Katarina Srebotnik

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Will Huber and Raymond Notch a Season for the Ages?

Liezel Huber (left) and Lisa Raymond (right) - Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

It’s as if winning streaks are a prerequisite if you’re going to be at the top of the rankings. Novak Djokovic won dozens of matches in a row last year, and in 2012, Victoria Azarenka is unbeaten.

In  women’s doubles, the world’s number-one pair of Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond is racking up the victories. The Americans are in the semifinals at this week’s tournament in Indian Wells, Calif., bringing their winning streak in ’12 to 15.

And it doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon.
Granted, the veterans’ start to the season didn’t give any indication of where they would be at now. They lost in the finals of their first tournament in Sydney to Katarina Srebotnik and Kveta Peschke. Then, Huber and Raymond went on to the year’s first Grand Slam, the Australian Open, and fell in the quarterfinals to Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina in a controversial match.
Since that loss, though, Huber and Raymond have been on a tear: They won the Paris Indoors and the tournaments in Doha and Dubai. Between those three events, they were only pushed to a match tiebreak four times out of 12 matches.
But probably the most impressive result they had over those tournament wins was in the finals in Dubai: There, they won a rematch of sorts against Mirza and Vesnina, 6-2, 6-1.
If Mirza and Vesnina are among their chief rivals and they’re dismissing them so easily, what does that say about the year Huber and Raymond are capable of having in 2012?
Plenty.
After Indian Wells, it’s off to Miami for another tournament on hard courts, the pair’s best surface. Then, the clay-court season gets into full swing. There are teams that will definitely challenge the two with doubles on the dirt relying more on ball-striking than playing the classic serve-and-volley style displayed by Huber and Raymond.
However, neither one of them is strangers to having success on clay: Raymond’s a former French Open champion and Huber has made the finals of the season’s second Slam. Both of them have won numerous titles on the surface with different partners over the years.
Weather that storm then it’s off to the brief grass-court season, which includes what some consider the game’s biggest prize, Wimbledon. Not many players in the field will have the grass-court pedigree of the American pair as both of them have won at the All-England Club in the past, too.
This being an Olympic year, they would have to be considered among the favorites for a Gold medal—provided they’re selected to represent the U.S., which isn’t a given, despite what they’ve accomplished. But if they aren’t chosen for the team, then that gives them the chance to get an early start on the summer hard-court swing. It’s obvious the defending U.S. Open champions are at their best when on the concrete and have proven they can get through the unique challenges the last Major of the year provides.
The fall indoor season sees Huber and Raymond back playing in conditions similar to where their 2012 winning streak first started. And with the year-end championship only requiring two matches won to be named the victor, a title at the season finale would be a proper way to cap off 2012.
While the season is still early, the possibility is there for Huber and Raymond to find their names in the record books among some of the game’s all-time greats. Djokovic and Azarenka have made it look easy at times on the singles front, why can’t two players get it done?

ASB Classic Preview: Lisicki, Goerges, Kuznetsova In Action

ASB Classic, Meet the seeds portrait session, 31 December 2011

by Stephanie Neppl, Special for Tennis Grandstand

The 2012 ASB Classic is underway and it’s lining up to be a memorable tournament with stellar fields in both singles and doubles.

Despite the withdrawal of drawcard Venus Williams, the singles draw is full of big names and big talent. We’ve got our previous two champions in 2011 winner Greta Arn and 2010 champ Yanina Wickmayer as well as former runners up Flavia Pennetta (2010) and Elena Vesnina (2009) all in the main draw.

Sabine Lisicki, who was forced to play qualifing in Auckland in 2011 thanks to an injury that saw her ranking plummet, is the top seed. Lisicki made noise through 2011 with two tournament wins and a semifinal run as a Wimbledon wildcard. The smiley blonde has raised the interest of many tennis fans who relish the chance to see her big serve in action.

The field also includes Chinese #2 Peng Shuai, who lost a heartbreaker to Wickmayer in the semifinals here last year; two-time slam champ Svetlana Kuznetsova and German Julia Goerges. Goerges made the semis in 2011 and had some big results, including two wins over WTA #1 Caroline Wozniacki. It will be interesting to see how she fares this year with as the 5th seed and a lot more expectation than a year ago.

 

Pennetta, the #4 seed, made the final in 2010 but didn’t return in 2011. She had some inconsistent results in singles last year but had some big wins in the second half of the year – Maria Sharapova at the US Open and Caroline Wozniacki in Beijing.

New faces to Auckland this year include Italian Roberta Vinci (seeded #6), young American Christina McHale and two-time grand slam semifinalist Zheng Jie.

The doubles draw includes reigning Wimbledon champs Katarina Srebotnik and Kveta Peschke and  reigning French Open champs Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. Pennetta, who won the 2011 Aussie Open doubles title with Gisela Dulko, will partner Goerges in the doubles draw. Also competing are Elena Vesnina and Sania Mirza, who made the French Open final in 2011, and Lisicki and Peng are partnering up.

Follow the 2012 ASB Classic on www.asbclassic.co.nz, http://www.facebook.com/ASBClassic  and  http://twitter.com/#!/ASBClassicAuckl

(All photos © www.photosport.co.nz)

Stephanie Neppl is the Social Media Manager for Tennis Auckland covering the ASB Classic and Heineken Open. She is the author of the website I Have a Tennis Addiction and you can follow her on twitter @StephInNZ for further updates.

Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova: The Big Winners of 2011

wimbledon-champions-ball-2011

Who could ever doubt that Novak Djokovic wasn’t going to be named ITF World Champion. With an almost perfect 2011 winning three Grand Slam titles and seven other titles Djokovic is the rightful winner by all standards. Next to the seven titles, Djokovic also bags $12.6 million in prize money. He won even more than Rafael Nadal did in 2010 and Roger Federer in 2007.  Djokovic amazing season  is one for the best sports books!

“Starting with victory in last year’s Davis Cup final, this has been an almost perfect 12 months for me,” Djokovic said. “I have always dreamed about becoming the best in the world, and to have won three Grand Slam titles and finished the year as No. 1 is very special.”

I have to say that I am equally impressed with best newcomer Petra Kvitova. She came, she saw and took Wimbledon right from under Maria Sharapova’s grasp. Well that is not true…Sharapova really never stood a chance in that Wimbledon final.

Kvitova has won Wimbledon, the prestigious year end championships in Istanbul and the Fed Cup for the Czech Republic. What better way to end the 2011 season with this prestigious award for a prestigious season.

“I will cherish this award, which is the cherry on top of a wonderful year,” said the 21-year-old Kvitova, who edged out top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki – last year’s champion – in the voting.

The ITF President, Francesco Ricci Bitti, praised the two for their achievements.

“Novak’s achievements this year are remarkable in such a strong era for men’s tennis, while Petra has made a major breakthrough on the women’s tour.”

Other awards were given out to Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia for their efforts in women’s doubles.

All of them will receive the award at the ITF Champions Award dinner in June 2012.

Clash Of the Slovenians

The Slovenia entered its’ second round and one of the matches was the one between Polona Hercog versus Katarina Srebotnik.  Also known as the Battle of the Slovenians.

Polona Hercog beat Srebotnik in three sets 6-4, 6-7, 6-3.

Ralf Reinecke captured the oncourt battle graciously with his photocamera.

Federer commemorative stamp launched in Austria: This Week in Tennis Business

Daniela Hantuchova

From the Austrian Postal Service launching a commemorative Roger Federer stamp to the Andre Agassi Foundation raising $8 million during the Grand Slam for Children event in Las Vegas to former top-ranked doubles player Ai Sugiyama retiring from professional tennis to Li Na signing with IMG to tennis icon Jack Kramer being remembered at a memorial service at Starus Stadium at UCLA to John Isner and Melanie Oudin agreeing to team up in January to represent the United States in Hopman Cup, these stories caught the attention of tennis fans and insiders this week.

  • According to a report by AFP, the Austrian Postal Service will launch a commemorative stamp honoring Roger Federer and his record 15 Grand Slam singles titles. About 400,000 Federer stamps will be issued.

  • The Andre Agassi Foundation’s Grand Slam for Children event raised $8 million over the weekend in Las Vegas. The Engelstad Family Foundation also pledged another $7.5 million to Agassi’s Foundation over a five year period.

  • Ai Sugiyama of Japan has retired from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour following a first round defeat to Nadia Petrova at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. Sugiyama was honored on court during a special ceremony put on by WTA Tour officials and players to honor her remarkable career, which included speeches by her regular doubles partners Daniela Hantuchova and Katarina Srebotnik. Throughout her career, Sugiyama won six singles titles, 38 doubles titles and earned more than $8 million in tournament prize money.

  • Li Na, the highest ranked Chinese player ever on the WTA Tour, has signed a representation deal with IMG. “We are very pleased to have Li Na as an IMG client,” said Max Eisenbud, the Senior Vice President of IMG.

  • Tennis legend and the first executive of the ATP Tour Jack Kramer was remembered on Saturday during a memorial service at the Los Angeles Tennis Center on the campus on UCLA. Hundreds of people were in attendance during the service, as former WTA Tour star Pam Shriver and Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Dwyre acted as hosts of the ceremony. Barry MacKay, Tracy Austin, Donald Dell, US Open tournament director Jim Curley and former player Charlie Pasarell were among the speakers during the service.

  • John Isner and Melanie Oudin will represent the United States at the Hopman Cup from January 2-9, 2010 in Perth, Australia.

  • The inaugural Maria Sharapova South American Tour will take place from November 29 to December 4 and will feature the former Grand Slam singles champion and Argentine Gisela Dulko. The tour will feature exhibition matches between the players in San Paulo, Brazil on November 29, Santiago, Chile on December 2 and Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 4. Fashion shows, charity appearances and tennis clinics for the local children will also be a part of the three-city exhibition series.

  • The USTA and Levy Restaurants, the official restaurateur of the US Open, combined to donate more than 21,000 pounds of unused food from the US Open to City Harvest. City Harvest, which is based in New York City, is a food rescue organization that feeds people in need of food. “We are very thankful to the USTA and Levy Restaurants and for this generous donation,” said Jilly Stephens, the Executive Director at City Harvest. “Our long-standing partnership with the US Open demonstrates their commitment to helping us feed hungry New Yorkers.”

  • AEGON signed a five-year deal until 2013 to become the title sponsor of the prestigious Masters Tennis at Royal Albert Hall in London and will now be called the AEGON Masters Tennis. The tournament has featured former Wimbledon champions such as Pete Sampras, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. “We are delighted to welcome AEGON as our new title sponsor,” said Peter Worth, the Senior Vice President of IMG.

  • Defending US Open champion Kim Clijsters has announced her 2010 tournament schedule. Clijsters will play at Brisbane, Australian Open, Fed Cup, Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, French Open, Eastbourne/Rosmalen, Wimbledon, Cincinnati, Montreal, US Open, Beijing and possibly the year-end championships in Doha.

  • The 2010 Davis Cup World Group opening round ties have been announced:

      • Spain vs. Switzerland

      • France vs. Germany

      • Russia vs. India

      • Sweden vs. Argentina

      • Croatia vs. Ecuador

      • Serbia vs. United States

      • Chile vs. Israel

      • Belgium vs. Czech Republic

  • Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu has signed a sponsorship deal with Lagardere.

  • Romanian Andrei Pavel officially retired from the ATP World Tour following a straight sets loss to Pablo Cuevas in his hometown tournament last week in Bucharest. Pavel, who lives in the United States, will continue to be the captain for the Romanian Davis Cup team and has plans to open a tennis academy in Arizona.

  • Argentine tennis player Sergio Roitman has announced that he will retire from the ATP World Tour at the conclusion of the Copa Petrobas Challenger tournament in Buenos Aires. Roitman reached a career high ranking of No. 62 in October 2007 and has won more than $1.2 million in tournament prize money. “It is a strange moment for me, but the time has come for me to leave professional tennis,” said Roitman.

  • A lawsuit filed against Frenchman Richard Gasquet has been dismissed in Parisian courts stating no finding whether he took cocaine or if somebody else was responsible.

  • A Serbian court has confirmed that Jelena Dokic’s father has been sentenced to 15-months in prison for threatening to kill the Australian Ambassador to Serbia.

  • The Tennis Industry Association (TIA) is set to launch the website, www.playtennis.com. The website is designed to allow people to join the sport, learn more about tennis and get on a system to become a frequent player. “PlayTennis.com will be the first step,” said TIA President Jon Muir. “We’ll get key messaging out there through this site. It’s a wonderful opportunity for all stakeholders to get behind.”

  • Nine tennis professionals earned the distinction of Master Professional by the USPTA. The nine honorees were honored during the recent USPTA World Conference on Tennis at the Marriott Resort, Golf Club and Spa in Marco Island, Fla. Only about one percent of the 15,000 USPTA members have achieved the Master Professional merit.

  • Cory Ross of Littleton, Colo., won the men’s open division $30,000 USPTA International Championships on Thursday in Marco Island, while Marina McCollom of West Des Moines, Iowa won the women’s open division title.

  • Robert Greene Jr., of Rangeley, Maine, who is the Director of Tennis at the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch, N.H., earned the USPTA’s Alex Gordon Award for the Professional of the Year.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I’m Recharged

Caroline Wozniacki

STARS

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

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

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

SAYING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S’WONDERFUL

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

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

SAM THE MAN

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

SHHHHH!!

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

SEMFINAL SWITCH

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

SITTING IT OUT

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

SORE BUT THERE

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

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

STARTING OVER

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

SUBSTANCE ABUSE?

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

SERENA, THE AUTHOR

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

SENSITIVITY COURSE ALUMNI

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

STANDING TALL

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

SPOKESPEOPLE

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

STRONG VENUS

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

SUCCESS

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

SPIRITED CLOTHES

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

STEPPING DOWN

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

STANDING FOR OFFICE

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

STEADY SHOW

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

SHARED PERFORMANCES

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

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

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

SITES TO SURF

US Open: www.usopen.org

Kim Clijsters: www.kimclijsters.be/

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

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

Serena Williams: www.serenawilliams.com/

Venus Williams: www.venuswilliams.com/

Andy Roddick: www.andyroddick.com

Andre Agassi Foundation: www.agassiopen.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

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

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

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

ATP

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

Fashion Focus: Elena Denimantieva

Yonex decided to flex its design muscle by using “denim” — printed on a moisture-wicking syntehtic — for its fall ‘08 collection, which debuted in time for the fashion-forward U.S. Open. They even opted for orange thread as contrast stitching, giving the pieces a more authentic and rugged look.

Elena Dementieva played in the separates at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, where she lost to Katarina Srebotnik in the quarters. Notice the knot on th front lefft tank strap.

And this Russian wore the halter version during her semifinal run in New York. (She’s had a pretty good summer, following her semi @ Wimbledon with a gold medal from Beijing and the semi in NYC.)


Yonex’s Beijing kit for Elena.

And here’s the men’s denim line. As far as I can tell, none of the major tennis retail outlets are carrying this line in America.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I’m me. I love to show my emotion.

STARS

(U.S. Open first week)

Julie Coin beat top-seeded Ana Ivanovic 6-3 4-6 6-3

Katarina Srebotnik beat third-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 7-6 (1) 6-3

Kei Nishikori beat fourth-seeded David Ferrer 6-4 6-4 3-6 2-6 7-5

Gael Monfils beat seventh-seeded David Nalbandian 6-3 6-4 6-2

Tatiana Perebiynis beat eighth-seeded Vera Zvonareva 6-3 6-3

Mardy Fish beat ninth-seeded James Blake 6-3 6-3 7-6 (4)

Ekaterina Makarova beat tenth-seeded Anna Chakvetadze 1-6 6-2 6-3

SAYINGS

“I have the same goal. When I was number two, the goal was the same, was win the US Open. The goal wasn’t win the US Open to be number one. The goal is win US Open, no?” – Rafael Nadal, playing his first tournament as the world’s number one player.

“I don’t realize yet that I beat number one in the world. I don’t realize that I played at the big court. I don’t know how I’m going to sleep tonight.” – Julie Coin, after upsetting top-seeded Ana Ivanovic.

“I don’t really play any different on clay than I do on a hard court. It’s not like I’m changing anything when I go out there. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, I lose.” – Sam Querrey, asked if he changes his game plan for different surfaces.

“This is my, I think, fifth US Open, and this time I’m the happiest to be here, so I enjoy every moment of it. And first couple days when I had some afternoons off I went shopping and to Central Park. I really tried to get best out of it.” – Ana Ivanovic, on playing in the US Open as the top seed and before she was upset.

“I’m not going to hide and try to go around and say tennis is fun, it’s so easy, because people will understand it’s not true. … It’s difficult to practice every day.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, admitting it’s difficult to stay inspired to play and practice year-round.

“I guess they call it the yips on your serve. I don’t know where it came from. Probably came from all my years making fun of people that had it. That was my karma coming back.” – Lindsay Davenport, joking about starting a game with seven straight faults in her loss to Marion Bartoli.

“I think that definitely the Wimbledon win helped me a lot to change my mentality, to realize not everything had to be perfect all the time. … Now if I don’t have a perfect practice, I know I can play. I think that helps me to relax.” – Venus Williams.

“I don’t think I’d have as many because she motivated me, especially being young and watching her play. The mistakes she made, I made them with her. So when I actually played, I didn’t make the mistakes that she made. I was able to grow with her on the sidelines, so to say. … If anything, I think she definitely helped my career.” – Serena Williams, about big sister Venus Williams.

“There is nothing bigger. There is nothing more important than Olympic Games for an athlete, for a sports person.” – Elena Dementieva, who won the women’s singles at the Beijing Olympics.

“I always believe that the match is on my racquet. I think every time I lose is because of me, not because of the other person.” – Serena Williams.

“I’m me. I love to show my emotion. I love to do a show because when I was 9, 11, to play in front of a lot of people is for me something amazing. So I like to do it for me. It’s fun. You know, I have to show them I’m enjoying on the court, (that) I enjoy my sport. And then they show me emotion, so it’s great.” – Gael Monfils, after upsetting David Nalbandian.

“Right now I’m very happy. That’s the only word I can say right now. And I couldn’t give up in the fifth set. … I was tired and my legs was almost cramping. But I tried to think, I am playing David, he’s number four in the world, and (I’m) playing five sets with him. I felt kind of happy and more positive. That’s why I think I could fight through everything.” – Kei Nishikori, after upsetting fourth-seeded David Ferrer.

“I’m enjoying the city, the crowd. When you play here it’s a different atmosphere, and you just have so much fun being on the court. Even playing first at 11 (a.m.), it’s not so many people, but you feel special being on central court.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, before losing in the third round.

SINGLES CHAMPIONS

There have been 40 winners in the men’s and women’s singles in the 40 years of the Open Era – 21 men and 19 women. The 1968 champions – the late Arthur Ashe, who was represented by his wife and daughter, and Virginia Wade, led a parade of past champions onto the court on opening night to help the USTA celebrate the anniversary. Chris Evert won six US Opens, the most of any woman in the Open Era, while Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors led the men with five titles each.

SWAPPING PLACES

Serena Williams swapped places on the WTA Tour rankings with Svetlana Kuznetsova, moving up one spot to number three in the world behind the Serbian pair of Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic. Kuznetsova dropped to fourth, the best showing of the six Russians in the top ten: Maria Sharapova, Olympics gold medalist Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina, Anna Chakvetazde and Vera Zvonareva. Venus Williams is ranked eighth in the world.

SERVING YOUTH

James Blake presented a USD $10,000 check on behalf of Evian Natural Spring Water to USTA Serves and the Harlem Junior Tennis & Education program. USTA Serves is the USTA’s not-for-profit philanthropic entity dedicated to improving the quality of life among the nation’s youth, with a mission to support, monitor and promote programs that enhance the lives of disadvantaged children through the integration of tennis and education.

SO LATE

Spectators at the US Open for the night session have seats for only two matches, those beginning at 7 p.m. in Arthur Ashe Stadium. All other matches still being played elsewhere at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center are considered day matches. That was true when Chuang Chia-Jung and Daniel Nestor played a mixed doubles match against Sloane Stephens and Robert Kendrick. Because Kendrick had played a singles match against Novak Djokovic earlier in the day, the mixed doubles “day match” was scheduled to start on an outside court “Not before 8 p.m.”

SELES TO HALL?

Monica Seles heads the list of candidates for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009. Seles won nine major singles titles and was ranked number one in the world. On the ballot in the Master Player category is Andres Gimeno, one of Spain’s most prominent players of the 1960s and the singles champion at Roland Garros, which he won in 1972. Others on the ballot in the Contributory category are Donald L. Dell, a lawyer, founder of ProServ and former Davis Cup captain; Dr. Robert “Whirlwind” Johnson, founder and director of the American Tennis Association (ATA); and Japan’s Eiichi Kawatei, for his leadership and dedication in the development and promotion of tennis in Asia.

SERVING BIG

Ivo Karlovic served 42 aces in his second-round victory over Florent Serra. The 6-foot-10 (2.08m) native of Zagreb, Croatia, has three of the top seven ace totals at the US Open since 1991. In his 11 career US Open matches, Karlovic has hit 330 aces, an average of 30 aces per match. In his 7-6 (5) 7-6 (5) 6-2 third-round loss to 6-foot-6 (1.98m) Sam Querrey, Karlovic had 24 aces, matching the fewest total he has had in any match at the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. He wound up his US Open with a total of 94 aces in three matches. Surprisingly, Karlovic is not in the top ten in the serving speed at this year’s event, that honor going to Andy Roddick, who had a serve clocked at 147 mph (236 kph)

SIX FOR ONE

When the US Open began, six players had a chance to wind up number one in the world in the WTA Tour rankings at the end of the fortnight. The easiest scenario would have been if the two top seeds – Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic – wound up in the final; the winner of that match would take over the top spot, as would Serena Williams if she wins. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva also had a shot at number one when the tournament began, but with a dizzying array of options and outcomes needed. Kuznetsova was knocked out of the running for the top spot when Ivanovic won her opening round match.

STOPPED

Because of security reasons, the Bangalore Open, scheduled to start September 29, has been cancelled. The ATP said it has “accepted a petition from the Bangalore Open to suspend the 2008 event due to the local promoter’s security concerns.” The tournament has been held at Mumbai for the past two years. It was moved to Bangalore in May, but a series of bombs rocked the southern Indian city on July 25, killing one person. The ATP said the total prize money of USD $400,000 would go into the ATP player pension fund.

SUCCESS

Gilles Muller of Luxembourg worked overtime to get into the round of 16 for the first time at a Grand Slam tournament. The last qualifier remaining in the draw at the U.S. Open, Muller defeated Laurent Recouderc 6-4 6-0 4-6 6-4 and Tommy Haas 2-6 2-6 7-6 6-3 6-3 in the first two rounds. The Haas victory was the first time he came back after trailing by two sets. He did it again when he beat 18th-seeded Nicolas Almagro in the third round on Sunday.

SHUZO FOLLOWER

When Kei Nishikori upset fourth-seeded David Ferrer 6-4 6-4 3-6 2-6 7-5, he became the first Japanese man to reach the final 16 at the US Open in the Open Era. The only Japanese man to go further in a Grand Slam tournament was Shuzo Matsuoka, who reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 1995. At 18 years, 8 months, Nishikori became the youngest player to reach the last 16 at the US Open since Marat Safin in 1998.

SENT PACKING

When qualifier Julie Coin shocked Ana Ivanovic in a second-round match, it marked the earliest defeat by a number one-seeded woman at the US Open in the Open Era and the first time a number one seed has lost in the second round of the even since 1956, when top-seeded Billie Jean King lost to Australia’s Kerry Melville 6-4 6-4 in the US Championships. The previous record for the earliest loss in the Open Era came in 1973 when King retired in the third set of her third-round match against Julie Heldman. Only four number one seeds in the Open Era have lost prior to the semifinals: Justine Henin in the fourth round in 2004, Martina Navratilova in the quarterfinals in 1982, King in 1973 and Ivanovic this year. The last time a number one seed has lost in the second round of a Grand Slam tournament was in 2004 when Tathiana Garbin shocked Justine Henin at Roland Garros.

SONG FOR VENUS

Wyclef Jean has written and recorded a song inspired by tennis champion Venus Williams. The song, titled “Venus (I’m Ready),” is a musical fan letter to the 2008 Olympic doubles gold medalist and reigning Wimbledon singles and doubles champion. “Venus’ determination and mental strength inspires me,” said Wyclef Jean, a Grammy Award winner. “Much like Isis, her strength should be celebrated.”

SITE FOR SIGHT

The USTA is creating two USTA-branded channels on YouTube, one devoted to professional tennis and the other dedicated to recreational tennis. The US Open Channel includes daily updates from the US Open, including post-match player interviews. The website will also feature a daily Junior Report on the US Open juniors. The second channel (www.youtube.com/tennis) will be entirely devoted to recreational tennis and is scheduled to launch later this fall.

SWISS BANKER

He may be ranked number two in the world, but Roger Federer is still the top money winner in tennis by far. In the past 12 months Federer has earned USD $35 million, almost twice as much as Rafael Nadal, who has replaced the Swiss star atop the rankings. According to Forbes, the global appeal of tennis is the reason Federer rakes in more endorsement money than American sports stars Derek Jeter, Payton Manning and Dale Earnhardt. Federer, who is fluent in English, French and German, has won 55 tournaments in 17 countries and is a global brand. Forbes says another reason is that tennis players command the prime demographics. Sandwiched between Federer and Nadal is Maria Sharapova, the world’s highest-paid female athlete with earnings of USD $26 million. Tied for fourth is a trio of Americans at USD $15 million: Andy Roddick and the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Four sets of siblings sought the doubles titles at this year’s US Open, and that doesn’t include Venus and Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon and the Beijing Olympics this year but decided to skip the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, an event they last won in 1999. American twins Bob and Mike Bryan were the number two seeds in the men’s doubles, which also included first-round losers Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana of Thailand. The women’s doubles included Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska of Poland and Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko of the Ukraine.

SITES TO SURF

US Open: www.usopen.org

Bucharest: www.bcropenromania.ro/

Bali: www.commbanktennis.com

Athens: www.vogueathensopen.com/

Serena Williams: www.serenawilliams.com

USOpen Channel: www.youtube.com/usopen

USTA YouTube: www.youtube.com/tennis

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA TOUR

U.S. Open, Flushing Meadows, New York, hard (second week)

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$416,000 BCR Open Romania, Bucharest, Romania, clay

WTA TOUR

$225,000 Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic, Bali, Indonesia, hard

$100,000 Vogue Athens Open 2008, Athens, Greece, clay

$100,000 ITF event, Kharkiv, Ukraine, hard

FED CUP

(September 13-14)

Russia vs. Spain at Madrid, Spain, final, clay

US Open Day 5: Roger Federer Is Not Worried About His Game

NEW YORK – Despite flashes of flaws in his once-perfect game, Roger Federer moved a step closer Friday to his fifth consecutive US Open title.

Federer, playing in his first Grand Slam tournament in more than four years as anything other than as the number one seed, defeated Thiago Alves, a qualifier from Brazil, 6-3 7-5 6-4.

Friday produced yet another big upset in the women’s singles as Katarina Srebotnik knocked off third-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 6-7 (1) 6-3. That came a day after the top seed, Ana Ivanovic, fell to qualifier Julie Coin.

“I think she served better than I did,” Kuznetsova said of Srebotnik. “She served so many aces. I had many chances, especially in the first set, but somehow I overdid it.”

Although Federer has moved into the third round on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center without dropping a set, against Alves he was shaky on his volleys and committed a bundle of unforced errors.

“I wasn’t comfortable at net from the start,” Federer said. “And in the second set, when it got tough, he dug out some shots and everything seemed to go against me on those break points.”

Against his outclassed opponent, Federer hit 54 winners. But he also had 46 unforced errors as he repeatedly missed the mark with his ground strokes and found the net with his volleys.

At times Federer appeared hesitant and his play was sloppy. He was caught in no-man’s land several times, and time and again found the net with his shots. He had problems closing out service breaks, allowing his opponent, a qualifier playing in only his second US Open, to stay around longer than most of the fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium had expected.

But when he needed a point, Federer showed he still is the player who has won 12 Grand Slam tournament titles. He never looked as if he was in trouble, and for the most part he held serve easily, using his well-placed serve to gain easy points.

“I was never really in danger, so it was actually pretty good for me,” he said. “I knew the longer the match would go the more tired he would get, so it was a good match for me.”

On match point, Federer whipped a half-volley forehand cross-court that landed on the sideline near the far corner. As the tournament’s defending champion raised his hand in triumph and the umpire began to intone “game, set and match,” Alves challenged the call and, smiling broadly, appeared to apologize to Federer for doing so.

The two stood at the net and watched together as a replay showed the ball landed squarely on the line. Federer again waved to the crowd. And again the crowd responded with a cheer.

“After everything I’ve got through already, these are the early round matches, so it will only get better from here,” Federer said. “Yeah, so I’m really happy to be playing well. Everybody’s cheering me on, so it’s a nice feeling.”

Federer says he’s not worried about his game, despite what he reads and hears in the media.

“I guess we’re talking about it today, and if I win the title you forget about it again. That’s usually how it goes,” he said.

Keeping pace with Federer was third-seeded Novak Djokovic, who advanced to the third round with a 7-6 (8) 6-4 6-4 victory over hard-hitting Robert Kendrick. Federer and Djokovic could meet in the semifinals.

Among the other early winners Friday included fifth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, Fernando Gonzalez, Nicolas Almagro and Dmitry Tursunov.

In some of the other women’s singles played Friday, second-seeded Jelena Jankovic stopped China’s Zheng Jie 7-5 7-5 for a spot in the fourth round. She was joined by fifth-seeded Elena Dementieva, a 6-3 6-4 winner over Britain’s Anne Keothavong 6-3 6-4; Li Na of China, who ousted Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova 6-1 4-6 6-2; and Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who eliminated 14th-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-4 6-4.

Lived up to the hype!

Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim previewed the Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer Wimbledon final by suggesting that it was the most anticipated championship final in the history of our sport.  High praise indeed, but when does the competition outdistance the hype in this day and age?  Practically never is when.

Sunday’s match was simply astonishing.  Two absolute giants of our great game did battle for nearly five hours on the world’s most important court.  As John McEnroe of NBC Sports likened it to his 1980 final against Bjorn Borg, he acknowledged that there were, truly, no losers in this match.  No less an authority than Bud Collins called it the “best Wimbledon final ever.”

When McEnroe interviewed Roger Federer as he walked off the court, it was incredibly poignant.  They now share a bond, as both lost epic “Greatest Match of All Time” encounters on Wimbledon’s centre court.  Federer started to lose his composure and McEnroe offered a hug.  It would have been appropriate for Mac to have consoled Federer by telling him that more people have patted him on the back for his efforts in losing the 1980 final then for his three wins at the Big W.

A few weeks ago, Bill Simmons, a writer for ESPN Magazine, took some snarky shots at the sport of tennis.  In fact, his article- which was, by the way, abruptly removed from ESPN.com- was based on the premise that if he was offered the promise of the greatest match ever in the Wimbledon final, then he would still not choose to watch it.  I admire Simmons, and as a die-hard Boston sports fan, I always appreciate his (warped) perspective.  After reading his article, I actually felt defensive for a little while.  I thought: What the hell is he talking about!?!?  Thankfully, I am confident that if Simmons tuned into “Breakfast at Wimbledon” for Rafa and Roger, then his perspective would be considerably different.

Simmons offered some idiotic “solutions” to what ails our sport.  I presume that these were written in jest, because they were pretty lazy ideas.  In giving “The Sports Guy” more benefit of doubt, he has purposely written reverse jinx pieces before (such as, the Celtics cannot win this year) that have proved to be good luck for his hometown teams.  Maybe that was his true intention.  If so, then we all owe him a big Thank You.

Venus Williams did not lose a set in singles or doubles during the 2008 Championships.

Serena did not look happy (big surprise!) after losing in the final.  Expect her to dominate at Flushing Meadows in a few weeks.

Congratulations to Canada’s Daniel Nestor for re-gaining the world’s #1 ranking in doubles and completing the career grand slam in doubles.  Not bad for a 35 year old!

Farewell to Jonas Bjorkman.  Saturday marked his final Wimbledon appearance in The Championships.  Of course, guys are already “queuing up” to play in the senior invitational doubles with him next year.

The Bryan Brothers faced off against one another in the mixed doubles final.  Reportedly, they evenly split all of their prize money and endorsements.  I am guessing that would have been a pretty relaxed final round encounter.  Bob and Sammy Stosur straight-setted Mike and Katarina Srebotnik over on Court One while Federer and Nadal were playing their fifth set on Centre Court.

A few final thoughts on The Championships…

Thank heavens that there will be a retractable roof on the Centre Court beginning next year.  The delayed start to the gentlemen’s singles final, and the two subsequent rain delays, would have been avoidable.  This adversely affects several million world-wide fans.  In the end, the sport loses when viewers tune out.  I wish that Wimbledon had made- and then acted on- this decision thirty years ago, but it is a sign of progress.

One example of where there has been NO PROGRESS is the middle Sunday of The Championships, the tournament’s traditional “day of rest.”  Like millions of tennis fanatics all over the world, an ideal Sunday for me is a good breakfast, hit some balls and maybe even play a few sets, and then watch tennis for the rest of the day.  The AELTC sacrifices tens of millions of pounds (double that figure in US dollars!) in sponsorship revenue and international TV licensing fees by refusing play on that prime weekend slot.  By 2008 standards, it is outrageous, arrogant, and archaic.  It is also hypocritical, because the men’s final has been played on a Sunday for a quarter century.  They were lucky that the weather was uncharacteristically pleasant during the first week of the tournament.  Relying on luck each year is foolish though.

The Russian women made another huge splash, with 6 of the final 16 players hailing from Russia.  There were 17 Russian ladies in main draw of the singles.  That is impressive.  It is not unprecedented, however, and- in fact- pales in comparison to some years where the Americans reigned supreme.  In 1984, 64(!!!!) of the 128 singles players were American men.  The Yanks had the champion, the runner-up, two semi-finalists, four quarterfinalists, and 11 who reached the round of 16.  As American Frank Sinatra used to sing… it was a very good year.

Does everybody still think that Roger Federer will annihilate Pete Sampras’ all-time records?  It says here that he might get to 14 majors, but this is not a mortal lock.  The sport has changed before his very eyes.  He will need some luck (a Nadal injury, or a Novak Djokovic disappearance in the autumn) to finish as the year-end #1.  The expectation that this would be Federer’s fifth straight year at the top is fading, and he would still be one year shy of what Pete Sampras accomplished.

In Pete Sampras’ new book A Champion’s Mind, he lists (in no particular order) himself, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Roger Federer, and Ivan Lendl as the top-five players of the Open era.  After his Wimbledon victory, I would place Rafael Nadal among John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi and (probably) Mats Wilander in the next tier (with apologies to Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, John Newcombe, Gustavo Kuerten, and Jim Courier).

Speaking of Pistol Pete, it took him a little while to “solve” grass court tennis.  In fact, a surprising number (17) of different players registered wins over the once-and-still GOAT.  Our Editor in Chief, Manfred Wenas, has a little swag for the first reader to submit the complete list of players that owned a piece of Sampras’ scalp on grass.

World Team Tennis began its 33rd professional season in the US over the weekend.  Go to www.wtt.com for information about players, upcoming matches, standings, etc.  It is a great opportunity to watch past, present, and future Wimbledon champions.  It is also the only competition in tennis that prioritizes doubles and team-play over singles.

Venus and Serena Williams are shattering the myth that good doubles teams would beat great singles players who pair up together.  They won their 7th major doubles title together, and it would be safe to assume that they do not practice the nuances of doubles too frequently.

At the beginning of Rafael Nadal’s ascent up the rankings, I asked Wayne Bryan (whose sons Bob and Mike were ranked #1 in the world at the time) who would win a match between his boys and Federer-Nadal.  He hedged his bets, but thought that his boys would pull through.  He did suggest, however, that if Federer were to play with Lleyton Hewitt, who had more doubles success at that stage, then he thinks the result would be reversed.  So, I will pose these questions to our readers, who would win the follow mythical doubles matches?

1)      Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer vs. Bob and Mike Bryan

2)      Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi vs. Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde

3)      Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg vs. Ken Flach and Robert Seguso

4)      John McEnroe and Peter Fleming vs. John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl (yes, you read that correctly)

5)      Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors vs. Bob Lutz and Stan Smith

Tennis Week in Newport is always one of my favorite times of the year.  This year’s class of inductees is highlighted by Michael Chang, and supported by contributors Mark McCormack and Eugene Scott.  Visit www.TennisFame.com for a wealth of information about these new- and, in fact, all- hall of famers.

When Gene Scott died suddenly in 2006, it was an awful loss for our sport.  It also, naturally, affected hundreds (more like thousands, actually) of people personally.  I had developed a great fondness for Gene Scott and treasured the time I got to spend with him.  I believed that- for some unknown reason- he had taken a liking to me, and wished to help me along in my career.  During the outpouring of grief, his dear friends at Tennis Week created a Web site (www.EugeneLScott.com) where people were urged to offer their tributes to the great man.  Reading some of these tributes, a few years after his passing, left me feeling as sad as the day he died.  Back then I wrote:

Gene Scott was like the North Star. Speaking with him or reading his column… he’d always bring you to your senses. Nobody else had his vantage point, and he knew it. That never kept him from sharing though, and his generosity was unparalleled. His departure has already left a terrible void. Goddamn that he is gone. Lucky that he touched so many while he was around.

I wish that Gene Scott had been enshrined into the International Tennis Hall of Fame a decade ago.  His induction speech would have been brilliant.  Hall of Famer John McEnroe will offer his testimonial and introduce Gene’s wife, Polly, who will accept on his behalf this weekend.

Who else should be inducted into the Hall of Fame?  I offer a dozen candidates who I believe ought to be bronzed:

1)      Donald Dell.

2)      Monica Seles.

3)      Andre Agassi.

4)      Gustavo Kuerten.

5)      Jennifer Capriati.

6)      Martina Hingis.

7)      Nick Bollettieri.

8)      Dennis Van Der Meer.

9)      Michael Stich.

10)  Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

11)  Justine Henin.

12)  Todd Woodbridge & Mark Woodforde.

Of course I will be in America’s Resort City (Newport, Rhode Island) this week to watch the best little tournament in the world and then enjoying the induction ceremony of the latest inductees into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  If you are a fan of this great sport, you MUST make a pilgrimage to Newport.

While at the Newport Casino, I will spend a lot of time rehashing points and moments and drama from the “greatest tennis match ever played” with old and new tennis friends.  Congratulations Rafa!  Congratulations Roger!

Note by the Editor-in-Chief: The little swag for the first reader to submit the complete list of players that owned a piece of Sampras’ scalp on grass only goes for those who use the comment system down below on TennisGrandstand.com. Other submissions will not count.

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