match point

Sam Stosur blasts pass Dominika Cibulkova to reach Roland Garros semifinals for third time

By Melinda Samson, Special for Tennis Grandstand

Sam Stosur and Dominika Cibulkova both have good records at Roland Garros as each player reached the semifinals in 2009 and Stosur went one better as runner-up in 2010. Prior to their quarterfinal meeting at the French Open, Stosur won the only match they have ever played against each other back in 2009.

To reach this stage of the tournament, Stosur defeated Elena Baltacha, Irina Falconi, Nadia Petrova and Sloane Stephens, winning all matches in straight sets. Cibulkova defeated Kristina Mladenovic, Vania King, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and world number one Victoria Azarenka.

In the first set, both players held serve for the first four games. During Cibulkova’s third service game, the umpire overruled an incorrect line call, which would have given Stosur a winner on break point but instead the point was replayed. Not distracted by the missed opportunity, Stosur won the game two points later. The girls then stepped up the attack during the sixth game, which went to deuce six times before Stosur won, giving her a double break at 5-2.

Stosur then served for the set but failed initially. At this point the match was starting to feel similar to her fourth round match against Stephens, when Stosur had a double break but twice failed to serve it out. But that’s where the similarity ended. During her second attempt Stosur successfully served for the set, saving three break points and winning 6-4.

Cibulkova came out firing in the second set with Stosur having to save three break points to hold serve during the second game. But then Stosur took control and went on to win the next four games. With Cibulkova double faulting to bring up the first match point, Sam confidently took the second set 6-1, winning the match in one hour and 25 minutes.

During the on court interview after the match, Stosur commented:

“I’m very, very pleased with the way I played today and to get through. The last few years have been very good to me in Paris. I love playing on this court and it doesn’t get any better than this.”

When asked about being the highest seed in her part of the women’s single draw, Sam replied simply:

“In the semifinals at Roland Garros that doesn’t mean much, whoever you play it’s going to be tough.”

Stosur has yet to drop a set during the tournament and will play 21st seed Sara Errani of Italy in the semi final on Thursday.

Follow Tennis Grandstand for updates on all the Australian players’ progress throughout the main draw of the French Open.

Melinda Samson is attending Roland Garros and will be writing updates on Australian players through their trek of the tennis world’s second slam. She also manages the website Grand Slam Gal and is attempting to do the fan version of a tennis grand slam in 2012. Follow her on Twitter for further live updates @GrandSlamGal.

Estoril Open: A ladies semifinals report

By Luís Santos

Johanna Larsson and Kristina Barrois had an early morning start out on centre court. Larsson was quicker out of the blocks, jumping to a 2-0 lead. Barrois, however, broke  back immediately  and leveled proceedings at 2-2. After a lengthy sixth game, Larsson finally edged out to break for 4-2. The Swede fell to 15-40 on serve the following game and Barrois broke at the first opportunity. The remainder of the first set went with serve and culminated on a tiebreak. In the tiebreak Larsson’s groundstrokes went wild and Barrois won 7-6(2) with some clever dropshots.

The second set saw a fine start from Larsson as she broke the German’s serve right from the start. But like in the first set, Larsson couldn’t take the momentum to her side and dropped serve too. Barrois then stepped it up and raced to 5-2, holding double match point on the Swede’s serve. Larsson, however, brought some gritty tennis to claim the next four points and get the score at 5-3. Barrois couldn’t hold her own serve and all of a sudden Larsson was 4-5 and 40-0 up, just a point from 5-5. A netcord, a backhand volley winner and a smash error saw the game go to deuce. A double-fault from Larsson handed Barrois her third match point but a wide serve to the advantage court saw the game back on deuce. Barrois, however, stepped up one last time to take the set on her fourth match point with a smash winner.

On her on-court interview Barrois admitted: “It was a pretty tough match. I know Johanna very well, she’s a good player. I was happy to win in two sets. I kept fighting after every point after 5-2.” When asked about her tournament experience she pointed: “Yeah I’ve been here for four or five years in a row now, so I really like it here”.

At the press conference, Barrois was happy to be in her second career final: “Every match like this is special. I lost last year (To Sharapova in Strasbourg) but I’ll try to play my best tomorrow and hopefully win.”

On her goals for the coming months: “Next goal is top 50. It’s the goal for this year; I have some points to defend in upcoming weeks so maybe I’ll make it in a few months”.

When asked about her late blooming career-wise: “I mean, I started very late on tour. I was twenty-five? Because I did other way compared to other players. So I’m young like this. I’m playing my sixth year on tour so it’s not so much, so. I feel good at the moment, not injured or something like this so it’s good.”

Contesting the final with Kristina Barrois will be Spanish claycourter Anabel Medina Garrigues who dispatched Monica Niculescu 6-1 6-3. Barrois and Medina Garrigues have played once before back in Strasbourg 2009. Barrois won the first set 6-4 before the Spanish retired.

Medina Garrigues played solid tennis and the high-percentage game proved to be effective as Niculescu kept mishitting, losing the first set 6-1.

Despite jumping to a 2-0 lead in the second set, the Romanian seemed to be struggling with her strokes and quickly saw herself 4-2 down. At 5-3 on Niculescu’s serve, Medina Garrigues made the most of her opponents’ mistakes and concluded the win 6-1 6-3.

In the on-court interview, Garrigues, a doubles´ titlist at the Estoril last year, was happy to be in the singles’ final: “I’m happy. Last year wasn’t a very happy year for me so”. When asked about her choice of Estoril over home tournament Barcelona, the Spanish was quick to answer: “The truth is that I enjoyed myself a lot here last year. Also, the conditions here are very similar to Madrid and Roland Garros so this is better preparation than Barcelona. Barcelona is very rainy and the conditions become different”.

Asked if she was troubled by Niculescu’s game: “She does have a bothering game, she changes the ball height a lot. But it’s the same sort of game played in Spain and I’ve been playing against Spanish girls for years. It was bothering but I kept calm.”

This will be Medina’s sixteenth final, compared to Barrois’ second. Medina Garrigues has claimed nine titles in her career, seven of them being on red clay. She’s second for most clay titles, behind former number one and seven time grandslam champion Venus Williams.

On playing the final against Barrois: “It’s going to be difficult. Barrois is very talented; she has a good serve and a good backhand. If she’s in the final it’s because she’s playing well. She’s dangerous and it’s going to be a hard match.”

 

If Your Opponent Runs Out Of Rackets, Don’t Lend Him One Of Yours!!!

Have you ever played a tennis match where your opponent broke strings in all of his rackets? Take it from former French Open and Wimbledon champion Jan Kodes, don’t lend them one of your rackets to continue playing! The following is an excerpt from Kodes’ new book JAN KODES: A JOURNEY TO GLORY FROM BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN (A beautiful coffee table narrative book available here on amazon.com for $31.20: http://www.amazon.com/Jan-Kodes-Journey-Behind-Curtain/dp/0942257685/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1281452277&sr=8-1) where the Czech legend explains why!

After the Czechoslovak International Championships at Stvanice, Kodes was nominated to play an international tournament in a spa town Zinnowitz in East Germany. On the way there the Czechoslovaks took part in a friendly encounter in Halle. Kodes lost to Luttropp 6-3, 5-7, and 4-6 there but he remembers an episode that he likes to laugh about till today.

I had a match-point in the second set at 5:2. Before the match-point my opponent’s strings broke. He proceeded to the net and extended his hand for an end-of-the-match handshake saying that he had no other racket. He had two rackets but strings in the first burst right at the start.

“Don’t be silly,” I told him, “here is my racket, let’s finish the match.”

And that is what happened – I lost that match! I never again did anything similar to that.

I was young, honest, and fair. With time I learned that nobody gives anything gratis. It was yet another lesson.

Nadal And Djokovic Lose In Doubles

Was it really worth all that hype?

The super-duo of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Rogers Cup in the first round late last night at the hands of Canadians Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil.

The mostly unheard of Raonic/Pospisil pairing came back to win the match 5-7, 6-3, 10-8 in front of an electric opening night crowd at the Rexall Centre.

At only 19 and 20 years old respectively, Raonic and Pospisil defied the odds and somehow managed to avoid the nerves that must have accompanied sharing a court with the two top ranked players in the world.

Serving at 8-2 in the Super tie-break, Raonic and Pospisil appeared to have won the next point which would have given them six match points. Instead the chair umpire called Pospisil for touching the net prior to the point ending, thus giving the point to Nadal and Djokovic. The call seemed to temporarily rattle the Canadians as they allowed their more experienced opponents to bring the match all the way back to 9-8 with still one match point to try to capitalize upon. On that point they made no mistake and an authoritative Pospisil volley ended the match and allowed the two to walk out with their heads held high.

The Nadal/Djokovic partnership marks the first time since 1976 that the world’s top ranked singles players have joined forces in doubles on the ATP Tour. Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe were the last to do it and after last night’s result I wonder if it might be another 34 years before we see it again.

While it certainly created quite a buzz both here in Toronto and around the tennis world at large, the fact that the number one and two players joined forces is perplexing in many ways. Obviously Nadal and Djokovic get along quite well, as was further evidenced by their multiple practice sessions together here this week, but in an individualistic sport such as tennis you’d think teaming up with your greatest competition is a bit too close for comfort.

Roger Federer mentioned in his pre-tournament press conference yesterday that he never would have teamed up with Nadal during the height of their intense rivalry. Even though those two also got along reasonably well, the press had created such a build-up with their quest for Grand Slam glory and the number one ranking that it basically negated any possibility of a doubles partnership.

“Well, Rafa asked me a few years ago to play doubles in I think it was Madrid indoors…but then I think our rivalry was so intense, I just felt it was the wrong thing to do,” Federer revealed.

“It would have been great for the game, but I think it would have been a bit of a curveball for everybody. I don’t think the press would have enjoyed it so much. They want to put us against each other, not with each other.”

Nadal and Djokovic are in the infancy of their relationship as the best two players in the world and there is no guarantee it will last very long. Djokovic’s lead over Federer and Murray in the rankings is slim and he hasn’t had the most consistent year on tour. Maybe if their chase for the top ranking was narrower they would have thought twice before teaming up in Toronto.

Regardless, their experiment has ended prematurely and will now allow them both to concentrate on their singles play. For Nadal, he will open Wednesday night against the winner of the Frank Dancevic/Stan Wawrinka match that will close out the evening on Centre Court today. Djokovic will play Julien Benneteau of France tomorrow during the day session.

Serena Williams Throws Twitter Tantrum – The Friday Five

Mission Accomplished – For the better part of three months, Bob and Mike Bryan had been stuck on 61 doubles titles, the benchmark that had been set by the talented pair known round the world as the “Woodies.” But this past week, in the state they first called home, where they went to college and first showed promise of the tennis results to come, the chest-bumping brothers finally broke through and took their 62nd title at the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles. Their win was one of the biggest headlines in the sport over the weekend and should inject some life into the game of doubles. Also impressive was seeing a classy Mark Woodforde, who is based in California, cheering the Bryans on throughout the week. Best of all is that the Bryans have confirmed they are nowhere near ready to hang up their racquets. They still want to serve their country in the Davis Cup and still want to bag a few more Grand Slam titles. Congratulations to the twins and may they continue their assault on the record book as they wow audiences across the world and keep doubles on the map.

Back from the Brink – Another American who capped off a fine week at the Farmers Classic was Sam Querrey. The big American had to grind out each and every one of his wins, and that included saving match point in two straight matches, first in the semis against Janko Tipsarevic, and in the final against Andy Murray. The win over Murray, whom Sam had previously never taken a set from, had to help boost Querrey’s belief that he may just be ready to take that next step and start making a move for the Top 15 and possibly Top 10. And as disappointing as it had to be to lose the title after holding match point, Andy Murray did well to log a great week of tennis amidst all of the turmoil surrounding the sacking of Maclagan (though the Scot could still use a course in anger management).

California Dreamin’ – Stanford California saw dream weeks for many of the WTA’s top stars as well. Maria Sharapova put together one of the best weeks of tennis she’s had in awhile. Unfortunately for her, she ran into a woman who can match her stroke-for-stroke (and decibel-for-decibel) in Victoria Azarenka. Despite her being a head case and her recent struggles with injuries, Azarenka has shown she has the game and has posted the results to suggest she’s one of the WTA’s most promising young talents. If she’s got her game back on track, look for her to be a dangerous dark horse at this year’s US Open. And finally, we have the winners of the women’s doubles title, Americans Liezel Huber and Lindsay Davenport. With her play in Stanford, Huber regained the No. 1 doubles ranking, while Davenport was taking to the court for the first time in nearly two years. Not a shabby return to the game for the former World No. 1.

Twitter Tantrum – Perhaps the only person not smiling in California last week was Serena Williams (and okay, I’m sure the tournament

director and other officials couldn’t have been too pleased either). Serena Williams blasted the tournament officials of the Farmers Classic and advised all who read her tweets to boycott the event. The reason for the angry tweets stemmed from tournament officials requiring Serena to pay $100 for a ticket to the event instead of giving it to her complimentary – with this whole saga unfolding after Serena had done some promo work with James Blake for the event. It’s hard to make a complete judgment call on this one. Serena’s tweets suggest the promo work was done gratis, though to my knowledge, it’s never been confirmed if she was paid for the work or not. If she was, then all was square and the tournament can’t be faulted for charging Serena for a ticket if their policy is to charge all spectators, irrespective of fame. If the promo work was done for free, then show Serena a little love. But throwing aside the question of whether Serena should or should not have been charged for a ticket, she was still immature in her own response to the situation. $100 is nothing to her, and it was all about the principle, not the amount of the ticket, that Serena took issue with. Based on the posts I read from a number of individuals who reacted to this story, Serena could have won over more sympathizers had she taken the high road instead of living up to her reputation as tennis’ top diva…but then again, Serena probably doesn’t care how many people jump on her band wagon in this case.

It’s Official – Reports have been circulating of Juan Martin Del Potro’s return to tennis ever since it was announced he was on the preliminary entry list of participants in the US Open. Del Potro recently did post some video evidence that he is in fact hitting on the courts for the first time. It’s great to see the big Argentine hitting balls again, but I’m holding my breath a bit here. A rushed comeback could spell disaster down the road, but Del Potro has a good head on his shoulders and a good coach, so fingers crossed it all pans out for the young star, starting with a trip as returning champion to the Big Apple.

The LA Open Day 6: Semi Final Saturday

The Beach Boy does it again! Top seed defending champion Sam Querrey fights back yet again, showing some seasoned craftiness, testing his guts to the limit to ward off a match point and set sail for another final at the Farmers Classic LA Open.

It was hotter than yesterday, only by a few degrees, but in tennis everything is margins, inches, nanometers, and things sway by the slightest hitch in the universe, and today was no different. Sam’s opponent was the philosophical, wise beyond his years, Serbian, Janko Tipsarevic, who is seeded sixth in the tournament. Janko has a tattoo of the nineteenth century Russian literary giant Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Idiot’ on his person and when listening to him in the press conference, one gets the impression that tennis isn’t what Janko only thinks about, but when directing his lofty thoughts on the subject can offer an uncanny insight that is concise, just, well articulated (even in English, which isn’t is native tongue), and is devoid of any pretense. Most athletes when interviewed sound like terminator cyborgs, spewing off rehearsed answers to questions without the slightest note of feeling. If you’ve ever seen a Shaquille O’Neal interview, you know what I’m talking about. I walked into the press room and saw Janko seated in his chair at the head of the room with a look of calm discontent. He wasn’t sad, but he wasn’t thrilled either. I was surprised most of all that a player had actually arrived on time for their meeting of the press, a first for the tournament, and when Janko described the match, whereby he lost in a bitterly fought three setter, I was even more surprised to hear the free flowing candor and wisdom come from this young man. “I should not have lost this match,” Janko said, in response to the first question about his feelings, and he didn’t sound bitter or resentful at all, just right to the point and he supported his statement with a play by play account of what he “should” have done. “I was forcing the ball in big points, instead of returning the ball into play. I was going for too much when there really was no need.” The Serbian was steadfast in his assessment of his serve. “My serve was not there at all today. I don’t know what happened. My ground game was good, and I felt I could hit any ball back but my serve completely left me.”

Tipsarevic’s claim to fame was his long five set war with Roger Federer in the Australian Open of 2008 where the holy one barely got by in a grueling fifth set. One of the reporters asked Janko what he thought of Querrey’s game, and the Serbian spoke without hesitation. “I think he has top ten potential. He is a steady top twenty player, but to be top ten you have to have great results at grand slams and masters series events.” I agree with the soft spoken Serb. He should have won the match. But, I also think that Sam Querrey looked about as good as I’ve ever seen him. Aside from a mental snap toward the end of the first set, where a convincing ace registered for Sam was snuffed by the umpire who called it a let, Sam looked like he definitely could be a potential top ten player. His first serve consistently fired in the lower 130’s and even registered in at 139 once, his fastest for the match. His decision making, to my humble eyes, appeared to finally transcend that barrier between novice green to that of touring professional honing his craft and making choices, which have to be made in a matter of seconds, that provide evidence of a steady evolution. Steadiness, movement, well-timed aggression, and the ability to hold back when he needed to, were on display and Querrey even managed to shoot a few smiles toward his SAMURAI posse of shirtless hooligan supporters after a forehand winner or ace up the T. The fact that he has won two matches in a row that he was losing for the majority of the time, shows me that he is ready to make a deep run at a slam.

Murray and Lopez faced off for the second semi-final of the day under the lights, which makes me wonder how Murray will do playing in the hot afternoon sun against a Beach Boy born and bred under these conditions. All of Murray’s matches have been at night, and he managed to wiz past Mr. Beautiful with relative ease, even though he dropped a level yet again after a first set steamroll handing over the second like a platter of potato salad. Lopez was outmatched, outwitted, and out played. I think if he ever wants to be considered a serious threat he needs to acquire a backhand. The slice and dice game just won’t cut it against top players. Neither will the profile of Adonis. You relinquish too much control with the slice, and if it’s not picture perfect Roger Federeresque, you’re offering up a tee shot for your opponent. Murray was quick to pounce on the mismanagement of the Lopez slice, and turned a second set let down to a third set triumph.

Dare I make a prediction? But of course… Sam in three. The defending champion repeats. I will be there for finals Sunday, please join me at tennisgrandstand.com for all the latest.

STOSUR SURGES AT ROLAND GARROS

By Blair Henley

A surging Sam Stosur took out four-time French Open champion and No. 22 seed Justine Henin 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Monday, snapping the Belgian’s streak of 24 straight matches won at Roland Garros.

“My nerves were simply not strong enough today,” Henin explained. “I felt very nervous, very upset, which is normally not the way I am. Maybe today I was feeling some nervous fatigue. Maybe that nervous fatigue prevented me from seeing things in a calmer way.”

After a slow start, 26-year-old Stosur used her heavy groundstrokes to keep her opponent stuck scrambling behind the baseline, and in the third set, Henin’s picturesque backhand was nowhere to be found. She dumped three into the net in the final game.

Stosur, seeded seventh, squandered her first match point with a nervous double fault, but took advantage of a short, bouncing overhead on her second try.

“I just tried to shake it off and tried to have a laugh at myself, not worry about it and get the next one in,” Stosur said of the double fault.

It was so gloomy at Roland Garros Monday that the 26-year-old Australian was forced to remove her signature sunglasses, allowing fans to see the emotion in her eyes as she sealed one of the biggest wins of her career.

“I knew what I had to do,” Stosur said. “I kept going for it and I believed in myself.”

Stosur had more clay court wins this season than anyone else on tour coming into the French Open and she made it to the semifinals here last year, but her win over Henin still was still unexpected. The Australian lost to her earlier this month in Stuttgart.

The Aussie was known primarily as a doubles specialist before she decided to focus on her singles a couple of years ago. She has previously held the No. 1 ranking in doubles, but she entered the singles Top 10 for the first time just months ago.

Serena Williams easily beat No. 18 seed Shahar Peer of Israel 6-2, 6-2 to become the last American standing in the singles draws. She will take on Stosur in the quarterfinals.

It’s safe to say Peer doesn’t like playing the Williams sisters. She has now lost 5 times each to both Serena and Venus.

Tuesday No. 3 seed Caroline Wozniacki will take on No. 17 Francesca Schiavone, No. 5 seed Elena Dementieva will play No. 19 Nadia Petrova.

IT’S NOT ALWAYS A WALK IN THE PARK FOR UMPIRES

When does it become not acceptable to play tennis in the 21st century where TV scheduling and pleasing the sponsors appears now to take precedence over the welfare and requests of the players?

Now this is an oversight criticism of tennis itself. It may not relate fully to the situation on Wednesday where Gael Monfils and Fabio Fognini slugged it out in near pitch-black conditions on the hallowed clay of Roland Garros.

While many have slated the officials for bowing to crowd pressure to continue at 4-4 in the fifth set while other matches had long since ceased to continue, I feel that they may have been worried about the kind of weather-induced backlog that has haunted Wimbledon through the 1990s.

Fabio Fognini, of course, refused to take part in this farce and was handed a point penalty for his troubles, which lasted for over five minutes. After Monfils failed to capitalise on a match point Fognini clawed it back to 5-5 before the match was carried over to the following day.

But you know all this already. Is it an isolated case? Definitely not. How does this compare to tennis mishaps from the umpires of yesteryear? We take a look back through the annuls of tennis to find out.

Hearing Aid for the Umpire Please

During the third round of the 1977 US Open at Forest Hills John McEnroe was facing Eddie Dibbs when there was a large commotion in the crowd. The umpire called the two players over and informed them that somebody had been shot, before announcing that he had heard wrong and that somebody was in fact in shock. McEnroe went on to win the match and the umpire then admitted he had been right first time round. A spectator had been hit by a stray bullet from the streets of Queens. It was a sad end to the Open’s stay at Forest Hills before it shifted venue in 1978.

Mass Peer Pressure

Mr. McEnroe was involved once more but, again, it was not his temperament in question. This time he was fighting Ilie Nastase in the 1979 US Open at its new home at Flushing Meadow. During the fourth set McEnroe served and Nastase held up his hand to motion he was not ready. The umpire awarded McEnroe the point and Nastase, backed by 10,000 vocal fans, complained. Nastase continued his vocal crusade and was finally docked the game. The crowd exploded and rubbish rained down from the stands on to the court and the cops were called. After seventeen minutes Nastase was asked to resume and after refusing for the one-minute service time period he was disqualified and McEnroe handed the match. Again there were mass complaints and, fearing a full scale riot, the umpire was replaced by tournament officials and the match continued. Unfortunately for Nastase, McEnroe went on to win this one too.

Gentleman Tim Accidentally Sets Record

Of all the people you never thought it would be, in 1995 Tim Henman became the first man to be thrown out of Wimbledon. During a doubles match with Jeremy Bates Henman lost a crucial point in the fourth set tiebreaker and frustratingly smashed the ball downcourt. Unfortunately, standing in the way was the face of sixteen-year-old ball girl Caroline Hall who was running cross-court to resume her correct position. The umpire didn’t even hesitate and disqualified the pair. Still, Hall got a huge bunch of flowers and a kiss from Tim for her troubles the next day.

A Really Aggressive Wife Doesn’t Win You Tennis Matches

Obviously peeved that Henman had beaten him to that Wimby record a few days previously, American Jeff Tarango took particular umbrage to umpire Bruno Rebuah continually ruling against him. His outburst of “That’s it, I’m not playing” is now pretty famous as was his pleas to officials to remove the umpire. After telling an angry crowd to “shut up” he packed his bags and stormed off court, disqualifying himself. To make matters worse for Rebuah, Tarango’s wife Benedicte then stormed on court and slapped him twice in the face. Tarango was heavily fined for his troubles and banned from the next two Grand Slams.

Father Doesn’t Always Know Best

This could relate to a number of people here but we are in fact talking about Damir Dokic who was famously ejected from his daughter Jelena’s match in the pre-Wimby tournament at Birmingham’s Edgbaston Club in June 1999. After a string of decisions went against Jelena, Damir became increasingly agitated in his chair. A string of outbursts towards the umpire ended with him shouting to everybody present that “they were fascists” for which he was finally ejected. Once outside, he proceeded to lie in front of traffic in the middle of the road and eventually spent the afternoon in prison.

Of course there are many others. A lot have come from the mouths of that pesky Mr. McEnroe and Madame Serena Williams. But for now we return back to the present day and to the current happenings in Paris. It’s a Slam which is shaping up pretty nicely so far. We hope that continues, and more for the tennis than the likes of the difficult situations umpires find themselves in like those listed above.

FEDERER DEBUTS, GORAN PUKES, GILBERT IS UGLY, GUGA SAYS GOODBYE

May 25 is chock full of historic – and interesting – happenings in tennis history. Here’s a list as it appears in the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com)

1999 – Ranked No. 111 in the world, 17-year-old Roger Federer plays in his first main draw match at a major tournament at the French Open, losing to two-time reigning U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter of Australia 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. Writes Rene Stauffer in the book The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection, “He (Roger) jumped out to win the first set against the world’s No. 3-ranked player who then was at the peak of his career. However, the sun came out and the conditions became warmer and faster. The clay courts dried out and balls moved much faster through the court. The Australian’s attacking serve-and-volley style seemed to run on automatic and he won in four sets. ‘The young man from Switzerland could be one of the people who will shape the next ten years,’ the French sports newspaper L’Equipe wrote during the tournament. Rafter shared the same opinion. “The boy impressed me very much,” he said. “If he works hard and has a good attitude, he could become an excellent player.’”

2004 – Frenchmen Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement finish play in the longest-recorded match in tennis history in the first round of the French Open as Santoro edges Clement 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 16-14 in 6 hours, 33 minutes. The match is played over two days and is suspended from the previous day with the two playing for 4:38 the previous day – stopping at 5-5 in the fifth-set – and for 1:55 the second day. Santoro saves two match points during the marathon – one on each day. The first match point comes with Santoro serving at 4-5 in the fifth set on day one and the second comes at 13-14 on the second day. Says Santoro, “I came very close to defeat, it’s a miracle. I tried to stay relaxed on the important points and if it looked that way, then I did a good job because I was very tense.” Santoro and Clement break the previous record – curiously held by two women in a straight-set best-of-three match – held by Vicki Nelson-Dunbar and Jean Hepner, who played for 6 hours, 31 minutes in the first round of the WTA event in Richmond, Va., in 1984, Nelson-Dunbar winning 6-4, 7-6 (13-11). Says Clement of establishing the new record, “”I don’t care. What do I get? A medal? There may be an even longer match tomorrow. I don’t play tennis to spend as much time possible on court.”

1976 – Adriano Panatta saves an astonishing 11 match points in defeating Kim Warwick of Australia 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 in the first round of the Italian Championships. The result becomes even more significant when Panatta goes on to win the title, defeating Guillermo Vilas in the final.

1958 – In one of the most spectacular comebacks in the history of the French Championships, Robert Haillet of France beats 1950 French champion Budge Patty, 5-7; 7-5, 10-8, 4-6, 7-5 in the fourth round after Patty serves at 5-0, 40-0 in the fifth set and holds four match points.

1993 – Three-time French Open champion Ivan Lendl experiences one of the worst losses of his career, losing 3-6, 7-5, 6-0, 7-6 (2) to No. 297th ranked qualifier Stephane Huet of France in the first round of the French Open. The match marks the first ATP level match victory for Huet, against Lendl’s 1,027 match victories. It was also Huet’s first Grand Slam match against Lendl’s 51 Grand Slam events.

1993 – Brad Gilbert wins his first match at the French Open in six years, registering a two-day 5-7, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 10-8 first-round victory over fellow American Bryan Shelton. Gilbert and Shelton share 87 unforced errors in the three-hour-and-52-minute match. Says Gilbert, the author of the book Winning Ugly after the match, “It was a chapter out of my book…Unequivocally ugly.”

1928 – George Lott defeats China’s Paul Kong 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 in the Davis Cup second round in Kansas City, Mo., to become the first U.S. Davis Cup player to win a match without losing a game. Lott would register another triple-bagel in Davis Cup play in 1930 against Mexico’s Ignacio de la Borbolla. Frank Parker is the only other American to win a Davis Cup match without losing a game, turning the trick in 1946 against Felicismo Ampon of the Philippines.

1993 – Goran Ivanisevic overcomes throwing up on court in the first set to defeat Franco Davin of Argentina 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the French Open.

2005 – No. 2 seed Andy Roddick is eliminated in the second round of the French Open, blowing a two-sets-to-love lead in his 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 8-6 loss to Argentina’s Jose Acasuso.

2008 – Three-time French Open singles champion and former world No. 1 Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten bids goodbye to tennis, playing the final singles match of his career losing to Paul-Henri Mathieu of France 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in the first round at Roland Garros. Kuerten plays the match wearing the canary yellow and blue outfit he wore when he won the first of three French titles in 1997, but due to the wear and tear at this ailing hip, the 31-year-old was unable to compete at the same level that saw him rise to the world’s No. 1 ranking in 2000. Says Kuerten following the match, “I think I’m very satisfied, especially with the memories that are going to stick with me from this match. I thought I played much better than I expected, and there wasn’t a single shot I didn’t make. I played forehand, backhands, serve, drop shots, volley. I did everything I think I was able to do in the past, just not with the same frequency. But at least I had the feeling to do it once more.”

BRYAN BROTHERS ROCK-AND-ROLL ON – AND OFF – THE COURT

The Bryan Brothers equalled the Open Era doubles record of the Australian Woodies, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodford on Sunday by securing their 61st victory of their careers in the Madrid Masters doubles final. The telepathic twins beat world No. 1 pair, Daniel Nestor and partner Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-4 in a final lasting only 55 minutes. Nestor and his partner were broken twice, with the Americans saving all three break points they faced. The brothers ruthlessly claimed victory on the first match point they gained. Interestingly, all twelve previous meetings between the teams have come in finals, seven of those in Masters events.

Nestor commented, “The Bryans always play us tough…we’ve had some good wins against them but they’ve been too tough this season. Obviously, it’s all about the Slams for us now, and our next big objective is the French Open. We’ll head to Paris now and regroup. We want to be playing our best in a week when the major begins.”

Like the Woodies, the brothers are a left-right combination, which they used to great effect in the final. Bob commented, “That is definitely the best combination…the sun out there today was really bad for a leftie, so we decided to put Mike on a different side. We can use winds to our advantage and the leftie serve is always tougher to break, I think. We feel like our game is pretty comfortable if I make first serves and Mike is such a good returner he keeps us in other guys’ service games.”

The Bryan Brothers have now leapt to the pinnacle of the world doubles rankings overtaking Nestor and Zimonjic as the world No. 1 doubles pair. The impressive brothers began 2010 with their eighth grand slam title at the Australian Open and have already won titles in Delray Beach, Houston and Rome. If they were to become victorious at the French Open in three weeks time, they will break the record held by the Woodies in some style, with a Grand Slam win.

Indeed, they show no sign of relaxing their steely grip on the world doubles tour and will no doubt break the record in impressive style and go on to win even more titles, keeping the doubles tour in the media spotlight for the next generation of tennis players. “We’re still having fun. It never gets old or boring to be travelling the world with your brother,” Mike said. “We love winning titles and sharing the trophies and memories. We don’t want to say, ‘Now that we’ve done this or that, we’re going to retire next year.’ I don’t think we’d find this adrenalin sitting on the couch at home so we might as well soak it up while we can.”

The talented twins have also been enjoying the adrenalin rush of playing in their rock band, The Bryan Bros Band at various concert venues around the world with singer David Baron. They even performed with the Counting Crows in front of 30,000 screaming fans. It seems for the twins, success is like a drug they cannot easily give up. You can download their new album ‘Let it Rip’ on iTunes now. British fans, check out the hilariously awful rap by Andy Murray on one of the tracks, alongside a slighter better Novak Djokovic about signing autographs – it’s well worth a listen and the other tracks are actually pretty catchy!

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.