Jeff Coetzee

Tennis In The Commonwealth – Stosur on Verge of Top 10

By Leigh Sanders

Britain’s Andy Murray has offered his support to Andre Agassi after the former star’s revelations about crystal methamphetamine use in his autobiography. While other top players, such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, have voiced disappointment at the news, Murray claims it has not ruined his views on his boyhood hero.

“I judge him as a tennis player; he was great, one of the best of all time,” said Murray. “I loved Andre, met him numerous times. I guess it’s something he has to deal with himself. He’s entitled to say whatever he wants and I wish him the best.”

Meanwhile, Murray tasted victory on his return to the court at the Valencia Open after he defeated Spanish qualifier Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-3, 6-1 in his first match in six weeks. It was Murray’s first appearance on court since Great Britain’s embarrassing Davis Cup defeat to Poland in September.

*A dozen WTA stars who have excelled on the international tournament level this season have gathered in Bali for the inaugural Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions. The draw on Monday split the stars in to four round-robin groups of three with Australia’s Samantha Stosur drawn in Group B alongside Maria Jose Martina Sanchez and Agnes Szavay. After the three competitors in each group play each other the group winner will advance to the semifinal on Saturday with the final held on Sunday. Depending on results this week, Stosur could realise her dream of entering the World’s Top 10 with victory in Bali.

*In this week’s ATP singles rankings (02/11) there was little movement for Commonwealth tennis players. Australian Peter Luczak continued his climb up the top 100 with a three place jump to 80 while his compatriot Chris Guccione jumped one place to 103. Somdev Devarrman of India climbed five to 116 while South African Kevin Andersen is up to 120.

*The ATP doubles rankings for November 2 see a little more movement for Commonwealth players. Daniel Nestor (Canada, 1), Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes (India, 7 and 8) and Wesley Moodie (South Africa, 9) all remain unmoved in their top 10 berths. Australians Paul Hanley and Jordan Kerr remain in 26 and 29 respectively while Ashley Fisher drops to 40 and Stephen Huss climbs to 45. South African Rik De Voest is behind him in 46 and Briton Ross Hutchins is 47. Fellow Britons Ken Skupski (16) and Colin Fleming (14) saw massive climbs to 50 and 53 respectively following their victory in St. Petersburg (see below). South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee dropped 21 places to 56. Jonathan Marray of Great Britain climbs one place to enter the Top 100.

*This week’s Sony Ericsson WTA Singles Rankings (02/11) see Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada fall from 30 to 34 while Australia’s Jelena Dokic has jumped from 64 to 57. British No. 1 Anne Keothavong now finds herself ranked 84 as she continues to fall during her period of injury while her compatriot Elena Baltacha also dropped one spot to 87. British No. 3 Katie O’Brien also dropped a place to 91 but there are now only a few ranking spots and only 63 ranking points between the No. 1 and No. 3 ranked players from the British Isles.

*In the doubles (02/11) The Australian duo Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs dropped from No. 5 to No. 7 this week while Sania Mirza of India climbed a place to 37. Canada’s Marie-eve Pelletier fell a place to 67 and British No. 1 Sarah Borwell was up three to 75. Another Canadian, Sharon Fichman, climbed to 97.

*The race for the final two ATP World Tour Finals places in London, England, later this month heated up this week. At the Valencia Open, Gilles Simon, Jo Wilfried-Tsonga and Gael Monfils led the French charge in to round two as they looked to make the Championships while the Spaniards Tommy Robredo and Fernando Verdasco also progressed as they look to secure a place. The Russian Nikolay Davydenko is also looking for one of those two slots and he is through in Valencia too, beating Alejandro Falla of Columbia 6-2, 6-1.

*In the doubles at Valencia, British-Australian pair Ross Hutchins and Jordan Kerr were knocked out in the first round by the in-form third seeds Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak on Monday. The match was closely fought and they eventually went down 4-6, 6-4, 10-6. The Czech-Slovak duo are one team with a chance of claiming a berth at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, later this month. In the quarterfinals they will face South African-Australian pair Jeff Coetzee and Stephen Huss who overcame Spanish wild cards Marc Lopez and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.

*British doubles pair Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski picked up their second ATP World Tour title when they beat the French pairing of Richard Gasquet and Jeremy Chardy in the final of the St. Petersburg Open. The win capped a memorable year for the pair who won their first title at Metz in September and followed that up by winning the ATP Challenger event in Orleans, France last week. They are expected to represent GB against Lithuania in their forthcoming Davis Cup tie.

*Aussie Paul Hanley has lost in the first round of the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel doubles with Swedish partner Simon Aspelin. The fourth seeds were upset by the South American pairing of Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa 5-7, 3-6. Canadian world No. 1 Daniel Nestor and his partner Nenad Zimonjic survived a scare against South Americans Lucas Arnold Ker and Fernando Gonzalez as they came from a set down to win 4-3, 6-3, 10-5 in the same competition. Nestor has triumphed twice here in 2003 and 2006 with long-time partner Mark Knowles. Wildcard home favourites Roger Federer and Marco Chiudinelli were also defeated in the first round. They fell to Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan and American James Cerretani.

*Another Aussie to taste an early defeat was Peter Luczak in the singles at the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel. The qualifier was downed by the Czech Jan Hernych who saved six break points to win through 6-3, 6-4 in 76 minutes.

*Jelena Dokic of Australia continued to show her fine form as she won her second ITF title in two weeks in Poitiers, France. She beat the Swede Sofia Arvidsson in the final. Despite a few setbacks this year including a back injury and a debilitating virus she has climbed from 198 to 64 in the rankings this year. “I’m very happy with the way things have played out these last three tournaments,” said Dokic. “It shows that my consistency is at a very high level and the fact that I can win so many matches in a row.”

*Britain was mightily close to more glory this week at the $15K AEGON Pro-Series Event in Cardiff, Wales. Marcus Willis and Dan Evans both reached the semifinals of the singles before losing to Yannick Mertens (BEL) and Henri Kontinen (FIN) respectively. In the doubles, Brits Alexander Slabinsky and Tim Bradshaw lost in the final to the Irish pair of James McGee and Barry King.

*Sarah Borwell of Great Britain partnered American Raquel Kops-Jones to the semifinals of the $100k Doubles Event in Ortisei, Italy. The No. 2 seeds went down 6-7(3), 3-6 to Tathiana Garbin (ITA) and Timea Bacsinszky (SUI), who went on to win the tournament.

*Christopher Simpson won the AEGON British Tour in Taunton after winning 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 against Artiom Kolpakov (LTU). He had beaten fellow Briton David Brewer in the semi final. In the women’s event, Jessica Ren triumphed over another British girl, Alexandra Walker 6-3, 6-3 in the final. She had beaten her sister and No. 1 seed, Jen Ren, in the semifinal.

*Marinko Matosevic of Australia was knocked out of the quarter finals of the Samsung Securities Cup in Seoul, Korea by The Dutch third seed Thiemo De Bakker. His compatriot Greg Jones fell at the same stage to Lester Cook of the USA. Moving on to the Flea Market Cup in Chuncheon, Korea, Matosevic has reached the same stage with victory over the German Matthias Bachinger. Fellow Aussies Greg Jones and Sadik Kadir fell in the round of 32.

*Hot Canadian prospect Vasek Pospisil clinched his third straight tournament win in Mexico over the weekend. The 19-year-old won the $10K event in Obregon to add to his two wins in September in Italy. In the doubles, he partnered Australian Nima Roshan to the Championship, beating Adrien Bossel and Julien Dubail 6-7(5), 6-3, 11-9 in the final.

*Young Australian tennis starlets Olivia Rogowska and Bernard Tomic have been nominated for the 2009 Sports Performer of the Year awards. Rogowska came perilously close to upsetting Dinara Safina in the first round of the US Open while Tomic is the most anticipated Australian prospect since Lleyton Hewitt.

Tennis In The Commonwealth – Murray and Robson To Play For GB In Hopman Cup

By Leigh Sanders

Andy Murray and Laura Robson have confirmed they will represent Great Britain at the Hopman Cup, the official mixed team competition of the ITF, in Perth, Australia in January. Murray will use the event to prepare for the 2010 Australian Open. He is looking to improve his record at Melbourne Park and has decided to use the same tournament that Novak Djokovic (2008) and Marat Safin (2005) played on their way to victory Down Under. They will be the first British representatives at the tournament since Jeremy Bates and Jo Durie lost in the first round in 1992. Each match consists of a men’s and women’s singles and a doubles. The hosts will be represented by Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur. Melanie Oudin and John Isner have been confirmed as the American team while Russia will be represented by Elena Dementieva and Igor Andreev while Tommy Robredo and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez will compete for Spain.

Robin Soderling is a doubt for the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, after the world No. 10 was forced to withdraw from his semifinal in Stockholm against Cyprus’ Marcos Bagdhatis with an elbow injury. The Swede would have made up points on the Spaniard Fernando Verdasco who currently holds the eighth and final qualification place for the Championships. Soderling has not yet pulled out of his scheduled tournaments in Valencia and Paris ahead of London hoping he will be fit to fight for his place in the end-of-season tournament.

The final line-up for the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha was decided this week without one representative from the Commonwealth making the final cut. Jelena Jankovic sealed the eighth and final spot despite crashing out of the quarterfinals of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow and she joins Venus and Serena Williams, Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dinara Safina, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka in the battle to find the top player for 2009.

This weeks ATP singles world rankings (26/10) saw Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt climb two places to 20th while his compatriot Peter Luczak held on to his ranking of 83. Chris Guccione, also from Down under, climbed five places to 104th. Britain’s Andy Murray remained in 4th place and India’s Somdev Devvarman climbed three to 121st. In the doubles, Daniel Nestor of Canada remains No. 1 despite his early exit from Shanghai recently but Mahesh Bhupathi of India drops one place to 7th. Paul Hanley of Australia climbs four places to 26th after his finals appearance in Stockholm (see below) while South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee remains 35th after his semifinals berth at the same tournament. Australia’s Ashley Fisher is below him in 36th while Britain’s Ross Hutchins and Aussie Stephen Huss both fell this week to 49th and 50th respectively.

This week’s WTA rankings (26/10) saw Australia’s Samantha Stosur remain at 13 as she continued her climb towards the world top 10 while Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada climbed one place to 30. Another Aussie, Jelena Dokic, dropped to 64th and Britain’s Elena Baltacha jumped from 93 to 86 after her semifinal appearance at St. Raphael (see below). Her compatriot Katie O’Brien was also up one to 91st.

In the WTA doubles rankings (26/10) Australians Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs find themselves tied for 5th spot after Stosur jumped three places while Sania Mirza of India drops two places to 38th. Sarah Borwell, British No. 1 for doubles, jumps one place to 78th while South Africa’s Natalie Grandin is up two to 80th.

Daniel Nestor of Canada suffered his third straight first-round defeat with partner Nenad Zimonjic at the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy. The top two doubles players in the world fell to John Isner and Australian Jordan Kerr 4-6, 7-6(8), 10-6 in just over 90 minutes. It is the eighth first-round defeat the pair have suffered this year.

Jeff Coetzee of South Africa and Australia’s Stephen Huss reached the semifinals of the If Stockholm Open before going down to Kevin Ullyett and Bruno Soares. It was the 500th doubles victory for Ullyett making him only the 31st man in ATP history to reach that landmark. In the final they faced Australia’s Paul Hanley and Sweden’s Simon Aspelin. Soares and Ullyett won through 6-4, 7-6(4) to break the hearts of the Australian and the Swede.

In the doubles event at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow India’s Rohan Bopanna partnered Janko Tipsarevic to a semifinals berth where they were eventually defeated by Frantisek Cermak of the Czech Republic and Slovakia’s Mikal Mertinak. Metinak/Cermak went on to win the tournament and improve their chances of appearing in the doubles bracket at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England next month.

Geoff Pollard has been re-elected as the President of Tennis Australia for another twelve months following this year’s Annual General Meeting held in Melbourne on Monday.

More doubles joy for Great Britain this week as Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski were victorious at the ATP Challenger Event in Orleans, France. They defeated the French pair of Sebastian Grosjean and Olivier Patience 6-1, 6-1 who had beaten another British pair, Jamie Murray and Jamie Delgado, in the semi finals to prevent an all-British final. In Glasgow, Scotland, Chris Eaton and Dominic Inglot picked up their third Doubles title of the month. They defeated fellow Brit Dan Cox and Uladzimir Ignatik of Belarus.

Peter Luczak of Australia was defeated in the round of 32 at the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy on the hard courts of Vienna by the Spaniard Nicolas Almagro. After taking the first set Luczak battled hard but it wasn’t quite enough and he went down 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-1.

Rising teenage star Bernard Tomic of Australia will warm up for the 2010 Australian Open by partnering Aussie tennis legend Pat Cash at the World Tennis Challenge in Adelaide next January. The novel tournament, which concludes just four days before the Open begins, sees a retired tennis star partner a modern-day pro in a team format. The 17-year-old Tomic will represent Australia with Cash, 27 years his senior. Representing America will be John McEnroe and Robby Ginepri, while Henri Leconte will represent Europe with an unconfirmed teammate. Finally, world No. 14 Radek Stepanek will head the Internationals team with an unconfirmed retired player.

Britain’s Elena Baltacha reached the semifinals of the $50k Event in St. Raphael, France before going down to the No. 3 seed Sandra Zahlavova of the Czech Republic. Meanwhile in Glasgow, Scotland, Melanie South was defeated in the final of the AEGON Pro-Series Event. 5th seed Johanna Larsson of Sweden was too much for the British No. 4, winning in three sets. But South made amends in the doubles, teaming with Emma Laine of Finland to defeat the Mayr sisters of Italy 6-3, 6-2 and bring home the Championship. Future tennis starlet Heather Watson crashed out of the first round of the singles, going down 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(2) to Tunisian veteran Selima Sfar.

Tennis Canada has announced that former Chairman Harold P. Milavsky will be inducted in to the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame in the Builder category with a dinner in his honour on December 3rd at the Glencoe Club in Calgary.

Tennis In The Commonwealth: Stosur Wins, Birmingham Restored

By Leigh Sanders

The following is Leigh Sanders’ weekly look at tennis headlines in “The Commonwealth” or the traditional tennis powerhouses that were former members of the British Empire, most notably Australia, South Africa, India, Canada and, of course, Great Britain.

Revered British tennis centre, the Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham, has been handed a boost by the confirmation that the WTA Tour’s AEGON Classic will be returning in 2010. It was feared the tournament would be moved as part of the new British Tennis Series.

But the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has agreed a contract for a further year with a view to extending that providing the centre makes substantial improvements to its facilities.

Discussions have now begun between the LTA, the club and Birmingham City Council to see how the site and future events can be improved.

A pre-Wimbledon event has been held here every summer since 1982 and past winners include Maria Sharapova, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.

Priory Club Chief Executive Robert Bray said: “We have a long tradition of hosting international tennis and we are delighted to have reached an agreement with the LTA.”

* Samantha Stosur of Australia picked up her maiden singles WTA title at the Japan Open on Sunday. She beat Francesca Schiavone 7-5, 6-1, Schiavone now losing 10 of her last 11 singles finals. Stosur dropped only one set throughout the tournament, in the semifinal to Caroline Wozniacki. She has previously won 22 doubles titles and has stated her intention to break in to the world top 10 singles following her first triumph.

* It was Wozniacki who had been the conqueror of new number two Brit Katie O’Brien in the second round. The Danish world No. 6 needed only 44 minutes to wrack up a 6-0, 6-1 victory over 94th ranked O’Brien.

* Britain’s Andy Murray dropped to 4th in this week’s ATP Rankings (10/19) following Novak Djokovic’s win in Beijing while Lleyton Hewitt of Australia climbed one place to 22nd. Fellow Aussie Peter Luczak dropped 19 places to 83rd and Chris Guccione also dropped 2 places to 109th.

* In the doubles rankings (10/19) Canada’s Daniel Nestor remains No. 1 despite his early exit from Shanghai (see below). Mahesh Bhupathi of India remains sixth after his semifinals berth at the same tournament. Aussie pair Jordan Kerr and Paul Hanley rose to 29th and 30th respectively while Jeff Coetzee of South Africa fell 9 places to 35th.

* In the WTA Rankings (10/19), Samantha Stosur’s win in Japan sees her climb two places to 13th in the singles while India’s Sania Mirza climbs to 58th after her semifinals berth at Osaka. Australia’s Jelena Dokic climbs from 69th to 62nd while Britain’s injured No. 1 Anne Keothavong continues to fall during her recovery, now down in 79th place. Katie O’Brien is now Britain’s number two after jumping above Elena Baltacha after her exploits in Japan.

* In the doubles rankings (10/19) Samantha Stosur dropped to 9th place after her singles exertions this week while India’s Sania Mirza climbed two places to 36th. Marie-eve Pelletier of Canada is up one to 66th and Britain’s Sarah Borwell is also up to 79th. Canada’s Sharon Fichman also climbs one place to 98th in the world.

* Andy Roddick has become the sixth player to secure his place at the ATP World Tour Finals to be held in London, England next month despite his withdrawal from Shanghai.

* Two Aussie women failed to follow the lead of Stosur this weekend by losing their respective ITF finals. Jelena Dokic went down to the Swede Sofia Arvidsson in the Joue-les-Tours event in France while Alicia Molik fell to Sacha Jones of New Zealand in the Port Pirie Tennis International, Port Pirie, Australia.

* French duo Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga picked up their first doubles title as a partnership in Shanghai this week having seen off the top seeds and world No. 1 and No. 2, Canada’s Daniel Nestor and partner Nenad Zimonjic in the second round and India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and his partner Mark Knowles, of the Bahamas, in the semifinals.

* Aussie tennis legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley received a strange tribute this week as the town of Barellan, where she spent most of her childhood, unveiled a giant statue of the wooden Dunlop racquet she used to win 7 Grand Slam singles titles. Seven-thousand people attended the launch that also saw the 58-year-old hosting tennis clinics and a crayfish-gathering activity known as ‘yabbying.’

* Philip Brook has been named as the new Vice Chairman of the All England Tennis Club, Wimbledon, England from December 2009. He has been a member at the club since 1989, serving on many sub-committees during that time. The decision follows the announcement by current Vice Chairman Tim Phillips indicating his intention to step down in December 2009 following ten years in the role.

* Mixed fortunes for Great Britain this week as Alex Bogdanovic won the 42.5k Euros Challenger event in Denmark while Jocelyn Rae prevailed in the £10k event in Mytilini, Greece, beating fellow Brit and doubles partner Jade Windley in the final. Not so much luck in the doubles as Jonathan Marray and his partner were beaten in the doubles final in Denmark while Rae and Windley were edged out of the doubles final in Mytilini. Colin Fleming/Ken Skupski and Jamie Murray/Jamie Delgado, have progressed though to the quarterfinals of the ATP Challenger Event in Orleans, France.

* Also at Orleans, Australia’s Carsten Ball fell in the R32 of singles to Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

* Australian Peter Luczak has lost in the first round of the If Stockholm Open doubles paired with Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. They lost 7-5, 6-3 to Brazilian Bruno Soares and Zimbabwean Kevin Ullyett in 71 minutes. Fellow Aussie Jordan Kerr and American Travis Parrott are through though after victory over Brazilians Marcelo Melo/Andre Sa.

* Canadians on the march this week are Aleksandra Wozniak and Peter Polansky. Wozniak is through to the second round of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow after her first-round opponent, Sara Errani of Italy, retired after just 30 minutes. She’ll play the winner of Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska in the next round. At the Copa Petrobas Challenger in Santiago, Chile, Polansky is through to the second round of both singles and doubles. He beat Diego Alvarez of Argentina 6-1, 6-4 in the singles and with American Alex Bogomolov Jr. overcame Brazilian duo Ricardo Hocevar and Joao Souza in the doubles.

* Brit Dan Smethurst lost in the quarterfinals of the $15k ITF event in Dubrovnik, Croatia to Italy’s Simone Vagnozzi who was ranked 216 places above him in the rankings.

* The Canadian Junior Fed Cup team placed a respectable fifth at the recent Fed Cup finals held in Mexico. After narrowly missing out on the main draw they beat Croatia and China to top the bracket competing for fifth to eighth spot.

* Aussie Marinko Matosevic was beaten in the Round of 32 at the Royal Bank of Scotland Challenger in Tiburon, Calif., by America’s Vincent Spadea 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-0.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I Fought For My Country

STARS

Shahar Peer won the GDD-Guangzhou International Women’s Open, beating Alberta Brianti 6-3 6-4 in Guangzhou, China

Melinda Czink beat Lucie Safarova 4-6 6-3 7-5 to win the Bell Challenge in Quebec City, Canada

Evgeny Korolev beat Florent Serra 6-4 6-3 to win the Pekao Szczecin Open in Szczecin, Poland

DAVIS CUP

World Group Semifinals

Czech Republic beat Croatia 4-1 in Porec, Croatia

Spain beat Israel 4-1 in Murcia, Spain

World Group Playoffs

Switzerland beat Italy 3-2, France beat Netherlands 4-1, Sweden beat Romania 3-21, Serbia beat Uzbekistan 5-0, India beat South Africa 4-1, Belgium beat Ukraine 3-2, Ecuador beat Brazil 3-2, and Chile played Austria

Americas Zone

Group I Playoff: Peru vs. Uruguay beat Peru 4-1; Group II Final: Dominican Republic beat Venezuela 3-2

Asia-Oceania Zone

Group I Playoff: China beat Thailand 4-1. Group II 3rd Round: Philippines beat New Zealand 4-1

Europe/Africa Zone

Group I Playoffs: Slovak Republic beat FYR Macedonia 5-1; Poland beat Great Britain 3-2; Group II 3rd Round: Latvia beat Slovenia 3-2; Finland beat Cyprus 3-2

SAYING

“I feel like I was in a 10-round boxing match. Everything hurts.” – Ivo Karlovic, who served a record 78 aces, yet lost his Davis Cup match against Radek Stepanek.

“I fought for my country. It was an amazing game.” – Radek Stepanek, who survived Ivo Karlovic’s record 78 aces to win 6-7 (5) 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) 6-7 (2) 16-14.

“I have to go on holiday badly. I have a problem with my leg. I have a problem with my arm – everything is hurting. And I’ve got to do some babysitting.” – Roger Federer, after helping Switzerland beat Italy and remain in the World Group in 2010.

“I tried everything, but he was particularly good today.” – Potito Starace, who lost to Roger Federer to give Switzerland an insurmountable lead in its Davis Cup playoff against Italy.

“It’s not the way to act – win or lose, good call or bad call, in any sport, in any manner.” – Serena Williams, apologizing for her verbal assault towards a line judge during the US Open women’s final.

“I was very tired after the first two sets, lost the third and the fourth. But then, when I went to the locker room when the fourth set finished, I told my brother I wasn’t going to lose the match. This is the beauty of Davis Cup, the energy of a team and the energy of a country.” – Nicolas Lapentti, whose 6-4 6-4 1-6 2-6 8-6 victory over Marcos Daniel clinched Ecuador’s World Group Playoff tie over Brazil.

“It’s like David against Goliath – and we know who won that one!” – Andy Ram, before Israel played Spain in a Davis Cup semifinal. This time Goliath won.

“I hope it’s the start of something.” – Eyal Ran, Israel’s Davis Cup captain, on his team’s surprising run to the World Group semifinals.

“I hope to come back next year and do better. Unless you win, you can always do better.” – Lucie Safarova, who lost to Melinda Czink in the final of the Bell Challenge.

“I thought they (India) were trying different tactics. I couldn’t understand why he (Mahesh Bhupathi) was serving and staying back.” – Jeff Coetzee, who with his partner Wesley Moodie earned South Africa’s lone point in their Davis Cup tie against India when the Indian doubles team was forced to retire after Bhupathi suffered a groin injury.

“At last we are where we deserve to be.” – Andy Murray, on Great Britain being relegated to Group II in the Euro/Africa Zone after losing its Davis Cup tie to Poland.

SMOKIN’

Ivo Karlovic slammed a record 78 aces yet lost his Davis Cup match against Radek Stepanek in a marathon that lasted one minute short of six hours. Stepanek’s 6-7 (5) 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) 6-7 (2) 16-14 victory gave the Czech Republic a 2-0 first-day lead over Croatia. The Czechs captured the tie 4-1 and advanced to the final against Spain. The 82 games equaled the Davis Cup record since tiebreakers were introduced in 1989, but the elapsed time was well short of two matches played by John McEnroe, against Mats Wilander in 1982 and against Boris Becker in 1987, both of which lasted around 6½ hours. Karlovic wasted four match points in the final set, and there were only five break-point chances in the match. Karlovic obliterated both the men’s record and Davis Cup record for aces, marks he held. He had 55 aces in a loss to Lleyton Hewitt at the French Open in May, and his previous Davis Cup mark was 47, which he shared with Brazil’s Gustavo Kuerten and Switzerland’s Marc Rosset.

SMALL CHANGE?

Apparently apparel company Fila has deep pockets. According to reports, Kim Clijsters was given a significant bonus by her shoe and clothing sponsor for her surprising US Open singles championship. And where companies usually insure these bonuses, CNBC says Fila did not. The bonus is reported to be in the range of USD $300,000, which could buy a lot of shoes for Clijsters’ young daughter. Darren Rovell of SportsBiz says that while it’s standard practice for companies to insure their big incentive bonuses to minimize the risk, Fila didn’t do it with Clijsters since she had played just two tournaments following a two-year retirement. The odds on Clijsters winning were as high as 40-to-1.

STAYING UP

You can excuse Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych if they want to take an extra nap or two. Between them, the Czech duo played for nearly 10 hours on the first day of the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup semifinal against Croatia. But the two then joined forces on the second day to play – and win – their doubles, clinching a spot for the Czech Republic in the final against Spain. On the first day, Stepanek needed one minute less than 6 hours to outlast Ivo Karlovic, and then Berdych was on court for 3 hours 48 minutes to down Marin Cilic in five sets. Together, Stepanek and Berdych needed only 2 hours, 16 minutes to defeat Lukas Dlouhy and Jan Hajek. Stepanek and Berdych are unbeaten together in Davis Cup doubles, improving their record to 5-0, including 3-0 this season.

SINKING BRITS

Even with Andy Murray playing all three days, Great Britain was relegated to Group Two of the Euro/African zonal play when Poland won their Davis Cup tie 3-2. Murray won both of his singles matches, but Michal Przysiezny beat Dan Evans in the decisive singles to give Poland the victory. It is the first time in 13 years that Great Britain has been dropped to the third tier of the world-wide competition. Evans also lost his first-day singles match to Jerzy Janowicz, But Poland’s Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski beat Murray and Ross Hutchins in the doubles.

SURPRISING BELGIUM

When talking about Belgium tennis, most are thinking about the women. The country has produced former number ones Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, the latter winning the US Open earlier this month on her return to the sport following a two-year retirement. But Belgium’s men have also proved their mettle, keeping the country in the World Group for 2010 by besting Ukraine 3-2. And that came despite Belgium losing it’s number one player with an injury just hours before the Davis Cup Playoff began. Olivier Rochus withdrew with a leg injury, but his brother Christophe Rochus joined with Steve Darcis to help Belgium beat Ukraine.

SETTLED SUIT

Zina Garrison has settled the racial discrimination suit she brought against the United States Tennis Association (USTA). A deal was signed on August 27, although its terms were not disclosed. A former Fed Cup captain, Garrison filed her lawsuit in February, saying she was unfairly treated, paid a lower salary than Davis Cup coach Patrick McEnroe while being held to higher standards. As a player, Garrison was the 1990 Wimbledon runner-up, at the time becoming the first black woman since Althea Gibson to play in a Grand Slam tournament singles final. She became the first black captain of the US Fed Cup team when she replaced Billie Jean King in 2004. Spokesman Chris Widmaier said the USTA is happy the case was resolved and looks forward to working with Garrison in the future.

STOP RIGHT NOW

Martina Hingis should stick to tennis and stay away from dancing, at least according to the British public. Hingis became the first celebrity to be ousted from the new BBBC reality talent show, “Strictly Come Dancing.” It’s England’s answer to the American TV show “Dancing With The Stars.” Hingis and her partner Matthew Cutler were in the bottom two when phone votes were added to the judges’ score. They then lost a dance-off against policeman-turned-crime-presenter Rav Wilding and his partner Aliona Vilani. Two years ago, Cutler teamed with Alesha Dixon to win the competition. This year, Dixon, a singer, is a judge on the show.

SERENA SPEAKS

Admitting she lost her cool, Serena Williams has issued an apology for her outburst towards a line judge in her women’s singles final at the US Open. “I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately,” Williams said. “I want to sincerely apologize first to the lineswoman, Kim Clijsters, the US Tennis Association and tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst.” The line judge had called a foot fault on Williams on her second serve, giving Clijsters match point. William, who already had been handed a code violation for racquet abuse, unleashed a tirade towards the line judge, briefly walked away, and then returned for another blast at the official. When chair umpire Louise Engzell asked the line judge what had been said, she called for the tournament referee Brian Earley and eventually ordered a point penalty, the next level of punishment under the code. That gave the match to Clijsters. Williams was fined USD $10,000 for the infraction, and was further penalized USD $500 for the racquet abuse.

SPEAK YE NOT

Saying the “magic” word cost Roger Federer a USD $1,500 fine at the US Open. The Swiss superstar was fined for using a profanity while arguing with the chair umpire during the US Open final. Television microphones picked up the naughty word during the live broadcast of the match. Tournament spokesman said Federer was fined the same amount as two other players – Vera Zvonareva and Daniel Koellerer – for audible obscenities. Daniel Nestor was fined USD $5,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct toward a fan, but the big loser at this year’s final Grand Slam tournament was Serena Williams, who was docked USD $10,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct. She also was fined USD $500 for racket abuse.

SUCCESS

Melinda Czink is finally a winner on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The left-hander from Hungary beat Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic to capture the Bell Challenge in Quebec City, Canada. Playing in her second career final, it was Czink’s first title. “It feels great. I haven’t really processed it year, but I will,” she said. Czink’s first final was somewhat historic. She lost to Ana Ivanovic in the final round of qualifying in Canberra, Australia, in 2005, gained entry into the main draw as a “lucky loser,” then met and lost to Ivanovic in the final, the only known time that has happened.

SAYS YOU, SAYS ME

India has two of the world’s best doubles players. Both are now sidelined with injuries. Leander Paes pulled out of India’s Davis Cup World Group Playoff tie against South Africa because of an injury he sustained during the US Open, where he won the doubles title with Lucas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic and reached the mixed doubles final with Cara Black of Zimbabwe. Mahesh Bhupathi, who lost the men’s doubles with his partner Mark Knowles of the Bahamas, suffered a groin injury during the Davis Cup doubles. The injury forced the Indian doubles team to retire, giving South Africa its lone point in the tie.

SOME KIND OF PROBLEM

Albert Costa has a problem every Davis Cup captain would love to have. Costa has been Spain’s Davis Cup captain for just nine months, but already he faces several decisions that could make him unpopular with several players and their supporters. Costa’s team just swept past Israel 4-1 to return to the final to defend their Davis Cup title. This time they will take on the Czech Republic, which beat Croatia. Costa’s problem. His top two players missed the Israeli tie because of injuries. Does he now name the players who took Spain to the final or go with the two missing players – second ranked Rafael Nadal and ninth-ranked Fernando Verdasco. Of course, there may be no problem. Although injured, both Nadal and Verdasco sat through all three live rubbers on Friday and Saturday, cheering on their compatriots.

SEATS ARE FREE

Admittance to next week’s Vogue Athens Open will be free. The organizers Liberis Publications and Hellenic Tennis Federation decided to open the doors to the public for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event that will be played on the same courts where five years ago the Athens Olympic Games were held. The decision was also made because of the large capacity at the Olympic Tennis Center. All seats are available to anyone, beginning with the qualifying all the way through the final, which will be played on October 4.

STAYING HOME

Juan Martin del Potro’s five-set upset of five-time defending champion Roger Federer had the fans at home turning on their television sets. The men’s final, which was postponed because of rain to Monday, drew a 2.3 rating and 5 share on CBS. That’s up 35 percent from the 2008 final, which was also played on Monday because of rain delays. That was when Federer beat Andy Murray in straight sets. Ratings represent the percentage of all households with televisions, and shares represent the percentage of all homes with TVs in use at the time.

SEEING IS BELIEVING

Things at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center are normal. The US Open set an attendance record this year, just as it has done every year. This year’s attendance was 721,059, slightly more than the previous record of 720,227 set last year. The tournament also set a Week One attendance record of 423,427, including a single-day high of 61,554 for the combined day and night sessions on the first Friday.

SPONSOR

Remember Melanie Oudin, the 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, who reached the quarterfinals of the US Open. Well, she has signed on to be a pitch woman for AirTran Airways Inc., an Orlando, Florida-based company. Oudin became the youngest woman to reach the US Open quarterfinals since Serena Williams did it in 1999. Oudin had victories over fourth-ranked Elena Dementieva, 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova and former US Open champion Maria Sharapova. The youngster is currently ranked 44th in the world and is the third-highest ranked American woman, behind sisters Serena and Venus Williams. AirTran, a low-cost airline, recently took over as the official airline of the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Guangzhou: Olga Govortsova and Tatiana Poutchek beat Kimiko Date Krumm and Sun Tiantian 3-6 6-2 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Quebec City: Vania King and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova beat Sofia Arvidsson and Severine Bremond Beltrame 6-1 6-3

Szczecin: Tomasz Bednarek and Mateusz Kowalczyk beat Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. and Artem Smirnov 6-3 6-4

SITES TO SURF

Bucharest: www.bcropenromania.ro/

Metz: www.openmoselle.com

Hansol: www.hansolopen.com

Tashkent: www.tashkentopen.uz

Saint Malo: www.opengdfsuez-bretagne.com

Bangkok: www.thailandopen.org

Kuala Lumpur: www.malasianopentennis.com/

Athens: www.vogueathensopen.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$650,000 BCR Open Romania, Bucharest, Romana, clay

$650,000 Open de Moselle, Metz, France, hard

WTA

$220,000 Hansol Korea Open, Seoul, Korea, hard

$220,000 Tashkent Open, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hard

$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Bretagne, Saint Malo, France, clay

SENIORS

Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere, Paris, France, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$947,750 Proton Malaysia Open, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hard

$608,500 Thailand Open, Bangkok, Thailand, hard

WTA

$2,000,000 Toray Pan Pacific Open, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$100,000 Vogue Athens Open, Athens, Greece, hard

The Journeyman: Player Spotlight on Jeff Coetzee

Jeff Coetzee is slowly becoming one of the biggest sporting icons in the history of South Africa. The black right-handed professional tennis player from the town of Okiep in the northern cape of South Africa began playing tennis when he was nine years old. He is currently ranked No. 18 in the world in doubles and is in fourth place with his partner Wesley Moodie in the race for the eight-team year-end doubles championships in Shanghai. He is the anchor along with Moodie for the South African Davis Cup team.

The 31-year-old was first introduced to tennis by his brother Dennis. His idols growing up were the tennis players Boris Becker and Kevin Curren. He was a rather proficient soccer player, but quit at the age of twelve to concentrate on tennis. When he was eleven he moved to Johannesburg and stayed with a family, to improve his game. He realized when he was training in Joburg that he had the potential to be a travelling touring pro. He tried the singles tour and got to No. 184 in December of ’99. He then started to concentrate solely on doubles after sustaining some injuries.

“Apartheid was tough on me, but I only got the last bit of it,” says Jeff. He went on to say, “I could not enter into some tournaments because of my color and had a tough time in the beginning. But my mom always said, just let my racket do the talking.”

One other example of racism was when his manager Bruce Davidson’s car was spray painted with the slogan “kaffir lover.” Mr. Davidson would then sneak him into his apartment when he was visiting.

His best moments playing tennis are when he plays Davis Cup and his mixed doubles match against Steffi Graf and John McEnroe at Wimbledon a few years back. His worst moment came when he was playing Davis Cup and twisted his ankle against Slovakia. They were down two matches to none, and he continued to play but lost the match. A more traumatic experience happened when he was in a car accident with his girlfriend Mauricia Leukes, which put him on the injured reserve list for awhile.

To jumpstart his career he obtained financing from a boxing promoter named Rodney Berman. He resides in London now and is coached by former tour player Piet Norval. He visits and works with his coach in Capetown at the Spier Tennis Academy.He sometimes travels with Norval, and also his girlfriend will come along to a few tourneys during the year.

Some of his closest friends are former tour player Robbie Koenig and his Davis Cup teammates. His favorite tournament is the Australian Open, and his favorite hotel on tour is the Monte Carlo Bay and Casino Hotel. His goal is to win a gold medal at the Olympics in doubles, and to achieve the No. 1 ranking as well. He runs a charity with his doctor in South Africa to help kids and Jeff and his brother also run a tournament every September which main focus is to fight violence and crime, sponsored by Dunlop rackets and Oakley sunwear.