Miami

Mondays With Bob Greene: Quite frankly, I’m the best in the world

STARS

Tomas Berdych beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 4-6 7-6 (5) to win the BMW Open in Munich, Germany

Dinara Safina beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 6-2 to win the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, Italy

Novak Djokovic beat Lukasz Kubot 6-3 7-6 (0) to win the Serbia Open in Belgrade, Serbia

Albert Montanes defeated James Blake 5-7 7-6 (8) 6-0 to win the Estoril Open men’s singles in Estoril, Portugal

Yanina Wickmayer beat Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-2 to win the Estoril Open women’s singles in Estoril, Portugal

Yen-Hsun Lu beat Benjamin Becker 6-3 3-1 retired to win the Israel Open 2009 in Ramat Hasharon, Israel

Andrea Petrovic won the GDF Suez Open Romania, beating Stefanie Voegele 6-3 6-2 in Bucharest, Romania

DAVIS CUP

Americas Zone Group 1

(Second Round)

Brazil beat Colombia;Ecuador beat Peru

Asia/Oceania Group 1

(Third Round)

India beat Australia, default; Uzbekistan beat Japan 3-2

Europe/Africa Zone Group 1

(Second Round)

South Africa beat Belarus 5-0

SAYING

“If we are looking at the category of the event (ATP World Tour 250 tournament) it’s not the biggest success I ever had, but it certainly is the most important win for me.” – Novak Djokovic, after winning the inaugural Serbia Open in his hometown, Belgrade.

“It’s hard to say who I would rather face in the final because I didn’t expect to be here either.” – Lukasz Kubot, a “lucky loser” who reached the final of the Serbia Open where he faced Novak Djokovic – and lost 6-3 7-6 (0)

“It was a little bit like Christmas today; I was giving too many presents.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after losing to Dinara Safina in the final at Rome.

“Quite frankly, I’m the best in the world.” – Serena Williams, the day before she lost her first match at the Italian Open to Patty Schnyder.

“It’s great to be number three. I just want to win. The ranking will come when it comes.” – Venus Williams, after losing to top-ranked Dinara Safina.

“I hope this gives me even more proof that I deserve to be there (at the top of the ranking) and it helps me maybe on the big stage to win a Grand Slam.” – Dinara Safina, after beating Venus Williams in the Italian Open semifinals.

“I don’t really have many words to describe the feeling – I’m nearly speechless!” – Yanina Wickmayer, after winning the Estoril Open women’s singles in Portugal.

“To me, she (got) too upset for no reason. It was just one ball in the match.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after Victoria Azarenka lost her concentration as she disputed a call, then lost the next five games and ultimately the match.

“I really tried hard to avoid surgery, but with my doctor and professional team we have decided it is the only solution.” – David Nalbandian, announcing he will undergo hip surgery May 13 in Barcelona, Spain.

“Physically I’m not as strong as I can be, but mentally I’m very tough.” – Nikolay Davydenko.

“Because I am a perfectionist, I had just assumed I would play perfectly all the time, but I have learned that in those times I have to find a way to win and I am much more OK with that.” – Ana Ivanovic.

“Champions do the ordinary things a bit better than anyone else.” – Craig Kardon, who is coaching Ana Ivanovic.

“I played what she liked and she has more power than me. Today was her day, she was the better player, she deserved to win.” – Jelena Jankovic, after losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova.

“It’s nice to seee Americans doing well on clay. We have taken a lot of heat over the years.” – Scott Lipsky, noting an all-American team won the doubles and an American reached the singles final on the clay courts of Estoril, Portugal.

“It’s a fact that there are too many matches, but that’s the way the calendar has been set.” – Rafael Nadal, saying the men’s tennis calendar has too many tournaments after he played 14 matches in three weeks, winning clay-court titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.

SUSPENDED

Richard Gasquet has been suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after testing positive for cocaine. The 22-year-old Frenchman will miss the French Open, which begins May 24 in Paris. Gilbert Ysern, director general of the French Tennis Federation, said the test was considered an in-competition control, meaning Gasquet could be banned for two years if found guilty. Announcing cocaine traces were found in Gasquet’s urine sample at a tournament in Miami, Florida, in March, the ITF said it expects to have a panel in place within 60 days for a hearing. Gasquet says he’s innocent, despite two samples that tested positive. Once ranked as high as number seven in the world, Gasquet reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2007.

SAD HISTORY

The father of Jelena Dokic is serving a 30-day prison sentence after he reportedly made threats against the Australian ambassador to Serbia. Damir Dokic was detained in his home in northern Serbia where police found seven hunting rifles, a gun and two bombs. The Serbian newspaper Blic quoted Dokic as saying he had called the Australian embassy in Belgrade and threatened to “fire a rocket” at the car belonging to the ambassador. Jelena Dokic, who has been estranged from her father since 2002, had been playing in Bucharest, Romania, where she reached the semifinals of the USD $100,000 GDF Suez Open Romania before falling to Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-1 3-6 6-1. In a statement released in London, her agent, Lawrence Frankopan, said: “Jelena is very distressed and saddened by her father’s arrest. … She understands very well the severity of the situation. Obviously, she cannot, in any way, be held responsible for her father’s actions. Jelena remains 100 percent focused on her tennis in preparation for the upcoming French Open.”

SO, TAKE THAT

Patty Schnyder was leading Serena Williams 5-0 in the final set of their Italian Open match when she called her husband/coach onto the court to give her a pep talk. She promptly lost the next game before going on to oust the second-ranked Williams, who a day earlier had proclaimed that she was the top player in women’s tennis despite the WTA Tour rankings. Schnyder’s 6-2 2-6 6-1 victory perhaps shouldn’t be considered that big of a surprise. Although Williams has an 8-4 advantage in their career meetings, Schnyder has won all three times the two have played on clay, including an Italian Open match two years ago.

SURPRISE

When Lukasz Kubot lost in the final round of qualifying to Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty, he had no thoughts about playing for the title of the inaugural Serbia Open in Belgrade. However, Kubot gained entry into the main singles draw as a “lucky loser,” thanks to Belgium’s Steve Darcis pulling out with a shoulder injury. Kubot then made the most of his second chance, becoming the first Polish player to reach an ATP final since Wojtek Fibak in 1983 by beating Serbian wild card Arsenije Zlatanovic, Russia’s Igor Andreev, Belgium’s Kristof Vliegen and Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic. The dream ended in the title match when Kubot fell to home crowd favorite Novak Djokovic 6-3 7-6 (0). However, Kubot wasn’t finished. Making it even a better week, he teamed with Oliver Marach of Austria to win the doubles, beating Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 7-6 (3).

STANDING TALL

Yanina Wickmayer won her first WTA Tour title by defeating Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-2 in the final of the Estoril Open and becoming Belgium’s first Tour singles champion since Justine Henin more than a year ago. Wickmayer, who was ranked 88th going into the tournament, broke her opponent’s serve in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead in the second set. Makarova, also runner-up at the Grand SAR in Morocco the week before, is still seeking her first Tour singles title. In her only previous title match, Wickmayer lost to Kateryna Bolndarenko in Birmingham, England, last year.

SURGERY SET

Saying his right hip is hurting more each day, David Nalbandian has decided to undergo surgery. The decision means Nalbandian will miss “the rest of the season – including all three Grand Slams,” he said. “I feel deeply sad because I won’t be able to play Davis Cup this year.” The surgery was set for May 13 in Barcelona. A Wimbledon finalist in 2002, Nalbandian reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2004 and 2006. The Argentine said he tried other treatment, but it didn’t work out as he and his doctor had hoped. “Unfortunately I have decided to have surgery because I have not felt a substantial improvement in the injury during my training sessions,” Nalbandian said.

STELLAR COMPANY

Lleyton Hewitt has joined Roger Federer and Carlos Moya as the only active players on the ATP Tour to have won 500 matches. The Australian reached the 500-victory plateau in the opening round of the BMW Open in Munich, Germany, when he staved off two match points in beating Philipp Petzschner 6-2 6-7 (2) 7-6 (8). Hewitt increased his match win record to 501 before running into eventual winner Tomas Berdych.

SWINE FLU NO-NO

Two International Tennis Federation (ITF) women’s tournaments in Mexico have been canceled due to the swine flu outbreak. Players who had been accepted for the tournament in Mazatlan this week have been permitted to sign-in as an on-site alternate at any other ITF tournament. And those players entered into next week’s event in Los Mochis can enter another tournament in accordance with the order of priority system. The two tournaments were canceled after the Mexican government suspended all non-essential work in the first five days of May because of the swine flu outbreak.

STILL MISSING

A knee injury will keep Ana Ivanovic from playing in the Madrid Open. However, the Serbian right-hander said she will be ready to defend her French Open title later this month. Ivanovic said her right knee has been bothering her since she and Jelena Jankovic teamed to lead Serbia over Spain in Fed Cup last month. A doctor in Munich, Germany, advised her not to play competitively for a week.

SETTING UP SHOP?

Nikolay Davydenko and Sabine Lisicki could have another career when they finish playing tennis. Before playing their first Estoril Open matches in Estoril, Portugal, the two were taught how to cook the famous Portuguese cake “Pasteis de Belem.” The two players visited the original Casa Pasteis de Belem, founded in 1837, then went into the factory to learn the secret recipe for the cakes. Only the original Pasteis de Belem carry the name, while the cakes are more commonly known in Portugal as Pasteis de Nata. The original recipe was invented by two Catholic sisters in the convent at the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. Beginning in 1837, the cakes were sold to raise money for the monastery, which today is an UNESCO heritage site.

SWEET PAIRING

Jan Henrych and Ivo Minar play on the same team at the Czech Lawn Tennis Club in Prague, but had never played doubles together until the BMW Open in Munich, Germany. They probably are wondering why they waited so long. The two knocked off top-ranked twins Bob and Mike Bryan in the first round and went on to capture the title, upsetting second-seeded Australians Ashley Fisher and Jordan Kerr 6-4 6-4 in the final. “We only decided to play together 30 minutes before the (sign-in) deadline for doubles, and then we saw the draw against the Bryans, so we just went to the court and tried our best,” said the 24-year-old Minar.

SAC STATE STARS

Sacramento State has the best tennis team in the Big Sky Conference, thanks to a lifeline that extends into Eastern Europe. The California school’s top two women and three of its six men’s singles players, including the top player, come from the Belarus. But then so do the Hornets head coaches Slava Konikov (men) and Dima Hrynashka (women). The players include All-American Katrina Zheltova, Maria Meliuk and Kiryl Harbatsiuk. At the Big Sky Conference championships, Zheltova and Harbatsiuk were named most valuable players and Konikov and Hrynashka were selected Coaches of the Year. Sacramento State is not alone in looking abroad for college tennis players. About 43 percent of the ranked women and 64 percent of the ranked men in American collegiate tennis are international players. India’s Somdev Devvarman, playing for the University of Virginia, won the last two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s singles titles.

SCOTT’S WEDDING GIFT

Last weekend was when Scott Lipsky was supposed to be in Miami, Florida, at the wedding of his girlfriend’s twin sister. Instead, he was with fellow American Eric Butorac in Estoril, Portugal, where the two won their first ATP World Tour doubles title, beating Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedet 6-3 6-2 in the final. “The first day I had a flight on Wednesday, we won,” Lipsky said. “We played again on Thursday. I had a flight for Friday evening. We played our semifinal and won. I couldn’t get back for the wedding. I hope I still have a girlfriend.” It was Lipsky’s second doubles title, having teamed with David Martin to win at San Jose, California, in February 2008. Butorac also had won a doubles title earlier, teaming with Rajeev Ram in Channai, India, earlier this year.

SET FOR THE CAPITAL

Washington, D.C., will be the site for this year’s World TeamTennis championship finals. The July 26 competition, being played in America’s capital for the first time, will pit the 10-team league’s Eastern Conference champions against the winners of the Western Conference.

SWITCH AT TOP

John Tobias has been named president of Blue Entertainment Sports Television’s Tennis division. In 2005, Tobias was named by Sports Illustrated as one of the top 30 sports industry executives under the age of 30. He replaces tennis agent Ken Meyerson, who has left the company. BEST Tennis represents more than 100 professional tennis coaches and players, including Victoria Azarenka, Anna Chakvetadze, Caroline Wozniacki, Mardy Fish and Sam Querry. The company also produces tennis events such as the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, and holds television production rights for the US Open, French Open and various US-based ATP tournaments. According to Bob Larson’s Tennis News, Meyerson left to establish a US office for a new company, Lagardere Unlimited, a division of the French media giant Lagardere. Meyerson reportedly is taking a number of tennis players with him, including Andy Roddick.

SHANGHAI STOP

The Qizhong Tennis Center in Shanghai is adding new courts as it gets ready to stage an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in October. The Tennis Center was the site for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup for five years, an event that this year will be held in London. For this year’s tournament, Qizhong’s main stadium roof will be opened, turning it into a 15,000-seat outdoor facility. The Grand Stand Court 2 will accommodate 5,000 spectators, while Court 3 will seat 2,000. Construction of the new facilities is expected to be completed by August. The tournament will be held October 10-18 and will conclude a four-week Asian tour, following stops in Bangkok, Tokyo and Beijing.

SUCCESS, HOPEFULLY

Tanzania figures tennis is the way to go. The government has urged the Tanzania Lawn Tennis Association (TLTA) to focus on international tournaments, including the 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi, India. Bernard Membe, the minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said Tanzania could become known if its athletes do well in international competition. Membe noted that Ethiopia and Kenya are well known because of their success in sports.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Rome: Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai beat Daniela Hantuchovga and Ai Sugiyama 7-5 7-6 (5)

Munich: Jan Hernych and Ivo Minar beat Ashley Fisher and Jordan Kerr 6-4 6-4

Estoril (men): Eric Butorac and Scott Lipsky beat Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt 6-3 6-2

Estoril (women): Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears beat Sharon Fichman and Katalin Marosi 2-6 6-3 10-5 (match tiebreak)

Belgrade: Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 7-6 (3)

Ramat Hasharon: George Bastl and Chris Cuccione beat Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram 7-5 7-6 (6)

Bucharest: Irina-Camelia Begu and Simona Halep beat Julia Goerges and Sandra Klemenschits 2-6 6-0 12-10 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Madrid: www.madrid-open.com/

Bordeaux: www.atp-primrosebordeaux.com

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

Kitzbuhel: www.atpkitz.at

Warsaw: www.warsawopen.com.pl/

Strasbourg: www.internationaux-strasbourg.fr/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$4,500,000 Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open, Madrid, Spain, clay

$110,000 BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France, clay

WTA

$4,500,000 Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open, Madrid, Spain, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

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

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

WTA

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

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

SENIORS

Grand Champions Brazil, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard

Time for Roger Federer to Step Up

We are now two months into the 2008 tennis season and who would have thought that by this point Roger Federer would have exactly zero titles to his name? NRoger Federer 2ot only has he failed to win a title thus far, but he has not even made it to a final. While I’m not ready to join the growing number of tennis fans who are wondering aloud if Federer may have passed his peak, clearly it is time that he delivered some results to quiet his critics. It needs to start here and now with the Masters tournament in Miami.

To summarize his year to date, Federer has reached two semifinals and had one first round defeat. However, his semifinal appearances have not exactly been attained with his usual level of brilliance. At the Australian Open, he struggled to get past Janko Tipsarevic in the third round. He eventually pulled it out 10-8 in a rare fifth set – rare for Federer that is. Then last week at Indian Wells, Roger made it through three easy opening round opponents, lucked-out with a quarterfinal walkover, and was then trounced 6-3 6-2 by Mardy Fish. The bottom line is that Federer has not had a strong performance yet in 2008. For a player who has dominated the opening months of the year going back to 2004, this is a major issue.

Each of the past four years, Roger Federer has opened the tennis season by dismissing almost every challenge sent his way. In 2004 he had three titles by this point. In 2005, he had four titles. By this point of 2006 he had three titles and one final. And in 2007 he had two titles. The consistency in his game has been incredible, and by starting each season so strongly he has been able to carry that momentum throughout the year. The same cannot be said thus far in 2008, and with only one more hard court tournament before the claycourt season starts, his confidence and aura of invincibility are nowhere to be found.

While some of his lackluster play can be attributed to him coming down with mononucleosis earlier in the year, one has to wonder if that is the only factor. Perhaps other players are finally beginning to figure out what makes him tick. Younger players like Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are presenting well-rounded and dangerous games that he has not had to face in recent years. Maybe his motivation is starting to wane after so many consecutive years of dominating play. Whatever the reason may be, Federer must make a statement in Miami to show the rest of the tour he is still top dog.

Should Djokovic win this upcoming Miami Masters Series event after his victory in Indian Wells last week, he would be the number one threat on tour, whether the rankings reflect that or not. Suddenly Federer could be viewed as the underdog in their rivalry. Federer needs to have that sense of being unbeatable to continue his push for the Grand Slam record. Many close matches he has had over the years have probably swung his way due to the player across the net realizing who they were playing, and not necessarily how he was playing. How will Federer evolve as a tennis player if he is no longer the number one threat?

I think we will see Federer fight his way to the title in Miami. He needs a confidence boost before switching to the claycourts of Europe and this would be the perfect one. It is time for Federer to display his champion spirit and returned to the winners circle. The alternative would not bode well for him as the tennis season quickly unravels. He does not want to be sitting back watching the Djokovics and Murrays of the tour grab the titles that he has owned for so long. He needs to step up and show them that their time is yet to come.