By Maud Watson
In the Zone
Serena Williams was firing on all cylinders last week in Charleston, which wasn’t just bad news for the rest of the field – it was devastating. Serena showed no mercy as she demolished her opponents en route to the title, dropping a grand total of just three games in the semis and final. Though it was an absolute clinic by the decorated Grand Slam champion, it’s difficult to use as a barometer for how she’ll perform in Paris. For starters, near the latter rounds, she played above her head (even by her lofty standards), and that level for her has increasingly become the exception rather than the norm. Additionally, while there are few players who at their best can potentially hang with Serena at her best, it’s still worth noting that the currently hottest players on the WTA were absent. Finally, there’s the fact that the win is unlikely to have a substantial carry-over effect on Serena herself. She’s frequently shown she never lacks for confidence at any event, irrespective of how match fit she is, simply taking things as they come. So, congrats on a well-deserved 40th career singles title for the younger Williams, who reminded the world of what she’s capable of when her heart and head are in it, but one fantastic title win does not just yet a heavy favorite for Roland Garros make.
Riding the Momentum
Where Ryan Harrison failed to capitalize on his opportunity when named to the U.S. Davis Cup Team, John Isner continued to shine. Since upsetting Roger Federer in the team competition this past February, he’s continued to improve and surprise everyone, including perhaps himself. He delivered a much-needed win against Simon to pull the Americans even with France on the opening day of last weekend’s tie, and he clinched the victory with his triumph over Tsonga. He’s also being smart with his scheduling, choosing to sit out the optional Masters 1000 event next week in Monte Carlo in order to rest and get fit for the remainder of the clay court and following grass court seasons. As he continues this good run of form, he’s set to become the No. 1 American man sooner rather than later. Such an achievement would be a crowning moment for Isner as well as the USA, given that Isner has been one of the handful of Americans to consistently comport himself with class and dignity this season.
Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario needs a crash course in public relations stat. We previously heard she was broke thanks to the mishandling of her finances by her parents, which has since been followed by rebuttal from her mother claiming otherwise. Now the “Barcelona Bumblebee” is upsetting her nation’s top female player by personally attacking Anabel Medina Garrigues during her announcement that Garrigues would not be part of her Fed Cup squad. As captain, it’s her prerogative as to who she’d like to select for the team, but there was no need to launch an attack against the Spanish No. 1. Her actions and decisions in recent months might suggest it’s time for the Spanish Tennis Federation to consider looking at a potential replacement. It’s a shame given what all Sanchez-Vicario has done in the sport and for her county, but recent behavior dictates that a review of her ability to be a leader at this point in time is in serious doubt.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will be facing off in an exhibition on July 14, when they hope to break the tennis attendance record by filling all of the 80,000 seats in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid where the match will take place. The proceeds from the match will go to both the Real Madrid Foundation and the Rafael Nadal Foundation, which provide funding for programs aimed at disadvantaged children. It’s great to see two of the biggest names in the sport continue to give back (especially in the midst of a busy summer schedule), and while they’re going for an ambitious record, as one of the most exciting rivalries in the sport right now, they might just do it.
Mary Joe Fernandez is living in a dream world if she thinks Serena’s “heart is in Fed Cup, ” as Serena’s sudden patriotism is undoubtedly spurred on by her desire to play in the Olympics. Despite committing to her second tie this season, Serena will still need to get special permission from the Olympic Committee to compete in London. Sister Venus is looking to try and raise her ranking high enough to gain automatic entry for the London Games, but if she doesn’t, she’ll also require special permission to compete in the British capital. Where this may get messy is if another player – a player who has put in more time representing their country during the non-Olympic years – gets burned. It’s hard to vilify the Williams Sisters, who are just doing the same as other top pros this season and also have historically performed well in the Olympics. Still others will contend spots should go to those who have put in the time and who arguably could still medal for the USA (especially when factoring in Venus’ health liabilities). Of course, the ITF could just spare the U.S. and other nations, like Russia, this potentially ugly situation by doing away with the whole problematic Fed/Davis Cup participation rule, but hard to see that happening any time soon.
Did anyone follow Dominika Cibulkova on Twitter a little? The tiny Slovak caused a stir among fans when she cheered when Ana Ivanovic had to pull out. Many fans were not amused and kindly dropped a message on Twitter to let Cibulkova know that “Ajdee Serbia” was their new slogan. Even Ana Ivanovic haters turned on Cibulkova. Now that says something, doesn’t it?
And if you don’t believe me then you can find a screenshot here of a simple Twitter search for her last name:
And it has already inspired some fan art around the web as well:
In other Fed Cup news Germany beat the USA with 5-0 and that means that for the first time in the history of 48 years of the Fed Cup the USA relegates from the World Group. A big blow for the country that has won the Fed Cup no less than 17 times, a record. It has to be noted that the USA were without their three strongest players. Venus Williams and Bethanie Mattek-Sands are sidelined with hip injuries, Serena Williams is still recovering from her blood cloth surgery earlier this year.
Captain Mary Joe Fernandez was disappointed but praised the fighting spirit of her team and credited Germany for their strong performance.
“It’s tough to be out of the World Group for the first time, but we just came up against a better team,” U.S. captain Mary Joe Fernandez said. “We did the best we could, we fought for every point and that’s all you can do, do your best on the court.”
“It was a tough weekend but you have to give credit to whole German team,” she added. “They played great. There were moments, small chances, but there weren’t that many opportunities for us.”
Our photographer, Ralf Reinecke, was present at the meeting between the USA and Germany. Find the photos below.
Russia beat Italy 5-0 at Moscow, Russia
Czech Republic beat Belgium 3-2 at Charleroi, Belgium
World Group Playoffs
Germany beat United States 5-0 at Stuttgart, Germany
Spain beat France 4-1 at Lleida, Spain
Serbia beat Slovak Republic 3-2 at Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Ukraine beat Australia 3-2 at Melbourne, Australia
World Group II Playoffs
Belarus beat Estonia 5-0 at Minsk, Belarus; Slovenia beat Canada 3-2 at Koper, Slovenia; Switzerland beat Sweden 4-1 at Lugano, Switzerland
Is Melanie Oudin, the darling of last year’s U.S. Open, finally back on track? The 18-year-old Georgian busted out of a six-match losing streak to be the heroine of the U.S. Fed Cup team’s 4-1 upset win over France over the weekend.
Oudin beat France’s Julie Coin 7-6 (3), 6-4 on indoor clay in Lievin, France to clinch victory for the United States and send Captain Mary Joe Fernandez’s squad into the semifinals against Russia in April in the United States.
Oudin gave the USA a 2-0 lead on Saturday when she beat Pauline Parmentier of France 6-4, 6-4.
Since her celebrated run to the quarterfinals of the 2009 US Open, Oudin has registered only a paltry 1-6 record, losing her last six matches entering this Fed Cup series. Her two match wins against France was her best win streak since she beat in succession at the US Open Russians Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova, before losing to eventual finalist Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the quarterfinals. Her U.S. Open success earned her media opportunities on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” among others but not many more match victories.
Will her inspired effort in France lead to more success on the WTA Tour?
Media reports out of Europe have indicated that Roger Federer’s fragrance and cosmetics company “RF” will cease operations. Started in 2003 by Federer’s then-girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec, “RF” was one of the Federer initiatives during the entrepreneur management phase of his career, before re-signing with the International Management Group. Rene Stauffer, in his book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com), outlines Federer and his business career in this book excerpt below.
Lynette Federer was astonished to read one of her son’s first interviews in a Swiss newspaper when he was still a youngster. The question to Federer was “What would you buy with your first prize money paycheck?” and the answer actually printed in the paper was “A Mercedes.” Roger was still in school at the time and didn’t even have a driver’s license. His mother knew him well enough to know that the answer couldn’t be correct. She called the editors of the paper and asked to hear the taped conversation. The mother’s intuition was correct. He had really said, “More CD’s.”
Roger Federer never had extravagant tastes. Money was never the main incentive for him to improve. It was rather a pleasant by-product of his success. It is a fact that the most successful tennis players are gold-plated and are among the highest-paid individual athletes in the world. Normally, the top 100 players in the world rankings can make ends meet financially without any difficulties—but nationality plays a crucial role in this. The best player from Japan, a country that’s crazy about tennis and is an economic power house, may be only ranked No. 300 but he could still be earning substantially more than the tenth-best Spanish player even if the Spaniard is ranked 200 positions ahead of the Japanese player. Profits from advertising, endorsement contracts as well as other opportunities that arise for a top player in a particular nation sometimes greatly exceed their prize money earnings.
Anybody who asks a professional tennis player how many dollars or euros they win in a tournament will seldom receive an exact answer. For most, the total prize winnings are an abstract number on a paper and when it has finally been transferred to a bank account, it doesn’t look too good anyways after taxes. By contrast, every player knows exactly how many ATP or WTA points they accumulate and how many are still out there to be gathered and where. These points ultimately decide where a player is ranked, which in turn determines the tournaments a player can or cannot compete in.
While tennis, for the most part, is an individual sport, it’s hardly an individual effort when it comes to the daily routine. Nobody can function without outside help to plan and coordinate practice sessions, to get racquets, strings, shoes and clothes ready, to make travel arrangements, to apply for visas, to work out a tournament schedules, to field questions and inquiries from the media, sponsors and fans, to maintain a website, to manage financial and legal matters, to ensure physical fitness and treat minor as well as major injuries, to maximize nutrition intake and—something that is becoming increasingly important—to make sure that any sort of illegal substance is not mistakenly ingested.
Tennis professionals are forced to build a team around themselves that are like small corporations. This already starts in junior tennis, although sometimes a nation’s national association will help with many of a player’s duties—as the Swiss Tennis Federation did with Federer.
Virtually all top players are represented by small or large sports agencies, where agents and their staff offer their services—not always altruistically—to players. The reputations of agents and sports agencies are not always positive as many put their own financial goals ahead of what is best for their client.
The International Management Group or IMG—the largest sports agency in the world—signed Martina Hingis when she was only 12 years old. Federer also drew the attention of the company’s talent scouts at a very young age. IMG signed a contract with the Federer family when Roger was 15 years old. Régis Brunet, who also managed the career of fellow Swiss Marc Rosset, was assigned to work with the young Federer. Lynette and Robert Federer invested a great deal of time and money in their son’s career but were also in a relatively privileged position because Roger was able to take advantage of the assistance of local and national structures early on. For years, Swiss Tennis picked up the bill for his travel and accommodations at many of his matches and also provided opportunities for training and sports support care.
From an early age, Federer began to earn more money in the sport than his contemporaries. By age 18, he already won $110,000 in prize money on the professional tour and by 19, he had earned over $500,000. As Federer became a top professional, his prize money earnings catapulted. At age 20, his earnings soared to $1.5 million. By the time he was 23, his official winnings surpassed $10 million and at 24, the $20 million mark was eclipsed. At the end of 2005, Federer was already in seventh place in the all-time prize money list for men’s tennis and was almost half-way to earning the $43 million that Pete Sampras earned as the top-paid player of all-time before his retirement.
At the age of 17, Federer already signed endorsement contracts with sporting good giants Nike (clothes and shoes) as well as Wilson (racquets). Babolat supplied him with one hundred natural gut strings each year while Swisscom picked up the bill for his cell phone use—which the teenager found pretty cool considering his numerous calls.
Federer did not care much for the details of his early business dealings. “I don’t even want to know if I am receiving money from Head and Wilson or just equipment, because if I care too much about things like that, it could change my attitude towards tennis,” he said in an interview at that time. “The prize money is transferred to my bank account and will be used later when I begin to travel even more.” He then added somewhat hastily that “I will never buy anything big. I live very frugally.”
Federer was never a player who would do anything to earn or save extra money. He also didn’t move to Monte Carlo—the traditional tax haven for tennis players—to save on his taxed earnings like many professional tennis players such as his Swiss countrymen Marc Rosset, Jakob Hlasek and Heinz Günthardt. In 2002, he told Schweizer Illustrierte, “What would I do there? I don’t like Monaco. I’m staying in Switzerland!”
He was less tempted to chase after the quick buck for several reasons. First, he was already earning considerably more money than his peers at such an early age. Second, as a Swiss citizen, there were fewer corporate opportunities than players from other countries such as the United States and Germany. Third, his creed was always “Quality before Quantity” and he wanted to concentrate on the development of his game in the hope that his success would reap larger rewards later in his career.
Federer, however, was always very aware of his value. He slowly but steadily moved up the totem pole of pro tennis and he observed the type of opportunities that opened up for the top players. When I asked him in Bangkok in the fall of 2004 if he was tempted to earn as much money as quickly as possible, he said, “I’m in the best phase of my life and I don’t want to sleep it away. I have a lot of inquiries but most importantly, any new partners have to conform to my plans. They can’t take up too much of my time and their ad campaigns have to be right. I’m not the type of person who runs after money. I could play smaller tournaments, for example, where there are big monetary guarantees, but I don’t let it drive me nuts. The most important thing for me now is that my performance is right and that I have my career under control.”
The fact that Federer does not go for the quick, easy dollar shows in his tournament schedule. After he became a top player, he only played in a very few number of smaller tournaments on the ATP Tour where players can be lured to compete with large guaranteed pay days (this is not permitted at the Masters Series and the Grand Slam tournaments). At these events, the going rate for stars the caliber of a Federer or an Andre Agassi could reach six digits. Federer is considered to be a player who is worth the price since he attracts fans and local sponsors and is certain to deliver a top performance. He won all ten tournaments in the “International Series” that he competed in between March, 2004 and January, 2006—an incredibly consistent performance.
Federer’s strategy of looking at the big picture has panned out. He has developed into the champion that he is today because he hasn’t been sidetracked by distractions and has remained focused on the lone goal of maximizing his on-court performance. His successes and his reputation as a champion with high credibility have increased his marketability over the years.
The number of Federer’s advertising contracts was always manageable—in contrast to Björn Borg, for example, who had to keep 40 contract partners satisfied when he was in his prime. At 20, Federer signed a contract with the luxury watch maker Rolex—the brand that is also associated with Wimbledon. In June of 2004, Federer’s contract with Rolex was dissolved and he signed a five-year contract as the “ambassador” for the Swiss watch maker Maurice Lacroix.
This partnership was prematurely dissolved after two years. Since Rolex became aware of the value Federer had as a partner, they signed him to another contract in the summer of 2006, replacing Maurice Lacroix.
In addition to this, he signed contracts with Emmi, a milk company in Lucerne (which seemed appropriate for someone who owns his own cow), as well as with the financial management company Atag Asset Management in Bern (until July, 2004) and with Swiss International Air Lines. All of the contracts were heavily performance-related in general and have increased substantially in value with Federer’s successes.
Federer is a very reliable partner for companies. He was associated with his sporting goods sponsors Wilson (racquets) and Nike (clothing and shoes) since the beginning of his career and probably will be forever. His agreement with Nike was renewed for another five years in March of 2003 after the contract expired in the fall of 2002. The new contract was at the time considered to be the most lucrative ever signed by a Swiss athlete. Like almost all of Nike contracts, it contains a clause forbidding additional advertising on his clothing—or “patch” advertising—which is something that Nike also compensates Federer for.
But the renegotiation of the Nike contract was a long and tiresome process, which was one of the reasons that Federer dissolved his working relationship with IMG in June of 2003. In the spring of that year, he said that “one thing and another happened at IMG. Those are things that I can’t and am not allowed to go into.” It was a matter of money, he said, but not just that. “There were too many things that I didn’t like.”
From that point forward, Federer only wanted to work with people who he trusted implicitly. He noticed that the best control doesn’t work if there is no trust. He gave his environment a new structure that became known as “In-House Management,” based on his conviction that family companies are the best kind of enterprises. John McEnroe’s father—a lawyer—frequently managed business affairs on behalf of his son—and it all worked out well for him. Federer’s parents became the mainstay of his management and established “The Hippo Company” with headquarters in Bottmingen, Switzerland to manage their son’s affairs. “Hippo,” of course, was chosen in association with South Africa, the homeland of Roger’s mother. “My wife and I had often observed hippos during our vacations to South Africa and have come to love them,” Robert Federer explained once.
After 33 years, Lynette Federer left the Ciba Corporation in the fall of 2003 and became her son’s full-time help (she doesn’t like to be called a manager). “We grew into this business,” she said months later. “If we need expert opinion about a specific question, we’re not afraid to ask professionals.” The two main goals for their son were to “build Roger into an international brand name” and to “maximize profits over a lifetime.” The native South African, who, in contrast to Mirka Vavrinec, only occasionally traveled to the tournaments, worked very much in the background, which is exactly what her son wanted. It’s important, Federer said in 2005, that his parents go about their private lives in peace despite their business connections to him. “I don’t want them to have to suffer because of my fame,” he said. “I also pay close attention that they are not in the center of media attention very often and only rarely give interviews.”
Robert Federer continued to work for Ciba until the summer of 2006 when he took his early retirement at the age of 60. Robert, however, was always part of the core of his son’s management for years. “I view myself as working in an advisory capacity and try to disburden Roger wherever possible,” he said in the summer of 2003. “But even if we have a great relationship that is based on trust and respect, we still sometimes have trouble.”
In 2003, Federer’s girlfriend officially assumed responsibility for coordinating his travels and his schedule, especially with the media and with sponsors. Mirka’s new role and responsibility gave her a new purpose in life following the injury-related interruption of her own professional tennis career. While mixing a business relationship with a personal relationship can sometimes cause problems, both Roger and Mirka say balancing the two has been easier for the couple than they first anticipated. Mirka treats both roles independently as best as she can and soon decided “not to get stressed any more” when requests and requirements of her boyfriend/client pile up.
“I’ve made everyone realize that they have to put in their requests a long time in advance and it works great,” she said in 2004. She makes sure to expeditiously bring the most pressing matters to Roger’s attention while seeing to it that he is not unnecessarily disturbed by what she believes to be trivial matters.
Nicola Arzani, the European communications director of the ATP Tour, extols the working relationship he has with Mirka. “I work regularly with Mirka and it works great,” he said. “We coordinate all inquiries and set Roger’s schedule according to priorities—usually a long time in advance.” Federer, like all players, is supported by the communications professionals on the ATP Tour or with the International Tennis Federation at the Grand Slam events.
Mirka took up additional activities in 2003 as the driving force behind a Roger Federer branded line of cosmetics and cosmetic care products that were introduced during the Swiss Indoors in Basel. RF Cosmetic Corporation was thus born and Federer actively helped create the scent for his perfume called “Feel the Touch.” Even if this perfume was generally met with wide acceptance, experts in the business believe that launching this line of cosmetics was extremely risky and premature, considering Federer’s youth.
Federer had hardly replaced IMG with his In-House Management when his breakthrough months in 2003 and 2004 followed and provided many opportunities and requests for him—and a lot of work for his entourage. Within seven months, Federer won at Wimbledon, the Tennis Masters Cup and the Australian Open and then became the No. 1 ranked player. All of his successes and its consequences subjected the structure of his management to a tough stress test. “We were all taken by surprise, no question,” Federer said. He admitted that he wanted to be informed about all activities and perceived himself to be the head of the In-House Management.
On July 1, 2004, Thomas Werder joined the team as new “Director of Communications” responsible for trademark management, public and media relations, as well as fan communication. This working relationship, however, was soon terminated nearly a year later. The German consulting agency Hering Schuppener with headquarters in Düsseldorf was then introduced as a partner to manage international public relations. But it remained mostly in the background.
With the exception of Maurice Lacroix, new sponsorship agreements were not initially announced. In February, 2004, when his son became the No. 1 ranked player in the world, Robert Federer said that while they were engaged in negotiations with various businesses, space for other partners was nonetheless “not infinite.” “We’re taking our time,” he said. “We don’t want to force anything. Roger can’t have 20 contracts because each contract takes up part of his time.”
According to marketing experts, the fact that Roger Federer’s attempts to take better advantage of his commercial opportunities did not initially lead to additional advertising contracts not only had to do with this restraint, but also with his team’s lack of contacts in the corporate advertising world. In addition, Federer was not the first choice for many international companies as an advertising medium, which specifically had to do with his nationality, his image, and—as absurd as it may sound—with his athletic superiority.
Federer had a limited corporate market at home in Switzerland from which to draw and, like all non-Americans, he had difficulties reaching into the financial honey jars of the corporate advertising industry. Such an undertaking, without the help of a professional sports marketing agency that knows the American market and that has the necessary connections, is nearly impossible. Federer’s reputation as a fair, dependable and excellent athlete may also have made him not flamboyant or charismatic enough for many companies. Federer doesn’t smash racquets or get into shouting matches like John McEnroe or Ilie Nastase used to. He doesn’t grab at his crotch like the street fighter Jimmy Connors and, at the time, he was not considered to be a legend like Björn Borg, who looks like a Swedish god. He doesn’t dive over the court until his knees are bloody like Boris Becker and he also doesn’t surround himself with beautiful film starlettes like some of this colleagues, for instance McEnroe, whose first wife was actress Tatum O’Neal and his second, the rock star Patty Smythe, as well as Andre Agassi, who married the actress Brooke Shields, before being settling down with fellow tennis superstar Steffi Graf.
Anybody who likes convertibles, safaris, playing cards with friends, good music and good food, sun, sand and sea, is too normal and unspectacular. Federer was still missing something. During his first two years as the world No. 1, Federer lacked a rival that was somewhat his equal. Tennis thrives from its classic confrontations between rival competitors. Borg had Connors and later McEnroe. McEnroe had both Connors and Borg and later Ivan Lendl. After McEnroe and Connors, Lendl had Boris Becker. Becker had Stefan Edberg and Andre Agassi had Pete Sampras. In the women’s game, there was no greater rivalry than Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. Roger Federer didn’t have anybody between 2004 and 2005 who could hold a candle to him. During the 2004 and 2005 seasons, Federer lost only 10 times to nine different players, seven of whom were not in the top 10. A real rivalry only grew starting in 2006 with Rafael Nadal.
When in July of 2005 Forbes magazine came out with its list of the world’s top-paid athletes, Federer did not make the list. His annual income (from prize money, start guarantees, advertising and sporting goods contracts) was estimated to be about $14 million. Forbes tallied only two tennis players on their list—Andre Agassi, who, at $28.2 million, came in seventh overall on the list, as well as Maria Sharapova, the attractive Russian Wimbledon champion of 2004 whose estimated annual income was at around $18.3 million due to various advertising contracts. The Forbes list was dominated by basketball and baseball players with golf star Tiger Woods ($80.3 million) and Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher ($80.0 million) holding the top positions.
Given the undeniable need to play catch up to his fellow elite athletes on the Forbes list and gain more of a foothold in the commercial advertising space, nobody was surprised when Federer once again augmented his management with a professional international agency in 2005. It was a surprise, however, when he chose to rehire IMG after a two-year hiatus, despite such offers made by Octagon, SFX and other top agencies. However, the world’s largest sports marketing agency was only announced as an addition to the In-House Management with the goal of “concentrating intensively on his economic opportunities.” This was an optimal situation, Federer said, explaining that “I’m continuing to work with my present team, taking advantage of its lean structure while at the same time having a world-wide network at my disposal.”
American Tony Godsick became Federer’s manager. A tennis insider who also managed the tennis career of former Wimbledon, US and Australian Open champion Lindsay Davenport, Godsick was also married to Mary Joe Fernandez, the former top tennis player who owned three pieces of hardware that Federer desperately envied—two gold medals and one bronze medal from the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.
Following the 2003 death of IMG’s founder, Mark McCormack, the company was sold. The Cleveland, Ohio-based company then reduced its staff of 2,700 considerably, sold many of its properties and parts of its business, apparently to remedy its financial woes. IMG’s stake in professional tennis was also reduced as the company dumped its stake in events in Scottsdale, Ariz., Los Angeles and Indian Wells. The incoming IMG owner was Ted Forstmann, an investor who buys and sells companies at will, and made personal efforts to Federer to have his new company do business with him. The American was said to have paid $750 million for IMG and some insiders immediately speculated that Federer was signed to help increase the market value of the company and that he would share in the accruing profits if IMG were to be re-sold or listed on the stock market. No official comments came from either camp regarding this speculation.
Asked during the 2006 Australian Open if his new working relationship with IMG changed things for him and if he was now more active in off-the-court endeavors, Federer was unequivocal in stating that he was now in a new and much stronger position vis a vis IMG than before: “I don’t want much more to do because I’m booked pretty solid. I’ve made it clear to IMG that this is the reason that I’m coming back. It’s the opposite: IMG have to do more than before.”
IMG quickly became very active in order to optimize Federer’s economic situation and better exploit his potential. The goal was to find ideal partners and contracts that accurately reflected his status as a “worldwide sports icon.” In 2006, existing contracts were re-negotiated, cancelled (Maurice Lacroix) and new ones were signed (Rolex, Jura coffee machines). Federer also signed a lifetime contract with Wilson, despite attractive offers from rival racquet companies in Japan and Austria.
Early in 2007, Federer signed his first big endorsement contract with a company that was not related to tennis or to a Swiss company. In Dubai, he was unveiled as the newest brand ambassador of the new Gillette “Champions” program, together with Tiger Woods and French soccer star Thierry Henry. “These three ambassadors were selected not only for their sporting accomplishments, but also for their behaviour away from the game,” the company explained. “They are as much champions in their personal lives as they are in their sports.”
The highly-paid contract was a stepping-stone for Federer and reflected that he had become an international megastar. The multi-faceted marketing initiatives, including global print and broadcast advertising in over 150 markets, helped him increase his popularity outside the sports world.
When I asked Federer in the end of 2006, if his relation to money had changed over the years, he said, “Suddenly, money turned into a lot of money, and in the beginning, I had problems with this.” He felt that some articles suggested the impression that top tennis players are a modern version of globetrotters who run after the money from town to town. He did not feel this was an accurate portrayal of his priorities. “It’s not true,” he said. “All I’m trying to do is fulfill my dreams as a tennis player.”
FLUSHING, N.Y., September 10, 2009 — Mary Joe Fernandez is used to juggling a number of tasks at once. Mom. TV announcer. U.S. Fed Cup captain. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that in between her television commitments on Thursday, she was able to squeeze in leading Team King to a 21-17 victory over Team Cash at the US Open Champions Invitational at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Fernandez won her singles and doubles matches to help Team King outduel Team Cash and even their team record to 1-1 after losing their opening match to Team Lendl on Wednesday. Fernandez is one of the former Grand Slam champions and finalists who are competing in the event which uses the co-ed team World TeamTennis format.
In the opening set of mixed doubles, it was Gigi Fernandez and Stan Smith who raced to a 5-3 mixed doubles victory over a pair of former US Open champions, Hana Mandlikova and Ilie Nastase.
Fernandez put Team King solidly in the lead after the second event, topping 1997 French Open singles champion Iva Majoli, 5-2. Fernandez said the win wasn’t as easy as the score might indicate. “This is harder than being in the booth with John and Patrick”, she quipped, referring to her full-time television work on ESPN with the brothers McEnroe at the US Open.
Todd Martin, the 1999 US Open runner-up, wasted no time putting Team Cash back into contention with a dominating 5-1 win over Luke Jensen in men’s singles. Jensen opened the set confidently, serving both left-handed and right-handed to win the first game. Martin then took control, running the former French Open doubles champ all over the court with precise shot-making – highlighted by a drop shot winner from the baseline — before closing out the 5-1 win to bring Team Cash within one game, 11-10.
Fernandez and Fernandez (no relation) added to their team’s tally with a 5-3 win over Majoli and Mandlikova in women’s doubles. The duo, who paired up to win gold medals in doubles at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, gave Team King a three-game lead heading into men’s doubles.
Coach Pat Cash tried to mix it up a bit in the final event, substituting himself for Nastase at 1-1 in men’s doubles. WTT CEO/Commissioner Ilana Kloss, filling in for team coach Billie Jean King, matched Cash’s move by sending in doubles great Rick Leach to replace Smith. Martin entertained the crowd by serving at his opponent Luke Jensen who was at the net and not in the receivers’ position. Jensen played along and dramatically dropped to the court, a nod to the well-documented World TeamTennis dustup this summer involving Robert Kendrick and John McEnroe of the New York Sportimes and Leander Paes of the Washington Kastles. Unlike the WTT Pro League incident, no fines were handed out and play resumed. Team King looked to be rolling to an easy win until Team Cash held off a match point at 4-2 and then tied the set at 4-4. Jensen and Leach held on for the 5-4 win, giving Team King an overall 21-17 victory.
Team King finishes the tournament with a 1-1 record. The 2009 US Open Champions Invitational concludes on Saturday, Sept. 12, with the final round of competition. Team Cash (0-1) takes on Team Lendl (1-0) at 11 a.m. on Court No. 4.
US OPEN CHAMPIONS INVITATIONAL RESULTS –
Team King def. Team Cash 21-17
TEAM KING: Mary Joe Fernandez, Gigi Fernandez, Stan Smith, Rick Leach and Luke Jensen.
Coach: Ilana Kloss (filling in for Billie Jean King)
TEAM CASH: Iva Majoli, Hana Mandlikova, Ilie Nastase and Todd Martin.
Coach: Pat Cash
Mixed Doubles: Gigi Fernandez/Stan Smith (Team King) def. Hana Mandlikova/Ilie Nastase (Team Cash) 5-3
Women’s Singles: Mary Joe Fernandez (Team King) def. Iva Majoli (Team Cash) 5-2
Men’s Singles: Todd Martin (Team Cash) def. Luke Jensen (Team King) 5-1
Women’s Doubles: Gigi Fernandez/Mary Joe Fernandez (Team King) def. Iva Majoli/Hana Mandlikova (Team Cash) 5-3
Men’s Doubles: Luke Jensen/Rick Leach (Team King) def. Todd Martin/Pat Cash (Team Cash) 5-4
SCHEDULE FOR SATURDAY, SEPT. 12
11 am – Court 4 (subject to change)
Team Cash (0-1) vs. Team Lendl (1-0)
TEAM LENDL: Tracy Austin, Conchita Martinez, Guillermo Vilas and Jimmy Arias.
Coach: Ivan Lendl
TEAM CASH: Iva Majoli, Hana Mandlikova, Ilie Nastase and Todd Martin.
Coach: Pat Cash
Check www.USOpen.org for more details on the US Open Champions Invitational.
FLUSHING, N.Y., September 9, 2009 – Team Lendl defeated Team King 24-16 in Overtime to win the first match of the US Open Champions Invitational today at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The event, which uses the World TeamTennis format for the first time in US Open history, features a lineup of Grand Slam champions and finalists competing on co-ed teams.
Team Lendl, coached by three-time US Open champion Ivan Lendl, jumped to an early lead as Jimmy Arias downed Luke Jensen in singles, 5-3. Arias then paired up with Guillermo Vilas to boost their overall advantage to 10-5 with a 5-2 doubles win over Jensen and Stan Smith.
Team King’s tandem of Mary Joe Fernandez and Gigi Fernandez may have won two Olympic gold medals in doubles together, but they were outgunned this afternoon by two-time US Open champion Tracy Austin and Conchita Martinez, 5-2, in women’s doubles.
Martinez, the 1994 Wimbledon singles champion, held on for 5-4 win over Mary Joe Fernandez in women’s singles to give Team Lendl a 9-point advantage heading into the final event.
Team King, coached by WTT co-founder Billie Jean King, rallied in mixed doubles when Smith and Gigi Fernandez topped Austin and Vilas 5-3 to send the match into Overtime. The match was highlighted by back-to-back aces from Tracy Austin against Stan Smith. Austin and Vilas held on to win the first game of Overtime and end the match with a 24-16 team victory.
The Champions Invitational continues on Thursday on Court 4 at 4 p.m. with Team King taking on Team Cash, coached by Pat Cash. Team Lendl returns on Saturday, Sept. 12, at 11 a.m. to face Team Cash in the final match of the Champions Invitational.
The three teams, which have a combined total of 33 seasons of World TeamTennis experience, play two matches each between Sept. 9-12. Each match consists of one set each of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles. The event will use the traditional WTT format, which includes cumulative scoring, sets to five games, no-ad scoring, playing let serves, Overtime and Supertiebreakers.
TEAM KING: Mary Joe Fernandez, Gigi Fernandez, Stan Smith and Luke Jensen.
Coach: Billie Jean King
TEAM LENDL: Tracy Austin, Conchita Martinez, Guillermo Vilas and Jimmy Arias.
Coach: Ivan Lendl
US OPEN CHAMPIONS INVITATIONAL RESULTS – Sept. 9, 2009
Team Lendl def. Team King 24-16 (OT)
Men’s Singles: Jimmy Arias (Team Lendl) def. Luke Jensen (Team King) 5-3
Men’s Doubles: Jimmy Arias/Guillermo Vilas (Team Lendl) def. Luke Jensen/Stan Smith (Team King) 5-2
Women’s Doubles: Tracy Austin/Conchita Martinez (Team Lendl) def. Gigi Fernandez/Mary Joe Fernandez (Team King) 5-2
Women’s Singles: Conchita Martinez (Team Lendl) def. Mary Joe Fernandez (Team King) 5-4
Mixed Doubles: Stan Smith/Gigi Fernandez (Team King) def. Guillermo Vilas/Tracy Austin 5-3
OVERTIME: Guillermo Vilas/Tracy Austin (Team Lendl) def. Stan Smith/Gigi Fernandez (Team King) 1-0
SCHEDULE FOR THURSDAY, SEPT. 10
4 pm – Court 4 (subject to change)
Team Cash vs. Team King
TEAM KING: Mary Joe Fernandez, Gigi Fernandez, Stan Smith and Luke Jensen.
Coach: Billie Jean King
TEAM CASH: Iva Majoli, Hana Mandlikova, Ilie Nastase and Todd Martin.
Coach: Pat Cash
Check www.USOpen.org for more details on the US Open Champions Invitational.
Match Times (time/court subject to change – refer to official US Open schedule):
Thursday, Sept. 10 – 4 pm: Court 4 – Team Cash vs. Team King
Saturday, Sept. 12 – 11 am: Court 4 – Team Cash vs. Team Lendl
FLUSHING, N.Y., August 20, 2009 – The USTA announced today a series of expanded fan enhancements and programming for the 2009 US Open. This year’s Opening Night ceremony will celebrate athletes who “give back” with a special appearance by Andre Agassi and other notable athletes. Other on-court ceremonies during the tournament will pay tribute to Arthur Ashe and Pancho Gonzalez. New features at the US Open this year include the recently opened USTA Indoor Training Center that will host an array of US Open activities, hundreds of hours of US Open programming on new cable broadcasters ESPN2 and Tennis Channel, and for the first time a live reveal show of the US Open Draw on ESPNews.
Other fan enhancements include the return of SmashZone, the premier interactive fan experience in tennis, and the return of wheelchair tennis to the US Open. The USTA will host its first-ever Family Day at the US Open, with reserved family courtside seating in Louis Armstrong Stadium. Also at the 2009 US Open, the country’s Best Tennis Town will be announced on-site, and the nighttime order of play will be reformatted so the men take the court before the women during some evening sessions. Instant replay also has been added to the Grandstand, meaning the US Open will now feature the system on all three primary show courts.
The US Open Welcomes ESPN and Tennis Channel: ESPN2 will make its debut as the lead cable broadcaster for the US Open, providing approximately 100 hours of TV coverage and more than 260 hours of coverage on its signature broadband network ESPN360.com. The US Open also will have a major presence on ESPN, ESPN.com, ESPN International, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Mobile Properties. All action on televised courts will be presented in High Definition. Tennis Channel will provide “round the clock” coverage of the US Open in 2009, with nearly 250 hours of planned total coverage. In addition to live match coverage, Tennis Channel will bring fans up-to-speed with post-match highlight shows and next-day preview shows.
Special Opening Night Ceremony: A ceremony celebrating athletes who “give back” will feature two-time US Open champion Andre Agassi, soccer’s Mia Hamm, quarterback Doug Flutie and former San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson. The special ceremony on Arthur Ashe Stadium court also will include an appearance by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and featuremusical performances by Grammy winner Rob Thomas and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The O’Jays. The ceremony will be televised live on ESPN2.
Pancho Gonzalez Tribute: On Saturday night, September 5, special guests including actor Benjamin Bratt will host a tribute to former U.S. National Champion Pancho Gonzalez on-court in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The tribute will celebrate Gonzalez on the 60th anniversary of his second consecutive victory at the U.S. Championships and will include a video presentation highlighting Gonzalez’ life and tennis career. Gonzalez family members, as well as a number of former players and Hispanic community leaders, will be in attendance.
Arthur Ashe Court of Champions Induction: Arthur Ashe will be inducted into the US Open Court of Champions in a ceremony held Thursday evening, September 10. In 1968, Ashe won the first US Open of the Open Era. An amateur at the time, Ashe became the first African-American man to win the US Open.
25th Anniversary of Super Saturday: On Saturday, September 12, the USTA pays tribute to the first official “Super Saturday,” which took place 25 years ago. The US Open stands alone among the four majors by packaging the Men’s Singles Semifinals and the Women’s Singles Final on the second-to-last day (and evening) of the event. The first Super Saturday was the biggest blockbuster of them all, featuring some of the greatest names in tennis—including Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, and Martina Navratilova—with all four matches on Center Court (including the men’s seniors match) going to the limit.
Live US Open Draw Reveal Show on ESPNews: For the first time ever, the US Open draw will be unveiled live from Bristol, Conn., airing uninterrupted on ESPNews from 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 27. Defending champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams will join USTA President and Chairman of the Board Lucy Garvin for a viewing ceremony at The TimesCenter in Manhattan. ESPN anchor Chris McKendry will host with Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez analyzing the draw.
Live Online Streaming: USOpen.org, the official website of the US Open, will offer the most extensive live streaming in the history of the event, airing all matches within the ESPN and Tennis Channel broadcast television windows. Streaming up to five matches simultaneously, US Open.org will make more than 150 matches available for free within the United States. Live streaming also will integrate live match stats updates, fan commenting and picture-in-picture capabilities.
US Open Bracket Challenge: The 2009 US Open Bracket Challenge will make its debut, allowing fans to fill out the US Open brackets online to win prizes. With separate competitions for the men’s and women’s singles draws, the participants compiling the most bracket points in each draw by the end of the tournament will win a trip to the 2010 US Open. Prizes will be awarded to the second through 10th place finishers as well. The challenge can be accessed at USOpen.org and will go live following the US Open draw unveiling ceremony, aired live on ESPNews on Thursday, August 27.
USTA Indoor Training Center: The new 245,000-square-foot indoor building near the East Gate is a state-of-the-art training facility that opened in November and will house the fan-friendly SmashZone, USTA Membership, the Heineken Light Lounge and other activities during the 2009 US Open. Featuring 12 tennis courts, locker rooms, a fitness center and a full-service pro shop, the new building increases year-round access for tennis players to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the world’s largest public tennis facility.
Family Day: The US Open is holding its first-ever Family Day on Tuesday, September 1. Parents accompanied by children 14-and-under can sit together in reserved courtside seating in Louis Armstrong Stadium. The day’s activities will feature contests, giveaways, special entertainment attractions and autograph sessions. An exclusive family breakfast, located in the Corporate Hospitality Pavilion in the Indoor Training Center, is also available as an add-on package with a previously purchased September 1 day session ticket.
SmashZone: The premier fan interactive attraction in tennis, SmashZone will return to the 2009 US Open after a three-year hiatus. Located in the Indoor Training Center, the 20,000-square-foot interactive experience features the QuickStart Tennis play format (tennis scaled to size for kids) on two courts, as well as on “Center Court” where there will be revolving programming each day, including special guest appearances, games, contests and exhibitions. Other activities include a Fast Serve Cage, “American Express Challenge a Pro,” “The Training Zone,” a state-of-the-art electronic backboard, “You Call the Shots” where fans can become sports broadcasters, and tennis video games.
American Express “Challenge a Pro:” Using interactive GreenScreen technology, fans are invited to “virtually” play against tennis pros Sam Querrey or Caroline Wozniacki on-site at the US Open “SmashZone.” A unique digital video is captured and then sent to the participant via text, MMS or email, which can also be shared with family and friends and posted to their social networks.
American Express “Rally Experience:” All tennis fans on-site will be able to take their passion for tennis into the gaming world by simultaneously engaging in a virtual tennis match using their mobile phone as a controller with pro players Shahar Peer and Gael Monfils. American Express will donate $1 to the USTA Serves Foundation for every participant that plays throughout the US Open event, up to $10,000. Players and Open attendees can watch as the number of participants is tracked along with the time of each play on a giant LED screen located in the heart of the Open.
Best TennisTown: On September 6, the much-anticipated winner of America’s Best Tennis Town will be announced on-court in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Representatives from the finalist cities of Independence, Kan.,Midland, Mich., and Ojai, Calif., will attend the US Open, with the winner receiving $100,000 for tennis programs in its local area. The nationwide call required towns to self-nominate via application form and submit a five-minute video highlighting the community’s passion for tennis. Ten cities were chosen as semifinalists and then voted on by the general public.
Kids Nightly Anthems: An instant tradition from the past two US Opens, children selected from auditions at the US Open Casting Call held at Radio City Music Hall in early June will perform in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Out of the 225 children who tried out, 15 were selected to perform. The performers hail from the New York metro area, Philadelphia,Florida, Tennessee, and New Jersey. Two singers have performed in all three US Opens and two sisters from Brooklyn, N.Y., will take the stage together.
Record Prize Money: The 2009 US Open purse will top $21.6 million, marking the third consecutive year that the tournament’s prize money has increased by $1 million. Both the men’s and women’s US Open singles champions will earn a record $1.6 million with the ability to earn an additional $1 million in bonus prize money based on their performances in the Olympus US Open Series. The top three men’s and top three women’s finishers in the Olympus US Open Series will together earn up to an additional $2.6 million in bonus prize money and be crowned at the US Open, which provides a potential total payout of $24.2 million.
Instant Replay on Grandstand: The Chase Review electronic line calling system makes its debut on Grandstand, giving the US Open instant replay on all three primary show courts. In 2006, the US Open became the first Grand Slam tournament to use electronic line calling technology, which serves as an officiating aid while increasing the excitement for in-stadium fans and TV viewers.
The Return of Wheelchair Tennis: Wheelchair tennis returns after a 2008 absence due to the Paralympic Games in Beijing. The world’s finest players will take to the courts, as eight men and eight women will compete in the Wheelchair Division in singles and doubles, while four players will take part in the Quad Division in singles and doubles (non-gender specific). Play starts on Thursday, September 10, and runs through Sunday, September 13, with a 33 percent increase in prize money over the 2007 competition. Rules of wheelchair tennis are the same as able-bodied tennis, except that the ball can bounce twice.
New Nighttime Play Format: Breaking the tradition of putting the men’s match in the second half of the nightly doubleheaders, in 2009 there will be a new gender-equality policy under the lights. This year, some evening sessions will start with a men’s match followed by a women’s match.
New Champions Invitational Format: The US Open Champions Invitational returns for its fourth year with a new design—players will compete in the popular World TeamTennis format. Players will be divided into three four-person teams, with each team playing a total of two matches from Wednesday, September 9, to Saturday, September 12. Each match consists of one set each of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. As in past years, each of the players invited for 2009 is either a past Grand Slam singles champion or finalist. This year’s invitees include Tracy Austin, Mary Joe Fernandez, Goran Ivanisevic, Hana Mandlikova, Todd Martin, Ilie Nastase, Stan Smith, Guillermo Vilas and Mal Washington, among others. The team captains will be Pat Cash, Billie Jean King and Ivan Lendl.
Heineken Light Lounge: Adults are invited to visit the Heineken Light Lounge, located in the front of the Indoor Training Center. Fans can relax and enjoy a Heineken in the lounge featuring the Heineken Wisdom Wall and the EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis game on the Nintendo Wii system. Limited edition US Open-Heineken merchandise will be available.
US Open Gallery – International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum: Each year since 1999, the US Open Gallery features a display from the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum. This year’s exhibit is themed, “The Grand Slam: Tennis’ Ultimate Achievement” and showcases the Grand Slam achievement in singles, doubles, mixed doubles and on the junior level. The exhibit will display trophies, photos and artifacts from historic calendar-year Grand Slams, including Rod Laver’s in 1969, Steffi Graf’s in 1988, the doubles Slam of Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver in 1984, as well as Stefan Edberg’s junior Grand Slam in 1983. The US Open Gallery is open daily and located in the southwest corner of Louis Armstrong Stadium.
US Open Tennis Auction: The US Open will host the first major tennis auction in North America, featuring a wide variety of tennis memorabilia including Bobby Riggs’ “Sugar Daddy” jacket from the historic 1973 Battle of the Sexes with Billie Jean King, trophies won by the legendary Bill Tilden and assorted racquets used by Jimmy Connors. The auction, hosted by the prestigious Guernsey auction house, will take place on Friday, September 11, at 2:00 p.m. and Sunday, September 13, at 11:00 a.m. in the Indoor Training Center. Bidding can take place in person or live at auctioneers.com and guernseys.com. A portion of the proceeds benefit USTA Serves, the philanthropic entity of the USTA.
Green Initiatives: The USTA is expanding its efforts this year at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in order to ensure that the US Open will register as little impact on the environment as possible. The NTC grounds will feature 500 recycling bins and all paper products will be made with 30 percent post-consumer waste. Hybrid vehicles will make up 52 percent of the Lexus player transportation fleet (up from 30 percent in 2008) and Constellation Energy, the US Open’s energy provider, will supply Renewable Energy Certificates to offset the US Open’s electricity consumption. A reusable tote bag and organic T-shirts, including one designed by Venus Williams, will be sold on the grounds and a fan awareness campaign which includes player PSAs; an additional PSA from Alec Baldwin will run throughout the tournament.
By TennisGrandstand.com Staff
President Obama gaffed at Wednesday’s Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony honoring 16 global citizens, including tennis legend Billie Jean King. In describing King’s illustrious playing career, Obama talked of King’s “12 Grand Slam titles, 101 doubles titles and 67 singles titles.” King’s total number of “major” titles actually stand at 39, including a record 20 at Wimbledon. In defense of Obama, King won 12 singles titles at Grand Slam tournaments, but King was well known if not best known for dominating all events at the majors, including winning “triple crowns” (singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles in the same year) at Wimbledon in 1967 and 1973 and the U.S. Championships in 1967. According to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, King also won an additional 37 singles titles in the “amateur” era of tennis (pre-1968).
In a video after the ceremony shown on the MSNBC television show “Morning Joe,” King joked that Obama got her stats wrong but said with class that it was “adorable.” Joked MSNBC commentator Mike Barnicle of Obama undercutting King’s credentials, “It’s the first time he has come under the numbers.” The video of Obama’s remarks and Billie Jean’s reaction can be seen here –
King’s bio from THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS is excerpted here….
Billie Jean King
United States (1943—)
Hall of Fame—1987
The fireman’s daughter, Billie Jean Moffitt King, began blazing through the tennis world in 1960 when she first appeared in the U.S. women’s rankings at No. 4. She was 17. For more than four decades she has continued as a glowing force in the game—the all-time Wimbledon champion, frequently the foremost player, a crusader in building the female professional game (enhancing the game as a whole), remaining relevant to sport today, an inspiration to millions. The Flushing Meadows home of the U.S. Open was named the USTA / Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 2006.
Born Nov. 22, 1943, in Long Beach, Calif:, Billie Jean, a 5-foot-4 1/2, 130-pound right-hander, was named for her father, Bill Moffitt, a Long Beach fireman and an enthusiastic athlete, though not a tennis player. Her brother, Randy Moffitt, became a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. She developed on the public courts of Long Beach and first gained international recognition in 1961 by joining 18-year-old Karen Hantze for a surprising triumph in the Wimbledon women’s doubles over Aussies Margaret Smith (Court) and Jan Lehane, 6-3, 6-4. Unseeded, they were the youngest team to win it. That was the first of 20 Wimbledon championships, making King the record winner at the most prestigious tourney, sharing it since 2003 when her friend Martina Navratilova caught up. Centre Court was her magic garden from the first time she saw it in 1961.
In 1979, she got the 20th at her 19th Wimbledon, the doubles, in the company of Navratilova (over Betty Stove and Wendy Turnbull, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2). She won her last major, the U.S. doubles, in 1980, beside Martina, over Pam Shriver and Stove. Elizabeth Ryan’s 19 Wimbledon titles (between 1914 and 1934) were all in doubles and mixed doubles. King won six singles, 10 doubles, and four mixed between 1961 and 1979, and in 1979 lengthened another Wimbledon record by appearing in her 27th final, the doubles. Ryan was in 24 finals. Of all the men and women to compete at Wimbledon only Navratilova played more matches (279) than King’s 265, of which B.J. was 95-15 in singles, 74-12 in doubles, 55-14 in mixed. She won 12 singles titles at major championships (one Australian, one French, six Wimbledon and four U.S.)
In her initial singles major final, Wimbledon in 1966, she beat three-time champ Maria Bueno of Brazil, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, She followed up by beating Ann Jones of Britain in 1967,6-3, 6-4 and Judy Tegart (Dalton) of Australia, 9-7, 7-5, in the first “Open” Wimbledon in 1968. In 1967, she took her first U.S. singles over Jones, but the most rousing of the four was 1974, a pyrotechnical performance from two assault-minded dolls, over Evonne Goolagong of Australia, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. Probably her most memorable Wimbledon match was a loss, the record 46-game 1970 final to Court 14-12, 11-9. Neither let up in attacking, even though both were playing hurt.
Billie Jean’s has been a career of firsts. In 1968, she was the first woman of the Open era to sign a pro contract to tour in a female tournament group, with Rosie Casals, Francoise Durr and Jones, the women’s auxiliary of the NTL (National Tennis League), which also included six men. (A few women before King had turned pro to make head-to-head barnstorming tours, notably Suzanne Lenglen in 1926.)
In 1971, B.J. was the first woman athlete over the 100-grand hurdle, winning $117,000. During that memorable season, she played 31 tournaments in singles, winning 17, and 26 in doubles, winning a record 21. She had a match mark of 112-13 in singles, a record number of wins, and 80-5 in doubles. Overall, it added up to 38 titles on 192 match wins, both records. Imagine how many millions such a campaign would be worth today.
In 1973, Billie Jean engaged in the widely ballyhooed “Battle of the Sexes,” defeating 55-year-old ex-Wimbledon champ Bobby Riggs, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, a nationally-televised lallapalooza that captured the nation’s fancy and drew a record tennis crowd, 30,472, to Houston’s Astrodome.
In 1974, she became the first woman to coach a professional team containing men when she served as player-coach of the Philadelphia Freedoms of World Team Tennis, a league she and her husband, Larry King, helped establish. As a tribute to her, Elton John composed and recorded Philadelphia Freedom. Traded to the New York Apples, she led that team to WTT titles in 1976-77 as a player.
Ten years after Riggs, BJK was to establish a geriatric mark herself, winning Birmingham (England) over Alycia Moulton, 6-0, 7-5. At 39 years, five months, she was the oldest woman to take a pro singles title.An aggressive, emotional player, Billie Jean specialized in serve-and-volley tactics, aided by quickness and a highly competitive nature. She overcame several knee operations to continue as a winner into her 40th year. As a big-match player, she was unsurpassed, excelling in team situations when she represented the U.S. In nine years on the Federation Cup team, she helped the U.S. gain the final each time, and take seven Cups by winning 51 of her 55 singles and doubles. In the Wightman Cup against Britain, she played on only one losing side in 10 years, winning 21 of her 26 singles and doubles.
Outspoken on behalf of women’s rights, in and out of sports—tennis in particular—she was possibly the most influential figure in popularizing professional tennis in the United States. She worked tirelessly to promote the Virginia Slims tour during the early 1970s when the women realized they must separate from the men to achieve recognition and significant prize money on their own. With the financial backing of Virginia Slims, the organizational acumen of Gladys Heldman and the salesmanship and winning verve of King, the women pros built an extremely profitable circuit.
Only two women, Margaret Smith Court (62) and Navratilova (59) won more majors than King’s 39 in singles, doubles and mixed. In regard to U.S. titles on all surfaces (grass, clay, hard court, indoor), King is second at 31 behind Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman’s 34. But Billie Jean is the only woman to win on all four, equaling Tony Trabert, and Art Larsen, the only men to do so. King and Casals were the only doubles team to win U.S. titles on all four surfaces. She won seven of her major doubles with Casals, her most frequent and successful partner.
Between 1963 and 1980, Billie Jean was in the world’s Top 10 18 times, including five times as No. 1(1966-67-68, 71, 74) and four times as No. 2 (1970, 73, 75, 77). She held her last world ranking, No. 13, at age 40 in 1983.
She greatly aided Owen Davidson of Australia in making his mixed doubles Grand Slam in 1967 with two partners. King and Davidson won the French, Wimbledon and U.S. after he took the Australian with Lesley Turner. She scored three major triples, winning the singles, doubles and mixed at Wimbledon in 1967 and 1973, and at the U.S. in 1967, and won the longest singles set played by a woman (36 games) in a 1963 Wightman Cup win over Christine Truman, 6-4, 19-17.
Billie Jean’s major swan song occurred at 39 in 1983 at Wimbledon, a semifinal finish (her fourteenth), losing to 18-year-old Andrea Jaeger, 6-1, 6-1. Seven years later she played a cameo role in the Boca Raton, Fla., tourney, winning a doubles match with 13-year-old pro rookie Jennifer Capriati.
In a career encompassing the amateur and Open eras, she won 67 pro and 37 amateur career singles titles, 101 pro doubles. She reached 38 other pro singles finals and had 677-149 singles W-L record as a pro. Her prize money: $1,966,487. Divorce ended her marriage. A founder and ex-president of the WTA, she remains active in World Team Tennis as an officer, formerly commissioner. She returned to her USTA roots in 1995 as captain of the Federation Cup team, having been player-captain in 1965 (a loss) and 1976 (a win). She guided the U.S. team to three Cups (1996, 1999, and 2000). As U.S. women’s Olympic coach, she mentored Lindsay Davenport, Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez to gold medals in 1996, as well as Venus and Serena Williams to golds, and Monica Seles to a bronze in 2000.
MAJOR TITLES (39)—Australian singles, 1968; French singles, 1972; Wimbledon singles, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1975; U.S. singles, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974; French doubles, 1972; Wimbledon doubles, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1979; U.S. Doubles, 1964, 1967, 1974, 1977, 1980; Australian mixed, 1968; French mixed, 1967, 1970; Wimbledon mixed, 1967, 1971, 1973, 1974; US. Mixed, 1967, 1971, 1973, 1976. OTHER U.S.TITLES (18)—Indoor singles, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1971, 1974; Clay Court singles, 1971; Hard Court singles, 1966; Indoor doubles, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1975, with Casals; 1979, with Navratilova; 1983. with Sharon Walsh; Clay Court doubles, 1960, with Darlene Hard; 1971, with Dalton; Hard Court doubles, 1966 with Casals; Indoor mixed, 1966, 1967, with Paul Sullivan (USA) FEDERATION CUP–1963-64-65-66-67,76-77-78-79,25-4 singles, 27-0 doubles: WIGHTMAN CUP—1961-62-63-64-65-66-67, 70, 77-78, 14-2 singles, 7-3 doubles SINGLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS—Australian (17-4), French (21-6), Wimbledon (95-15), U.S. (58-14).
Rafael Nadal won the BNP Paribas Open men’s singles at Indian Wells, California, USA, beating Andy Murray 6-1 6-2
Vera Zvonareva beat Ana Ivanovic 7-6 (5) 6-2 to win the BNP Paribas Open women’s singles at Indian Wells, California
Robin Soderling won the BMW Tennis Championships, beating Tomas Berdych 6-1 6-1 in Sunrise, Florida, USA
Horacio Zeballos beat Santiago Gonzalez 7-6 (3) 6-0 to win the Bancolombia Open in Bogota, Colombia
Marcos Daniel beat Lamine Ouahab 4-6 7-5 6-2 to win the Marrakech Challenger in Marrakech, Morocco
Pete Sampras beat Patrick Rafter 7-6 (6) 6-4 to capture the Del Mar Development Champions Cup in Los Cabos, Mexico
“A win here is amazing, another victory at the start of the season. It was a dream for me to win the Australian Open and now here. I love playing here.” – Rafael Nadal, after beating Andy Murray to win the BNP Paribas Open.
“It’s amazing, and a great feeling to win such a big event. I’ve been watching this tournament since I was a kid, you know. It’s been on television back home for so many years. It’s basically one of the biggest events after the majors.” – Vera Zvonareva, who won the BNP Paribas Open women’s singles.
“Honestly, it was the toughest conditions I ever played in. It was very, very windy and it wasn’t much about the game and a game plan today. It was just who can handle the conditions better and who can stay mentally tougher through it. Today she did. She played really well.” – Ana Ivanovic, after losing to Vera Zvonareva in the title match.
“It’s just one of those days when you really don’t feel comfortable on the court. I just didn’t have any momentum. No feel for the ball, no movement, no solutions.” – Novak Djokovic, after losing to Andy Roddick.
“I don’t think he had his best day by any means.” – Andy Roddick, after beating defending champion Novak Djokovic.
“He’s a big favorite and anything that happens to me, it’s all positive. It’s been a while since I didn’t play without that pressure. I feel like I’m 18 again without anything to lose.” – Ivan Ljubicic, before losing to Andy Murray at Indian Wells, California.
“I’m not thinking about this, because if it comes, it comes. If I play like this, definitely it will not come.” – Dinara Safina, on her chances of becoming number one in the world.
“It was only fair. He carried me for three sets. I only had to carry him for about five seconds.” – Andy Roddick, after Mardy Fish jumped on his back following their victory over Andy Ram and Max Mirnyi in the doubles final in Indian Wells.
“We’re both emotional. It’s just the way we are. … We want to win so bad. We want to be so much better that sometimes we just probably expect too much from ourselves. But I think you have to be emotional on the court. Otherwise I don’t think it’s fun.” – Victoria Azarenka, after teaming with Vera Zvonareva to win the women’s doubles in Indian Wells, California.
“Tonight we are here to celebrate. Celebrate our accomplishments, celebrate the Tour’s current success, and of course, celebrate its bright future, which now includes the establishment of the Tour Alumnae & Friends Program. This is a welcome addition to an association that is continually evolving. Let us continue the fun, reconnect with friends and celebrate all that has been achieved over the last 35 years.” – Billie Jean King, speaking at Indian Wells.
“It’s an elegant game that you can watch in every country. It’s a worldwide sport I’m in awe watching.” – Michele Sicard, head of BNP Paribas corporate communications in North America, talking about tennis, a sport she doesn’t play.
Pakistan has been forced to give up its right to stage its Davis Cup tie against the Philippines because of security fears in the wake of an attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team. The Asia/Oceania Zone Group II competition was scheduled to be played July 10-12 in Lahore, Pakistan. But the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has moved the tie out of Pakistan. Three of the five Filipino players, including Cecil Mamiit, are dual US-Philippine citizens and Philippine Lawn Tennis Association vice president Randy Villanueva feared they may be targeted because they carry American passports. Rashid Khan, secretary of the Pakistan Tennis Federation, called for the series to be held in a third country.
Rafael Nadal ended up winning yet another title, but getting past the fourth round was a struggle for the world’s number one player. Nadal had to save five match points before beating David Nalbandian 3-6 7-6 (5) 6-0 in Indian Wells, California. Nalbandian had four match points at 5-3 in the second set and another on his own serve at 5-4. But Nadal survived to beat Nalbandian, snapping a two-match losing streak to the Argentine. “I didn’t go to the match with a clear idea of how to play,” Nadal said. “I was scared about his backhand and it was a mistake. I played too much to his forehand and he killed me.” Nadal ended the week by besting Andy Murray in the title match.
The new president of the Romanian Tennis Federation is 38-year-old Ruxandra Dragomir, who played on the WTA Tour for a number of years. She succeeds Dumitru Haradau, who became the vice-regent president of the federation after Ilie Nastase resigned. During her playing career, Dragomir won four singles and five doubles titles. Her highest ranking was 15th in the world in August of 1997. In 2001 she suffered a major ankle injury, which ultimately resulted in ending her career.
By reaching the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open, Victoria Azarenka continued her strong move up the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings. She became only the second player from Belarus to crack the top ten, joining Natasha Zvereva in that rarified ranking. Azarenka won the first two titles of her career earlier this season, at Brisbane, Australia, and Memphis, Tennessee. And while Azarenka lost to eventual champion Vera Zvonareva in the semifinals, she didn’t come away from Indian Wells without a title. She teamed with Zvonareva to win the doubles, besting Gisela Dulko and Shahar Peer 6-4 3-6 10-5 in the final.
SKIPPING MONTE CARLO
Roger Federer will miss the Monte Carlo Masters where Rafael Nadal will be going after his record fifth consecutive title. “Roger already told me some time ago that he had to renounce to play in our tournament because of a change in his clay season’s schedule,” tournament director Zljko Franulovic. A three-time finalist at Monte Carlo, Federer could still ask for a last-minute wild card if he changes his mind. Last year, Nadal beat Federer in the final. Also missing from the field will be American Andy Roddick.
STILL NUMBER TWO
Dinara Safina failed in her bid to overtake Serena Williams and climb into the number one spot in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings. The Russian would have moved to the top of the rankings had she reached the final of the BPN Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. Instead, she lost to eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals 6-7 6-1 6-3. Safina’s aggressive all-round game was the reason she moved up in the rankings in the past year. But she says she has gotten away from that in recent weeks. “I played three rounds before and I was struggling with every player that I’m playing,” Safina said. “With everyone I played, they were either serving for the set or had set points. I have to finally start playing my game, because I’m not playing it. Since Australia, I’m playing defensive, and it’s not me. I just want to play aggressive.”
SEEING IS UNBELIEVING
Even the Hawk-Eye system was against Ivan Ljubicic on his 30th birthday. The big-serving Croat was playing Andy Murray in a quarterfinal match at Indian Wells when a shot by Murray landed just outside the line. “I didn’t play the ball because it was clearly out,” Ljubicic said later. Murray, however, challenged the line call and everyone seemed surprised when Hawk-Eye showed the ball was good. “The (Hawk-Eye) operator showed a second bounce instead of the first,” Ljubicic said. “It’s just human error, and it’s frustrating when you see such a clear mistake. We really wanted to take control of the human error with that machine, and then you have a human error of the operator who is controlling that machine. It’s a strange situation.” Murray, who ended up winning the match, agreed. “Obviously I got pretty lucky,” Murray said. “Supposedly he (the operator) took the second bounce of the ball, which obviously landed on the line. So it wasn’t the technology problem. It was sort of human error, which can happen with line calls. But I don’t think it had a huge bearing on the outcome or the result.”
Teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is showing her triumphs as a junior was a harbinger of things to come. The Russian battled her way to the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, knocking off second-seeded Jelena Jankovic and seventh-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska before losing to defending champion Ana Ivanovic. It was the first WTA Tour semifinal berth for Pavlyuchenkova, who won three junior Grand Slam tournament titles.
Robin Soderling made a loss pay off. After losing his first-round match at Indian Wells, California, Soderling flew to Sunrise, Florida, fought his way through qualifying and eventually won the BMW Tennis Championship title. But in the second set of his quarterfinal match, Soderling smashed his racquet and drew a third conduct warning and game penalty to trail 1-3. Although the Swede won his fourth career title, his temper almost knocked him out of the Challenger event. When he missed a backhand pass down the line in the first-set tiebreak, he belted the ball out of the stadium for violation number one. He received another ball abuse penalty before he slammed his racquet to the court for the third violation and game penalty.
More than 100 guests attended a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Alumnae Reunion Celebration in Indian Wells, including Hall of Famers Billie Jean King, Tracy Austin and Rosie Casals. Others in attendance included Lindsay Davenport, Pam Shriver, Mima Jausovec, Mary Joe Fernandez and Diane Desfor Stadler. King honored another Hall of Famer, journalist Bud Collins, as the reporter most interested in women’s tennis and truly promoting it. Casals also spoke at the event, which also reflected on the progress made by women’s tennis since the 1970s, and the recent awarding of equal prize money at all four Grand Slam tournaments.
Women’s tennis once again has to deal with sexual identity on the courts. Sara Gronert, a 22-year-old from Germany, was born with born male and female genitalia, but underwent surgery to become female both legally and physically. That hasn’t stopped some coaches, players and officials from charging that she seems unnaturally strong for a woman and questioning whether she would be allowed to compete against women. “There is no girl who can hit serves like that, not even Venus Williams,” Schlomo Tzoref said after Gronert upset Julia Glushko, whom Tzoref coaches. Gronert has won two USD $10,000 International Tennis Federation tournaments, one in Israel, the other in Germany. Since her last title, she has lost in two USD $10,000 ITF events in France. In the late 1970s Renee Richards became the first reassigned female to play on the women’s tour after a New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor. Richards, then known as Richard Raskin, had played on the Yale University men’s tennis team before undergoing a sex change operation.
When Pete Sampras beat Patrick Rafter to win the Del Mar Development Champions Cup in Los Cabos, Mexico, he also overtook John McEnroe as the top-ranked player on the Outback Champion Series. It wasn’t easy for Sampras as he fought off two set points in the opening set, including at 5-6 in the first-tie tiebreaker. It was Sampras’ second tournament title this season on the Outback Champions Series and his fifth career title on the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over.
It was a rough day for Mashona Washington. She and partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands lost their doubles match at the BNP Paribas Open. Later the same day, Washington was arrested on suspicion of felony vandalism, according to the Riverside Count Sheriff’s Department. The 32-year-old Washington is scheduled to be arraigned on May 14 in Indian Wells, California. According to authorities, a felony vandalism charge is specific to damage estimated at USD $5,000 or more. Washington, who has been ranked as high as 50th in the world, was released on USD $5,000 bail. Mashona Washington is the sister of 1996 Wimbledon runnerup MaliVai Washington.
Mario Ancic switched from his tennis clothes in Indian Wells to his lawyer garb at Harvard University. Ancic spoke to students at Harvard Law School about the business side of tennis. Ancic received his law degree from the University of Split in his native Split, Croatia. His 90-minute lecture and question-and-answer session at Harvard was based on his thesis describing the “legal foundation and organization of the ATP Tour.” “I had given a couple of speeches before in Croatian, so it was a little more challenging delivering it in English, but I was prepared and I was really happy with the way it went.” Ancic said.
A five-person Class of 2009 will be inducted into the USTA New England Hall of Fame on June 6 in a ceremony in Newport, Rhode Island. This year’s inductees are Peter Allen, Jules Cohen, Avis Murray, Jean Osachuk and Aileen Smith Eleey. Murray is a USPTA Master Professional who has held the number one rankings in both the United States Tennis Association and the USPTA.
Indian Wells (men): Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick beat Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram 3-6 6-1 14-12 (match tiebreak)
Indian Wells (women): Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva beat Gisela Dulko and Shahar Peer 6-4 3-6 10-5 (match tiebreak)
Sunrise: Eric Butorac and Bobby Reynolds beat Jeff Coetzee and Jordan Kerr 5-7 6-4 10-4 (match tiebreak)
Bogota: Sebastian Prieto and Horacio Zeballos beat Alexander Peya and Fernando Vicente 4-6 6-1 11-9 (match tiebreak)
Marrakech: Ruben Ramirez Hildago and Santiago Ventura beat Alberto Martin and Daniel Munoz-De La Nava 6-3 7-6 (5)
SITES TO SURF
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: www.bmattek.com.
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$4,500,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (first week)
$4,500,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (first week)
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$4,500,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (second week)
$116,000 Napoli, Italy, clay
$4,500,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (second week)
Marin Cilic beat Mario Ancic 6-3 6-4 to win the PBZ Zagreb Indoors in Zagreb, Croatia.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won the SA Tennis Open in Johannesburg, South Africa, beating Jeremy Chardy 6-4 7-6 (5)
Fernando Gonzalez beat Jose Acasuso 6-1 6-3 to win the Movistar Open in Vina del Mar, Chile
Michael Berrer defeated Alexandre Kudryavtsev 6-3 6-4 to win the KGHM Dialog Polish Indoors in Wroclaw, Poland
Italy beat France 5-0, Russia beat China 5-0, Czech Republic beat Spain 4-1, United States beat Argentina 3-2
World Group 2
(Winners advance to playoffs April 26-27)
Slovak Republic beat Belgium 4-1, Germany beat Switzerland 3-2, Serbia beat Japan 4-1, Ukraine beat Israel 3-2
“Before the tournament I was wishing that I would make the final here. That wish came true and especially today I played really well. It’s a really nice feeling to win here at home.” – Marin Cilic, who won the PBZ Zagreb Indoors by beating fellow Croatian Mario Ancic.
“To me, (this decision) is unacceptable. There are no limits anymore in the behavior a player can have with an umpire. It is unbelievable.” – Amelie Mauresmo, after Italy’s Flavia Pennetta gave the umpire the finger during their Fed Cup match in Orleans, France.
“I lost control of myself. It’s the first time it happened to me.” – Flavia Pennetta, who received a verbal warning and a USD $2,000 fine for her obscene gesture during her Fed Cup match against Amelie Mauresmo.
“I disagree with the top players talking on shortening the season because they have a choice to play in tournaments. Perhaps they can shorten their season of playing in selective tournaments.” – Vijay Amritraj, a former ATP president and player, disagreeing with Rafael Nadal’s demand for a shorter season.
“I have never said I would boycott tournaments in India. All I said was I don’t want to play in this meet. As a tennis player I’m allowed a week off if I’m tired.” – Sania Mirza, on not playing Fed Cup for India.
“When I was younger, I had a dream of being a tennis player and I have managed to keep the dream going. It’s the same for these small kids. The important thing is for them to realize their dreams.” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while coaching youngsters at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Soweto, South Africa.
“I am happy with the way I have handled matches mentally this week. I didn’t play well, but you have to win even if you don’t play well. I won the key points, so I am happy with that.” – Jelena Dokic, after leading Australia to a spot in the Fed Cup World Group II playoffs.
“I’m really thrilled that I was able to pull the third win off and help my team get through this tie. It was amazing atmosphere, amazing energy out here and the crowd was really behind me the whole time.” – Jelena Jankovic, who teamed with Ana Ivanovic to lead Serbia over Japan 4-1 and a spot in the World Group playoffs.
“The only thing I can have in my mind is ‘This is me.’ This is how I am. At zero-four, zero-five, it doesn’t matter, I’m still there. I was also a set and a break down in the second – so that’s it.” – Israel’s Shahar Peer, who rallied from a 0-4 deficit in the final set to beat Alona Bondarenko and force the Fed Cup tie into the decisive doubles match, which Ukraine won.
“The bank and beef business is where I put my energies now. There’s still a scoreboard, but it’s just not public.” – Alex O’Brien, the 1999 US Open men’s doubles champion and the latest inductee into the Texas Panhandle Hall Sports Hall of Fame.
“Obviously the title is great, but what I am happier about is the way we have played and the way we have glued so far because it doesn’t always work so well when you have a new partner.” – Martin Damm, after teaming with Robert Lindstedt to win their second ATP title in their first year as teammates.
“We wanted it to come down to the doubles. When Liezel’s on the court I feel really confident every single time.” – US team captain Mary Joe Fernandez, on Liezel Huber spearheading the doubles victory that gave the United States a come-from-behind 3-2 Fed Cup victory over Argentina.
SURFACE A NO-NO
Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal is calling for playing fewer tournaments on hard courts – the surface on which both the Australian and US Opens are contested. “This surface – hard court surface – is tougher than grass or clay for the body, and all the time we are playing more on this surface,” said Nadal. “In my humble opinion, we have to change that a bit more.” Nadal’s previous Grand Slam tournament wins have come on clay at Roland Garros and grass at Wimbledon. “When I say this, I think about the best for the players and for the future,” Nadal said. “It’s not possible to have a lot of injuries on tour like this. So we have to try to change something.”
While playing in South Africa, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga took time to coach children at a Soweto tennis center that had been built with money from Arthur Ashe. “I have African blood, so … I am happy to help sport in Africa and especially to improve the tennis,” the Frenchman said. “It was great what Arthur Ashe did and these sort of clinics are really important. This is the school of life and I am very happy to be able to help improve sport in Africa.” Tsonga’s father, Didier, was born in Congo. Joining Tsonga at the clinic were South African doubles specialists Jeff Cotzee and Wesley Moodie. The Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre was built in 1976 with funds donated by the first black man to win the US Open and Wimbledon. It was refurbished in 2007 and construction is underway to increase the number of courts from 10 to 16 and build a new clubhouse and grandstand.
SHARAPOVA STILL OUT
The shoulder injury she suffered last August is still bothering Maria Sharapova. The Russian withdrew from the Paris Open this week and the tournament in Dubai next week. Once ranked number one in the world, Sharapova’s ranking had dropped to number 17 in last week’s Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings. The 21-year-old Russian was not able to defend her Australian Open title last month, the second straight Grand Slam tournament she has missed. She also skipped the US Open last year.
SPEAKING WITH HANDS
Flavia Pennetta spoke with her hands, and that got the French quite upset. Pennetta reacted angrily when the umpire overruled a backhand passing shot that had been called in, giving Amelie Mauresmo a match point in their Fed Cup encounter. Pennetta reacted angrily to the call and received a verbal warning and a USD $2,000 fine. Alize Cornet, who watched the incident on television, said, “I must admit I was very shocked by Flavia’s behavior. Showing the middle finger is the worst possible insult, especially on a sports court.” Pennetta said it was the first time she “lost control” like that. The Italian came out on top, however, as Mauresmo double-faulted the match point, then proceeded to lose to Pennetta.
Jelena Dokic teamed with Samantha Stosur to lead Australia to the Fed Cup World Group II playoffs in April for the right to join the top 16 countries in next year’s Fed Cup. The Australians clinched the Asia/Oceania Zone I playoff as Dokic won all three of her matches in the competition held in Perth, Australia. Casey Dellacqua and Rennae Stubbs played doubles as Australia, the only team able to call on three players in the world’s top 100, swept all four ties, winning all 12 matches that were played.
While Australia moved up, India, playing without its top player, Sania Mirza, was winless in the competition, losing to Taiwan 3-0 in the relegation tie. India will drop to Asia/Oceania Zone Group II next year and will be replaced in Group I by Kazakhstan.
Estonia and Poland advanced to the World Group II playoffs by winning their Europe/Africa zonal groups. Estonia downed Belarus 2-0, while Poland beat Great Britain 2-1. Luxembourg and Bulgaria were relegated to Europe/Africa Zone Group II after losing to Austria and Bosnia & Herzegovina, respectively.
In the Americas Zone Group I, Canada defeated Paraguay for a spot in the World Group II playoffs. Puerto Rico and Bahamas were relegated to Americas Zone Group II for 2010.
Jelena Jankovic denied recent reports that she and Mladjan Janovic, a water polo player from Montenegro, were considering marriage. The two have been dating since the Beijing Olympic Games. “I’m still young to get married,” Jankovic said. “My career is still in the first place in my life and I want to devote myself to it. Of course I want to have a family one day, but not for now.” Janovic also denied any wedding plans.
“Jelena and I love each other,” he said, “but it is still too early for marriage. When I decide to get married, I will first tell my family and friends, not the whole world.”
SAYS “I DO”
Jarmila Gajdosova and Samuel Groth, who reached the second round of the mixed doubles competition at the Australian Open, are now married. The couple met in 2007 at the Australian Institute of Sports in Canberra while training. Gajdosova, a native of Bratislava, Slovakia, will assume her husband’s surname and compete on the WTA Tour as Jarmila Groth. She is currently ranked number 90 in the world, while her husband is ranked number 284.
Kateryna and Alona Bondarenko were forced to play doubles to give Ukraine a narrow 3-2 victory over Israel in a Fed Cup World Group II tie. The sisters, who won the 2008 Australian Open doubles, were not scheduled to play doubles against Israel. But Shahar Peer beat both sisters, giving Israel a 2-1 lead. In her match against Alona, Peer trailed 0-4 in the final set before winning 4-6 7-5 6-4. Kateryna then was stretched before beating Tzipi Obziler 6-1 4-6 6-0, making the doubles the clinching point. So the sisters went back onto the court and beat Peer and Obziler 6-3 6-2, advancing Ukraine into the World Group playoffs in April.
With a record Fed Cup crowd watching, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic powered Serbia into the World Group playoffs for the first time. A crowd of 15,118 showed up on opening day and Jankovic and Ivanovic, both ranked in the top 10 in the world, crushed their Japanese opponents in straight sets. Serbia had an insurmountable 4-0 lead in the best-of-five-matches competition when Japan’s Rika Fujiwara and Aiko Nakamura won the doubles when Jankovic and Ivanovic retired with the match tied after two sets. It was the first time Serbia had played a Fed Cup tie at home.
Branko Horvat, the tournament director of the PBZ Zagreb Indoors, says he received a death threat after Croatian Antonio Veic upset heavily favored Argentine Guillermo Canas. The e-mail Horvat received reportedly said: “This was your last tournament. I’m bankrupt because of you.” Anti-corruption authorities in Australia investigated the betting, but reported nothing unusual. Veic, who was wild-carded into the tournament, pulled off another surprise in the second round by beating Evgeny Korolev of Russia. Veic finally fell to eventual tournament champion Marin Cilic.
So what if Iran lost every match in its Asia/Oceania Group II Fed Cup competition. It was the first time in 37 years that Iran had fielded a women’s team. Their participation came after the International Tennis Federation (ITF) accepted their team uniform, a modified burka that allowed the players to observe their religious beliefs. When Shadi Tabatabaei, the team’s oldest player at 32, lost 6-2 6-1 on the final day, it was the first time in the three-day competition that Iran had won even a game in singles. Tabatabaei is the only member of the team not living in Iran, having earned Masters and PhD degrees at the University of Colorado and practiced at Nick Bollettieri’s tennis academy in Florida. She has played for Iran before, but only in the World Muslim Games held every four years in Tehran. The Fed Cup team was selected from approximately 500 women who are playing tennis in Iran.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has denied an appeal by a former men’s tennis coach at Texas Christian University (TCU) over violations of telephone contact rules with international players. Joey Rive argued that there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude he made 105 improper calls to recruits from 2002 to 2006. Rive also said the NCAA erred in classifying the violations as major. TCU reported the violations and was placed on two years’ probation a year ago. Rive resigned in 2006 when the allegations became public.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has begun a full-service Spanish-language version of its Fed Cup website. The new website, www.fedcup.com/es, will provide Spanish-speaking fans with current news and information in their own language. It also will feature original content in Spanish from ties around the world. Last year the ITF launched a Spanish version of its Davis Cup website.
SERENA TOP PICK
No surprise here. Serena Williams was the top pick in the World Team Tennis marquee draft. The winner of the last two Grand Slam tournament women’s singles titles, Serena will return to the Washington Kastles, who enter their second season in the 10-team summer league. She will play four matches, one at home in Washington, DC, and road matches at Philadelphia, Boston and Randall’s Island in New York City, the new home of the New York Sportimes. Also selected in the draft were Venus Williams (by Philadelphia), John McEnroe (Sportimes), Anna Kournikova (St. Louis), Michael Chang (Sacramento), Bob and Mike Bryan (Kansas City) and Martina Navratilova (Boston). The season runs July 2-26. The coed league, co-founded by Billie Jean King, enters its 34th season. Navratilova will play a league-record 20th season. Last month, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) became a minority owner of the WTT.
SAMPRAS IN MEXICO
Pete Sampras will return to the Outback Champions Tour next month when he joins the six-player field at the Del Mar Development Championship Club in Los Cabos, Mexico. Sampras, playing in Mexico for the first time in his professional career, will face two of his biggest rivals, Jim Courier and Patrick Rafter. He beat Courtier to win his first Wimbledon title in 1993 and topped Rafter in 2000 to win his seventh and final Wimbledon crown. The Del Mar Development Champions Cup, which will be played at the Palmilla Tennis Club, is a first-year event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over.
SELECTED TO HALL
Alex O’Brien is the 148th inductee into the Texas Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame. O’Brien won high school state championships in doubles and singles, three NCAA team titles as a four-time All-American at Stanford, the 1996 Pilot Pen International singles, 13 ATP Tour doubles titles, and the 1999 US Open men’s doubles with Sebastien Lareau, where they beat India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes. He played for the United States in Davis Cup competition five times and was on the US doubles team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. O’Brien currently is CEO of Littlefield Ranch, which sells prime steaks nationally, and president of The Bank of Commerce of Amarillo, Texas.
Zagreb: Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt beat Christopher Kas and Rogier Wassen 6-4 6-3
Vina del Mar: Pablo Cuevas and Brian Dabul beat Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak 6-3 6-3
Johannesburg: James Cerretani and Dick Norman beat Rik De Voest and Ashley Fisher 6-7 (7) 6-2 14-12 (match tiebreak)
Wroclaw: Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana beat Benedikt Dorsch and Sam Warburg 6-4 3-6 10-8 (match tiebreak)
SITES TO SURF
San Jose: www.sapopentennis.com/
Costa Do Sauipe: www2.uol.com.br/tenisbrasil/brasilopen/
Pattaya City: www.pentangelepromotions.com
Buenos Aires: www.copatelmex.com/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$1,877,000 ABN AMRO World Tennis, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, hard
$600,000 SAP Open, San Jose, California, USA, hard
$562,500 Brasil Open, Costa Do Sauipe, Brazil, clay
$700,000 Open GDF Suez, Paris, France, carpet
$220,000 PTT Pattaya Women’s Open, Pattaya City, Thailand, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
576,000 Open 13, Marseille, France, hard
$600,000 Copa Telemex, Buenos Aires, Argentina, clay
$1,226,500 Regions Morgan Keegan Championships, Memphis, Tennessee, USA, hard
$2,000,000 Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, Dubai, United Arab Emigrates, hard
$220,000 Regions Morgan Keegan Championships & the Cellular South Cup, Memphis, Tennessee, USA, hard
$220,000 Copa Colsanitas, Bogota, Colombia, clay