Michael Phelps

Cut Richard Gasquet Some Slack

 As you know by now, French player Richard Gasquet has been suspended for testing positive for cocaine back in Miami this spring.  I am by no means suggesting drug use is appropriate, only that this punishment seems a little harsh for him.

How many athletes use drugs or alcohol off season when they aren’t being tested, when they are away from the public eye?  That’s right.  You can claim they probably don’t.  Honestly, you don’t know what people, these role models, are doing around the end of tournament season.  All we know of these players is how they conduct themselves at press conferences.

Worse, why is there a double standard in sports that partying with alcohol is given a “cool” pass while drugs are “bad?”  For anyone wanting to make the argument about being a good role model for kids, I want to hear your side on why overdoing alcohol is acceptable for NBA and MLB stars at the same time when Michael Phelps gets grilled in the media over one pot incident, possibly losing huge sponsors.

Hollywood actors can make comebacks after a few stints in rehab and if Britney can return with a concert tour, come on, give Richard Gasquet a chance.  I personally would have banned the guy from a few tournaments until he cleans up his act.  Keep in mind, this is a young man who probably spends most of his life not acting his age to become a top player.  Cut him a break and see if he can keep his promises.  If by then, he is still doing drugs, that is when you need to think about long term bans.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I’m like on cloud nine right now

U.S. Open

Men’s Singles: Roger Federer beat Andy Murray 6-2 7-5 6-2

Women’s Single: Serena Williams beat Jelena Jankovic 6-4 7-5

Men’s Doubles: Bob and Mike Bryan beat Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes 7-6 (5) 7-6 (10)

Women’s Doubles: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur 6-3 7-6 (6)

Mixed Doubles: Cara Black and Leander Paes beat Liezel Huber and Jaime Murray 7-6 (6) 6-4

Junior Boys’ Singles: Grigor Dimitrov beat Devin Britton 6-4 6-3

Junior Girls’ Singles: Coco Vandeweghe beat Gabriela Paz Franco 7-6 (3) 6-1

Junior Boys’ Doubles: Nikolaus Moser and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe beat Henri Kontinen and Christopher Rungkat 6-7 (5) 6-3 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Junior Girls’ Doubles: Noppawan Lertcheewakarn and Sandra Roma beat Mallory Burdette and Sloane Stephens 6-0 6-2

SAYINGS

“I was that close to winning so many of the big tournaments this season … I was disappointed not winning the Olympics. I was disappointed losing the epic at Wimbledon, but this was as big of a goal maybe this season. I mean, going for five US Opens is probably the last time ever in my career I’ll have that opportunity, so to keep it alive … is something I’m very, very happy about.” – Roger Federer.

“Usually after a Grand Slam I feel like I still have another match to play, but I don’t really feel that way today. I feel liked it’s done and it’s all over and I’m so excited.” – Serena Williams, after winning her third US Open singles championship.

“I had a great two weeks. I really fought hard out there every match, and tonight I really gave everything I had.” – Jelena Jankovic, after losing to Serena Williams in the women’s singles final.

“It’s obviously been a very good couple of weeks. And I’ll try my best to work on my game, work harder, and hopefully come back and do better next time.” – Andy Murray, after losing the men’s singles final.

“I accept the losses with the same calm when I win. So I am disappointing? Yes. But at the same time I am happy because I did good semifinals here.” – Rafael Nadal, after losing to Andy Murray.

“It was in the back of my mind that I hadn’t won this one. I woke up this morning with a purpose. I woke up really fired up.” – Leander Paes, after winning the US Open mixed doubles with Cara Black.

“I would say that we’re probably one of the best doubles teams there has been in a long while, and we feel confident that whoever we lay against that we’ll give them a good run for their money.” – Liezel Huber, after teaming with Cara Black to win the women’s doubles.

“I’m like on cloud nine right now. This is my first junior tournament win in the ITF, and to do it at the US Open is an every greater achievement for me.” – Coco Vandeweghe, after winning the Junior Girls singles.

“I’m happy about the way I lost. I think that when you get into the court, you can win or lose, but at least I gave everything that I could inside the court, so I’m happy about that. I’m not happy about the loss, but that’s the sport, how it is.” – Tommy Robredo, after his five-set loss to Novak Djokovic.

“I’m the first one actually to do everything. I mean, that’s not my goal, to be the best in Luxembourg.” – Gilles Monfils, a qualifier who reached the quarterfinals.

“The people enjoy the match. He’s more happy than me, but I’m not sad.” – Juan Martin Del Potro, after losing a four-set, four-hour quarterfinal to Andy Murray.

“I’ve been playing pretty high-risk, high-reward tennis and I probably wasn’t about to stop. Given the choice again, I’d probably go for them again. That’s what got me back in the match.” – Andy Roddick, after losing to Novak Djokovic.

“Devin gave me a hard time in the first set and especially in the beginning of the second. But I found a way to manage my game, and that was the key.” – Grigor Dimitrov, who beat Devin Britton to win the Junior Boys crown.

“I’m not sure whether I should sing the anthem, do a cartwheel or tell you guys to vote, but I’m the proudest American right now.” – Liezel Huber, a South African-born American, after she and Cara Black won the women’s doubles.

“This is the best team we could assemble at the moment.” – Russian Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpishchev, whose team does not include Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva, French Open runnerup Dinara Safina, former number one Maria Sharapova and top tenner Anna Chakvetadze.

SINGLES CHAMPION

With his victory over Andy Murray, Roger Federer has won an Open Era record five consecutive US Open singles titles and become the first player in any era to win five straight Grand Slam tournament titles at two different events. Federer also won five consecutive Wimbledons before losing the final to Rafael Nadal on the grass of the All England Club in July. It also is Federer’s 13th Grand Slam tournament crown, one behind men’s record-holder Pete Sampras. In a twist of fate, Sampras won his 14th Grand Slam crown on September 8, 2002. This year’s final was scheduled to be held on Sunday, but was pushed back to Monday, September 8, by Tropical Storm Hanna’s heavy rains two days that cut short Saturday’s play.

SHE’S BACK

It took a long time for Serena Williams to win her third US Open title, something she accomplished by defeating Jelena Jankovic 6-4 7-5. Her other two US Open championships came in 1999 and 2002. Her last Grand Slam title was at the Australian Open in 2007. By winning, she became the number one-ranked player on the WTA Tour for the first time since August 2003, the longest gap at the top for a woman in ranking history. She now has won nine majors, while this was the first year since 2001 that she played in all four Grand Slam tournaments.

SEVENTH TITLE

Bob and Mike Bryan didn’t drop a set at the US Open as they won their seventh Grand Slam tournament men’s doubles title, defeating India’s Leander Paes and Luka Dlouhy of the Czech Republic 7-6 (5) 7-6 (10) in the final. The American brothers previously won at Roland Garros in 2003, the US Open in 2005, Wimbledon in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2006 and 2007. By losing, Paes lost a chance at a US Open doubles double, having already won the mixed doubles crown with Zimbabwe’s Cara Black. Paes won a doubles double in 1999 at both Wimbledon and the French Open. With the victory, the Bryans regained their world number one ranking.

SECOND TITLE

Cara Black had an excellent US Open. She teamed with Liezel Huber to win the women’s doubles, the team’s eighth title this year, by beating Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur. Earlier in the final week, the native of Zimbabwe teamed with Leander Paes of India to win the mixed doubles title. In that final, Black and Paes beat Huber and Jamie Murray.

SAMPRAS A CHAMPION

Pete Sampras, a five-time US Open winner, and Molla B. Mallory are the 2008 inductees into the US Open Court of Champions. The tennis shrine is located just inside the South Entry Gate at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Sampras played in eight US Open finals and compiled a 71-9 record, the second-best winning percentage in the tournament’s history, trailing only Bill Tilden’s 71-7 mark with a minimum of 50 matches played.

SAYONARA

Alicia Molik of Australia is calling it quits. The 27-year-old Mollik has retired from international tennis after a long run of injuries, including a debilitating inner-ear virus. Molik peaked at a world ranking of number eight after she reached the Australian Open quarterfinals in 2005, but was sidelined for most of the rest of that season because she was unable to balance due to the ear virus. She won the bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics and played in the Beijing Olympics last month, losing in the first round. During her career, Molik won five WTA Tour singles titles and two Grand Slam doubles titles, at the Australian and French Opens.

SHAMIL’S SELECTION

Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpischchev will not have his country’s top players when Russia takes on Spain in the final. Six Russians are ranked in the top ten on the WTA Tour, but only Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva will play Fed Cup. They will be joined by Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. Olympic champion Elena Dementieva and silver medalist Dinara will miss the final in Madrid in order to chase ranking points at a tournament in Tokyo, Japan. Maria Sharapova has an injured shoulder and Anaa Chakvetadze is not physically fit.

SERENA, SAFINA IN DOHA

Serena Williams and Dinara Safina have clinched spots in the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held November 4-9 in Doha. The world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams will compete for the title and a share of the record prize money of $4.45 million. Previously qualified were Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic in the singles. Besides her US Open triumph, Williams lost to her sister Venus in the Wimbledon final. Safina has had her best season so far, going 37-4 since the beginning of the European clay season, including finishing runnerup at both Roland Garros and the Olympics.

SOME CHANGES

The WTA Tour will have 54 tournaments across 31 countries and record prize money of more than USD $86 million in 2009. There will be 20 premier events, down from 26, and four tournaments – Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing – will be mandatory. Under the new structure, top-10 players who miss premier events after making a commitment to play will face suspension, and there will be increased withdrawal fines. The rankings system will focus on players’ best 16 results, and the year will conclude at the end of October, giving players nine weeks before the start of the next year. And on-court coaching will be allowed next season.

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SLAMS PROMOTERS

The All India Tennis Association (AITA) is upset with private promoters canceling tournaments over what it calls bogus reasons. Consequently the AITA wants to have direct control over future tour events. An ATP event, the Bangalore Open, was cancelled for what the promoters said was security reasons. And a WTA Tour event in Mumbai, promoted by a company owned by Indian player Mahesh Bhupathi, also has been cancelled. AITA secretary Anil Khanna said both events were cancelled because the organizers could not find sponsors. India has two other events, the Chennai Open for men and a women’s event in Bangalore.

SPANISH STAR

Rafael Nadal has been named winner of the prestigious Prince of Asturias Sports award for 2008. Eighteen members of the 24-man jury, which was presided over by former International Olympic Committee chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch and which met in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo, voted for Nadal, who was selected over US Olympic swimming gold medalist Michael Phelps, Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and Olympic 100 meters champion Ursain Bolt of Jamaica. The Spanish football (soccer) squad, which won this year’s European Championships, was also among the candidates.

SWIPE

The world’s top-ranked player believes outgoing ATP chief executive Etienne de Villiers should have communicated better with the players. De Villiers, who is stepping down when his contract expires in December, has been criticized by Nadal and other players. Asked at the U.S. Open what he’d like De Villiers’ successor to do, Nadal said: “For me, most important thing is, first of all, a little bit more communication than the past. For sure, the second thing is one person who knows a little bit about the tennis, no? And one person who wants to talk about with the persons who knows the tennis well.”

SLAMMIN’ CAREER

Leader Paes now has a career Grand Slam in mixed doubles. The Indian star teamed with Cara Black of Zimbabwe to beat Britain’s Jamie Murray and American Liezel Huber for the US Open title. Paes teamed with American Lisa Raymond to win the French Open and Wimbledon in 1999, and with Martina Navratilova for titles at the 2003 Wimbledon and Australian Opens.

STARK TO NEWPORT
The International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, has a new museum director. Douglas A. Stark, a native of Holyoke, Massachusetts, will oversee and manage the museum’s collection, permanent and traveling exhibitions, educational programming, and the activities of the Information Research Center. Stark was formerly with the United States Golf Association Museum, serving most recently as curator of Education and Outreach.

SLIDING ROOF?
The US Open will have a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium sometime in the future. “It’s a matter of when, not if,” said Arlen Kantarian, the US Tennis Association’s CEO for professional tennis. “It’s the right next thing to do.” Heavy rain from Tropical Storm Hanna caused the final Saturday’s schedule to be curtailed, with the women’s final played on Sunday night and the men’s final pushed back to Monday.

SHARING TALENT

Fresh off winning her third US Open, Serena Williams announced she will participate in the PNC Tennis Classic on November 21 in Baltimore. The Classic is a charity event begun by Pam Shriver. Net proceeds from the Tennis Classic are distributed to children’s charities under the guidance of the Baltimore Community Foundation. Since 1986, over USD $4 million has been raised and distributed to many needy non-profits.

SUPER SCRIBE

Bud Collins was named winner of the ATP Ron Bookman Media Excellence Award during the US Open. Rafael Nadal, the world’s top-ranked player, presented the award to the writer, historian, broadcaster and Tennis Hall of Fame member. His latest book, recently released, is The Bud Collins History of Tennis. The annual ATP award goes to a media member in honor of Ron Bookman, who died in April 1988.

SITES TO SURF

Bucharest: www.bcropenromania.ro/

Bali: www.commbanktennis.com

Athens: www.vogueathensopen.com/

Orleans: www.opendorleans.com/v2/

Szczecin: www.pekaoopen.pl

Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com

Tokyo: www.toray-ppo.co.jp

Guangzhou: www.qztennis.com

Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$416,000 BCR Open Romania, Bucharest, Romania, clay

$125,000 Open d’Orleans, Orleans, France, hard

WTA TOUR

$225,000 Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic, Bali, Indonesia, hard

$100,000 Vogue Athens Open 2008, Athens, Greece, clay

FED CUP

(September 13-14)

Spain vs. Russia at Madrid, Spain, final, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$125,000 Pekao Open, Szczecin, Poland

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Toray Pan Pacific Open, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$175,000 TOE Life Ceramics Guangzhou International Women’s Open, Guangzhou, China, hard

DAVIS CUP

(September 19-21)

World Group Semifinals

Argentina vs. Russia at Buenos Aires, Argentina, clay

Spain vs. United States at Madrid, Spain, clay

World Group Playoffs

Chile vs. Australia at Antofagasta, Chile, clay

Great Britain vs. Austria at Wimbledon, England, grass

Switzerland vs. Belgium at Lausanne, Switzerland, hard

Croatia vs. Brazil at Zadar, Crotia, hard

Isral vs. Peru at Ramat Hasharon, Israel, hard

Netherlands vs. South Korea at Apeldoorn, Netherlands, clay

Romania vs. India at Bucharest, Romania, clay

Slovak Republic vs. Serbia at Bratislava, Slovak Republic, hard

Europe/Africa Zone Group I

Italy vs. Latvia at Montecatini, Italy, clay

Belarus vs. Georgia at Minsk, Belarus, hard

Europe/Africa Zone Group II

Monaco vs. South Africa at Monaco, clay

Ukraine vs. Portugal at Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, hard

Final thoughts from a remarkable tennis event at the XXIX Olympiad…

In honor of the 18 medals that were awarded to tennis players over the weekend in Beijing, I offer 18 quick- and final- thoughts on the Games that exceeded expectations.

1) Both the men’s and women’s doubles gold medal teams were comprised entirely of “singles specialists.” Go figure. There is an old argument that great doubles players or teams would handle great singles players who paired together occasionally. I am not so sure about that. Roger Federer looked mighty formidable out there. There was little that doubles specialists did to disrupt him, and his skill level was obviously superior.

2) If Fernando Gonzalez sincerely did not hear or feel James Blake’s passing shot click off his racquet during their tense third set, then… we should all give him a break. If he has lied about this, then I wish on him six months of severe insomnia where he can grapple with his guilt.

3) Elena Dementieva is the best mover in women’s tennis. Her gold medal in women’s singles confirms her position as the best player to have yet won a major title.

4) The Russian women earned the gold, silver, and bronze medals in singles. There are eight teams that compete in the Fed Cup’s world group each year, and- if they were allowed- Russia has a deep enough talent pool for four completely different teams in this event. Remarkable.

5) Roger Federer’s delight at having won the doubles gold medal was wonderful to behold. He demonstrated more energy and positive emotion during his last three Olympic doubles matches than he has all season in singles.

6) Was the tennis stadium really filled to capacity at 3:30 AM on Friday while the Chinese pair of Yan and Zheng eked out a win over Russian team of Kuznetsova and Safina? If so, this is beyond incredible.

7) Dinara Safina looks like she could become #1 in the world, especially given the uncertainty of the position atop the women’s rankings. Her brother Marat Safin spent nine weeks at #1 on the ATP Tour. If she makes a big run in Flushing Meadows, then she could actually break this Safin family record.

8 ) While the humidity was reportedly thick in Beijing, the air quality and smog became a big non-story for tennis players. Thank goodness.

9) Can you imagine Rafael Nadal living in the Olympic Village? By all accounts, he has had a blast. I have visions of him waking up at dawn to take on all comers in table tennis, grabbing an enormous breakfast, going on a warm-up run with the Spanish track team, racing over to take part in the basketball shoot-around with Pau Gasol, challenging a few wrestlers to a bench pressing contest, trying his luck in archery, followed by an enormous lunch, some beach volleyball practice, a quick tennis match, some ice/treatment/media, an enormous dinner, a quick trip to the Ice Cube for an Individual Medley race against all member of the Spanish contingent, and then eight hours of video games against… all-comers.

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10) The despair and sadness etched on Novak Djokovic’s face after losing the semi-final combined with his elation after winning the bronze medal match over Blake were proof positive of how he deeply these players cared about the Olympics.

11) I got a big kick out of the fact that all the players were forced to cover the logos on their racquet and gear bags. If I were representing HEAD, Wilson, Babolat, Prince, Dunlop, then this would have infuriated me. The IOC definitely has a sense of humor!

12) The Williams Sisters will defend their gold medal at the London Games of 2012. They employ tactics – or non-tactics- that distinguish them among the best teams of all-time: See the ball, hit the ball really hard, giggle afterwards.

13) It says here that Mama Lindsay Davenport will compete in the 2012 London Olympics (in doubles).

14) Jimmy Arias did a magnificent job broadcasting the Olympic matches from NYC’s Rockefeller Center building. He is insightful, funny, acutely aware of tactical nuances, and measures his words prudently. Those characteristics differentiate him from the vast majority of announcers. As he has reached the top of the class, he ought to get a chance to work more of the bigger events.

15) I would expect that there were some Olympic medalists (or at least coaches) who were relieved that Juan Martin del Potro was not in Beijing. He is playing like a beast this summer.

16) Chris “Mad Dog” Russo abruptly resigned his post- after 19 years- on the popular “Mike and the Mad Dog” sports talk radio show on WFAN. The Dog was a big tennis fan, an avid player, and he relished discussing big matches on the program that was typically devoted to baseball, football, and basketball. It was always amusing to hear Russo try to pronounce words like “Djokovic” or “Wimbledon” or “statistics.” He will inevitably be back soon, and our sport will be the better for that.

17) I heard Michael Phelps’ being referred to as “the Rafael Nadal of swimming” and it made me laugh. Things change quickly at the top-level of sport.

18) The US Open qualifying event begins Tuesday. The year’s final major will be interesting, as players battle fatigue from a brutal schedule, jet-lag for those returning from Beijing, a wide-open women’s event, and- apparently- the passing of the torch at the top of the men’s game.