Iveta Benesova

Thursday at Indian Wells

It seemed oddly empty at the tournament today compared with the past five days in terms of fans. Of course, the smaller player field made for a less hectic scene at the practice courts. Still, I managed to get a lot of photos.

The practice courts featured a few players who had been knocked out. David Ferrer, John Isner, Caroline Wozniacki, Jurgen Melzer, Iveta Benesova, Richard Gasquet, and Julien Benneteau were all getting some training in this morning. The afternoon saw the second half of Quisner–Sam Querrey–practicing as well as Milos Raonic, Rafael Nadal, and Marc Lopez.

Ana Ivanovic started off the morning on stadium 1. She played a strong match against an ailing Marion Bartoli, who apparently came down with the Indian Wells illness. Ivanovic will take on Maria Sharapova, who fought hard in the battle of Maria’s against Maria Kirilenko.

When Kirilenko took the first set and broke in the second, it seemed that Sharapova had a big hill to climb. The former world number one broke back, and it seemed the second set would be won by whoever could hold her serve. Sharapova managed to do so eventually and went on to win the set and ultimately the match.

On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic had little trouble with Nicolas Almagro. Djokovic made more errors than usual today, but Almagro couldn’t capitalize and seemed to fade away. When John Isner began his match against Gilles Simon, Isner couldn’t seem to stay focused either, making a plethora of mistakes. Simon took advantage of the situation and secured a break in Isner’s first service game. Despite this early disadvantage, Isner fought back and won the first set. The match took three sets, but the American was able to see it through.

Men’s doubles also took center stage tonight with Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez facing Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski. Fyrstenberg and Matkowski are strong doubles players; however, they never seemed to find a rhythm as Nadal and Lopez cruised to a victory.

Tomorrow will be my last day of live coverage, so check back tomorrow night for more photos!

[nggallery id=40]

Iveta Benesova ousted by Victoria Azarenka, Julia Goerges reaches semis in Luxembourg

Czech Iveta Benesova tried but failed to reach the semis at the Luxembourg Open.  Belrussian Victoria Azarenka defeated her in straight sets 6-3, 6-2.  Azarenka will now face Germany’s Julia Goerges whose opponent, Latvian Anastasija Sevastova, withdrew with a hip injury while being 5-2 behind in the first set.

In other quarterfinals, Monica Niculescu of Romania defeated lucky loser Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-4, and Anne Keothavong of Britain beat Bibiane Schoofs of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-2.

Photos by © Rick Gleijm

[nggallery id=160]

Victoria Azarenka and Ana Ivanovic advance in Luxembourg

Victoria Azarenka and Ana Ivanovic both reached the second round at the Luxembourg Open.  Belrussian top seed  Azarenka disposed of her Czech opponent Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in straight sets 6-2 6-4 to reach the second round.  Serbian Ana Ivanovic followed Azarenka’s example and defeated her French opponent Virginie Razzano in straight sets as well 7-6 6-4.

Number five seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy was the biggest seed to fall after losing to Latvian Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 6-2.

German Julia Goerges was the first to earn a spot in the quarter finals when she defeated Austrian Tamira Paszek in two 6-4 6-2.  Czech Iveta Benesova was given a walk-over after Russian Maria Kirilenko was forced to withdraw from the Luxembourg tournament with an injury.

Photos ©  by Rick Gleijm.

[nggallery id=158]

Maria Kirilenko to the next round after Navarro retires

So the main tournament has started after the qualifications this weekend.  Maria Kirilenko reaches the second round in Luxembourg after her opponent Carla Suarez Navarro retired in the in the third set trailing 3-0.   Kirilenko will now meet Iveta  Benesova of Czech who beat Pauline Parmentier of France in three sets 6-3 3-6 2-6.

In other tournament news,  Tamira Paszek defeated Ekatarina Makarova  6-2 6-2 while Anabel Medina Garrigues double bageled wildcard entry Anne Kremer of Luxembourg to reach the second round.

Meanwhile Sabine Lisicki has withdrawn from the Luxembourg tournament because of illness leaving Julia Goerges the only German left in the draw after Andrea Petkovic withdrew due to injury.

Extra pics of the All Access Hour with Victoria Azarenka, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Flavia Pennettai.

PARMENTIER Pauline (FRA) 6 3 2
BENESOVA Iveta (CZE)           3 6 6

SUAREZ NAVARRO Carla(ESP) 6(5) 6 0 ret
KIRILENKO Maria (RUS)              7 3 3

MAKAROVA Ekaterina (RUS) 2 2
PASZEK Tamira (AUT)             6 6

KREMER Anne (LUX)                           0 0
MEDINA GARRIGUES Anabel (ESP) 6 6

Photos credit © Rick Gleijm

[nggallery id=156]

More Pics From The Rogers Cup Montreal

So here we are with more photos of the Rogers Cup in Montreal, 2010. I can’t believe how fast the weeks pass by. Just last week it was the ATP tournament in Toronto and this week is the WTA Tournament in Montreal.

In less than two weeks the final Grand Slam tournament of the 2010 season kicks off but until then we can enjoy photos of the tournaments before the US Open hits off.

I got more photos than I could possibly have imagined earlier this week.  Credit to Iketennis.com and J. Servat.

The list of players in the gallery is long but they include Vera Zvonareva, Caroline Wozniacki, Gisela Dulko, Maria Kirilenko, Iveta Benesova, Jelena Jankovic and many many more.

[nggallery id=78]

A SIGHT TO BE SEEN: IVETA BENESOVA

Ok well I have no idea where these Iveta Benesova pictures come from but she looks smokin’ hot. Benesova in a bikini. Now that’s a sight to be seen. And seeing we will!

I wonder why she isn’t in the issue of Sports Illustrated. She would have made a wonderful addition. That’s actually an understatement.  Anyway enjoy the photos of Iveta Benesova.

[nggallery id=17]

Mondays With Bob Greene: I’m Recharged

STARS

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

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

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

SAYING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S’WONDERFUL

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

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

SAM THE MAN

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

SHHHHH!!

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

SEMFINAL SWITCH

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

SITTING IT OUT

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

SORE BUT THERE

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

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

STARTING OVER

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

SUBSTANCE ABUSE?

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

SERENA, THE AUTHOR

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

SENSITIVITY COURSE ALUMNI

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

STANDING TALL

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

SPOKESPEOPLE

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

STRONG VENUS

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

SUCCESS

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

SPIRITED CLOTHES

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

STEPPING DOWN

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

STANDING FOR OFFICE

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

STEADY SHOW

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

SHARED PERFORMANCES

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

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

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

SITES TO SURF

US Open: www.usopen.org

Kim Clijsters: www.kimclijsters.be/

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

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

Serena Williams: www.serenawilliams.com/

Venus Williams: www.venuswilliams.com/

Andy Roddick: www.andyroddick.com

Andre Agassi Foundation: www.agassiopen.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

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

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

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

ATP

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

Mondays With Bob Greene: I’m so happy, I wouldn’t trade this victory for a Grand Slam

STARS

Robin Soderling beat Juan Monaco 6-3 7-6 (4) to win the Catella Swedish Open in Bastad, Sweden

Jeremy Chardy won his first career ATP title, beating Victor Hanescu 1-6 6-3 6-4 in the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany.

Flavia Pennetta beat Sara Errani 6-1 6-2 to win the Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo in Palermo, Italy

Sybille Bammer beat Francesca Schiavone 7-6 (4) 6-2 to win the ECM Prague Open in Prague, Czech Republic

Marcos Daniel won the Open Seguros Bolivar in Bogota, Colombia, defeating Horacic Zeballos 4-6 7-6 (5) 6-4

SAYING

“I’m so happy, I wouldn’t trade this victory for a Grand Slam.” – Robin Soderling, the French Open finalist, after becoming the first Swede to win the Swedish Open since 2000.

“It is the first time I’ve won a title here in Italy. And it’s even more special with my family and friends here watching and supporting me.” – Flavia Pennetta, after winning the Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo.

“I felt the pressure because I knew this would be my first title.” – Jeremy Chardy, after beating Victor Hanescu to win his first ATP title, the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany.

“I like practicing, but I like playing matches better.” – Kim Clijsters, saying she’s rejoining the WTA Tour after a two-year retirement during which she got married and had a baby.

“I’m tired of the tour, tired of staying at hotels and tired of travelling…I’ve had enough now.” – Marat Safin, after his first-round loss at the Swedish Open.

“I still want to win. Especially that title. I like winning that one. I’m used to winning that one.” – Venus Williams, taking little consolation that the Wimbledon women’s singles title remained in the Williams family when she lost the final to sister Serena.

“I thought it would be pretty easy. You play five games, you get to sit down. But it’s highly competitive and a difficult way to tiptoe back into it.” – Andre Agassi, after returning to the sport by playing World TeamTennis.

“Basically, it was a great match, probably one of the greatest World TeamTennis matches ever played, maybe the greatest. All in all, I thought it was a great night.” – New York Sportimes owner Claude Okin, after his coach was suspended following a wild and crazy match that saw two players get hit by batted balls.

SWEDE VICTORY

It was Robin Soderling’s fourth ATP title and his first on clay. But what made his 6-3 7-6 (4) victory over Juan Monaco even sweeter was that Soderling became the first Swede to win the Swedish Open since his coach, Magnus Norman, won in 2000. Soderling, who upset defending champion Rafael Nadal en route to the final of the French Open, was playing in his third ATP final in Sweden. He lost both previous times on the indoor hard court of the Stockholm Open. He wasn’t to be denied this time as he didn’t drop a set on the clay courts of Bastad. Swedish players have won the singles 18 times in the 54-year history of the Swedish Open. Soderling also was in the doubles final, but he and partner Robert Lindstedt lost to Jaroslav Levinsky and Filip Polasek 1-6 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak).

SNOW WHITE

Frenchman Richard Gasquet escaped a two-year ban when an independent panel agreed with him that the reason he tested positive for cocaine was because he had kissed a woman in a Miami, Florida, nightclub who had been using the drug. The panel also ruled that while Gasquet’s test was officially in competition, this was a technicality as he had decided the day before his first match to pull out of the Sony Ericsson Championships. Cocaine is not banned out of competition. Fearing a dangerous precedent, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) sought a mandatory two-year band and may yet appeal the ruling, as may the World Anti-Doping Agency. Gasquet’s test showed traces of a tiny quantity of cocaine, about the size of a grain of salt. Gasquet missed the French Open and Wimbledon, but could return to the tour at the Montreal, Canada, Masters that starts on August 10.

SCHEDULING BLAME

The president of the Russian tennis federation blames his team’s upset Davis Cup loss to Israel on the scheduling of the men’s tour. “The main problem is this murderous calendar,” said Shamil Tarpishchev. “This is not only a big problem for us. Just look at the other top teams like U.S., Spain, Argentina or Germany. It seems like every top team was missing their best players.” Tarpishchev, who had led Russia to Davis Cup titles in 2002 and 2006, said the timing of the World Group quarterfinals coming immediately after the French Open and Wimbledon gave top players almost no time to recover. Russia played without its top two players, Nikolay Davydenko and Dmitry Tursunov. Others missing Davis Cup quarterfinals included American Andy Roddick, Spain’s Rafael Nadal, Argentina’s David Nalbandian, Germany’s Tommy Haas and Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic.

STILETTO

Before President Barack Obama headed to baseball’s All-Star game to throw out the first pitch, he welcomed Wimbledon champion Serena Williams to the White House. “I love President Obama; he has such an unbelievable presence, and he seems to be so normal – and he noticed my shoes,” Williams said. “I think that was the highlight of the whole day, was he liked my shoes.” Serena said she was wearing 5-inch heels and the President wondered if she should be wearing them. “I thought that was kind of funny because he may have been right,” Serena said. “Because it is a job hazard for me, but I insist on wearing them.”

SPANISH TOP

Spain is on top of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Davis Cup Nations Ranking. The Spaniards ended Russia’s 2 ½ -year reign as number one. The United States moved up to second place, followed by Russia. Israel, which upset Russia in the quarterfinals, advanced to a career-high sixth.

STRUGGLING

When Andre Agassi ended his nearly 3-year retirement, he did it all. The 39-year-old played mixed doubles, doubles and singles for the second straight week while competing for the Philadelphia Freedoms in World TeamTennis. Agassi also traded shots with youngsters and bantered with fans as the Freedoms played the Newport Beach Breakers. He teamed with Lisa Raymond to post a mixed doubles victory, but lost in singles to Ramon Delgado and to Delgado and Kaes Van’t Hof in the men’s doubles.

SISTERLY LOVE?

Venus and Serena Williams aren’t the only sisters meeting on the opposite ends of a tennis court. The difference, though, is what part of the week they face each other. In their latest pairing, Serena beat Venus in the Wimbledon final. In Prague, Czech Republic, fifth-seeded Alona Bondarenko was ousted by her unseeded sister Kateryna in the opening round of the Prague Open 6-1 6-3. That snapped a tie and the younger sister now leads in their head-to-head matchups 4-3. In their career head-to-head battles, Serena leads her older sister 11-10. The Bondarenko sisters did team up to win the doubles in Prague, their third doubles title together. They won the Australian Open and Paris indoors last year.

SET FOR THE CAPITAL

Washington, D.C., will be the site for this year’s World TeamTennis championship finals. The July 26 competition, being played in America’s capital for the first time, will pit the 10-team league’s Eastern Conference champions against the winners of the Western Conference.

SHANGHAI STOP

The Qi Zhong Tennis Center in Shanghai is adding new courts as it gets ready to stage an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in October. The Tennis Center was the site for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup for five years, an event that this year will be held in London. For this year’s tournament, Qi Zhong’s main stadium roof will be opened, turning it into a 15,000-seat outdoor facility. The Grand Stand Court 2 will accommodate 5,000 spectators, while Court 3 will seat 2,000. Construction of the new facilities is expected to be completed by August. The tournament will be held October 10-18 and will conclude a four-week Asian tour, following stops in Bangkok, Tokyo and Beijing.

SUSPENDED

New York Sportimes coach Chuck Adams was suspended and fined by World TeamTennis after his team and the Washington Kastles got into heated arguments over players getting hit by shots. The league barred Adams for “violating the World TeamTennis Coaches’ Code of Conduct.” During the melee, Adams went onto Washington’s side of the court to confront a Kastles player. The league said this was “the first p[punishment” for what happened between the two teams. WTT said it “continues to investigate the incident to determine if there will be any additional punishments issued.” During the men’s doubles match, a shot by Washington’s Leader Paes hit New York’s Robert Kendrick, prompting Adams and Sportimes player John McEnroe to yell at Paes. The chair umpire issued a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct against the New York team. Four points later, Kendrick hit a serve that hit Paes as he stood near the net as his partner waited to return serve. Kastles players Olga Puchkova and Rennae Stubbs responded and both drew code violation warnings, Puchkova for yelling at Kendrick and Stubbs for abuse of officials.

SET TO RETURN

Having taken time to get married and have a baby, Kim Clijsters is ready to rejoin the WTA Tour. The 2005 US Open champion, Clijsters reached number one in the world in singles and doubles in August 2003. She also was runner-up at four major tournaments – losing to fellow Belgian Justine Henin at both Roland Garros and the US Open in 2003 and at the Australian Open in 2004 – as she won 34 career singles titles before beginning a two-year retirement. This will be her first US Open since she captured the title. She has been given wild cards to enter tournaments at Mason, Ohio, and Toronto, Canada, before the US Open, which begins its two-week run on August 31. The 26-year-old Clijsters married American Brian Lynch in 2007 and their daughter, Jada, was born in February 2008.

SET FOR MONTREAL

Rafael Nadal is shooting to return to the men’s tennis tour at the Montreal Masters next Month. The Spaniard has been slowing recovering from tendinitis in his knees and plans to resume training this week. He last played at Roland Garros, where he was upset in the fourth round by Sweden’s Robin Soderling. Nadal then was forced to skip the defense of his Wimbledon title. He is the defending champion in Montreal. While he was recuperating, he also lost his number one ranking to Roger Federer, who succeeded Nadal as champion at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.

SUFFERIN’ SAFIN

Marat Safin is looking forward to life free of racquets and balls. The Russian is scheduled to play another eight tournaments before he retires at the end of the year. After losing his first-round Swedish Open match to Nicolas Almagro, Safin said, “I’ve had enough now.” Asked by the Swedish news agency TT if he would be interested in a coaching career, Safin replied: “I am tired of everything that has to do with rackets and balls. I want to do something completely different.”

STICH BACK

Yet another retiree is returning to the courts. However, when former Wimbledon champion Michael Stich snaps his 12-year stint on the sidelines, it will be only to play doubles at the tournament in Hamburg, Germany. Now 40 years old, Stich is the director of the event that is struggling to survive after losing its Masters Series status on the tour. Stich will team with 21-year-old Mischa Zverev, one of Germany’s top prospects. “I’ve been practicing with Mischa in Hamburg for about five years and we got the idea at some point to play doubles at a tournament,” Stich said. “The opportunity has now presented itself and as Hamburg boys we will play before the home fans next week.” Stich upset fellow German Boris Becker to win Wimbledon in 1991. The following year he teamed with John McEnroe to win the Wimbledon doubles.

STAYING HOME

Wimbledon runner-up Andy Roddick will skip this week’s Indianapolis Tennis Championships because of a right hip flexor injury. It’s the same injury that caused Roddick to pull out of the United States Davis Cup team’s quarterfinal at Croatia. Without Roddick, the Americans lost.

SKIPS SUSPENSION

Australia won’t be suspended from Davis Cup for refusing to play in India in May. But while the International Tennis Federation board declined to impose tougher sanctions on Australia, it did say the next Davis Cup tie between the two countries will be played in India. Australia forfeited May’s competition when it refused to send a team to India, claiming security fears. While the board also reversed the Davis Cup committee’s decision that Australia would lose its hosting rights for its next home match, the board upheld a USD $10,000 fine and additional legal costs imposed on the Australian federation.

Spurred by last year’s competition in Argentina, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has decided that Davis Cup finals must in the future be held in major cities. The ITF said Argentina’s use of Uslas Malvinas Stadium in Mar del Plata last November did not meet capacity requirements. Wary of the Spaniards’ dominance on clay, Argentina moved the Cup final to indoor carpet. Spain won the final anyway, 3-1.

Three countries – Albania, Kenya and Zambia – have been promoted from Class C membership to Class B while two others have been dropped as the ITF has reconfigured the Europe/Africa Zone. It now will be Europe Group II and Africa Group III. Mongolia and Antigua and Barbuda are the nations who were dropped.

SWISS AWARD

Roger Federer has been named “Ehrespalebaerglemer,” an award given to outstanding citizens of Basel, Switzerland, the tennis star’s home town. A plaque, unveiled in Federer’s honor, sits alongside those honoring other local heroes in the historic city center of Basel. “It’s a nice honor for me to receive the plaque and I will walk past it, I am sure, just a few more times,” said Federer. “It’s going to be a proud moment, maybe also to show my kids in the future.”

SCOTT TO STACEY

The new chairman and chief executive of the WTA Tour is Stacey Allaster. The native of Canada had served three years as president of the WTA Tour after previously serving as vice president and tournament director of Tennis Canada. Allaster replaces Larry Scott in the top job at the WTA Tour. Scott resigned in March after six years as chief executive to become commissioner of the Pacific-10 Conference of US colleges.

SAD NEWS

Jon Gibbs, a trailblazer in computerized tennis statistics, has died in Verona, New Jersey, USA. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer. A video tape editor for ABC Television before he retired, Gibbs created TenniSTAT, a computer program that enabled a complete printout of every point after a match. At one time TenniSTAT was the official statistics program for the US Open, the WCT Tournament of Champions, the Volvo Masters and the Virginia Slims Championships in New York City, and the US Pro Indoors in Philadelphia. He also provided statistics at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Gibbs had just celebrated his 71st birthday. A memorial service will be held July 26 at Temple Beth Sholom in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. Among his survivors are his wife, Roz, and two sons, Noah and Josh.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Bastad: Jaroslav Levinsky and Filip Polasek beat Robert Lindstedt and Robin Soderling 1-6 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Prague: Alona Bondarenko and Kateryna Bondarenko beat Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-1 6-2

Palermo: Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Mariya Koryttseva and Darya Kustova 6-1 6-2

Stuttgart: Frantisek Cermak and Mischa Mertinak beat Victor Hanescu and Horia Tecau 7-5 6-4

Bogota: Sebastian Prieto and Horarcic Zeballos beat Marcos Daniel and Ricardo Mello 6-4 7-5

SITES TO SURF

Indianapolis: www.tennisindy.com/

Portoroz: www.sloveniaopen.si/

Bad Gastein: www.matchmaker.at/gastein/

Los Angeles: www.latennisopen.com/

Gstaad: www.allianzsuisseopengstaad.com/e/

Umag: www.croatiaopen.hr

Stanford: www.bankofthewestclassic.com/

Istanbul: www.istanbulcup.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$1,500,000 Bet-at-Home Open, Hamburg, Germany, clay

$600,000 Indianapolis Tennis Championships, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, hard

WTA

$220,000 Banka Koper Slovenia Open, Portoroz, Slovenia, hard

$220,000 Gastein Ladies, Bad Gastein, Austria, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$700,000 Countrywide Classic, Los Angeles, California, USA, hard

$500,000 Allianz Suisse Open, Gstaad, Switzerland, clay

Mondays with Bob Greene: I’m chasing a lot of records

STARS

David Nalbandian beat Jarkko Nieminen 6-3 6-7 (9) 6-2 to win the Medibank International men’s singles in Sydney, Australia

Juan Martin del Potro beat Sam Querrey 6-4 6-4, winning the Heineken Open in Auckland, New Zealand

Elena Dementieva won the Medibank International women’s singles, beating Dinara Safina 6-3 2-6 6-1 in Sydney, Australia

Petra Kvitova beat Iveta Benesova 7-5 6-1 to win the Moorilla Hobart International in Hobart, Australia

Roger Federer won the AAMI exhibition event in Melbourne, Australia, beating Stanislas Wawrinka 6-1 6-3

SAYING

“New season, big opportunities for me. I’m chasing a lot of records.” – Roger Federer, who needs only one more Grand Slam tournament singles title to tie Pete Sampras with a men’s record 14.

“I was hoping for a good start but I couldn’t imagine I was going to win two titles.” – Elena Dementieva, who won the Medibank International in Sydney, Australia, to go with the title she won the week before in Auckland, New Zealand.

“I don’t know if I can call her a friend anymore. We are sharing a room, but I think I will kick her out tonight.” – Iveta Benesova, joking after losing to her roommate Petra Kvitova in the final of the Hobart International.

“It’s very good. I mean, winning a tournament before (the Australian Open) is almost perfect to arrive.” – David Nalbandian, who beat Jarkko Nieminen to win the Medibank International men’s title.

“The livestock industry in Melbourne is well developed and it impresses me that there are so many flies here. But since it is so hot, the flies get tired here and do not feel like flying much!” – Sun Tiantian, writing in her blog on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour website.

“In Serbia we don’t have the best facilities in the world, especially in wintertime it’s very hard for to us train. But we are really hungry and motivated to do well. The three of us that have achieved and came to the top of the tennis game, we all did it in different ways, going to different places and really wanted to become the best that we can be.” – Jelena Jankovic, on the fact that she, Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic give Serbia three of the world’s top players.

“The ATP Board believes it has secured a new leader with the necessary strategic vision, operational strength and international perspective.” – ATP tournament board representative Graham Pearce in announcing Adam Helfant as the new head of the men’s professional tennis tour.

SELES TO HALL

Monica Seles is the newest member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The nine-time Grand Slam singles champion will be inducted into the shrine at ceremonies on July 11 in Newport, Rhode Island. Also being inducted will be Andres Gimeno of Spain, a star in the 1960s; pioneer marketer Donald Dell and the late Robert Johnson, who was instrumental in the development of Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe. Seles won the 1991 and 1992 US Opens, the 1990-1992 French Opens and 1991-1993 and 1996 Australian Opens. In 1990 she became the youngest French Open champion in history at 16½ years.

SUPER START

Elena Dementieva is off to a tremendous start in 2009. She beat fellow Russian Dinara Safina 6-3 2-6 6-1 to win the Medibank International in Sydney, Australia, her second title in two weeks. She had won in Auckland, New Zealand, the week before. With the 13th title of her career, Dementieva increased her match record to 10-0 this year. She is currently ranked a career-high number four in the world and at Sydney beat two top three players at the same tournament for the second time in her career. Besides Safina, who is ranked number three in the world, Dementieva also bested second-ranked Serena Williams. Safina has now lost her last three matches to Dementieva, including last year’s Olympic singles final in Beijing.

STRUCK DOWN

Nicolas Kiefer is out of the Australian Open before it begins. The German withdrew from the year’s first Grand Slam tournament after suffering an injury to his left ankle while playing in the Hopman Cup. A semifinalist at the Australian Open in 2006, Kiefer had been scheduled to play Argentina’s Guillermo Canas in the opening round. He was replaced in the draw by another German, qualifier Dieter Kindlmann.

SUSPENDED 1

Italy’s Filippo Volandri has been banned for three months by the International Tennis Federation for abusing an asthma drug. In making the announcement, the Italian Tennis Federation said Volandri’s use of salbutamol was deemed beyond therapeutic needs. The ban began last week and will end April 14. Ranked 109th in the world, Valandri was to face Mario Ancic of Croatia in the opening round of the Australian Open. His spot has been taken by American qualifier Wayne Odesnik. Volandri failed a drug test last March at a tournament in Indian Wells, California. The ITF also announced that all of Volandri’s results from March 13 on will be voided and he also will forfeit USD $166,000 in prize money he won and ATP points earned.

SUSPENDED 2

The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, has upheld the two-year doping ban given to Spanish tennis player Laura Pous Tio. She tested positive for banned drugs during the 2007 Wimbledon qualifying tournament. Her ban started in October 2007, but she appealed to the CAS. The CAS also upheld the disqualification of Pous Tio’s results from the Wimbledon qualifying tournament and subsequent events. The 24-year-old, who had a career-high ranking of 75th in the world in 2005, will be eligible to play again in October 2009.

SWITCHING DATES?

The top men believe that moving the Australian Open to February would make more sense. Lleyton Hewitt doesn’t agree. Roger Federer said moving the year’s first Grand Slam tournament to a few weeks later would let the players work into the new year more gradually. He was joined by Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. However, Australian Open organizers don’t want to move the tournament back because the existing slot coincides with Australia’s national summer holidays. “I think as an Australian it’s probably the ideal time,” Hewitt said. “This is the time that I’ve always known it as the Australian Open, the dates that I’ve always come to since I was coming here as a young kid to watch.”

SHOWTIME

Tennis fans can watch matches live on the Internet this year – for a price. The ATP and WTA Tours announced the creation of TennisTV.com, which will offer streaming video from 41 events, including the season-ending championships. However, no Grand Slam tournament matches will be included, and not everyone in the world will be able to see the matches, even if they are willing to pay for it. Among others, the WTA Tour is blacking out Europe, while the ATP is not offering live service in Brazil. And the two singles finals of this year’s Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, will not be available in the United States.

SELA IN

Israeli Dudi Sela saved six match points before winning his qualifying match and gaining a spot in the Australian Open main draw. The 23-year-old Sela trailed 5-3, 40-0 in the third set before fighting back for a 6-0 2-6 8-6 victory over Grega Zemlja of Slovenia. Sela saved three match points in the ninth game of the third set, then staved off the others in the 10th and 11th games. He was to play Rainer Schuettler of Germany in the opening round of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament.

SIGNED

Adam Helfant is the new head of the men’s professional tennis tour. The former National Hockey League lawyer replaces Etienne de Villiers, who stepped down last year after heading the ATP since 2005. Most recently Helfant was Nike’s corporate vice president for global sports marketing.

SAID WHAT?

Zina Garrison’s departure as captain of the United States Fed Cup team apparently wasn’t as smooth as the United States Tennis Association (USTA) led everyone to believe. In December 2007, the USTA announced that 2008 would be Garrison’s final season and that she would be replaced by Mary Joe Fernandez. No reason was given for Garrison being dumped, although her record as captain was only 5-5 over five seasons, losing in the semifinals four times and the quarterfinals once. In 1990, Garrison was the Wimbledon runner-up, becoming the first black woman since Althea Gibson in 1958 to reach a Grand Slam tournament singles final. When she replaced Billie Jean King for the 2004 season, she became the first black captain of the US Fed Cup squad.

SPONSOR CHANGE

The Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California, has a new name. It now will be called the BNP Paribas Open as the France-based bank took over sponsorship of the event. Organizers of the tournament also announced equal prize money of USD $4.5 million each for the men and women. The tournament began in 1976 and is said to rank only behind the four Grand Slam tournaments in attendance.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Sydney (men): Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan beat Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 6-1 7-6 (3)

Sydney (women): Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai beat Natalie Dechy and Casey Dellacqua 6-0 6-1

Auckland: Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt beat Scott Lipsky and Leander Paes 7-5 6-4

Hobart: Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta beat Alona Bondarenko and Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2 7-6 (4)

SITES TO SURF

Australian Open: www.australianopen.com/

Heilbronn: www.heilbronn-open.de/Live/de_Homepage.CMS?ActiveID=1001

WTA Tour: www.sonyericssonwtatour.com

ATP Tour: www.atpworldtour.com

International Tennis Federation: www.itftennis.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP and WTA TOUR

Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia (first week)

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia (second week)

$112,000 Heilbronn Open, Heilbronn, Germany

WTA TOUR

Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia (second week)

Starace Lives Up to Top Billing; Baltacha Breaks Through

The challengers circuit was graced with the presence of a top 50 player on the men’s side who hoped to get an early start to the clay court season, while several women followed up their victories on the challenger circuit last week with repeats this week.

The clay court season is about to get underway next week, but two players have already shown their intentions to leave a mark on it this season. At the $100,000 event in Napoli, Italy, Potito Starace won a nail-biting final in front of his local fans by beating Marcos Daniel of Brazil 6-4 4-6 7-6. Daniel was coming of a win at the $125,000 tournament in Bogota, Colombia last month, and came within two points of the biggest win of his career against the 36th ranked Starace. However, Starace fought back from 5-6 down in the final set and won the last three points of the tiebreak to win his first title of the year. Two other prominent players, French Open finalist Gullermo Coria and Olympic gold medalist Nicolas Massu, took part in the tournament, but failed to get past the first round.

At the $35,000 tournament in St. Brieuc, France, Christophe Rochus of Belgium took the title with a 6-2 4-6 6-1 over Marcel Granollers of Spain. Granollers has had a fine start on the clay this year by winning a challenger event in Morocco and reaching the quarterfinals at the ATP event in Acapulco, Mexico, but ran out of gas in the end against the experienced Belgian. Rochus is a long way from his career high ranking of #38, but winning his first title in three years is certainly a step back in the right direction.

There inevitably comes a time for any good player to graduate from the futures circuit, and it seems that Rui Machado of Portugal has more than worn out his welcome at this level. His win at the $15,000 event in Loja, Spain, is his fifth futures title of 2008.

On the women’s side, British tennis has been in dire straits for almost two decades now. The last woman to be in the top 100 was Samantha Smith in 1999. However, Elena Baltacha demonstrated this week that she might be ready to finally break through at the level. She won her second challenger title in a row, and the biggest of her career, at the $75,000 event in Torhout, Belgium, with a 6-7 6-1 6-4 over Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic. Benesova has also been a hot streak as of late, having won the $50,000 event in Latina, Italy last week. Her characteristically fragile nerves got the better of her though as she was broken in the final set at 4-4, allowing Baltacha to serve out the win.

Magdalena Rybarikova also won her second title in a row at the $50,000 tournament in Patras, Greece, defeating Great Britain’s Anne Keothavong 6-3 7-5 in the final. The win puts her inside of the top 150 for the first time in her career, and with minimal points to defend until late this fall, she looks poised to break through into the top 100 by then.

After struggling with injuries and poor form through 2007, Kristina Barrois of Germany has finally turned her game around. She won her second title in a row at the $25,000 event in Hamburg, Germany, taking the title when Ana Vrljic of Croatia retired with a leg injury after losing the first set 6-2. The win puts Barrois back in the top 200 and guarantees her spot in the qualifying for Roland Garros this spring.

In other challenger news, Betima Jozami of Argentina won the $25,000 event in Civatechia, Italy, and Raquel Kops-Jones of the United States won the $25,000 event in Pelham, Alabama.

The spotlight turns over to the women at the $75,000 event in Monzon, Spain, where American Lilia Osterloh is the top seed. Martina Muller of Germany is the top seed at the $25,000 tournament in Biarritz, France, while Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada hopes to continue her strong form as the top seed at the $25,000 event in Jackson, Mississippi. On the men’s side, professional tennis finally returns to Puerto Rico with former Australian Open finalist Rainer Schuttler playing top seed at the $50,000 event in Humacao. Albert Montanes of Spain is also the top seed at the $35,000 event in Monza, Italy.