Mashona Washington

Washington Kastles win WTT Eastern conference title: Keep win streak alive at 15

The Washington Kastles moved one step closer to their second World TeamTennis title and the first undefeated season in WTT Pro League history with a 23-15 victory over the Boston Lobsters in the WTT Eastern Conference Championship final.  The Kastles advance to Sunday’s WTT Finals presented by GEICO to face the winner of Saturday’s Western Conference Championship match.

Leander Paes, who was announced as the 2011 WTT Male MVP prior to the match, partnered with Rennae Stubbs to power past Boston’s Eric Butorac and Mashona Washington, 5-2, in the opening set.  That opening match set the tone for the rest of the first half as Stubbs and Arina Rodionova dominated Washington and her partner Irina Falconi in women’s doubles 5-1.  The Kastles cruised to a 15-5 halftime lead after Paes and Bobby Reynolds defeated Butorac and Jan-Michael Gambill in men’s doubles, 5-2.

Falconi tried to turn the tide in women’s singles as she faced off against WTT’s Female Rookie of the Year Rodionova.  Falconi jumped out to a 3-1 lead before Rodionova shifted gears and evened out the set at 4-4.  Falconi hit a crosscourt forehand winner for the 5-4 victory and the first set win for the Lobsters.

Gambill won men’s singles 5-3 to send the match into overtime.  Reynolds closed out Washington’s 15th consecutive victory by winning the first Overtime game to give the Kastles the 23-15 win.  The win gives 2011 Coach of the Year Murphy Jensen and his squad a shot at making WTT history in Sunday’s final.  No team in WTT history has ever gone undefeated throughout the entire regular and post-season.

The St. Louis Aces and the Sacramento Capitals face off for the Western Conference title at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 23.  The winner will play the Kastles at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 24, for the King Trophy in the WTT Finals.  The Finals will be televised live on Tennis Channel and live streamed on http://video.wtt.com.

FINAL RESULTS FROM THE EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH:

(Home teams in capital letters)

WASHINGTON KASTLES def. Boston Lobsters 23-15 (OT)

Mixed Doubles – Leander Paes\Rennae Stubbs (Kastles) def. Eric Butorac\Mashona Washington (Lobsters) 5-2

Women’s Doubles – Arina Rodionova\Rennae Stubbs (Kastles) def. Irina Falconi\Mashona Washington (Lobsters) 5-1

Men’s Doubles – Leander Paes\Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) def. Eric Butorac\Jan-Michael Gambill (Lobsters) 5-2

Women’s Singles – Irina Falconi (Lobsters) def. Arina Rodionova (Kastles) 5-4

Men’s Singles – Jan-Michael Gambill (Lobsters) def. Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) 5-3

Overtime – Men’s Singles – Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) def. Jan-Michael Gambill (Lobsters) 1-0

Next Match: 7/23/2011

Western Conference Championship:  Sacramento Capitals @ ST. LOUIS ACES, 5:00 PM (EDT)

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

Serena Williams takes on tennis and the First Family in a Kastles’ win

In her first U.S. match in nearly two years, Serena Williams joined the Washington Kastles as they defeated the Boston Lobsters 25-10 in a thrilling evening overlooking the waterfront in Washington, D.C. Not only was there entertaining tennis, but the First Family was in attendance with Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia.

The evening began early, but “fashionably late” as Williams arrived late but took the court for a Kids’ Clinic for local youth organizations. As she was mobbed with photographers, the thing that stood out to me was her willingness to forget about the cameras and interact with the kids 1-on-1. Even though her time on-court was limited, it was not short on energy and optimism as she coached the kids to perfect their slice backhands and encouraged them to try missed shots again. The smiles on the kids’ faces told the whole story: they were excited to meet and hit with their idol.

Courtesy of: Kelyn Soong

As the Kastles’ players warmed up prior to the press conference, Coach Murphy Jensen also did not disappoint. During his serving drill, he was as audible as the capital letters in his twitter posts would have you believe. Williams also brought along her current coach, Sascha Bajin, who rallied with the players and acted as their temporary ball boy.

As the sun began to set over the Potomac River, the atmosphere was unique as first lady Michelle Obama, along with daughters Sasha and Malia, attended the second home match of the Kastles. Sasha grooved to the changeover music, holding up “Refuse to Lose” signs while her sister and mother politely cheered and clapped points.

Courtesy of: Kelyn Soong

The women’s doubles tandem of Serena Williams and Rennae Stubbs took the court for the first match of the evening against Mashona Washington and Coco Vandeweghe. Even though Serena did not look like the former #1 and 13-time Grand Slam champion that she is, the Kastles’ ladies still came out victorious 5-2.

Courtesy of: Kelyn Soong

The men’s doubles featured Kastles’ players Leander Paes and Bobby Reynolds versus Eric Butorac and Jan-Michael Gambill. The home team was in good form, quickly going up 4-0 before taking it to 5-1, bringing the score to 10-3.

With the men’s singles match occurring next, I expected only the men to take the court to warmup, but Serena jumped to her feet and warmed up Reynolds, while Butorac and Gambill warmed up on the opposite end. As much fun as it would have been to watch Serena take on Jan-Michael Gambill in the men’s singles match, it was Reynolds who did so and outplayed Gambill, 5-2.

At halftime, it looked like the First Family was leaving, but I quickly found out that they had met with the Kastles’ players and then returned to cheer on the mixed doubles team of Serena Williams and Leander Paes. For the first time in the evening, Williams seemed relaxed and chatty, taking on her old form pre-injury swiping anything that came her way and running down wide balls. From her press conference earlier in the evening, she addressed her foot fault fiasco as being “ages ago” and “so 2009.” Her renewed love for the sport was evident in Wimbledon as she broke down in tears on-court after her first round win and it was present here tonight as she smiled and danced her way to a win.

Courtesy of: Kelyn Soong

The women’s singles match concluded the evening and held the closest score all day, with Vandeweghe giving Williams good competition before going down 5-4 to take the final score to 25-10 for a Kastles’ win. Although Williams’ shot-making hasn’t faltered and her movement is deceptively quick, it’s her consistency that still needs improvement after being away from the game for almost one year. But if her renewed spirit is any indication, we will be seeing a lot more of Serena Williams this summer as she is set to play Stanford, Toronto, Cincinnati, and the U.S. Open next.

All photos provided by Kelyn Soong who is a freelance reporter and photographer. Follow his website here: http://kelynsoong.blogspot.com/ You can also follow Kelyn @Soongy12. 

N.Y. Sportimes declaw Boston Lobsters in World TeamTennis, 21-16

Martina Hingis won her singles and women’s doubles matches, pacing the New York SPORTIMES to a 21-16 World TeamTennis victory over the visiting Boston Lobsters at SPORTIME on Randall’s Island in Manhattan Wednesday night.

In men’s doubles, the SPORTIMES tandem of Jesse Witten and Greg Jones topped Jan-Michael Gambill and Eric Butorac, 5-3.  Hingis stretched New York’s lead with a 5-2 women’s singles victory over Coco Vandeweghe.  Men’s singles went to Gambill, who topped Witten, 5-3.  The mixed doubles team of Vandewegh and Butorac pulled Boston to within a point at 16-15 with a 5-3 win over Hingis and Jones, before Hingis and Abigail Spears finished off the victory with a 5-1 women’s doubles triumph over Vandeweghe and Mashona Washington.

With the win, New York avenged a loss to Boston in the season opener on Tuesday.

Both teams are in action on Thursday as the SPORTIMES visit Philadelphia, while the Lobsters travel to Washington.

World TeamTennis at New York

N.Y. Sportimes (1-1) def. Boston Lobsters (1-1), 21-16
Men’s Doubles: Jesse Witten/Greg Jones (N.Y.) d. Jan-Michael Gambill/Eric Butorac, 5-3
Women’s Singles: Martina Hingis (N.Y.) d. Coco Vandeweghe, 5-2
Men’s Singles:  Jan-Michael Gambill (Bos.) d. Jesse Witten, 5-3
Mixed Doubles: Coco Vandeweghe/Eric Butorac (Bos.) d. Martina Hingis/Greg Jones, 5-3
Women’s Doubles: Martina Hingis/Abigail Spears (N.Y.) d.  Coco Vandeweghe/Mashona Washington, 5-1

Mondays With Bob Greene: A win here is amazing, another victory at the start of the season

STARS

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

SAYING

“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.

SECURITY SWITCH

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.

STRUGGLE

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.

SELECTED

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.

STRONG MOVE

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.”

STRONG TEEN

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.

SODERLING SMASH

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.

SPECIAL CELEBRATION

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.

SEXUAL IDENTITY

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.

SENIOR LEADER

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.

SACKED

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.

SPEAKING

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.

STARRING

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.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

ATP

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

Miami: www.sonyericssonopen.com/

Napoli: www.atpnapoli.com/

Bethanie Mattek-Sands: www.bmattek.com.

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$4,500,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (first week)

WTA TOUR

$4,500,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (first week)

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$4,500,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (second week)

$116,000 Napoli, Italy, clay

WTA TOUR

$4,500,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (second week)

Hitting The Books Or The Courts: Top American Players Weigh In

At this year’s US Open tennis championships, many of the top American junior players found themselves facing a pivotal fork in the road. Players including Asia Muhammed and Kristie Ahn, are now entering their junior and senior years of high school. With a full year of classes (if not more) ahead of them, they have already been contacted by some of the best universities in the country, including Stanford and Princeton, with guarantees of full athletic scholarships if they commit to playing on their tennis team. However, these teenagers already possess a game well beyond their years. They already have the ability to compete at the professional level and are aware of the relatively small time frame they have to utilize their talents. This ultimately begs a crucial question for these players and their families: Is it best to turn pro or go to college?

For many in the tennis community, college tennis is almost seen as a consolation prize; for those who lack the ability to make it on the pro tour, they have the opportunity to receive a free education. The odds of becoming a successful player on the pro tour after college are slim at best. Out of the tens of thousands of women who competed at the college level over the last 15 years, only five of them have ever cracked the top 100 in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings. Only two of these girls (Jill Craybas and Julie Ditty) actually graduated from their school of choice; the rest dropped out by their sophomore year to pursue their careers. This year’s NCAA champion, Amanda McDowell of Georgia Tech, is currently ranked No. 797 in the world

“The level of play in college tennis is not nearly what it used to be 15 or 20 years ago,” said Lisa Raymond, the 1992 and 1993 NCAA women’s singles champion. “Players don’t have that same opportunity to compete and develop their games anymore.”

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The lack of strong competition at the college level has prompted top American junior Asia Muhammed to turn professional this summer. In declaring their pro status and accepting prize money, she is no longer allowed to compete at the amateur level. This means she is not only giving up her chances to play college tennis, but is also forfeiting any athletic scholarship opportunities should she choose to go to college in the future.

“America is the only place where college tennis is really even an option,” said Muhammed, 17. In Europe or Australia, you turn professional when you’re young and then go back to college if you haven’t made it on tour. There isn’t that intermediate step.”

Despite now having the chance to pursue her dreams of tennis stardom, players like Muhammed now have to face the realization of the cost and time commitment that it takes to compete at this level. Unlike most sports, professional tennis tournaments are held year round at locations all over the world. The majority of players travel for at least 30 weeks a year, completely on their own, and often in foreign locations where they don’t know the language. The international travel, combined with the coaching that takes place at home, leads to a staggering bill that is often placed on the shoulders of their families.

“I would say that it costs about $50,000 a year to compete on the tour, and if that’s if you’re doing it very cheaply,” said Mashona Washington, a 31 year old player from Houston. “If you travel with a coach, you can pretty much double that amount.”

Muhammed is also coached partly by her father, which brings up a potentially harmful situation. Although she doesn’t have to pay for a coach, Muhammed now faces the responsibility of becoming the primary breadwinner in their family while not even out of her teen years. In many cases, the decision to turn pro is that of the parents and not the child themselves.

“There are some girls who are turning pro right now and there isn’t anything about their game that stands out,” said Raymond. “Being a professional athlete can be an incredibly tough life at times. I think it’s important for most of these girls to at least go to college initially and be able to mature as people. Playing with the pros and actually becoming a pro are two completely different things.”

Factors such as this have prompted Kristie Ahn to keep her amateur status and plan on attending college for all four years, regardless of her professional results.

“I don’t see the big rush to turn pro right away,” said Ahn. “Rather than focusing on the pros, I’m just glad to have the honor of being of the top junior players in the country.”

While many of her contemporaries have shuttled off to tennis academies in California and Florida, Ahn has heeded the advice of her family and remained at home in New Jersey. She takes classes at home and limits her tournament schedule to roughly one event per month. While Ahn has yet to make a decision about attending a particular college, she believes that she can find a balance between attending college and competing in professional events.

“Everybody says that college is the best four years of your life and I really want to experience that,” said Ahn. “Even if the level of play in college isn’t that strong, I can still play pro events during the summer.”

While there will always be exceptions to the rule, Dr. Jack Ditty, the tournament director in Ashland, feels that many players are short changing themselves by not getting an education.

“So many of these girls invest their entire lives into tennis and leave with no money, nothing to show for it, and no education,” said Dr. Ditty. “What kind of life is that?”

He cites his daughter Julie, a current pro on the WTA Tour, as an example that a player can get a college degree and still be successful in tennis. After graduating from Vanderbilt in 2002 with a degree in early childhood education, Julie turned pro. After five years of competing on tour, she had a breakout year in 2007 and finished just outside of the top 100. In January of 2008, she made her main draw debut in a Grand Slam at the Australian Open. At the age of 29, she became the oldest player in WTA history to make their debut showing at a Grand Slam.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely still have gone to college,” said Ditty. “It takes the pressure off me as a player because in the worst case scenario, I have a degree to fall back on. I don’t know if I would have achieved more as a pro by starting earlier, but by finishing up at Vanderbilt, I now have something that will last me for the rest of my life.”

Mondays With Bob Greene: Fabrice Santoro Wins Newport

STARS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAYINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUISSE SWEET

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

SERVE, SET AND MATCH

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

SPARKLING CAREERS

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

SENIOR SANTORO

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

SWEDE AND STEADY

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

STAR NADAL

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

SEMIFINAL STEADY

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

STEPPING GINGERLY

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

SITTING ON TOP

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

SHANGHAI BOUND

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

SUPER PRIZE

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

STRIKE

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

SERENA’S BACK

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

STARTING OVER AGAIN

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

SAN DIEGO HALL

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

STAYING HOME

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

SINO OFFICE

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

STATEHOOD DAY SNUB

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

SLAVE TREATMENT?

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

SHOPPING

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

SERVING STRONG

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

SURPRISE – NOT

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

SWITCHING SIDES

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

SHARED PERFORMANCES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SITES TO SURF

Istanbul: www.tedclub.org.tr

Stanford: www.bankofthewestclassic.com

Bad Gastein: www.generali-ladies.at

Scheveningen: www.siemens-open.nl

Toronto: www.rogerscupmen.com

Poznan: www.porscheopen.pl

San Marino: www.atpsanmarino.com

Los Angeles: www.eastwestbankclassic.com

Portoroz: www.sloveniaopen.sl

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

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

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

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

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

WTA

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

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

SENIORS

Turkcell Legends Cup, Istanbul, Turkey, hard

DAVIS CUP

(July 18-20)

Americas Zone

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

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

Europe/Africa Zone

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

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

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

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

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

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

WTA Tour

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

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

Mashona Washington Breaks Through in Carson

Last week on the challenger circuit, one player moved closer to showing her former top 50 form, while two players on the men’s side won their second challenger titles of the year.

Mashona Washington of the United States broke through in her comeback to professional tennis with a win at the $50,000 challenger in Carson, California, defeating fellow American Alexa Glatch 7-5, 6-4. Washington, who injured her right knee at a Fed Cup tie in the summer of 2006, sidelining her for sixteen months, has endured some demoralizing losses against unranked players in challenger qualifying since coming back. The younger sister of former U.S. Davis Cup standout and 1996 Wimbledon runner-up Malivai Washington is now finally beginning to show the form that took her inside the world’s top 50 and led to wins against players like Maria Sharapova back in 2004.

At the $25,000 event in Togliatti, Russia, Nina Bratchikova of Russia won her second consecutive challenger title with a 6-3, 6-0 rout of Patricia Mayr of Austria. Bratchikova also won the $25,000 event in Moscow, Russia last week. This has also been some of the best few weeks of Mayr’s career, having reached her first ever challenger final just a couple of weeks ago in Italy.

In other results on the women’s side, Tomoko Yonemura of Japan won the $25,000 event in Gunma, Japan, while Anastasjia Sevastova of Latvia won the $25,000 challenger in Galantina, Italy.

On the men’s side, Gilles Muller of Luxembourg won his second challenger title of the year at the $75,000 event in Izmir, Uzbekistan, with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Kristian Pless of Denmark. Muller used his big serve and forehand to overwhelm the diminutive Pless throughout the match and move just outside the world’s top 100 this week.

At the $50,000 challenger in Carson, California, Amer Delic of the United States also won his second challenger title of the year, fighting back from being down in each set to defeat fellow American Alex Bogomolov by a 7-6, 6-4 score. Delic’s other challenger title came on American soil as well, having won early in the year at a tournament in Dallas, Texas. Bogomolov was unable to defend his title, having won in the finals last year against Kei Nishikori of Japan

In other results on the men’s side, Paolo Lorenzi of Italy won the $35,000 event in Alessandria, Italy, while Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia won the $35,000 challenger in Karlsruhe, Germany.

The challenger circuit will be graced by the almost unheard of presence of a top 15 player this week, as Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic is the top seed at the $150,000 challenger in Prostejov, Czech Republic. Victor Hanescu of Romania is the top seed at the $50,000 challenger in Furth, Germany, and Fabio Fognini of Italy is top seed at the $35,000 challenger in Sassoulo, Italy. Main draws for the challengers in Surbiton, Great Britain, and Yuba City, California were still being made at press time.

On the women’s side, Tatiana Garbin of Italy is the top seed at the $75,000 event in Rome, Italy. Akiko Nakamura of Japan leads the way at the $50,000 challenger in Surbiton, Great Britain, while Mariana Duque Marino of Colombia takes top billing at the $25,000 event in Galantina, Italy.

What’s the Mattek?

Bethanie Mattek - Charleston 2008

Bethanie Mattek - Miami 2008

Bethanie Mattek, like Roger Federer, is having a quiet few weeks. In Miami, she played doubles with Mashona Washington. This week, she’s still in the draw at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina.

Outfits by Bebe Sport.