Marc Gicquel

Murray, Baltacha British No. 1s: Tennis in the Commonwealth

By Leigh Sanders

Great Britain’s Andy Murray failed to improve on past ATP World Finals performances after suffering elimination in the group stages at London’s O2 Arena.

The Scot failed to capitalise on an impressive opening victory over the US Open Champion Juan Martin Del Potro and after defeat to world No. 1 Roger Federer, a victory over the Spaniard Fernando Verdasco was not enough and the British public had no home favourite to cheer on in the latter stages.

Murray began his second match against career Grand Slam winner Federer in style. After cruising through the first set he looked destined for another impressive victory. But Federer began showing his class and a third set collapse from Murray handed victory to the Swiss legend.

Victory over Verdasco looked like it had ensured progression but Del Potro obviously hadn’t read the script and his three set victory over Federer saw him progress as over the course of the three matches he had won one more game than the British No. 1. It was the tightest of margins and would have left the Scot heartbroken.

Del Potro then marched on to the finals but his run was abruptly halted by the Russian Nikolay Davydenko who crowned his impressive end to the season with the ATP World Championships title. It is the first time a Russian has lifted the trophy.

The doubles looked equally depressing for Commonwealth players. World No. 1 Daniel Nestor of Canada was also eliminated in the group stages with partner Nenad Zimonjic which saw the pair relinquish the title they won in 2008.

Also facing early elimination was Indian doubles legend Leander Paes as he and the Pole Lukas Dlouhy lost all three round robin matches.

Fellow Indian Mahesh Bhupathi fared better as he and partner Mark Knowles reached the semifinals before losing out to eventual champions the Bryan brothers – Bob and Mike – who lifted the end of season title for the third time.

*India’s top female tennis player Sania Mirza joined stars from the worlds of sport, the arts and civil society to speak at an anti-terrorism event in New Delhi, India. The event lasted an hour and was organised by the Indian home ministry. Mirza added to the program of music and readings by reciting Rabindranth Tagore’s famous poem ‘Where the Mind is Without Fear.’ The date of the event, November 29th, was an emotional one for all involved as it marked the year to the day that the Mumbai terrorist siege ended in 2008.

*Britain’s Andy Murray will end 2009 ranked No. 4 in the world, more than 1,300 points behind world No. 3 Novak Djokovic and over 3,500 points behind world No. 1 Roger Federer. Australia’s Peter Luczak rises one this week (30/11) to 77 while Carsten Ball climbs to 135. Fellow Aussie Chris Guccione is up to 137 and Marinko Matesevic continues to climb the rankings and now lies ranked 170. India’s Somdev Devvarman drops three to 127. Kevin Anderson of South Africa climbs three to 163 and Britain’s Alex Bogdanovic is now up to 165 in the world. Peter Polansky of Canada lies at 188.

*In the doubles (30/11), Canada’s Daniel Nestor is now ranked joint No. 3 in the world with his partner Nenad Zimonjic after Bob and Mike Bryan of the USA claimed a joint top spot after their victory at the ATP World Finals in London, England. South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee failed to reach the showpiece event and as a result drops to 10. India’s Rohan Bopanna has climbed eight to 82 in the world while his compatriot Harsh Mankad climbs one to 104. Britain’s Jamie Murray is one behind in 105. British No. 2 Jamie Delgado drops one to 112. Another Canadian, Adil Shamasdin, leapt 35 places to enter the top 200 in the world at 185.

*Elena Baltacha has become the top ranked British women’s star after her recent performances in the Far East. After her quarter inal appearance in a Japanese tournament last week she now sits at a career high No. 85 in the WTA rankings published this week. “I value the British number one spot so much more this time because we’re all much better than we were,” said Baltacha. “There’s a lot more value in it now.” It makes great reading for Scotland as Baltacha and Andy Murray are British No. 1 in both men’s and women’s tennis. Also in the WTA rankings, Katie O’Brien drops one to 89 while Anne Keothavong is now ranked 99 and faces dropping out of the top 100 players in the world as she continues to recover from injury. Canada’s Stephanie Dubois drops one to 105 while her compatriot Valerie Tetreault also drops one to 136. Australia’s Olivia Rogowska jumps eight to 146 after her recent fine form and her fellow Aussies Monique Adamczak (147) and Sophie Ferguson (149) now sit behind her.

*In the doubles (30/11), Australian Casey Dellacqua, with no ranking last week, finds herself placed 64 with 1244 points from three tournaments. Her previous best was No. 9 in May of this year. Her re-entry means Canada’s Marie-Eve Pelletier drops one to 67, as do Natalie Grandin (South Africa, 78), Sarah Borwell (Great Britain, 85) and Grandin’s compatriot Sharon Fichman (98).

*There were Australian winners in both the male and female events at the Goldfields St Ives International in Kalgoorlie last week. Alicia Molik claimed her second title on her comeback after overcoming Olivia Rogowska in the final. In the men’s final, John Millman overcame another Aussie, Matthew Ebden, 6-2, 7-6(1).

*The final lineup has been announced for the 2010 Brisbane International. The field includes four Grand Slam winners and five former world Number 1s and both fields are listed below. Each player’s nation and rank appear in brackets while Commonwealth players are in bold:

Men’s:

Women’s

Andy Roddick (USA, 6)

Justine Henin (BEL, wildcard)

Radek Stepanek (CZE, 12)

Dinara Safina (RUS, 2)

Gael Monfils (FRA, 13)

Kim Clijsters (BEL, 18)

Tomas Berdych (CZE, 20)

Nadia Petrova (RUS, 20)

Sam Querrey (USA, 25)

Ana Ivanovic (SRB, 22)

Jurgan Melzer (AUT, 28)

Daniela Hantuchova (SVK, 25)

Jeremy Chardy (FRA, 32)

Alisa Kleybanova (RUS, 30)

Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA, 33)

Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN, 35)

Thomaz Belluci (BRA, 36)

Melinda Czink (HUN, 38)

Andreas Beck (GER, 39)

Iveta Benesova (CZE, 39)

Marcos Baghdathis (CYP, 42)

Agnes Szavay (HUN, 40)

James Blake (USA, 44)

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS, 41)

Horatio Zeballos (ARG, 45)

Lucie Safarova (CZE, 42)

Richard Gasquet (FRA, 52)

Shuai Peng (CHN, 42)

Mardy Fish (USA, 56)

Sara Errani (ITA, 48)

Marc Gicquel (FRA, 58)

Olga Govortsova (BLR, 52)

Arnaud Clement (FRA, 62)

Timea Bacsinszky (SUI, 54)

Florent Serra (FRA, 66)

Sybille Bammer (AUT, 55)

Michael Llodra (FRA, 69)

Andrea Petkovic (GER, 56)

Juan Ignacio Chela (ARG, 76)

Jelena Dokic (AUS, 57)

Taylor Dent (USA, 77)

Tathiana Garbin (ITA, 59)

Peter Luczak (AUS, 78)

Ekaterina Makarova (RUS, 60)

Mischa Zverev (GER, 79)

Roberta Vinci (ITA, 64)

Philipp Petzschner (GER, 81)

Lucie Hradecka (CZE, 65)

Alejandro Falla (COL, 82)

Anna-Lena Groenefeld (GER, 67)

*Jelena Dokic has also announced that she will be joining fellow Australian Alicia Molik at the 2010 Moorilla Hobart International. It will be her second appearance there after competing in 2008. They will be joined by the American teenage giant killer from this year’s US Open; Melanie Oudin. The 18-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, defeated four Russians; Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, No. 4 seed Elena Dementieva, former world No.1 Maria Sharapova and No. 13 seed Nadia Petrova, before finally running out of steam against the No. 9 seed Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) in the quarterfinals.

*In Australia, the Sweeney Sports Report has found tennis to be the sport of most interest in the country once more this year. The report found that 58% of Australians were interested in the sport which saw it rank first in TV viewing, third in participation (up 1%) and equal fifth in attendance. “Four years ago we embarked on a thorough assessment of how we deliver the sport and then made some major structural changes,” said Tennis Australia Director of Tennis Craig Tiley. “We are now starting to see the results of these changes.

*Official meteorologist to the Australian Open, Bob Leighton, has predicted that the 2010 tournament will witness “an average Melbourne summer,” giving the tournament “perfect weather.” The news will delight players and fans alike who endured four days of high-40s temperatures during the second week of the 2009 event.

*Tennis Canada has announced a change to their Fed Cup Team as of February 2010. Sylvain Bruneu will take over from Rene Simpson-Collins as Team Captain.

*Tennis Canada has also announced the recipients of their 2009 Excellence Awards handed out to the calendar year’s outstanding competitors. Unsurprisingly, Daniel Nestor has picked up the Male Player of the Year award for the seventh time as well as Male Doubles Player of the Year for the eighth year running. Top ranked female star Aleksandra Wozniak netted the Female Player of the Year and Female Singles Player of the Year awards. Frank Dancevic picked up the Male Singles Player of the Year award for the sixth time and Vasek Pospisil won Most Improved Male Player of the Year after a fantastic end to the season. Marie-Eve Pelletier won Female Doubles Player of the Year while Sharon Fichman received Most Improved Female Player.

*Wheelchair tennis has collected a brace of awards at the 2009 WheelPower British Wheelchair Sports Awards at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium, Aylesbury. The stadium is the home of wheelchair sports and the birthplace of the Paralympic Games. Great Britain won team of the year after their victory at the Invacare World Team Cup in August. Their coach Steph Trill won coach of the year.

How Would A 155 MPH Serve Feel Hitting You Right In The Groin?

French player Marc Gicquel will take on Andy Roddick in the third round of Roland Garros and will be especially wary of Roddick’s famed rocket serve – clocked at a record 155 mph back in 2004. Back on June 14, 2007, as documented in the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press www.tennishistorybook.com), Gicquel took the brunt of a 129 mph serve in the groin area, which is documented below from the book.

2007 – French tennis player Marc Gicquel is dragged off the court to be treated after being on the receiving end of a 129 mph serve in the groin. Gicquel eventually returns to the court and beats Germany’s Benjamin Becker 6-2, 7-6 (5) but spends the night vomiting and suffers with swelling and pain and withdraws from his quarterfinal match with Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen the next day.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I thought I took all the right decisions today

STARS

Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-4 to win the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open men’s singles in Madrid, Spain

Dinara Safina beat Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 6-4 in Madrid, Spain, to win the women’s singles at the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open.

Marc Gicquel beat Mathieu Montcourt 3-6 6-1 6-4 to win the BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France

SAYING

“I thought I took all the right decisions today. In the end it was a perfect game for me. (You) stay positive and I did. I got the win I needed badly.” – Roger Federer, after beating Rafael Nadal.

“There are no positives, there is little to analyze. He broke and broke and I went home.” – Rafael Nadal, after losing to Roger Federer.

“I’m very disappointed I can play this well and still not win a match.” – Novak Djokovic, after losing to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.

“Since I became No. 1 I’m playing better and better.” – Dinara Safina, after winning the Madrid Open women’s title.

“I don’t want anybody telling me all the time what to do. I want to do my own thing. I’m more relaxed, easy going. I’m not worried too much. If it goes my way, fine. If not, I’ll keep trying.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, who hired Larisa Savchenko as her new coach.

“After a few weeks of training I got the hunger back. I felt really good and wanted the challenge to see if I can still be up there (competing on the tour).” – Kim Clijsters, a former top-ranked player who will return to the WTA Tour in August.

“It’s going to be a challenge but she seems really determined. She has the talent and the tennis. I really think she can do it.” – Steffi Graf, on Kim Clijsters rejoining the WTA Tour.

“It is truly a page that has been turned. It was 20 years of my life. Now life is something different.” – Justine Henin, saying she will not follow Kim Clijsters in returning to the WTA Tour.

“Sometimes it’s hard to fully accept change in some respects. It’s an exciting change, it’s an asset for fans and for players.” – Andre Agassi, about the roof over Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court.

“That’s saying something when this is already the best and most famous court in the world, but I’m intrigued to see what level the atmosphere might go to. Given the right scenarios with the right match and players, it could be really something.” – Tim Henman, on the new roof covering Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court.

“The small amounts gambled (and) the absence of influence of the bets on the matches in question.” – The Court of Arbitration for Sport, announcing the reason that the suspension of Mathieu Montcourt for betting on matches has been reduced from eight to five weeks.

SUCCESS AT LAST

Roger Federer ended his five-match losing streak to his top rival when he shocked Rafael Nadal in the final of the Madrid Open. That stretch included the finals at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Calling his first win over Nadal since the 2007 Masters Tennis Cup “very satisfying,” Federer now trails in their head-to-head meetings 7-13. It was the 16th time the two have played for a title, with Nadal winning 11 times. Only Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe have met in more finals among the men: 20. And it was only the second time that Federer has beaten Nadal on clay. The Swiss star is the only player ranked in the top 10 to have ever beaten Nadal on the surface.

SETTLING UP

Organizers of the Dubai Tennis Championships have agreed to pay a USD $300,000 fine assessed against the tournament when Israel’s Shahar Peer was not allowed to enter the country. The WTA Tour board rejected Dubai’s appeal of the record fine, which was more than twice as much as the previous highest. The United Arab Emirates refused to grant Peer a visa just before she was due to arrive at the Dubai tournament in February. The WTA Tour also demanded that any Israeli players who qualify for the 2010 tournament must receive visas at least eight weeks before the tournament. “I just say that it’s a shame that Shahar could not compete in the tournament because she has nothing to do with the politics – she’s a tennis player,” said top-ranked Dinara Safina.

STRAIGHT IN

Emilie Loit and five other Frenchwomen have been awarded wild cards for direct entry into the main draw at this year’s Roland Garros. The French Open begins on May 24 in Paris. Claire Feuerstein, Kinnie Laisne, Kristina Mladenovic, Irena Pavlovic and Olivia Sanchez will be joined by American Lauren Embree and Australian Olivia Rogowska in receiving wild cards from the French Tennis Federation. Given wild cards into the women’s qualifying draw were Chloe Babet, Simona Halep, Florence Haring, Violette Huck, Karla Mraz, Laura Thorpe, Aurelie Vedy and Stephanie Vongsouthi.

STYLISH RETURN

Kim Clijsters made a splash when she helped inaugurate the new roof over Wimbledon’s Centre Court. After Clijsters and Tim Henman teamed up to win a mixed doubles challenge against Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi, Clijsters beat Graf 6-4 and earned a standing ovation from the crowd for the quality of tennis. “I had started practicing again, but I was really out of shape and I didn’t want to embarrass myself,” said Clijsters, who has married and had a child since she retired from the sport. “About four weeks into training I felt I would like to compete again on tour. Since then I have been training really hard.”

SEX AND TENNIS

Anna Kournikova wants to get away from her sexy tennis star image – at least somewhat. The Russian, who works for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Cartoon Network, says she is driven to get kids more involved in sports and exercise. Kournikova began her professional tennis career at the age of 14. And while many think of her as the sexy tennis player, she was ranked as high as eighth in the world in singles and won two Grand Slam tournament doubles titles, partnering with Martina Hingis. While she has not played on the WTA Tour since 2003, Kournikova participates in World Team Tennis and occasionally plays exhibitions. And she hasn’t abandoned modeling. “You’ve got to have some kind of income,” Kournikova said.

SPOT FOR GAUDIO

Gaston Gaudio of Argentina will be playing at Roland Garros again. Gaudio, who won the French Open in 2004, was granted a wild card for this year’s tournament. The 30-year-old right-hander last won a tournament at Kitzbuhel, Austria, in 2005. Once ranked fifth in the world, Gaudio has dropped to 395th in the world rankings.

SIDELINED

It was a doubleheader at the Madrid Open when both Philipp Kohlschreiber and Nikolay Davydenko pulled out of the tournament. Both players said they had injured their left leg and had to withdraw. Kohlschreiber was facing Rafael Nadal in his next match, while Davydenko was scheduled to face Andy Roddick. Both Nadal and Roddick moved into the quarterfinals with walkovers.

SEE, ME TOO

Roland Garros is playing follow the leader, with officials saying the French Open will have a new center court with a retractable roof in place by 2013 or 2014. Wimbledon will have a retractable roof on its Centre Court for the first time at this year’s tournament. The retractable roof-covered stadium in Paris was supposed to be ready for the 2012 Olympics, but it was delayed when France failed to get the Games. Jean Gachassin, president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), said the future of Roland Garros depends on it getting the roof. “The goal is to have an outdoor stadium that can be covered, instead of an indoor stadium that can be uncovered,” said Marc Mimram, the head architect for the project. The Australian Open has two courts with roofs, while organizers of the US Open are considering building a roof over its main court, Arthur Ashe Stadium.

STOP IT

Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf say their names and trademarks are being used on Web sites without their permission. The two, who are married, have filed separate cyber squatting claims in federal court. Agassi claims that the domain names andre-agassi.com, andre-agassi.net and andre-agassi.info have been registered. Graf says steffigraf.com, steffigraf.net and steffigraf.info have been registered without her consent. Both Agassi and Graf are seeking ownership of the domain names.

SUSPENSION SHORTENED

When he finally serves his suspension for betting on matches, Mathieu Montcourt will only miss five weeks on the ATP tour instead of eight weeks. And he will be able to compete at both Wimbledon and the US Open this summer. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) noted the 24-year-old Montcourt bet a total of USD $192 on 36 different tennis events, but none on his own matches or at tournaments where he was playing. Citing “the small amounts gambled (and) the absence of influence of the bets on the matches in question,” the CAS reduced Montcourt ban to five weeks, starting July 6. The Frenchman was a finalist this past week at the BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux where he lost to Marc Gicquel 3-6 6-1 6-4 in Bordeaux, France.

STAYING RETIRED

Just because she has picked up a racquet and hit with longtime coach Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin says she has no plans to un-retire like fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters. “I hasten to add, just to improve my condition and stay healthy,” Henin said of the practice. A year after she surprised the world by retiring while ranked number one in the world, Henin says she still feels the pain of competitive tennis every day. “If it is not the knee, it is the shoulder,” she said. The seven-time Grand Slam tournament champion is now a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, earlier this year visiting eastern Congo, and is appearing on Belgian television in a show titled “12 works of Justine Henin.”

SCRAPPING TENNIS PROGRAMS

In cost-cutting moves, two American colleges have dropped their tennis programs. Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, suspended indefinitely its tennis programs affected 12 student-athletes, seven men and five women, as well as coach Malik Tabet and assistant coach Martha Montoya. Athletic director Ron Prettyman said he had to cut USD $350,000 from his budget. The university says it will honor all scholarships for the 2009-2010 school year for tennis players who want to stay at ISU, while those who want to transfer will be able to play at other schools.

At Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond, Louisiana, the men’s tennis team was cut because of the budget. Officials said the move to drop the 10-player squad was because next year’s proposed state budget calls for chopping millions of dollars from public universities. Southeastern plans to retain men’s tennis coach Jason Hayes, who also oversees the women’s team, which for now will be spared.

The University of La Verne in Southern California won’t drop its women’s tennis team after all. Two weeks after announcing it was dropping the sport temporarily, the women’s program has been reinstated. The biggest problem at the La Verne, California, school – located 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles – was the lack of a facility since the school turned the courts into a parking lot in 2007. But the school worked out a deal to use the facilities at The Claremont Club during the spring, making it possible for the school to keep its program. The men’s tennis program, however, remains on hiatus with no definitive timetable for its return.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Madrid (men): Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Simon Aspelin and Wesley Moodie 6-4 6-4

Madrid (women): Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Kveta Peschke and Lisa Raymond 4-6 6-3 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Bordeaux: Pablo Cuevas and Horacio Zeballos beat Xavier Pujo and Stephane Robert 4-6 6-4 10-4 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Dusseldorf: www.arag-world-team-cup.com/

Kitzbuhel: www.atpkitz.at

Warsaw: www.warsawopen.com.pl/

Strasbourg: www.internationaux-strasbourg.fr/

Paris: www.rolandgarros.com/index.html

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$490,000 Interwetten Austrian Open, Kitzbuhel, Austria, clay

$1,800,000 ARAG ATP World Team Championships, Dusseldorf, Germany, clay

WTA

$600,000 Warsaw Open, Warsaw, Poland, clay

$220,000 Internationaux de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, clay

SENIORS

Grand Champions Brazil, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (first week)

Mondays With Bob Greene: Federer Starts Quest For Sixth Straight Wimbledon

STARS

David Ferrer beat Marc Gicquel 6-4 6-2 to win the Ordina Open men’s crown in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

Ivo Karlovic beat Fernando Verdasco 6-2 7-6 (5) to win The Slazenger Open in Nottingham, England

Agnieszka Radwanska won the International Women’s Open in Eastbourne, England, beating Nadia Petrova 6-4 6-7 (11) 6-4

Tamarine Tanasugarn upset Dinara Safina 7-5 6-3 to win the Ordina Open women’s title in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

Nicolas Devilder won the Nord LB Open in Braunschweig, Germany, beating Sergio Roitman 6-4 6-4

Pete Sampras beat Marcelo Rios 6-2 7-6 (5) to win the Nossa Caixa Grand Champions Brazil title in Sao Paulo, Brazil

SAYINGS

“Maybe it was more difficult for Dinara, as she was seeded and playing really well lately and I was coming out of the qualies.” – Qualifier Tamarine Tanasugarn, who upset third-seeded Dinara Safina to win the Ordina Open.

“I want to forget this match as soon as I can.” – Dinara Safina.

“I never would have imagined winning a title on grass, but I played really good this week.” – Spain’s David Ferrer who is better known for his clay court game.

“There’s no easy points against him. He’s always there and he fights so much.” – Marc Gicquel about David Ferrer.

“I think this year there are about four or five players who you could pick to win it. Of course you can never discount the Williams sisters.” – Martina Hingis, on who will win Wimbledon.

“The way the grass plays these days, I put Rafa as the slight favorite for Wimbledon this year. Rafa got so close last year to beating Federer in the final, and I reckon his reaction was to lift his own standards.” – Six-time Wimbledon doubles champion Mark Woodforde.

“I pick (Rafael) Nadal to win this year, as long as he can get through the first couple of rounds.” – Five-time Wimbledon champion Bjorn Borg.

“I will go to Wimbledon with a lot of hope.” – Roger Federer, who is seeking his sixth consecutive Wimbledon title.

“There is a burning desire in Roger to break my record, and when he does it I would like to be there.” – Pete Sampras, who holds the men’s record with 14 career Grand Slam titles.

“I hate myself. I just can’t stand myself.” – Andy Roddick, after throwing his racket at a garbage can while practicing at Wimbledon.

“She just rips that forehand withouth thinking now. Sometimes I think she has no idea where it’s going to go, but compared to other players it’s by far the best forehand out there.” – Nadia Petrova, about fellow player Ana Ivanovic.

“Women’s tennis has become much stronger and much taller, but I don’t necessarily think the players have become better athletes. There is a lot of hard hitting, but they lack the variety and the talent. It’s not that they don’t have the talent, but they play the same kind of tennis.” – Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna on today’s women players.

“Wow! It has been a quick 12 months since I was here last year. Let’s see, I graduated from fashion design school, launched my own clothing line, bought a new dog, went to India for the first time and so much more.” – Defending women’s champion Venus Williams.

“We’re changing the face, changing the picture of everything in general. We decided together that this is the best thing for sport – to join the Player Council and to try to be united in the future to make good decisions for us, for everybody.” – Novak Djokovic, on he, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal all being elected to the ATP Player Council.

“I think when people retire, they just know it’s time. For me, I wasn’t really enjoying the tour as a whole.” – Alun Jones, who reitred following a first-round loss in the Wimbldeon qualifying.

“Pete is playing v ery good tennis and it was hard to beat him as his serve is so big. On this surface it is obvious that he has a big advantage.” – Marcelo Rios, who lost the final to Pete Sampras on a hard court in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“Straight after Wimbledon I’ll take a few weeks off because this special time with the family is time you’ll never get back.” – Mark Knowles, whose wife just gave birth to their second child.

“‘I do continue to worry about the health and well-being of the players. A person like Justine Henin retires at 25 and almost every one of our players suffers with an injury of some kind. It’s something not in your direct control, but it’s one of the reasons I’ve been so laser-focused on the need to change the calendar and reduce the commitment of players.” – Larry Scott, CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

SIXTH STRAIGHT

Roger Federer is seeking his sixth consecutive Wimbledon title, a feat that hasn’t been done since William Renshaw did it in 1886. Renshaw, of course, had an advantage. In those days the defending champion didn’t play until the final. Federer, on the other hand, must win seven matches to hold the trophy again. And he has never beaten his first-round opponent, Dominik Hrbaty, in their previous two meetings.

SLAZENGER NO-NO

Dmitry Tursunov was disqualified at the Slazenger Open when he walked off the court during a doubles match. Tursunov and his partner, Chris Haggard, were trailing 6-4 3-1 in their first-round match against Simone Bolelli and Andreas Seppi when Tursunov argued over a line call, then left the court. The ATP supervisor then disqualified Tursunov from the singles, giving Thomas Johansson a second-round walkover.

SERVING TALL

Ivo Karlovic pounded out 29 aces in his 7-5 6-7 (4) 7-6 (8) victory over Fernando Verdasco as he successfully defended his title at the Slazenger Open. Karlovic, at 6-foot-10 (2.08m), is the tallest player on the tour. He finished the tournament with 101 aces in five matches and raised his tour-leading total to 548. Due to wet weather, both the singles and doubles finals were played indoors at the City of Nottingham Tennis Centre, making Karlovic the second player to win the title indoors. Greg Rusedski did the same in 1997.

SECOND FOR BOTH

Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn won her second and biggest Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title of her career, coming through qualifying to capture the Ordina Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, by upsetting third-seeded Dinara Safina in the final. Tanasugarn also won in Hyderabad, India, in 2003. For Safina, it was her second straight loss in a grass-court final, having fallen to Michaella Krajicek in the Ordina Open title match two years ago.

SEEKING MORE SAY

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – the world’s top three-ranked players – have been elected to two-year terms on the ATP Player Council. The three are among the players who have opening complained about decisions made by ATP chairman Etienne de Villiers, whose contract expires this year. One of the biggest bones of contention has been the restructuring of the spring clay-court schedule, which has led to the downgrading of the Hamburg, Germany, tournament and a subsequent antitrust lawsuit filed against the ATP.

SHARING CONTROL

Three new players’ representatives have been elected the ATP Board of Directors. Justin Gimelstob will represent the Americas, Ivan Ljubicic will serve the vacant position as the European representative until the U.S. Open, and David Edges, vice president of the Tennis Channel, will serve in the International position. Gimblestob, a former player, is currently a commentator on Tennis Channel and replaces Andre Agassi’s agent, Perry Rogers, who was voted out of his job by the Players’ Council in March.

SAYONARA

Australian Alun Jones has called it quits. The 28-year-old played eight years on the tour but is probably best known for a small role as fictional tennis player Tom Cavendish in the film “Wimbledon.” His last match was a first-round loss in qualifying for Wimbledon. Born in South Africa, Jones reached a career-high ranking of 123 earlier this year when he won his first Grand Slam match, a first-rounder at the Australian Open. He made his Davis Cup debut in February. Jones plans to marry in Belgium later this month before returning to Canberra, Australia, where he will begin a coaching career.

SENIOR PETE

Pete Sampras won his first BlackRock Tour of Champions title by riding his big serve to a 6-2 7-6 (5) victory over Marcelo Rios in the Nossa Caixa Grand Champions Brazil. The American broke Rios in the fifth and seventh games of the opening set, then closed out the hard court senior tour tournament by winning the tiebreaker.

SECOND SON

Mark Knowles is a daddy again. Dawn Knowles gave birth to the couple’s second son, Brody Mark Knowles, in Dallas, Texas, on June 20. Brody made his debut three weeks early and Dawn gave her blessing for Mark to head to Wimbledon where he will partner Mahesh Bhupathi in the men’s doubles. Knowles has not played since the French Open, where he and Bhupathi were upset in the opening round. He reached the second round of the mixed doubles before withdrawing so that he could attend the birth of his second son. Their first son, Graham, will turn three in September.

STREAKING

After 36 years without a title on the surface, Spanish players have now won grass-court tournaments for two straight weeks. This time it was David Ferrer who captured his first grass-court title, the Ordina Open, with a 6-4 6-2 win over Frenchman Marc Gicquel. A week earlier, Ferrer’s fellow Spanish countryman Rafael Nadal won on grass at Queens’ Club in London. Before that you would have to go back to Andres Gimeno winning in Eastbourne, England, in 1972. It was Ferrer’s second ATP title of the season and seventh of his career.

SITE SELECTED

Spain will be at home in Madrid when they take on the defending champion Russia for the 2008 Fed Cup title. The competition will be held at Club de Campo de Madrid, where the United States won the title in 1979. It will be Spain’s 11th final and first since 2002. They have won the Cup five times. Three-time champion Russia has reached the final seven times.

SWITCHING PARTNERS

Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes reached the final in the first tournament since pairing up again. Seeded second, Bhupathi and Paes were surprised in the Ordina Open title match by unseeded Mario Ancic and Jurgen Melzer 7-6 (5) 6-3. Bhupathi and Paes were attempting to win their 24th title together, but first since capturing Toronto in 2004. The two are preparing to represent India in the Beijing Olympics. At Wimbledon, both will return to their regular partners, Bhupathi with Mark Knowles and Paes with Lukas Dlouhy.

SOUTH AFRICA

South African Airways (SAA) has extended its role as official airline of the ATP through 2012 in a deal worth USD 20 million dollars. SAA also will continue its sponsorship of several international tournaments. In making the announcement, the ATP also revealed that South Africa will regain a spot on the men’s tour next year. Several South African cities are in the running to stage the World Tour-level tournament. The country held tournaments previously, including the doubles world championships in Johannesburg from 1991 through 1993. In recent years a Challenger event has been staged in South Africa.

STUNNING

No one dazzled more at the annual Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Pre-Wimbledon Party than Serena Williams, who wore diamonds in her hair that were valued at USD two million dollars. The look was masterminded by hairdresser Stuart Phillips and jeweler Neil Duttson, who is known as the Rock Doctor. Among others at the party, hosted by Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson, were Ana Ivanovic, Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic and Maria Sharapova.

STARRING TRIO

Three WTA stars are ranked in the Forbes Celebrity 100, with Maria Sharapova being the highest-placed female athlete on the list. Sharapova is ranked number 61, with Serena Williams ranked number 69 and Justine Henin ranked number 81. The Forbes list ranks 100 of the world’s best-known and powerful celebrities in the period from June 2007 to June 2008. Sharapova, Williams and Henin also have something else in common: they all have been ranked number one in the world at one time in their career.

SPONSORING FINALS

Barclays will be the title sponsor of the year-ending men’s tennis tournament, beginning in 2009. As part of the restructuring of men’s tennis the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals will replace the Tennis Masters Cup, which will be held in Shanghai, China, this November. Barclays signed a five-year deal worth around USD 7 million dollars.

SISTERS SHARING

Sisters Venus and Serena Williams will play doubles at Wimbledon this year. The two have combined for doubles in only three tournaments since Wimbledon in 2003. The last title they won as a team was the Australian Open in 2003, the sixth Grand Slam title for the partnership. The sisters hope to play doubles at the Beijing Olympics and repeat their gold-medal form of the Sydney Games in 2000.

SONY AD CAMPAIGN

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour has unveiled a USD 15 million dollar ad campaign that will be seen in more than 75 countries over the next 18 months and feature 30 players. The players took part in the film and photographic shoot for the campaign at various locations in Rome, Italy, last month. This is the single largest commitment to promote the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour players in the history of women’s tennis. The advertisements ask the question “Looking for a Hero?” and bills the tour’s players as superheroes both on and off the court.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

s’-Hertogenbosch: Mario Ancic and Jurgen Melzer beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes 7-6 (5) 6-3

Nottingham: Bruno Soares and Kevin Ullyett beat Jeff Coetzee and Jamie Murray 6-2 7-6 (5)

Eastbourne: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs 2-6 6-0 10-8 (match tiebreak)

s’-Hertogenbosch: Marina Erakovic and Michaella Krajicek beat Liga Dekmeijere and Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-2

Braunschweig: Marco Crugnola and Oscar Hernandez beat Werner Eschauer and Philipp Oswald 7-6 (4) 6-2

SITES TO SURF

Wimbledon: www.Wimbledon.com

Roger Federer: www. rogerfederer.com

Ana Ivanovic: www.anaivanovic.com/

The Lawn Tennis Association: www.lta.org.uk/

Italian Tennis Federation: www.federtennis.it

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA TOUR

The Championships, Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

The Championships, Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

$125,000 Cordoba Challenger, Pozoblanco, Spain, hard

$100,000 Turin Challenger, Turin, Italy, clay

WTA TOUR

The Championships, Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

$100,000 ITF Cuneo, Cuneo, Italy, clay

Challenger and futures write-up for the week of February 24th

This week, the challengers and futures circuit saw a mixture of both young and old taking center stage. One Russian player continued her impressive run on the ITF circuit, a French veteran continues to play his best tennis at the age of 30, and Britain’s #1 female player continues to fly the flag this week under the weight of her nation’s shoulders.

In Bensacon, Frenchman Marc Gicquel delighted the local crowd by winning the $125,000 event 7-6 6-4 over Alexander Peya of Austria. At an age where many of his contemporaries have retired, the 30 year old is playing some of the best tennis of his career. He reached the final at the ATP event in Lyon last November and has now picked up the biggest title of his career. While the final loss was disappointing for Peya, it was still his best result in quite some time. The 27 year old struggled to find his form throughout all of last year and found himself sitting at #249 in the rankings heading into Bensacon; this was his lowest ranking since mid-2006. The result propels Peya to a spot just outside of the top 200 this week and he’ll look to continue playing with the form that saw him reach a career high of #97 in the rankings.

Onto the women’s side, where, in Capriolo, top ranked British player Anne Keothavong lived up to her billing as the number one seed at this $25,000 event by winning the final 6-1 2-6 6-3 over Vesna Manasieva of Russia. The 24 year old Keothavong, who broke through on the WTA Tour last fall by reaching her first ever semifinal in Kolkata, has now fully recovered from a rib injury which hampered her at the end of last year and is setting her sights on becoming the first British woman to crack the top 100 since Sam Smith in 1999. Manasieva, who was searching for her first challenger title this week, has still had an impressive start to 2008 by reaching the quarterfinals of the WTA event in Pattaya City and qualifying for the WTA event in Auckland. With only a handful of points to defend until this summer, the teenager can only continue to climb up the rankings and may be a regular fixture on the WTA tour by the end of the year.

The city of Clearwater hosted the first of two $25,000 events in Florida this month. Regina Kulikova of Russia continued her dominance on the ITF circuit with a 6-4 6-4 victory in the final over qualifier Yevheniia Savranska of Ukraine. Kulikova, who broke out last summer by reaching the finals of six consecutive $25,000 events in Asia and winning three of them, swept through the tournament this week without losing a set. The nineteen year old rises to a new career high ranking this week and will be the favorite to win the $25,000 event in Fort Walton Beach this week. This tournament was also home to Venezuelan Milagros Sequera’s comeback. Sequera, who won the WTA event in Fes last year, was arguably playing the best tennis of her career before she sustained a left foot injury in August that took her off the tour for over six months. The effects may not have fully gone away either; she bowed out in the second round of the singles event and then withdrew from the doubles event.

On the men’s side, the futures circuit belonged to the top seeds this week; four out of eight top seeds this week hoisted up the winners’ trophies. Pavel Snobel of the Czech Republic won the event in Zagreb this week, Michael Quintero of Colombia prevailed in La Habana, Alexander Satschko of Germany double-bageled his Korean opponent in the final to win in Kolkata, and Paolo Lorenzi of Italy satisfied the local crowd by prevailing in Trenton. Jamie Baker of Great Britain also won in Brownsville this week, but it was his first round match up against 15 year old Ryan Harrison of Texas that was the most hyped of the tournament. Harrison reached the semifinals of the boys’ event at the Australian Open this year and many predicted him to score an upset over the affable Brit. However, Baker provided little for the pro-Harrison crowd to cheer for, easily prevailing 6-3 6-2 before sweeping through the tournament without losing a set.

Ukranian teenagers dominated the futures events on the women’s side this week with both Anastasia Kharchenko and Tetyana Arefyeva picking up titles. Unranked going into Benin City this week, Kharchenko stormed through qualifying and then breezed through the tournament without losing a set. With the title, the 18 year old will enter the rankings for the first time next week. Arefveya also picked up the first title of her career this week by winning the event in Melilla.

Next week will only feature smaller challenger events for both the men and the women, which will allow the chance for some new faces to break through. Thierry Ascione of France will lead the way as the top seed at the $50,000 event in Cherbourg, Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo is the top seed at the $35,000 event in Santiago, and Philipp Petzschner of Germany will look to build on his good form he showed at the event in Belgrade this month when he plays as the top seed at the $35,000 event in Wolfsburg. On the women’s side, top seeded Shuai Zhang of China is looking for her first title of the year while Kulikova hopes to make it two tournament wins in a row at the $25,000 event in Fort Walton Beach, the only challenger event for the ladies this week.