by Matthew Laird
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic contested their third consecutive Grand Slam final at the recently concluded 2012 Australian Open. It was by a wide margin their most competitive and exciting meeting at this stage. There was a great deal of high drama, multiple swings in momentum, and no shortage of stellar shot-making from both players. It was an epic match and will surely be remembered among the most exciting Grand Slam finals of all time. The match also had its place in history assured because it shattered the previous record for the longest Grand Slam final of all time, breaking the previous record set by Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl at the 1988 US Open by nearly an hour.*
It should come as no surprise that the length of the Nadal-Djokovic final, which was seven minutes short of six hours, was not due entirely to the quality of play. Both Nadal and Djokovic are known for their pace of play, which is – not to put too fine a point on it – quite slow. There has been a great deal of discussion recently about the amount of time taken between points, and Nadal and Djokovic are usually at the center of these complaints.
For anyone who may not be aware, there is a rule in both the ITF and the ATP rulebooks that states “play shall be continuous” and that limits the amount of time a server should be allowed between the end of one point and the beginning of the next to either 20 or 25 seconds, depending on which set of rules is being followed during the match (Grand Slam matches take place under ITF auspices). Both Nadal and Djokovic routinely go over this time constraint.
It is difficult for a casual tennis observer to try to figure out whether or not these delays are truly egregious, because the amount of statistical data that we have easy access to is severely limited. We cannot see precisely how much time is expended by each player in between points, how long points take on average, or any number of other stats that would be useful in trying to parse the seriousness of these concerns.
I’ve come up with a simple, blunt method of estimating the amount of time taken between points, using only data that’s available on either the ATP or Australian Open websites. To find the average length of a point, just take the match length and divide it by the total number of points. Granted, this includes the amount of time that the ball was actually in play in addition to the time taken in between points, so it is not as sophisticated a measurement as I would prefer, but it is the best method that I could come up with, given the information available.
Given that there were 369 points played over 5 hours and 54 minutes, the average length of each point in the Nadal-Djokovic final was 57.4 seconds – nearly a minute per point played. This is the longest amount of time per point for any Grand Slam final since the ATP started keeping track of these statistics. To fully understand whether or not that is an unusual stat, more historical data is necessary.
Prior to 2009, the seven slowest finals had all taken place at the French Open, which is as it should be, considering the court conditions at Roland Garros lead to more long, drawn-out rallies than at the other majors. The slowest-played finals up to that point were Nadal-Federer in 2006 and Kuerten-Corretja in 2001, which both took about 47 seconds per point. The fastest-played finals have been at Wimbledon (again, no surprise there), where Sampras-Becker in 1995 took 29 seconds for each point, Agassi-Ivanisevic in 1992 took 27, and Sampras-Ivanisevic in 1998 took 25.5 seconds.
The trend over the last twenty years has generally been towards slower matches. This is partly because the serve-and-volley game has become significantly less common, so that almost all points are decided by baseline rallies, which necessarily take up more time. But I don’t think that fully explains the extent to which the pace of play has dropped.
While the most recent Grand Slam final was the slowest-played on record, it is important to note that the top six slowest are also the six most recent. The 2011 Djokovic-Nadal US Open took 56 seconds per point, their 2010 US Open meeting took 52.4, the 2011 Australian Open between Djokovic and Murray took 51.8, the 2011 Djokovic-Nadal final at Wimbledon took 50.2, and the 2011 French Open between Nadal and Federer took 48 seconds for each point.
Before the 2010 US Open, no Grand Slam final had been ever played at a pace of 50 seconds per point or slower. Since then, all of them except one have. That one involved Roger Federer, who is a very quick player and was able to bring the average down, even though he was playing on the red clay of Roland Garros. The other five finals all involved Djokovic, Nadal, and Andy Murray, all of whom take their time between points.
In all of these finals, there were many long, grinding rallies. All three of the players I just mentioned are fantastic defenders, but I have trouble believing that the rallies in all of these recent finals were so historically lengthy, on average, that they should be solely responsible for the unprecedented slow pace of the last half-dozen Grand Slam finals. It has to come down to the amount of time that these players are taking in between points.
I do not recall a single instance in the final of the umpire giving either Nadal or Djokovic a warning about taking too much time. Honestly, I can’t remember that happening in any of the six most recent finals. This is not a situation like what is happening with grunting in the women’s game, where people are saying that there ought to be a rule to deal with this behavior. There is a rule, it’s just being ignored.
There are some commentators (like Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim) who find the pace of play on the men’s side to be as frustrating as the grunting or shrieking on the women’s side. I think there’s an argument to be made that the time limit as it currently stands is no longer appropriate. The game has gotten significantly more athletically-demanding in the last ten or fifteen years, so perhaps players do need more recovery time between points. However, I do think that the ATP and the ITF should either change the rule or enforce it, because simply ignoring it because the game’s top players flout it so consistently is not an appropriate response.
Who could ever doubt that Novak Djokovic wasn’t going to be named ITF World Champion. With an almost perfect 2011 winning three Grand Slam titles and seven other titles Djokovic is the rightful winner by all standards. Next to the seven titles, Djokovic also bags $12.6 million in prize money. He won even more than Rafael Nadal did in 2010 and Roger Federer in 2007. Djokovic amazing season is one for the best sports books!
“Starting with victory in last year’s Davis Cup final, this has been an almost perfect 12 months for me,” Djokovic said. “I have always dreamed about becoming the best in the world, and to have won three Grand Slam titles and finished the year as No. 1 is very special.”
I have to say that I am equally impressed with best newcomer Petra Kvitova. She came, she saw and took Wimbledon right from under Maria Sharapova’s grasp. Well that is not true…Sharapova really never stood a chance in that Wimbledon final.
Kvitova has won Wimbledon, the prestigious year end championships in Istanbul and the Fed Cup for the Czech Republic. What better way to end the 2011 season with this prestigious award for a prestigious season.
“I will cherish this award, which is the cherry on top of a wonderful year,” said the 21-year-old Kvitova, who edged out top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki – last year’s champion – in the voting.
The ITF President, Francesco Ricci Bitti, praised the two for their achievements.
“Novak’s achievements this year are remarkable in such a strong era for men’s tennis, while Petra has made a major breakthrough on the women’s tour.”
Other awards were given out to Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia for their efforts in women’s doubles.
All of them will receive the award at the ITF Champions Award dinner in June 2012.
By Maud Watson
At the front part of this week, the powers-at-be of the ATP were happy to announce that a decision had been made to shorten the season by two weeks, beginning in 2012. In order to achieve shaving off two weeks from the current schedule, the week between the Paris Masters and ATP World Tour finals was eliminated, and four other smaller tournaments will be shifted around to different weeks in the calendar. In the end, the decision was not surprising, and all parties had to be fairly pleased with the outcome. The bigger question to look out for in the next few years to come will be if they opt to shorten the season any further. As that will most likely mean cutting tournaments, it may be dependent upon how much the players take advantage of the new 2012 off season as opposed to playing exhibitions. At the very least, expect the odds to increase that such a future decision will be messier than this current breakthrough.
In recognition of the fact that the ATP has planned to shorten its season starting in 2012, the ITF has been forced to consider the possibility of moving both the Fed Cup and Davis Cup finals further up in the year. Such a move would most likely benefit both players and fans, as things tend to run more smoothly when all of the governing bodies work in sync. In addition to this consideration, it would probably be even more beneficial if the ITF sinks its energies into revamping the structure of the Davis Cup, a subject that people are hearing more and more whispers about.
Another legal battle appears to be on the horizon as the USTA has filed a claim against Olympus, the company that has served as the title sponsor of the US Open Series. The USTA claims Olympus is looking to save the nearly $11.7 million it will cost to sponsor the 2011 US Open Series, while Olympus is claiming it has the right to pull out of the contract due to category conflicts with Panasonic. The USTA will seek to acquire the $11.7 million for the 2011 US Open series sponsorship, as well as a declaratory judgment that it didn’t violate Olympus’ exclusive sponsorship rights. It will certainly be a hassle and a blow if the USTA comes out on the short end of the stick, but at least with the success of the series and the US Open itself, one would like to think that the USTA won’t have to look far to find a new title sponsor with Olympus having pulled out of the contract that was slated to run through 2013.
The Battle Wages On
It seems that mediation efforts between Tennis Channel and Comcast have failed, and now the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is apt to have to get involved. Tennis Channel is alleging that it shouldn’t be on one of the more costly sports tier of channels when two of Comcast’s own channels – Golf Channel and Versus – are part of the basic service package. Comcast claims Tennis Channel agreed to its place on the sports tier back when they first negotiated a deal. Comcast seems relatively confident that the FCC will find in its favor, but tennis fans will be hoping otherwise. A finding in favor of the Tennis Channel could help the game grow in a multitude of ways.
Well, the foot injury plaguing Serena Williams has once again forced her out of another Grand Slam, as she has already announced that she will not be in Melbourne to defend her 2010 title. Williams stated that she had to have additional surgery on the foot due to training too hard and too soon following her first surgery. The pullout will cost Williams 1,000 ranking points, and it is apt to cost her a place in the Top 10. It’s a blow to the younger of the two Williams sisters and her fans, but rest assured that when she is healthy, it’s difficult to imagine any scenario in which she won’t shoot back up towards the upper echelons of the women’s rankings. In fact, assuming she makes a full recovery from the freak foot accident, don’t be shocked to see her named the favorite going into SW19.
By Peter Nez
Roger Federer is in Halle, Germany this week playing his typical warm up tournament before Wimbledon (Germany’s only grass court event) where the latest news reports that Roger has signed a lifetime contract with tournament organizers, meaning he is committed to the event as long as he is playing professional tennis. “It’s a sort of marriage,” Roger quipped about the lofty contract with the Gerry Weber Open. And while the entire media world is buzzing over Rafael Nadal’s fifth Roland Garros title he attained last Sunday by smearing the red clay with Robin Soderling’s face, nicknamed Rockin’ Robin, after his blistering ground strokes that sound like cannon fire when struck, who appeared more like a subdued Canary tweeting rather than Rockin’- and big headlines announcing the ‘Return of the King of Clay’ and ‘Rafa is back!’, referring to his reacquisition of the top slot in men’s tennis, there is another king, of another surface, some would say the true king going quietly into the night, preparing for a Wimbledon defense, and maybe something else…
One thing that is amazing about Roger, among many other things, is his ability to put things in perspective, and shrug off losses that most players would never be able to bounce back from. Andy Murray comes to mind, whom after losing to Roger in the Australian Open final this past January, hasn’t been the same player since. Novak Djokovic, another top player, who won his first slam in 2008, has been hampered by uncharacteristic losses and henceforth hasn’t been able to muster a similar run at any of the subsequent slams. Andy Roddick, after losing to Federer in the epic 2009 Wimbledon final, lost to John Isner in the following slam (US Open) in a startling fashion. After attending the Annual ITF awards dinner in Paris, following his defeat to Soderling in the quarterfinals of the French Open a week ago, which garnered stunned faces by reporters, participants, attendees, and Gustavo Kurten himself (guest of honor), as to his appearance after a loss like that, “Nobody expected him to show,” Mary Joe Fernandez commented; a salivating press contingent swooned to get some time with the great one, and Roger was blasted with the usual doubts, speculations on his demise, questions as to his game, ect. He answered, in his usual candid demeanor, full of cool, that he was grateful for the past year where he won the French Open and Wimbledon back to back, about the birth of his daughters, and the magnificent summer, and the Australian Open victory this year, without a shade of despondency, or any signs that he was worried in the least. He exemplified gratitude, and emitted a perspective that was just thankful to still be playing, and healthy, and with a huge smile on his face, was looking forward to grass, where, let’s face it, the records speak for themselves, he is the King. I only wish that the media and fans alike had this propensity to put things in perspective.
All I read about now, and hear about in the rumblings and byways of the tennis realm, is Rafa this, and Rafa that, and Rafa is the one to beat, and Rafa is the usurper and all of that. I have no qualms with Rafael Nadal. I think he is a fantastic player, a true ambassador, and a great role model. But, when I read things like Roger can’t beat Rafa, and that Roger has never beaten a fully healthy Nadal, and things of this sort, there is an obvious upset in the balance of things; people are not looking at the big picture, and least of all adopting any sort of sensible perspective on matters.
I have no desire to list off all of the accolades of Mr. Federer, for they should be automatic by now, and need no mention. Let us take the notion of Roger never beating a healthy Nadal, especially on clay. First of all, the health of your opponent is out of your control, can we at least agree on that? Second, if the running statement that Roger can’t beat a healthy Nadal stands on any significant grounds, how about the vice versa? Let’s take a look at the 2008 Wimbledon final, touted as the ‘Greatest Match of All Time’. If we have a short term memory, many may not remember that Mr. Federer was battling a year long bout with Mononucleosis that started just prior to the Australian Open and, maybe didn’t subside until the end of that same year. That would mean that not only was Federer “unhealthy” but it took a super healthy, super confident, super momentum filled man in Rafael Nadal to beat Roger, and it took everything he had, all the way to an epic fifth set finale. Nobody speaks of that of course. On top of that, does anyone fail to see that Rafa has an outstanding record against Roger maybe because most of their head to head matches have taken place on clay? And there is little argument as to who is the greatest of all time on clay. Also, has anyone commented on why there are so many masters’ series tournaments on clay, and why the clay season is the longest on tour, and why there are only two tournaments on grass each season, and no masters series tournaments on grass? I’ve never heard mention of this either. Let us take a look at Federer’s legacy as far as slams go: Roger has reached a staggering 23 of the last 24 slam semi-finals, a staggering 19 out of the last 21 finals over the past six years, and 16 grand slam titles and counting. Who beat Roger in the last six years? Well, let’s see: Rafael Nadal, the king of clay; Novak Djokovic, a top four player, playing a not so healthy Roger (2008 AUS Open); Marat Safin, in the 2005 AUS Open, playing his absolute best tennis; Del Potro (2009 US Open) and Soderling (2010 French Open) who defied physics with their pace for over two hours of play. Do you ever hear Roger justifying himself, as is his right, about any of all the talk and doubt and scrutiny? No. He talks about one thing: moving forward. And what is ahead? Grass. The king returns to the holy grounds where he has set up his palace shrine for the past seven years. Maybe after he wins another Wimbledon will things finally be put in perspective… I doubt it.
By Maud Watson
Rivalry Up in Flames – By now everyone around the globe must know about the infamous spat that took place between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi at the “Hit for Haiti” charity event. I’ll go on record as saying that both men were wrong for the way that they behaved that night. But I’m also placing the overwhelming amount of blame on Agassi, and he’s the only one of the two for whom I also felt disgust. Agassi’s mouth was going a mile a minute the entire evening and taking subtle jabs at Sampras. Finally Sampras snapped, and his response was to do his impression of Agassi. I had no problem with this. Sampras did this same impression at an exhibition event several years ago with Agassi, and in response, Agassi then did an excellent Sampras impersonation. That was all Agassi needed to do last week. Instead, he hit Pete way below the belt. Even Agassi’s apology was sorely lacking, as he admitted to the joke falling flat but then faulted Sampras for not rolling with it. Why should he, Andre? He was the one being embarrassed in front of a stadium full of people. Sampras already took the high road once when Agassi’s book first came out, and Sampras offered little comment on it. To ask him to do so a second time in that kind of an atmosphere is too much. Worse still, Sampras is unlikely going to be willing to put himself in that kind of a situation again any time soon, so good luck to any exhibition organizer trying to get those two out on the court to hit for charity.
Void of Punishment – Not to keep harping on Andre Agassi, but I was also disappointed (though not surprised) to see that the ITF has come out with a statement declaring that the statute of limitations has passed, and there can be no retroactive punishment for Agassi’s past use of crystal meth. In many ways, it’s a shame that there’s no real retribution here. I can accept that people make mistakes, but to see Agassi get by with this on top of last Friday at the charity exhibition, this verdict is just one more thing that makes me shake my head and wonder how much more he’s going to be allowed to get by with before someone steps in and does something.
Pakistani Pullout – In a sad story that ran earlier this week, the ITF was forced to announce that the Davis Cup tie between Pakistan and New Zealand, which had been slated to take place in Pakistan, would have to be moved to New Zealand due to the recent bombings in the Pakistani nation. The move is completely understandable but a hard blow to Pakistani tennis. Home ties can so often help spark tennis interest and growth in the host nation, not to mention bring some joy if victorious. A troubled nation like Pakistan could have used this boost.
The Fallout Continues – Things continue to unravel in Great Britain after they suffered one of their most humiliating Davis Cup losses in history. The All-Party Parliamentary Tennis Group, which includes members of both the House of Commons and House of Lords, is staging an inquiry to further study the status of tennis in Great Britain at all levels of the game. Furthermore, John Lloyd is throwing in the towel, while coach Paul Annacone will no longer serve as the Davis Cup team coach. Bless whatever soul is brave enough to take over the helm of this rapidly sinking ship before they face Turkey later this year.
Latest Russian Maladies – In one of the more mind-boggling stories of the week, it was noted that Russian Nikolay Davydenko was forced to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open due to a broken wrist. The fact that he had to pull out of the tournament with such an injury was not the mind-boggling part…it was the fact that he’d played with the broken wrist, which had been misdiagnosed earlier in the year. The Russian could possibly be out for the entire clay court season. My fingers are crossed that he makes a speedy recovery, especially given how well he’s played the past six months.
I woke up this morning, enjoying my cup of tea, reading the sports news on Yahoo! when a headline caught my eye. Martina Hingis to play the World Team Tennis. I was baffled by this news. I have been a fan of Hingis since 1998. When she won, we won. When she lost, we lost. When she cried, I usually turned off my tv or switched channels. But Hingis won a lot. She continued to win. Held top ranking on the WTA Tour for 209 weeks in a row.
And then came the sad news that she was forced to retire.
We wouldn’t be able to enjoy her marvelous tactical game that graced the courts anymore. We wouldn’t be able to get into chat rooms and cheer her on as any Hingis fan would. Or post on forums, from results to opinions. We panicked, who would we cheer on now? There is no greater champion than her.
With her gone, I lost interest in the WTA Tour for a while. There was nobody to cheer for in my opinion. The WTA Tour felt dead, black and empty without her.
Until November 29, 2005. That was the day Hingis announced her return to the tour. Fans and pundits worldwide cheered her come back. The media frenzy that followed made sure that there was no way around letting you know that the “Swiss Miss” was back on the tour.
The chatrooms were filled again with fans. People who kept live scores updated us throughout the matches that followed. And new friends were made. This went on for about a year and a half.
It was great to be part of the community again.
Then on November 1, 2007 Hingis announced her second retirement from the game. She failed a drug test as cocaine was detected in her system. She denied the allegations but was banned by the ITF for two years. Two years would pretty much be the end of her career. According to a lot of fans. While the chatrooms ran empty, the forums were less visited we never forgot the one player who made us smile when she smiled.
So today I open my browser, drink my tea and read that Hingis will make a return to World Team Tennis tour. I am baffled.
She told the press that she has watched a lot of Australian Open this year.
“Of course it makes you think. Tennis was all my life, and the most natural thing is that it makes you think. It would be sad if it didn’t make me think, don’t you think?” Hingis said.
“Tennis is still my life. Well, part of it,” she continued. “But my life is very comfortable, on the other hand. Tennis gave me a lot of things and sometimes you have to put things behind. It’s a lot of sacrifice, as well. I wouldn’t want to risk it anymore.”
When asked what she missed the most about tennis she replied with the following:
“What I miss is probably … the winning moments—when you hold up the trophy and you know you are the best in the world and you end up winning Grand Slams. That is probably the moment an athlete is most happy,” Hingis said.
“You miss that, but you know that getting to that point takes a lot of years, a lot of hard work, a lot of practice. It doesn’t come from heaven,” she added. “You never forget how much work, how much pain, you go through to get there.”
Now let’s hope that she hungers for those moments and makes a return to the tour. If Lindsay Davenport, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin can do it then why not her?
By Maud Watson
Rattled Roddick – In the second round encounter earlier this week at the Australian Open between Andy Roddick and Thomaz Bellucci, Bellucci hit a shot on match point down that was initially called out. Bellucci challenged the call. Hawk-eye showed the ball in, and chair umpire Fergus Murphy awarded the point to Bellucci. At the end of the match, Roddick railed on Murphy for awarding that first match point in Bellucci’s favor, refusing to shake Murphy’s hand at the end, which earned him a round of boos from the crowd. After viewing the tape, Roddick admitted he may have been wrong than he realized but still felt on a big point like that, Murphy should have ruled to replay it. Why? If Murphy felt Roddick didn’t have a play on the ball, how is it fair to not award the point to Bellucci, the player who was match point down? Furthermore, while Bellucci played well, Roddick was schooling him out on the court. Barring a miracle, there was no way Roddick wasn’t walking off that court the winner, whether it took one match point or ten. Roddick needs to learn to get a grip on his emotions. He’s developed a habit of arguing with chair umps, and it’s embarrassing. American tennis has already had to endure the tirades of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. It shouldn’t have to endure those of Roddick, too.
New Year, Same Serena – For those of you who saw ESPN2’s coverage of Day 2, you know that Serena Williams was interviewed and asked about her reaction to the ITF’s ruling in her infamous US Open outburst. While Serena claimed to be sorry and turning the whole incident into a positive by holding an auction to raise money for her charity, she also had the audacity to claim the fine was excessive given the behavior of past players and implied it would have been less had she been a man. First, while her raising money for her charity is a good deed, it in no way makes up for her behavior at the US Open. Second, it’s ludicrous she thinks the fine is excessive and would have been less if she were a man. I realize this is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, but when someone like Martina Hingis gets slapped with a two-year ban for a flimsy positive cocaine test, or Yanina Wickmayer faces losing up to a year of her career for violating the controversial “whereabouts rule,” I’d say Serena got off easy for going out on the largest court in the world in front of television audiences from all over the globe and threatening to kill a line judge by cramming a tennis ball down her throat. It’s clear Serena hasn’t learned her lesson, and I give props to ESPN’s Darren Cahill for being the lone commentator who had the guts to say she should have been suspended, as she certainly would have if she played any other sport.
Sharapova Stutters – Maria Sharapova’s comeback from injury suffered a major setback, as she lost in the opening round of the Australian Open to countrywoman Maria Kirilenko. Sharapova looked rusty, and much like Pam Shriver on ESPN, I was left to question Sharapova’s preparation. She’d hardly played competitive tennis since her early exit at the US Open, yet she chose to play an exhibition instead of a sanctioned tournament to prepare for the first major of the year? It was painfully obvious she didn’t see the problem with this either, as she stated in her interview that she didn’t know what lack of match practice had to do with failing to put the return in play when her opponent was down break point. Maybe her coach Michael Joyce should explain to her the fundamental differences between exhibitions and sanctioned matches.
Great Match, Bad Timing – It was arguably one of the greatest second-round matchups in Grand Slam history as Elena Dementieva took on Justine Henin, the latest top player to come out of retirement. This match definitely lived up to its billing as both players traded bludgeoning groundstrokes and refused to give up ground as they dashed about the court in a desperate attempt to swing the momentum to their own side. In the end, it was Henin who held her nerve longer and took the match in two tight sets. The great tennis aside, it’s a tragedy that the Australian Open so needlessly lost one of the top contenders for the title in the second round. Tournament organizers were given the green light to seed Henin, despite her lack of ranking, and opted to take a pass. I think they missed the boat on that one.
Coverage Woes – I’m grateful that ESPN2 is covering a fair amount of the Australian Open, as I don’t currently get the Tennis Channel. That said, the amount of filler interviews and commentary they have is ridiculous. The first night of coverage started late due to a basketball game running over the allotted time, but instead of going straight to the tennis, viewers had to hear what each of the commentators had to say about players’ chances at the opening major of 2010. And whose bright idea was it to interview Sam Querrey while Kirilenko was upsetting Sharapova in Round 1? When coverage started on Wednesday night, Patrick McEnroe informs the audience that Baghdatis is in the process of staging a comeback from two sets down against David Ferrer, but do they go to the match? No, because viewers must be subjected to the two cents’ worth of every commentator on the network. People tune in to watch the tennis, so if anyone at ESPN is reading this, less talk, more action.
Austrian doubles specialist Sandra Klemenschits, who returned to the tour in July 2008 after overcoming a rare form of abdominal cancer, will make her Grand Slam debut this week at the US Open in the women’s doubles event. Partnering Aravane Rezai of France, they will play Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and Ai Sugiyama of Japan, the No. 5 seeds. The match will take place either on Wednesday or Thursday during the first week of the tournament.
Klemenschits, currently ranked No. 111 in doubles, is a winner of 28 doubles titles on the ITF circuit. 20 of these titles came when she partnered with her twin sister, Daniela. In January of 2007, both Sandra and Daniela were diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer, squamous cell carcimona, forcing them to retire.
Players including Roger Federer, Justine Henin, and Martina Hingis donated items for an online auction in June of 2007, raising over $70,000 for their medical bills. In April of 2008, Daniela Klemenschits died at age 25.
In July of 2008, Sandra Klemenschits announced she had beaten her illness and returned to professional tennis at a WTA event in Bad Gastein, Austria. Since returning to the pro tour 13 months ago, Klemenschits has won eight ITF circuit titles in doubles. She arrives at the US Open having won 10 of her last 11 matches.
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.
Wimbledon (First Week)
Lleyton Hewitt beat fifth-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro 6-3 7-5 7-5
Sabine Lisicki beat fifth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2 7-5
Melanie Oudin beat sixth-seeded Jelena Jankovic 6-7 (8) 7-5 6-2
Ivo Karlovic beat ninth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (5) 6-7 (5) 7-5 7-6 (5)
Gisela Dulko beat 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova 6-2 3-6 6-4
Jesse Levine beat 2005 Australian Open champion Marat Safin 6-2 3-6 7-6 (4) 6-4
“It is the best place to be when you are a pro tennis player and I savor every blade of it. I’ve had that crown for several years and I want to make it mine again.” – Defending champion Venus Williams.
“I come here every year expecting myself to win.” – Alex Bogdanovic, whose career record at Wimbledon is now 0-8, the second worst in tournament history only to Joe Hackett of Ireland, who went 0-9.
“Losses are tough. More here than at any other tournament. But, you know, it puts some perspective into your life.” – Maria Sharapova, after her second-round loss to Gisela Dulko.
“If I can win with only one shot, I don’t know, I’m a genius.” – Ivo Karlovic, responding to criticism that he has a one-dimensional game with his huge serve.
“Well, I tried to be quiet for you guys today.” – Michelle Larcher de Brito, who made headlines at the French Open for her on-court screeching.
“I think some people are just too noisy. For me it’s extra effort to do it, so I’d rather not do it.” – Ai Sugiyama, about players who screech on court during play.
“Everyone is from Russia. Sometimes I think I’m from Russia, too. I feel, like, you know, OK, all these new ‘Ovas.’ I don’t know anyone. I don’t really recognize anyone. … I think my name must be Williamsova.” – Serena Williams, noting the number of top women players from Russia.
“I need to get out of my brain and start from a new page.” – Marat Safin, after losing in the first round in his 10th and final Wimbledon.
“I’ve never met Serena. I haven’t even walked past her, like ever, almost. I’ve seen her, but she always has tons of security guards around her all the time, at least four or five people. But Venus, she walks around with, maybe, one person, that’s it.” – 17-year-old Melanie Oudin, who upset Jelena Jankovic.
“Women’s tennis is more speedy and more powerful. It’s tough, very tough … but I enjoy the challenge.” – Kimiko Date Krumm, who retired from the women’s tour in 1996, only returning last year.
“I remember the first time I played on grass, I think I just wanted to dive. That was the highlight, I guess, trying to dive. I don’t remember if I did or not, but when you’re growing up, you see all the players diving, and you think, I want a part of that. So that’s the first thing you want when you’re little.” – Venus Williams, remembering his first match at Wimbledon in 1997.
“Sometimes people need more respect for their opponents. When (Novak) Djokovic lost in the second round last year, (people were surprised, but) it was Marat Safin he was up against – and he can play a bit of tennis! And then Safin lost in the first round here (to Jesse Levine), so it shows that you should always have respect.” – Roger Federer.
“We should have a tiebreak at six-all in the fifth like in the US Open. All the Grand Slams should have this. That’s my personal opinion. When you’ve played so much tennis… it’s really draining.” – Tommy Haas, whose match against Marin Cilic was halted by darkness at 6-6 in the fifth set. Haas completed his 7-5 7-5 1-6 6-7 (3) 10-8 win the next day.
“I don’t think a lot of them would last five sets.” — Lleyton Hewitt, when asked about women playing best-of-five-set matches at the Grand Slam tournaments.
“I always said maybe if I was a guy I would play cricket.” – Sania Mirza, India’s top female tennis player.
Not only is Venus Williams seeking her third straight Wimbledon women’s singles title and sixth of her career, the American has won 29 consecutive sets dating back to a third-round match against Akiko Morigami in 2007. That’s the last time Williams has dropped a set as she beat her Japanese opponent 6-2 3-6 7-5. Morigami actually led 5-3 in the final set. “That was an intense match and she was playing so well,” Venus recalled. “She played low ground strokes. I just remember playing very aggressive from 3-5, just returning aggressively. When the chips are down, I start to force the issue even more. Usually it works. You live and learn. I attribute it to that match.” If she wins, Williams would become the first woman to win three straight Wimbledon singles titles since Steffi Graf in 1993. She also would pull to within one title of Graf’s total of seven and within three of record-holder Martina Navratilova.
Queen Elizabeth sent a message of congratulations to Andy Murray for becoming the first Briton to won the Queen’s grass court tournament in London since Bunny Austin in 1938. The last time the monarch visited Wimbledon was in 1977, where she presented the trophy to Virginia Wade after the Briton won the women’s singles title in the Queen’s Jubilee year. Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth has no official engagements on the day of this year’s Wimbledon men’s final. Murray is trying to become the first British player since Fred Perry in 1936 to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon.
Michael Llodra was knocked out of Wimbledon by being, well, almost knocked out. In his second-round match against Tommy Haas, the Frenchman was sprinting towards a drop shot when he was unable to stop and slammed into the umpire’s chair before collapsing on top of ball girl. Llodra quickly stood up and helped the startled girl back to her feet. After asking if she was OK, Llodra hugged her and returned to the baseline to resume the match. When the game was completed, Llodra clutched his side and asked for a trainer as he hobbled back to his chair. Following a medical timeout, Llodra played another game before being worked on by the trainer again. He attempted one more serve before retiring from the match.
Two veteran players returning to Wimbledon found their stay to be short ones. Kimiko Date Krumm, a 38-year-old who last played Wimbledon in 1996, fell to Caroline Wozniacki 5-7 6-3 6-1. The Japanese player made her Wimbledon debut in 1989, a year before Wozniacki was born, and reached the semifinals in 1996. Jelena Dokic, who made her career breakthrough at Wimbledon in 1999, lost to German qualifier Tatjana Malek 3-6 7-5 6-2. Dokic, playing Wimbledon for the first time after a five-year absence, complained of feeling dizzy at the end of the second set and had her blood pressure taken at courtside.
Ninth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was bombarded out of this year’s Championships. Ivo Karlovic slammed 46 aces to upset the Frenchman 7-6 (5) 6-7 (5) 7-5 7-6 (5). The ATP tour leader in aces in 2009, Karlovic hit a modern-era record 55 aces in a loss at the French Open last month. While he is best known for upsetting 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt in Wimbledon’s first round the following year, Karlovic had lost his opening matches at the All England Club from 2005 to 2008.
Ivan Ljubicic never made it to his first-round match at the All-England Club. The former world number three player from Croatia withdrew from Wimbledon with an ankle injury on the opening day of the tournament and was replaced in the draw by Danai Udomchoke of Thailand. The week before Wimbledon, Ljubicic fell heavily in his match at the Eastbourne International, injuring his ankle. Racing to the net to reach a delicate shot by his opponent, Fabrice Santoro, Ljubicic skidded on the grass, fell and cried out while clutching his left ankle. Santoro ran to the court-side freezer to get bags of ice, which he applied to Ljubicic’s ankle while officials summoned the trainer.
There’s a new star in Lindsay Davenport’s house. The three-time Grand Slam tournament winner has given birth to her second child, a girl named Lauren Andrus Davenport Leach. Lindsay and her husband Jon Leach have a 2-year-old son, Jagger. The 33-year-old Davenport won the 1998 US Open, 1999 Wimbledon and 2000 Australian Open singles titles. She pulled out of this year’s Australian Open when she learned she was pregnant. At the time, Davenport said she would be putting tennis on hold “for the foreseeable future.”
Tommy Haas will be seeking his third title when he begins play at the 2009 LA Tennis Open Presented by Farmers Insurance Group. Haas is one of six players committed to the California tournament who are seeded in the draw at Wimbledon. “Tommy is a fan favorite, a great addition to our already strong field, and has played LA more than anyone else in the field,” said tournament director Bob Kramer. The 83rd annual LA Tennis Open will be held July 27-August 2 at the LA Tennis center on the campus of UCLA. Haas won the Los Angeles title in 2004 and again in 2005. Others already in the field include 2007 champion Radek Stepanek, Marat Safin, Mardy Fish, Fernando Gonzalez, Dmitry Tursunov, Marcos Baghdatis and Sam Querrey.
STILL TOP TICKET
Don’t look now, but the All England Club is not going through a recession. While the rest of the world grapples with the global financial downturn, Wimbled has sold more tickets than ever. “It seems people are saying, `Forget about the recession. Let’s go to Wimbledon and have some fun,” said All England Club spokesman Johnny Perkins. “People are sitting down and trying to decide what to spend their hard-earned money on. The good news for Wimbledon is, they seem to be spending it here.” The first day’s attendance was 42,811, an increase of nearly 3,500 from the previous opening day record set in 2001. While organizers will not release figures for pre-tournament ticket requests, they say they have received about 20 percent more than last year. The All England Club recently sold out 2,500 Centre Court seats in five-year blocks for USD $45,600 each.
No wrongdoing is suspected, but tennis wants to look into the betting pattern on a first-round Wimbledon match. When a TV commentator remarked that one of the players was injured, more than six times as many wagers as normal were placed on the match between Wayne Odesnik of the United States and Jurgen Melzer of Austria. The British bookmaker Betfair alerted tennis corruption investigators about the unusual betting pattern, but company spokesman Mark Davies said it did not suspect any wrongdoing. Melzer’s odds shortened significantly after a TV announced mentioned that Odesnik had a thigh injury. Betfair received about USD $980,000 in wagers on the match, while the average for a first-round Wimbledon match is less than USD $163,000. Melzer won 6-1 6-4 6-2.
SITES TO SURF
Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com
Serena Williams blog: http://www.serenawilliams.com/blog(underscore)message(underscore)detail.php?msg=93
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
ATP and WTA
The Championships (second week), Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass
$150,000 Nord/LP Open, Braunschweig, Germany, clay
$100,000 Trofeo Regione Piemonte, Turin, Italy, clay
$100,000 Cuneo ITF Tournament, Cuneo, Italy, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$500,000 Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, grass
$100,000 Open Diputacion Ciudad de Pozoblanco, Pozoblanco, Cordoba, Spain, clay
$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
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