the semis he is yet to score and is all set to move further ahead of his rival in next week’s column.
Roger: 230 Rafa: 130
*French Davis Cup captain Guy Forget was full of praise for his players following their shock win over Spain in the Davis Cup quaterfinals last weekend. Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau defeated Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez in the doubles rubber to give France an unassailable 3-0 lead in the tie. The win is the country’s first victory over Spain since 1923. “It’s magical,” he told France 3 television. “They pulled for each other. I hope it’s just the start of a long story for that squad. They were just great and I hope they will play with the same faith in September.” You can see the full interview and Davis Cup roundup at the BBC Tennis website.
*The 2010 Induction Ceremony took place at the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum during the finals weekend of the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships and inductees Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, the notorious ‘Woodies,’ have been speaking of their delight at the honour of entering the prestigious Hall of Fame. “This is an amazing day for the Woodies,” said Woodforde, during the rain-swept ceremony. “I don’t know if any of us said we’re just going to be doubles players. We just excelled on the doubles court a little more than we did on the singles. As much as we would have loved to win more in the singles titles, we did in doubles.” The pair amassed an incredible 11 major doubles Championships and 61 doubles titles in all, a record only equaled by the Bryan brothers recently, with a lifetime record of 508-137. “I think we won our fourth tournament we played together,” added Woodbridge. “It was close on average to every fourth tournament we won the next 10 years. That’s pretty good business. I figured if I could team up with Mark we’d do well together. We did better than well, we did bloody great.”
*On the women’s side of the game, the legendary doubles team of Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva were also inducted this weekend. They won 14 doubles Grand Slams together and ended up the year’s best team on four occasions (1993-95, 1997). “I don’t think as an athlete you ever make that a goal, it just sort of happens,” beamed Fernandez. “It’s a proud moment for me and my family and it’s also a proud moment for 4 million Puerto Ricans that are proud to have Puerto Rico represented in the Tennis Hall of Fame.”
*There is little movement in the Top 50 this week in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings but Mardy Fish’s first grass tournament win in Newport has seen him leap 30 places to No. 49 in the world. Recent good performances for The Czech Jan Hajek (11 places, No. 83), Argentine Brian Dabul (14, No. 91) and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo of Spain (16, No. 94) have seen them all rise considerably. Britain’s Richard Bloomfield jumped 260 spots to No. 292 in the world following his Newport finals appearance.
*In the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Rankings Venus Williams reclaims the No. 3 slot from Caroline Wozniacki while Arevane Rezai enters the Top 20 following her win in Bastad last week. Spain’s Arantxa Parra Santonja jumps from No. 52 to No. 46 and Simona Halep (Romania, No. 96) and Pauline Parmentier (France, No. 97) enter the Top 100.
*Serena Williams is set to miss the entire World Team Tennis season with a foot injury, reports the Washington Post. She was meant to team up with sister Venus for the Washington Kastles this year but the injury has put paid to those plans. “I’m very disappointed that I won’t be able to play in the WTT matches this season,” Williams said in an official statement. “It is always such a fun experience and I love interacting with the fans in the cities that I don’t often have the opportunity to play in during the rest of the year.”
*Briton Richard Bloomfield is the latest pro to blast the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) following his incredible run to the semifinals of last week’s Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, RI. The 27-year-old has jumped 260 places to 292 in the world and was quick to criticise Britain’s governing body for their lack of support afterwards. “I think it needs a real shake-up,” he said before revealing the only contact he’d had from the LTA following his run was from current Davis Cup captain Leon Smith. “I got a text off Leon and that was about it. Leon is Davis Cup captain so he’s obliged to do stuff like that.” He also went on to slam the current funding policy from the LTA: “They keep on changing it,” he said. “Just have a good solid system where everybody knows if you win this tournament you get a certain amount, if you don’t then you don’t get anything. Then you know where you stand, whereas at the moment it’s a little bit up and down what you get.”
*British Davis Cup captain Leon Smith praised the spirit of his young team after their 5-0 whitewash of Turkey saved them from relegation to the bottom tier of Davis Cup play. He was also quick to reinforce the point that world No. 4 Andy Murray was welcome to return to Davis Cup play whenever he so wishes. “When he wants to come back of course we’ll love that because he’s one of the world’s best players and any team would love to have Andy Murray in it,” he said. “We’re all friends with [him], we’ve all got close relationships with him, and that positivity is something that we enjoy.”
*Czech female star Iveta Benesova spoke of her relief following her first win in two months in her home tournament the ECM Prague Open this week. The No. 68 in the world was not long ago her country’s leading lady but since winning her second WTA title at Fes in May she has won only two matches. “I am happy to win like this,” said Benesova. “It wasn’t a simple match, I really had to fight. I know I have talent but I need to work harder. I want to be ranked in the 20s again.” You can see how the rest of the Czech hopefuls got on at the WTA site.
*French newspaper L’Equipe is reporting that Richard Gasquet will return from his current back/rib injury at Gstaad in two weeks’ time.
*Sweden may continue their trend of bringing former stars out of retirement for Davis Cup play if current injuries and losses of form continue. This time Thomas Johansson is the former player talking of a cameo. “It’s tempting, but I don’t know if my body can go five sets,” he said. “[But I am] training hard.”
*Spaniard Rafa Nadal was left in floods of tears following his country’s victory over The Netherlands in Sunday’s FIFA World Cup Final and even led the celebrations alongside the Spanish team and the Spanish Royal Family on the team’s return to Madrid. Nadal had been at the match in South Africa and in the changing room after the game even took his trademark “bite” out of the golden trophy. “I cried like a baby,” he told Spanish newspaper Marca. “We have to celebrate for a whole year, because this is unbelievable. It is very difficult to repeat this.”
All we have been hearing over recent months is negativity surrounding British tennis.
Tales of rotten apples in the barrel, failed youngsters, squandered millions and a country lost in a downward spiral of tennis faux pas which shows no signs of halting but for the increasingly confident performances of lone star Andy Murray.
Yet this week at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships at the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, a name nobody but the staunchest statisticians of British tennis will have been following is making a name for himself in the heat and humidity of east-coast America.
Current world No. 557 Richard Bloomfield will today (Friday) face young American Ryan Harrison in the last quarterfinal with the opportunity to face either American number 5 seed Mardy Fish (remember him from Queens?) or the Canadian Frank Dancevic in the semifinals.
Hang on, a Brit in the semifinals of a tournament other than Andy Murray? Continual sob-story Alex Bogdanovic failed to reach even the main draw here, going down in the final round of qualifying. So just who is this guy?
Richard Bloomfield was born April 27, 1983 in the small village of Alpington, just outside the beautiful Norfolk city of Norwich. He won the British Junior Tennis Championships in 2001, defeating that man Bogdanovic in the final, and picked up the equivalent title in doubles with Ken Skupski, now one half of the promising Flemski partnership alongside Colin Fleming.
He began playing on the senior tour that year and his first full ATP Tournament was the 2003 Wimbledon Championships where he gained a wildcard before losing to Anthony Dupuis in the first round.
In 2006 he reached round two of Wimbledon with a win over Carlos Berlocq which was investigated by authorities over strange betting patterns but no wrong-doing was ever discovered. That year he also reached the semifinals of the ATP Challenger Event at Rennes where he lost to rising French star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
2007 saw him reach his first ATP Challenger final in Wrexham, Wales, where he lost to Michal Prysiezny which saw him rise to a career-high 176 in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings. He then partnered Jonathan Marray to the third round of the 2007 Wimbledon doubles Championships.
His ranking fell considerably over the next couple of years until he qualified for the 2009 Open 13 where he agonisingly lost 6-7, 6-7 to the Italian Simon Bolelli in the first round. Back injuries hampered him and his ranking fell further but then he surprisingly qualified for this year’s Hall of Fame Championships where he is beginning to make a name for himself again.
In reaching the quaterfinals he has recorded his first wins on the ATP Tour since that 2006 Wimbledon Championships and at 27 this will be a welcome boost for a man whose confidence must have been looking at rock bottom.
And hasn’t he done well. He is yet to drop a set. A 7-6 (1), 6-1 first-round win over Belgian Christophe Rochus, brother of Olivier, set up a second-round clash with second seed and world No. 56 Santiago Giraldo which nobody would have expected him to come out of. But this might just be his week. He won 6-3, 7-6 (5) and now marches in to this quarterfinal with Harrison with a renewed vigour and swagger he won’t have been feeling for a long while.
It is high time we had something positive to shout about for Britain and it’s always great to see somebody who looked down and out have a moment in the sun (literally as the temperature gauges out there are showing). If he overcomes Harrison and then Fish/Dancevic then he will be in his first final since 2007, and his first ever on the full ATP Tour. There either Olivier Rochus will be looking to avenge the slaying of his brother Christophe or Argentine Brian Dabul will be looking to put his own name up in lights.
So march on Richard, your country is firmly behind you!
By Leigh Sanders
* Roger Federer has told BBC Sport he intends to play on after the 2012 Olympics despite recent rumors he was growing tired of the sport he has dominated for years. The 28-year-old world No. 1 also believes his best tennis is around the corner. “I don’t have a problem saying this is the second half of my career because I do have kids and a lot of things have changed around me,” he said. “People think I’m going to retire at the 2012 Olympics – which is not true. Even though you never know, it depends on your body. I would like to play beyond that so we’ll see how it goes.”
* A Romanian TV station is reporting that tennis Hall of Famer Ilie Nastase may quit the country in a bid to escape the press. The 63-year-old, two-time Slam winner is said to be fed up of the paparazzi invading his privacy, particularly during recent divorce proceedings with third wife Amalia Nastase. Realitatea TV believes he is ready to quit his homeland.
* Rafa Nadal’s straight-set victory over Roger Federer in Madrid makes him the all-time leader in Masters Tournament victories with 18, leaving Andre Agassi behind on 17. The Bryan brothers’ victory in the men’s doubles has them tied for the most ATP Tour doubles titles on 61 with Aussie 2010 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductees Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde.
* India’s Sania Mirza has said she will return to action at Birmingham, England, on June 9 following her three-month hiatus to marry Pakistani cricket star Shoaib Malik, according to her Twitter page.
* Jelena Jankovic’s third-round victory over Anabel Medina Garrigues in Madrid was her 400th career singles win.
* British No. 1 Andy Murray has declared himself confident ahead of the French Open and insists he has reversed the slump which has affected him since his Aussie Open final defeat to Roger Federer back in January. “I’ve got my intensity back, my mind’s where it needs to be,” Murray told BBC Sport. “Going into the French I’ll definitely feel way, way better than I did a few weeks ago.”
* Speaking via conference call for Tennis Channel Martina Navratilova has said she is “cancer free” following surgery six weeks ago. “I’m doing well,” she said. “I just started radiation last week.”
* This week’s ATP World Rankings (17/05) sees Rafa Nadal re-take the No. 2 slot from Novak Djokovic following his win in Madrid last week. Nicolas Almagro’s fine performance on the Spanish clay has seen him climb 13 spaces to the brink of the top 20, ranked No. 22. Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela has re-entered the top 50 at 48.
* In this week’s WTA World Rankings (17/05), the Williams sisters were dominating women’s tennis again as they occupied the top two slots for the first time in seven years. Serena still holds the no. 1 ranking while Venus has climbed to No. 2. Shahar Peer has re-entered the top 20 at No. 19 while Aravane Rezai’s stunning win over Venus in Madrid sees her jump eight places to 16. Anabel Medina Garrigues re-enters the top 50 at No. 49.
* Sporting brand Wilson have reported on their Facebook page that Juan Martin del Potro has been in Minnesota visiting Dr. Richard Berger with a view to swapping his plaster cast for a softer and lighter one which will enable him to step up his return to the game by starting rehab soon.
* American high school tennis hopeful Stefan Mangroo has been disqualified from a tournament for refusing to play on The Sabbath. The 17-year-old Franklin High School Junior and his partner Cody Buffenbarger were due to play the semifinals of the doubles at the Division II sectional tournament on Saturday May 15 but Mangroo refused to compete due to this being The Sabbath for Seventh-Day Adventists. “You have to stand up for what you believe,” said Mangroo.
By Maud Watson
The Back Saga Continues – Once again, Dinara Safina’s back has forced her to withdraw from a tournament. This time, it is the prestigious BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. Safina has stated that her back is still causing her too much pain to even consider competing next week in California, and is now setting her sights on the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Safina is missing a golden opportunity to compete at Indian Wells, given that the field is already weakened by the absence of the Williams sisters, and it is dicey she’ll be able to compete in Miami. If Safina is forced to continually miss these large events, she may find herself hanging her racquet up much sooner than expected, which would be a loss for women’s tennis.
The Show Will Go On – Despite the devastating earthquake that hit Chile this past weekend, the Davis Cup tie between host nation Chile and Israel will still be contested this coming weekend, just a day later than planned as players and officials were understandably delayed in making the trip to the South American country. Israel is a nation that has obviously seen more than its share of turmoil over the past decades, but I must admit that I have my fingers crossed that the Chilean team is able to bring a bit a joy to their home country as sport can so often do for troubled nations.
Headed to the Hall – This past Monday, it was announced that the Woodies (Todd Woodbridge, Mark Woodforde), Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva, Owen Davidson, Brad Parks, and Derek Hardwick will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame later this summer. It’s nice to see some of the greatest doubles teams in history get some recognition, as well as Brad Parks, who will be the first wheelchair tennis player enshrined at Newport. Fernandez, Davidson, and Parks were on hand at Madison Square Garden Monday evening for the Billie Jean King Cup, where they were officially recognized and congratulated for their impending enshrinement. And in case you missed it, Venus Williams also defeated Kim Clijsters in three tight sets to take the exhibition title.
More Hip Woes – The latest player to fall victim to hip surgery is Germany’s Tommy Haas. Germany’s Bild reported that Haas could be out for as many as six months as he recovers from recent surgery to his right hip. At least Haas should be able to retain a protected ranking for when he does return, but one has to feel for him given that he enjoyed a resurgence in his career the latter half of 2009. Perhaps that resurgence will be what ultimately pushes him to bounce back from this latest setback.
Victory at Last – After being touted as one of the game’s next great talents before falling into an early slump, Ernests Gulbis finally won his maiden title this past week at Delray Beach. Gulbis took out big man Dr. Ivo Karlovic 6-2, 6-3 to become the first Latvian to notch up a tournament win on the ATP World Tour. The question will be if this victory is merely a flash in the pan or the sign of bigger and better things to come for the player with so much talent but who has thus far proved to be nothing more than a massive underachiever.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Roger Federer, Rod Laver and Tennis History are on sale as New Chapter Press recommends all four of its tennis titles as Holiday gifts for tennis fans.
The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection ($24.95, www.rogerfedererbook.com) was written by Rene Stauffer, the esteemed Swiss tennis journalist who has covered Federer since the budding tennis champion was a 15-year-old. The book chronicles Federer’s life as tempermental junior player, through his early struggles on the ATP Tour and his break-through win at Wimbledon in 2003 and his pursuit of Pete Sampras’ record of 14 major singles titles. The book also focuses on Federer’s values, how he has been marketed, his relationship with the media as well as his numerous charitable pursuits.
The Education of a Tennis Player ($19.95) is the newly-updated and re-released memoir of Rod Laver, co-written by Tennis Hall of Famer Bud Collins. The book is Laver’s first-hand account of his 1969 Grand Slam season, capped off by his 7-9, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over fellow Australian Tony Roche in the final of the U.S. Open on September 8. Laver also writes about his childhood and early days in tennis, his 1962 Grand Slam and offers tips on how players of all levels can improve their game. He also shares some of the strategies that helped him to unparalleled success on the tennis court. This book will be available in traditional book stores and internet retailers in the Spring, 2010, but is available immediately via www.TennisWarehouse.com, the International Tennis Hall of Fame (www.TennisFame.com) or directly via New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com or NewChapterPress@gmail.com)
The Bud Collins History of Tennis ($35.95, 784 pages) is the ultimate compilation of historical tennis information written by Colllins, the world’s most famous tennis journalist and tennis historian. The book includes year-by-year recaps of every tennis season, biographical sketches of every major tennis personality, as well as stats, records, and championship rolls for all the major events. The author’s personal relationships with major tennis stars offer insights into the world of professional tennis found nowhere else.
On This Day In Tennis History ($19.95, 528 pages), is a fun and fact-filled, this compilation offers anniversaries, summaries, and anecdotes of events from the world of tennis for every day in the calendar year written by Randy Walker. Presented in a day-by-day format, the entries into this mini-encyclopedia include major tournament victory dates, summaries of the greatest matches ever played, trivia, and statistics as well as little-known and quirky happenings. For more information on this title, go to www.tennishistorybook.com.
New Chapter Press is also the publisher of Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli, The Lennon Prophecy by Joe Niezgoda, Bone Appetit, Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog by Susan Anson, The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According to Hoyle by Stewart Wolpin, People’s Choice Cancun – Travel Survey Guidebook by Eric Rabinowitz and Weekend Warriors: The Men of Professional Lacrosse by Jack McDermott, among others. More information on New Chapter Press can be found at www.NewChapterMedia.com