It was an all-countrymen week in ATP finals. In Marseille the Frenchman Michael Llodra won his fourth career ATP title when he beat his compatriot Julien Benneteau 6-3, 6-4. In Memphis, Sam Querrey won his third career title, winning the All-American final in Memphis, overcoming John Isner 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-3 despite a 2-5 deficit in the second set tie-break. In Buenos Aires, a final resolution turned into an inner Spanish affair as Juan Carlos Ferrero outlasted David Ferrer 5-7, 6-4, 6-3. The 30-year-old Ferrero won back-to-back titles, last week, he
won his 13th career title in Costa Do Sauipe, Brazil. He repeated the feat of his compatriot Tommy Robredo who won Costa Do Sauipe and Buenos Aires last year. The last time within a week all-countrymen finals in three different tournaments ocurred 7.5 years ago (22-29 July, 2002):
Alex Corretja (ESP) def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) 6-4 6-1 6-3
Jose Acasuso (ARG) def. Franco Squillari (ARG) 2-6 6-1 6-3
Andre Agassi (USA) def. Jan-Michael Gambill (USA) 6-2 6-4
Before this week, there have only been three times in the last 20 years where the two singles finalists have played a final in doubles together at the same tournament (Stefan Edberg with Magnus Larsson in Doha 1995, Lleyton Hewitt with Mark Philippoussis – Scottsdale 2003 and Philipp Kohlschreiber with Mikhail Youzhny – Munich 2007). This week it happened in two tournaments as Michael Llodra with Julien Benneteau won doubles final in Marseille, and John Isner paired with Sam Querrey to win in Memphis. Querrey a week earlier won his first doubles title at the SAP Open in San Jose, with Mardy Fish, and has extended his streak to eight doubles wins in a row.
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
“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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
$120,000 Genoa Open Challenger, Genoa, Italy, clay
World No. 1 and two-time champion Roger Federer cruised past Argentine Jose Acasuso, 6-3, 7-5, in 70 minutes on Wednesday afternoon to advance to the third round at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters 1000 in Cincinnati.
A fairly routine first set saw Federer break Acasuso’s serve in the eighth game before serving out the set on his serve. In that opening frame, Federer won 94 percent of first serve points compared to just 70 percent by the 26-year-old Argentine.
Acasuso, who is currently ranked No. 51, didn’t disappear quickly, making the 15-time Grand Slam singles champion earn every one of his points. In fact, at 4-4, Federer held a 0-40 lead on Acasuso’s serve before an overturned call on the challenge system helped the Argentine erase the last break point that game.
“Sometimes those breakpoints, they are over in a hurry,” said Federer, who improves to 5-0 lifetime against Acasuso. “You just try to get the first ball back and that’s what I couldn’t do. I couldn’t get the ball back on all three occasions.”
Federer quickly regrouped at 5-all, 15-40, when he made a remarkable return followed by good offensive play to break serve. This Swiss, who improved to 15-6 in Cincinnati, held serve at ease to win the match. Federer smashed 14 aces and just two double faults compared to 11 aces and three double faults by Acasuso.
“This is a good first match for me,” said Federer, who has won three titles this season.
Federer will next face unseeded Spaniard David Ferrer, who defeated No. 14 seed Marin Cilic yesterday.
In a thrilling late night match, Sam Querrey squeaked past No. 5 seed Andy Roddick, 7-6(11), 7-6(3), in one hour and 57 minutes, to earn his first victory over the former No. 1 in four meetings.
It was a serving classic for the fans, as Querrey smashed 16 aces while Roddick hit 10. But serving wasn’t the only thing on display, as both players displayed remarkable ground strokes throughout the match.
Querrey, who won the title in Los Angeles in July, held a set point on Roddick’s serve at 5-4 but was unable to secure the break to win the set. In the tiebreak, Querrey held four set points before finally closing out the set on his serve.
In the second set, Roddick raced ahead 3-1 after breaking Querrey’s serve in the fourth game. Querrey responded by immediately breaking back.
The second set eventually headed to another tiebreak, where Querrey quickly jumped ahead 5-1. Serving up 6-3, Querrey smashed an ace to close out the match in style and advance to the third round.
“Definitely one of my best wins ever,” said Querrey, who is currently ranked No. 26 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings. “Probably the best for me. You know, feels pretty good.”
Awaiting Querrey in the third round is a date with former world No. 1 and two-time grand slam singles champion Lleyton Hewitt, who eased past German Benjamin Becker, 6-3, 6-3. Hewitt leads the series 1-0, winning last season in straight sets in Indian Wells.
In other Stadium court action, last year’s runner-up Novak Djokovic of Serbia held off a courageous fight from Croatian qualifier Ivan Ljubicic to advance with a 7-6(5), 6-4 victory in one hour and 40 minutes.
The 22-year-old Serb put on a serving clinic against the 30-year-old Croatian, smashing nine aces, while winning 35 of 36 first serve points throughout the match. Djokovic, who has won titles this year in Dubai and Belgrade, won all 18 points on his first serve during the opening set.
“It’s really important to get my serve going and have a high percentage of the first serves in,” said Djokovic, who improved to 3-1 lifetime against Ljubicic.
Despite struggling with Djokovic’s serve, winning only one of 36 points on the Serbian’s first serve, Ljubicic was able to smash 15 aces without hitting a double fault.
“He was serving really well, and he was going for the shots,” said Djokovic.
With the victory on Wednesday, Djokovic earned his 50th singles win of the season, just the second player to accomplish that this season on the ATP World Tour.
The Serb, who reached the quarterfinals last week in Montreal, will next face Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, who rallied to beat American wild card John Isner, 6-7(1), 6-3, 4-1 ret.
On Grandstand, No. 16 seed Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic rallied past Russian wild card Marat Safin, winning 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, in one hour and 54 minutes. Stepanek, who improved to 2-1 lifetime against Safin, won 84 percent of first serve points and broke Safin’s serve on four of 15 opportunities. The Russian, who likely made his last appearance in Cincinnati after announcing that he would retire at the end of 2009, smashed 10 aces but hit an abysmal eight double faults in the loss.
Stepanek, who won titles earlier this year in Brisbane and San Jose, will next face new world No. 2 Andy Murray in the third round, who saved a set point in the opening set to hold off a gutsy effort from Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, winning 7-6(3), 6-2.
Other Winners on Wednesday in Cincinnati
No. 2 Rafael Nadal def. Andreas Seppi, 7-6(4), 7-6(3)
Chris Guccione def. No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 7-6(12), 6-2
No. 8 Nikolay Davydenko def. Igor Kunitsyn, 6-2, 1-6, 6-3
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez def. Mikhail Youzhny, 7-5, 6-3
Paul-Henri Mathieu def. Ivo Karlovic, 7-6(9), 6-4
Julien Benneteau def. Jurgen Melzer, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2
Tomas Berdych def. Philip Petzschner, 7-6(8), 6-7(7), 6-4
Robin Soderling beat top-seeded Rafael Nadal 6-2 6-7 (2) 6-4 7-6 (2)
Agnes Szavay beat third-seeded Venus Williams 6-0 6-4
Philipp Kohlschreiber beat fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic 6-4 6-4 6-4
Samantha Stosur beat fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva 6-3 4-6 6-1
Victoria Azarenka beat eighth-seeded Ana Ivanovic 6-2 6-3
Nikolay Davydenko beat eighth-seeded Fernando Verdasco 6-2 6-2 6-4
Sorana Cirstea beat 10th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki 7-6 (3) 7-5
“This is not a tragedy, losing here in Paris. It had to happen one day. That’s the end of the road, and I have to accept it. I have to accept my defeat as I accepted my victories – with calm.” – Rafael Nadal, after having his record 31-match victory string at Roland Garros snapped.
“This is for sure the biggest moment so far of my career. I couldn’t even dream of this before the match, so I will remember this match for the rest of my life.” – Robin Soderling, after beating Rafael Nadal.
“Everybody’s in a state of shock, I would think. At some point, Nadal was going to lose. But nobody expected it to happen today, and maybe not this year.” – Mats Wilander, a three-time French Open champion on Robin Soderling’s victory over Rafael Nadal.
“It’s just a bad day at the office, as they say.” – Novak Djokovic, after losing to Philipp Kohlschreiber.
“I’m used to beating people 6-0. I’m not used to my shot not going in and losing a set 6-0. So it completely was foreign ground for me.” – Venus Williams, after losing to Agnes Szavay 6-0 6-4
“In the fourth game, I just suddenly started feeling so dizzy, and I completely lost my balance.” – Ana Ivanovic, after losing to Victoria Azarenka.
“I’m angry, because even though it was (Roger) Federer, it was a near-miss. I was so close to winning this match.” – Jose Acasuso, after losing to Federer 7-6 (8) 5-7 7-6 (2) 6-2.
“She (a WTA Tour official) told me to play with another T-shirt otherwise I was facing a fine. I told her to find one for me otherwise I would have had to play naked.” – Virginie Razzano, who was told to change her shirt because a sponsor badge on the shirt was misplaced.
“I’m just glad I finally won a match out there.” – Andy Roddick, an American who finally won a match after three straight first-round losses at Roland Garros.
“Well, he actually looks a little bit tired to me. He doesn’t look like he’s fresh enough. I think it’s going to be tough challenge for him to win this time, actually.” – Elena Dementieva, predicting Rafael Nadal will not win a record fifth straight French Open men’s singles title.
“The point is never over. I mean, the ball is a little bit far but I have to find a solution to jump or to dive or slide or whatever, to reach it. And when I think I can, I will try some magic. On a break point, you have to jump or dive. I mean, I go for it.” – Gael Monfils, on his acrobatic style of play.
“He’s not (Rafael) Nadal, but he’s still a great player on clay.” – Janko Tipsarevic, on Andy Murray’s improved game on clay.
“Winning the semifinal is not winning the tournament, so it doesn’t change anything.” – Roger Federer, when asked if he was relieved to see his possible semifinal opponent, Novak Djokovic, lose his third-round match.
“For the Americans, a lot of times, this isn’t our main goal of the year. Ours is generally Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.” James Blake, an American, after losing a first-round match to Argentine qualifier Leonard Mayer.
“I wasn’t nervous at the beginning, but at the end, when I had to close the match, I was very nervous, yes. I was dying of nerves.” – Leonardo Mayer, a qualifier who beat James Blake.
“We’re trying as hard as we can. Once these two weeks are over, the clay talk is over, and we’ll be looking to my most fun part of the year: Wimbledon, grass courts. That’s where we play our best.” – Mardy Fish, an American, after losing a first-round match.
“I feel very disappointed. She’s Serena. She’s one of the biggest players here, so bad luck for the draw,” said Klara Zakopalova, after failing to cash in on eight match points in her first-round loss to Serena Williams.
“I don’t see trouble. What I see is a champion that found a way to win on a day that she didn’t play good. See, in order to be a champion, you have to win when you should lose.” – Richard Williams, after his daughter Serena squandered eight match points before beating Klara Zakopalova 6-3 6-7 (5) 6-4.
“I felt like I had the match in my hands and I was doing well and even if I didn’t win, I was playing really well … I felt like I probably played the best tennis that I played this year.” – Jelena Dokic, after retiring with a back injury while leading fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva.
“I think the Serena now would definitely beat the other Serena. I’m older. I think I’m wiser. I think I’m just a more mature player.” – Serena Williams, after her second-round win over Virginia Ruano Pascual.
Rafael Nadal’s stranglehold on Roland Garros was smashed by Sweden’s Robin Soderling in a fourth-round match. It was the first time the Spaniard, who was seeking his fourth consecutive French Open title, had lost on the red clay of Roland Garros. In his opening round match, Nadal snapped Bjorn Borg’s record of 28 straight French Open match wins by a man. His second-round victory eclipsed Chris Evert’s overall tournament record of 29 consecutive match victories. He got to 31 straight before running into Soderling, a player Nadal had never lost to before. In their last meeting, on clay in Rome in April, Nadal won 6-1 6-0. This time Soderling finished with 61 winners, 28 more than Nadal, and advanced to the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career.
Serbian Ana Ivanovic has failed to defend her women’s singles title at Roland Garros, losing a fourth-round match to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-2 6-3. Last year’s French Open victory pushed Ivanovic into the top spot in the WTA Tour rankings. Since then she has struggled and came into this year’s tournament seeded eighth. Ivanovic had a trainer look at her neck before the final game of the first set, and later said she began feeling dizzy and lost her balance. Azarenka grabbed a 4-0 lead in the second set en route to her victory.
She spent the first week working overtime, but Maria Sharapova was still around at the stare of the second week of the French Open. The unseeded Russian won four straight three-set matches to gain a quarterfinal berth at Roland Garros for the fourth time in her career. This is Sharapova’s first Grand Slam tournament since she lost a second-round match at Wimbledon last summer. She then suffered an injury to her right shoulder and underwent surgery in October. Sharapova only played one singles tournament before her remarkable run in Paris. “I’m definitely a little bit sore, but I’ll be fine,” Sharapova said. “That’s why the Grand Slams are great. You have a day in between, a day to recover, and that always helps the body.”
Sisters Venus and Serena Williams won’t be adding to their stash of Grand Slam doubles titles at this year’s French Open. The American duo wasted a match point in their 7-6 (4) 5-7 7-6 (6) loss to Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States and Nadia Petrova of Russia. Venus served for the match at 6-5 and was broken. The sisters led 6-5 in the tiebreak, one point from victory, before Mattek-Sands and Petrova won the last three points of the match. The Williams sisters won the French Open in 1999, one of their eight Grand slam doubles titles.
Jelena Dokic was leading fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva when she was forced to retire from their second-round French Open match because of a back injury. Playing in her first French Open since 2004, Dokic appeared to pull something in her lower back at 2-2 in the second set. She left the court to receive treatment from the tournament trainer and returned to break Dementieva and take a 6-2 3-2 lead. But Dementieva won the next two games before Dokic, tears streaming down her face, retired. “I didn’t deserve to win this match,” Dementieva said. Once ranked as high as number four in the world, Dokic rolled her ankle in his fourth-round match at the Australian Open in January. “Obviously it’s not my time at the Grand Slams,” she said. “I’m not 15 anymore, so it’s time probably to take more care now.”
SQUEAKING AND SQUEALING
A teenager from Portugal, Michelle Larcher de Brito, was the talk of Roland Garros more for her sound than her game. Grunting, squealing and moaning with every shot, the 16-year-old qualifier reached the third round before she was silenced by France’s Aravane Rezai. “It’s very disturbing, it’s disturbing me,” Rezai told the umpire before insisting the umpire consult the Grand Slam supervisor on the issue. Larcher de Brito shrieked when she hit the ball, yelped when Rezai’s shots were long and slammed her racquet when she was frustrated, earning boos from the crowd. “It’s just something I’ve done always since I started playing tennis. I’m going to keep on doing it because it’s really part of my game,” said Larcher de Brito, the first Portuguese player to advance to the third round of a Grand Slam tournament.
It took three sets before Serena Williams finally beat her Spanish foe, but it was a point in the opening set that riled the world’s number two-ranked player. With Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez close to the net, Williams fired a shot right at her. She managed to get her racquet on the ball, but Serena says the ball also hit her opponent’s arm. “The ball did touch her 100 percent on her arm,” Serena said. “The rules of tennis are when the ball hits your body, then it’s out of play. You lose a point automatically.” Television replays seemed to back Serena’s version, but Martinez Sanchez insisted the ball did not hit her and the umpire agreed. “To say I’m a cheat is stupid,” Martinez Sanchez said. “I’m not going to comment on it.”
SAY NO TO DRUG TESTS
Rafael Nadal wants the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to stick up for the players and against the World Anti-Doping Agency’s new out-of-competition drug-testing rules. A number of top players, including Serena Williams, have complained about a new WADA rule that says athletes must say where they will be for one hour each day so they can be found for testing. Saying that’s too invasive, Nadal complains that it will be tough to keep WADA constantly updated on his whereabouts.
Tennis isn’t the only thing on the mind of Sania Mirza these days. The 22-year-old Indian star has become engaged to a longtime friend, Sohrab Mirza. Despite the same last names, they are not related – yet. According to family members, the 23-year-old Sohrab Mirza, who is studying business, and the tennis star will be married on July 10 in her hometown of Hyderabad. In January, Sania became the first Indian woman to win a Grand Slam tournament title when she teamed with India’s Mahesh Bhupathi to win the Australian Open mixed doubles crown.
Two-time Grand Slam tournament finalist Mark Philippoussis says he is broke, facing a legal battle to keep his home and suffers from depression. The Australian player, who earned more than USD $7 million during his career, said he is being sued for failing to pay the mortgage on his home in Melbourne, Australia. Once ranked eighth in the world, Philippoussis says he has been unable to play for three years following several knee operations. The knee injury ended his ATP tour playing career, which saw him reach the 2003 Wimbledon final, losing to Roger Federer, and the 1998 US Open final, where he fell to Patrick Rafter. Philippoussis said he is looking to play in tennis legends events with former stars like John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Pat Cash.
Two freshmen are the newest National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tennis champions. Unseeded Devin Britton of the University of Mississippi became the youngest men’s singles champion, while Mallory Cecil of Duke captured the women’s singles crown. Britton ended a 22-match win streak by Steve Moneke, beating the Ohio State senior 3-6 6-2 6-3. In her final, Cecil beat Laura Vallverdu of the University of Miami 7-5 6-4.
Southern California has been awarded the 2008 Pac-10 Conference men’s tennis title after UCLA was penalized for using an ineligible player. The violation was self-reported by UCLA and the ineligible player wasn’t identified. UCLA had to forfeit all singles and doubles matches in which the player participated. As a result, team results of UCLA’s matches against Southern California and Arizona State were reversed, giving Southern Cal a 7-0 record. UCLA dropped into a second-place tie with Stanford at 5-2.
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
ATP and WTA
Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (second week)
$170,000 UniCredit Czech Open, Prostejov, Czech Republic, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$1,000,000 AEGON Championships, London, Great Britain, grass
$1,000,000 Gerry Weber Open, Halle, Germany, grass
$119,000 BSI Lugano Challenger, Lugano, Switzerland, clay
$220,000 AEGON Classic, Birmingham, Great Britain, grass
$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Marseille, Marseille, France, clay
The inaugural South African Open in Johannesburg saw an all-French final between hitting partners Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jeremy Chardy. Tsonga, who did not drop a set all week, earned $79,000 for his 6-4, 7-6 (5) performance. This is his third career title and first of 2009.
And in Croatia, two lanky locals — Marin Cilic and Mario Ancic — played in the finals of the PBZ Zagreb Indoors. Cilic’s 6-3, 6-4 win gives him his second title in five weeks and his third overall. He also now has a 13-1 match record for 2009, an ATP-best.
In Vina Del Mar, Chile, Fernando Gonzalez took home his fourth Movistar Open title by beating Jose Acasuso 6-1, 6-3.
(photos via Getty Images)
Marin Cilic beat Mario Ancic 6-3 6-4 to win the PBZ Zagreb Indoors in Zagreb, Croatia.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won the SA Tennis Open in Johannesburg, South Africa, beating Jeremy Chardy 6-4 7-6 (5)
Fernando Gonzalez beat Jose Acasuso 6-1 6-3 to win the Movistar Open in Vina del Mar, Chile
Michael Berrer defeated Alexandre Kudryavtsev 6-3 6-4 to win the KGHM Dialog Polish Indoors in Wroclaw, Poland
Italy beat France 5-0, Russia beat China 5-0, Czech Republic beat Spain 4-1, United States beat Argentina 3-2
World Group 2
(Winners advance to playoffs April 26-27)
Slovak Republic beat Belgium 4-1, Germany beat Switzerland 3-2, Serbia beat Japan 4-1, Ukraine beat Israel 3-2
“Before the tournament I was wishing that I would make the final here. That wish came true and especially today I played really well. It’s a really nice feeling to win here at home.” – Marin Cilic, who won the PBZ Zagreb Indoors by beating fellow Croatian Mario Ancic.
“To me, (this decision) is unacceptable. There are no limits anymore in the behavior a player can have with an umpire. It is unbelievable.” – Amelie Mauresmo, after Italy’s Flavia Pennetta gave the umpire the finger during their Fed Cup match in Orleans, France.
“I lost control of myself. It’s the first time it happened to me.” – Flavia Pennetta, who received a verbal warning and a USD $2,000 fine for her obscene gesture during her Fed Cup match against Amelie Mauresmo.
“I disagree with the top players talking on shortening the season because they have a choice to play in tournaments. Perhaps they can shorten their season of playing in selective tournaments.” – Vijay Amritraj, a former ATP president and player, disagreeing with Rafael Nadal’s demand for a shorter season.
“I have never said I would boycott tournaments in India. All I said was I don’t want to play in this meet. As a tennis player I’m allowed a week off if I’m tired.” – Sania Mirza, on not playing Fed Cup for India.
“When I was younger, I had a dream of being a tennis player and I have managed to keep the dream going. It’s the same for these small kids. The important thing is for them to realize their dreams.” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while coaching youngsters at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Soweto, South Africa.
“I am happy with the way I have handled matches mentally this week. I didn’t play well, but you have to win even if you don’t play well. I won the key points, so I am happy with that.” – Jelena Dokic, after leading Australia to a spot in the Fed Cup World Group II playoffs.
“I’m really thrilled that I was able to pull the third win off and help my team get through this tie. It was amazing atmosphere, amazing energy out here and the crowd was really behind me the whole time.” – Jelena Jankovic, who teamed with Ana Ivanovic to lead Serbia over Japan 4-1 and a spot in the World Group playoffs.
“The only thing I can have in my mind is ‘This is me.’ This is how I am. At zero-four, zero-five, it doesn’t matter, I’m still there. I was also a set and a break down in the second – so that’s it.” – Israel’s Shahar Peer, who rallied from a 0-4 deficit in the final set to beat Alona Bondarenko and force the Fed Cup tie into the decisive doubles match, which Ukraine won.
“The bank and beef business is where I put my energies now. There’s still a scoreboard, but it’s just not public.” – Alex O’Brien, the 1999 US Open men’s doubles champion and the latest inductee into the Texas Panhandle Hall Sports Hall of Fame.
“Obviously the title is great, but what I am happier about is the way we have played and the way we have glued so far because it doesn’t always work so well when you have a new partner.” – Martin Damm, after teaming with Robert Lindstedt to win their second ATP title in their first year as teammates.
“We wanted it to come down to the doubles. When Liezel’s on the court I feel really confident every single time.” – US team captain Mary Joe Fernandez, on Liezel Huber spearheading the doubles victory that gave the United States a come-from-behind 3-2 Fed Cup victory over Argentina.
SURFACE A NO-NO
Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal is calling for playing fewer tournaments on hard courts – the surface on which both the Australian and US Opens are contested. “This surface – hard court surface – is tougher than grass or clay for the body, and all the time we are playing more on this surface,” said Nadal. “In my humble opinion, we have to change that a bit more.” Nadal’s previous Grand Slam tournament wins have come on clay at Roland Garros and grass at Wimbledon. “When I say this, I think about the best for the players and for the future,” Nadal said. “It’s not possible to have a lot of injuries on tour like this. So we have to try to change something.”
While playing in South Africa, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga took time to coach children at a Soweto tennis center that had been built with money from Arthur Ashe. “I have African blood, so … I am happy to help sport in Africa and especially to improve the tennis,” the Frenchman said. “It was great what Arthur Ashe did and these sort of clinics are really important. This is the school of life and I am very happy to be able to help improve sport in Africa.” Tsonga’s father, Didier, was born in Congo. Joining Tsonga at the clinic were South African doubles specialists Jeff Cotzee and Wesley Moodie. The Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre was built in 1976 with funds donated by the first black man to win the US Open and Wimbledon. It was refurbished in 2007 and construction is underway to increase the number of courts from 10 to 16 and build a new clubhouse and grandstand.
SHARAPOVA STILL OUT
The shoulder injury she suffered last August is still bothering Maria Sharapova. The Russian withdrew from the Paris Open this week and the tournament in Dubai next week. Once ranked number one in the world, Sharapova’s ranking had dropped to number 17 in last week’s Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings. The 21-year-old Russian was not able to defend her Australian Open title last month, the second straight Grand Slam tournament she has missed. She also skipped the US Open last year.
SPEAKING WITH HANDS
Flavia Pennetta spoke with her hands, and that got the French quite upset. Pennetta reacted angrily when the umpire overruled a backhand passing shot that had been called in, giving Amelie Mauresmo a match point in their Fed Cup encounter. Pennetta reacted angrily to the call and received a verbal warning and a USD $2,000 fine. Alize Cornet, who watched the incident on television, said, “I must admit I was very shocked by Flavia’s behavior. Showing the middle finger is the worst possible insult, especially on a sports court.” Pennetta said it was the first time she “lost control” like that. The Italian came out on top, however, as Mauresmo double-faulted the match point, then proceeded to lose to Pennetta.
Jelena Dokic teamed with Samantha Stosur to lead Australia to the Fed Cup World Group II playoffs in April for the right to join the top 16 countries in next year’s Fed Cup. The Australians clinched the Asia/Oceania Zone I playoff as Dokic won all three of her matches in the competition held in Perth, Australia. Casey Dellacqua and Rennae Stubbs played doubles as Australia, the only team able to call on three players in the world’s top 100, swept all four ties, winning all 12 matches that were played.
While Australia moved up, India, playing without its top player, Sania Mirza, was winless in the competition, losing to Taiwan 3-0 in the relegation tie. India will drop to Asia/Oceania Zone Group II next year and will be replaced in Group I by Kazakhstan.
Estonia and Poland advanced to the World Group II playoffs by winning their Europe/Africa zonal groups. Estonia downed Belarus 2-0, while Poland beat Great Britain 2-1. Luxembourg and Bulgaria were relegated to Europe/Africa Zone Group II after losing to Austria and Bosnia & Herzegovina, respectively.
In the Americas Zone Group I, Canada defeated Paraguay for a spot in the World Group II playoffs. Puerto Rico and Bahamas were relegated to Americas Zone Group II for 2010.
Jelena Jankovic denied recent reports that she and Mladjan Janovic, a water polo player from Montenegro, were considering marriage. The two have been dating since the Beijing Olympic Games. “I’m still young to get married,” Jankovic said. “My career is still in the first place in my life and I want to devote myself to it. Of course I want to have a family one day, but not for now.” Janovic also denied any wedding plans.
“Jelena and I love each other,” he said, “but it is still too early for marriage. When I decide to get married, I will first tell my family and friends, not the whole world.”
SAYS “I DO”
Jarmila Gajdosova and Samuel Groth, who reached the second round of the mixed doubles competition at the Australian Open, are now married. The couple met in 2007 at the Australian Institute of Sports in Canberra while training. Gajdosova, a native of Bratislava, Slovakia, will assume her husband’s surname and compete on the WTA Tour as Jarmila Groth. She is currently ranked number 90 in the world, while her husband is ranked number 284.
Kateryna and Alona Bondarenko were forced to play doubles to give Ukraine a narrow 3-2 victory over Israel in a Fed Cup World Group II tie. The sisters, who won the 2008 Australian Open doubles, were not scheduled to play doubles against Israel. But Shahar Peer beat both sisters, giving Israel a 2-1 lead. In her match against Alona, Peer trailed 0-4 in the final set before winning 4-6 7-5 6-4. Kateryna then was stretched before beating Tzipi Obziler 6-1 4-6 6-0, making the doubles the clinching point. So the sisters went back onto the court and beat Peer and Obziler 6-3 6-2, advancing Ukraine into the World Group playoffs in April.
With a record Fed Cup crowd watching, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic powered Serbia into the World Group playoffs for the first time. A crowd of 15,118 showed up on opening day and Jankovic and Ivanovic, both ranked in the top 10 in the world, crushed their Japanese opponents in straight sets. Serbia had an insurmountable 4-0 lead in the best-of-five-matches competition when Japan’s Rika Fujiwara and Aiko Nakamura won the doubles when Jankovic and Ivanovic retired with the match tied after two sets. It was the first time Serbia had played a Fed Cup tie at home.
Branko Horvat, the tournament director of the PBZ Zagreb Indoors, says he received a death threat after Croatian Antonio Veic upset heavily favored Argentine Guillermo Canas. The e-mail Horvat received reportedly said: “This was your last tournament. I’m bankrupt because of you.” Anti-corruption authorities in Australia investigated the betting, but reported nothing unusual. Veic, who was wild-carded into the tournament, pulled off another surprise in the second round by beating Evgeny Korolev of Russia. Veic finally fell to eventual tournament champion Marin Cilic.
So what if Iran lost every match in its Asia/Oceania Group II Fed Cup competition. It was the first time in 37 years that Iran had fielded a women’s team. Their participation came after the International Tennis Federation (ITF) accepted their team uniform, a modified burka that allowed the players to observe their religious beliefs. When Shadi Tabatabaei, the team’s oldest player at 32, lost 6-2 6-1 on the final day, it was the first time in the three-day competition that Iran had won even a game in singles. Tabatabaei is the only member of the team not living in Iran, having earned Masters and PhD degrees at the University of Colorado and practiced at Nick Bollettieri’s tennis academy in Florida. She has played for Iran before, but only in the World Muslim Games held every four years in Tehran. The Fed Cup team was selected from approximately 500 women who are playing tennis in Iran.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has denied an appeal by a former men’s tennis coach at Texas Christian University (TCU) over violations of telephone contact rules with international players. Joey Rive argued that there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude he made 105 improper calls to recruits from 2002 to 2006. Rive also said the NCAA erred in classifying the violations as major. TCU reported the violations and was placed on two years’ probation a year ago. Rive resigned in 2006 when the allegations became public.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has begun a full-service Spanish-language version of its Fed Cup website. The new website, www.fedcup.com/es, will provide Spanish-speaking fans with current news and information in their own language. It also will feature original content in Spanish from ties around the world. Last year the ITF launched a Spanish version of its Davis Cup website.
SERENA TOP PICK
No surprise here. Serena Williams was the top pick in the World Team Tennis marquee draft. The winner of the last two Grand Slam tournament women’s singles titles, Serena will return to the Washington Kastles, who enter their second season in the 10-team summer league. She will play four matches, one at home in Washington, DC, and road matches at Philadelphia, Boston and Randall’s Island in New York City, the new home of the New York Sportimes. Also selected in the draft were Venus Williams (by Philadelphia), John McEnroe (Sportimes), Anna Kournikova (St. Louis), Michael Chang (Sacramento), Bob and Mike Bryan (Kansas City) and Martina Navratilova (Boston). The season runs July 2-26. The coed league, co-founded by Billie Jean King, enters its 34th season. Navratilova will play a league-record 20th season. Last month, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) became a minority owner of the WTT.
SAMPRAS IN MEXICO
Pete Sampras will return to the Outback Champions Tour next month when he joins the six-player field at the Del Mar Development Championship Club in Los Cabos, Mexico. Sampras, playing in Mexico for the first time in his professional career, will face two of his biggest rivals, Jim Courier and Patrick Rafter. He beat Courtier to win his first Wimbledon title in 1993 and topped Rafter in 2000 to win his seventh and final Wimbledon crown. The Del Mar Development Champions Cup, which will be played at the Palmilla Tennis Club, is a first-year event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over.
SELECTED TO HALL
Alex O’Brien is the 148th inductee into the Texas Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame. O’Brien won high school state championships in doubles and singles, three NCAA team titles as a four-time All-American at Stanford, the 1996 Pilot Pen International singles, 13 ATP Tour doubles titles, and the 1999 US Open men’s doubles with Sebastien Lareau, where they beat India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes. He played for the United States in Davis Cup competition five times and was on the US doubles team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. O’Brien currently is CEO of Littlefield Ranch, which sells prime steaks nationally, and president of The Bank of Commerce of Amarillo, Texas.
Zagreb: Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt beat Christopher Kas and Rogier Wassen 6-4 6-3
Vina del Mar: Pablo Cuevas and Brian Dabul beat Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak 6-3 6-3
Johannesburg: James Cerretani and Dick Norman beat Rik De Voest and Ashley Fisher 6-7 (7) 6-2 14-12 (match tiebreak)
Wroclaw: Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana beat Benedikt Dorsch and Sam Warburg 6-4 3-6 10-8 (match tiebreak)
SITES TO SURF
San Jose: www.sapopentennis.com/
Costa Do Sauipe: www2.uol.com.br/tenisbrasil/brasilopen/
Pattaya City: www.pentangelepromotions.com
Buenos Aires: www.copatelmex.com/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$1,877,000 ABN AMRO World Tennis, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, hard
$600,000 SAP Open, San Jose, California, USA, hard
$562,500 Brasil Open, Costa Do Sauipe, Brazil, clay
$700,000 Open GDF Suez, Paris, France, carpet
$220,000 PTT Pattaya Women’s Open, Pattaya City, Thailand, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
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
Now that the first Grand Slam of the year is behind us, it is time to turn our focus to multiple locations and the resumption of the 250 level tournaments. The three stops this week include Vina de Mar, Chile, Zagreb, Croatia and Johannesburg, South Africa. While Nadal, Federer and many of the big boys are taking some time off, there are still some notable names in action this week.
The first clay court tournament of the year will be underway at the Movistar Open in Vina del Mar, Chile. Many of the usual names you would expect on the red dirt will be present, including Juan Monaco, Augustin Calleri, Jose Acasuso and Juan Ignacio Chela. As I was going through the draw I was half-expecting to see names like Mariano Puerta, or Gaston Gaudio, but no such luck. Mariano Zabaleta is making a return to the pro tour here after making his way through two tough qualifying matches. The thirty year old is trying to resurrect his once solid career after being plagued by injuries in 2008.
Look for top seeded Fernando Gonzalez to go deep in the draw, as he has won the tournament three times before – in 2002, 2004, and a year ago as well.
For those of Croatian ancestry or simply looking to avoid the outdoor elements, then the indoor hard court tournament in Zagreb is for you!Won a year ago by lucky loser Sergiy Stakhovsky , expect a more familiar name this time around. With the draw sprinkled with homegrown talent, the deck is heavily stacked in their favor. MarioAncic, Ivan Ljubicic, Marin Cilic, and Ivo Karlovic are all lurking in the draw. I would expect one of them to give the home crowd something to cheer about come next weekend.
A brand new stop on the tour this year is in Johannesburg. The draw is very weak with the exception of three bigger names who have made the journey; Jo-Wilfriend Tsonga, David Ferrer and Marcos Baghdatis. Tsonga leads the charge as number one seed, and I would not be surprised to see him face number two seeded Ferrer in the final. This could be a good opportunity for Baghdatis to put a few much needed wins under his belt or for a relatively unknown player to pick up some points and confidence. Rik De Voest is the strongest local hope with a wild card entry. Oddly enough a photo of Gael Monfils remains on the tournament website – perhaps a late withdrawal.
Argentina was a clear favorite before the Davis Cup final against Spain, because of many reasons. First of all, Spanish No. 1 in the world, Rafael Nadal had to withdraw from the final due to injury, moreover the two best currently Argentinian players, David Nalbandian and Juan Martin del Potro had been very successful autumn, playing indoor tournaments (Davis Cup final in 2008, was also played indoor, in Mar del Plata), finally Argentina hasn’t lost on the home soil for 10 years.
In the first rubber on Friday, as anticipated, David Nalbandian without problems overcame 6-3 6-2 6-3 David Ferrer who has been out of form for a few months. Nalbandian lost his serve twice but from first to the last point of the match dictating the conditions on the court. “I don’t think it was one of my best matches, but I played very well” said Nalbandian.
Feliciano Lopez leveled the tie, after 4-6 7-6 7-6 6-3 win over Juan Martin del Potro. The young Argentinian served 25 aces (the most in career so far), didn’t lose a service game in the first three sets but couldn’t prevail in the tie-breaks which lost 2-7 and 4-7, despite 4:2 up in the second one. Lopez has won 12 tie-breaks in a row, and it’s the best result this year (Andy Roddick is a record holder in this category, since last year with 18 cosecutive wins in the tie-breaks). “When I won the second tiebreak, I had a great injection of hope,” said Lopez. “In the last set, he didn’t look 100 per cent fit” – at 2:3 down in the fourth set, Del Potro started to stagger because of a strain in his thigh. After medical time-out lost his serve and it was crucial point not only for that match but for the whole Davis Cup final.
Argentinian doubles is the weakest link in the team, but David Nalbanian and Agustin Calleri were very close on Satrurday to lead 2-1 in sets against duo Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco who are very experienced in tigh Davis Cup matches, and are dangerous for the best doubles teams in the world. At 1-1 in sets, the Spaniards had wasted set point on Verdasco’s serve at 5:1, and later found themselves at 1:5 down in the tie-break! Nalbandian served a double fault in that moment, began to argue with the chair umpire, and completely lost the concetration. The Spaniards won another 5 points what gave them the set and the fourth set easily, albeit they wasted double match point on Verdasco’s serve in the 7th game. Final score: 5-7 7-5 7-6 6-3 for the left-handed Spaniards.
In the first rubber on Sunday, team captains, Alberto Mancini (Argentina) and Emilio Sanchez (Spain) decided to change nominal players. Jose Acasuso had to replace injured Juan Martin del Potro and Fernando Verdasco replaced David Ferrer.
“When Ferrer found out he was not playing, he took it well,” said Sanchez. “He immediately offered his support to Fernando which helped him come out on court.”
It was just second encounter of these two players but first indoor. After dropping the first set 3-6, Acasuso won second and third set, despite losing his service games twice in both sets, to give the hope for the loud Argentinian spctators. Unfortunately for them, “Chucho” lost his serve at 2:3 down in the fourth set. In the next game the Argentinian had double break point but wasted chances, his last in the match. After the end of the fourth set, Acasuso took a medical time-out because of abdominal strain. Fifth set was one-sided, Verdasco quickly raced to a 4:0 lead and converted third match point with his best stroke – forehand down the line to win almost four-hour match 6-3 6-7 4-6 6-3 6-1.
“I was more relaxed after the fourth set,” said Verdasco who fulfilled his childhood dream of winning Davis Cup for Spain. “I understood we needed tactics to win the match and I realised that he was tired so I took advantage of making him run.”
Acasuso as the first player in history has lost twice decisive rubber in Davis Cup final, two years ago he was beaten by Marat Safin the the fifth rubber of the final between Russian and Argentina in Moscow. In turn, Fernando Verdasco has been 25th player in the Open Era who won decisive rubber in Davis Cup final, only four players have won that final match twice (Stan Smith, John McEnroe, Pat Cash and Mark Phiippoussis).
Spain has won Davis Cup for the third time in six final appearances (lost finals in 1965, 1967 and 2003, losing to Australia on all three occasions), has triumphed every four years with different squad in the finals on each occasion since lifting the trophy for the first time in 2000 with victory on clay in Barcelona over Australia (Juan Carlos Ferrero, Albert Costa played in singles, Alex Corretja, Juan Balcells in doubles); it defeated the USA on its favored clay in Seville in 2004 (Rafael Nadal, Carlos Moya in singles, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Tommy Robredo in doubles). In 2008 beside Ferrer, Verdasco and Lopez, Marcel Granollers (a substitute of Nadal) was the fourth member of the winning team.
Spain d. Argentina 3-1 at Mar del Plata, Argentina: Hard (Indoor)
David Ferrer (ESP) l. David Nalbandian (ARG) 3-6 2-6 3-6
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) d. Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) 4-6 7-6(2) 7-6(4) 6-3
Feliciano Lopez/Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Agustin Calleri/David Nalbandian (ARG) 5-7 7-5 7-6(5) 6-3
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Jose Acasuso (ARG) 6-3 6-7(3) 4-6 6-3 6-1
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) vs. David Nalbandian (ARG) Not Played
Dmitry Tursunov beat Karol Beck 6-4 6-3 to win the IPP Open in Helsinki, Finland
Caroline Wozniacki won the Nordea Danish Open, beating Sofia Arvidsson 6-2 6-1 in Odense, Denmark
Jim Courier beat Stefan Edberg 6-3 6-4 to win the Legends “Rock” Dubai Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
David Nalbandian (Argentina) beat David Ferrer (Spain) 6-3 6-2 6-3
Feliciano Lopez (Spain) beat Juan Martin del Potro (Argentina) 4-6 7-6 (2) 7-6 (4) 6-3
Feliciana Lopez and Fernando Verdasco (Spain) beat Agustin Calleri and David Nalbandian (Argentina) 5-7 7-5 7-6 (5) 6-3
Fernando Verdasco (Spain) beat Jose Acasuso (Argentina) 6-3 6-7 (3) 4-6 6-3 6-1
“It’s the most exciting victory of my life. Playing for my country, against the best players, it’s a dream.” – Fernando Verdasco, after winning the clinching point to give Spain its third Davis Cup title.
“I was prepared for the match, but Verdasco played very well in the fourth and fifth sets. He started serving better and deserves a lot of credit for this win.” – Jose Acasuso, after losing decisive match to Fernando Verdasco
“When you lose such an important player like Juan Martin, it opens a big hole in the team. After that, things got complicated for us.” – Alberto Mancini, Argentina Davis Cup captain.
“I have to remember Rafael Nadal because we played the Davis Cup final thanks to him.” -Verdasco, honoring the man who won two singles matches in the semifinals against the United States.
“Nadal gave us several victories, and thanks to him we are here. But the players who are here are the ones who deserve all the credit now.” – Emilio Sanchez Vicario, Spain’s Davis Cup captain.
“This is a great finish to a great year. Dubai is a fantastic place for me, and for all the players, to end up the season.” – Jim Courier.
“We get our grounds back and then we can decide what we do with it and be in charge of our own destiny, while it secures investment in British tennis for the next 40 years until 2053.” – Tim Phillips, on Wimbledon paying USD $83 million to gain total control of the All England Club.
“Carole and I first met when we were both 12 years old and remained lifelong friends. More than any other person, Carole worked tirelessly behind the scenes to be the driving force and influential leader of Fed Cup, the international women’s tennis team competition.” – Billie Jean King, about Carole Graebner, who died at the age of 65.
SPAIN SI SI
So what if the world’s number one player, Rafael Nadal, is missing. Spain still won its third Davis Cup by besting Argentina 3-1 in the best-of-five international competition. The winning point came on the first “reverse singles” when Fernando Verdasco outlasted Jose Acasuso 6-3 6-7 (3) 4-6 6-3 6-1 before a boisterous crowd in Mar Del Plata, Argentina. It was a battle of replacements as Verdasco had replaced David Ferrer for Spain and Acasuso was a replacement for the injured Juan Martin de Potro. Feliciano Lopez had rallied to give Spain its first point by upsetting del Potro 4-6 7-6 (2) 7-6 (4) 6-3, then teamed with Verdasco to win the doubles, besting Agustin Calleri and David Nalbandian 5-7 7-5 7-6 (5) 6-3. It was the first time Spain had won a Davis Cup title on the road. Playing on home courts, Spain beat Australia in 2000 and the United States in 2004.
For Jose Acasuso, losing the decisive match to give Spain the Davis Cup title was doubly devastating. The Argentine became the first man to lose two decisive five-set matches in Davis Cup finals, having also lost to Marat Safin in five sets in 2006 as Russia beat Argentina for the title. In the fourth set of the match against Spain, the trainer came onto court to work on Acasuso’s abdominal strain. “There was a lot of sadness in the locker room after the loss,” Acasuso said, “and the fact that three of the four of us lost to Russia two years ago means that the pain was double.”
STRAIGHT TO JAIL
Jimmy Connors was arrested at a University of California Santa Barbara basketball game when he refused to move on after being instructed to do so by police officers. An eight-time Grand Slam tournament champion, Connors refused to leave an area near the entrance of the Thunderdome following a confrontation, according to police. The tennis great was arrested at the beginning of the game and was taken to the Santa Barbara County jail where he was booked and released.
SUCCESS AT HOME
Caroline Wozniacki’s return home ended in triumph. Denmark’s top player won the Nordea Danish Open by defeating Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson 6-2, 6-1. “I played incredibly stable and pushed her around the court, just as I had planned,” Wozniacki said. “Therefore, she never really got started. So I win the fight, and since it was on my home ground, I am obviously more than happy.” Ranked 12th in the world, Wozniacki was the highest ranked player ever to play an International Tennis Federation (ITF) Women’s Circuit event. It was the first USD $100,000 women’s tournament played in Denmark.
STEFANKI ON BOARD
Andy Roddick has a new coach. The former world number one player announced on his website that he has hired Larry Stefanki, who has previously coached John McEnroe, Marcelo Rios, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Tim Henman and Fernando Gonzalez. Under Stefani’s guidance, both Rios and Kafelnikov reached the world number one ranking. Roddick has been without a coach since splitting from Jimmy Connors.
SEEKING OWN DESTINY
Wimbledon is buying back its own club. Organizers of the grass court Grand Slam tournament will pay USD $83 million to regain total control of the All England Club, buying back the 50 percent it gave away in 1934. The money will be paid to Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association after the existing agreement expires. Under the 40-year deal, the All England Club will keep 10 percent of the profits instead of giving it all to the LTA, the governing body of British tennis. This year’s tournament generated a profit of USD $39 million.
SPOTLIGHT ON VILAS
Guillermo Vilas is this year’s recipient of the Davis Cup Award of Excellence. The International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) presented the award to Vilas during the Davis Cup final between Spain and Argentina in Mar del Plata, Argentina. ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti presented the award to Vilas with past award recipients Neale Fraser (2001), Pierre Darmon (2002) and Manolo Santana (2004) in attendance. Vilas holds the Argentinean Davis Cup record for most total wins (57), most singles wins (45), most doubles wins (12), most ties played (29), most years played (14) and best doubles team, with Jose-Luis Clerc. Born in Mar del Plata in 1952, the left-hander is credited with being the first Argentine to win a Grand Slam tournament singles (Roland Garros in 1977) and the first Argentine to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame (1991). He also won the last US Open to be played at Forest Hills in 1977.
Jim Courier closed out the 2008 Outback Champions Series season in style by capturing the Emirates NBD The Legends “Rock” Dubai Championships. Courier beat Stefan Edberg 6-3, 6-4 to win his fourth tournament title of the year on the tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. He also won titles this year in Grand Cayman, Charlotte and Dallas, was finished the 2008 Outback Champions Series as its number one player in the Stanford Champions Rankings. Counting his Stanford Financial Group bonus, Courier won USD $404,000 in prize money this year.
STARS OF OLD
BlackRock Tour of Champions stars John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg joined up with Roger Federer and James Blake for a series of exhibition matches in Macao, China. Federer bested Blake 6-4 6-4 and Borg edged McEnroe in a one-set clash 7-6 before the two Americans teamed up to beat Borg and Federer 10-7 in a single Champions’ Tiebreak.
Julia Parker Goyer, a Duke University graduate and tennis player, was among 32 Americans chosen as a Rhodes Scholar. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Goyer graduated with a psychology major and neuroscience minor in May 2007. She will pursue a masters of science in comparative and international education at Oxford University in England. After making trips to Vietnam and Belize in 2007, Goyer founded the Coach for College program, which sends student-athletes to teach middle schoolers in rural areas of developing countries.
Carole Caldwell Graebner, who won doubles titles at the US and Australian Championships in the 1960s, is dead. She was 65. The top-ranked doubles player in the United States in 1963, Graebner teamed with Nancy Richey to win the 1965 US Championships, now the US Open, and the 1966 Australian Championships, now the Australian Open. She reached the US Championships women’s singles final in 1964, losing to Brazil’s Maria Bueno. Graebner was a member of the inaugural 1963 US Fed Cup team, and played college tennis alongside Billie Jean King at California State University at Los Angeles. She later served as United States Tennis Association (USTA) chair of the Fed Cup committee, and was a vice president of Tennis Week magazine and a radio and television commentator. She is survived by a daughter, Cameron Graebner Mark; a son, Clark Edward Graebner Jr.; and four grandchildren.
Helsinki: Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach beat Eric Butorac and Lovro Zovko 6-7 (2) 7-6 (7) 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Odense: Sarah Borwell and Courtney Nagle beat Gabriela Chmelinova and Mervana Jugic-Salkic 6-4 6-4
SITES TO SURF
WTA Tour: www.sonyericssonwtatour.com
The King of Clay, Rafael Nadal is arguably the greatest to ever play the game on the red clay. Why is he so good and why has he been able to carry his success over to other surfaces?
Nadal’s first advantage is that he is a lefty which helps greatly as it matches his strength – his forehand – up against most players’ weakness – their backhand. Even if his opponent has a great backhand on the clay they are hitting off balance and above there shoulders too often to be as aggressive as they would be on a faster surface with lower bounces.
Nadal’s second advantage is the incredible amount of spin that he generates off of his forehand wing – this makes timing very difficult for his opponents. They are constantly having to take the ball on the rise to hold there position on the court. Nadal’s court coverage, foot speed andknowledge of how to construct points on the clay are a huge advantage. He has the patience and the killer instinct to wait for the right opportunity to force an error from his opponent or to hit a winner while inside the baseline.
Nadal has the ability to work/construct the point on clay to where his winning shot is most likely his easiest shot of the point as his opponent is either so far out of position or too tired to even try to get to the next shot. This ability is what has allowed him to translate his success to other surfaces. You may be asking why can’t players like Tommy Robredo, Nicolas Almagro, Jose Acasuso, Gael Monfils do the same as they are born and breed clay courters with great knowledge of how to play and construct points. The reason is that most clay courters are either incredible movers who chase everything down and wear their opponents down or they are great at constructing points on the clay – which wins them easy points.
Nadal has the ability to not only do the above but he is able to move into the court and muscle the ball that he has taking on the rise and then move in behind it to finish the point off with a volley. He is comfortable doing this on surfaces other than clay where your staple clay courters try to play clay court tennis on hard and grass courts.
I would like to see Nadal take a nice long break after Wimbledon to heal his body and knees which will make him fit and strong for the hard court season as I believe he would be a great player on the hard courts if he was able to play select events and stay healthy. If Nadal was able to have a great end of year and not fade away like he has done in the last two years then watch out. He would be a serious contender at the Australian Open if he didn’t have to take December to heal but instead to train.