Mariano Puerta

One Week On Top – 10 Years Ago This Week

Ten years ago this week, Patrick Rafter was on top of the world. On July 26, 1999 the Aussie hunk and two-time U.S. Open champion reached the career pinnacle by earning the No. 1 ranking on the ATP computer. Rafter’s reign, however, last only one week and he never again attained the top spot in the computer rankings, marking the shortest ever reign as a world’s top ranked player. The following text describes Rafter’s No. 1 ascent and other events that happened in tennis history this week as excerpted from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTOR Y ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com).

July 26

1999 – Patrick Rafter of Australia begins his one – and only – week as the world’s No. 1 ranked player, replacing Andre Agassi in the top spot on the ATP computer. Rafter’s curious one-week reign as the No. 1 ranked player is the briefest stint in the top spot of any man or woman. Carlos Moya of Spain ranks No. 1 for only two weeks in March of 1999, while Evonne Goolagong ranks as  the No. 1 woman on the WTA Tour for a two-week period in April of 1976 (although not uncovered and announced by the WTA Tour until December of 2007).

1987 – The United States is relegated to zonal competition for the first time in Davis Cup history as Boris Becker defeats Tim Mayotte 6-2, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-2 in the fifth and decisive match as West Germany defeats the United States 3-2 in the Davis Cup qualifying round in Hartford, Conn. The Becker-Mayotte match is called by John Feinstein of the Washington Post as, “the match of their lives,” as Mayotte, who grew up in Springfield, Mass., a 25 miles from the Hartford Civic Center, plays inspired tennis in front of furiously vocal crowd. Says Becker after the epic match, “It was the most difficult match of my life. The circumstances made it hard, the crowd cheering every time I missed a serve made it hard and him playing for two sets like I have never seen him play in his life, it was all very tough. I just had to stay calm — stay calm, be patient and not go mad. If I go mad, I lose the match.” Writes Feinstein, “For Mayotte, this was sweet agony. He miraculously came from two sets down to force a fifth set. He was playing in an emotional daze, carried by the fans, by his teammates, by the circumstances.”

1969 – Nancy Richey is upset in the semifinals of the U.S. Clay Court Championships by Gail Sherriff Chanfreau, 6-3, 6-4 – ending her tournament record winning streak at 33 straight matches over seven years. Chanfreau goes on to win the title, beating Linda Tuero, 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

July 27

1986 – Martina Navratilova returns to her native Czechoslovakia and her hometown of Prague in triumph as a member of the U.S. Federation Cup team, clinching the U.S. 3-0 final-round victory over the Czechs with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Hana Mandlikova. “We all did it for Martina,” says Chris Evert Lloyd, whose 7-5, 7-6 victory over Helena Sukova began the U.S. sweep of Czechoslovakia in the final series. “We dedicate this Federation Cup to her.” Says Navratilova of the crowd support she received all week that results in a tearful closing ceremony for the Wimbledon champion and her U.S. teammates. “I wanted to tell them how special it was for me to be here. It exceeded my wildest expectations.”

1946 – In the final of the first French Championship since the conclusion of World War II, Frenchmen Marcel Bernard dramatically defeats fellow left-hander Jaroslav Drobny of Czechoslovakia 3-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 in the men’s singles final. The French have to wait another 37 years before they celebrate another native men’s singles champion when Yannick Noah wins the men’s singles title in 1983. It will be another 59 years before another all left-handed men’s singles final is played at Roland Garros when Rafael Nadal defeats Mariano Puerta in the 2005 final. In the women’s singles final, Margaret Osbourne defeats fellow American Pauline Betz 1-6, 8-6, 7-5.

July 28

1991 – Andrei Chesnokov wins the Canadian Open in Montreal, defeating Petr Korda 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the final and promises a high-spirited celebration. Says Chesnokov, “I’m going to New York, I’m going to go to Tower Records, have dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant and, of course, I’m going to get drunk.”

July 29

1990 – Michael Chang defeats Jay Berger 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 in the final of the Canadian Open men’s singles final in Toronto. The 24th-ranked Chang’s $155,000 winner’s check puts him in the million-dollar club for career prize money. “It feels good,” says the 18-year-old Chang of his financial achievement. “I think my first priority as far as tennis is concerned is not making money. My priority is to be the best in the world – the best I can be.”

1974 – Jimmy Connors becomes the No. 1 ranked player in the world for the first time in his career at the age of 21, replacing John Newcombe.

2001 – Andre Agassi defeats Pete Sampras 6-4, 6-2 in the final of the Mercedes Benz Cup in Los Angeles, Agassi’s 17th consecutive match victory on hard courts. Identical twins Bob and Mike Bryan of Camarillo, Calif., win their third ATP doubles title in six weeks, defeating Jan-Michael Gambill and Andy Roddick 7-5, 7-6 (8-6).

July 30

1928 – France successfully defends its Davis Cup title against the United States as Henri Cochet defeats Bill Tilden 9-7, 8-6, 6-4 clinching the 4-1 victory for France at newly-dedicated Stade Roland Garros in Paris, which is constructed to host the Davis Cup matches. Writes P.J. Philip of the New York Times, “On the central court of the Roland Garros Stadium at Auteuil, that Napoleon of tennis, Big Bill Tilden, met his Waterloo today. In three straight sets, Henri Cochet swept him off the field, holding the Davis Cup for France and writing finis to the world championship career of the most brilliant tennis player of the past decade. It was Waterloo alright.” Tilden’s career was not entirely finished following the loss. He was kicked off the Davis Cup team prior to this famous series for his “professional” writing from tennis events, which U.S. Lawn Tennis Association officials said violated his amateur status. However, due to the huge demand to see Tilden play against the four French “Musketeers” at the newly-constructed Roland Garros Stadium, the French government and French Tennis Federation pressured the USLTA to re-instate Tilden to the team to appease the ticket-buying public. Tilden is, instead, suspended from the U.S. Championships later in the summer, but continues to play high-level amateur tennis through 1930.

1996 – Andre Agassi stages a stunning comeback to advance into the medal round at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, coming back from a 3-5 third-set deficit to defeat Wayne Ferreira of South Africa 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 in the quarterfinal of men’s singles. Ferreira is upset with Agassi’s behavior and profane language that results in Agassi receiving a point penalty in the first game of the second set. Says Ferreira, “I honestly believe he should be kicked off the court for the things he was saying. They were pretty rude and actually the worst I’ve ever heard anybody say. I’m surprised the umpires took it so lightly. If I was sitting in the chair, I probably would have done something different.” Retorts Agassi, “It was about the only way he was going to beat me.” Also advancing into the medal round in men’s singles are Leander Paes of India, who defeats Renzo Furlan of Italy 6-1, 7-5, Sergi Bruguera of Spain, who defeats Mal Washington of the United States 7-6 (8), 4-6, 7-5 and Fernando Meligeni of Brazil, who defeats Russia’s Andrei Olhovskiy 7-5, 6-3

July 31

1932 – In what Hall of Fame journalist and historian Bud Collins calls “The Great Cup Robbery,” France defeats the United States in the Davis Cup Challenge Round for the fifth time in six years as Jean Borotra clinches the Davis Cup for France, erasing a two-sets-to-love deficit, a 3-5 fifth-set deficit and four match points to defeat Wilmer Allison 1-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5.  Allison holds three match points while leading 5-3 in the fifth set – 40-15 and then with an advantage – but has his serve broken. In the next game, Allison holds another match point on Borotra’s serve. After missing his first serve, Borotra hits a second serve that by all accounts is out – but not called by the linesman. Allison, who did not make a play on the serve, runs to the net to shake hands with Borotra, but stands in disbelief at the non-call. Allison wins only one point in the remainder of the match to lose 7-5 in the fifth set, giving France it’s third point of the series, clinching the Cup.

2005 – Andre Agassi wins his 60th and what ultimately becomes his final ATP singles title, defeating 22-year-old Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-4, 7-5 in 1 hour, 28 minutes to win the Mercedes-Benz Cup in Los Angeles. The title is also the fourth tournament victory at the Los Angeles event for Agassi, who also wins on the campus at UCLA in 1998, 2001 and 2002. “It’s been a dream week for me for sure,” says the 35-year-old Agassi. “I couldn’t have expected to come in here and find my comfort level so early on in the tournament and get better with each match. It’s a great sign.”

Roger Federer’s Clay Court Skills and the “Career Grand Slam”

If Roger Federer is able to win the 2009 French Open, he will complete a “Career Grand Slam” as well as tie Pete Sampras for the all-time men’s record for most major singles titles with 14. Rene Stauffer, the Swiss tennis writer and author of the book The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection (www.rogerfederbook.com, New Chapter Press, $24.95), discussed the “Career Grand Slam” as well as Roger’s clay court skills in the best-selling book, as excerpted below.

Roger Federer lost out on his first opportunity to win a Grand Slam tournament in 2005 after losing to Marat Safin in the semifinals of the Australian Open. The French Open, however, offered him another opportunity for a career milestone-a milestone that only a very select few have achieved-the “Career Grand Slam.” The term stands for winning all four major titles over a tennis career-a feat only achieved by five men in the history of the sport. Rod Laver and Don Budge are the only men who have won a “real” or calendar-year Grand Slam-winning all four major titles in the same year. Budge won the first Grand Slam in 1938, while Laver won a Grand Slam in 1962 as an amateur and then again in 1969 as a professional. Fred Perry of Great Britain clinched his career Grand Slam at the 1935 French Championships, while Roy Emerson of Australia completed his career quartette at Wimbledon in 1964 at age 27. Andre Agassi joined Laver as the only professional players to win a career Grand Slam when he won the French Open in 1999.

For Agassi, as well as for many other great players in the history of the game, the French Open or “Roland Garros” proved to be the toughest nut to crack. It took him 11 attempts and three trips to the championship match until he finally won in Paris. Even in his lucky third appearance in the singles final in 1999, he decisively lost the first two sets to the unseeded Ukrainian Andrei Medvedev before rallying for the five-set victory at age 29-seven years after winning his first Grand Slam tournament title.

Clay court tennis is in some regards a different form of tennis as it requires different footwork-a “sliding-into-the-ball” approach. The clay surface slows the velocity of the ball enough to give players on the defensive just a little more time to save a passed shot that on a faster surface would otherwise be a winner. Changes in temperature as well as variations in humidity levels provide for constantly changing playing conditions. Warm weather dries out clay courts and makes them play faster and favors the more aggressive players than when it is cold and moist, when the courts play much slower and favor the more defensive-minded players.

These extraordinary-and unpredictable-conditions explain why the French Open seems to always have the most unlikely champions of all four of the Grand Slam tournaments. The clay courts and the conditions create an environment where a larger pool of players become potential champions of the event as opposed to Wimbledon or the US Open. Some of the greatest serve-and-volley and aggressive-style players have routinely left Paris defeated. Yannick Noah’s ability to play an aggressive style of play and defeat the defensive clay court style of Mats Wilander in the 1983 French final still seems like a minor miracle.

More than half of the 23 players who were ranked No. 1 in the world rankings entering 2007 do not have a French Open title on their resume. This includes Boris Becker, who reached the semifinals three times, Pete Sampras, who only reached the semifinals on one occasion in 13 attempts, John McEnroe, who lost a painful final to Ivan Lendl in 1984 after a two-sets-to-love lead, and Stefan Edberg, who led Michael Chang two sets to one in the 1989 final before losing. Jimmy Connors, who was either denied entry or did not enter the tournament for many years, is also part of the group of all-time greats without a French title. Other notables on the list include John Newcombe, Arthur Ashe, Patrick Rafter, Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt. Although Federer’s professional career began with 11 straight defeats on clay courts, he never allowed himself to become discouraged. In France, where he experienced the least amount of success of the Grand Slam tournaments, Federer constantly made reference to the fact that he grew up on clay courts and that this was “his surface” too. He had after all won three titles on clay at the German Open in Hamburg and proved repeatedly in Davis Cup play that he could compete with anybody on clay courts. However, to date, he was unable to even advance as far as the semifinals at Roland Garros.

Federer may have arrived in Paris with a season’s record of 41-2 but he expressed caution before his seventh French Open. “The first rounds here are always treacherous,” he said in a modest tone that was sometimes missing from previous years. “I’m not thinking about winning this tournament.” He arrived in Paris directly from Portugal and had the privilege of being able to practice every day on the Centre Court at Roland Garros-the Philippe Chatrier Court-where he suffered many of his most devastating losses as a professional. Federer’s excellent pre-event preparation and the tutoring from the now 60-year-old Tony Roche paid off. He won the first five matches of the tournament without dropping a set to reach the semifinals for the first time in his career. “It’s almost going a bit too quickly for me,” he said of his relatively easy jaunt to the semifinals.

However, waiting for Federer in the semifinals was none other than Nadal-whom he faced for the first time on a clay court. The young Spaniard was full of self-confidence and entered the match with a 22-match win streak. Due to a rain delay, as well the five-set match between Argentinean Mariano Puerta and Russian Nikolay Davydenko in the other men’s semifinal, Federer and Nadal did not take the court until 6:20 pm local time in Paris. Federer struggled from the start and was troubled-particularly off the forehand-by Nadal’s extreme topspin. After losing four of the first five games, Federer surrendered the first set 6-3-his first lost set of the tournament-as he had his serve broken an incredible four times. He managed to win the second set 6-4, but remained unusually nervous and committed nearly twice as many mistakes as Nadal in the third set. Nadal led 4-2, before Federer broke back to square the set. After Nadal held in the ninth game of the third set, he clinched the third set-and a two-sets-to-one lead-with a cross-court running forehand winner. Darkness started to fall in Paris and Federer was irritated. He seemed to be in a rush and requested the match be suspended due to darkness. The chair umpire did not allow it. Federer was flustered and Nadal took control of the match as he broke Federer’s serve in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead and closed out the 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory one game later. “I started the match off badly and ended it badly,” Federer summarized. “I played well in between but all in all, that was not enough.”

Like at the Australian Open when Federer was defeated by Safin in the wee hours of the morning of Safin’s 25th birthday, Federer was again a birthday victim at a Grand Slam event. This Friday-June 3rd-was the 19th birthday of Nadal-and like Safin-he would go on to win the tournament. In an exciting final between two left-handed players, Nadal defeated Puerta, who, as it turned out months later, tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and was suspended from professional tennis.

The more time Federer pondered the loss to Nadal, the more positives he drew from it. He proved to himself and others that he had what it takes to win the French Open, despite what he thought was his worst performance in the later stages of a Grand Slam tournament. He was convinced that this loss to Nadal would be a learning experience. He now believed he could win the French Open and achieve the rare career Grand Slam. Another positive to temper his mood was the fact that the French public took a liking to him and rallied behind him during his matches, most notably against Nadal. “It was fantastic how they supported me,” he said. “It was almost like a victory for me because it’s not easy to win the crowd in Paris.”

Since Federer’s semifinal showing was a vast improvement from his third-round loss the year before, his grip on the No. 1 ranking rose to a record 6,980 points-giving him almost twice as many points as the No. 2-ranked Hewitt. Federer nonetheless maneuvered himself into a startling situation. He only lost three matches during the year but he stood empty-handed in Grand Slam titles. If he were to fail at Wimbledon as well, the only opportunity for a title remaining would be the always unpredictable US Open. His statementfrom the previous fall that he would be satisfied in 2005 with just one Grand Slam title suddenly took on new importance.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Fabrice Santoro Wins Newport

STARS

Juan Martin del Potro won the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, by defeating Richard Gasquet 6-4 7-5

Victor Hanescu beat Igor Andreev 6-3 6-4 to capture the Allianz Suisse Open in Gstaad, Switzerland

Tommy Robredo won his second Catella Swedish Open title by beating Tomas Berdych 6-4 6-1 in Bastad, Sweden

Fabrice Santoro won the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, defeating Prakash Amritraj 6-3 7-5

Jesse Huta Galung beat Diego Hartfield 6-3 6-4 to win the Siemens Open in Scheveningen, Netherlands

Mariano Puerta defeated Ricardo Hocevar 7-6 (2) 7-5 to win the Seguros Bolivar Open in Bogota, Colombia

Alize Cornet won the Gaz de France Grand Prix in Budapest, Hungary, by beating Andreja Klepac 7-6 (5) 6-3

Sara Errani beat Mariya Koryttseva 6-2 6-3 to win the Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo in Palermo, Italy

SAYINGS

“This win is more important than the first one. In 2006 I played the best tennis of my life. I was in better shape. This year I did not play very good in the beginning of the year. This gives me confidence again.” – Tommy Robredo, after winning the Swedish Open for the second time in three years.

“This is incredible. I’ve dreamed of winning a tournament since I’ve been a kid, and now I also get a car.” – Juan Martin del Potro, who received a check and a new white convertible Mercedes for winning the Mercedes Cup.

“I congratulate Juan Martin, but he’d better be careful. It’s a fast car.” – Richard Gasquet, who lost in the Mercedes Cup final.

“When you start a career at 16 years old, never, ever can you imagine you’ll win a tournament 20 years later.” – Fabrice Santoro, who at age 35 won the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships.

“Yes, I won the Wimbledon title, but it’s not such a big success for me as it’s only a junior title after all. I’ll be really satisfied when I win a men’s tournament of such magnitude.” – Grigor Dimitrov, who became Bulgaria’s first Wimbledon champion when he won the boys’ singles.

“Obviously I was happy for her. I wouldn’t want her to lose any other time – unless she lost against me.” – Serena Williams, talking about her sister Venus, who won her fifth Wimbledon title by beating Serena in the final.

“It is with a lot of sadness that I take this decision because playing for my country (in) my last Olympic Games meant a lot to me.” – Amelie Mauresmo, who decided to skip the Beijing Olympics when she was selected to play doubles only.

“I’m so happy. This is like a dream come true.” – Victor Hanescu, after winning his first ATP title in Gstaad, Switzerland

“I am obviously very happy to have won the title here in Bastad once again. … I am not even going to say that I will be back next year because everyone knows that I will.” – Tommy Robredo, after winning the Catella Swedish Open for the second time in three years.

“The standing ovation after the match was fantastic. I had to swallow hard a few times. I’m usually a very emotional person and I was very moved. I even forgot to do my signature Brussels step.” – Jonas Bjorkman, who won the Swedish Open doubles in his final trip to Bastad before he retires.

“When you’re 17 years old and you’re playing Grand Slam tournaments, you’re not thinking, `If I win this, I’ll be the youngest Grand Slam champion ever.’ … I don’t think it really sunk in until probably a couple of months after it took place.” – Michael Chang, about his winning the French Open in 1989.

SUISSE SWEET

Victor Hanescu won his first career ATP title and became the first Romanian since Ilie Nastase in 1973 to capture the Allianz Suisse Open in Gstaad, Switzerland, when he beat seventh-seeded Igor Andreev 6-3, 6-4. In the second round, Hanescu saved three match points in the third-set tiebreak, edging Ivo Karlovic 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 7-6 (11), then upset world No. 10 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland in the semifinals. Prior to the Gstaad tournament, the 26-year-old Hanescu had not won consecutive ATP matches since he reached the final at Bucharest, Romania, last September. Hanescu is the first ATP tournament winner from Romania since Andrei Pavel won in Montreal, Canada, in 2001.

SERVE, SET AND MATCH

Sara Errani had to wait for the umpire before she won her first WTA Tour singles title. At match point, Errani’s serve was called long. But the umpire got out of the chair, checked the mark and ruled Errani had served an ace, giving her a 6-2 6-3 victory over Mariya Koryttseva at Palermo, Italy. Errani, who had never been to a tour final of any kind before this week, became the first Italian to win the singles crown in Palermo. She then won the doubles title, teaming with Nuria Llagostera Vives.

SPARKLING CAREERS

Michael Chang, one of only three American men to win the French Open singles in the Open Era, was one of the three latest inductees into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. Chang became the youngest player to win a Grand Slam men’s title when he upset top-seeded Ivan Lendl in the fourth round, then eclipsed third-seeded Stefan Edberg in the final in 1989. His victory snapped a 34-year drought by American men on the Roland Garros clay. Also inducted into the Hall as contributors were Gene Scott, founder and publisher of Tennis Week magazine as well as a top player, promoter and tournament director, and Mark McCormick, a sports executive who was founder and CEO of International Management Group (IMG). Established in 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame now has 207 inductees.

SENIOR SANTORO

When Fabrice Santoro successfully defending his Hall of Fame Tennis Championships title, he moved into elite company, becoming only the second player since 1990 to win an ATP event after his 35th birthday. Santoro became the oldest player to win the grass court tournament in Newport, Rhode Island, and joined Andre Agassi as champions after reaching the age of 35. With his sixth career title, Santoro won his 451st match, fourth among active players behind Roger Federer, Carlos Moya and Lleyton Hewitt.

SWEDE AND STEADY

Making his final appearance at Bastad, Jonas Bjorkman teamed with Robin Soderling of Sweden to win his seventh Swedish Open doubles title. Bjorkman, who announced his intention to retire at the end of this year, previously won the doubles at Bastad in 1994, 1995, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006, teaming with Todd Woodbridge of Australia, Mahesh Bhupathi of India and fellow Swedes Jan Apell, Joachim Johansson and Thomas Johansson. Bjorkman has a remarkable 33-3 record at Bastad. It was the first doubles final for the 23-year-old Soderling.

STAR NADAL

OK, it’s not a star, but a recently discovered asteroid has been named after Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, according to the EFE news agency. Previously known as 128036, the Rafael Nadal asteroid is four kilometers in diameter and is located between Mars and Jupiter. The Astronomical Observatory of Majorca discovered the planetoid in 2003. The decision to name the asteroid after Nadal, a native of the Majorcan town of Manacor, was taken by the International Astronomical Union in response to a request by the Spanish observatory, which said its goal is to pay tribute “to one of the greatest tennis players of all time.”

SEMIFINAL STEADY

By upsetting third-seeded Novak Djokovic and eventually reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon, Marat Safin became the 20th player in the Open Era to reach the semis or better at all four Grand Slam tournaments in his career. The other active men to achieve the feat are Djokovic, Roger Federer and David Nalbandian.

STEPPING GINGERLY

Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal pulled out OF the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, and said he won’t play again until he no longer has pain above his right knee. “My doctor said I need a few days off. I will have a checkup and treatment and won’t return to the court until I am 100 percent,” Nadal said. “The calendar is hard on us players. I have played four, five months without a break. I have to recover.”

SITTING ON TOP

Canada’s Daniel Nestor is ranked number one in the world in doubles for the fifth time in his career. His latest move to the top of the rankings came after he teamed with Nenad Zimonjic to win the Wimbledon doubles, their third title of the year. Nestor surpassed American twins Bob and Mike Bryan, who had led the rankings since April 16, 2007.

SHANGHAI BOUND

Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are the first three players to clinch spots in the year-ending Tennis Masters Cup, which will be played in Shanghai, China. The elite eight-player tournament will be held for the fourth year at Qi Zhong Stadium from November 9-16. The first two doubles places in Shanghai were seized by Wimbledon champions Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia, along with American twins Bob and Mike Bryan. Federer will be playing in his seventh consecutive Tennis Masters Cup. He has reached the final the past five years, winning consecutive titles in 2003-04 and again in 2006-07. This is the sixth straight year that Nestor has qualified for the season finale, winning it last year with long-time partner Mark Knowles.

SUPER PRIZE

The men’s and women’s champions at the U.S. Open this year will each take home USD $1.5 million as the year’s final Grand Slam tournament increases its total prize money to a record USD $20.6 million. The overall payout is USD $1 million more than in 2007, matching the largest single-year jump in the hard-court tournament’s history. Adding in the bonuses available to the leading finishers in the summer circuit U.S. Open Series, the overall prize money could eventually be more than USD $23 million. If a player wins both the summer series and the U.S. Open, as Roger Federer did last year, they would earn USD $2.5 million. A year ago Federer took home the largest paycheck in tennis history, USD $2.4 million.

STRIKE

Mardy Fish tried out another sport while playing at the Hall of Fame tournament in Newport, Rhode Island. A self-described big Minnesota Twins baseball fan, Fish threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Boston’s Fenway Park before the Red Sox played host to the Twins. The two sporting events were only about 90 miles apart.

SERENA’S BACK

Three days after she lost the Wimbledon singles final to her sister, Serena Williams was back on court, this time playing for the Washington Kastles of World Team Tennis. She won her singles, beating Marie-Eve Pelletier, and teamed with Mashona Washington to beat Pelletier and Raquel Kops-Jones in the women’s doubles. But she and Justin Gimelstob lost to Jan-Michael Gambill and Kops-Jones, and the Kastles lost their home opener to the Boston Lobsters 22-19. Venus also returned and played WTT for Philadelphia Freedoms.

STARTING OVER AGAIN

Australian Mark Philippoussis is making yet another comeback. This time, though, he’ll be competing on the Outback Champions Series, the international tennis circuit for men 30-and-over. Philippoussis, who lost to Roger Federer in the 2003 Wimbledon final, will join Jim Courier, Todd Martin and Wayne Ferreira at The Championships at The Palisades, to be played September 24-28 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Four other players will be announced later to complete the eight-player field.

SAN DIEGO HALL

Brian Teacher, who won the Australian Open singles title in 1980, is one of the newest members of the San Diego Tennis Hall of Fame. Teacher and four others will be inducted into the hall August 23 at the Balboa Tennis Club. The others are age-group champion Jim Perley and three administrators: Franklin Johnson, a former president of the U.S. Tennis Association; William J. Kellogg, president of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club since 1989; and Jean Kremm, long active in the San Diego community junior tennis. The five were selected by a panel. Teacher was born in San Diego and was an All-American while helping UCLA win two NCAA championships. He beat Kim Warwick in straight sets in the 1980 Australian Open final.

STAYING HOME

Amelie Mauresmo is the latest star to skip the Beijing Olympics, saying she wants to prepare for the U.S. Open. Mauresmo said that her being passed over by the French Tennis Federation for the women’s singles competition was a major factor in her withdrawal from the Games. Mauresmo, who had been selected to compete only in doubles, lamented that she was missing a chance to join the 2008 Olympiad. She won a silver medal in the singles in Athens four years ago.

SINO OFFICE

Acknowledging the rapid rise of Asian tennis and the emergence importance of Asia, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour has opened its newest office in Beijing, China. The women’s tour has its main headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, and its European office in London, England. David Shoemaker will head the Asia-Pacific and is charged with growing the WTA Tour’s presence in the region as well as assuming overall leadership of all Asia Pacific staff. He will maintain his role as General Counsel as well as other executive responsibilities for the Tour.

STATEHOOD DAY SNUB

Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas skipped the Statehood Day ceremonies in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, saying he had not prepared for it. However, Kirkilas found time to play in a tennis tournament the same day. The Lithuanian Tennis Federation confirmed Kirkilas was at the Dubingial Open tournament, where the prime minister and tennis player Danielius Lencina-Ribes lost to Sarunas Marciulionis and Gabriele Masillute-Lencina. Lithuania’s president spoke at the Statehood Day festivities, while Lithuania’s ambassador to Great Britain, Vygaudas Usackas, diplomats from Russia’s embassy in Lithuania, Defense Minister Juozas Olekas as well as members of the 1998 gold medal-winning USSR basketball team, including Arvydas Sabonis, were at the tennis tournament.

SLAVE TREATMENT?

A Pakistani student is in court alleging he was treated as a slave when he worked as a security guard at the Australian Open earlier this year. The Press Trust of India (PTI) reported that Faisal Durrani filed a statement of claim at the Melbourne Magistrates Court, alleging he was paid 200 Australian dollars for the 150 hours he worked at the tennis facility. Durrani claimed that at least four other security guards from the sub-continent also received a small payment for their work. Durrani’s lawyer, Andrew Weinmann, called the action “slavery.” Durrani is seeking about USD $4,000 in wages, along with interest, court costs and penalties through the Workplace Relations Act that could run into millions of dollars.

SHOPPING

Britain’s Chris Eaton, who got into Wimbledon qualifying on a wild card, worked his way into the main draw where he reached the second round before falling to 25th-seeded Dmitry Tursunov. And while he earned more than USD $43,000 for his fortnight, Eaton says he will continue to drive his modest Vauxhall Astra, complete with taped-up side mirror. “Maybe I’ll buy some better Duct tape,” Eaton said of his big payday.

SERVING STRONG

Now that he has won two Grand Slam junior boys doubles titles, Taiwan’s Yang Tsung-Hua is planning on turning pro next year. He is the world’s top-ranked junior, having also won the boys singles at the French Open. Yang and his partner, Hsieh Cheng-Peng, will compete in an upcoming tournament in India as well as the U.S. Open boy’s doubles. Hsieh, the younger bother of Hsieh Su-Wei, who competes on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, and Yang teamed up to win the boys doubles at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

SURPRISE – NOT

Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich won the Israel Open doubles title as expected, beating Sergei Bubka and Michail Elgin 6-3 7-6 (3) in the Saturday final. The Israeli duo was the only world-class team in the USD $50,000 challenger tournament play at Ramat Hasharon, Israel. They didn’t drop a set all week. The singles winner was Marsel Ilhan of Turkey, who beat Slovakia’s Ivo Klec 6-4 6-4.

SWITCHING SIDES

It turns out the newest British tennis star, Wimbledon girls champion Laura Robson, is really a new Brit. Newspapers in England report that the 14-year-old has had a British passport for just four months. Until February, she played all of her matches representing her native Australia, although she has lived in Britain since the age of six. Her father, Andrew Robson, obtained his British passport in February, which allowed Laura to apply for citizenship in the United Kingdom.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Stuttgart: Christopher Kas and Philippe Kohlschreiber beat Michael Berrer and Mischa Zverev 6-3 6-4

Gstaad: Jaroslav Levinsky and Filip Polasek beat Stanislas Wawrinka and Stephane Bohli 3-6 6-2 11-9 (match tiebreak)

Newport: Mardy Fish and John Isner beat Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi 6-4 7-6 (1)

Bastad: Jonas Bjorkman and Robin Soderling beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 6-2

Bogota: Xavier Malisse and Carlos Salamanca beat Juan Sebastian Cabal and Michael Quintero 6-1 6-4

Scheveningen: Rameez Junaid and Philipp Marx beat Matwe Middelkoop and Melle Van Gemerden 5-7 6-2 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Budapest: Alize Cornet and Janette Husarova beat Vanessa Henke and Ioana Raluca Olaru 6-7 (5) 6-1 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Palermo: Sara Errani and Nuria Llagostera Vives beat Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6 7-6 (1) 10-4 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Istanbul: www.tedclub.org.tr

Stanford: www.bankofthewestclassic.com

Bad Gastein: www.generali-ladies.at

Scheveningen: www.siemens-open.nl

Toronto: www.rogerscupmen.com

Poznan: www.porscheopen.pl

San Marino: www.atpsanmarino.com

Los Angeles: www.eastwestbankclassic.com

Portoroz: www.sloveniaopen.sl

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$890,000 Austrian Open, Kitzbuhel, Austria, clay

$525,000 Indianapolis Tennis Championships, Indianapolis, Indiana, hard

$525,000 Dutch Open Tennis, Amersfoort, The Netherlands, clay

$525,000 ATP Studena Croatia Open, Umag, Croatia, clay

WTA

$600,000 Bank of the West Classic, Stanford, California, hard

$175,000 Gastein Ladies, Bad Gastein, Austria, clay

SENIORS

Turkcell Legends Cup, Istanbul, Turkey, hard

DAVIS CUP

(July 18-20)

Americas Zone

Group III: Aruba, Barbados, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Puerto Rico at Tegucigalpa, Honduras, hard

Group IV: Bermuda, Costa Rica, Haiti, US Virgin Island at Honduras

Europe/Africa Zone

Group II Playoffs: Luxembourg vs. Finland at Hanko, Finland, clay; Hungary vs. Greece at Thessaloniki, Greece, clay

Group II Second Round: Denmark vs. South Africa at Johannesburg, South Africa, hard; Algeria vs. Monaco at Monte Carlo, Monaco, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,615,000 Rogers Cup, Toronto, Canada, hard

$100,000 Porsche Open, Poznan, Poland, clay

$100,000 San Marino CEPU Open, San Marino, clay

WTA Tour

$600,000 East West Bank Classic presented by Herbalife, Los Angeles, California, hard

$145,000 Banka Koper Slovenia Open, Portoroz, Slovenia, hard

25 Years Ago Today: Noah Triumphs!

It was 25 years ago today on June 5, 1983 when Yannick Noah set off the perhaps the biggest celebration in French tennis since the Four Musketeers won the Davis Cup for France for the first time in 1927, by becoming the first man from his nation to win the French Open singles title, defeating Mats Wilander in the final. June 5 is a day of big occurrences in tennis history, as seen below in this exclusive early excerpt from my upcoming book On This Day in Tennis History. To pre-order this book (due out Sept. 1) you can click here for a 39 percent discount.

June 5

1983 – Yannick Noah creates a frenzy of French patriotism at Stade Roland Garros becoming the first Frenchman in 37 years to win the men’s singles titles at the French Open, defeating Mats Wilander 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 in two hours and 24 minutes in a passion-filled final. Noah serves and volleys and chips and charges on the slow red clay court to become the first Frenchman since Marcel Bernard in 1946 to win the French men’s singles title. Noah was discovered at age 10 in the African nation of Cameroon, the birthplace of his father, when Arthur Ashe informs French Tennis Federation President Philippe Chatrier of Noah’s talent after seeing him play – with a tennis racquet carved out of wood – during a U.S. State Department visit to Cameroon. Wilander was attempting to defend the title he won the year before as an unknown 17-year-old, but is unable to hit enough passing shots to fend off the constant net attacks by the dread-locked 23-year-old Noah. Wrote Bud Collins in the Boston Globe, “Perhaps the French will rename that huge monument at Place de l’Etoile and call it Noah’s Arc de Triomphe. The original outlasted a flood, but the current one opened the floodgates of emotion at Stade Roland Garros and washed away not only the Swedish Reign of Terror in the French Open, but also a seemingly impenetrable barrier that has separated French male players from their own title for 37 years.”

1953 – With his bag packed ready for a trip to Cleveland to play in the U.S. Pro Championships, Bill Tilden, regarded by many as the greatest player in the history of the sport, is found dead in his hotel room in Los Angeles at the age of 60. The cause of death for the seven-time U.S. men’s singles champion is a heart attack.

1973 – A in rare major final played on a Tuesday due to bad weather in Paris, Ilie Nastase beats Nikki Pilic 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in 90 minutes to win the French Open for the first time. Said Nastase, “It meant much more to me to win Forest Hills last September because I thought I could never win a major grass tournament. Still, this is an important one.” Less than one hour after the match, Pilic is notified that he is suspended from competing on the circuit for 25 days for refusing to play for Yugoslavia in Davis Cup play, a decision that results in a player boycott of Wimbledon in defense of Pilic. Nastase, however, is one of the few ATP union players who does not honor the boycott.

1977 – Guillermo Vilas routs Brian Gottfried 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 to win his first major singles title in the most decisive French Open men’s singles final in the event’s history.

1982 – Martina Navratilova wins the French Open for the first time in her career, defeating future nun Andrea Jaeger 7-6, 6-1. Following the match, Jaeger accuses Navratilova of illegally receiving coaching signals from her coach, Renee Richards. ”It sort of blew my concentration,” said Jaeger, the 17-year-old American who was in her first Grand Slam final. ”It’s difficult to be playing three people at once. ‘I was trying in the whole first set to deal with it, and I was doing fine. But it was annoying. They’ve done it in other matches. It’s not very good for tennis. ‘She played well and I lost. But it shouldn’t happen. I might win, 0-0, or lose, 0-0, but I want to win by myself or lose by myself.” Said Navratilova, ”This is a shock. All I can say is that I never looked at Renee except for encouragement. Here I have won the final of one of the biggest tournaments in the world. Thank you very much, Andrea. I didn’t have to look up at them. Before I played, I went over the match 20 times with Renee. I could have recited in my sleep what I had to do against her. I didn’t need to look at Renee.”

1988 – In a near flawless display of clay court tennis, Mats Wilander wins the French Open for a third time in his career, defeating French native son Henri Leconte 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 in the men’s singles final. Wilander misses only two of 74 first serves, committs only nine unforced errors and does not hit a volley during the one-hour and 52 minute match.

1990 – Fourteen-year-old Jennifer Capriati becomes the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist in tennis history, defeating Mary Joe Fernandez 6-2, 6-4 in the women’s quarterfinals at the French Open.

1993 – Steffi Graf wins her third French Open women’s singles title and her 12th career Grand Slam singles title, defeating Mary Joe Fernandez 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the French Open women’s singles final.

1994 – Sergi Bruguera wins his second straight French Open men’s singles title, defeating unseeded countryman Alberto Berasategui 6-3, 7-5, 2-6, 6-1 in the men’s singles final.

1999 – Twenty-nine-year-old Steffi Graf claims her 22nd – and final – major singles title, upending Martina Hingis 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the women’s singles final at the French Open. Hingis served for the title leading 6-4, 5-4, but Graf, inspired by the French crowd chanting “STEF-FEE, STE-FEE” breaks Hingis and wins eight of the next 10 games. “It was my greatest victory,” said Graf. “I came here without belief – but the crowd lifted me. At 1-0 in the third I knew the momentum was with me. She got tight. Then at 3-0 I got tight and she almost caught me. It was the craziest match. ‘Quit worrying,’ I told myself. ‘Go for your shots.’ I did.”

2003 – Serena Williams is defeated by Belgium’s Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 in front of a raucously pro-Henin Hardenne crowd in the semifinals of the French Open, ending Williams’ 33-match Grand Slam winning streak. The match is highlighted by an incident in the third-set that would prove contentious and acrimonious between the two rivals for years to come. With Williams serving at 4-2, 30-0 in the final set, Henin-Hardenne raises her hand indicating she is not ready to return serve. Williams serves in the net, then protests, to no avail, to the chair umpire and tournament referee that she should be given a first serve, while Henin-Hardenne says nothing of her gesture. Williams then loses the next four points to lose her service-break advantage and eventually the match. Said Henin-Hardenne, “I wasn’t ready to play the point. The chair umpire is there to deal with these kind of situations. I just tried to stay focused on myself and tried to forget all the other things…It’s her point of view but that’s mine now and I feel comfortable with it….I didn’t have any discussion with the chair umpire. He didn’t ask me anything. I was just trying to focus on playing the returns. She saw me and she served. It was her decision to serve. I just tried to stay focused on the second serve. One point in the match doesn’t change the outcome.”

2005 – Nineteen-year-old Rafael Nadal of Spain fends off a charge from unseeded Mariano Puerta of Argentina to win his first major singles title at the French Open. Nadal wins the title and his 24th consecutive match with a 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1 7-5 decision over Puerta to become the fourth youngest men’s singles champion at Roland Garros. Nadal joins 1982 champion Mats Wilander as the only player to win Roland Garros in his debut.

El Aynaoui Makes a Comeback (Again)

Once again on the futures circuit this week, another former ATP standout bravely swallowed his pride and started back at square one in the hopes of turning back the clock.

It’s hard to tell how many comebacks Moroccan Younes El Aynaoui has had. The 36 year old has overcome financial destitution and just about every injury in the book to achieve a top 15 ranking and reach the quarterfinals at both the Australian Open and US Open. This week, El Aynaoui returned from a seven month injury layoff at the $15,000 event in Castelldefels. Appearing as a late entrant, he was forced to go through the qualifying rounds before surviving several tough three set matches in the main draw. In the end, El Aynaoui won his first title in almost 12 months by beating Adam Chadaj of Poland 6-3 7-6 in the final.

At the notoriously strong $100,000 event in Sunrise, Dutchman Robin Haase won a rain-delayed final that was pushed into Monday. Haase came back from being down a set and a break to defeat Frenchman Sebastian Grosjean 5-7 7-5 6-1. For Haase, who has already scored wins over Andy Murray and Ivan Ljubicic this year, this is the biggest title of his career. He hopped in a car directly after the final to head to Miami, where he layer played in the qualifying rounds of the Sony Ericsson Open (he won his first round match in Miami Monday evening).

Another player on the comeback trail is Mariano Puerta of Argentina, who’s still trying to rebound after a second doping suspension that almost ended his career. Competing at the $50,000 event in San Luis Potosi this week, Puerta showed glimpses of the form that took him to the French Open finals as he cruised through the draw without the loss of a set. However, injury derailed his good form as he was forced to withdraw from the final before striking a single ball, which allowed Brian Dabul of Argentina to win his first title of year. Both Dabul and Puerta are scheduled at the next $50,000 event in Mexico this coming week, held in the city of Leon.

In other challenger news on the men’s side, Ivan Navarro of Spain won his first event in two years at the $35,000 event in Meknes, while Andreas Beck of Germany won the $35,000 event in Sarajevo.

With her ranking just outside of the top 100, Israeli Tzipi Obziler decided to drop back down to the challengers for the $25,000 event in Tenerife. The decision proved to be wise as she dropped just 14 games in her last four matches and overwhelmed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-2 6-3 in the final. The win puts Obziler back inside the top 100 and, with little to defend over the next few months, she should see her ranking continue to climb.

In other challenger news on the women’s side, Barbora Zahalova Strycova of the Czech Republic won her second title of the year at the $25,000 event in Redding, while Melanie South of Great Britain won a nail biting three-set final to take the title at the $25,000 tournament in Sorrento. Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova won the $25,000 event in St. Petersburg, and Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova won her first challenger event at the $25,000 tournament in Noida.

The men keep the spotlight with two $50,000 tournaments this coming week. Werner Eschauer of Austria is the top seed in Barletta and Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer takes top billing in Leon. On the women’s side, Nuria Llagostera Vives of Spain accepted a late wild card and is the top seed at the $50,000 event in Latina. Once again this week, there are also several $25,000 women’s events. Anna Lapushchenkova of Russia will hope to keep her local fans happy at the $25,000 event in Moscow, while China’s Shuai Zhang hopes to reverse her losing streak at the $25,000 tournament in Hammond. Anastasia Yakimova of Belarus is the clear favorite a  the $25,000 event in La Palma, while Estonia’s Maret Ani takes top billing at the $25,000 event in Jersey. Finally, Tessenderlo hosts its first professional event as veteran Selima Sfar of Tunisia is the top seed at this $25,000 tournament.