Lourdes Dominguez-Lino

What to Watch in the WTA This Week: Palermo and Budapest Draw Previews

 

The sunny island of Sicily hosts the more notable of the two small women’s tournaments in the week after Wimbledon.  Palermo will host both of the leading Italian stars, who eye one more chance to capitalize on their best surface.

Palermo:

Top half:  Bounced from Wimbledon in the first round, Sara Errani returns gratefully to clay after a one-match grass season.  The world No. 6 took a wildcard into one of her home tournaments, where she has won two titles.  In search of her second 2013 title defense, Errani can look ahead to a second-round meeting with fiery Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.  Two other clay specialists join her in a section filled with hyphenated names.  Mariana Duque-Marino impressed with her shot-making during a tight loss to Marion Bartoli at Roland Garros, while Silvia Soler-Espinosa has become a fixture of Spain’s Fed Cup team.

Neither of the most intriguing players in the second quarter has a seed next to her name.  Two of the Italians in this section emerged from irrelevance at Wimbledon and will hope to dazzle their compatriots.  Both Flavia Pennetta and Karin Knapp reached the second week on grass, their least effective surface, despite rankings outside the top 100.  The evergreen Anabel Medina Garrigues, who bageled Serena Williams in Madrid, could meet Pennetta or Knapp in the quarterfinals.  Much less intriguing are the two Czech seeds, Klara Zakopalova and Karolina Pliskova.  Still, Zakopalova reached the second week at Roland Garros last year, for the slow conditions suited her counterpunching style.

Bottom half:  Unfortunate to draw Maria Sharapova in her Wimbledon opener, Kristina Mladenovic gained some consolation by winning the mixed doubles title with Daniel Nestor.  Almost overnight, she travels to Palermo as the third seed.  Mladenovic will have some breathing room as she adjusts from one surface to another, situated in an especially forgiving section.  Young French star Caroline Garcia might face Irina-Camelia Begu in a second-round contrast of styles.  A quarterfinal between Garcia and Mladenovic could offer some insight onto the future of women’s tennis in France after Bartoli.

Second seed Roberta Vinci joined Pennetta and Knapp in the second week of Wimbledon but struggled in the first week and fell heavily to Li Na.  All the same, Vinci remains within striking distance of the top 10 at the age of 31 while continuing to shine in doubles with Errani.  This Italian veteran could meet Wimbledon surprise Eva Birnerova, who almost reached the second week as well.  The canny Lourdes Dominguez Lino then would confront Vinci in a battle of traditional clay specialists.

Final:  Errani vs. Vinci

Budapest:

Top half:  The Hungarian Grand Prix does not look particularly grand this year with not a single entrant from the top 25.  Leading the pack is Lucie Safarova, whose 2013 campaign has lurched from signs of hope to unmitigated disasters.  Safarova has defeated Samantha Stosur twice this year and reached a clay semifinal in Nurnberg, but she won one total match at three more important clay events in Stuttgart, Madrid, and Paris.  Ripe for an upset, she might fall victim to the promising Petra Martic.  Despite a horrific start to 2013, Martic recaptured some of her form at the challenger level and reached the third round of Wimbledon, where she won a set from Tsvetana Pironkova.  South African No. 1 Chanelle Scheepers holds the other seed in this section.

Doubles specialist Lucie Hradecka will look to bomb her way through a section that includes young German star Annika Beck.  The fourth seed in Budapest, Beck reached a quarterfinal and a semifinal at International events on clay earlier this year.  Perhaps she will have gained inspiration from her compatriot Lisicki’s breakthrough at Wimbledon.  Lara Arruabarrena won a challenger earlier this year and gained attention for reaching the fourth round of Indian Wells, where she upset Vinci.  The 80th-ranked Spaniard will hope to outlast erratic fifth seed Johanna Larsson with her consistency.

Bottom half:  Probably the favorite for the title, third seed Simona Halep seeks to extend a ten-match winning streak at non-majors.  Even before that romp through Nurnberg and s’Hertogenbosch, Halep reached the semifinals at the Premier Five event in Rome.  That quality passage of play should have primed her for a deep run in Budapest, although the heavy serve of home hope Timea Babos could pose an intriguing threat.  Seventh seed Maria Teresa Torro-Flor would meet Babos before Halep, hoping to build on clay victories over Francesca Schiavone and Daniela Hantuchova this spring.

Finishing the clay season in style, Alize Cornet won a title in Strasbourg and took a set from Victoria Azarenka in Paris.  She will look to rebound from a massive collapse against Pennetta at Wimbledon against Hradecka’s doubles partner, Andrea Hlavackova.  The faded Shahar Peer joins an alumnus of the Chris Evert Tennis Academy, Anna Tatishvili, elsewhere in the section.

Final:  Unseeded player vs. Halep

 

WTA Katowice Gallery: Vinci Defeats Kvitova in Straights, Claims 8th Title

KATOWICE (April 14, 2013) — After a grueling 69-minute first set that went to a tiebreak, it was the Italian Roberta Vinci who came out victorious over world No. 8 Petra Kvitova, and cruised to a 6-1 second set capturing her eighth career title. On Monday, the 30-year-old will rise to a new career-high ranking of No. 12, as she improves her finals record to 8-1.

“I played a really good game today,” Vinci said after the match. “Petra was playing very well and very aggressively in the first set, getting a lot of first serves in, but I stayed with her and won the tie-break, and things were better in the second set, probably because she was a little bit tired. But everything was working for me all week. I’m happy I was able to beat such a tough opponent and win this title.”

“It was a very tough match against Roberta today,” Kvitova said. “I started pretty slowly at the beginning of the match and I was always the second player on the court because she was dictating everything out there – she plays very well on the clay. I also felt a little bit without energy. But she was the better player on the court for sure and she really deserved to win the title here in Katowice.”

They two will most likely meet in next weekend’s Fed Cup tie as Italy is scheduled to take on the Czech Republic, so another blockbuster match could soon again occur.

In the doubles final, the Spanish team of Lara Arruabarrena and Lourdes Dominguez Lino defeated the pairing of Raluca Olaru and Valeria Solovyeva, 6-4, 7-5.

Photo gallery from the finals and ceremonies by Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm below. (Singles ceremony on page 2)

[nggallery id=104]

What to Watch in the WTA This Week: Previews of Acapulco, Florianopolis, and Kuala Lumpur

While eight of the top ten men are active in the week before Indian Wells, only two of the top ten women have chosen live matches over practice sessions.  Two clay tournaments in the Western Hemisphere accompany an Asian hard-court tournament as the last chance to reverse or extend momentum before the March mini-majors.

Acapulco:  One of those two top-ten women playing this week, Errani hopes to begin repeating last year’s success on red clay while extending her success from reaching the Dubai final.  Little about her section suggests that she should not, although she stumbled unexpectedly on clay against Lepchenko in Fed Cup.  Considering that mishap, she might find Arantxa Rus a worthy test in the quarterfinals.  Rus once upset Clijsters at Roland Garros and owns a lefty forehand smothered with topspin that cause damage on this surface.  She might struggle to survive an all-Dutch encounter in the opening round against Kiki Bertens, though, who broke through to win her first career title at a clay tournament in Morocoo last year.

Gone early in Bogota, where she held the second seed, Alize Cornet will hope for a more productive week in a draw where she holds the third seed.  The Frenchwoman lacks weapons to overpower her opponents but will find few in this section who can overpower her.  The most notable name here (probably more notable than Cornet) belongs to the returning Flavia Pennetta, who got through one three-setter in Bogota before fading in a second.  Tiny Lourdes Dominguez Lino hopes that this first-round opponent still needs to shake off more rust.

An odd sight it is to see an American, a Croat, and a Swede all playing on clay during a week with a hard-court tournament, and yet all of them occupy the same section in Acapulco.  Perhaps more notable than Glatch or Larsson is Ajla Tomljanovic, a heavy hitter from a nation of heavy hitters who once looked like a sure rising star before recent setbacks.  Facing this Croatian wildcard in the first round, fourth seed Irina-Camelia Begu knows better how to play on clay, as 2011 finals in Marbella and Budapest showed.  Begu won her first career title last fall in Tashkent, which places her a notch above the other seed in this quarter.  Spending most of her career at the ITF level, Romina Oprandi recorded a strong result in Beijing last fall.

Handed a wildcard to accompany her sixth seed, Schiavone searches for relevance after a long stretch in which she has struggled to string together victories.  The sporadically intriguing Sesil Karatantcheva should pose a test less stern than second seed Suarez Navarro, who shares Schiavone’s affinity for the surface.  Humiliated twice in one week at Dubai, where she lost resoundingly in both the singles and the doubles draws, the small Spaniard owns one of the loveliest one-handed backhands in the WTA since Henin’s retirement.  Schiavone owns another, which should make their quarterfinal pleasant viewing for tennis purists.

Final:  Errani vs. Begu

Florianopolis:  In the first year of a new tournament, the presence of a marquee player always helps to establish its legitimacy.  The outdoor hard courts at this Brazilian resort will welcome seven-time major champion and former #1 Venus Williams as the top seed, and her draw looks accommodating in its early stages.  While young Spaniard Garbine Muguruza showed potential at the Australian Open, the American’s sternest challenge may come from a much older woman.  Extending Venus deep into a third set at Wimbledon in 2011, Kimiko Date-Krumm could unsettle her fellow veteran with her clever angles and crisp net play, although her serve should fall prey to her opponent’s returning power.

In the quarter below lies Kirsten Flipkens, who lost early as the top seed in Memphis after reaching the second week of the Australian Open.  Also a potential semifinal opponent for Venus, Caroline Garcia possesses much more potential than her current ranking of #165 would suggest.  Unlike most of the counterpunchers in Florianopolis, she will not flinch from trading baseline missiles with the top seed should she earn the opportunity.  Another young star in the eighth-seeded Annika Beck might produce an intriguing quarterfinal with Garcia.

Counterpunchers dominate the third quarter, bookended by Medina Garrigues and Chanelle Scheepers.  When the two met at the Hopman Cup this year, endless rallies and endless service games characterized a match filled with breaks.  The heavy serve of Timea Babos might intercept Scheepers in the second round, while Medina Garrigues could encounter some early resistance from the quirky Niculescu or Shahar Peer.  With her best years well behind her, the Israeli continues to show her familiar grittiness in attempting to reclaim her relevance.

Midway through 2012, the second-seeded Shvedova climbed back into singles prominence by reaching the second week at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.  Starting with her three-set loss to Serena at the latter major, she has suffered a series of demoralizing setbacks in early rounds since then, often in tightly contested matches that hinged on a handful of points.  Shvedova once led the WTA’s rankings for overall pace of shot, though, and her power might overwhelm those around her.  Aligned to meet her in the quarterfinals is Kristina Mladenovic, the surprise semifinalist at the Paris Indoors who delivered the first signature win of her career there over Kvitova.

Final:  Williams vs. Mladenovic

Kuala Lumpur:  With a direct-entry cutoff even lower than Florianopolis, this tournament features only eight players in the top 100.  Headlining the list, however, is a former #1 who still occupies the fringes of the top 10.  After she produced solid results in the Middle East, reaching a quarterfinal in Doha and a semifinal in Dubai, Wozniacki should feel confident in her ability to secure a first title of 2013.  Few of the names in her quarter will strike chords with most fans, although some might remember lefty Misaki Doi as the woman who upset Petra Martic in Melbourne before eating a Sharapova double bagel.  Aussie lefty Casey Dellacqua sometimes can challenge higher-ranked foes but has struggled with injury too often to maintain consistency.

Doi’s highest-ranked compatriot, the double-fister Ayumi Morita holds the fourth seed in Kuala Lumpur.  Like Wozniacki, she could face an Aussie in the quarterfinals, and, like Wozniacki, she should not find the test too severe.  Although she has won the Australian Open wildcard playoff twice, Olivia Rogowska has stagnated over the past few years since winning a set from then -#1 Safina at the US Open.  Evergreen veteran Eleni Daniilidou rounds out this section with one of the WTA’s more powerful one-handed backhands—and not much else.

Surely pleased to recruit another player of international familiarity beyond Wozniacki, Kuala Lumpur welcomes Pavlyuchenkova as a third-seeded wildcard entrant.  The Russian often has excelled at this time of year, reaching the Indian Wells semifinals before and winning consecutive titles at the Monterrey tournament that has shifted after Miami.  This year, Pavlyuchenkova has shown a little of her promising 2011 form by reaching the final in Brisbane to start the season and much more of her dismal 2012 form by dropping three straight matches thereafter.  She could end her four-match losing streak here in a section filled with qualifiers.  But yet another Aussie in Ashleigh Barty hopes to continue what so far has become an encouraging season for WTA future stars.

When not conversing on Twitter with our colleague David Kane, 16-year-old phenom Donna Vekic has compiled some notable results.  Seeded at a WTA tournament for the first time, she will look to build upon her final in Tashkent last year, a win over Hlavackova at the Australian Open, and a solid week in Fed Cup zonal play.  Vekic does face a challenging first-round test in the powerful serve of American wildcard Bethanie Mattek-Sands, but no match in her section looks unwinnable.  While second seed and potential quarterfinal opponent Hsieh Su-wei won her first two titles last year, the late-blossoming star from Chinese Taipei still does not intimidate despite her presence in the top 25.

Final:  Wozniacki vs. Pavlyuchenkova

(Actually, can we just combine these last two draws and have Venus play a super-final against Caro?)

 

 

What to Watch in the WTA This Week: Previews of Dubai, Memphis, and Bogota

Shifting down the Persian Gulf, eight of the top ten women move from Doha to Dubai for the only Premier tournament this week.  In North and South America are two International tournaments on dramatically different surfaces.  Here is the weekly look at what to expect in the WTA.

Dubai:  Still the top seed despite her dethroning last week, Azarenka can collect valuable rankings points at a tournament from which she withdrew in 2012.  She looked far sharper in Doha than she did for most of her title run in Melbourne, and once again she eyes a potential quarterfinal with Sara Errani.  Although the Italian has rebounded well from a disastrous start to the season, she lacks any weapons with which to threaten Azarenka.  Between them stands last year’s runner-up Julia Goerges, an enigma who seems destined to remain so despite her first-strike potential.   If Sloane Stephens can upset Errani in the second round, meanwhile, a rematch of the Australian Open semifinal could loom in the quarterfinals.  The top seed might expect a test from Cibulkova in the second round, since she lost to her at Roland Garros last year and needed a miraculous comeback to escape her in Miami.  But Cibulkova injured her leg in Fed Cup a week ago and has faltered since reaching the Sydney final.

Having won just one match until Doha, Stosur bounced back somewhat by recording consecutive wins in that Premier Five field.  The Aussie may face three straight lefties in Makarova, Lepchenko, and Kerber, the last of whom has the greatest reputation but the least momentum.  While Makarova reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, Lepchenko displayed her newfound confidence in upsetting both Errani and Vinci on clay in Fed Cup—a rare feat for an American.  Vinci herself also stands in this section, from which someone unexpected could emerge.  Azarenka need fear little from either Kerber or Stosur, both of whom she has defeated routinely in most of their previous meetings, so a semifinal anticlimax might beckon.  Not that Doha didn’t produce a semifinal anticlimax from much more prestigious names.

Atop the third quarter stands the greatest enigma of all in Petra Kvitova, who won four straight matches between Fed Cup and Doha before nearly halting Serena’s bid for the #1 ranking.  Considering how far she had sunk over the previous several months, unable to string together consecutive victories, that accomplishment marked an immense step forward.  Kvitova can capitalize immediately on a similar surface in the section occupied by defending champion Radwanska.  In contrast to last week, the Czech can outhit anyone whom she could face before the semifinals, so she will determine her own fate.  If she implodes, however, Ivanovic could repeat her upset when they met in last year’s Fed Cup final before colliding with Radwanska for the third time this year.  Also of note in this section is the all-wildcard meeting between rising stars Putintseva and Robson.

Breaking with her usual routine, Serena has committed to the Middle East hard courts without reserve by entering both Doha and Dubai.  Whether she plays the latter event in a physical condition that looks less than promising may remain open to question until she takes the court.  So strong is the draw that Serena could open against world #11 Bartoli, who owns a Wimbledon victory against her from 2011 but has not sustained that success.  The eighth-seeded Wozniacki proved a small thorn in her side last year by defeating her in Miami and threatening her in Rome, so a quarterfinal could intrigue if the Dane can survive Safarova to get there and if Serena arrives at less than full strength.

Final:  Azarenka vs. Kvitova

Memphis:  Overshadowed a little by the accompanying ATP 500 tournament, this event has lacked star power for the last few years.  Rather than Venus, Sharapova, or Davenport, the top seed in 2013 goes to Kirsten Flipkens, a player largely unknown in the United States.  This disciple of Clijsters may deserve more attention than she has received, however, rallying to reach the second week of the Australian Open in January after surviving blood clots last spring.  Former finalist Shahar Peer and 2011 champion Magdalena Rybarikova attempt to resurrect their careers by returning to the scene of past triumphs, but lefty Ksenia Pervak may offer the most credible challenge to Flipkens in this quarter.

Of greater note is the hard-serving German who holds the third seed and should thrive on a fast indoor court.  Although Lisicki has struggled to find her form away from grass, she showed flickers of life by charging within a tiebreak of the Pattaya City title earlier this month.  Kristina Mladenovic, a potential quarterfinal opponent, delivered a key statement in the same week at the Paris Indoors, where she upset Kvitova en route to the semifinals.  Before then, though, this French teenager had displayed little hint of such promise, so one feels inclined to attribute that result more to the Czech’s frailty for now.

Part of an elite doubles team with compatriot Andrea Hlavackova, Lucie Hradecka has excelled on surfaces where her powerful serve can shine.  Like Lisicki, she should enjoy her week in Memphis amid a section of opponents who cannot outhit her from the baseline.  Among them is the largely irrelevant Melanie Oudin, who surfaced last year to win her first career title before receding into anonymity again.  Neither Oudin nor the fourth-seeded Heather Watson possesses significant first-strike power, so their counterpunching will leave them at a disadvantage on the indoor hard court.  But Watson has improved her offense (together with her ranking) over the last few months and should relish the chance to take advantage of a friendly draw.  Interestingly, Hradecka’s doubles partner Hlavackova could meet her in the quarterfinals if she can upset Watson.

Finishing runner-up to Sharapova here in 2010, Sofia Arvidsson holds the second seed in this yaer’s tournament as she eyes a potential quarterfinal against one of two Americans.  While Chanelle Scheepers anchors the other side of the section, Jamie Hampton could build upon her impressive effort against Azarenka at the Australian Open to shine on home soil.  Nor should one discount the massive serve of Coco Vandeweghe, which could compensate for her one-dimensionality here.

Final:  Lisicki vs. Hradecka

Bogota:  Like the ATP South American tournaments in February, this event offers clay specialists an opportunity to compile ranking points in a relatively unintimidating setting.  Top seed and former #1 Jankovic fits that category, having reached multiple semifinals at Roland Garros during her peak years.  She has not won a title in nearly three years, but a breakthrough could happen here.  In her section stand Pauline Parmentier and Mariana Duque Marino, the latter of whom stunned Bogota audiences by winning the 2010 title here over Kerber.  As her wildcard hints, she never quite vaulted from that triumph to anything more significant.  Serious opposition to Jankovic might not arise until the semifinals, when she faces the aging Pennetta.  Once a key part of her nation’s Fed Cup achievements, the Italian veteran won their most recent clay meeting and looks likely to ensure a rematch with nobody more notable than the tiny Dominguez Lino blocking her.

The lower half of the draw features a former Roland Garros champion in Schiavone and a French prodigy who nearly broke through several years ago before stagnating in Cornet.  Testing the latter in a potential quarterfinal is Timea Babos, who won her first career title around this time last year with a promising serve.  For Schiavone, the greatest resistance could come from lanky Dutch lefty Arantxa Rus.  Known most for her success on clay, Rus won a match there from Clijsters and a set from Sharapova, exploiting the extra time that the surface allows for her sluggish footwork.  Also of note in this half is Paula Ormaechea, a rising Argentine who probably ranks as the most notable women’s star expected from South America in the next generation.  Can she step into Dulko’s shoes?

Final:  Jankovic vs. Schiavone

Check back shortly for the companion preview on the three ATP tournaments this week in Marseille, Memphis, and Buenos Aires!

 

Mondays With Bob Greene: I probably can win a Grand Slam

STARS

Gilles Simon won the BCR Open Romania title by beating Carlos Moya 6-3 6-4 in Bucharest, Romania

Patty Schnyder beat Tamira Paszek 6-3 6-0 to win the Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic in Bali, Indonesia

Nicolas Mahut beat Christophe Rochus 5-7 6-1 7-6 (2) to win the Open d’Orleans in Orleans, France

Lourdes Dominguez-Lino beat Sorana Cirstea 6-4 6-4 in Athens, Greece, to win the Vogue Athens Open 2008

SAYINGS

“I have the belief right now that I can do it as long as I’m healthy, really. That’s the way I feel. I’m going to believe till the end of my tennis days that I probably can win a Grand Slam. And if it’s not the case, or I don’t believe in it anymore, then I’ll probably retire.” – Roger Federer.

“It’s the end of the year, it’s the last Grand Slam. He didn’t have a bad year, but for his standards, not as good as he would have liked. It’s a great thing going into next year. It gives him a lot of hope to get ready for next season, and I think it’s a great feeling for him.” – Jose Higueras, on Roger Federer winning the US Open.

“These days I feel like my opponents have to play really well to beat me. … I felt good on court and I’m happy about the result. It’s nice to defend the title here in Bucharest.” – Gilles Simon.

“I am having my best season ever and qualifying for (Tennis Masters Cup) Shanghai is a great reward. It was one of my goals at the beginning of 2008 and I look forward to competing there for the first time.” – Andy Murray, the first Briton to qualify for the season-ending tournament since Tim Henman in 2004.

“It wasn’t one of my goals at the beginning of the season, but of course it would be very nice if I made it.” – Gilles Simon, on the possibility of him qualifying for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, China.

“This is kind of a surprise for us,” confessed Nicolas Devilder. “We came here focusing on our singles matches and end up winning the doubles. It feels great to win the title here.” – Nicolas Devilder, after teaming with Paul-Henri Mathieu to win the doubles in Bucharest, Romania.

“It’s not the easiest tie to start off your Davis Cup career with. I would probably prefer a home tie on hard court. To jump in there against Spain in the semifinals, in a way though it’s a nice introduction to the Davis Cup. It will be tough.” – Sam Querrey, who will make his United States Davis Cup debut against Spain on clay.

“I always felt I could be number one if I put in the effort. It’s been great. I enjoyed the journey because it wasn’t overnight, and life’s a journey, not a destination.” – Serena Williams, who won the US Open women’s singles.

“Missing the U.S. Open and the Olympics was really tough for her, but she’s resolved not to try to work through the pain. She’s not coming back until the problem is corrected.” – Agent Max Eisenbud, on Maria Sharapova’s rehabilitation schedule.

“The ATP has now exhausted all avenues of inquiry open to it and the investigation is now concluded.” – The ATP in announcing it found no evidence of wrongdoing by Nikolay Davydenko and has ended its investigation of a match he lost in August 2007.

“The site on which we bet a few euros didn’t have the right to reveal that data because it was prior to the agreement made with the various sporting associations. And the ATP was not allowed to make public other information, like the bets on football and other sports. We’ll go all the way to the highest court.” – Giorgio Galimberti, one of four Italian players given suspensions by the ATP for betting on matches, saying they intend to sue the ATP for violation of privacy.

STREAKING RUSSIANS

With 4-0 clobbering of Spain, Russia won its second straight Fed Cup title and its fourth international women’s team championship in the last five years. Playing on clay in Madrid, Vera Zvonareva beat Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3 6-4, Svetlana Kuznetsova stopped Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3 6-1 before beating Medina Garrigues 5-7 6-3 6-4, and Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina teamed up to down Spain’s Nuria Llagostera Vives and Suarez Navarro 6-2 6-1. Since the best-of-5 tie was already decided, the fourth singles match was not played.

SOME BATTLE

Frenchmen Nicolas Devilder and Paul-Henri Mathieu won three fewer points than their opponents, but outlasted top-seeded Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 7-6 (4) 6-7 (9) 22-20 (match tiebreak) to win the BCR Open Romania doubles in Bucharest. It was their first team title. In fact, they had never won a match in their two previous tournaments, and it was the first ATP doubles title for both players. The winners saved six match points before finally winning on their tenth match point. Besides beating the top-seeded Polish team, Devilder and Mathieu also knocked off the third-seeded team as well as the 2005 champions.

SWISS MISS

When Patty Schnyder won the Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic in her third attempt, she reached several milestones. It was the Swiss left-hander’s 500th singles victory of her career and her eleventh title, her last one coming in Cincinnati in July 2005. Since that win, Schnyder had lost seven straight finals before defeating 17-year-old Tamira Paszek of Austria 6-3 6-0 in Bali, Indonesia.

SHANGHAI BOUND

By reaching the US Open final, Andy Murray has qualified for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup, which will be held at Shanghai’s Qi Zhong Stadium in November. Murray, who reached his first Grand Slam tournament final before running into Roger Federer, joins the elite eight-man field that already includes Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram became the third team to qualify for the eight-team doubles event in Shanghai.

SOMETHING NEW

The Bali Classic is being transformed next year into a real Tournament of Champions. That will be the new name for the Indonesian event, which will see increased prize money from USD $225,000 to $600,00, plus a possibility of a USD $1 million bonus. Next year’s tournament will be played indoors from November 4-8 at the Bali International Convention Centre with 12 players in four round-robin groups. It will be open only to players who have won at least one of the season-long International Series events, a series of 30 tournaments played in Australia, Asia, north Africa, the Americas and Europe. The top ten WTA Tour players who have won at least one International Series tournaments and are not participating in the year-end championships in Doha, Qatar, will qualify, along with two wild cards. A player who wins three International Series events and the Tournament of Champions will collect an additional USD $1 million bonus.

SINGLES SHIFT

There were some major shifts in the top ten of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles rankings following the US Open, led by Serena Williams taking over the top spot with her winning the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Williams is the fourth player to take over the number one spot since Justine Henin retired in May. Elena Dementieva and Dinara Safina took over as the top two Russians, Dementieva moving from number six to number four, while safina moved up two spots to number five after both were semifinalists in New York. US Open finalist Jelena Jankovic is second and her Serbian countrywoman Ana Ivanovic is third.

SINO COOPERATION

Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei and Peng Shuai of China teamed up to win the Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic doubles title in Bali, Indonesia, rallying from the brink of defeat to down Marta Domachowska and Nadia Petrova. The losers held three match points on Petrova’s serve at 5-4 in the second set only to hae Hsieh and Peng come away with a 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 10-7 (match tiebreak) victory. The win was the first for the team. “I’m really happy to win with my partner,” Peng said. “We have been good friends for eight years now and she’s always been helping me and giving me advice, so to share this with her, it really doesn’t get any better than this.”

SALUTE

Dennis Van der Meer and the late Howard Head are the first two inductees into the new Tennis Industry Hall of Fame. The announcement was made by the Tennis Industry Association at a special reception honoring the two men and their contributions to the sport of tennis. Van der Meer founded the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), based in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, in 1976 to certify tennis teaching professionals. He also has coached world-class players on both the women’s and men’s professional tours. Howard Head first transformed the ski industry in the late 1940s when he designed a new type of ski that combined metal, plastic and plywood that was more durable, lighter and easier to turn. In 1969, he designed a metal racquet. He then joined Prince Manufacturing, where he helped redesign and improve a tennis ball machine, then later designed and patented a racquet with a 20 percent larger head.

SHARAPOVA TO RETURN

Maria Sharapova hopes to begin her comeback the second week in January when she plays an exhibition event in Hong Kong. She hopes to follow that by defending her title at the Australian Open. Sharapova, who missed the Olympics and the US Open because of a shoulder injury, has been in Phoenix, Arizona, for the last month working with fitness trainer Brett Fischer, who is working to strengthen the area around the torn rotator cuff in her right shoulder. No surgery is indicated and Sharapova’s doctors have described the tear as “very moderate.” Sharapova hasn’t played since retiring from a second-round match against Ai Sugiyama at the Canadian Open in early August.

SPANISH CAPTAIN

Miguel Margets, captain of the Spanish Fed Cup team, has been given the 2008 Fed Cup Award of Excellence by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF). Francesco Ricci Bitti, ITF president, and 1984 International Tennis Hall of Famer Manolo Santana presented the award to Margets during the Fed Cup World Group final in Madrid, Spain. Miguel has captained four Spanish teams to Fed Cup championships. The Fed Cup Award of Excellence, which was inaugurated by the ITHF and the ITF in 2001, is presented to a person who represents the ideals and spirit of the Fed Cup competition and must be a member of a past or present Fed Cup team.

SISTERS TO AFRICA

The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, are scheduled to visit Nigeria in November in what reportedly will be their first joint visit to Africa. Godwin Kienka, who runs the International Tennis Academy in Lagos, Nigeria, and publishes a tennis magazine – Tennis Africa – said the sisters will be accompanied by their mother Oracene as well as sister and manager Isha Price, trainers and other staffers. Kienka said Venus and Serena would play an exhibition and run a clinic. It will be Venus’ first visit to Africa, whereas Serena has been to Ghana and Senegal.

SAM TO THE RESCUE

Sam Querrey will make his Davis Cup debut when the United States travels to Madrid, Spain, for a semifinal. United States Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe said Querrey is replacing James Blake, who McEnroe said, is “physically and mentally exhausted.” Querrey won his first ATP title in March, reached the quarterfinals on clay at Monte Carlo, and reached the fourth round of the US Open earlier this month. Other members of the American squad are Andy Roddick and the doubles team of brothers Mike and Bob Bryan. The world’s number one player, Rafael Nadal, leads the Spanish squad.

SERENA, THE WRITER

Serena Williams is reportedly planning to write her memoir. Publishing industry sources report the nine-time Grand Slam tournament champion could be close to signing a USD $1 million dollar book deal. The news of a pending Williams autobiography was initially reported by Matthew Flamm, a senior reporter at Crain’s New York.com.

SWEPT CLEAN

After a year-long investigation into suspicious betting patterns, Russian star Nikolay Davydenko has been cleared by the ATP. The governing body of men’s tennis said it found no evidence of wrongdoing by Davydenko, his opponent, Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina, or anyone else associated with their match in Sopot, Poland, on August 2, 2007. Then ranked number five in the world, Davydenko, citing a foot injury, retired in the third set of his match against the 87th-ranked Vassallo.

[ad#adify-300×250]

SUING ATP

Four Italian tennis players banned for betting on matches are planning on suing the ATP Tour for violation of privacy over its handling of their cases. The ATP handed Potito Starace, Daniele Bracciali, Federico Luzzi and Giorgio Galimberti bans ranging from six weeks to 200 days between December 2007 and February this year. Galimberti told La Gazzetta dello Sport that a Miami law firm “will defend us for violation of privacy.” He also said the four were planning on suing the betting agency that gave the ATP the information about their wagers. Galimberti said another Italian player, Alessio di Mauro, who was banned for nine months for betting, is not taking part in the legal action.

SOME HISTORY

The Vogue Athens Open ITF women’s tournament was played on hallowed ground. It was the first USD $100,000 ITF women’s circuit event to be held in Greece and included eight players ranked in the WTA Tour’s top 100. Lourdes Dominguez-Lino of Spain won the singles, beating Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-4 6-4 at the Athens Lawn Tennis Club next to the famed Temple of Olympian Zeus. The 109-year-old tennis club, the largest and oldest in Greece, also was the site for the tennis event at the first Olympic Games in 1896. Davis Cup and Fed Cup ties also have been played at the club.

SPONSOR

Turismo Madrid has become an international sponsor of Fed Cup by BNP Paribas. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) said the three-year sponsorship began with the 2008 Fed Cup final between Russia and Spain held at the Club de Campo in Madrid, Spain. Turismo Madrid is the tourism arm of the region of Madrid with the aim to attract international visitors not only to its capital city Madrid, but also to the many cultural, leisure and entertainment activities within the region.

SPOTLIGHT

Dr. Dharmendran Navaratnam, the tournament physician in Bali, Indonesia, has been awarded the Dr. Glick Award by the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The award is named for Irving Glick, who was chief medical officer at the US Open for more than 20 years. Dr. Glick founded and chaired the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee of the USTA, served on the Medical Commission for the ITF, was the science coordinator for Tennis Sports Medicine at the Olympics, and was the ITF medical representative to the Seoul and Barcelona Olympics.

SPA AND ACADEMY

Jimmy Connors has made his first trip to India where a tennis academy named for the tennis great is being set up. Club Solaris, which has a chain of fitness centers, is developing the Jimmy Connors Tennis Academy at a 250-300 acre resort spa located between Pune, Mumbai and Goa. The facility will include 100 villas.

SUPER SHOW

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) says the 2008 tournament was the biggest and most successful US Open in its 40-year history as revenue, attendance, website traffic, and concession sales hit all-time highs. More than 720,000 fans attended the 15-day event, topping last year’s record as Arthur Ashe Stadium was sold to a record 99 percent of capacity for the first time, with 23 of 26 sessions sold out. The US Open remains the highest-attended annual sporting event in the world.

SHE’S BACK

Anna Kournikova will compete in mixed doubles exhibition matches at The Stanford Championships, a stop on the Outback Champions Series circuit which will be played October 22-26 in Dallas, Texas. Once ranked in the top ten in the world, Kournikova will play during both the day and night sessions on Saturday, October 25.

SETS AN ASIAN TOUR

The Asian Tennis Federation has unveiled plans for a new tour to boost players from Asia, but is quick to insist it is not in competition with the ATP tour. Anil Khanna, president of the Asian Tennis Federation (ATF), says the sole objective is to provide opportunities for Asian players to earn more money and win wild-cards for ATP events. The Asian Tour will feature 12 tournaments in different cities in Asia and will have minimum prize money of USD $50,000. The tour will begin in New Delhi, India, in December with an Asian Championship and will culminate with an eight-player Masters tournament offering prize money of USD $300,000. Khanna said the winner of the Asian Championship will be given a wild card into the ATP Qatar Open.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Bucharest: Nicolas Devilder and Paul-Henri Mathieu beat Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 7-6 (4) 6-7 (9) 22-20 (match tiebreak)

Orleans: Sergiy Stakhovsky and Lovro Zovko beat Jean-Claude Scherrer and Igor Zelenay 7-6 (7) 6-4

Bali: Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai beat Marta Domachowska and Nadia Petrova 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Athens: Sorana Cirstea and Galina Voskoboeva beat Kristina Barrois and Julia Schruff 6-2 6-4

SITES TO SURF

Tokyo: www.toray-ppo.co.jp

Guangzhou: www.qztennis.com

Szczecin: www.pekaoopen.pl

Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com

Beijing: www.chinaopen.com.cn

Bangkok: www.thailandopen.com

Paris: www.tropheejeanluclagardere.com

Luxembourg: www.covadis.be/viviumchallenge

Charlotte: http://championsseriestennis.com/charlotte2008/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$125,000 Pekao Open, Szczecin, Poland

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Toray Pan Pacific Open, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$175,000 TOE Life Ceramics Guangzhou International Women’s Open, Guangzhou, China, hard

$100,000 ITF Tournament, Sofia, Bulgaria, clay

SENIORS

Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere, Black Rock Tournament of Champions, Paris, France, clay

DAVIS CUP

(September 19-21)

World Group Semifinals

Argentina vs. Russia at Buenos Aires, Argentina, clay

Spain vs. United States at Madrid, Spain, clay

World Group Playoffs

Chile vs. Australia at Antofagasta, Chile, clay

Great Britain vs. Austria at Wimbledon, England, grass

Switzerland vs. Belgium at Lausanne, Switzerland, hard

Croatia vs. Brazil at Zadar, Crotia, hard

Israel vs. Peru at Ramat Hasharon, Israel, hard

Netherlands vs. South Korea at Apeldoorn, Netherlands, clay

Romania vs. India at Bucharest, Romania, clay

Slovak Republic vs. Serbia at Bratislava, Slovak Republic, hard

Europe/Africa Zone Group I

Italy vs. Latvia at Montecatini, Italy, clay

Belarus vs. Georgia at Minsk, Belarus, hard

Europe/Africa Zone Group II

Monaco vs. South Africa at Monaco, clay

Ukraine vs. Portugal at Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$576,000 Thailand Open, Bangkok, Thailand, hard

$524,000 China Open, Beijing, China, hard

$120,000 ATP Challenger Trophy, Trnava, Slovakia

WTA TOUR

$600,000 China Open, Beijing, China, hard

$145,000 Hansol Korea Open, Seoul, Korea, hard

SENIORS

The Citadel Group Championships at the Palisades, Outback Champions, Charlotte, North Carolina, hard

Viviam Victory Challenge, Black Rock Tournament of Champions, Luxembourg, Luxembourg, hard

Dokic and Massu Take First Steps to Former Glory

Last week on the challenger circuit, two former top 10 players struggling with injuries and motivation took their first real steps to reclaiming their former glory, while two players on the men’s side continued their hot streaks on the circuit.

Jelena Dokic of Australia has had more than her share of personal problems. The former world No. 4 has defected from her family, switched nationalities several times, and attempted multiple half-hearted comeback attempts. However, it looks like that Dokic is serious this time around after winning her first event in six years at the $25,000 event in Florence, Italy, dominating Lucie Hradecka of Czech Republic 6-1, 6-3 in the final. The win moves Dokic up to No. 325 in the rankings (after just four tournaments) and she has contacted the All England Club for a qualifying wild card into Wimbledon.

At the $75,000 event in Zagreb, Croatia, Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden won her first title of the year by beating former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Severine Bremond of France 7-6, 6-2. The 24-year-old Swede, who has recorded high-profile scalps over Anna Chakvetadze and Marion Bartoli this year, used her aggressive groundstrokes to wear Bremond down throughout the match. Despite the loss, Bremond has been on a hot streak as of late with a 10-4 record on the challenger circuit in her last four events.

At the $50,000 tournament in Jounieh, Lebanon, players had to endure the fighting that has plagued the country, confining them to their hotel rooms and the tennis courts for the week. Anne Keothavong of Great Britain weathered her surroundings and won the first clay court of her career, defeating Lourdes Dominguez-Lino of Spain 6-4, 6-1. The win moved Keothavong up to a career high ranking of No. 102 and allows her direct entry into Wimbledon this summer. The last British player to get direct entry into Wimbledon was Samantha Smith in 1999.

In other results on the women’s side, Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium won the $50,000 event in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. Petra Cetkovska of Czech Republic prevailed at the $50,000 challenger in Bucharest, Romania, and Tomoko Yonemura of Japan won at the $50,000 challenger in Fukuoka, Japan. Ksenia Milevskaya of Belarus won at the $25,000 challenger in Antalya, Turkey, Yan Ze-Xie of China took home the winners trophy at the $25,000 event in Changwon, Korea, and Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia prevailed at the $25,000 event in Irapuato, Mexico.

On the men’s side, it’s been a while since we heard from Nicolas Massu. The former top 10 player and reigning Olympic gold medalist has been struggling with injuries, but took a step in the right direction by winning the $30,000 event in Rijeka, Croatia. His 6-2, 6-2 win in the final over Christophe Rochus of Belgium gives the Chilean his first title in over two years.

Ivan Miranda of Peru is continuing to ride his hot streak on the challenger circuit with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Carsten Ball of Australia at the $50,000 challenger in Tunica, Mississippi. Miranda has now reached the championship round in three of the last four challengers he has played. His experience clearly was a factor against Ball, who was competing in the first challenger final of his career.

Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil is a name that has repeatedly come up in this column, but it’s only a matter of time before he moves to the ATP Tour on a full-time basis. He won his fourth challenger title of the year (and third in a row) at the $42,500 challenger in Rabat, Morocco, rolling over Martin Vasallo-Arguello of Argentina 6-2, 6-2. Expect Bellucci to potentially do some damage at Roland Garros in just a few weeks.

In other results on the men’s side, Andreas Beck won the $42,500 challenger in Dresden, Germany, while Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia won the $30,000 event in Telde, Spain. Jiri Vanek also won the $42,500 event in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Fabrice Santoro of France highlights the challenger circuit this week as the top seed at the $75,000 event in Bordeaux, France, while Gael Monfis of France leads the way at the $75,000 challenger in Marrakech, Morocco. Several $50,000 events will also be contested this week; Robert Kendrick of the United States is the top seed at the one in Bradenton, Florida, Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei will lead the way in New Delhi, India, and Denis Gremelmayr of Germany takes top billing in Zagreb, Croatia. Oscar Hernandez of Spain is top seed at the $42,500 event in Aarhus, Denmark, while Santiago Ventura of Spain is the top seed at the $30,000 challenger in San Remo, Italy.

On the women’s side, Petra Cetkovska of Czech Republic is top seed at the $50,000 event in Saint Gaudens, France. Melanie South of Great Britain leads the way at the $50,000 challenger in Kurume, Japan, Tetiana Luzhanska of Ukraine is the top seed at the $25,000 challenger in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Jorgelina Cravero of Argentina takes top billing at the $25,000 event in Caserta, Italy. Finally, Renata Voracova of Czech Republic is top seed at the $25,000 event in Szczecin, Poland.

Mondays with Bob Greene – Novak Djokovic Wins Rome

STARS

Novak Djokovic beat Stanislas Wawrinka 4-6 6-3 6-3 to win the Rome Masters in Rome, Italy.

Dina Safina defeated Elena Dementieva 3-6 6-2 6-2 to win the Qatar Telecom German Open in Berlin, Germany.

Thomas Muster won the BlackRock Tour of Champions in Rome, Italy, by a walkover when Goran Ivanisevic was unable to play because of a shoulder injury.

SAYINGS

“This year has been like a dream for me, but I want to continue. I want to finish the year as number one.” – Novak Djokovic, who added the Rome Masters to his 2008 Australian Open title.

“My mother can buy anything she wants. She can walk into any store and I will pay for it.” – Dina Safina, after beating her third top-ten player of the week and winning the German Open.

“I’m a little surprised, because in one week playing the final in Masters Series, and to be 44 and then top ten after the week is a big jump for me.” – Stanislas Wawrinka, whose surprising week at the Rome Masters has boosted his ranking from number 44 in the world to number 10.

“It happens once in a while, but never anything like this – a tournament without semifinals.” – American tennis commentator Bud Collins on players retiring from both Rome Masters semifinals because of injuries.

“The problem is there’s a real risk the injury might get worse.” – Amelie Mauresmo, who said a scan showed she has an intercostal tear in her rib area, the reason she has pulled out of two tournaments, including the Italian Open.

“This is another showing that the season is really tough. The players are not getting injured for nothing.” – Novak Djokovic, after both Rome Masters semifinals ended with retirements because of injury.

“We are aware that this year’s calendar asks a great deal of all ATP players in terms of scheduling for the European spring clay court season.” – Andy Anson, ATP CEO of Europe, about the players’ complaints of the packed ATP calendar.

“You can put me on the list if you want to, but I don’t know if I can keep playing like this. This week I played so good, starting with Justine (Henin), just so good.” – Dina Safina, when asked if she should be considered one of the favorite for the French Open women’s title later this month.

“I came into the match with the belief that I can win.” – Radek Stepanek, after upsetting Roger Federer 7-6 (4) 7-6 (7) in the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters.

“It’s quite disappointing. I played so poorly on the big points.” – Roger Federer, after losing to Radek Stepanek.

“If someone had told me I would be in the final I would have shaken his hand and given him half the prize money.” – Dinara Safina before she won the German Open title.

“I definitely lost that match, rather than she won it off me. It just wasn’t my day out there. It wasn’t pretty for me out there at all.” – Serena Williams, following her 2-6 6-1 7-6 (5) loss to Dinara Safina at the German Open.

“It’s a very important win for me and I feel special right now. I haven’t had this special feeling for a long time.” – Juan Carlos Ferrero, after handing Rafael Nadal only his second loss on clay in three years, 7-5 6-1 in the second round of the Rome Masters.

“I have this pain at the back of my foot, so it was tough for me. I just congratulate Juan Carlos. I think this is an important win for him because he’s trying to go to the Olympics.” – Rafael Nadal, after losing to Juan Carlos Ferrero.

“This dispute isn’t specifically about whether or not Madrid is the venue. The players and Davis Cup team captain (Emilio Sanchez Vicario) have once again been misled, and a promise has not been kept to defend and approve the conditions established for us so as not to give our rivals an advantage.” – Statement from Spain’s top players complaining about the choice of venue for September’s Davis Cup semifinal against the United States.

“It just comes to the point where the schedule is too long without the biggest sporting event in the world shoved right in the middle of its busiest part of the season.” – Andy Roddick, saying he’s skipping the Beijing Olympics tennis tournament to instead prepare for the U.S. Open

“For my favorite fan base – 75-year-old women – this proves to you that can still be young at an advanced age.” – John McEnroe, 49, after winning his first Outback Champions Series title in Boston in his 13th career tournament on the 30-and-over tour.

SUPER RUN

Dina Safina rode her string of upsets to the title at the Qatar Telecom German Open in Berlin, Germany. The 22-year-old Russian knocked off world number one Justine Henin, then fifth-seeded Serena Williams during the week. In the final, Safina beat ninth-ranked Elena Dementieva 3-6 6-2 6-2. Safina is the sister of two-time Grand Slam tournament champion Marat Safin.

SWISS SURPRISE

Switzerland has been represented in many tournament finals over the past few years, but the Rome Masters produced a surprise from the Alpine confederation. It was Stanislas Wawrinka, not Roger Federer, who reached the title match before Novak Djokovic struggled to a 4-6 6-3 6-3 victory. Wawrinka’s run included victories over two top ten players, James Blake and Andy Roddick, as well as Britain’s Andy Murray and Juan Carlos Ferrero right after he had shocked fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal. The run to the final boosted Wawrinka’s ranking to number 10 in the world, make it the first time since the rankings began in 1973 that two Swiss players have been in the top ten at the same time.

SHORT SEMIS

The Rome Masters singles semifinals lasted all of 10 games. Total. Andy Roddick pulled out of his match against Stanislas Wawrinka with a back injury while trailing 0-3. Then Radek Stepanek retired from his semifinal with Novak Djokovic leading 6-0 1-0. Djokovic’s quarterfinal opponent, Nicolas Almagro, also retired with an injury. And although he didn’t retire, defending champion Rafael Nadal suffered from a blister on his right foot in his second-round loss to Juan Carlos Ferrero. In all, there were a tournament-record five retirements as Fernando Gonzalez withdrew from his third-round match because of a right leg injury and Juan Martin Del Potro retired in his first-round match against Andy Murray.

SHORT FINAL

Fans at the Rome Masters should have expected as much. One day after both men’s singles semifinals were drastically shortened because of injury retirements, the BlackRock Tour of Champions final wasn’t held at all: Goran Ivanisevic, who beat Pat Cash on Saturday in three sets, woke up Sunday with a sore shoulder and couldn’t play, giving the title to Thomas Muster on a walkover. Muster did take to the court, however, playing an exhibition match with Henri Leconte.

SHOCKING WEEK

The top two players in both the men’s and women’s singles- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and Justine Henin and Ana Ivanovic – were among the big names who were upset in tournaments the past week, the men in Rome and the women in Berlin. Others who were upset this week included Svetlana Kuznetsova, Jelena Jankovic and Serena Williams in Berlin, while David Ferrrer, James Blake and David Nalbandian were among those toppled in Rome.

SPANISH IRE

Spanish players are upset that their nation’s Davis Cup semifinal against the United States will be played in Madrid. The players, who want to play at sea-level where the ball would be slower, feel that Madrid’s 600-meter (1,968 feet) altitude will favor the big-serving American team. Emilio Sanchez Vicario was confirmed as team captain even though Sanchez sided with the players in complaining that Spanish Tennis Federation president Pedro Munoz had gone back on a promise to listen to the players’ advice regarding the selection of the site. Munoz said: “They can say I didn’t keep my promise, but not that I lied.”

SHARAPOVA SURGE

Maria Sharapova’s decision to skip the German Open has proved beneficial to her ranking. When Ana Ivanovic was upset in the semifinals of the Berlin tournament by Elena Dementieva, it meant the Serbian player would slip from her world number two ranking and be overtaken by Sharapova. The Russian still hasn’t said why she pulled out of the Berlin event.

SKIPPING ROME

Two-time champion Amelie Mauresmo has pulled out of this week’s Italian Open because of a rib injury. The Frenchwoman won the Rome tournament in 2004 and 2005 and has twice been runner-up. Mauresmo was replaced in the draw by Nadia Petrova.

STAKING A CLAIM

Madison Brengle, an 18-year-old from Dover, Delaware, earned a spot in the main draw of the French Open after winning a USTA wild card tournament in Boca Raton, Florida. Currently ranked number 274 in the world, Brengle has now won four USTA wild card playoffs – for the Australian Open main draw wild cards in 2007 and 2008, and a French Open qualifying draw wild card in 2007. The U.S. Tennis Association and the French Tennis Federation have a reciprocal agreement in which wild card entries into the main draw at the 2008 French Open and 2008 U.S. Open are exchanged.

STEPPING UP

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has appointed Andrew Jarrett as Chief of Officiating. A former British Davis Cup player, Jarrett coached the British Olympic team and has been manager of Women’s National Training at the Lawn Tennis Association. He is a gold badge referee and has worked as a Grand Slam supervisor at the Australian Open and U.S. Open. In 2006, he was appointed Wimbledon referee.

SITE FOR SENIORS

Three players who have been ranked number one in the world and have been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame – John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Mats Wilander – will play in the Hall of Fame Champions Cup in Newport, Rhode Island, August 13-17. The three Hall of Famers will be joined by five other tennis champions in the five-day singles round-robin competition.

SO CLOSE

While heavy fighting was going on in the country, Anne Keothavong of Britain beat Lourdes Dominguez-Lino of Spain 6-4 6-1 to win a $50,000 International Tennis Federation women’s tournament in Jounieh, Lebanon. Jounieh is located eight miles (30 kilometers) north of Beirut, which for four days during the week was the focus of bloody sectarian clashes between Sunnis and Shiites. The tournament was conducted with no problems.

SO TIRED

Justine Henin was slapped with a $20,000 (USD) fine by the WTA Tour when the world number one player was a late withdrawal from the Italian Open, citing fatigue. Henin lost in the third round of the German Open this past week after taking a month off with a knee injury. The four-time French Open champion will head to Roland Garros with having played just two clay court matches this spring.

SHIPPING STAR

Chinese star Peng Shuai helped celebrate the 100-day countdown to the Beijing Olympics by becoming UPS’s star Courier For A Day. The first stop for courier Peng was the Beijing Organizing Committee where she presented a letter for commitment from United Parcel Service, one of the sponsors of the Games. Then Peng headed to the China Charity Federation to make a special delivery. Besides sponsoring the 2008 Paralympics Games, the UPS Foundation is donating $100,000 (USD) to the China Paralympics Games Management Center.

SERBIAN STARLET?

Jelena Jankovic says she has been taking acting lessons, with a possible movie role in the future. “It was super,” she said of the acting lesson. “I’ve always enjoyed activity that is not connected with tennis. It (the lesson) lasted only an hour. I got instructions to use my imagination and I acted the scene without anybody’s advice. At the end we did several exercises because they wanted to test my acting talent.”

STUMBLES

Kimiko Date-Krumm’s comeback ran into reality in Fukuoka, Japan. Ranked as high as number five in the world, Date-Krumm’s second tournament back from a 12-year retirement ended in the quarterfinals of the $50,000 International Tennis Federation event when she lost to top-seeded Aiko Nakamura 6-2 6-2. The eventual winner was Tomoko Yonemura of Japan, who beat Thailand’s Tamarin Tanasugarn in the final 6-1 2-6 7-6 (8). In her first tournament back, Date-Krumm won the doubles. This time she and her partner lost in the first round.

SEE FOR YOURSELF

ESPN360.com will provide more than 150 hours of live online tennis coverage from Sony Ericsson WTA Tour events around the world. The coverage has already begun and will conclude with coverage of the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, Qatar. Additionally, matches will be available for on-demand replay for at least 48 hours after their completion.

SUPPORTING THE SPORT

Juan Maria Tintore, president of the Real Club De Tenis Barcelona, has been awarded the Golden Achievement Award for 2008 by the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The award is presented annually to individuals who have made important contributions to tennis in the fields of administration, promotion or education, and have devoted long and outstanding service to the sport. Tintore was presented the award at a ceremony in Barcelona by Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

SCORING DAVIS CUP

Bosnia/Herzegovina, Lithuania, Moldova and Norway took another step toward being promoted to Davis Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group II next year. Competing in an eight-nation round-robin competition played on clay in Yerevan, Armenia, the four will now play for two spots in Group II. The other four nations – Armenia, Andorra, Estonia and Ghana – will meet, with the teams finishing third and fourth being relegated to Europe/Africa Zone Group IV in 2009.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Doubles Champions

Rome: Bob and Mike Bryan beat Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 3-6 6-4 10-8

Berlin: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 3-6 6-2 10-2

SITES TO SURF

Hamburg: www.dtb-tennis.de/AmRothenbaum/

Rome: www.internazionalibnlditalia.it

Duesseldorf: www.arag-world-team-cup.com

Poertschach: www.atppoertschach.info

Casablanca: www.frmtennis.com

Istanbul: www.istanbulcup.com

Strasbourg: www.internationaux-de-strasbourg.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP

$2,270,000 Hamburg Masters, Hamburg, Germany, clay

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay

SENIORS

BlackRock Tour of Champions Hamburg, Germany, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$1,500,000 ARAG ATP World Team Championship, Duesseldorf, Germany, clay

$370,000 The Hypo Group Tennis International 2008, Poertschach, Austria, clay

$370,000 Grand Prix Hassan II, Casablanca, Morocco, clay

WTA TOUR

$200,000 Istanbul Cup, Istanbul, Turkey, clay

$175,000 Internationaux de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, clay

$1,340,000 Qatar Telecom German Open, Berlin, Germany, clay

SENIORS

BlackRock Tour of Champions, Sao Paulo, Brazil, clay

Date-Krumm Makes Inspirational Comeback in Gifu

Last week on the challenger circuit, a former top 5 player and the only college graduate mother on tour recorded impressive results, while two players on the men’s side broke into the top 100 for the first time this week with their tournament wins.

Twelve years after competing in her last professional singles event, Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan returned to the tour this week at the $50,000 challenger event in Gifu, Japan. The 37-year-old, who reached a career high ranking of No. 4 in the world, accepted wild cards into the qualifying draw of the singles event and main draw of the doubles event. Date surprised everybody by coming through qualifying and storming through to the finals of the singles draw. In Sunday’s championship match against Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, she was up a set and 4-2 before Tanasugarn prevailed 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. However, Date won the doubles event with fellow Japanese player Kurumi Nara. Date will also play in the singles and doubles draws of the $50,000 event in Fukuoka, Japan next week.

At the $100,000 challenger in Cagnes Sur Mer France, Viktoria Kutuzova of Ukraine finally lived up the expectations placed on her as a can’t miss junior prodigy, winning the biggest event of her career with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Maret Ani of Estonia. The win also places Kutuzova back in the top 150.of the rankings. Despite the loss, Ani has been riding a hot streak as of late, having reached the semifinals of the WTA event in Estoril, Portugal last week.

At the $50,000 event in Charlottesville, Virginia, Alexis Gordon of the United States won the first title of her career with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Olga Puchkova of Russia. The 25-year-old Gordon is currently in her debut year on the tour, having finished college at the Univ. of Florida in May of last year. She also took time off in college to give birth to her daughter, Imani, who’s now three years old. Gordon moves up to No. 374 in the rankings this week and she says that her goal is to make the cut-off for the qualifying at the Australian Open next year.

In other challenger results on the women’s side, Stephanie Vogt of Liechtenstein won the $50,000 event in Makarska, Croatia and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand won the $25,000 event in Balikpapan, Indonesia. Jarmila Gajdosova of Slovakia won the $25,000 event in Gimcheon, Korea, and Augustina Lepore of Argentina won the $25,000 tournament in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico.

On the men’s side, Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil won the biggest title of her career at the $125,000 challenger in Tunis, Tunisia, beating Dusan Vemic of Serbia 6-4, 6-4 in the final. This is Bellucci’s third challenger title of the year and propelled him into the world’s top 100 for the first time in his career.

At the $75,000 event in Prague, Czech Republic, Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic beat fellow countryman Lukas Dlouhy 4-6 6-2 6-4 in the final. This was the first all-Czech final in the tournament’s history.

Stephane Bohli of Switzerland won the title at the $50,000 event in Lanzarote, Spain with a 6-3, 6-4 over Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei. This is the first challenger title for Bohli, having lost in all four of his previous finals. Lu has been a strong competitor on the challenger circuit this year, reaching the finals of a challenger in Busan, Korea last month and winning the title in Waikoloa, Hawaii last January.

At the $35,000 event in Rome, Italy, Eduardo Schwank of Argentina won his second challenger title in the tow with a 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 win over Eric Prodon of France. The win also moves Schwank into the top 100 for the first time in his career.

Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden leads the way next week as the top seed at the $75,000 event in Zagreb, Croatia. Lourdes Dominguez-Lino is the top seed at the $50,000 challenger in Jounieh, Lebanon, and Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium takes top billing at the $50,000 event in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. Challenger events will also be contested next week in Bucharest, Romania, Fukuoka, Japan, Antalya, Turkey, Florence, Italy, Changwon, Korea and Irapuato, Mexico.

On the men’s side, Donald Young is the top seed at the $50,000 challenger in Tunica, Mississippi. Michael Berrer of Germany is the top seed at the $42,500 event in Dresden, Germany, Sergio Roitman of Argentina takes top billing at the $42,500 challenger in Ostrava, Czech Republic, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez leads the way at the $42,500 challenger in Rabat, Morocco. Challenger events will also be contested next week in Rijeka, Croatia and Telde, Spain.