Justine Henin-Hardenne

BRING ON A HENIN vs. SERENA FINAL

A blockbuster Justine Henin vs. Serena Williams women’s singles final at the 2010 Australian Open looks like a strong possibility.

A renewal of one of the best rivalries in women’s tennis over the last 10 years looks to be in the cards as the bottom half of the women’s draw opened up with losses by No. 2 seed Dinara Safina and No. 3 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Henin defeating fellow Belgian Yanina Wickmayer 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3, to advance into the quarterfinals.

To reach the Australian Open final in only her second tournament back from a 20-month retirement, Henin will have to beat Petrova and then the winner of the Maria Kirilenko vs. Jie Zheng quarterfinal.

Henin won six and lost seven matches against Serena during their rivalry and the two future Hall of Famers have combined for 18 major singles titles. The two players seems destined for a second-round collision course at the pre-Aussie Open event in Sydney, but Henin withdrew from the event after losing an exhausting final the week before against Kim Clijsters in Brisbane.

“I’m sure she’ll be ready and amped to go,” Williams said two weeks ago about the possibility of playing Justine in Sydney. “She has a good record against me so I’m sure it will be a good match.”

Williams lost only two games in their last encounter at Miami in 2008, shortly before Henin announced her shock retirement from tennis while holding the No. 1 ranking. Their most famous – and contentious – match came on June 5, 2003, as documented and excerpted below in the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com)

2003 – Serena Williams is defeated by Belgium’s Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 in front of a raucously pro-Henin Hardenne crowd in the semifinals of the French Open, ending Williams’ 33-match major tournament winning streak. The match is highlighted by an incident in the third-set that proves to be contentious and acrimonious between the two rivals for years to come. With Williams serving at 4-2, 30-0 in the final set, Henin-Hardenne raises her hand indicating she is not ready to return serve. Williams serves in the net, then protests, to no avail, to the chair umpire and tournament referee that she should be given a first serve, while Henin-Hardenne says nothing of her gesture. Williams then loses the next four points to lose her service-break advantage and eventually the match. Says Henin-Hardenne, “I wasn’t ready to play the point. The chair umpire is there to deal with these kind of situations. I just tried to stay focused on myself and tried to forget all the other things…It’s her point of view but that’s mine now and I feel comfortable with it….I didn’t have any discussion with the chair umpire. He didn’t ask me anything. I was just trying to focus on playing the returns. She saw me and she served. It was her decision to serve. I just tried to stay focused on the second serve. One point in the match doesn’t change the outcome.”

Safina retired with a back injury in her round of 16 match with Maria Kirilenko, trailing 4-5. Petrova, who upset reigning U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters 6-0, 6-1 in the third round, continued her run by upsetting reigning French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.  Serena Williams faces Aussie Sam Stosur in the round of 16 on Monday night.

Beginnings and Endings For Jim Courier

In the Tuesday, March 24 edition of “Tennis History Tuesday” we note a significant day in tennis history for Jim Courier. As excerpted from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com), today marks the 18th anniversary of Courier winning the biggest title of his young career back in 1991 at then branded Lipton Championships (now the Sony Ericssson Open). Nine-years later in 2000, Courier wins his final match on the ATP, taking out 18-year-old David Nalbandian in the first round of the then-branded Ericsson Open (also the current day Sony Ericsson Open.) The full book excerpt is below.

1991 – No. 18-ranked Jim Courier wins the biggest title of his career to date, defeating David Wheaton 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla. “I feel like I can compete with anybody out there,” says Courier following the win, which vaults him into the top 10 for the first time in his career at No. 9.

2000 – Jim Courier wins what eventually becomes his final match on the ATP Tour, defeating 18-year-old David Nalbandian of Argentina 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the first round of the Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla. “This is the golden twilight for a certain period of American tennis, but hopefully the dawning of a new era,” says the 29-year-old Courier following the win over Nalbandian, playing his first ATP Tour level match. “What are you going to do? I’ve been on the tour and this is my 13th year. Pete [Sampras] and [Michael] Chang the same. And Andre [Agassi] has been around even longer. People can’t expect us to be around forever. Hopefully we’ll be around competitively a few more years, but it’s the enjoy-it-while-you-can time of our careers. You start to get limited physically once you get into your 30s.” The next day, Courier plays what is his final professional singles match, losing to world No. 7-ranked Thomas Enqvist of Sweden 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4.

1927 – In a match described by The New York Times as “spectacular and bitterly contested,” George Lott, the No. 9 ranked American, upsets U.S. No. 1 Bill Tilden 6-3, 0-6, 7-5, 6-3 to win the Halifax Tennis Championships in Ormand Beach, Fla. Writes the Times, “Lott stuck stubbornly to his method of going after every return. Long rallies were frequent with Lott winning better than his share. Many of the game went to deuce. The large gallery was on the side of the 20-year-old ninth ranking player.”

1990 – Sixteen-year-old Monica Seles wins the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla., – her second career singles title – defeating Judith Wiesner of Austria 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

1998 – Seventeen-year-old Martina Hingis saves two match points and comes back from a 3-5, 15-40 third-set deficit to defeat 16-year-old Serena Williams 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (4) in the quarterfinals of the Lipton Championships.

2005 – In a battle of the shortest and tallest players on the ATP Tour, five-foot-four inch Olivier Rochus of Belgium defeats six-foot-ten Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) in the first round of the NASDAQ-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Fla.

2006 – American Meghann Shaughnessy, who loses her first five matches of 2006, breaks out of her funk at the NASDAQ-100 in Miami, upsetting No. 3 seed Justine Henin-Hardenne 7-5, 6-4 in the second-round. “This one is very special because I’ve been struggling lately and haven’t been playing my best tennis,” says Shaughnessy, who doesn’t face a break point in the match. “So to go out and play a match like that against Justine, it means a lot to me.”

“Mom” Bammer Makes Tennis History; Seeks More

Sybille Bammer of Austria became a part of tennis history Sunday when she defeated Marion Bartoli of France 7-6 (3), 0-6, 6-4 to advance into the quarterfinals of the US Open. According to The Bud Collins History of Tennis, An Authoritative Encyclopedia and Record Book ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennistomes.com), the 3-hour, 5-minute match is the longest women’s singles match in the history of the US Open – two minutes longer than the 2003 US Open semifinal between Jennifer Capriati and Justine Henin-Hardenne, won by Henin-Hardenne 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4).

Bammer, the mother of a seven-year-old daughter Tina, will next play No. 2 seed Jelena Jankovic. While a long-shot to win the title, the No. 30-ranked Bammer is looking to join a very exclusive club of five moms to win a major singles title. Moms to win a major singles title are as follows;

Dorothea Douglass Chambers – The British great won two of her Wimbledon titles after the birth of her first child (1910, 1911) and two more after the birth of her second child (1913, 1914).

Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman – She was challenged by her father to win the U.S. Championship after she became a mom. In her first return appearance, she lost in the 1915 singles final to Molla Mallory, but she did turn the trick until 1919, when at 32 years old, she beat Marion Zinderstein Jessup 6-1, 6-2 to win her fourth U.S. title.

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Sarah Palfrey Cooke – This American star did not defend her 1941 U.S. title due to pregnancy (she was married to standout American player Elwood Cooke), but she won the 1945 U.S. title, beating Pauline Betz as a 33-year-old mother.

Margaret Court – The Australian who was the most prolific winner of majors championships ever (62 titles in singles, doubles and mixed) actually played the 1971 Wimbledon women’s singles final while pregnant with her first child, son Daniel, losing to Evonne Goolagong. Court, however, returned to win the Australian, French and U.S. Opens in 1973.

Evonne Goolagong – The most recent of moms to win a major, Goolagong beat Chris Evert Lloyd in the 1980 Wimbledon final.

Tarango Wins USTA Futures In Wisconsin

ELM GROVE, Wisconsin, August 10, 2008 – Unseeded Daniel Yoo of Korea won the singles title at the Time Warner Cable “Road Runner Pro Tennis Classic,” dominating No. 6 seed Ryan Young, of the United States, 6-2, 6-1. Both the singles and doubles final were completed during Sunday’s play.

Yoo won 10 of the last 11 games in the match as he used his retrieving style of play to wear Young down throughout the match. This is the first pro singles title of Yoo’s career.

In the doubles final, former U.S. Olympian Jeff Tarango combined with Edward Kelly, of the United States, to take the title over No. 3 seeds Raven Klaasen, of South Africa, and Ryan Young, of the United States, 6-3, 3-6, 11-9. Tarango and Kelly trailed 3-0 in the super tiebreak  before storming back to win the match. This is the first professional title for Kelly and Tarango’s first title since winning the ATP Tour doubles event in Gstaad back in 2000.

The Time Warner Cable “Road Runner Pro Tennis Classic,” now in its second consecutive year, is part of the summer hard court swing on the USTA Pro Circuit that leads to the US Open. The tournament will feature 32 singles players and 16 doubles teams.   Players ranked as high as No. 200 in the world typically compete in futures-level events.

Futures level tournaments feature prize money ranging from $10,000 to $15,000, and are a stepping stone for future champions to move on to the ATP Tour. Participants from last year’s event including Carsten Ball and Michael Yani have since progressed on to ATP Tour and Challenger level tournaments. The USTA Futures of Milwaukee has featured numerous players who are top-ranked players in their country, as well as top-ranked NCAA and international junior players. For more information, please visit the official tournament website, www.skpromotions.com

With 96 tournaments throughout the country and prize money ranging from $10,000 to $75,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals.  More than 1,100 men and women from 79 countries competed on the USTA Pro Circuit in 2007 for nearly $3 million in prize money and valuable ATP and WTA Tour ranking points.  Andre Agassi, James Blake, Lindsay Davenport, Mardy Fish, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova are among today’s top stars that began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit.  For more information, please visit procircuit.usta.com

Tarango Wins Again

ELM GROVE, Wisconsin, August 7, 2008 – Top seed Raven Klaasen, of South Africa, and No. 2 seed Yuichi Ito, of Japan, fell in the second round at the Time Warner Cable “Road Runner Pro Tennis Classic,” held at the Western Racquet Club from August 4-10. All second round singles matches and quarterfinal doubles matches were completed during Thursday’s play.

Klaasen lost the last eight games of the match as he fell to Hyung-Kwon Kim, of Korea, 6-4, 6-0. American Kaes Van’t Hof recorded one of the biggest wins of his career in upsetting Ito, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.

No. 4 seed Tigran Martirosyan, of Armenia, continued his strong play on the USTA Pro Circuit this summer by defeating American qualifier Matthew Allare, 6-3, 6-4. In a match lasting well over three hours, No. 6 seed Ryan Young, of the United States, defeated American qualifier Nicolas Meister 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3. No. 7 seed Adam Thompson, of New Zealand, rallied from a break down in the final set to defeat American qualifier John Hoyes, 6-0, 4-6, 6-3. Sheeva Parbhu was the third and final American to advance into the quarterfinals, defeating fellow American Connor Pollock, 7-5, 2-6, 6-1.

In doubles, former top 10 doubles player Jeff Tarango advanced into the semifinals with fellow American Edward Kelly. The pair fought off three set points in the opening set as they defeated the American team of Matthew Allare and Justin Kronauge, 7-5, 6-7 (3), 10-3. Milwaukee native Jim Slonac narrowly lost his quarterfinal doubles match with American Brian Compton, failing to convert two match points in losing to the top seeded team of Dane Fernandez, of Australia, and Adam Thompson, of New Zealand, 6-4, 2-6, 13-11.

The singles quarterfinals and doubles semifinals will take place during Friday’s play. The feature afternoon match will take place at 3:00 p.m. and features Edward Kelly and Jeff Tarango, of the United States, taking on the top seeded team of Dane Fernandez, of Australia, and Adam Thompson, of New Zealand.

The Time Warner Cable “Road Runner Pro Tennis Classic,” now in its second consecutive year, is part of the summer hard court swing on the USTA Pro Circuit that leads to the US Open. The tournament will feature 32 singles players and 16 doubles teams. Players ranked as high as No. 200 in the world typically compete in futures-level events.

Tickets for the Time Warner Cable “Road Runner Pro Tennis Classic” are available for $10 for any day throughout the tournament and can be purchased at the door. Weeklong tickets are also available at the door for $50. The tournament website, www.skpromotions.com, is also selling day pass tickets for $7, or weeklong tickets for $45.

Futures level tournaments feature prize money ranging from $10,000 to $15,000, and are a stepping stone for future champions to move on to the ATP Tour. Participants from last year’s event including Carsten Ball and Michael Yani have since progressed on to ATP Tour and Challenger level tournaments. The USTA Futures of Milwaukee has featured numerous players who are top-ranked players in their country, as well as top-ranked NCAA and international junior players. For more information, please visit the official tournament website, www.skpromotions.com

With 96 tournaments throughout the country and prize money ranging from $10,000 to $75,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. More than 1,100 men and women from 79 countries competed on the USTA Pro Circuit in 2007 for nearly $3 million in prize money and valuable ATP and WTA Tour ranking points. Andre Agassi, James Blake, Lindsay Davenport, Mardy Fish, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova are among today’s top stars that began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit. For more information, please visit procircuit.usta.com