(June 30, 2013) Current and former WTA world No. 1s gathered together on Sunday in London to celebrate “40 Love” – the 40th anniversary of the WTA, founded by trailblazer Billie Jean King.
The WTA and its leaders have strived to bring equality, recognition and respect to the tour over the years. The organization is now the global leader in women’s professional sport, and proudly counts many pioneering accomplishments, including the successful campaign for equal prize money.
Seventeen of the 21 WTA No. 1s were in attendance, including three of the original nine, displaying elegance and beauty. Can you name each one in the photo below?
Emcees Pam Shriver and Mary Carillo introduced each of the No. 1s in style, referencing the “sassy sour” Maria Sharapova to the ever elegant Monica Seles. Each lady then had the chance with the mic, and afterward, it was time to mingle and celebrate.
The “pink” carpet arrivals were no less stunning.
Teenagers Eugenie Bouchard and Madison Keys were also invited guests, with the WTA calling them “potential future world No. 1s.” Quite an honor.
Watch all the pink carpet interviews with the World No.1s, gala speeches from the legends and much more with a full replay of all the Sunday celebrations. (Begins around the 24 minute mark.)
By Maud Watson
Cut the Bull
Rafael Nadal’s fans had plenty to celebrate last weekend (and rightfully so) as their man won the prestigious Indian Wells title. But count me among the number of fans that were left feeling a little frustrated at how things unfolded. It wasn’t that Nadal won. He thoroughly deserved it. He played phenomenal tennis, chasing down balls that would have been winners against most players, and he moved around that backhand beautifully to bully his opponents with his legendary forehand. The problem is, we were constantly told he couldn’t do that yet. Leading up to and throughout Indian Wells, Nadal and his camp harped on the knee and his layoff, insisting that he wasn’t capable of producing such a high level of tennis even as match after match proved quite the opposite. It was particularly annoying to hear him essentially use the knee as a preemptive excuse should he lose to Federer in their quarterfinal clash, even though it was obvious Federer was the more hobbled of the two. This brings us to Toni Nadal’s most recent controversial comments. Nadal’s uncle and coach felt the need to insist that his nephew has been in more pain in losses he’s suffered to Federer than Federer was in his loss to Nadal last week. (How would Toni know?) Then there was his ludicrous notion that Ferrer was not only more of a favorite to win Roland Garros than Federer, but a favorite at all. (Ferrer himself doesn’t believe he can win a major.) One can only assume Toni’s comments are meant to make Rafa’s most recent victories over these opponents seem bigger than they were, but none of this is necessary. Nadal is one of the greatest to have played the game. Deflecting the pressure by bringing up injuries is nothing but a copout. It’s a disservice to the fans that can clearly see how he’s playing, and judging by the comments of some of his fellow peers, they’re also getting a little tired of the injury talk. That’s why just once, it would be nice if Nadal and his team would cut the bull and let Nadal’s tennis do the talking. They’d find it more than sufficient.
Knocking at the Door
Lost in the hullabaloo of Nadal’s title run was the respectable tournament that Juan Martin del Potro put together at the year’s first Masters. The Argentine defeated Murray and Djokovic back-to-back to reach the final and very nearly did the same to Nadal in the championship match. Del Potro showed signs of returning to his 2009 form at the end of last season, but it’s looking more and more like he’s ready to make another move with his play at Indian Wells. He still isn’t able to go after the backhand as much as he’d like thanks to a suspect wrist, but it’s getting better. He’s also using more variety, as he recognizes that it will take more than just brute force if he’s to break up the Big 4. If Del Potro can continue is upward trend, men’s tennis is about to get even more interesting with the Argentine’s game a tough matchup for any of the guys ranked ahead of him.
Progress at Last
It’s taken a lot of grumbling, patience, and “spirited discussions”, but it seems that the USTA is ready to listen to the demands of the players. The USTA has finally come to accept that the “Super Saturday” format is no longer compatible with the modern game, and beginning in 2015, the US Open’s scheduling will fall more in line with that of the other three majors. In order to make this possible, the USTA has also agreed to stage the opening rounds of the men’s event over the course of just two days, instead of three. Equally important to the scheduling is the welcomed news that the USTA plans to increase their prize money to $50 million by 2017. This should go a long way towards appeasing the players’ complaints that they don’t currently receive a satisfactory share of the profits. Now, if only we could get a roof over Ashe Stadium – something unlikely to happen any time soon due to cost, but something the USTA is starting to realize may be a possibility down the road. One can dream!
Shortly after the announcement pertaining to the US Open’s prize money increase, Roland Garros also came out with the welcomed news that they, too, intend to increase their prize purse. Though not as much as the $50 million put forth by the USTA, Roland Garros Tournament Director Gilbert Ysern assured everyone that they will increase prize money “spectacularly” between 2013 and 2016. It’s unclear if players are happy with the extent of the change. Justin Gimelstob, an ATP Board Member, stated the players would review the increase along with the French Open’s expansion plans, as they may feel that some of the money being directed towards expansion should instead be going into players’ pockets. Of course, money may not need to be directed towards expansion any time soon, with a Paris judge putting the current plans on hold over concerns that they don’t meet environmental regulations. So, this isn’t over, but at least as far as the prize money is concerned, it’s a step in the right direction.
It’s no secret that Jennifer Capriati had a troubled childhood, and now it seems those problems have carried well into adulthood. On Wednesday in Florida, the 2012 Hall of Fame Inductee was charged with stalking and battery. She allegedly punched her ex-boyfriend, Ivan Brannan, on Valentine’s Day while he was working out at a gym. In addition to punching him, Brannan is claiming that she has stalked him since they broke up in 2012. If the charges prove to be true, they will mark another sad chapter in the American’s life. Depending on how it all shakes out, it may also be interesting to chart whether or not there are calls to revoke her place in the Tennis Hall of Fame.
By Maud Watson
London or Bust
To the dismay of her legion of fans and the WTA in general, Kim Clijsters announced that she will be unable to make one last run at Roland Garros. The Belgian is suffering from ankle and hip injuries and is healing much slower than anticipated. She is wisely opting to focus all of her efforts on the upcoming grass court season, which she hopes will include a victory at Wimbledon, the Olympics, or both. In reality, such a scenario is looking less and less likely. The competition near the uppermost echelons of the game has made it harder to be a part-time competitor, and given Clijsters’ slow recovery and seemingly continual string of injuries, it’s difficult to imagine her being at the top of her game when she needs it most. She’s a great person, and I’d love to see a fairytale ending to her career, but count me among those who will be sincerely shocked if she not only wins one of the biggest grass court titles of 2012, but actually finishes the season.
Joining the Club and a Snub
The lineup for the 2012 Hall of Fame class has been set, and not surprisingly, it includes Jennifer Capriati. The American’s career follows a very similar arc to that of 2011 Inductee Andre Agassi. She was a standout teen prodigy who crumbled under the pressure in a very public fall from grace, only to pick herself up and ultimately realize her Grand Slam potential more than a decade after turning pro. Her career also impacted the sport as a whole, with her early burnout cited as one of the main reasons the WTA put restrictions on its youngest competitors, while the controversial overrule in her match with Serena Williams at the 2004 US Open is considered the catalyst for introducing Hawk-Eye to the game. With three singles majors, an Olympic gold medal, and the No. 1 ranking, she’s a deserving candidate. Also a deserving candidate but who was instead snubbed for induction is Yevgeny Kafelnikov. The Russian won two singles majors, four in doubles, reached the apex of the men’s rankings, won Olympic gold, and was a member of a winning Davis Cup team. His record is equally, if not arguably more impressive, than Capriati’s, and he’s certainly a more accomplished player than some previous inductees. Some have suggested he failed to make the grade in spite of his Hall of Fame résumé because of his often sour disposition. In an ideal world, induction would be based on pure merit and not popularity, but that’s politics. And while it doesn’t’ make it right, I guess bottom line, Capriati, not Kafelnikov, puts butts in seats.
Novak Djokovic has proven his mental toughness on multiple occasions the last 12-18 months, but perhaps one of the more stunning displays of his resolve occurred in his victory over Alexandr Dolgopolov to reach the quarters in Monte-Carlo. On the morning he was to play that match, he learned that his grandfather, Vladimir, had passed away at the age of 83. Vladimir was a hero to his grandson and the man Djokovic credited with teaching him to always fight. With that in mind, he couldn’t have put together a more fitting tribute to his grandfather on the day of his passing, overcoming the Ukranian in a topsy-turvy three-set tussle. In the first set, Djokovic was clearly suffering mentally, as he swung without any real purpose and Dolgopolov’s talent was on full display. But the No. 1 roared back in the second to force a tightly contested third set that ended when Djokovic broke his opponent in the ninth game before serving it out for the win. He raised his arms and eyes to the heavens in recognition of his hero before wiping away a few tears and undoubtedly causing more than a few spectators to grow misty-eyed themselves. He’s never won Monte-Carlo, so you can bet he was plenty motivated coming into his adopted hometown event. But now there’s extra motivation, because this one is for grandpa.
New No. 1
No, nobody has knocked Djokovic from his perch atop the world rankings, but John Isner did displace Mardy Fish as the top American, becoming the 12th man to hold the coveted spot in the process. It would have been nice to have seen him punctuate the achievement with the title in Houston, but you have to give credit to his vanquisher Juan Monaco, who before having to retire in his match with Haase in Monte-Carlo was playing some very stellar tennis. Isner has coped relatively well with the expectations that were suddenly heaped on his shoulders following his surprise defeat of Federer in Davis Cup, so it will be interesting to see if he continues the trend now that he’s the U.S. No. 1. It will also be interesting to track if the flip-flop in rankings takes some of the pressure off of Fish and allows him to relax and return to playing top-notch tennis instead of continuing his downward spiral. Either way, it could make for an intriguing spring and summer.
It’s wasn’t a long swan song for Ivan Ljubicic as he entered the final tournament of his professional career in Monte-Carlo earlier this week. Perhaps fittingly, he went out to a fellow Croat, Ivan Dodig, in a straight sets defeat where he admitted he was surprised by the well emotions swirling inside of him. His story of an escape from war-torn Croatia and eventual rise to top tennis star is an inspiring one to be sure, and his dedication to his off-court endeavors is admirable. Always ready with an endearing smile, it was touching to hear his fellow competitors gave him a standing-o when he entered the locker room after that last defeat. He has and continues to be a class act, and I for one can’t wait to see what else he’s going to be able to do for the game.
Last week’s article looked at whether Russian star Elena Dementieva’s shock retirement outlined a tendency for money-rich stars to get out of the sport for other pursuits more readily. Over the past few days interviews with top players have seen calls for a shorter tour due to the physical strains the current setup puts on players contributing to early retirements.
The professional tennis tour currently lasts through nearly eleven months of the year with a bevy of tournaments and challengers being hosted every week for players to choose from. During the Dementieva piece it was highlighted how the Top 10s on either side can afford to pick and choose their tournaments more carefully as they already have a host of ranking points backing them up.
For everyone else, however, it’s a case of scrounge every point you can get. It’s like an expensive, and slightly more entertaining, version of Hungry Hungry Hippos. It makes for a long and exciting tour for us fans but what about the pros involved week-in, week-out?
Over recent years a number of top pros have “fizzled out” due to injury or mental strain after a bright start. Jennifer Capriati faced all sorts of issues off-court while players like Marcos Baghdatis and David Nalbandian have never quite reached where they should have because of continual injuries.
As we speak, Nikolay Davydenko has had his 2010 ruined due to wrist injuries while we can only hope that Juan Martin Del Potro returns as exciting and vigorous as he was throughout 2009 next year.
And further down the ladder, American Taylor Dent has finally given up the goose after doing so well to fight back from a debilitating back injury. It is so sad to see such problems happen to genuinely worthy individuals. Of course they are always thankful for what they have experienced and accomplished. But there is no doubt that they will always feel they could, and probably should, have had more.
With Rafael Nadal’s mentor Toni admitting that Rafa is going to have to play a reduced calendar from 2011 to prevent complete destruction of his knees, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have also been calling for a reduced tour to help the physical and mental conditions of people who, for all the fame, riches and glory, do spend roughly ten months of the year away from friends and family having to keep themselves in peak condition for fear of losing touch with the top.
“I think it’s time we shifted back a bit and we get a proper off-season,” said world No. 2 Federer. “Four weeks is just not enough. I think six is much better as you can take two weeks off… practise three, four weeks which is a lot for us in our world.”
Federer also added that it may help the closing tournaments of the year who are often hit with withdrawals from top players who have either long-since secured their places at the WTA/ATP Finals, or want to end the year earlier to enable them to recuperate and prepare for their assault on the Australian Open.
The calls have previously been backed by Nadal and also world No. 3 Novak Djokovic, who both sit with Federer on the Players’ Council.
Andy Murray also added that players such as Dent, Nalbandian and Lleyton Hewitt would be helped by a less demanding schedule being placed on their body.
“There’s no time for you to take a break to get rid of an injury,” the 23-year-old Scotsman told The Sun newspaper. “Instead players end up playing through it and that actually shortens careers.
“There should be fewer mandatory tournaments because you get punished so much for being injured and I don’t really think that’s fair. If after the US Open you had two or three months when you could actually take time off to recover, players would have longer careers.”
It’s not just the length of the tour which proves a gripe for some players either. Some despise the constant switch between surfaces and the changes in speed from one tournament to another prove a problem for consistency. Before this week, 64 ATP Tournaments had been played this calendar year. We’ve had 36 on hard courts, 22 on clay and six on grass.
“I like varying surfaces… indoor tennis should be fast,” said Murray. “But it’s annoying when it changes week to week. Last week [in Valencia] was one of the slowest courts we’ve had all year, and here it was lightning quick.
“It would be nice for the players to have a run of tournaments on the same surfaces. It’s tough to play tennis week in, week out if you’re always changing the surface. You’re not going to play your best tennis after just two days.”
The new, lightning-quick surface at Paris is proving a hit with the players who feel that many have been slowed down too much in recent years.
“It’s a different type of tennis,” said American No. 1 Andy Roddick. “I believe it’s become so monotonous … it feels like there is a slow court available nine months of the year.”
Federer backed up those sentiments: “It’s nice that some tournaments have made the courts faster again. I’m not saying it should be the trend for all the tournaments, but indoors is supposed to be faster. We only have one indoor Masters 1000, so I think it should be the fastest one, which is the case.
“Shanghai was brutally slow; Toronto was very slow as well. The only other one that is a little bit fast is Cincinnati, then Miami and Indian Wells have been also slowed down drastically. It’s good for the players, honestly, to experience a faster court again, and a bit of two-shot tennis is fun for a change to do. It’s tricky, it’s not easy—but it’s fun.”
Could the change in surfaces be contributing to the increase in injuries? Could the continuing change of pace be a problem? The Sports Medicine Information website lists common tennis injuries along with treatment and prevention techniques. Surely one of the biggest preventions of all would be to reduce the strain on tennis pros?
The ATP schedules for 2012 and 2013 will be finalised during a series of board meetings to take place during the ATP Finals in London in the next couple of weeks. It remains to be seen whether they will listen to their top pros or whether the dollar signs will continue to be too hard to resist.
TMZ and other news outlets have reported that former world No. 1 Jennifer Capriati was rushed to the hospital this morning after a possible overdose.
The call came from a hotel in Riviera Beach, FL, and Capriati was transported to a nearby hospital.
Stefano, Jennifer’s father, said she is recovering well from the incident.
Capriati, 34, won three Grand Slam titles and a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics. She last competed in 2004 due to recovery from shoulder surgery. Capriati gave an interview to the New York Post last year, in which she revealed she was unable to cope with her post-playing days and had attempted suicide.
One of the many charms of Wimbledon is the numerous tabloid headlines and storylines during The Championships. Back on this day, June 26, in 2000, the U.K.’s Daily Mail labeled Vince Spadea as the “World’s Biggest Loser” after he finally broke his ATP record 20-match losing streak in the first round of Wimbledon, beating Britain’s Greg Rusedski in the first round. Screamed the Daily Mail headline after Rusedski’s 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 9-7 loss to Spadea, “Rusedski Falls To World’s Biggest Loser.” Spadea, however, has proved to be far from a loser as the 34-year-old veteran qualified this year at Wimbledon (his 14th appearance) and reached the second round, losing to Igor Andreev. The book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com) chronicles the Spadea-Rusedski match – and others – in the June 25 excerpt below.
2000 – Vince Spadea breaks his ATP record 21-match losing streak by upsetting No. 14 seed Greg Rusedski of Britain 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 9-7 in the first round of Wimbledon. Entering the match, Spadea is winless on the ATP Tour since the previous October in Lyon, France. Says Spadea, “If I had lost this match I was thinking: ‘Holy goodness! I am going to have to stay in Europe until I win a match. But here I am, six months on. It was worth the wait.” The following day, Rusedski is greeted with the headline in the Daily Mail reading, “Rusedski Falls To World’s Biggest Loser.”
2002 – Seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras plays what ultimately becomes his final Wimbledon match, losing in the second round – unceremoniously on the Graveyard Court – Court No. 2 – to lucky-loser and No. 145-ranked George Bastl of Switzerland 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4. Bastl, who enters the match having won only one main draw grass court match in his career, only gains entry into the tournament when Felix Mantilla of Spain withdraws the day before the tournament begins. Despite the loss, Sampras tells reporters after the match that he would return to the All England Club to play again, but after his U.S. Open triumph later in the summer, he never plays another professional match. “You know, I’m not going to end my time here with that loss,” Sampras says after the match. “I want to end it on a high note, and so I plan on being back… As long as I feel like I can continue to win majors and contend, I’ll just continue to play.” Says Bastl, “It’s a nice story isn’t it? I gave myself chances because I was practicing on grass for the last three weeks. I had won my last three matches and I knew my game was improving match by match. I felt I would have some sort of a chance.”
1951 – On a cold and rainy afternoon, Althea Gibson walks on to Centre Court at Wimbledon as the first black player to compete in The Championships. Ten months after becoming the first black player to compete in a major when she played the U.S. Championships the previous summer, Gibson wins her first match in her debut Wimbledon, defeating Pat Ward of Great Britain 6-0, 2-6, 6-4. Reports the Associated Press of Gibson, “Although the tall Negro girl is unseeded, she convinced the British experts that she has the equipment to rank high in the world within another year or two.”
1962 – Eighteen-year-old Billie Jean Moffitt beats No. 1 seed Margaret Smith 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the opening round of Wimbledon, creating history as the first player to knock of the women’s No. 1 seed in the opening round at the All England Club. Smith is the heavy favorite to win the title after winning the Australian, Italian and French Championships entering the tournament. Billie Jean, who goes on to win six singles titles at the All England Club– and a record 20 titles overall at Wimbledon. Writes Bud Collins in The Bud Collins History of Tennis, “Her victory established ‘Little Miss Moffitt’ as a force to be reckoned with on the Centre Court that already was her favorite stage.”
1965 – Manuel Santana becomes the first defending champion to lose in the first round of Wimbleodn when he is defeated by Charlie Pasarell 10-8, 6-3, 2-6, 8-6. Writes Fred Tupper of the New York Times of the Pasarell’s upset of the No. 1 seed, “Over 150 spine-tingling minutes this afternoon, the Puerto Rican was the better tennis player, stronger on serve, more secure on volley, and rock steady in the crises.” Says Santana, “Charlito was good.He was fast and hit the ball hard.”
1978 – Bjorn Borg performs a first-round escape on the opening day of Wimbledon as the two-time defending champion staves off elimination by six-foot-seven inch, 220-pound Victor Amaya of Holland, Mich., prevailing in five sets by a 8-9, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 margin. Amaya, who wears size 15 sneakers, leads Borg two sets to one and 3-1 in the fourth set and holds break point in the fifth game to go up two breaks in the fourth set. “He played better than I did on the important points, and that’s always the difference in a five-set match,” says Amaya. “He came up with great shots like that on crucial points, and that’s why he is great.”
1998 – After no victories in 17 previous matches, including a 6-0, 6-0 loss 10 years earlier in the final of the French Open, Natasha Zvereva wins her first match against Steffi Graf, defeating the German 6-4, 7-5 in the third round of Wimbledon. Graf is hampered by a hamstring injury and is playing in only her fifth event of the year after recovering from knee surgery.
2007 – In his last Wimbledon singles match, Justin Gimelstob makes Wimbledon history as the first player to use the “Hawk-Eye” instant replay system at the All England Club. In his 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) first-round loss to Andy Roddick on Court No. 1 on the opening day of play, Gimelstob uses the Hawk-Eye system to challenge one of his serves in the first set. Says Gimelstob of his new status in Wimbledon history, “I’d like to have a few more important records, but I’ll take what I can get.”
1990 – John McEnroe is defeated in the first round of Wimbledon for only the second time in his career, as the 31-year-old three-time champion is sent packing by the hands of fellow American Derrick Rostagno by a 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 margin. McEnroe is joined on the sideline by newly-crowned French Open champion and No. 5 seed Andres Gomez, who falls to American Jim Grabb 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. “I’m going home to Ecuador and watch the matches on TV and pretend I never was here,” says Gomez. Future seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras is also sent packing in the first round by South African Christo van Rensburg, who defeats the No. 12 seeded Sampras 7-6, 7-5, 7-6.
1985 – French Open champion Mats Wilander of Sweden is dismissed in the first round of Wimbledon as six-foot-six, No. 77-ranked Slobodan Zivojinovic of Yugoslavia defeats the No. 4 seeded Wilander 6-2, 5-7, 7-5, 6-0.
2004 – The USTA names the 2004 U.S. Olympic tennis team during the same day that the Olympic flame is run through the All-England Club at Wimbledon. Named to the U.S. Olympic tennis team were Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, Taylor Dent, Vince Spadea, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Chanda Rubin, Lisa Raymond and Martina Navratilova.
Bagels – in addition to strawberries and cream – were served on the opening day of Wimbledon Monday as Marion Bartoli registered a “double bagel” – a 6-0, 6-0 win over Yung-Jan Chan in the first round of women’s singles. On Tuesday, June 23, marks the 22nd anniversary of the last TRIPLE bagel at Wimbledon when Stefan Edberg hammered his fellow Swede Stefan Eriksson. That match – and others – are documented in the June 23 chapter of the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com). The full excerpt is detailed below.
1987 – Stefan Edberg defeats fellow Swede Stefan Eriksson 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 in the first “triple bagel” at Wimbledon since 1947. ”It’s nice to be able to do whatever you want to do out there,” Edberg says, ”but I felt sorry for Stefan, too. It was his first match on grass. I thought about giving him a game but you never know when you are going to have another chance to win three love sets again.”
2003 – Robby Ginepri of the United States becomes the first player in Wimbledon history to wear a sleeveless shirt in competition in his 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (3), 10-8 first-round loss to Arnaud Clement of France.
1981 – Fourteen-year-old American Kathy Rinaldi becomes the youngest player to win a match at Wimbledon at the at the time, saving a match point in defeating Sue Rollinson of South Africa 6-3, 2-6, 9-7 in 2 hours, 36 minutes on Court No. 2 at the All England Club. Rinaldi, a ninth-grader at Martin County High School in Stuart, Fla., enters Wimbledon fresh off reaching the quarterfinals of the French Open. Rollinson serves for the match twice – at 5-4 and 6-5 in the final set and holds at match point in the 12th game of the third set. Rinaldi loses her distinction nine years later when Jennifer Capriati, at the age of 14 years, 90 days – one day younger than Rinaldi – defeats Helen Kelesi 6-3, 6-1 in her first-round match on June 26, 1990.
1976 – John Feaver of Britain fires 42 aces, a Wimbledon record at the time, but is not able to put away three-time champion John Newcombe, losing to the Australian legend 6-3, 3-6, 8-9, 6-4, 6-4 in the third round on Court No. 2. Feaver’s 42 aces stands as the Wimbledon ace record for a match until 1997, when Goran Ivanisevic fires 46 aces in a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 4-16, 14-12 loss to Magnus Norman in the third round. Ivo Karlovic of Croatia breaks Ivanisevic’s record in a first round match in 2005, a 6-7(4), 7-6 (8), 3-6, 7-6 (5), 12-10 loss to Daniele Bracciali of Italy.
1992 – Jeremy Bates of Britain, a man who Robin Finn of the New York Times describes as being “more prone to be written off locally than to pulling off major upsets on the home turf” defeats No. 7 seed Michael Chang 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in the opening round of Wimbledon. The win marks only the second match victory on the season for the 30-year-old Bates, ranked No. 113. John McEnroe, playing in what ultimately is his final singles sojurn at the All-England Club – and unseeded in the Championships for the first time since his 1977 debut – wins his opening round match with Luiz Mattar 5-7, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3.
1990 – Eighteen-year-old Californian Pete Sampras, the future seven-time Wimbledon champion, wins his first grass court tournament title of his career, defeating Gilad Bloom of Israel 7-6 (9), 7-6 (3) in the final of the Manchester Open in Manchester, England. Says Sampras following the victory, ”I was very composed, and he got a little tight on the crucial points.” Sampras, however, is not able to translate his grass-court success in Manchester onto the lawns of Wimbledon the following week as he loses in the first round of The Championships to Christo van Rensburg of South Africa 7-6 (4), 7-5, 7-6 (3).
1982 – Prior to teeing off for a round of pro-am golf at the Westchester Country Club in support of the PGA Tour’s Westchester Golf Classic, Ivan Lendl explains that his decision to skip Wimbledon is based on an allergy to grass. ”I sneeze a lot,” he says. ”I take shots every second day.” When pressed about his Wimbledon absence, Lendl says. ”I am on a vacation because I need the rest. When you are on vacation you don’t write stories. I am not at Wimbledon because I needed the rest. This is when I scheduled my holiday and I didn’t want to change it. The grass courts at Wimbledon are also a factor because of my allergy. I’ll probably play at Wimbledon next year. ”
1988 – John McEnroe suffers a second-round straight-set loss to Wally Masur, losing 7-5, 7-6, 6-3, marking the three-time Wimbledon champion’s earliest loss at the All England Club since a first-round loss in 1978. Says McEnroe after the match, “If that’s the best I’ve got to give, I’d quit tomorrow. It’s like my body went into some sort of letdown. I wasn’t even pushing myself to be my best. It’s almost enough to make me sick.”
Today, March 10, is a big day in tennis history for Hall of Famer Jim Courier, who, as excerpted from my book “ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY” ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.newchapterpressmedia.com), won one of the first major titles of his career back in 1991 in Indian Wells, Calif. (the current day BNP Paribas Open). Also, back in 2006, Courier’s brainchild – the Outback Champions Series tennis circuit – debuted in Naples, Fla. Courier will be in Brazil later this week to compete in the Rio Champions Cup, the second of eight events on the 2009 Outback Champions Series. The full book excerpt is below.
2008 – A sell-out crowd of 19,690 that includes golf legend Tiger Woods pack Madison Square Garden in New York City for the NetJets Showdown exhibition match between Roger Federer and Pete Sampras. Federer, an owner of 12 major singles titles, edges 14-time major singles titlist Sampras in a third-set tie-breaker 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (6) in the sometimes competitive celebration of tennis. Says Sampras, “It was a great night for tennis.” Writes the Associated Press of the match, “There were moments when, if you squinted a bit, you would have sworn that was the Sampras of old, rather than an old Sampras. There were moments when, if you listened to the whip of the racket through the air, you would have been absolutely sure Federer was giving it his all. And then there were moments when, as you watched Sampras throw his racket to the ground in mock disgust or saw Federer raise an index finger to celebrate four aces in a single game, it didn’t really matter whether this match counted or not.” Says Federer after the match, “I don’t think winning or losing was really the issue tonight. I think we both tried to do our best and have a fun night, and that’s what it turned out to be.”
1991 – Twenty-year-old Jim Courier, ranked No. 26 in the world, wins his second career singles title, defeating No. 5 ranked Guy Forget 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) to win the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif. “To win it – and it sounds like a cliché – but it’s a big honor for me,” says Courier.
2006 – The “champions” tennis circuit returns to the United States for the first time since 2001 as the Outback Champions Series begins in Naples, Fla., as Mats Wilander defeats Aaron Krickstein 2-6, 6-2, 10-2 in the opening round robin match of the series. Tour co-founder Jim Courier defeats Mikael Pernfors 6-2, 6-2 and, in the final match of the day, Pat Cash surprises John McEnroe 2-6, 7-6(5), 10-6 in the Champions Tie-break.
1971 – No. 1 seed Rod Laver is upset by Mark Cox of Great Britain 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 in the third round of the Australian Open in Sydney. No. 3 seed and fellow Australian John Newcombe is also upset, losing to Marty Riessen 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 7-6.
1996 – In her second tournament in her second comeback attempt in professional tennis, Jennifer Capriati routs Shi-Ting Wang of Chinese Taipei 6-0, 6-0 in 43 minutes in the second round of the State Farm Evert Cup in Indian Wells, Calif.
Andy Murray beat Rafael Nadal 6-3 4-6 6-0- to win the ABN Amro World Tennis in Rotterdam, Netherlands
Amelie Mauresmo beast Elena Dementieva 7-6 (7) 2-6 6-4 to win the Open GDF Suez in Paris, France
Radek Stepanek won the SAP Open in San Jose, California, by beating Mardy Fish 3-6 6-4 6-2
Vera Zvonareva won the Pattaya Women’s Open, beating Sania Mirza 7-5 6-1 in Pattaya City, Thailand
Thomas Robredo beat Thomaz Bellucci 6-3 3-6 6-4 to win the Brasil Open in Costa Do Sauipe, Brazil
Pete Sampras won the Champions Cup Boston by beating John McEnroe 7-6 (10) 6-4 in Boston, Massachusetts
“The feeling you have when you conclude a tournament with the title is different than a good week with a defeat. It’s a special feeling. It gives you an extraordinary confidence.” – Amelie Mauresmo, after winning the Open GDF Suez in Paris, France.
“The whole week Amelie was playing very solid. She really picked up her game and played her best, especially today. … She has had some difficult times with all of those injuries, and it’s really great to see her win here, especially since it’s at home.” – Elena Dementieva, who lost the Paris final to Amelie Mauresmo.
“He made it difficult as he was hitting the ball so hard and being aggressive on every shot to try and keep the points short. It just shows how good he is that he can beat me on one leg.” – Andy Murray, after beating an injured Rafael Nadal to win in Rotterdam, but losing the second set.
“I had a problem with the injury, but I don’t want to talk about that. Andy played very well today and he deserved to win the tournament.” – Rafael Nadal.
“I’ve been playing a lot of tennis. Maybe it’s just a sign that I need to take a day off or two and get ready for the next event.” – Serena Williams, after pulling out of a WTA Tour event in Paris.
“The Tour is reviewing appropriate remedies for Ms. Peer and also will review appropriate future actions with regard to the future of the Dubai tournament. The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour believes very strongly, and has a clear rule and policy, that no host country should deny a player the right to compete at a tournament for which she has qualified by ranking.” – Larry Smith, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour CEO, on the refusal of the United Arab Emirates to give a visa to Israeli Shahar Peer.
“This is my second tournament this year after six months of injury last year. I couldn’t ask for a better start by winning the mixed doubles in the Australian Open and making it to the final here in Pattaya City.” – Sania Mirza, who lost to Vera Zvonareva in the Pattaya Women’s Open title match.
“Everything went – starting with my leg, my feet. You stop moving, you get a little tight. … To say it doesn’t creep in your mind that you remember some of those losses you have in all those finals – I have 10 losses in all those finals – that’s a lot.” – Mardy Fish, the losing finalist in San Jose, California.
“It was an amazing week for me. It never happened to me to win the singles and doubles in the same week. It seems like there is some magic around here. I’m always playing well here.” – Radek Stepanek, who won both singles and doubles at the SAP Open.
Shahar Peer was denied a visa to compete in the Dubai Tennis Championships, a move that could damage Dubai’s efforts at fostering an image of full openness in business, sports and other high-profile events. Peer broke barriers last year when she became the first Israeli to play a WTA Tour event in Qatar. But the visa denial could prove to be a blow to Dubai. “Ms Peer has earned the right to play in the tournament and it’s regrettable that the UAF is denying her this right,” said Larry Scott, WTA chief executive. Scott said WTA tour officials will take a close look at the event’s future. Peer’s brother said the 21-year-old player applied for a visa months in advance and was assured by tournament organizers that she would be allowed entry.
Amelie Mauresmo returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in two years when she beat Elena Dementieva in the final of the Open GDF Suez in Paris, France. A two-time Grand Slam tournament winner, Mauresmo has been beset by several injuries. Her last title came in Antwerp, Belgium, in February 2007.
Losing to Andy Murray in the final at Rotterdam, Netherlands, was the least of Rafael Nadal’s problem. The Spaniard hurt his knee in the first game of the second set and received treatment from the ATP trainer after the third game. Then came eight successive service breaks as Nadal went for broke on Murray’s service games. The strategy worked for awhile as Nadal won the second set to level the match. But after that it was all Murray, who kept the ball in play and cut down on his own errors. Murray’s victory was the first in Rotterdam for a British player, while the final pitted the top two seeds against each other for the first time since Ivan Lendl played Jimmy Connors in 1984.
SERBIA VS SPAIN
Serbia will travel to Spain for their World Group playoffs in April. In other matchups, with the winners qualifying for next year’s World Group competition, Slovak Republic will be at France, Germany and China and Ukraine an Argentina. The losing nations of the April 25-26 competition will drop to the World Group II in 2010. In World Group II playoffs, Canada will be at Belgium, Estonia at Israel, Poland at Japan, and Switzerland at Australia.
A right knee injury forced Serena Williams to withdraw from her semifinal match at Elena Dementieva at the Open GDF Suez tournament in Paris, France. “My left knee always hurts, but this time it’s my right knee,” said Williams. “When I woke up this morning it wasn’t feeling good. I wasn’t moving well at all in practice.” Williams said she hurt her knee during a victory against Emile Loit and was in too much pain to compete.
Three tennis players – Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, Maria Kirilenko of Russia and Tatiana Golovin of France – are appearing in the 46th edition of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Joining some of the world’s top supermodels, the players spent five days shooting on the secluded beaches of the Dominican Republic. While Hantuchova, Kirilenko and Golovin are making their SI Swimsuit debuts, several other players have been featured in the publication, including Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Anna Kournikova, Steffi Graf and Ashley Harkleroad.
In a bid to regain the form that brought her the French Open title a year ago, Ana Ivanovic has hired Craig Kardon as her new coach. The 47-year-old Kardon has coached a number of other top players, including Martina Navratilova, Lindsay Davenport, Mary Pierce and Jennifer Capriati. Ivanovic, who had been coached by Sven Groeneveld, took over the number one ranking when she won at Roland Garros, but has since dropped to number eight in the world.
Brazilian tennis is turning to Spain in a bid to reinvigorate the sport in the South American country. Emilio Sanchez Vicario, who led Spain to the Davis Cup title last year, will oversee a project to find new talent and reorganize the structure of the sport in Brazil. “The project will focus on high level in all spheres of the confederation, from youths to professionals. I chose Brazil because it has a very large base to work with,” said Sanchez Vicario, who won 15 singles and 50 doubles titles on the ATP tour. The only Brazilian player to reach number one in the world was Gustavo Kuerten, the three-time French Open champion who retired last year. There are currently no Brazilian women ranked in the top 100.
Tommy Haas helped out tournament officials of the SAP Open by playing two singles matches on the same day. The German downed Lars Poerschke 6-1 7-6 (8) in a first-round match, then returned to the court to play an exhibition match against Pete Sampras. “Tommy saved the day,” said Sampras, who had been scheduled to play James Blake. But citing back spasms, Blake withdrew from the exhibition match less than 15 minutes before the scheduled state. “Pete asked me and I said sure, why not?” Haas said. “A lot of people came to see Pete tonight, and not who he played. It was fun. Pete still has an unbelievable serve.” For the record, Haas beat Sampras 6-7 (4) 6-4 12-10 (match tiebreak).
Jelena Jankovic is a little ticked off at Roger Federer. Last month, Federer criticized the WTA rankings, saying a player who has never won a Grand Slam tournament should not be ranked number one in the world. Jankovic, who has been number one and has never won a major singles title, told Reuters that she could not understand why Federer felt he needed to hit out at women’s tennis while Rafael Nadal was, in her words, “so humble.” Jankovic said Federer should not criticize fellow players. “I don’t think it’s nice to attack other players,” the Serbian right-hander said.
Maria Sharapova is now looking at the end of March before returning to tennis. Her shoulder injury has caused her to miss the last two Grand Slam tournaments as well as the Beijing Olympics. Writing on her web site, Sharapova said she hopes to return by March 25 at Key Biscayne, Florida, “depending on how things shape up.” The Russian has been recovering from a torn rotator cuff tendon in her right shoulder.
Mark Philippoussis, Jim Courier and Goran Ivanisevic will headline the field at The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Legends Championships to be held April 24-26 in Grand Cayman. The tournament is the fourth of eight events on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. The event’s other three competitors will be announced in the near future.
SUCH HIGH HOPES
Grigor Dimitrov, who won the Junior Boys titles at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, is moving to France where he will be coached by Peter Lundgren, the man who has coached Roger Federer and Marat Safin. A native of Bulgaria, Dimitrov will train at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in France.
Rotterdam: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes 6-2 7-5.
Paris: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Kveta Peschke and Lisa Raymond 6-4 3-6 10-4 (match tiebreak)
San Jose: Tommy Haas and Radek Stepanek beat Rohan Bopanna and Jarkko Nieminen 6-2 6-3
Pattaya City: Tamarine Tanasugarn and Yaroslav Shedova beat Yuliya Beygelzimer and Vitalia Diatchenko 6-3 6-2
Costa Do Sauipe: Marcel Granollers and Tommy Robredo beat Lucas Arnold Ker and Juan Monaco 6-4 7-5
SITES TO SURF
Buenos Aires: www.copatelmex.com/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
576,000 Open 13, Marseille, France, hard
$600,000 Copa Telemex, Buenos Aires, Argentina, clay
$1,226,500 Regions Morgan Keegan Championships, Memphis, Tennessee, USA, hard
$2,000,000 Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, Dubai, United Arab Emigrates, hard
$220,000 Regions Morgan Keegan Championships & the Cellular South Cup, Memphis, Tennessee, USA, hard
$220,000 Copa Colsanitas, Bogota, Colombia, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$2,233,000 Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, Dubai, UAE, hard
$1,226,500 Abierto Mexicano Telcel, Acapulco, Mexico, clay
$500,000 Delray Beach International Tennis Championships, Delray Beach, Florida, USA, hard
$220,000 Abierto Mexicano Telcel, Acapulco, Mexico, clay
Today is Tuesday so that means another edition of “Tennis History Tuesday” where we bring you another excerpt from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY with events that happened on January 13. While the tennis world is gearing up for the Australian Open, this time of the year used to be devoted to the men’s tournament known as the year-end Masters Championships played at Madison Square Garden. The Australian Open was played in December and, due mainly to the proximity to the Christmas holidays, did not feature the strongest fields and was not considered as prestigious at the time as the Masters (or the women’s equivalent, the Virginia Slims Championships.). Enjoy the excerpts below, which features memorable wins for Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. For more information on the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY, go to www.tennishistorybook.com
1980 – Bjorn Borg finally wins in New York as the two-time U.S. Open runner-up wins the Masters Championships at Madison Square Garden, defeating Vitas Gerulaitis 6-2, 6-2 in the championship match. “I wanted to win a tournament here for a long time,” says Borg, who would play – and lose – two more U.S. Open finals in his career.
1985 – John McEnroe wins his third – and final – Masters singles championship, defeating Ivan Lendl 7-5, 6-0, 6-4 in the final at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Says Lendl of McEnroe in the post-match press conference, “I would say that he played very well. Unfortunately, I’ve seen him play very well many times.” The only hiccup in the match comes with McEnroe serving for the first set at 6-5 and, while bouncing balls off his racquet, waiting for photographers to settle down in their courtside positions, he bounces one of the balls higher than anticipated that hits his eye and requires McEnroe to engage in a three-minute injury time-out. Says McEnroe of freak injury, “I couldn’t see for a couple of minutes. I’ve hit myself before never when it hurt that way.”
1997 – Unheralded Spaniard Carlos Moya upsets defending champion Boris Becker 5-7, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the first round of the Australian Open in oppressive 95-degree temperatures, with on-court readings registering as high as 135 degrees. “The weather was maybe the key to the match,” Moya says after contesting only his third five-set match. “I was also tired, but I think he was more tired than me. I am a young man, he is 29…I played a good match. Nobody can beat Boris when he’s playing 100 per cent. I was sure at least to fight (out) the match and put pressure on him.” Moya, a future French Open champion and world No. 1, goes on to reach the final of the tournament, where he loses to Pete Sampras.
2003 – Two-time defending champion Jennifer Capriati becomes the first defending women’s singles champion to lose in the first round of the Australian Open, losing to German Marlene Weingartner 2-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4 on the opening day of the Australian Championships. Capriati partially blamed the loss on recent eye surgery in late 2002.
2007 – In a rare, ironic twist, James Blake wins the Sydney International with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 win over Carlos Moya, the same player he is scheduled to play in the first round of the following week’s Australian Open. Three days later, Blake again beats Moya, registering a 7-6 (8), 6-2, 6-4 first round win. Blake joins four-time champion Lleyton Hewitt and two-time titlist Pete Sampras as the only players to win back-to-back titles in Sydney in the Open era.
1974 – Six weeks after losing the 1973 Davis Cup final to lose its five-year hold on the Davis Cup trophy, the United States is dealt its earliest loss ever in Davis Cup play as Jairo Velasco defeats Erik van Dillen 6-0, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 to clinch Colombia’s 4-1 first round win over the United States in Bogota, Colombia. A 45-minute rain delay at the end of the third set snuffs out any momentum that van Dillen can muster as the American double-faults 10 times in the fourth set to go down in defeat. After clinching the historic victory, Velasco is carried around the court by enthusiastic fans.
1998 – Martina Hingis becomes the first No. 1 ranked woman ever to lose her opening match of a calendar year, losing 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 to fellow 17-year-old Venus Williams in the first round of the Sydney International tennis championships.