left hander

Hingis Plays First WTA Match, Federer Plays First Match in Japan, Koubek DQed – On This Day in Tennis History

From the October 4 chapter of the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com)

1994 – Future world No. 1 Martina Hingis of Switzerland, two weeks past her 14th birthday, makes her professional debut with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Patty Fendick in the first round of the Zurich Indoors. The Hingis debut comes after a celebrated junior career where she becomes the youngest player to win a major junior title at age 12 at the 1993 French Open and earning the world No. 1 junior ranking the next year with wins at the junior French and Wimbledon. Says Hingis of her debut match, “The first time is always difficult. But I didn’t have anything to lose, and I enjoyed it toward the end especially.” Hingis goes on to lose to Mary Pierce of France 6-4, 6-0 in the next round.

2007 – Austrian Stefan Koubek is disqualified from his second-round match with Sebastien Grosjean at the Metz Open in France when he uses inappropriate language in an argument with tournament referee Thomas Karlberg. With Koubek leading 5-7, 7-6, 4-2, the Australian left-hander argues with Karlberg over the ruling to replay a point due to a linesperson being unsighted and missing a call. Says Karlberg, “On the first point of the seventh game, on Grosjean’s serve, a Koubek forehand close to the baseline gave a 0-15 advantage to Koubek, but the umpire realized Grosjean was in the way of the line judge, who was therefore unable to judge the point. In this case, the rule is to replay the point. Koubek disagreed and asked for the supervisor’s intervention. He did not want to accept the rules and used strong language. I told him the match was over and asked the umpire to announce it.”

2007 – Roger Federer plays his first ever match in Japan, defeating Serbia’s Victor Troicki 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3) in the first round of the AIG Japan Open in Tokyo.

1986 – Pat Cash wins 16 of 20 games played and defeats Tim Mayotte 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in the completion of a rain-postponed match to give Australia a 2-0 lead over the United States in the Davis Cup semifinals in Brisbane, Australia. Mayotte begins play leading Cash 6-4, 1-2. Cash the pairs with John Fitzgerald in the doubles match, and nearly puts away the Americans by an insurmountable 3-0 margin, but darkness postpones their match with the ad-hoc U.S. doubles team of Ken Flach and Paul Annacone, with the Aussies leading 10-8, 6-1, 5-7. Annacone, in his Davis Cup debut and what ultimately becomes his only Davis Cup playing experience, substitutes for an injured Robert Seguso.

RODDICK OVERCOMES LLODRA IN TESTING ENCOUNTER

By Ritesh Gupta

Witnessing a contrasting duel where one thrives on pace while the other seldom offers the same is something one hardly comes across in the men’s tennis today. Deft touches, exchanges at the net, pulsating half-volleys…all this is a treat to watch especially on the hallowed courts at Wimbledon.

Such contrasting style of play came to the fore as France’s Michael Llodra tested Andy Roddick in the second round at Wimbledon today.

Though Llodra lost 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 6-7 (2-7), the left-hander won many hearts with his skillful play, with class written all over it. It was surely an exquisite performance from Llodra but he couldn’t carry the same form once he lost his serve to loose the second set.

It’s a rare sight to see somebody of Roddick’s calibre being hurried into strokes. Llodra, who won the Eastbourne tournament prior to this championship, posed a serious threat after bagging the first set. Be it for pushing Roddick wide off the court or his display at the net, Llodra produced some immaculate stuff during the initial stages.

To his credit, Roddick, though at the receiving end, hung on. After Llodra fired two aces to finish the first set, he earned two break points in the very first game of the second set. Llodra not only hustled Roddick with chip and charge but he also showed his class with subtle variations in pace to unsettle Roddick. This was perhaps the best chance but Llodra couldn’t break the serve.

The American, who has lost in final thrice here, gradually got into his groove and broke the shackles in the tenth game. An insipid service game from Llodra changed the course of the match. Llodra, who held his service with aplomb till then, came up with uncharacteristic missed drop volley and even Roddick, too, forced an error at a crucial stage with a wonderful low service return, which Llodra failed to retrieve at the net. Roddick made it one set apiece at this juncture.

Thereafter, Roddick sustained the tempo and took control despite facing breakpoints in a couple of games in the third set. He wrapped up the match by pressurising Llodra in the fourth set tie-break, reeling off five points in a row.

Roddick, who came so close to lifting this championship against Roger Federer last year, is surely a contender this year, too. For him, this victory augurs well as Llodra is one of the tougher players to play on grass.

In the run-up to the Wimbledon, Llodra had won eight matches in two tournaments. He had his chances against Roddick but he wilted under the pressure when it mattered the most.

THOMAZ BELLUCCI: MAN ON A MISSION

As the dust settles and the tears dry following Roger Federer’s whitewashing of Andy Murray in Melbourne the ATP marches on.

Last week saw ATP 250 Tournaments held in Zagreb, Croatia, Johannesburg, South Africa and Santiago, Chile. It is testament to the worldwide appeal that tennis holds so strongly.

The giant Marin Cilic took his home title for the second consecutive year and Feliciano Lopez ended his six-year title drought in Johannesburg. But in Santiago, a little-known Brazilian was taking the plaudits following a 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 victory over the Argentinean Juan Monaco.

South American tournaments are always interesting given the political histories between many of the nations crammed in to the vast island and Thomaz Bellucci will revel in the defeat of one of the “old enemy” to lift the title.

Standing at 6 ft. 2 the left hander considers his serve and forehand as his main strengths and has a powerful repertoire of shots to back this up.

The No. 3 seed had an impressive march to the final. He overcame the likes of Nicolas Lapentti and home favorites Paul Capdeville and reigning Champion Fernando Gonzalez as well as beating another Argentinean Eduardo Schwank on route to facing Monaco.

It was a second title in a five-year career for the 22-year-old following his victory at Gstaad last August. It has lifted him to a career-high rank of No. 28 in the world and has made him the first Brazilian since Gustavo Kuerten in 2004 to hold a top 50 ranking.

Thomaz Cocchiarali Bellucci was born on December 30, 1987, in Tiete, Brazil. His father, Ildebrando, was a salesman while his mother, Maria Regina, owned her own business. Bellucci began playing tennis at a young age and started well. Two weeks after turning 17, he reached a career-high juniors ranking of No. 15 in the world in January 2005.

He then began playing the ATP Challenger Circuit where he registered numerous victories to help propel him in to the world Top 100. He began 2007 ranked No. 582 but a meteoric rise saw him end the year No. 202 with his best results two losing final appearances in Challenger Events in Ecuador and Columbia.

The 2008 season was when people began to hear his name more regularly. He picked up four ATP Challenger titles, all clay. He also qualified for the French Open for the first time where he lost to Rafael Nadal. But at Wimbledon, he saw his first Grand Slam match victory, overcoming Igor Kunitsyn in four sets before losing to the German Simon Stadler in round two.

Thomaz opened 2009 well by overcoming former world No. 1 and 2003 French Open Champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in the quarterfinals of the Brasil Open before losing to Tommy Robredo in the final.

But in August he went one better. After qualifying for the Swiss Open in Gstaad he beat local favorite Stanislas Wawrinka, former world No. 4 Nicolas Keifer, and two-time tournament runner-up Igor Andreev on his way to victory. Beginning the tournament ranked at No. 119 in the world he leapt 53 spots to No. 66 as a result of his victory.

In October, he then reached his first hard-court ATP semifinal, losing to Olivier Rochus at the Stockholm Open in four sets, and was by-now an established member of the Brazilian Davis Cup squad.

The 2010 season has again begun well for the Brazilian. He reached the quarterfinals at Brisbane before being edged out 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-7(3) by the Czech Thomas Berdych before losing to Andy Roddick in the second round of the Australian Open, his best record at the tournament to date.

Now ranked at No. 28 in the world following his victory in Santiago, his next goal is to push towards the top 20. He will have high hopes for the French later this year as he considers clay his best surface and he will no doubt have the samba passion of Brazil behind him as they look for the successor to three-time French Open Champion Gustavo Kuerten’s crown.

He will be looking to improve on his 34-37 career win record and adding to a pot already worth nearly $800,000. Look out for the name Thomaz Bellucci in 2010, there could be some surprises in store.

Drama at SW19: 30 Years ago at Wimbledon

The 1979 edition of The Championships produced more than the usual Wimbledon drama – including record-breaking performances, a death, the birth of “Superbrat” and television history. Bud Collins, the world’s most famous tennis journalist and personality, documented the momentous tournament in his acclaimed encyclopedia THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennistomes.com) as excerpted below.

(John) McEnroe, who had missed Rome and Paris because of a pulled groin muscle, returned to action and won a Wimbledon tune-up tournament on grass at London’s Queen’s Club over (Victor) Pecci, 6-7, 6-1, 6-1, and was simultaneously grilled in the British press for his surly deportment. Dubbed “Superbrat,” he dominated pre-Wimbledon publicity and was seeded No. 2 to Borg, largely because Connors did not reveal until after the draw was made whether he would play or remain at home with his expectant wife.

McEnroe, still bothered by the groin pull, was upset in the round of 16 by Tim Gullikson, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, culminating a first week that was tumultuous for the men (10 of the 16 seeds were beaten in the first five days) and formful for the women. Most observers thought the semifinal between Borg and Connors, who had met in the previous two finals, would be the de facto title match, but Borg was in his most devastating form and annihilated his long­time arch rival, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, in 1:46.

Left-hander Roscoe Tanner, seeded fifth, had been in the semifinal twice before, and this time came through the wreck­age in the other half of the draw, past Gullikson, 6-1, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, and 6-foot-3 American Pat DuPre, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, to reach the final for the first time. Given little chance, Roscoe, the Stan­ford refugee with the low toss and high velocity serve, attacked at every opportunity. Playing thoughtfully and well, he pushed Borg to the limit in an absorbing final that kept 15,000 spectators and a live television audience in 28 countries spellbound for 2:29. This was the start of NBC’s “Breakfast at Wimbledon” telecasts, the inaugural of live coverage in the U.S., Bud Collins and Don­ald Dell in the announcers’ booth.

Half an hour after his 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win, which made him the first man since New Zealander Tony Wilding, 1910 – 13, to win the Wimbledon singles four years running, Borg said: “I feel much, much older than when I went on the court. Espe­cially at the end of the match, I have never been so nervous in my whole life. I almost couldn’t hold my racket.”

Coupled with Navratilova’s 6-4, 6-4 victory over Evert Lloyd in the women’s final the previous day, Borg’s victory marked the first time that both the men’s and women’s singles champi­ons had successfully defended their titles since Bill Tilden and Suzanne Lenglen won in 1920 and 1921.

Navratilova was entitled to a first round bye, but chose instead to play a match in order to enjoy the champion’s tradi­tional honor of playing the opening female contest on Centre Court. She had good reason for making this decision: watching her from the competitors’ guest box was her mother, whom she had not seen since defecting from Czechoslovakia during the 1975 U.S. Open. Jana Navratilova was granted a two-week tourist visa to visit her daughter in London with the personal approval of Czechoslovak Prime Minister Dr. Lubomir Strou­gal. “Winning here last year was the greatest moment of my career,” a tearful Navratilova said after an unexpectedly tense 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory over qualifier Tanya Harford, “but yesterday [the airport reunion with her mother] was one of the greatest moments of my life.”

Fighting a cold, Navratilova struggled into the semifinal, los­ing sets to Stevens, 7-6 (8-6), 6-7, 6-3 and Fromholtz, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0. But there was no stopping her in the stretch, a 7-5, 6-1, victory over Austin and then Evert Lloyd. Her stepfather, Mirek, and 16-year-old sister, Jana, who were not granted visas, watched the match live on West German television in the border town of Pilsen, as they had the year before. But this time, instead of ignoring the

expatriate’s victory, the government-controlled Czech media gave it prominent attention in newspapers and on television.

Navratilova had another thrill in partnering King to the women’s doubles title, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, over Turnbull and Stove. This was King’s record 20th Wimbledon title, a 10th doubles to go with six singles and four mixed in the world’s most prestigious tournament.

But the occasion was saddened by the death the previous day of 87-year-old Elizabeth “Bunny” Ryan, with whom King had shared the record since 1975. Miss Ryan, a native Californian who lived in London, was stricken with a heart attack while watch­ing the women’s singles final, collapsed in a ladies room at the All England Club and died on the way to a hospital. Winner of 12 doubles and seven mixed doubles titles between 1914 and 1934, but never the singles, Ryan had told friends of a premoni­tion that this would be the year King broke her cherished record. She dreaded the moment, but, happily, never saw it. She died less than 24 hours before being erased from the record book.