Liezel Huber

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Fill Their Cups: Fed Cup World Group Quarterfinal Preview

Just three months after they celebrated, the Czechs must prepare to defend.

One week after the 2013 Davis Cup began, Fed Cup starts with four ties hosted by European nations.  We look ahead to what viewers can expect from the women’s national team competition.  Having gone 7-1 in Davis Cup predictions, will our hot streak continue?

Czech Republic vs. Australia:  The first of the ties features the only two members of the top ten playing a Fed Cup World Group tie this weekend.  But they also are the two most abjectly slumping women in that elite group, having slumped to equally deflating second-round exits at the Australian Open after imploding at tournaments earlier in January.  The defending champions hold a key trump card if the match reaches a decisive fifth rubber, where their experienced doubles duo of Lucie Hradecka and Andrea Hlavackova should stifle whatever pair the Australians can compile.  An ideally balanced team with two top-20 singles threats and a top-5 doubles team, the Czechs thus need earn only a split in singles, while the Aussies must get a victory from Dellacqua, Gajdosova, or Barty.  Even in that scenario, they would need Stosur to sweep her singles rubbers, not as plausible a feat as it sounds considering her habit of embarrassing herself with national pride on the line.  The boisterous Czech crowd might lift Kvitova’s spirits, similar to last year’s final when she eked out a victory as Safarova donned the heroine’s garb.  But she too has struggled early this year, leaving the stage set for a rollercoaster weekend.

Pick:  Czech Republic

Italy vs. USA:   To paraphrase the producers who initially turned down the musical Oklahoma:  no Williams, no Stephens, no chance.  Like that show, which became a smash hit on Broadway, this American Fed Cup team has exceeded expectations in recent years when understaffed.  Singles #1 Varvara Lepchenko enjoyed her breakthrough season in 2012, edging within range of the top 20, and Jamie Hampton announced herself with a three-set tussle against eventual champion Azarenka at the Australian Open.  Hampered by a back injury in Melbourne, Hampton likely will trump the inconsistent Melanie Oudin after she showed how much her groundstrokes and point construction skills had improved.  That said, Oudin has compiled plenty of Fed Cup experience, and her feisty attitude that so often thrives in this setting.  Doubles specialist Liezel Huber, although past her prime, should provide a plausible counterweight to the top-ranked doubles squad of Errani and Vinci.  The bad news for an American team, however, is the clay surface and the fact that their opposition also has proved themselves greater than the sum of their parts.  Both inside the top 20 in singles as well, Errani and Vinci look set to take over from Schiavone and Pennetta as women who rise to the occasion in Fed Cup.  Home-court advantage (and the choice of surface that accompanies it) should prove decisive.

Pick:  Italy

Russia vs. Japan:  Surprised at home by Serbia in last year’s semifinals, the Russians had become accustomed to playing final after final in Fed Cup during their decade of dominance.  Even without the nuclear weapon of Maria Sharapova, the ageless Shamil Tarpischev has assembled troops much superior in quality to the female samurai invading from Japan.  All of the Russians rank higher than any of the visitors, while Maria Kirilenko, Ekaterina Makarova, and Elena Vesnina all reached the second week at the Australian Open (Makarova reaching the quarterfinals).  And world #31 Pavlyuchenkova reached the final in Brisbane when the new season started, although her production has plummeted since then.  At any rate, Tarpischev has many more options for both singles and doubles than does his counterpart Takeshi Murakami, who may lean heavily on the 42-year-old legend Kimiko Date-Krumm.  Older fans may recall Date-Krumm’s victory over Steffi Graf in Fed Cup, which came in the friendly confines of Ariake Colosseum rather than Moscow’s sterile Olympic Stadium.  Kimiko likely will need a contribution of Ayumi Morita, who just defeated her in Pattaya City last week and has claimed the position of Japanese #1.  One could see Date-Krumm or Morita swiping a rubber from Kirilenko or Makarova, neither of whom overpowers opponents.  But it’s hard to see them accomplishing more.

Pick:  Russia

Serbia vs. Slovakia:  This tie in Nis looked nice a few days ago, slated to feature two gorgeous women—and only slightly less gorgeous games—in Ana Ivanovic and Daniela Hantuchova.  Adding a bit of zest was another former #1 Jelena Jankovic, who always has represented Serbia with pride and determination.  When both of the Serbian stars withdrew from the weekend, then, the visitors suddenly shifted from slight underdogs to overwhelming favorites.  Granted, the hosts still can rely on the services of Bojana Jovanovski, who fell just short of the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in a breakthrough fortnight.  Beyond the 15th-ranked Cibulkova, Slovakia brings no woman in the top 50 to Nis.  A more dangerous talent than her current position of #58 suggests, though, Hantuchova should fancy her chances on an indoor hard court against whomever Serbian captain Dejan Vranes nominates for singles between Vesna Dolonc and Alessandra Krunic.  She has shone in Fed Cup while compiling a 27-12 singles record there, whereas even Jovanovski has played just seven singles rubbers.  Hand a slight edge to Slovakia in the doubles rubber as well because of Hantuchova’s experience in that format, where she has partnered with Magdalena Rybarikova (also here) to defeat the Serbs before.

Pick:  Slovakia

Come back on Monday for previews of the ATP and WTA tournaments next week, following the format of last week’s ATP preview.

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?

Kvitova Wins WTA Finals, Tipsarevic Could Now Miss London and Azarenka Believes Top Girls can Dominate

Kvitova Takes Year-End Finals:

Rising Czech star Petra Kvitova defeated Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in the final of the WTA Championships in Istanbul. The 21-year-old now finds herself at No.2 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings and with a chance to overhaul Caroline Wozniacki as the world’s top player going in to the 2012 Australian Open in January should she have a better warm up to the year’s first slam than the Danish star. She also adds a cool £1.1m to her bank balance after securing a clean sweep in the round robin stages, without dropping a set, and then beating off both Sam Stosur and Azarenka in the knock-out rounds to get her hands on the trophy. “It was unbelievable tennis,” said Kvitova of the final. “We were both really fighting. Every game and every set was very close. Maybe I played better on the important points in the match.” She was also understandably delighted with her season, in which she also lifted her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. “When I started this season we didn’t have a goal,” she added. “We just wanted to improve my game and now I am no.2 and Wimbledon champion. It is just a dream.” She has also weighed in to the great grunt debate surrounding the WTA Tour at the moment by claiming that she needs her post-point-winning shriek as it is a mandatory part of her game. “Sometimes I need it because I have to say something at [an] important point, and otherwise when I’m mentally a little bit down I have to be fighting again, and it’s important for me,” she said.

Tipsarevic’s London Hopes Take Swiss Hit:

Serbian star Janko Tipsarevic’s outside chances of making the ATP World Finals took a massive hit in Basel this week after he suffered a left hamstring injury and had to retire at 1-5 in the first set against Germany’s Florian Meyer. If he is to make up the ground on world No.8 Mardy Fish he will have to at least reach the final of next week’s BNP Paribas Masters in Paris. He currently sits 570 points behind the American in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings. Fish himself went out in the first round to the same injury against his compatriot James Blake. Another hopeful, Tomas Berdych, is also out after a first-round loss to Kei Nishikori. Elsewhere, Roger Federer was named Basel’s greatest ever competitor as his countrymen gave him 78.5% of the 40,000 votes cast. He beat the likes of Novak Djokovic, Mats Wilander, Yannick Noah and Stefan Edberg to the crown. “Obviously everyone knows how much the tournament here in Basel means to me,” said the four-time winner. “There’s a big voting going on here in Switzerland for this award. I haven’t seen so many people vote for a sporting award in a very long time. I’m happy so many people took part in it.” Djokovic suffered a first round scare against Xavier Malisse before finally triumphing 6-2, 4-6, 7-5. He took to the courts in a Halloween mask, stating: “Every year for the last five years it’s a tradition at Halloween, which usually is during Paris-Bercy, that I go out with some crazy mask,” explained Djokovic. “This year it happened one week earlier, so I hope that people don’t mind. It was just tradition and a little bit of fun.”

Azarenka: “We Can Dominate”:

Victoria Azarenka believes that Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and herself, the world’s top three players, can dominate tennis for years to come. Ranging in age from 20-23, the Belarusian believes they possess the consistency to challenge for all the major titles. “Three, five years, it’s such a long time. My God, I don’t know,” she said of their chances. “But I think Petra, me, Caroline, we have been pretty consistent and showed some great results this year. [We] really stepped it up, especially Petra who won a Grand Slam, really made it to the elite, I would say. I think the way the game is today, it’s unpredictable, but definitely with the consistency with the game we have, we have a chance to dominate the game.” But former world No.1 Mats Wilander has countered that judgement by questioning world No.1 Wozniacki’s mental makeup. “The thing is, we know she can win small tournaments, what we don’t know is if mentally she can win the big ones,” Wilander told Reuters. “We know Wozniacki has the head to be consistent but we don’t know if she’s got the head to wrap her thoughts around winning a Grand Slam. Her game is not there just yet. The ranking is the result of not necessarily being the best player in the world, it’s the result of being the most consistent player in the world,” he continued. “That’s what it reflects. She’s certainly not the best player in the world at her best, but at her worst she’s probably the best player in the world compared to the others.”

Huber Year-End Doubles Number One:

American doubles specialist Liezel Huber will end the year as the top-ranked WTA doubles player for the fourth time in her career. She will now extend her total of weeks at the top to 164 in to January, taking her above her former partner Cara Black to second in the all-time list behind Martina Navratilova (237). Huber has 48 doubles titles to her name, including five Grand Slams.

No Swiss Foray for Murray:

Andy Murray has pulled out of the Swiss Indoors in Basel because of a right gluteal muscle strain. The 24-year-old is unbeaten in 15 matches thanks to three-straight titles in Asia this autumn and he was due to face Dutchman Robin Haase in the first round. “I was struggling to walk,” said the world No.3. “I trained twice on Monday and felt fine after that. It was a bit better on Tuesday morning and I went to a pool for some exercises and had a light hit. But this morning [Wednesday] I knew it was still not good enough. I don’t know how I did it or what it came from. I’ve never had anything like this before.” Home-grown talent Marco Chiudinelli replaces him in the draw. The injury shouldn’t affect his participation at the ATP World Finals in London later this month.

Stosur Up for Home Challenge:

New world No.6 Sam Stosur says she can handle the home pressure despite never making the Aussie Open quarter-finals in 11 attempts. After winning the US Open, her maiden Slam, and reaching the semis of the WTA Finals she now believes she is equipped to go far at the event. “I don’t know if there’s anything I necessarily have to change; I was quite happy with the way I handled it all last year and came up against a player [Petra Kvitova, in the third round] who was playing very well and obviously has had a great year as well, so I don’t think that was anything really to be ashamed of,” she said. “But as each year goes by there are more things I have to experience and go through, and I don’t think there’s any greater experience than the U.S. Open, so hopefully that is going to put me into a good spot to handle all that going into the Aussie Open. I know it’s going to be different in Melbourne than what it was in New York, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Federer Wants Strong Finish:

Roger Federer says he is focussed on a strong finish to the season after slipping to No.4 in the world, his lowest position since 2003. “I don’t even know what it takes [to regain the No. 3 position],” admitted the 30-year-old, who has finished in the Top Two for a record eight years. “My goal is trying to win when I’m playing the next few weeks. The focus right now is trying to play well here in Basel. The next round is my priority, but clearly after winning here, semis in Paris with match points and winning London [all in 2010], I know I can do extremely well. And if I’m three or four at the end of the year, we’ll see, but if I’m going to make a move I need to win tournaments and that’s what it’s going to take.”

Safin can “Become Russian President”:

Former world No.1 Pete Sampras believes that former Russian star Marat Safin can eventually become Russian President as he enters politics. The two-time Grand Slam winner is running for a seat in Russia’s Duma (parliament) in September and Sampras said: “Marat is very intelligent, articulate and well-spoken so I think it’s great that he’s getting involved in government in his homeland. I think he’ll do a great job – he’s good with people and people like him, and that’s half the battle with being a politician. He’s very young and it’s nice to see that he’s got this passion in him…In 20 years Marat will be the President of Russia! Trust me, this guy is going to go a long way. The guy is an international star and the future President.”

Ranking Points Mean Prizes as Finals Edge Closer:

France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga climbed above Mardy Fish to No.7 in the world in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings this week after his Vienna final win over fellow hopeful Juan Martin del Potro last weekend. With the tournaments underway in Basel and Valencia and the Paris Masters taking place next week these are the final chances to get ranking points on the board. Below Fish; Nicolas Almagro, Janko Tipsarevic, Del Potro and Gilles Simon are all hopeful of gate-crashing the party.  The Argentine Del Potro is up two to No.11. Marin Cilic is up three to No.19 in the world, while Julien Benneteau is in to the Top 50 at No.49. Petra Kvitova has climbed to No.2 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings on the back of her confident WTA Finals victory, her highest ever position, with Victoria Azarenka up to No.3. Russia’s Maria Sharapova drops down to No.4. Sam Stosur climbs above Vera Zvonareva to No.6. Britain’s Elena Baltacha enters the Top 50 for the first time in her career, while the Czech Andrea Hlavackova is in to the Top 100 at No.98.

Federer Earns GOAT Race Points in Basel:

Roger Federer’s entry in to the Basel Indoors this week adds ten points to his Greatest of All Time Race total for the calendar year as the final tournaments of the year begin. The Paris Masters next week and the ATP Finals present the final chances of the year to register points.

Roger: 1110, Rafa: 1930

Washington Kastles win World Team Tennis title; Complete perfect 16-0 season

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It took nearly eight hours through three rain delays, but the Washington Kastles finally made World TeamTennis history by winning the WTT Championship and completing the first undefeated 16-0 record in WTT’s 36 seasons.  The Kastles overpowered the St. Louis Aces 23-19 at the WTT Finals presented by GEICO on Sunday evening at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C.

Slowed by the first rain delay shortly after the 5 p.m. match start time, it took more than three hours for St. Louis to win the opening set of mixed doubles, 5-3. The Aces, led by Jean-Julien Rojer and 2011 Female MVP Liezel Huber, won 72% of their first service points in a tight battle with Male MVP Leander Paes and Rennae Stubbs.

Stubbs and Rodionova upended Huber and Tamira Paszek in women’s doubles, 5-0, to give the Kastles a 8-5 lead after the second set.  The Kastles continued to roll in men’s doubles, powering past Rojer and Roman Borvanov 5-2.

Rodionova, who was named MVP of the WTT Finals, took control in women’s singles and edged Paszek to push the Kastles lead to seven games heading into the final set.  St. Louis staged an impressive rally in men’s singles with Borvanov holding off Reynolds 5-4 to send the match into Overtime.  Borvanov won the first three games in Overtime to close the gap to 22-19 before Reynolds held serve to close out the historic victory just after 1 a.m.

Rennae Stubbs also made history by becoming only the fourth player in WTT history to be on five Championship teams.  Kastles co-captain Stubbs joins an elite list of 5-time WTT Champions – Martina Navratilova; Richie Reneberg; and Craig Kardon (4 as player; 1 as coach).

The Kastles finished the season with a 16-0 mark, while the Western Conference Champion St. Louis Aces finished at 9-7.

For more on WTT, visit WTT.com.

St. Louis Aces win WTT Western Conference title, to face Washington Kastles in WTT finals

vania-king

The St. Louis Aces are headed to the World TeamTennis Finals for the first time in 15 years after narrowly defeating the Sacramento Capitals 20-19 to win the WTT Western Conference title on Saturday evening at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C.   The Aces advance to Sunday’s WTT Finals presented by GEICO to face the Eastern Conference Champion Washington Kastles for the King Trophy at 5 p.m. ET.

The last time Sacramento and St. Louis played each other on July 13, it took a Supertiebreaker to decide the match.  Once again, these Western Conference rivals kept it close throughout Saturday’s Western Conference Championship match, splitting the first two sets of singles.

Dusan Vemic gave Sacramento an early lead with a 5-3 singles victory over St. Louis’ Roman Borvanov.  St. Louis took over the lead when Tamira Paszek ran past Vania King of Sacramento in women’s singles 5-1.

The Capitals men’s doubles team was only ranked No. 8 during the regular season but they turned up the heat as Mark Knowles and Vemic beat the Aces’ Borvanov and 2011 Male Rookie of the Year Jean-Julien Rojer, 5-3, to even the score at 11-11 at half.

King and Yasmin Schnack upset 2011 WTT Female MVP Liezel Huber and Paszek in women’s doubles in a tight 5-4 set, giving the Capitals a one point lead, 16-15, heading into the final set of mixed doubles.

Huber and Rojer got the only service break of the final set and wrapped up a 5-3 victory over Knowles and King when King’s shot sailed wide on match point.

“Every point, every game counts (in WTT),” said Huber.  “I wanted to win so bad for my team and St. Louis tonight.”  Huber said not to count out the Aces in the Finals against the Kastles, who have yet to lose a match this season.  “They are a great team but we start from scratch tomorrow,” she said.  “We have nothing to lose.”

The Aces will face the undefeated Washington Kastles in the WTT Finals on Sunday, July 24 at 5 p.m. ET.  With a victory, the Kastles would become the first team in WTT history to complete a perfect season.  The Aces are vying for their first WTT title since they won their only Championship in 1996.  The Finals will be televised live on Tennis Channel and live streamed on http://video.wtt.com.

FINAL RESULTS FROM THE WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH:

(Home teams in capital letters)

ST LOUIS ACES def. Sacramento Capitals 20-19

Men’s Singles – Dusan Vemic (Capitals) def. Roman Borvanov (Aces) 5-3

Women’s Singles – Tamira Paszek (Aces) def. Vania King (Capitals) 5-1

Men’s Doubles – Mark Knowles\Dusan Vemic (Capitals) def. Roman Borvanov\Jean-Julien Rojer (Aces) 5-3

Women’s Doubles – Yasmin Schnack\Vania King (Capitals) def. Liezel Huber\Tamira Paszek (Aces) 5-4

Mixed Doubles – Jean-Julien Rojer\Liezel Huber (Aces) def. Vania King\Mark Knowles (Capitals) 5-3

Next Match: 7/24/2011

WTT Finals presented by GEICO:  St. Louis Aces vs. WASHINGTON KASTLES, 5:00 PM (ET)

For live scoring and complete player / match statistics, please visit www.WTT.com

Sportimes rally past Aces, 16-15; McEnroe vs. Borg slated for Thursday at Randall’s Island

hingis-rg-2011-slider

Martina Hingis and Jesse Witten won singles events, both by 5-0 counts, and Hingis won a super-tiebreak over Liezel Huber, 7-6, as the New York SPORTIMES rallied for a 16-15 World TeamTennis victory over the St. Louis Aces at SPORTIME on Randall’s Island Monday night.

The SPORTIMES (5-1) trailed the entire match, finally earning a tie on Hingis’s 5-0 victory in the fifth event, women’s singles.  By WTT rules, Hingis’ win over Maria Sanchez (with Huber replacing her for the final game) evened the match at 15, extending the match to a super tiebreak.  With the super-tiebreak tied at 6-6, Hingis won the deciding point, coming to the net after a 12-ball rally and stroking the winner.

The Sportimes next home match will be Thursday, July 14 against Philadephia when John McEnroe of the Sportimes will face his legendary rival Bjorn Borg.
Jean-Julien Rojer and Roman Borvanov’s opening event men’s doubles win, Huber and Sanchez topped the SPORTIMES’ duo of Hingis and Katie O’Brien, 5-1, to give the Aces (4-2) a commanding 10-3 match lead.  Witten swept a 5-0 third event over Borvanov to pull the hosts to within 10-8.  Huber and Rojer’s 5-2 win extended the Aces’ margin to 15-10 before Hingis’s heroics gave the SPORTIMES their fifth straight win.

New York visits first-place Washington in a battle of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday, while Western Conference-leading St. Louis continues its eastern swing against winless Philadelphia.

World TeamTennis at New York

N.Y. Sportimes 16, St. Louis Aces 15
Men’s Doubles – Roman Borvanov/Jean-Julien Rojer (St. L.) def. Travis Parrott/Jesse Witten, 5-2
Women’s Doubles – Liezel Huber/Maria Sanchez (St. L.) def. Martina Hingis/Katie O’Brien, 5-1
Men’s Singles – Jesse Witten (N.Y.) def. Roman Borvanov, 5-0
Mixed Doubles – Liezel Huber/Jean-Julien Rojer  (St. L.) def. Martina Hingis/Travis Parrott, 5-2
Women’s Singles – Martina Hingis def. Maria Sanchez (Liezel Huber replaced Sanchez in Game 5), 5-0
Super Tiebreak – Martina Hingis def. Liezel Huber, 16-15.

TENNIS PEOPLE: WHO WILL BE NO. 1 AFTER ROLAND GARROS?

* The 2010 French Open gives us a mouth-watering three-way battle for the coveted No. 1 slot in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings. Current incumbent Roger Federer, previous holder Rafa Nadal and potential first-timer Novak Djokovic are all in the mix dependent on results over the next two weeks. Here’s how it will work. If R-Fed makes the semis he remains No. 1. Anything less coupled with Nadal lifting his favourite Slam and Nadal charges back to the top. Djokovic must lift the trophy and hope Federer falls before the quarterfinals. Keep your eyes peeled on those three tennis fans.

* The Williams sisters are aiming for another record this fortnight at Roland Garros. Having returned to the top two spots in the singles rankings if they lift the doubles title they will become only the sixth and seventh players ever to hold both the top two singles and doubles rankings behind Martina Navratilova, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport and Kim Clijsters. However, they can also lose in the first round here in Paris and take the top two spots, as long as neither Liezel Huber or Cara Black reach the semifinals with their respective partners following their recent split.

* The records continue to topple at Roland Garros. Justine Henin’s first round victory over Tsvetana Pironkova was her 22nd straight victory at the Slam where she has also now won a record 37 sets in a row for the Open Era. She is now three behind Helen Wills Moody’s all-time record of 40. Henin’s French Open record now stands at 36-4, an incredible 90% winning record.

*Venus Williams has said she still harbors dreams of a first French Open crown despite being on the eve of her 30th birthday. The world No. 2 is aiming, along with her compatriots, to end a seven-year barren spell on the clay courts for Americans since her sister Serena lifted the singles trophy in 2002. “It goes without saying, I believe I can win,” said Venus in an interview on the USTA website. “The U.S. has played well here formerly. The last few years haven’t been as great for us, but if anything, for me, my whole motivation is to do better. Hopefully the rest of the Americans feel the same way as I do.” She also spoke of her dream of one day sitting on top of the world again. If she manages to wrestle it back off of Serena she would be the oldest incumbent of the No.1 slot since Martina Navratilova in 1987. “It feels good to be moving up the ranks. Obviously, when you get to No. 2 of course the next dream is 1. That’s definitely on my radar. Everybody wants to be No. 1, especially me, because I’m closer than most of the other players on the tour,” she joked. “So it means a lot because day in, day out, all the hours that I put in…when you get to the top of the rankings is definitely a pat on the back, like this is all worth it. I want to put the work in to be able to get there.”

* British No. 2 Alex Bogdanovic has been handed a Davis Cup lifeline by new Great Britain captain Leon Smith. Former skipper John Lloyd axed Bogdanovic after his continual failure to win rubbers but Smith refused to write him off. “He’s our number two, and our number two by quite a distance, so he has to be in the reckoning,” Smith told BBC Sport. “If there were four or five players ahead of him, it would be different. Alex is one of the guys that has to be in the mix.” Smith has also refused to give up hope of Andy Murray ending his Davis Cup exile to help Britain in their crucial Europe/Africa Zone Group II playoff against Turkey in July. “Any country would want Andy to play – [but] if he doesn’t, I totally respect that,” he said on a visit to the French Open. “He makes a big difference to the team, but we’ve got other players who can come in that are capable of doing the job.”

*American qualifier Michael Yani’s marathon first round defeat to Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko must have felt like a never-ending story. Starting Sunday night, bad light forced play to continue on Monday morning and after four hours and 56 minutes Yani finally went down 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 10-12. The match consisted of 71 games, equalling a tournament record since tiebreakers were introduced in 1973. “Ridiculous,” is how Yani described it.

* Ernests Gulbis faces a race against time to be fit for Wimbledon after an MRI scan revealed he has torn his hamstring. It will force him out of Queens and may make him miss both the European slams, reports The Globe and Mail. It would be a shame as he was expected to perform well at both after a fantastic clay season in 2010.

* Sam Querrey has been highly critical of his attitude towards tennis following his four-set defeat to countryman Robby Ginepri in the first round at Roland Garros. “I started thinking about leaving and pulling out of the doubles and how much I wanted to go home, how much I wasn’t enjoying myself,” he said. “When I lost that second set tiebreaker and got broken in the first game, I was done. I wanted to be off the court. I’ve not been a professional…on and off for the last few months. I don’t want to face the opponent and myself.” It mirrors the problems Andy Murray admitted he had during his slump shortly after losing the Aussie Open final to Federer.

*1999 French Open Champion Andre Agassi has highlighted Rafa Nadal as an “undeniable favourite” to triumph once more in Roland Garros in an interview with Fox Sports. “Rafa’s forehand is nasty,” said Agassi. “On clay I would have had to play on the edge against him and play lights out and that’s not the way to play tennis. It’s about calculated risk and he’s going to make you take some crazy chances because the alternative is to get moved around court like you are on a string.” It is an interesting and vibrant interview in which Agassi gives us the lowdown on all the main contenders for the second Slam of the year. Check it out over at the Fox Sports website.

*Bulgarian screecher Victoria Azarenka has been fined $4,000 by the French Open after she failed to attend a press conference following her shock 1-6, 2-6 defeat to Gisela Dulko on Sunday. The 10th seed had reached the quaterfinals of her previous three Slams including the French last year.

*The Americans are determined to show that they are no pushovers on clay. Following the announcement by the USTA that clay courts are to be installed at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center for the first time top Americans Sam Querrey and John Isner have decided to blog all about their 2010 French Open experience for Tennis.com. Follow all their Paris adventures here.

*Serena Williams’ temperament is under question once more after a reported comment made to Jelena Jankovic following their recent Rome semifinal. Williams held her hand up whilst receiving serve while 5-3 up in the third set and the umpire ordered a replay of the point, angering Jankovic. Jankovic went on to win and as the players shook hands at the net Serena whispered something in to the Serb’s ears which sounded like “Don’t think I would do that…I’m not Justine,” although microphones may be inconclusive. If true, it would appear to be a swipe at Justine Henin following a similar incident during hers and Williams’ 2003 French Open semifinal where Henin raised her hand as Williams served which the umpire did not see. He denied Williams another first serve and she accused Henin of “lying and fabricating” as she did not admit her action to the umpire at the time. When questioned about the comment in a pre-French Open interview Serena said: “”I don’t even remember that. I just remember I had a match point, and, oh, I should have won that match. I was really disappointed… Jankovic is a really good clay court player, so I felt like…I can’t take anything negative out of that. I was just really like, ‘Ah, I was really oh so close.’”

*Former British tennis great Tim Henman has thrown his weight behind Andy Murray’s bid to win Wimbledon back for the British public. “I really think Wimbledon could be Murray’s,” said Henman. “He played great last year getting through to his first semi and I think he was very disappointed to lose to Roddick. I think Murray’s matured again, he’s improved, his game is better, he’s got 12 months more experience and I think he’s got every chance of winning.”

*Former French Open finalist Guillermo Coria has admitted that thoughts of a comeback have crossed his mind. “I’m 28 and yes, it’s true I’ve asked myself that question,” he said in a recent interview. “I’ve had a good time and now, when I see a tournament on television, I’m nostalgic. I’m not training really but I’m on the court everyday because I’m training my little brother and some Argentine hopefuls.” He retired in April last year.

*Dinara Safina is bidding to end her recent slump by parting ways with coach Zeljko Krajan, whom she often credits for her meteoric rise to the world No. 1 slot in April 2009. According to Russia’s Sport Express she will be working with Gaston Etlis during Roland Garros.

*Aussie Jelena Dokic has also parted ways with her coach, Serbian Borna Bikic. After going down 2-6, 2-6 to Lucie Safarova in the first round at Roland Garros she merely said: “I’m alone.” According to the press in Serbia, Dokic is still dating Bikic’s brother Tin.

*British No. 3 Katie O’Brien was beaming from ear to ear after making the cut for the main draw of the French Open for the first time this year. In an interview with BBC Sport she said: “I’ve been injury-free all year so in that respect I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been stranded in South Africa [due to the volcanic ash cloud decimating British flight zones] so my clay preparations were disrupted a bit but…I feel good.” “I think the French Open is really nice, has its own unique atmosphere,” she continued. “I like the vibe about the place and I like the clay. I like to ground out long points and use my fitness to ground opponents down. I think my game suits quite well to clay.” Unfortunately her run came to an end in round one as she fought well against American veteran Jill Craybas before going down 0-6, 6-4, 2-6 in just over two hours.

*The USTA website is receiving blogs from a host of American stars throughout Roland Garros on their experiences at the Slam. Andre Agassi, Melanie Oudin and Mardy Fish are the names putting pen to paper so far and all offer different insights in to the behind the scenes action in Paris. Check the USTA website daily to see who’s next.

* This week’s ATP World Rankings (24/05/2010) have seen Russian Nikolay Davydenko climb in to the world’s top 5 despite not having played since fracturing his wrist at Indian Wells. He climbs above Argentine Juan Martin del Potro who has been out for even longer. Richard Gasquet’s victory at Nice last week sees him jump 23 places in to the top 50 at No. 45 ahead of his home Slam in Paris.

* In the Sony Ericsson WTA Rankings (24/05) there is little significant movement in the top 50 after recent tournaments. Below that, Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria has leapt 19 places from No. 100 to No. 81 following some recent exciting displays. Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic has dropped from 71 to No. 87. Mariana Duque Marino of Columbia enters the top 100 at No. 97.

THE U.S. FED CUP DILEMMA: WINNING or LOYALTY?

By Blair Henley

The U.S. Fed Cup team pulled off an impressive win over Russia last Sunday – without the Williams sisters.

A roster spot was left open for Venus or Serena, should one of them be healthy enough to play, but both withdrew from the contest just days before it began. Though they both cited lingering knee injuries, their failure over the years to consistently represent the United States has frustrated many American tennis supporters. It’s no surprise that fans are calling for team captain, Mary Joe Fernandez, to stick with this weekend’s winning trio of Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Liezel Huber for the final against Italy in November. If this were a sport that offered bonus points for loyalty, I would immediately jump on that bandwagon. Too bad that’s not the case. Fernandez needs to assemble the team with the best possible chance of winning the Cup, even if that means ousting one or more of the gutsy players who got them there.

The unlikely heroine against Russia was none other than world No. 128 Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who is often recognized more for her outrageous wardrobe choices than for her notable play. Though her stellar performance on the final day of competition helped seal a 3-2 victory for the U.S. team, she and Melanie Oudin, currently ranked No. 31, would certainly be underdogs against Italy’s more experienced singles tandem of Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone, ranked No. 15 and No. 17 respectively.

Look, it’s not like the U.S. team has multiple options. If Venus and Serena do not make themselves available for the final (they didn’t last year and the team went on to get crushed by Italy), it seems reasonable to keep the roster as it is. But if, by miraculous chance, the sisters are willing and healthy, denying them a spot on the team would be like fighting a war with sling shots when machine guns are readily available.

Not surprisingly, Oudin doesn’t agree with that reasoning. When asked who she thought should play against Italy, her answer was clear: “The people that have gotten us there.”

“I think that is the fairest thing to do,” she went on to say. “You should have enough faith in that team to be able to bring them to the finals.”

Would that be fair? Yes. Would that be smart? No. Oudin’s answer, though undoubtedly stemming from an admirable desire to represent her country, is a bit shortsighted. She lost singles matches to both Pennetta and Schiavone in last year’s final. I would hope she would want Fernandez to send the team most capable of victory.

What people seem to be missing here is that the contribution of Oudin, Mattek-Sands and Huber would by no means be invalidated if that same team did not play for the title. The fight they showed against a formidable Russian team is, after all, the reason the Americans have a chance for the championship in the first place. The relatively small percentage of people who actually pay attention to Fed Cup results aren’t going to forget that.

It’s been ten years since the United States last brought home a Fed Cup title. Mary Joe Fernandez would be wise to do everything in her power to win another one with Venus and Serena before they decide to retire altogether. There’s no shame in that.

Terrorist Raids Near US Open

Federal officials from the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York conducted two raids in two separate apartments – just blocks from the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York – early Monday, the same day of the conclusion of the 2009 US Open.

Officials raided apartments on 144-67 41st Avenue and on 146th Avenue in Flushing after they had been visited by a suspected associate of Al Qaeda over the weekend. The normal high security at the U.S. Open was noticeably increased on the final day of the tournament Monday, with increased police presence on subway lines going to and from the tournament and on the streets surrounding Arthur Ashe Stadium

No arrests were made in the raids and no weapons or explosives were found. Senator Charles Schumer of New York said the raids were preventative. According to the New York Times, the raids occurred after a man of Afghan descent under surveillance because of suspected Al Qaeda ties visited New York City over the weekend and then left.

The 2009 U.S. Open was scheduled to conclude on Sunday, Sept. 13, but rains on Friday and Saturday pushed play to Monday, where Juan Martin del Potro defeated Roger Federer in five sets to win the men’s singles title. Earlier in the day, Venus and Serena Williams won the women’s doubles championship over Liezel Huber and Cara Black.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I can’t believe this happened

Del Potro wins the US Open

STARS

(US Open)

Men’s singles:

Women’s singles: Kim Clijsters beat Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 6-3

Men’s doubles: Leander Paes and Lukas Dlouhy beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 3-6 6-3 6-2

Women’s doubles: Serena Williams and Venus Williams beat Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-2 6-2

Mixed doubles: Carly Gullickson and Travis Parrott beat Cara Black and Leander Paes 6-2 6-4

Boys’ singles: Bernard Tomic beat Chase Buchanan 6-1 6-3

Girls’ singles: Heather Watson beat Yana Buchina 6-4 6-1

Boys’ doubles: Cheng Peng Hsieh and Marton Fucsovics beat Julien Obry and Adrien Puget 7-6 (5) 5-7 10-1 (match tiebreak)

Girls’ doubles: Valeria Solovieva and Maryna Zanevska beat Elena Bogdan and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn 1-6 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Men’s wheelchair singles: Shingo Kunieda beat Maikel Scheffers 6-0 6-0

Men’s wheelchair doubles: Stephane Houdet and Stefan Olsson beat Maikel Scheffers and Ronald Vink 6-4 4-6 6-4

Women’s wheelchair singles: Esther Vergeer beat Korie Homan 6-0 6-0

Women’s wheelchair doubles: Esther Vergeer and Korie Homan beat Daniela DiToro and Florence Gravellier 6-2 6-2

OTHER:

Alberto Martin beat Carlos Berlocq 6-3 6-3 to win the AON Open Challenger in Genoa, Italy

SAYING

“When I would have a dream, it was to win the US Open, and the other one is to be like Roger. One is done.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after beating Roger Federer and winning the US Open men’s singles.

“Five was great, four was great, too. Six would have been a dream, too. Can’t have them all. I’ve had an amazing summer and a great run. I’m not too disappointed just because I thought I played another wonderful tournament.” – Roger Federer, after losing the US Open men’s singles final to Juan Martin del Potro.

“I can’t believe this happened. Because it still seems so surreal that in my third tournament back I won my second Grand Slam. Because it wasn’t in the plan. I just wanted to come here and get a feel for it all over again, play a Grand Slam so to start the next year I didn’t have to go through all the new experiences over.” – Kim Clijsters, who won her second straight US Open women’s title four years after her first title.

“I think that I’ll learn that it pays to always play your best and always be your best and always act your best no matter what. And I think that I’m young and I feel like in life everyone has to have experience that they take and that they learn from, and I think that’s great that I have an opportunity to still b e physically fit to go several more years and learn from the past.” – Serena Williams, after losing her semifinal to Kim Clijsters after receiving a point penalty on match point.

“I cannot really tell that I was playing bad. She was playing good.” – Kateryna Bondarenko, after losing to Yanina Wickmayer.

“Today, I could’ve been better in pretty much every part of my game, whether it was mental, forehand, backhand, return.” – Andy Murray, after losing his fourth-round match to Marin Cilic.

“I lost it myself because I made so many unforced errors. So many unforced errors, you can’t win against anybody. No chance.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after committing 69 unforced errors in her three-set loss to Caroline Wozniacki.

“I was thinking, every point, do the same, try to put the ball in the court. When you fight that way to the final point, you have many chances, and that’s what happened today.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after his quarterfinal win.

“I think the biggest weapon can be mental toughness. It doesn’t have to be a stroke or a shot or anything like that. If you’re mentally tough out there, then you can beat anyone.” – Melanie Oudin, after beating Maria Sharapova to advance to the fourth round.

STARTING NEW ERA

By winning the US Open, Juan Martin del Potro became only the third player to beat both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the same tournament. He also became the first player this year to defeat the world’s top three players, having also beat Andy Murray in Madrid, Spain. Del Potro is the first South American to be in the US Open final since fellow Argentine Guillermo Vilas won in 1977, and the first South African to be in a Grand Slam final since Fernando Gonzalez of Chile lost to Federer in the 2007 Australian Open.

SO SWEET, SO WRONG

After he ran onto the court to kiss Rafael Nadal, a New York City man, Noam U. Aorta, was arrested and charged with trespassing. Aorta jumped out of the stands after Nadal beat Gael Monfils in a fourth-round match. “For me it wasn’t a problem. The guy was really nice,” Nadal said. “He said, ‘I love you,’ and he kissed me.” District Attorney Richard Brown called it “particularly disturbing” since Aorta made physical contact with Nadal, noting that Monica Seles was stabbed in 1993 by a spectator who jumped out of the stands in Hamburg, Germany.

SAFINA STILL ON TOP

Serena Williams lost the chance to move back into the number one spot on the women’s tennis tour. The American could have replaced Dinara Safina on the top of the rankings if she had successfully defended her US Open title. Instead, she lost to eventual champion Kim Clijsters in the semifinals and, consequently, will remain in the number two spot.

The US Open was the third tournament back for US Open champion Kim Clijsters since she ended her two-year retirement. And you need to play three tournaments to get a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour ranking. In this week’s rankings, Clijsters is number 19 in the world.

SEASON-ENDING QUALIFIERS

The world’s top doubles team, Cara Black and Liezel Huber, are the first to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held October 27-November 1 in Doha, Qatar. It will be the third trip the final Championships for Black and Huber, having clinched the title in the last two years. The top four doubles teams will compete for the title. Two players have already qualified for the eight-player singles competition, Dinara Safina and Serena Williams.

STANDING FOR ELECTION

Doubles players will get a chance to shine in the 2010 International Tennis Hall of Fame ITHF) balloting. The ITHF announced the names of the 12 nominees for possible induction into the Newport, Rhode Island, shrine next year, including Beatrizs “Gigi” Fernandez, Natasha Zvereva, Todd Woodbridge, Mark Woodforde and Anders Jarryd. On the ballot in the Master Player category are Owen Davidson, Peter Fleming and Bob Lutz, while the Contributor category has four nominees: wheelchair tennis pioneer Brad Parks, coach Nick Bollettieri, Lawn Tennis Association chairman Derek Hardwick and Japan’s Eichi Kawatei. Voting for the 2010 ballot will take place over the next several months with an announcement of the induction class scheduled for January. The Class of 2010 induction ceremony will be held July 10 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport.

SUGIYAMA RETIRING

Ai Sugiyama is ready to say sayonara. The Japanese veteran says she will probably retire at the end of this year, concluding her 17-year career. She once was ranked as high as number eight in the world. “I am normally the type that can picture what the near future holds, but to be honest at this moment in time, I can’t see myself competing next season,” Sugiyama told Kyodo news. She won six WTA Tour singles titles and doubles championships at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. She lost in the Australian Open final this year.

SPECIAL MOMS

When Kim Clijsters won the US Open, she became the first mother to win a Grand Slam tournament singles title since Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley captured Wimbledon in 1980. But Clijsters wasn’t the only mother competing at America’s premier tennis event. Sybille Bammer of Austria lost in the first round to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, while Rossana de los Rios of Paraguay fell to 14th-seeded Marion Bartoli in her first-round match. After the birth of her baby, Bammer climbed as high as number 19 in the world and won at Prague, Czech Republic, earlier this year. De los Rios has won six ITF singles titles since giving birth to her daughter in 1997.

SAD WEEK

Sloane Stephens was looking forward to the US Open junior girls tournament, where she was seeded fourth. But just before junior play got underway, Stephens’ father, former NFL running back John Stephens, died in a car accident. The 16-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, took a day off to fly to her father’s funeral in Louisiana, then returned to win her second-round match. But she lost her next outing to Jana Cepelova of Slovakia 4-6 6-1 6-0. “I was trying to focus and do things I should have done, but mentally I wasn’t there,” she said. The youngster had reconnected with her father three years ago and she had met him only a handful of times, but the two had developed a relationship over the telephone.

SISTER ACT

Venus and Serena Williams won their 10th Grand Slam tournament women’s doubles title, beating the top-seeded team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber. The sisters have never lost in a Grand Slam tournament once they’ve reached the final. “Hopefully that’s a record that won’t end yet,” Serena said. It is their first US Open doubles crown since 1999, and the sisters are now halfway to the record set by Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver.

SUITE NEWS

As far as fans were concerned, Melanie Oudin didn’t outstay her welcome at the US Open. That’s not true about her New York City hotel room. The 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, was one of the biggest surprises of this year’s final Grand Slam event, reaching the quarterfinals before being eliminated. But she outstayed her hotel reservation at the Marriott in Manhattan, according to SportsBusiness Journal. Her management company quickly got her a room at the Intercontinental Hotel. Oudin, who was not seeded, was not expected to play in the second week of the US Open. So the room she shared with her mother was apparently reserved for someone else. “Obviously we will not be sending any of our players back to that hotel (the Marriott),” Oudin’s agent, BEST Tennis president John Tobias, told the Journal.

STILL RELEVANT

He won the first US Open in 1968 and the main stadium at America’s premier tennis tournament is named for him. But it wasn’t until this year that Arthur Ashe was inducted into the US Open Court of Champions, which honors the greatest singles champions in the history of the 128 years of the US Championships/US Open. Ashe joined prior inductees Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Jimmy Connors, Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Althea Gibson, Steffi Graf, Billie Jean King, Jack Kramer, Rod Laver, Ivan Lendl, Molla Bjurstedt Mallory, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Bill Tilden and Helen Wills. An international panel of journalists selects the inductees annually. Former President Bill Clinton participated in Ashe’s induction ceremonies.

SET FOR DOHA

US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki and Elena Dementieva are the latest to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held October 27-November 1 in Doha, Qatar. The world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams will compete for the Sony Ericsson Championships title and a share of the record Championships prize money of USD $4.45 million.

STAYING IN TOUCH

Fans attending the US Open sent a record number of emails and text, picture and video messages from in and around Arthur Ashe Stadium the first week of the tournament. “US Open fans are letting their fingers do the talking this year as increasing numbers of Verizon Wireless customers use Smartphones and PDAs to stay in touch with their homes and offices,” said Michele White, executive director-network for company’s New York Metro Region. “The number of data connections established by Verizon Wireless customers in and around the tennis center during the busiest hours of the event last week was 80 percent higher than last year while voice traffic was down.”

STRONG SPORT

Despite the gloomy global economy, the women’s tennis circuit is doing just fine, thank you. Stacey Allaster, CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, said they have lost just one title sponsor in 2009 and have added two new tournaments in 2010. “The bottom line is we want to be a credible product, consistently delivering to fans and sponsors, and in 2009 our athletes have done that,” Allaster said. Of the tour’s 51 title sponsors, only one has dropped out, and that is “an incredible success story for women’s tennis,” she said. Tournaments have been added in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, while the Los Angeles event has moved to San Diego.

SHAMEFUL ACTIONS

Three teenagers have been convicted in Malmo, Sweden, for rioting outside a Davis Cup tie between Israel and Sweden in March. The three Swedish males, aged 17 to 19, were sentenced to community service for juveniles. Two of them were also ordered to pay USD $19,020 for sabotaging a police vehicle. The three were among 10 people arrested after protesting Israel’s offensive in Gaza. The court had previously sentenced two others to 9 and 15 months in prison. No spectators were allowed to watch the matches after Malmo officials said they could not guarantee security. The International Tennis Association (ITF) fined the Swedish tennis federation USD $5,000 for that decision and banned Malmo from staging Davis Cup matches for five years.

SAY IT AIN’T SO

A media report that he and his wife are living in fear amid crime and poverty in the Bahamas has brought an angry response from Lleyton Hewitt. The 2001 US Open champion told a newspaper that the report in an Australian magazine was “absolute rubbish.” Hewitt said he and his family have had “fantastic experiences” in the nine months they have lived in a gated community on New Providence island. “For us it’s a fantastic place to raise a young family.”

SAYS YOU, SAYS ME

You knew it had to happen. Novak Djokovic and John McEnroe took turns imitating each other during an impromptu US Open moment. Following his victory over Radek Stepanek, Djokovic called McEnroe down from his television booth, then mimicked the mannerisms and serving style of the four-time US Open champion. He tossed his racquet onto the court and screamed at an imaginary umpire. Once McEnroe arrived on court, he unbuttoned his white shirt, rolled up his sleeves and, using a borrowed racquet, bounced the ball repeatedly, imitating Djokovic’s pre-serve habits. Two years ago, Djokovic delighted the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd by impersonating Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova, among others. “What I’ve done in 2007 with those impersonations and tonight playing with Johnny Mac, I think that’s what the crowd wants, especially in these hours,” Djokovic said. “I think these night matches are very special.”

SKIPPING SCHOOL

Her exciting run to US Open quarterfinals kept Melanie Oudin in New York City doing what she wants to do. She doesn’t do the ordinary high school things, like going to the junior prom or homecoming, or even hanging out with friends at the mall. “She doesn’t do any of that kind of stuff, and she’s OK with it,” said Katherine Oudin, Melanie’s mother. “I know she misses the normal life a little, but she does not regret it at all. Zero. She’s totally OK with it because she knows this is what she’s wanted her entire life.”

SOCKING IT AWAY

Each of the singles champions here at the US Open will take home USD $1.6 million, a nice tidy sum in any language. Going into the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, Roger Federer has earned USD $36 million over the past 12 months. His three Grand Slam wins – 2008 US Open, French Open and Wimbledon – and other tournament play netted him USD $8 million. And when he won his first-round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this year, he became the first player to surpass USD $50 million in career earnings on the court. The 28-year-old Federer has 10-year endorsement deals with Nike, Rolex, Wilson and Swiss coffee machine maker Jura. His Nike contract extension that he signed in 2008 is worth more than USD $10 million annually. Maria Sharapova is close to Federer in off-court earnings. The Russian earned USD $22.5 million over the past year despite missing most of the season with a shoulder injury.

SUED

The US Tennis Association (USTA) has been sued by a New York City documentary filmmaker who claims the ruling tennis body discriminates against wheelchair players by refusing to sell broadcast licensing rights to their matches. Brooklyn, New York, filmmaker Alan Rich is a lawyer who is representing himself and seven handicapped players. He has been filming a documentary about the players called “Fire in the Belly.” Rich contends that because the major networks covering the tournament – CBS, ESPN and Tennis Channel – do not cover wheelchair events, he should be given the rights. USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said his organization limits filming of matches to the three television companies that have contracts with them. He said that two years ago, Tennis Channel aired the wheelchair finals competition live and produced a half-hour highlights show of the tournament.

SIMON REPLACED

Jeremy Chardy will play Davis Cup for France against the Netherlands. Chardy replaces Gilles Simon, who has a knee injury. France plays the Netherlands for a spot in next year’s World Group. The French team also includes Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and doubles specialist Michael Llordra. Chardy originally had been selected as an alternative. That role now goes to Julien Benneteau.

SCRIBE AWARDS

Sixteen writers were honored at the US Open by the US Tennis Writers Association in the 10th annual USTWA Writing Contest. William Weinbaum and John Barr of ESPN.com won first place in Hard News/Enterprise for their story about the controversial match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello. Other first-place winners were: Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle, Column/Commentary; Cindy Shmerler, TENNIS Magazine, Feature Story (Pro); Stephen Tignor, TENNIS Magazine, Feature Story (Non-Pro); Filip Bondy, New York Daily News, Game Story (Pro); and Paul Fein, TennisOne.com, Service Story.

The USTWA announced the election of its board of directors at its annual meeting at the US Open: Cindy Cantrell, Tennis Life; Paul Fein, freelance writer; Ann LoPrinzi, The Times of Trenton (New Jersey); Richard Kent, freelance writer; Jim Martz, Florida Tennis; and Art Spander, The (San Francisco) Examiner. Fein, Kent and Spander are new to the board. The officers will be determined by the board.

SHARED PERFORMANCE

Genoa: Daniele Bracciali and Alessandro Motti beat Amir Hadad and Harel Levy 6-4 6-2

SITES TO SURF

Davis Cup: www.DavisCup.com

Quebec: www.challengebell.com

Guangzhou: http://sports.21cn.com

Bucharest: www.bcropenromania.ro/

Metz: www.openmoselle.com

Hansol: www.hansolopen.com

Tashkent: www.tashkentopen.uz

Saint Malo: www.opengdfsuez-bretagne.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$150,000 Pekao Open, Szczecin, Poland, clay

WTA

$220,000 Bell Challenge, Quebec City, Canada, hard

$220,000 Guangzhou International Women’s Open, Guangzhou, China, hard

DAVIS CUP

World Group Semifinals

Croatia vs. Czech Republic at Porec, Croatia

Spain vs. Israel at Murcia, Spain

World Group Playoffs

Chile vs. Austria at Rancagua, Chile; Belgium vs. Ukraine at Charleroi, Belgium; Brazil vs. Ecuador at Porto Alegre, Brazil; Netherlands vs. France at Maastricht, Netherlands; South Africa vs. India at Johannesburg, South Africa; Serbia vs. Uzbekistan at Belgrade, Serbia; Sweden vs. Romania at Helsingborg, Sweden; Italy vs. Switzerland at Genova, Italy

Americas Zone

Group I Playoff: Peru vs. Uruguay at Lima, Peru

Group II Final: Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Asia-Oceania Zone

Group I Playoff: China vs. Thailand at Jiaxing, China

Group II 3rd Round: Philippines vs. New Zealand at Manila, Philippines

Europe/Africa Zone

Group I Playoffs: Slovak Republic vs. FYR Macedonia at Bratislava, Slovak Republic; Great Britain vs. Poland at Liverpool, Great Britain

Group II 3rd Round: Latvia vs. Slovenia at Jurmala, Latvia; Finland vs. Cyprus at Salo, Finland

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$650,000 BCR Open Romania, Bucharest, Romana, clay

$650,000 Open de Moselle, Metz, France, hard

WTA

$220,000 Hansol Korea Open, Seoul, Korea, hard

$220,000 Tashkent Open, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hard

$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Bretagne, Saint Malo, France, clay

SENIORS

Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere, Paris, France, clay

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