Kimiko Date

Mondays with Bob Greene – The Return of Kimiko Date

14 April 2008

STAR

Maria Sharapova won her first clay court title, downing Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (7) 6-3 in the Bausch & Lomb Championships in Amelia Island, Florida.

SAYINGS

“It’s not the way I would have wanted to win.” – Nikolay Davydenko, who won his Davis Cup match when Tomas Berdych retired because of an injury, giving Russia an insurmountable 3-1 lead over the Czech Republic.

“These guys are human.” – United States captain Patrick McEnroe after twins Bob and Mike Bryan suffered only their second loss in 16 Davis Cup doubles matches, falling to Frenchmen Michael Llodra and Arnold Clement.

“It is just a great feeling when you do well for your country. Nothing else matters.” – Leander Paes, who, a day after saying teaming with Mahesh Bhupathi was the “worst mistake of my career,” teamed with Bhupathi to win the doubles against Japan and lift India into the Davis Cup World Group playoffs for the first time in three years.

“It was somewhat like football because representing Argentina is something unique, something which you feel in your skin.” – Guillermo Canas, after teaming with David Nalbandian to beat Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman and Robert Linstedt in doubles.

“What I lived today with my people was very exciting. I gave it all, run all the way to hell and back, and won. That’s why I could not stop the tears.” – A teary David Nalbandian following his 6-4 1-6 4-6 6-4 9-7 win over Robin Soderling to clinch Argentina’s Davis Cup quarterfinal victory over Sweden.

“I had a lot of chances. I missed so many easy shots. I made quite stupid mistakes today.” – Unseeded Dominika Cibulkova, who lost to top-seeded Maria Sharapova 7-6 (7) 6-3 in the final of the Bausch & Lomb Championships.

“I don’t want to be getting (wild cards) into events and taking the place of younger players. That wouldn’t be right.” – Kimiko Date, explaining why she will begin her comeback by playing in satellite tournaments before making a return to the WTA Tour.

SAD DAY

Former Austrian doubles player Daniela Klemenschits lost her battle with cancer. She was 25. Both Daniela and her twin sister, Sandra, were diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer in January 2007, forcing them to retire from the WTA Tour. The sisters won 20 titles on the ITF women’s circuit and were ranked in the top 100 of the WTA Tour doubles in 2005.

SCARY OPPONENT

For the second straight Davis Cup tie, Nikolay Davydenko has not had to finish his tie-winning match. Tomas Berdych twisted his right ankle and retired against Davydenko, giving Russia an unbeatable 3-1 lead over the Czech Republic. In the first round, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic pulled out of his match against Davydenko because of illness, giving Russia a clinching 3-1 lead.

STEFFI STOPPER

Two exhibition victories over old foes convinced Japan’s Kimiko Date to return to professional tennis at the age of 37. Once ranked in the top five in the world, Date retired in 1996 after reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the Atlanta Olympics. When she beat Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova in an exhibition event in Tokyo, Date, now married, decided to try a comeback on the women’s tour, entering a tournament in Fukuoka, Japan, next month.

SPECIAL SAFIN

A surprise starter, Marat Safin repaid the confidence showed in him by coming back from two sets down for the first time in his career to beat Tomas Berdych 6-7 (5) 4-6 6-3 6-2 64 in the opening match of the Davis Cup tie between Russia and the Czech Republic. The Russian had won only one match this year while Berdych was coming off a semifinal finish at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. It was the first time in his career that Berdych has lost a five-set match.

SELLING OUT

The Tennis Channel Open is no more. Tennis Channel is selling the rights to its Las Vegas, Nevada, tournament to the ATP. The television network bought the tournament in 2005, when it was played in Scottsdale, Arizona, and moved it to Las Vegas in 2006.

SURGERY

India’s Sania Mirza has undergone arthroscopy wrist surgery that is expected to keep her off the WTA Tour for a month. The world number 31 has struggled with her wrist problem for over a year. The only Indian player to win a WTA Tour event, Mirza was sidelined for two months following knee surgery in March 2007.

STEPPING UP PRESSURE

Beginning in 2009, players will get ATP ranking points for playing in the Davis Cup World Group. Besides earning points for a win, players can get bonus points for winning a certain number of matches throughout the year. The International Tennis Federation and ATP said they made the decision to award points to encourage more top players to participate in the team event.

STEPPING DOWN

Felix Mantilla has called it quits. Once ranked in the top 10 in the world, the 33-year-old Spaniard retired a year after returning to the ATP Tour following treatment for skin cancer. In 1997, Mantilla won five tournaments, and the following reached the semifinals at Roland Garros.

SWINGING TOGETHER

Beginning in 2009, the grass-court tournament in Eastbourne, England, will have a combined men’s and women’s field. While Eastbourne has been on the WTA Tour for years, the men will join them after the ATP grass-court tournament in Nottingham, England, folds following this year’s event.

SEAT CHAMPIONS CUP

Two clay court masters – former world number one Marcelo Rios and two-time French Open champion Sergi Bruguera – have a chance at finally meeting on that surface when they compete in the Seat Champions Cup in Barcelona. Rios dominated the senior BlackRock Tour of Champions in 2006, winning six titles, while Brugera won seven senior tournaments last year. Rios has won two of their three previous meetings, but all were on hard courts.

SCORING DAVIS CUP

World Group Quarterfinals

Russia beat Czech Republic 3-2; Argentina beat Sweden 4-1; Spain beat Germany 4-1; United States beat France 4-1

Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 Second Round

Croatia beat Italy 3-2; Netherlands beat Macedonia 4-1; Switzerland beat Belarus 4-1; Slovak Republic beat Georgia 4-1 (Winners advance to World Group playoffs in September)

Americas Zone Group 1 Second Round

Chile beat Canada 3-2; Brazil beat Columbia 4-1 (Winners advance to World Group playoffs in September)

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Second Round

Australia beat Thailand 5-0; India beat Japan 3-2 (Australia and India advance to World Group playoffs in September)

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Playoffs

Chinese Taipei beat Kazakhstan 3-2; Uzbekistan beat Philippines 3-2

Europe/Africa Zone Group II First Round

Denmark beat Luxembourg 5-0; South Africa beat Finland 4-1; Algeria beat Hungary 3-2; Monaco beat Greece 3-2; Ukraine beat Egypt 5-0; Ireland beat Morocco 3-2; Cyprus beat Slovenia 3-2; Portugal beat Tunisia 4-1

Americas Zone Group II Relegation Playoffs

Netherlands Antilles beat Bolivia 3-2; Venezuela leads El Salvador 2-1

Asia/Oceania Zone Group II Second Round

China beat Indonesia 3-2; New Zealand beat Kuwait 5-0

Asia/Oceania Zone Group II Relegation Playoffs

Hong Kong beat Lebanon 3-2; Oman beat Pacific Oceania 3-2

SITES TO SURF

Family Circle Cup: www.familycirclecup.com

Estoril: www.estorilopen.net

Valencia: www.open-comunidad-valencia.com/

Houston: www.riveroaksinternational.com

Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com/

Monte Carlo: http://montecarlo.masters-series.com/1/en/home/

Barcelona: www.openseatbarcelona.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP TOUR

$370,000 Estoril Open, Estoril, Portugal, clay

$370,000 Open de Tenis Comunidad Valencia, Valencia, Spain, clay

$436,000 U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships, Houston, Texas, clay

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Family Circle Cup, Charleston, South Carolina, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP TOUR

$2,270,000 Monte Carlo Masters, Monte Carlo, Monaco, clay

FED CUP

(April 26-27)

World Group Semifinals

United States at Moscow, Russia, clay

Spain at Beijing, China, hard

World Group Playoffs

Ukraine at Olbia, Italy, clay; France at Tokyo, Japan, hard; Germany at Buenos Aires, Argentina, clay; Czech Republic at Ramat Hasharon, Israel, hard

World Group II Playoffs

Colombia at Mons, Belgium, hard; Switzerland at Dornbirn, Austria, hard; Uzbekistan at Bratislava, Slovak Republic, clay; Serbia at Zagreb, Croatia, hard

SENIORS

Seat Champions Cup, Barcelona, Spain, clay